WHL’s Eastern Conference: Who’s buying, selling, standing pat?

The run to the WHL’s Jan. 10 trade deadline began for real on Nov. 13.

That was the day on which the Regina Pats dealt D Jonathan Smart, F Cole Muir, whlsecond- and sixth-round selections in the 2018 bantam draft, and a conditional pick in 2019 or 2020 to the Kootenay Ice for D Cale Fleury. Yes, Regina gave up a possible five assets for one player, albeit a good one.

Since then, and including that deal, the WHL’s 22 teams have combined to move 25 players, 14 bantam draft selections and three conditional bantam draft picks.

It’s fair to say that the Moose Jaw Warriors, Swift Current Broncos and Regina Pats, the latter the host team for the 2018 Memorial Cup, are all-in this season. They definitely are buyers.

But . . . who is selling? And are there other buyers out there?

It’s interesting, too, that the East Division, at least at the top, is so much stronger than the Central Division, whose six teams have combined to lose 53 games more than they have won.

With the WHL now on its Christmas break and with the schedule pretty much at the halfway mark, let’s take a look at the Eastern Conference, with teams ranked in order of points:

1. MOOSE JAW (27-6-2): The Warriors lead the overall standings, meaning they also are atop the Eastern Conference and the East Division. General manager Alan Millar will buy if there is something out there that grabs his eye, but he’s already done some shopping by getting F Vince Loschiavo, 19, from the Kootenay Ice and D Ryan Peckford, 18, from the Victoria Royals, although he gave up a pretty good player in F Noah Gregor in the latter swap. . . . Don’t discount the value of veteran F Barrett Sheen, a gritty guy, who came over from Kootenay on Nov. 13. . . . Now it’s a matter of Moose Jaw getting everyone healthy and keeping them that way.


2. SWIFT CURRENT (25-7-2): The Broncos are four points behind the Warriors and hold one game in hand. Manny Viveiros, the Broncos’ director of player personnel and head coach, ventured into the Pacific Northwest on a November scouting junket. He returned home and immediately shoved all of his chips into the centre of the table, sending five players and a second-round pick in the 2018 bantam draft to the Calgary Hitmen for F Matteo Gennaro, 20, F Beck Malenstyn, 19, and a fifth-round pick in 2018. Only time will tell if Viveiros gave up too much — F Conner Chaulk, 20, F Riley Stotts, 17, D Dom Schmiemann, 18, D Josh Prokop, 15, and G Ethan Hein, 15, are the players who went to Calgary. . . . Prior to the deal, the Broncos were very much a one-line team and Viveiros knew that as the season wore on opposing teams would be harder on F Glenn Gawdin, F Aleksi Heponiemi and F Tyler Steenbergen. . . . The deal with Calgary will take some heat off those three. Keep in mind that Malenstyn (wrist), a 32-goal man last season, has played only four games this season. . . . The Broncos went into the break on a five-game winning streak. . . . They’ll get Heponiemi (Finland) and Steenbergen (Canada) some rest after the World Junior Championship, then add Malenstyn to the lineup and see if they can make some noise.


3. BRANDON (24-8-1): The Wheat Kings went 9-1-0 in their past 10 games and now are seven points behind Moose Jaw and three behind Swift Current. Of course, the Warriors are 8-1-1 and the Broncos 8-2-0 in their past 10. . . . But who saw the Wheat Kings making this kind of noise this season? They won the WHL championship in 2015-16, then got swept by Medicine Hat in the first round last spring. . . . A terrific combination of maturing younger players and solid veterans has the Wheat Kings in the hunt. . . . They appear to have a good thing going, so it’s doubtful that GM Grant Armstrong would do anything major that might disrupt it. . . . But, hey, never say never.


4. MEDICINE HAT (18-14-2): The Tigers lead the Central Division, but have stumbled of late, going 3-5-2, and watched their lead over Lethbridge and Kootenay get sliced to six points. Still, if they playoffs were to start today, Medicine Hat would have a first-round bye. . . . The Tigers also have yet to play even one game with F Mason Shaw, 19, a 94-point man last season, in their lineup. He suffered a knee injury while playing with the Minnesota Wild rookie team at a September tournament in Traverse City, Mich. He is expected to return at some point in the season’s second half, so the Tigers have that to look forward to without even making a deal. . . . Even without Shaw, the Tigers can score. But are they able to defend well enough to contend, or are Shaun Clouston, the GM and head coach, and Carter Sears, the director of player personnel, looking for an experienced defenceman?


5. REGINA (16-17-3): Ahh, yes, the Pats. The host team for the 2018 Memorial Cup was in last spring’s championship final, but has scuffled to this point of this season and finds itself fourth in its division, 14 points behind third-place Brandon. Yes, 14 points! . . . While Regina does hold down the conference’s first wild-card spot, it is just two points ahead of Prince Albert and Saskatoon. . . . Yes, things are messy in Regina. In fact, columnist Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post this week called the Pats an “embarrassment” in a column that is right here. . . . You know that the Pats will be buyers between now and Jan. 10, but considering their record and recent performances, one wonders if there is a big enough shopping cart available to fix whatever it is that ails them. . . . GM/head coach John Paddock acquired D Cale Fleury from Kootenay on Nov. 13, but Regina is only 5-9-1 since then, so it would seem that more is needed. . . . Paddock no doubt will be first in line for the Boxing Day sales.


