CM . . .
. Volume XVII Number 26. . . .March 11, 2011
Blood Feuds: Hockey's Best-Ever Rivalries.
Ryan Kennedy, ed.
Montreal, PQ: Transcontinental Books (Distributed by Random House of Canada), 2010.
199 pp., pbk., $19.95.
National Hockey League-History.
Violence in sports.
Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.
Review by Thomas F. Chambers.
"I left the hotel at 2.00 and 2.30 in the afternoon just to get to the rink. The idea of walking at 5.00 or 5.30 was out of the question, because all of those fans would be there and it was a real threat."
Potvin recalled one incident when the team bus was leaving the Garden and Rangers fans weren't going to let go without a fight, despite the mounted police and riot unit on hand. As the bus slowly backed up through the mob, one fan threw a full beer at it. Islander Gord Lane was sitting next to window, the bottle shattered it, leaving the defenseman with shards of glass in his face.
"That was the kind of treatment the Rangers fans (gave us)," Potvin said. "Those were the kinds of encounters we had."
As anyone who has ever watched an NHL game can testify, a game of hockey can often deteriorate into a brawl. As a result, rivalries often develop between individual players, whole teams, and even coaches. Blood Feuds is about these rivalries which have become a part of hockey lore and are often well known by fans. It is also about other kinds of rivalries that are less well-known. Included in these latter rivalries is that between the CBC and TSN over "The Hockey Theme" music, the rivalry between the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia resulting from Soviet control of the Czechs during the Cold War and that between Harold Ballard and Toronto. In the case of Harold Ballard and Toronto, there was no rivalry at all. Ballard, owner of the Maple Leafs from 1972-1990, simply interfered with the running of the team, often in a most unhealthy way. He probably loved the team, but, because of his behaviour, it "fell into a state of ruin."
There are 57 small chapters of just a few pages each in Blood Feuds. These illustrate vividly that hockey can be a very violent game, even more than other contact sports. It is this violence that many fans expect to see when they watch a game, much like the spectators in ancient Rome at gladiatorial contests. If this violence is curbed, hockey would likely lose much of its appeal. Blood Feuds helps to explain how rivalries develop and sometimes continue long after the reason for the violence in the first place is forgotten.
Blood Feuds is very easy to read, with a text that even poor readers can follow, and it could be used as recreational reading. There are many functional black and white photographs throughout the book. Many pages are also illustrated with red dots and blotches symbolizing the blood that is often seen at hockey games.
Blood Feuds is not a book you can read continuously as you can with a good novel or history book. There are no storylines to grab the reader`s attention except the controversy that often surrounds hockey. It does contain considerable hockey trivia. This should make the book popular with the game's many fans and help to perpetuate the rivalries of which younger fans may not be aware.
There is no single author of Blood Feuds which "was put together by a scrappy and determined staff" at The Hockey News. As result, there is no unique style to the book. Since the staff at The Hockey News wrote the book, one can assume that the facts are accurate.
Thomas F. Chambers, a retired college teacher, lives in North Bay, ON.
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