________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 7 . . . .November 25, 2005


Hockey Town: Life Before the Pros.

Ed Arnold.
Toronto, ON: McClelland & Stewart, 2005.
360 pp., pbk., $22.99.
ISBN 0-7710-0783-3.

Subject Headings:
Peterborough Petes (Hockey Team).

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Thomas F. Chambers.

** /4



The kids who came through Peterborough had that kind of passion, an obsession that propelled them into the NHL. They loved to play the game, twenty-four hours a day if they could. They would also do anything it took to score a goal or win a game. They hated to lose. They didn't play the game because their parents wanted them to or only when someone took them to a rink. They didn't play the game with the goal of improving their skills or making it into the NHL. Making it to the NHL was a dream, not a goal. They didn't play in those outdoor rinks, streets, parks, and parking lots thinking it would be good to practise. They never wanted to practise, they just wanted to play games.

They played hockey because they loved to compete, loved to win, and loved to beat the other guy.


Hockey Town is about Peterborough, ON, and the passion that city has shown for many years for the game of hockey. It is not one story, but many, about the players, the coaches, the trainers, the parents, and the landparents (those with whom the out-of-town players boarded). Because of this, the reader can open the book at random without losing a storyline. It is filled with hockey data that aficionados of the game will relish.

      Hockey Town is a book that boasts, even brags, about "the game" in a way that only those who play it, or those who follow it avidly, at any level, can understand. Does it matter that "in the 2004 NHL playoffs, fourteen of the sixteen teams (Boston and Colorado being the exceptions) had a Peterborough connection"? Of course it does, if you have played the game all your life, (oldtimers leagues are popular across Canada) and still find it fascinating.

      All the trivia in the book is like nuggets of gold to the hockey fan. One interesting example concerns hockey great, Wayne Gretzky who played for Peterborough in 1976. The team's trainer at that time, Dick Todd, remembers "we couldn't find a helmet small enough to fit his head..We had to stuff it with Styrofoam, that's why the helmet looks tilted."

      Another concerns Scotty Bowman who coached the most Stanley Cup winning teams in history. While coach of Peterborough in 1958, he was a strict disciplinarian, insisting that players abide by his curfew rule. He became quite expert in checking up on players to make sure that curfew was obeyed. One humorous incident, which shows how serious he was, has him following players after curfew in an old truck. The players, never assuming Bowman was driving the truck, did not try to hide and were caught. After being threatened with being sent home, none broke curfew again. There are many other examples, equally interesting.

      A highlight of the book is the Appendix: Players, Coaches, and Others Who Made Peterborough Hockey Town. It is an excellent addition and proves how important hockey has been and is to Peterborough. As well, Hockey Town contains an index. Scattered throughout the book are many black and white photos of some of the players and teams discussed; always a good idea in a sports book. It is intriguing to see pictures of so many future stars as children. The author, Ed Arnold, is the managing editor of The Peterborough Examiner and has written several books about Peterborough's history. He also wrote Whose Puck Is It Anyway?: A Season With A Minor Novice Hockey Team and has received a number of Canadian Press awards. He clearly loves the game and writes about it with a passion that is infectious. Even non-fans will be attracted by his style and enthusiasm.

      Hockey Town is meant for recreational reading and is very easy to read. There is, however, one grammatical error. In his biography of Craig Ramsay, a Peterborough Pete between 1967-1971, Arnold writes, "Ramsay would do something that had drove his parents nuts". It is surprising to see an error of this nature in a book written by such an accomplished journalist. It also indicates a lapse on the part of the editor.


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

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

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