6-7. PRINCE ALBERT (13-14-7) and SASKATOON (15-17-3): These two teams are tied for the conference’s second wild-card spot. The Raiders hold a game in hand, but the Blades have two more victories. They return from the Christmas break to meet in Saskatoon on Dec. 27 and in Prince Albert on Dec. 28. . . . Neither team is on the same level as the conference’s top three, but it’s important that both show improvement over last season when neither made the playoffs. . . . I wouldn’t expect either team to sell, sell, sell, but you can bet that both will be prepared to move older assets for younger players.


8. LETHBRIDGE (15-16-2): Have the Hurricanes underperformed? Or was last season (44-21-7 and a run to the conference final) an aberration? . . . Despite the inconsistent play, the Hurricanes are within reach of first place in the Central Division, and you know that GM Peter Anholt will be working the phone lines. At the same time, though, he has to be wondering if his roster, as it stands today, isn’t good enough to chase down Medicine Hat. . . . Earlier this month, Anholt added veteran F Lane Zablocki, who turns 19 on Dec. 27. He had 28 goals last season, splitting time between Regina and Red Deer, but was spinning his wheels with the Rebels this season. Anholt is hoping that Zablocki will fill the void created when F Ryan Vandervlis, a point-a-game guy, was lost for the season with shoulder woes. . . . The bottom line, however, is that the Hurricanes need to be better defensively, and that includes the goaltending department. Stuart Skinner is a better goaltender than this season’s numbers. Perhaps Anholt will be able to bring in a stay-at-home defender.


8. (tie) KOOTENAY (15-17-2): The Ice won 12 games two seasons ago and 14 last season. So by those standards, this season, the franchise’s first under the ownership of Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell, is a success. Of course, a playoff spot would be even nicer, but Fettes and Cockell, and head coach James Patrick, can’t allow the short-term view to circumvent their long-term plan. . . . Cockell already has traded away three veterans — D Cale Fleury, F Vince Loschiavo and F Barrett Sheen — and you can bet he will move even more experience if he thinks a deal or deals will improve the future outlook.


10. RED DEER (10-18-6): What happened to the Rebels? A season that began with promise has imploded and they find themselves seven points out of the conference’s second wild-card spot. They went into the Christmas break having gone 1-4-5 in their past 10 games. In the Central Division, they are one point ahead of fifth-place Calgary. . . . Red Deer’s biggest problem is that it can’t score. Only Edmonton (88) has fewer goals than Red Deer (96). . . . Brent Sutter, the owner, GM and head coach, may have signalled his intentions on Dec. 8 when he dealt veteran F Lane Zablocki, who turns 19 next week, to Lethbridge, getting back sophomore F Josh Tarzwell, 17, a second-round pick in the 2019 bantam draft and a conditional third-rounder in 2020. At that point, the Rebels had lost 10 in a row and 16 of their previous 17 games. . . . Yes, Sutter, as much as he won’t like it, will be selling. . . . Interestingly, Red Deer is carrying two 20-year-olds, one under the maximum allowable. While Sutter isn’t going to want to bring in someone to take playing time away from a younger player in this situation, that vacant spot may prove useful come the deadline.


11. CALGARY (10-18-5): The Hitmen have lost 13 more games than they have won, and find themselves eight points out of the playoffs. In order to get there, they will have to pass four teams, which is unlikely, even with 39 games left on their schedule. . . . Former Kootenay president/GM Jeff Chynoweth, in his first season as Calgary’s GM, signalled his intentions on Nov. 25 when he dealt veteran forwards Matteo Gennaro and Beck Malenstyn to Swift Current for a goody bag that included five players. At the time, Chynoweth said: “We’re not giving our players away, and we’re not throwing in the towel for the season. We expect to make the playoffs.” Of course, what was he expected to say? . . . He’ll be selling more if the price is right.


12. EDMONTON (7-22-4): The Oil Kings spent three seasons (2011-14) in the penthouse, winning at least 50 games each time and appearing in three straight championship finals, winning two of them. That was then; this is now. . . . The fall began in earnest last season (23-43-6) and it has continued, with the Oil Kings sporting the WHL’s poorest record. . . . They’ll be sellers, just don’t expect GM Randy Hansch to give away any of the franchise’s promising youngsters.

TOMORROW: The Western Conference.

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A return to Scattershooting . . . Ice sweep Hitmen . . . Pats’ struggles continue . . . Giants really playing large

Scattershooting

We’re back and we’re scattershooting on a Sunday night while watching the Dallas Cowboys and the Raiders playing in Los Angeles, and what a day it was for whacky NFL happenings:


Thanks to all who contacted me over the past day or two. I especially like the note that referred to Taking Note’s return as a Christmas miracle. Uh, no. But I do live with a miracle.


