Book Review - Hockey: A People's History by Michael McKinley
If you're a hockey fan with an appreciation for the history of the game, *this* is the book you need to read... Hockey: A People's History by Michael McKinley. This both entertained and educated me, and brought the history of hockey alive in a way I've never seen it before.
Contents: Prologue; The Temple and the Chalice; Gold After Silver; Blood and Champagne; The Dustbowl Dream; A Cool Medium; Us and Them; The Soul of a Nation; Hope and Betrayal; The Winter of Our Discontent; Reclaiming the Game; Acknowledgements; Index
This is a coffee-table companion book to a CBC series of the same name. Not living in Canada, I can't say I've seen the series. But if it's anything like the book, it must be outstanding. McKinley goes back to the beginning of the game we know as hockey, back to 1875 when the first game was played in Montreal. Many other variations of the game existed before then, but generally speaking, this is when the game started in its modern form. Lavishly illustrated, he works his way up through time, from the birth of the Stanley Cup to the lockout season of 2004-2005. In between, you learn about the great names of the sport who often are just names attached to trophies unless you know the history... Hobie Baker, Frank Calder, Conn Smythe, and many others. The stories of teams put together to challenge for the Stanley Cup, back in the day when it was up for grabs to just about anyone. There's even coverage of the Portland Rosebuds, who challenged the Montreal Canadiens in 1916. Junior and women's hockey also figure prominently in the story, so whatever your particular interest niche is for the game, you'll find it in here.
I remember a few years back when my kids attended a hockey camp in Penticton, British Columbia. The final day included a game played in the city arena that was home to the Penticton Vees. It's an old-time barn, with plenty of memorabilia from years gone by. But until I read this book, I didn't realize just how big a deal that team was. That team went over to Germany in 1955 and beat the Russian team for the World Championships, and was the toast of Canada in the midst of the Cold War tension of the time. Walking through the arena, you could almost feel the ghosts of history, the thousands of games that had been played there. It's hard to explain, but hockey in Canada is more than just a sport, it's a national identity and obsession.
I don't know that I've spent as much time lingering and savoring a book than I did this one. It's a pleasure to read, and will add immensely to your understanding and respect of the game.