If you want to collect something, why not be the best?
That’s what Nathan Lajoie managed to do. Chatham, Ont. native amassed a collection of over 4,000 books during his lifetime, a collection he believes to be the largest private hockey library in the world with over 4,000 items in total.
The goal? Be a great curator of hockey history by collecting anything and everything about the sport he loves.
In doing so, Lajoie had to become expansive. He owns every issue of every issue of The Hockey News magazine over the store’s nearly 75-year history. It has record guides dating back to the early days of collecting NHL statistics. He’s over 1,200 pounds including all heavyweights and a few more obscure and hard to find publications.
Lajoie simply loves hockey, and his collection is living proof of that.
For Lajoie, his collectable itch started when he collected Panini sticker albums around the age of three. His more hardcore hockey collector habit took off around the turn of the millennium after a trip to the Hockey Hall of Fame with his father. Lajoie picked up The Hockey News: Century of Hockey magazine and said on the trip home that he read it cover to cover to learn more about the history of the game than he knew. not.
Lajoie would eventually subscribe to the magazine, but it wasn’t long after that that he started searching sites like eBay and Kijiji for old issues and other hockey memorabilia. âFortunately, a lot of my fundraising took place while the Canadian dollar was still even,â Lajoie said with a laugh.
With a collection spanning a century of hockey knowledge, has Lajoie had time to read it all?
“I don’t have as much time to read anymore as I used to while working full time and having a wife and son here at home, but usually in my spare time I still like to have one on the go.” , said Lajoie. .
Lajoie’s No.1 favorite – and often cited as one of the golden standards in hockey writing from a player’s perspective – is The game by Ken Dryden. But Lajoie doesn’t have an old copy of the book – he has one personally signed to former St. Louis Blues general manager Ron Caron.
But one of the coolest books he has? A copy of Eric Lindros Fire on ice. Why? The autograph signed at Caron.
âInside the book it is signed ‘M. Caron, all the best.’ – Eric Lindros And then in lowercase at the bottom in a Sharpie it says ‘PS: Help.’
To help? The story goes that while Lindros was holding out in 1991 after being drafted by Quebec, Lindros sent signed copies of his books to teams he was interested in playing for and wrote “help” there. Using this theory, the Blues were one of those teams. And Lajoie has Caron’s.
Among the other rare pieces – and ones that Lajoie prefers not to touch in his collection due to their fragility – is a book series by former CBC broadcaster Ed Fitkin. Fitkin wrote many of the first hockey autobiographies in the 1950s on players such as Maurice Richard, Turk Broda, Ted Kennedy and more. Lajoie said many of them are nearly impossible to find, but he has all eight of them.
The oldest book in Lajoie’s collection is the one written by hockey media legend Foster Hewitt, published in 1934 and titled Down the ice. He also owned a 1938 copy Hockey: the fastest game in the world by Red Dutton.
âSome of those books I paid for more than I would admit or tell the woman I paid for,â Lajoie said with a laugh.
Lajoie doesn’t have an approximate value for his collection, but with many pieces fetching hefty prices on the open market, you can imagine how much it would actually be worth. But the goal is not to get rich with everything he has: he eventually wants to give it to his son, but for now, it is for himself to take advantage of it.
âI’ve always wanted to collect because I’ve always had a great fascination with the history of the game,â said Lajoie. âI love to read about the history of hockey. I like to read historical accounts and old articles, biographies, autobiographies and team history books.
Lajoie has no plans to slow down anytime soon. He plans to catalog everything in an Excel document to keep a complete track of his collection, which will take some time. He will continue to showcase his collection on his Hockey Library Facebook page for fans and historians while working with the Society for International Hockey Research to continue the preservation of hockey information.
But at least he’s having fun with it. And as mentioned before, if you want to get fat, you might as well get REALLY fat.