While I was on hacker-enforced hiatus, the Saskatoon Blades issued an injury report that actually specified the injuries. Yes. Seriously. According to the Blades, G Ryan Kubic (knee), F Gage Ramsay (groin) and F Caleb Fantillo (knee) all were sidelined. . . . Of course, by the time the WHL office posted its weekly roster report, all three were out with “lower body” injuries.


The day may come when the WHL realizes that a renewed emphasis on transparency might translate to more fans in the stands.


According to the WHL standings, the Seattle Thunderbirds have a .515 winning percentage. But their record is 15-14-4, which means they have lost three more games than they have won. Sorry, but that doesn’t compute to a .500 record. Oh, and don’t bother telling me that it has to do with loser points, something that has bastardized standings and the record book unlike anything else in sporting history.


The Regina Pats were one of those bogus .500 clubs going into Sunday’s games. They were 16-16-3, which the WHL claims is .500, before losing 3-1 to the host Saskatoon Blades on Sunday. The Pats now are 16-17-3, which the WHL claims is .486.


The Pats, of course, are the host team for the 2018 Memorial Cup. With 36 games remaining in a 72-game schedule, they have lost four more games than they have won. Yes, their fans are in a tizzy. Should they be? No, not yet. They need to relax, enjoy Christmas and check back about Jan. 17. By that time, the trade deadline will have come and gone, meaning general manager/head coach John Paddock will have played out his hand, the World Junior Championship will be over, and there will be few remaining distractions. That’s when what Regina fans see is what they’ll get.


In the meantime, Regina hockey fans will be hoping their bankers all are friendly and that interest rates stay low, what with two outdoor games, an Eagles concert and the Memorial Cup all quickly approaching.



While Regina fans have their hands hovering over the panic button, followers of the Portland Winterhawks are staying away from bridges, and fans of the Red Deer Rebels are wondering what happened to their season.


Brent Sutter’s Rebels snapped an 11-game losing streak with a 4-1 victory over the Tigers in Medicine Hat on Friday night. Prior to the start of this season, who saw Red Deer with an 11-game losing streak included in its record? The Rebels are 10-18-6, leaving them seven points out of a playoff spot. They are 1-4-5 in their past 10 games.


Don Hay, the head coach of the Kamloops Blazers, goes into the Christmas break with 736 regular-season victories. He needs six more to get to 742, which will move him into a tie with the retired Ken Hodge for the WHL’s career record.


The Blazers will come back from the Christmas break to play 13 games, seven on the road, from Dec. 27 through Jan. 21. That crazy WHL schedule then calls for them to play Portland three times in fewer than 48 hours, meeting in Kamloops on Jan. 26 and 27, and in Portland on Jan. 28. Of course, Hodge put up most of his coaching victories while with the Winterhawks.


You may have noticed that Portland F Cody Glass wasn’t able to crack the roster of Canada’s national junior team. That means that the Canadian team must be pretty darn good. . . . F Matthew Phillips of the Victoria Royals didn’t even get invited to the selection camp. . . . Yes, Canada must be really, really good.


The Vancouver Giants go into Christmas having won six straight games, including home-and-home sweeps of Portland and Victoria. The Giants now are 18-13-4 — that’s a legitimate plus-500 — and only three points out of first place in the B.C. Division. That’s rarified air for a team that won 20 games last season and has made the playoffs once in the past five seasons.


With a new year on the horizon, the WHL’s 2017-18 Official Guide remains, well, unavailable. This is the second season in a row in which the WHL hasn’t been able to make the Guide available in a timely fashion.


ICYMI, the home arena of the Everett Silvertips underwent a name change while I was on hiatus. What once was Xfinity Arena now is . . . wait for it . . . Angel of the Winds Arena. The Angel of the Winds Casino Resort is paying US$3.4 million over a 10-year agreement for the naming rights. The casino is operated by the Stillaguamish Tribe. . . . Apparently, there wasn’t enough support to have the facility renamed The House That Kevin Left.


If you weren’t aware, the WHL now is shut down for Christmas. Most players will return to their teams on Boxing Day (aka Black Tuesday), with all 22 teams scheduled to play on Dec. 27. All 22 teams also will be in action on Dec. 30, after which each team will have returned from the break to play three games in four nights. Six teams — Brandon, Moose Jaw, Portland, Tri-City, Spokane and Seattle — also will play on Dec. 31, meaning those players have four games in five nights to think about while trying to enjoy Christmas.


