Breakaway 87-88: The Hockey Almanac


196 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 00-0-217904-0





Reviewed by Ken Ramstead

Ken Ramstead was Associate Researcher at Reader's Digest in Laval, Quebec.


Breakaway, now into its second season, is one of several hockey books that attempt to capture the market as the bible of statistical analysis and information for the NHL fan. Like its predecessor, Breakaway attempts to “break out into the open” through an innovative format and to provide “new interpretations and insights that make sense of the facts and figures.” On the whole, the authors have successfully adhered to that game plan.

Certainly Breakaway has a strong roster that will appeal to both the statistically-minded fan as well as those who just like a good read. For the latter, Breakaway provides topical chapters on, among other subjects, Rendez-Vous ‘87, hockey pools, and the problems of violence and officiating. Breakaway is at its best when it lets credible sources do the talking in these chapters. The core of the book, of course, is the team-by-team examination of the League. These chapters skillfully integrate textual analysis with statistical information (though not always successfully, as we shall see). Moreover, Breakaway combines traditional statistics with special categories, compiled by Breakaway reporters, that include such items as quality shots, rebounds, and, of course, breakaways. Of particular interest is the chronological approach to the coaching / management section of each team. There is also an extensive look at streaks and consistent sub-headings for each team. On the whole, the authors are to be congratulated for a fine effort.

There are some weak spots in Breakaway’s lineup, though. The endless array of statistics may attract readers to the book, but their use at times to infer a correlation can be deceiving. Just as disturbing are the contradictions within the text. To cite just some examples concerning the Chicago Blackhawks, the authors mention that the team “performed very well at home” (p. 41) yet on the very next page they conclude that “Chicago’s home performance ... was the second-worst in club history” (p. 42). The text also states that Wayne Presley was drafted in the middle rounds, but the draft choice chart on the same page shows that he was drafted in the second round. Likewise, the authors claim that Steve Larmer was “a very late pick from the sixth round” (p. 40). However, he was in reality 11th out of 21 picks. The inconsistency between statistics that substantiate statements and statistics that contradict the text casts a cloud of uncertainty over the accuracy and, in turn, the credibility of the rest of the book. The remedy for this is more thorough editing, so that the statistics complement the text and vice versa.

Other aspects that could easily be improved include the poor quality of some of the photos, which are often blurry or either too light or too dark. A use of colour shots would be highly effective in this kind of format. There is also a lack of a central glossary of terms that could be consulted for quick reference. And the legend of abbreviations found on page 22 could well precede each individual team scoring and goal-tender record.

While the average NHL fan may not have the time or patience to wade through the entire book, a thorough reading of Breakaway would be amply rewarded. Breakaway is a welcome addition to the ever-growing collection of hockey aids and, with some editorial belt-tightening, can only improve with the passage of time.



Fischler, Stan, and Shirley Fischler, “Breakaway 87-88: The Hockey Almanac,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 22, 2024,