CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 14 . . . . March 17, 2006
The contents of Weird Facts About Canadian Hockey are organized into seven thematically structured chapters, with each entry within a chapter usually being only a page or two long. In the first chapter, “Men Behaving Badly,” Boer, a sports, politics and news writer for the St. Albert Gazette, relates the stories of six NHL players - Brian Spencer, Don Murdoch, Grant Fuhr, Ed Balfour, Kevin Stevens, and Bob Probert - who found themselves making headlines not for their on-ice exploits but for their involvement with drugs or alcohol. Jaromir Jagr is included in the chapter because of his connection to gambling. The one player who doesn’t seem to belong in this chapter is Claude Lemiuex whose only “crime’ was reneging on his contract, something that a lot of players appear to do via the hold-out route at training camp.
As someone who believes himself pretty knowledgeable about hockey, I found that the second chapter, “Radical Hockey Rules,” added to my store of hockey trivia, especially regarding rule changes over the years. For instance, this season, the NHL has seen many more penalty shots which involve the excitement of a single, unopposed player skating from centre ice to shoot on the goalie. However, according to Boer, “up until the 1940's, there were two different penalty shots that could be awarded: a minor penalty shot and a major one.” The latter is the format with which we are familiar. The “minor penalty shot involved placing the puck approximately 10 metres out from the opposing team’s net and allowing a single skater one shot on goal. No driving to the net, no dekes, just one hard, powerful shot.”
The “exploits” of 10 coaches, all but one, Eddie Shore, NHL coaches, are the fodder for “Crazy Coaches.” Fans, usually unnamed, become the stuff of “Fanatical Fans” which contains 13 entries, among them the 1955 Montreal riot over Rocket Richard’s suspension by NHL President Clarence Campbell. The chapter also explains how the term, “hanging from the rafters,” was literally true for fans at the old Detroit Red Wings’ Olympia Arena. How the traditions of throwing octopuses at Red Wings’ games and rubber or plastic rats at Florida Panther games began is also detailed. The only fanatical fan who gets named is the fellow who attempted to streak at the October 17, 2002 Calgary Flames game, but who, instead, managed to knock himself out in the process.
“Hockey Horror” recounts seven on-ice accidents or incidents in which players were seriously injured. Among these happenings are Clint Malarchuk, the goalie of the Buffalo Sabres, having his jugular vein accidentally severed by a skate blade and the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Brian Berard’s being hit in the eye by an errant stick.
“Playoff Peculiarities” contains 10 anecdotes relating to hockey’s second season while “Stanley Cup Sensations” contains brief 17 tales about the trophy, itself, and some of the strange things that have happened to it.
Because so many of Boer’s “weird facts about Canadian hockey” are drawn from hockey history, rather than the contemporary game, Weird Facts About Canadian Hockey will appeal more to the truly serious hockey fan than the casual reader. In terms of the book’s subtitle, the book’s contents are often “strange” and “wacky,” but they are never “hilarious.” Not a book that requires cover to cover reading, Weird Facts About Canadian Hockey has a place in the recreational reading sections of school and public libraries.
Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children’s and YA literature at the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.
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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.