SUNDAY’S SCOREBOARD:

At Calgary, D Jonathan Smart scored 30 seconds into OT to give the Kootenay Ice a 4-3 victory over the Hitmen. . . . The Ice (15-17-2) has points in three straight (2-0-1) and is tied for Kootenaynewsecond with the Lethbridge Hurricanes (15-16-2) in the Central Division. . . . Kootenay won 14 games all of last season and 12 in all of 2015-16. . . . The Hitmen (10-18-5) have lost two in a row (0-1-1), both to the Ice. . . . Calgary is eight points out of a playoff spot. . . . On Sunday, the Hitmen took a 3-1 lead into the second period. . . . F Jakob Stukel (15) gave the home side a 1-0 lead at 5:28. . . . The Ice tied it at 6:09 as F Michael King (6) scored. . . . The Hitmen then got goals from F Andrew Fyten (4), at 9:32, and F Mark Kastelic (8), shorthanded, at 17:36. . . . F Cameron Hausinger (9) pulled the Ice to within a goal, on a PP, at 5:18 of the second period. . . . Kootenay F Alec Baer forced OT with his 13th goal at 16:47 of the third period. . . . Smart, who was acquired from the Regina Pats on Nov. 14, won it with his fourth goal of the season on the only shot of OT by either team. That was his second score in 13 games with the Ice. . . . F Colton Kroeker drew an assist on each of his side’s last two goals. Baer also had an assist on the winner. . . . Kootenay was 1-6 on the PP; Calgary was 1-1. . . . Kootenay got 18 saves from G Duncan McGovern. . . . Calgary G Nick Schneider stopped 17 shots. . . . Announced attendance: 6,269.


At Saskatoon, the Blades scored the game’s first two goals and went on to a 3-2 victory over the Regina Pats. . . . Saskatoon (15-17-3) is tied with the Prince Albert Raiders (13-14-Saskatoon7) for the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card playoff spot. . . . The Pats (16-17-3) have lost four straight (0-3-1). The host team for the 2018 Memorial Cup holds down the conference’s first wild-card spot. Regina is fourth in the East Division, 14 points behind the third-place Brandon Wheat Kings. . . . On Sunday, the Blades took a 2-0 lead on first-period goals from F Braylon Shmyr (15), on a PP, at 11:08, and F Chase Wouters (7), at 19:35. . . . F Matt Bradley (22) got the Pats to within one, on a PP, at 4:43 of the second period, only to have Saskatoon F Josh Paterson (12) get it back, on a PP, at 15:42. . . . F Jake Leschyshyn pulled the visitors back to within a goal at 14:40 of the third period. . . . Shmyr also had two assists as he figured in each of Saskatoon’s goals. . . . Saskatoon also got two assists from F Kirby Dach. . . . Saskatoon was 2-4 on the PP; Regina was 1-6. . . . G Nolan Maier stopped 27 shots to earn the victory. . . . Regina got 22 stops from G Tyler Brown. . . . The Pats were without F Sam Steel and D Josh Mahura, both of whom are with Canada’s national junior team. Mahura had been among the players cut from the selection camp, but was recalled to the team on Saturday following an injury to D Dante Fabbro of Boston U. Fabbro suffered an undisclosed injury in an exhibition game against Denmark on Friday. If Fabbro isn’t able to play, Mahura is expected to be named to the 22-man roster on Dec. 25. . . . Announced attendance: 3,534.


At Everett, the Silvertips moved past Portland and into first place in the U.S. Division with a resounding 8-3 victory over the Winterhawks. . . . The Silvertips (21-13-2) have Everettwon two straight and are 9-1-0 in their past 10. They lead the Winterhawks (21-11-1) by one point atop the U.S. Division. They also lead the Western Conference, by one point over Portland, the Kelowna Rockets (20-11-3) and Victoria Royals (20-13-3). . . . The Winterhawks have lost two in a row and are 2-7-1 in their past 10. . . . On Sunday, the teams were 2-2 going into the second period where the hosts exploded for five goals. . . . Portland F Skyler McKenzie, who has 23 goals, scored twice in the opening period, sandwiched around Everett goals from F Bryce Kindopp and F Luke Ormsby (1), who is from Monroe, Wash. That was Ormsby’s first goal since he was acquired from the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . Kindopp (11) snapped the 2-2 tie at 5:20 of the second period to start the onslaught. . . . Before the period was over, Everett had goals from F Martin Fasko-Rudas (1), F Akash Bains (2), F Patrick Bajkov (20) and F Riley Sutter (13). . . . F Jake Gracious (5) of Portland and Everett F Brandson Hein (2) exchanged third-period goals. . . . Everett got two assists from each of D Montana Onyebuchi, F Reece Vitelli and F Connor Dewar, with Fasko-Rudas, Ormsby, Sutter and Bains getting one apiece. . . . Everett was 0-3 on the PP; Portland’s PP unit didn’t get on the ice. . . . G Dustin Wolf stopped 26 shots for the Silvertips. . . . Portland starter Shane Farkas allowed five goals on 24 shots in 29:15. Cole Kehler, who turned 20 on Sunday, came on to stop 12 of 15 shots in 30:45. . . . Portland F Ryan Hughes played his second game after returning from surgery to repair a broken leg suffered on Oct. 10. . . . Everett was playing its third game in fewer than 48 hours. It went 2-1-0. . . . Announced attendance: 3,817.


