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October 14, 1998|HELENE ELLIOTT

What: "Brian McFarlane's Original Six,"

by Brian McFarlane.

Price: $19.95, Stoddart Publishers.

With the Detroit Red Wings beginning their quest for a third consecutive Stanley Cup championship, the timing was right for the fourth in McFarlane's series on the six clubs that for many years were the NHL's backbone. It's an easy, pleasant read, with few revelations but enough amusing anecdotes to be worthwhile. Its format--chapters are no more than a page or two in any of the six sections--make it easy to pick up and put down without fear of losing any narrative thread.

McFarlane, a writer and broadcaster and member of hockey's Hall of Fame, tells the Red Wings' story chronologically, beginning with their days as the Detroit Falcons to their transformation into the Red Wings under bombastic owner Jim Norris. He touches on many key players, including lesser-known figures such as defenseman Bucko McDonald, who once got a fan to pay him $5 per check in a playoff game and profited handsomely when the game went into six overtimes, and underappreciated defenseman Bob Goldham. None of the stories he tells are new, but they're generally rehashed in an entertaining fashion.

The pictures--particularly of a young Gordie Howe--enhance the text. There's one erroneous caption on a picture that's supposed to be Steve Yzerman with the Stanley Cup but is actually of Red Wing trainer John Wharton, but that's small stuff.

This isn't great literature, and it lacks any behind-the-scenes kind of inside stuff, but it is a decent survey of the history of one of the NHL's most fabled franchises.

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