A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

What: "The Fastest Game: An Anthology of Hockey Writings" by Dick Wimmer, Masters Press.

Price: $15 (paperback only).

Dick Wimmer's latest anthology on sportswriting is every bit as rich as his anthologies on baseball and football.

In some ways better.

Whereas football and baseball have long enjoyed exposure on radio and television in the United States, hockey remained the stuff of legends outside the Northeast and Midwest.

Thanks to Wimmer's anthology, it still is the stuff of legends. Even with the 1990s boom in hockey de-mystifying the game.

Unlike football, hockey needs to be seen in person to be fully appreciated. And the next best thing to being at the rink is not TV, but reading about it.

Some of hockey's most gifted writers are collected here, notably Ken Dryden and Roy MacGregor. But there are literally a dozen more interesting, informative, anecdotal and behind-the-scenes stories among the 28 entries.

Some entries border on being too enthusiastic but can easily be dismissed as part of the tapestry of the tales.

Not only should this book be in any hockey fan's collection, it should be in the collection of anyone who appreciates good sportswriting.

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