At Spokane, F Nikita Malukhin scored his first two WHL goals to help the Thunderbirds to a 10-3 romp over the Chiefs. . . . Seattle (15-14-4), the WHL’s defending champion, has Seattlewon two in a row and holds down the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot, five points behind Spokane (18-13-3), which now is 17-2-1 when scoring at least three goals. . . . Malukhin, a freshman from Kazan, Russia, went into the game with one assist in 18 games. . . . F Blake Bargar, who has seven goals, and F Zack Andrusiak, who has 18, also had two goals each for Seattle. . . . Andrusiak opened the scoring 20 seconds into the game. . . . F Jaret Anderson-Dolan, on a PP, tied it for Spokane at 3:14. . . . The Thunderbirds took control by scoring the next five goals. . . . F Nolan Volcan (13), who drew four assists, and D Austin Strand (12) scored before the first-period ended, and Bargar, Malukhin and Andrusiak added second-period goals. . . . Spokane got to within three goals, at 6-3, as Anderson-Dolan (16) scored, on a PP, at 7:12 of the third period and F Riley Woods (13) counted at 8:37. . . . But the Thunderbirds wrapped it up with the game’s last four goals, from Bargar, F Matthew Wedman (4), D Reece Harsch (6) and Malukhin. . . . Wedman added two assists to his goal, with Strand, Harsch, Bargar and Andrusiak each getting one. . . . D Ty Smith had two assists for the Chiefs. . . . The Thunderbirds were 2-3 on the PP; the Chiefs were 2-4. . . . G Matt Berlin earned the victory with 31 stops. . . . Spokane starter Donovan Buskey was beaten five times on 19 shots in 34:50. . . . G Campbell Arnold, 15, made his WHL debut with the Chiefs, coming on in relief at 14:50 of the second period. He allowed five goals on 10 shots in 25:10. Arnold, from Nanaimo, B.C., was added on Friday after the Chiefs returned G Declan Hobbs, 19, to the SJHL’s Nipawin Hawks. Hobbs, whose rights were acquired from the Kootenay Ice in July, had been with the Chiefs since Dec. 1. Arnold has been playing for the prep team at the Yale Hockey Academy in Abbotsford, B.C. The Chiefs selected him in the second round of the 2017 bantam draft. . . . Announced attendance: 4,042.


At Langley, B.C., the Vancouver Giants ran their winning streak to six games with a 2-0 victory over the Prince George Cougars. . . . The Giants (18-13-4) are 8-2-0 in their past 10 Vancouvergames. They are third in the B.C. Division, just three points out of first place. . . . The Cougars (12-17-5) are last in the Western Conference. They are four points out of a wild-card spot and 11 points behind Vancouver. . . . D Bowen Byram (2) broke a scoreless tie at 11:31 of the third period. . . . F Ty Ronning scored Vancouver’s second goal, an empty-netter, at 19:00. He has 32 goals in 35 games; last season, he totalled 25 goals in 68 games. In 2015-16, he had 31 scores in 67 outings. In his career, he has 98 regular-season goals in 250 games. . . .  Ronning also drew an assist on Byram’s goal. . . . G David Tendeck stopped 40 shots for his second shutout of the season. He is 12-6-1, 2.90, .913. . . . The Cougars got 31 saves from G Tavin Grant. . . . Vancouver was 2-5 on the PP; Prince George was 0-2. . . . The Giants went 3-0-0 as they played three games in fewer than 48 hours. They swept the Victoria Royals in a home-and-home set. . . . The Cougars went 0-3-0 in playing three games in fewer than 48 hours. They lost 4-0 in Everett on Saturday, meaning they have been blanked in two straight games. . . . The Cougars return from the Christmas break to play four road games — in Victoria on Dec. 27 and 28, and back in Langley on Dec. 30 and Jan. 1. . . . Announced attendance: 4,088.


If you would like to contact Taking Note with information, have a question or just feel like commenting on something, feel free to send an email to greggdrinnan@gmail.com. I’m also on Twitter (@gdrinnan).


TWEET OF THE DAY:

Charron, Karpan remember great moment in Canada’s hockey history

When Canada won the 1987 Izvestia Cup, Eric Duhatschek was there. He was in Moscow, covering the tournament for the Calgary Herald.

“I’ve long maintained,” Duhatschek, who now is with The Athletic, wrote in a Hockey Canada newsletter, “this was Canada’s Miracle on Ice — winning, on the road, against a

TeamCanada
The Canadian team that won gold at the 1987 Izvestia tournament in Moscow. (Photo courtesy Murray Brace)

Russian team that played three 6-5 games against the Canadian team of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Dale Hawerchuk three months earlier. A special, if under-appreciated moment in Canada’s hockey history.”

I wrote this feature five years ago and it first appeared in the pages of the late Kamloops Daily News. Guy Charron lives in Kamloops where he is enjoying retirement. Vaughn Karpan is the director of player personnel with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights.

——

There have been many memorable moments for Canadian teams on the international hockey scene.

Yes, it all starts with the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union.

