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An eye for the record books

Corner Brook’s Elmo Keeping has more than 40 editions of the National Hockey League Official Guides and Records book dating back to the 1960s.
Corner Brook’s Elmo Keeping has more than 40 editions of the National Hockey League Official Guides and Records book dating back to the 1960s.

Statistics always hold a special place in the heart of sports fans. They help you pick your favourite player and defend him when challenged by your brother, father or that jerk who lives next door claiming your favourite player sucks.  

Nicholas Mercer

They’re fun to memorize and can even help you win an argument or two around the water cooler at work (we — sports fans — are prone to arguing, so the latter one is extremely important).
With the advent of the Internet, there’s plenty of online resources to help a sports guy with his or her trivia cache.
Yet, there’s still some of us who like to flip the pages of a record book from time to time.
They’re rare, kind of like the baseball fan who scores a game on his own sheets, but they’re out there.
That makes the collection owned by Corner Brook’s Elmo Keeping an impressive haul for anyone looking to learn the complete history of some of professional hockey’s great players, spread across 42 volumes of the National Hockey League Official Guides and Records from 1959 to 2010.
There are some missing, but it’s still a worthy purchase for anyone looking to get their statistical fix.
He’s even got some old World Hockey Association record books. That’s where (greatest of all time) Wayne Gretzky got his start in professional hockey, so there’s sure to be some gems in there.
The books are in varying conditions. They range from fair to excellent with only some slight damage to some of the covers.
Having a book almost six decades old in relatively good shape is impressive when you consider printing materials have changed and they were released in the ’60s.
Keeping’s collecting started when he was a boy in Corner Brook. It was bottle caps, marbles and just about anything else.
He figures he had some 2,500 vinyl records and countless .45s at one point.
Keeping would read The Hockey News cover to cover and notice the ads at the end of the magazine.
He’d see “For a dollar, you could own the official NHL record book,” or some facsimile in the back pages, and get curious.
That’s when Keeping would scrounge up the money required — a lot in those days, Keeping noted — to purchase the book. And the rest is history.
In later years, the books became a birthday gift from his wife.
It wasn’t the first items he collected. There were baseball statistic books, hockey cards, baseball cards and even wrestling cards.
He’s trying to sell the NHL books as a group, partly because, as he puts it, they’re too good to throw away.
They’re a complete history of the NHL. There are plenty of pictures, anecdotes and other intricacies that are sure to attract the eyes of an interested party.
“Stats aren’t everything,” he said. “Some people like the cover art and the nostalgia.”
Sometimes, stat heads don’t always delve into a record book to see who scored the most power play goals in 1963-64 (Chicago Blackhawk’s Kenny Wharram and Stan Mikita tied with 14) or who racked up the most penalty minutes in 1982-83 (Washington’s Randy Holt with 275).
For hockey lovers in this province, there’s the chance to see how the best from Newfoundland and Labrador did up away.
They’re all in there. Faulkner, Cleary, Langdon, Ryder, Grant, Lundrigan and others are all contained in the back pages of every record book after their first year of pro hockey.
Those pages contain the lifetime work of every player to ever pull a jersey over their heads.
That makes it personal for some and an interesting read for others.

Nicholas Mercer is the online editor with The Western Star. He loves stats, but admits to being confused by sports analytics. He lives in Corner Brook and can be reached at nicholas.mercer@tc.tc.
 

Just a sample of the record books Keeping has at his home.

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