________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 16 . . . .April 14, 2006


Go to the Net: Eight Goals That Changed the Game.

Al Strachan.
Toronto, ON: Doubleday Canada/Random House of Canada, 2005.
298 pp., cloth, $32.95.
ISBN 0-385-66182-7.

Subject Headings:

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Thomas F. Chambers.

**½ /4



"They had this rhythm going, this energy getting ready." Keenan paused. Then he smiled."Then we came out and we were getting smoked."

For a while, it appeared that instead of getting a dream game, the new generation of fans would see their worst nightmare. The Soviets scored early and often and quickly built a 3-0 lead.

Keenan laughed about it later, but he wasn't laughing at the time. "I thought, 'If I don't do something in a hurry, I'm going to get in the car and drive north and they'll never hear from me again.'”

"We were down 3-0 in a hurry. Eleven minutes in and we were down 3-0!" Worse still, Gretzky was exhausted. In an effort to stem the tide, Keenan had begun double-shifting him early, and his energy was depleted.


Go To The Net is a book for hockey lovers. It deals with the events surrounding eight goals that the author, Al Strachan, feels were of major importance to the game of hockey. These were exciting goals that Strachan witnessed from 1979 to 2002, not from the whole history of hockey or the NHL. Five were scored during international competitions involving a Canadian team. Go To The Net analyses these goals and their influence on the game.

     Strachan has been writing about hockey for 30 years and clearly loves the game. Presently a sports reporter with the Toronto Sun, he had similar jobs with other newspapers and was also a regular for 10 years on "Hockey Night in Canada." He writes knowledgeably about the game and seems addicted to it in a fashion similar to that of some of the coaches and players he mentions. Nothing is more important to him than “the game” and how it is played, coached, and managed.

     While Go To The Net has an index, the book is clearly intended as recreational reading. It does have eight pages of photographs of scenes from the games mentioned. All but two are coloured. They are placed together in one location, not scattered throughout the book. Since hockey is such a fast moving sport, still photos must be considered decorative rather than functional.

     There are eight chapters in the book. While the highlight of each is the goal Strachan believes to be of great importance to hockey, there is considerable detail about the games in which the goals were scored and the events leading up to them. For example, in “The Goal: February 11, 1979,” the first chapter, which is about game three between Canada and the Soviet Union for the Challenge Cup, Strachan provides good reasons for the Soviet victory. These include the discipline and conditioning of the Soviet players versus the lack of preparedness of the Canadians.

     Hockey enthusiasts will enjoy Go To The Net. Written during the 2004 NHL lockout when hockey seemed, to its serious fans, of greater importance than ever because of a fear of what the future might bring, the book has much to entertain and amuse them. One anecdote concerns Sam Pollock, General Manager of the Montreal Canadiens in the 1970s. In order to get Guy Lafleur, who was expected to become a great player, for the Canadiens, Pollock showed a devious side of his personality that helped to make the Canadiens a great team. Lafleur was the Canadiens first-round draft pick in 1971. In order to prevent the Los Angelus Kings, who were a very poor team and expected to finish last, from getting the chance to choose him, Pollock sent Ralph Backstrom, one of Montreal's best players to Los Angelus. The strategy worked. Backstrom helped the King's improve so that they were not the worst team in the league and, therefore, they were unable to choose Lafleur.

     Readers with less than an average interest in hockey may find Strachan's account of all the petty details surrounding the eight goals a bit boring. A history of the scoring of goals, after all, has only limited appeal.


Thomas F. Chambers is a retired college teacher living in North Bay, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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