There also have been many memories made by Canada’s national junior team. And the 1961 Trail Smoke Eaters have to be included on anyone’s list.

But what of the 1987-88 Canadian national team?

This team, under head coach Dave King, deserves its own place high on that list . . . really high.

All Canadian hockey fans know that Paul Henderson’s goal on Sept. 28, 1972, scored in the Luzhniki Ice Palace in Moscow, won the Summit Series for Canada. What you may not know is that over the next 15 years not one Canadian team was able to win even one game against the Soviets in the Soviet Union.

And it wasn’t for a lack of trying, because Canada was a regular participant in the Izvestia Cup, a pre-Christmas tournament that was sponsored by the Izvestia Daily newspaper. (The tournament now is the Channel One Cup and is sponsored by a television company.) The purpose of the tournament, which began in 1967, was to get the Soviet national team some top-notch competition before the following spring’s World championship.

Prior to 1987, Canada’s Izvestia take amounted to silver medals in 1969 and 1986, and a bronze in 1978. But Canada had never won gold.

That drought ended in December 1987.

“It wasn’t as known or important to a lot of people,” Guy Charron, the head coach of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers and an assistant coach on that Canadian team, says. “People

Charron
Guy Charron, shown here as head coach of the Kamloops Blazers, has fond memories of 1987 and Moscow. (Photo: Christopher Mast/mastimages.com)

don’t know and don’t care that Canada won the Izvestia tournament. But it’s the only Canadian team that has ever won Izvestia.”

—————

As Canada headed for Moscow in December 1987, the 1988 Olympic Winter Games were on the horizon, scheduled for Feb. 13-28 in Calgary.

“Izvestia is something that was always on our schedule, and especially the season of the Olympics,” recalls Charron, who worked under King and alongside fellow assistants Tom Watt and Dale Henwood.

“Guy was a critical part of the team,” says Vaughn Karpan, a forward on the Canadian team who now lives on the Lower Mainland and works as a pro scout for the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens. “Dave was tough and he was on 24/7; he had to be. He led the charge. He got the most out of every one of his guys.

“Guy was the guy the players could go to. He was good at it. I can’t say enough good things about Guy.”

The team was stationed in Calgary, where it spent most of its season practising. But there were jaunts to various locales for games and tournaments. And this would be a big one.

The 1987 Izvestia Cup would allow the competing teams to get a read on where everyone stood with the Olympics just two months away.

“It was the biggest competition prior to the Olympics,” Charron says, adding that it would allow the Canadians to see where they were at “and how can we compete with the Russians, knowing that they were going to be a big machine in the Olympic Games.”

Ahh, yes, the Soviets.

This was before the Iron Curtain fell. The Soviet Union was one gigantic nation. Czechoslovakia hadn’t split in two. West Germany had a hockey team. Times were a whole lot different.

“We had gone there a number of times,” Charron recalls. “We played Izvestia every year. Getting into that rink was always very special. I have great memories.

“They had key ladies . . . you had a designated room and we always had the same key lady. I remember her saying my name in Russian . . . ‘Welcome Guy!’ I have great memories of going to Russia even at a time that was much different from now.”

For example, there was the hotel.

“Our accommodations were the pits,” Charron says. “I had to sleep with the lights on so the bugs wouldn’t crawl down the wall. I’d walk into the room and say, ‘I’m back!’ “

He’s laughing now, but you can bet it wasn’t funny 25 years ago.

“You got accustomed to it,” he adds. “It was always a great experience and Dave always brought us to different places to learn about their culture. I just wish I had had the opportunity to go into a family home.”

—————

There was no doubt that the Soviets would win the 1987 Izvestia Cup. After all, they had won this event eight of the previous nine Decembers, the exception being 1985 when Czechoslovakia had shocked the hockey world.

In 1987, as in most appearances at this tournament, the Canadian amateurs were seen as cannon fodder.

“We didn’t have the names,” Charron says. “With the exception of some of the players, we were an amateur team. Some of those players played in the NHL afterwards but this team was not made of NHL players.”

Goaltender Andy Moog was between NHL jobs, while defenceman Randy Gregg had played in the NHL. But it’s safe to say there were more household names on the Soviet roster than on Canada’s.

The Soviets had the KLM line – Vladimir Krutov, Igor Larionov and Sergei Makarov – and it was magic on ice. More often than not, those three were on the ice with defencemen Vyacheslav Fetisov and Alexei Kasatonov. In fact, those five were known in the hockey world as the Green Unit, thanks to the green sweaters they wore in practice.

The Soviet roster also included a young Alexander Mogilny, as well as the likes of Evgeny Belosheikin, Vyacheslav Bykov, Sergei Yashin, Valeri Kamensky, Anatoly Semenov and Sergei Starikov. The team was under the thumb of legendary head coach Viktor Tikhonov.

