FIRST. Was there any actual new news in the official proclamation, last week, that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s hockey book will be in bookstores in the fall? Yes, a little. We knew already that Simon & Schuster is the publisher. We’d been told, previously, of the territory the book covers, including early Stanley Cups, the origins of the professional game in Canada, and the rise of the game in Toronto.
We did get a bit more texture in the press release that accompanied the announcement, which seemed to suggest that the prime minister is as interested in sociology as history. “Writing this book has taught me a lot about hockey and a great deal more about Canada,” quoth the author himself. His publisher, S & S president Jonathan Karp, talked about hockey as “a subject that goes right to the heart of Canada’s national sport.”
We still don’t have a title. This may have to do with how notoriously hard it is to name hockey books. It may be, also, testament to the fact that so many of the really good ones — Puck Is A Four-Letter Word, I Play To Win, Phil Esposito: The Big Bruin — are already taken.
We didn’t have a precise publication date, before; now we know that the book will be available in November of this year.
We learned that the prime minister is donating all his royalties to a fund that provides financial support to the families of military men and women.
There was a brief flap — mostly confined to the pages of The Globe and Mail? — having to do with the irony that, due to Investment Canada rules implemented by Harper’s own government, the book will be printed across the border rather than at home.
The most intriguing part of the press release came in the penultimate paragraph, attached to the name of the game’s most esteemed writer, Hall-of-Famer and Globe columnist Roy MacGregor, who was said to be “providing editorial services to Mr. Harper in writing the book.”
Editorial services? I’m guessing that’s a phrase intended to smudge, gently, the notion that the prime minister might need someone’s help to write a book rather than to conjure any images of MacGregor standing by 24 Sussex to help with paper jams and spellchecking. The following day, John Barber decided the time for dispensing with niceties was now, identifying MacGregor as the p.m.’s “ghostwriter” in his own Globe.
SECOND: Condoleezza Rice knew her hockey, I’m told, and Henry Kissinger liked to take a date and a Secret Service detail to Madison Square Garden once in a while to watch the Rangers when he was U.S. Secretary of State. Alexander Haig played tennis with Glen Sather and Wayne Gretzky — though that was after he’d left the State Department, it’s true.
With John Kerry, the office of top American diplomat enters a whole new era — hockeywise, at least. No previous Secretary can match Kerry’s enthusiasm for the game let alone his on-ice chops. And so we know there was real heft behind the banter Kerry bandied with our own John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs, during his first weekend on the job earlier this month.
After calls to Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, and Israeli president Shimon Peres, Kerry chatted with Baird about Iran, Mali, the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, and … hockey.
A few days later, when Baird was Kerry’s first foreign visitor in Washington, the new Secretary of State opened his public remarks on the same note. The transcript goes like this:
We dove right into the toughest issues. We began with hockey. (Laughter.) He knows – the Ambassador knows that I grew up playing a little bit. And since I’m a Bruins fan, we’ve clashed in many ways. But he, from Ottawa, is a fan of the Senators. And I want you all to know it’s the first time I’ve ever heard anybody talk well of senators. (Laughter.) So I’m grateful for it.
THIRD: Bit by bit, the British are getting to know the man we’re sending over to succeed Mervyn King as governor of the Bank of England on July 1. Earlier this month, while a parliamentary committee pressed current Bank of Canada boss Mark Carney on his political ambitions, pay packet, and what his plans might be for the British economy, The Daily Telegraph reported on Carney’s admission that as a football fan he prefers Everton to Manchester United or Chelsea. (Reuters later followed up with the news that his wife, Diana, cheers for Arsenal.)
The Telegraph reminded its readers that Carney is “a Canadian who played ice hockey at university and who also follows the National Hockey League’s Edmonton Oilers.”
I don’t know whether that was widely known. Was it? Obviously Carney would have wanted to remain to be seen as impartial. Which is why, I guess, he never showed up at a news conference wearing his Ryan Smyth sweater. So what’s different about his new job? I guess he has to establish some cultural credentials in Britain that he never did here at home. Still. In declaring himself a Toffees fan right up at the front, doesn’t he risk alienating any number of Wigan, Spurs, and Norwich City supporters before he gets his hands on their interest rates? Not to mention the Liverpool fans. He didn’t seem concerned, though. He was even prepared to hitch Everton’s prospects to those of the rising young Oilers.
“It’s been more enjoyable being an Edmonton Oilers supporter than it has been being an Everton supporter of late,” Carney said, “but since the Oilers are coming back strong this year let’s hope the Toffees [do]. In fact, Everton’s doing OK.”
Back in November, when Carney got his new British job, the local press quickly dug up what they could about his on-ice past, which included stints in the nets at Harvard and Oxford. The Times disclosed a surprising impermeability:
Mark Carney is an alpha male, and isn’t afraid to show it.
From his days at Harvard, his athletics coach remembers a knuckle-hard goalkeeper who “stopped every shot he ever faced.”
Which would be worth noting, if it were true. London’s Evening Standard was able to clarify. In a profile headlined
Meet the Guv’nor: Mark Carney, the hockey-playing Goldman Sachs banker who is the new boss of the Bank of England
we got a more finely detailed account:
At university, he played goalkeeper on the ice hockey team, though usually as a substitute. During his only full game, he saved every shot, but the performance didn’t win him the job. According to Bill Cleary, Harvard’s ice hockey coach, it is always bench-warmers such as Carney who have succeeded in life: “Over the years, guys like him are the ones who have become successful. The guys with the ability sometimes have too much — they don’t know what it is to work.”
The Evening Standard had news, too, of the hockey on which Carney’s marriage was made:
His work took him from London to New York and Tokyo and finally Toronto, and was only interrupted for a few years while he obtained his masters and doctorate in economics at Nuffield College, Oxford. It was in Oxford that he met his wife, Diana Fox, a British economist who has specialised in Third World development. He was apparently smitten after seeing her dominate a field hockey match.
The profile even went to trouble of getting a character reference for an NHL management suite:
When Canada’s Reader’s Digest magazine voted Carney the most trusted Canadian of 2011, his former Harvard room-mate, Peter Chiarelli, now the general manager of the Boston Bruins, a professional ice hockey team, said: “Carney is Canadian, through and through. He left Wall Street and Bay Street, where he was making oodles of money, because even back in university he wanted to make his mark in public service.”
The Evening Standard’s business editor had more hockey context to help flesh out the Carney character. Friends from his time at Oxford’s Nuffield College testified that “he was ‘highly driven, highly ambitious’ but enjoyed student social life.”
A friend on the university ice hockey team said: “A lot of people let their hair down a bit. I can’t think of any scandal — no team groupies or anything like that — but he was always there when the drinking-game initiations took place.
“He was very pleasant, very much the mature student, and it was clear he was going places.” Teammates became astronauts, security advisers to Washington and bankers. The friend added: “Goalies in ice hockey tend to be very neurotic, Mark certainly fitted that ilk. We travelled to all corners of the UK and he saw some real dives, but whether that prepared him to become Governor of the Bank of England I’m not sure.”