the explainer

Paul Henderson gave Jim Prime a nosebleed that night in September of 1972. If that sounds like Prime was somehow on the Luzhniki ice, well, no — he was in Halifax, in his car, listening on the radio. When Henderson scored his famous Game Eight goal, Prime swerved — and his nose started to bleed. Which perplexed an American friend who was with him, as Prime recalls. “It’s a Canadian thing,” he explained. Continue reading

worst coaches

Coach and Midget Canadien Hockey Player, by Aislin, a.k.a. Terry Mosher, 1993, from Montreal’s McCord Museum.

Georges Laraque says that Wayne Gretzky is the worst coach he ever played for. That’s the news this week from Georges Laraque: The Story of the NHL’s Unlikeliest Tough Guy (Viking Canada), that and a whole bunch of stuff about the prevalence of steroids and assorted other performance-enhancers in the NHL. That’s what first caught the headlines before giving way to Gretzky’s terrible coaching. Continue reading

books for bilious times

And then there was backlash.

It had to come, I guess. “We are drowning in hockey bile,” Sports Illustrated’s Michael Farber wrote back in April, when the addled brains of players like Sidney Crosby and Marc Savard weren’t getting better, not to mention the gathering body of evidence on links between hockey head trauma and dementia, plus (to borrow from Farber’s list of woes) all the suspensions, the awfulness of the shootout, and the generally egregious the New York Islanders. Continue reading


Topps / O-Pee-Chee1965-66 O-Pee-Chee #59 Bobby Hull

FIRST. Available soon from the world’s worst distillery? Bobby Hull’s voice is, quote, testosterone aged in oak kegs, according to Gare Joyce in The Devil and Bobby Hull (Wiley).

SECOND. Russian president Vladimir Putin has not given up on hockey. As recently as February, the former and future prime minister couldn’t skate. He vowed to learn, though, and by April he was ready to take a tottery turn at practice with a youth team at Moscow’s Luzhniki Sports Palace. Then, last month, a sign that his focus was maybe straying: when future former p.m. Dmitry Medvedev took up racquet and bird to promote badminton to the people — “Those who play badminton well, make decisions quickly,” he advised — his opponent over the net was the future former president. Not to worry. ESPN magazine reports that Putin is taking regular skating lessons under the tutelage of fellow politician and erstwhile defenceman Viacheslav Fetisov. He has sights set, apparently, on skating at the Sochi Olympics in 2014. Writer Brett Forrest put it to KHL president Alexander Medvedev: what kind of player will Putin be? “My personal feeling,” he said, “is that he will be a very disciplined player on the ice.”

THIRD. “It can be argued that the premium theorizing on most sports has fallen to the journeymen players — the Sheros and Nesterenkos of hockey, baseball’s Jim Bouton — and that the magnificently gifted — Rocket Richard in hockey, Pete Rose and Mickey Mantle in baseball — often appear to be in lifelong thinking slumps.”
• Roy MacGregor in a 1978 profile of Guy Lafleur, collected in his new compendium of hockey writings, Wayne Gretzky’s Ghost (Random House Canada).

three hundredths

A hundred days changed Canada, according to a new book, 100 Days That Changed Canada (HarperCollins), edited by Mark Reid from Canada’s History magazine. Is this a flip-flop? It was just two years ago that Reid had a whole other book out to tell us that it was 100 Photos That Changed Canada. Which is it, Days or Photos? We deserve an answer.

Some quick stats, while we wait: most of the days (17) have been Thursdays in June (13), while relatively few have been Sundays (9) in August (4). 1967 had the most catalytic days, with five, bettering 19s 44 and 64 by one. Some years — 1966, for instance, and 2007 — nothing changed at all.

Continue reading

puck classics

Colder this week in Toronto, but mostly it’s wet. A mist of rain, or a rain of mist, one of those, on the way down to Toronto library headquarters today on two pressing investigations:

1. The debate over mandatory visors started up again almost immediately during the Toronto-Philadelphia game on Monday night after Mikhail Grabovski’s stick snicked Chris Pronger’s eye. Sifting the yays and the nays in today’s Globe and Mail, James Mirtle talks to Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke. He thinks defencemen should have to wear shields, no question. All the players, though? “I’d want to hear the GMs on the larger topic,” he says, “but I think I would support Homer.” Continue reading

mirror, hammer


Skating is sex, says Adam Gopnik, though I’m not going to tell you why — you’ll have catch the last of his Massey Lectures on Wednesday in Toronto. If not, they’re also bound up, the lectures, between handsome covers in Winter: Five Windows On The Season (Anansi). The pertinent chapter is called Recreational Winter, though really, let’s be honest, it’s a hockey chapter. A peculiar hybrid he calls it, the game, and a city sport. Also, a mirror and a hammer. And, yes, the greatest of all the sports, too. Continue reading