The Canadians? Along with Moog and Gregg, the roster featured Gord Sherven, Ken Berry, goaltender Sean Burke, Karpan, Marc Habscheid, Zarley Zalapski, Cliff Ronning,

VaughnKarpan
A veteran NHL scout, Karpan is no stranger to hockey arenas around the world. (Photo: IIHF.com)

Serge Boisvert, Brian Bradley, Chris Felix, Bob Joyce, Serge Roy, Wally Schreiber, Tony Stiles, Claude Vilgrain, Craig Redmond, Ken Yaremchuk and team captain Trent Yawney.

The Canadian team was just that – a team in every sense of the word. Hey, even the coaching staff did grunt work.

Charron uses the word “camaraderie” to describe what he experienced.

“Here I am, I’ve played in the NHL and we’re unloading the bus and I’m carrying sticks with Dave,” he says. “I remember a couple of times we had guest coaches and they couldn’t believe that Dave and I were carrying luggage and sticks and bags.

“For me, it was the Olympic team and everybody had to chip in.”

—————

The 1987 Izvestia opened on Dec. 16 with the Soviets pounding West Germany 10-1, Czechoslovakia getting past Finland 2-1, and Canada edging Sweden, 3-2.

The next day, the Soviets and Finland played to a 3-3 tie, while Sweden beat West Germany 3-2, and Canada dropped a 4-1 decision to Czechoslovakia.

The Izvestia Cup’s world was unfolding as it should.

After a day off, the tournament resumed on Dec. 19 with the Swedes beating Czechoslovakia 2-1 and Finland dropping West Germany, 8-2. The day’s big game, however, featured Canada and the Soviet Union.

“As an underdog, you go into those games competing, making sure you don’t embarrass yourself with one of the best teams in the world,” Charron says in describing Canada’s mindset. “I’m not sure we went into the game thinking, ‘We can beat these guys.’ But we had momentum and we felt good about ourselves. We said, ‘Let’s go out there and play, play hard, play the best we can.’ “

As the game progressed, the Canadians started to believe, maybe not in miracles, but that they could win this game.

Just talking about it 25 years later causes Charron’s voice to tremble a bit.

“Wow! All of a sudden realizing we can win this game, there was lots of emotion, lots of intensity,” Charron remembers. “It was like a big-time game when you have a sense that you can win this game. There was a lot of tension and a lot of intensity, a lot of big-game feelings at that game.”

Karpan, a native of The Pas, Man., had to sit out the game because of a high ankle sprain suffered against the Czechs. He got it taped and later played in Canada’s last two games.

But he remembers that “Sean Burke and Cliff Ronning were the stars for us that night” against the Soviets.

Berry came through, too, scoring a pair of third-period goals as the Canadians skated to a stunning 3-2 victory.

“I can vividly recall the smells and sounds in the arena,” Burke wrote in a Hockey Canada alumni newsletter, “and how in beween periods we were served hot tea. The crowd sitting in wood seats all dressed in greys and blacks and whistling their disapproval at the Russian stars, realizing they might actually lose in their homeland to a bunch of unknown Canadians.

“I can still see Ken Berry scoring from long range and the immediate thought that we were going to have to hold on for dear life to win the game . . .

“And then I remember the euphoria of our dressing room and the faces of guys that had worked so hard for this moment. We all knew we still had to beat the Finns to win the tournament, but how could anyone stop us if we just beat the most feared team in the world?”

A lot about Canadian hockey had changed after our first really sustained look at the Soviets in the eight-game series of 1972. Practice habits were different now, and there was more of a European influence in the flow of the game being played in North America.

The Soviets, however, hadn’t changed.

As Charron puts it, in 1987 he was glad “they didn’t pick up on our way of doing things sooner.”

“It didn’t matter how the game went on, he rolled four lines,” Charron says, referring to Tikhonov, the great Soviet coach. “If the fourth line was up for the power play, the fourth line played the power play. He wouldn’t double-shift the KLM line.”

Charron remembers watching the Soviets play earlier in the tournament and feeling the urge to yell at Tikhonov.

“Even watching against other countries, I was shocked,” Charron says. “I’d say, ‘Gawd, put that line back out there.’ But it was the fourth line’s turn, so . . .”

Charron also remembers one other thing about the Soviets from that era, something that is oft-mentioned by hockey observers from back in the day.

“There was no emotion from them,” Charron says. “The energy that Canadian teams have when they sense they can win something . . . that was something I noticed and I thought if they could ever have brought emotion. . . . Now they do.”

Charron noticed quite a difference when he was on Team WHL’s coaching staff when it played a Russian team in a Subway Super Series game in Kamloops in 2010.

“I could see the (Russian) kids in the hallway having fun, playing games,” he says. “I thought, ‘Wow, that’s different from what I was used to seeing in those years.’ “

—————

Beating the Soviets put the Canadians in control of their destiny. But the Canadians still had to play West Germany and Finland.

Even after the high of having conquered the great Soviet team, there wouldn’t be a letdown.

“We knew what we were on the verge of accomplishing,” Karpan says.

On Dec. 20, the day after beating the Soviets, Canada got past West Germany, 2-1, while Sweden and Finland tied 2-2, and the hosts beat Czechoslovakia, 5-3.

