As a hockey goalie, Ken Dryden was an uncommon athlete for the Montreal Canadiens. In his first literary venture, he's proven to be an uncommon sports author as well.
Canadians obviously agree, judging by the way they've been snatching up his book ''The Game.'' It is a best-seller in that nation - a testament to the book's insightful, analytical content.
Many people undoubtedly are attracted by the author's ''household'' name, which was one of the most prominent in hockey throughout the 1970s.
It burst onto the scene at the tail end of the 1970-71 National Hockey League season, when as a rookie up from the minors Dryden became the key player in Montreal's drive to the Stanley Cup. He went on to mind the nets on five more Cup champions, including four in a row, even though he took a bold one-year sabbatical from the league in 1973 in order to work for a law firm and prepare for the bar exam. He also played for Team Canada in its 1972 victory over the Soviet Union, and secured a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame after retiring in 1979.
Dryden's name, then, may open book jackets, but it's his thoughtful treatment of hockey that is winning readers. He uses locker room anecdotes with restraint and purpose, avoiding the cheap shots that often masquerade as sports literature.
''There were lots of points I wanted to make in the book, and I didn't want people to be distracted by gratuitous gossip,'' he says. ''I wanted to be fair, so I realized I couldn't say things about other people as a detached observer unless I was willing to tell more about myself than them.''
Presently he's kept busy fulfilling the promotional responsibilities of a successful author as well as preparing to serve as an ABC commentor at the Winter Olympics, an assignment he also held in 1980.