CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 7 . . . .November 25, 2005
Great Stanley Cup Victories tells the story of seven great hockey dynasties and, in the process, relates the history of the National Hockey League. The book will become a new favourite for hockey fans, and it is sufficiently well-written to be interesting even for non-fans.
Author Rich Mole traces the development of the game from the days when professional hockey seemed to be an oxymoron rather than a viable concept. Members of the first NHL dynasty, the Ottawa Senators of the 1920s, played most of their games in the open air, and a warm March meant poor ice and unpredictable play during Stanley Cup games. One of the Ottawa stars, Jack Darragh, was regularly torn between his responsibilities as a chicken farmer and his life on the hockey rink. Meanwhile, telegraph operators struggled to keep up with the play, tapping out play-by-play commentary that will seem familiar even to television viewers: “Excitement all over the rink. The puck is now travelling faster than I can handle the telegraph key....”
From such early days, Mole charts the development of the farm-team system that supplied the Montreal and Toronto franchises with new blood during the 1950s and 1960s, and he provides brief portraits of the coaches, managers and owners who shaped and financed NHL teams in Canada and America. But the primary focus of the book is right where it should be: on the hockey stars who led their teams to victory. Carefully selected anecdotes offer deft sketches of the personalities of great players like Maurice Richard, Terry Sawchuk, Wayne Gretzky, and countless others. Countless, I say, because there is no way to keep track of them all: one of the book’s major flaws is that it lacks an index. This shortcoming makes it particularly difficult to keep track of men, such as Jean Beliveau, whose careers spanned several generations of players.
The “Amazing Stories” series continues to add titles that demonstrate to Canadian kids the joy of reading nonfiction. Printed on cheap paper, with page after page of text and a few black and white photographs, these books use sharply written and tightly edited prose to hook readers and keep the pages turning. As surely as the Montreal Canadians led the NHL during the 1950s, Altitude Publishing dominates among quality, accessible histories for adolescents. Great Stanley Cup Victories is a solid addition to the line-up.
Greg Bak is an information specialist with the Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Technology Assessment.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.