A Great Game - Stephen J. Harper

Title: A Great Game: The Forgotten Leafs & the rise of professional hockey
Author: Stephen J. Harper
Pages: 320
Published: 2013
Challenges: I Love Libraries, Nonfiction Reading
Genre: Non-fiction, History, Sports
Edition: Hardcover
Source: Library

Description: In the tumultuous beginnings of hockey, the fights were as much off the ice as on it. This engaging new book is about the hockey heroes and hard-boiled businessmen who built the game, and the rise and fall of legendary teams pursuing the Stanley Cup. With a historian’s perspective and fan’s passion, Stephen Harper presents a riveting and often-surprising portrait, capturing everything from the physical contests on the rinks to the battles behind the scenes and the changing social conventions of the twentieth century.

A Great Game shows that many things have stayed the same. Rough play, fervent hometown loyalties, owner-player contract disputes, dubious news coverage, and big money were issues from the get-go. Most important in these early years was the question: Was hockey to be a game of obsessed amateurs playing for the love of the sport, or was it a game for paid professionals who would give fans what they wanted? Who should be responsible for the sport – including its bouts of violence – both on and off the ice?

A century ago, rinks could melt, and by half time the blades screwed to the players’ shoes could be sinking in mud. It was during this time that teams such as the Toronto Professionals of 1908 and the Toronto Blue Shirts of 1914 took turns battling for the city’s very first Stanley Cup. Against the fanatical opposition of amateur hockey leaders, these “forgotten Leafs” would lay the groundwork for the world’s most profitable hockey franchise. (via Goodreads)

Thoughts: For the most part, I really enjoyed this book and enjoyed the descriptions of the various individuals that were involved in the rise of professional hockey and also those that resisted the change from the Stanley Cup being a challenge cup for amateur hockey players to a challenge cup for the professionals and the resistance from any sort of formation of the professional game.

While there was lots of information that Mr. Harper provided the reader, it was probably too much at times and it felt like he was saying the same sort of things several times.   Maybe it doesn't help that he's a  person that likes to use words a lot (he's the PM of Canada), but I sometimes felt that he didn't get to the point and was maybe a little too verbose at times, when less words would have sufficed to get his point across.  I wish he would have spent a little more time on the team itself rather on the formation of professional hockey in North America.

Bottom line: If you are a hockey fan or a sports fan and are interested in the rise of professional sports and have a general interest in the history of the early 1900s, you might interested in the book and it would be a worthwhile read. Recommended.

Rating: 4/5

Pages for 2014: 1310


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