Two days later, the tournament concluded with Canada beating Finland 4-1, West Germany getting past the Czechs, 4-3, and the Soviets disposing of Sweden, 4-1.

But even after the tournament ended, the games didn’t stop.

“The Russians always won,” Karpan says, adding that the hosts loved the tournament-ending trophy presentations. “They didn’t win this time, so they had a trophy made up for the team that had won the most Izvestias.”

Years later, in the alumni newsletter, Sherven, a forward from Weyburn, Sask., admitted he was really looking forward to the presentations.

“As it was my third Izvestia,” Sherven wrote, “I remember really looking forward to hearing our national anthem at the closing ceremonies, instead of the Russian anthem. Unfortunately, they never had a recording of our national anthem, so we had to listen to the Russian anthem again. I guess they didn’t expect us to win.”

—————

This Canadian team would beat the Soviets again, also by a 3-2 count, this time in Saskatoon in a tuneup game a week before the Calgary Olympics began.

As Karpan points out, this was the same Soviet team that Mario Lemieux and Team Canada had beaten in the third game of a best-of-three series to win the 1987 Canada Cup in September. After the Soviets won Game 1, Lemieux scored the winning goal in each of the next two games, one in double overtime and the other with 1:26 to play in the third period.

“We had two wins in our three games against them,” Karpan says.

—————

“We won Izvestia, which was a great thing for Canada,” Charron says. “But looking back, winning a medal in the Olympics probably would have been more important to all of us.”

There would be no medal for Canada in Calgary. Canada placed fourth, with the Soviets winning gold, Finland taking silver and Sweden bronze.

“It gave us a good feeling going into the Olympic Games,” Charron says of the Izvestia victory, “except I’ll never forget Dave’s comment after we won. He said, ‘We just won too early.’ “

The Book Shelf, Part III

Bookshelf

As most of you will be aware, my original site got hacked late in November and I have been idle since then.

Tonight, I have opened a new site that may be temporary. If the other site is repaired soon, I will move back there.

But I wanted a spot to post these book notes — Parts I, II and III.

I am sorry they are so late but, hey, stuff happens.

In the meantime, enjoy!

What follows is the third of three parts.

Enjoy, and please keep on reading!


Morning Miracle: Inside the Washington Post a Great Newspaper Fights for its Life — Late in 2016 came news that the Washington Post was making money, again, and was soon to hire as many as 60 journalists. Written by Dave Kindred, who is best known as a sports columnist, this is a tremendous look at the inner workings of one of the world’s best newspapers as it fights for its life. Kindred was given access to every nook and cranny, and the book reads like it. Published in 2010, it is as relevant today as it was then. There also is a world of hurt here, as journalists continue to do what they do, while their world collapses around them.


My Song: A Memoir of Art, Race, and Defiance — You may know Harry Belafonte best as a singer — Day-O, Island in the Sun, Man Smart (Woman Smarter), etc. — or perhaps even as an actor. After reading his memoir, written with Michael Schnayerson, you will come to realize that Belafonte, 90, was one of the most important civil rights activists of our time. He was there with Martin Luther King Jr., and with Nelson Mandela and behind the scenes when so much more history was written. This is an amazing book, with Belafonte leaving no stone unturned, personal or otherwise. I was reading this book as January turned into February, which made it that much more relevant.


Night of Thunder: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel — This is the fifth of author Stephen Hunter’s nine (so far) books that detail the fictional exploits of Bob Lee Swagger. Night of Thunder takes place around Bristol Motor Speedway and a NASCAR race, with a family of crooks working to rip off the joint. Unfortunately, they involve Swagger’s daughter, Nikki, who is a reporter for a local newspaper. The rest is gunfire, helicopters and explosions. You’ll have to guess who wins in the end, though.


Night School — This is book No. 21 in the best-selling Jack Reacher series, which is written by Lee Child. The story, which is set in 1996, this time takes Reacher to Europe, mostly Hamburg, Germany, as he works to untangle a mess that involves terrorism and all kinds of federal and foreign agencies, including, yes, the CIA and FBI. Unfortunately, taking Reacher to Europe just doesn’t work. Something is missing here. Perhaps not enough bad guys got their heads banged by Reacher. Or, perhaps, Child simply ran out of Reacher-related ideas. While we hope this was a one-off, we will wait to see what’s next in the adventures of Jack Reacher.


North River — This is a novel about Dr. Jim Delaney, who works in an Irish-dominated neighbourhood in Brooklyn in the latter part of the Great Depression, prior to the Second World War. He comes home one day to find his three-year-old grandson on the doorstep and the child’s mother long gone. But this book is so much more than that because author Pete Hamill, a legend in the world of New York City’s newspapers, brings that city to life like no other writer. What’s that on your tongue? The grit and soot from the streets of New York. . . . Damn, this is a good one. I didn’t want it to end.


One Night Only: Conversations with the NHL’s One-Game Wonders — As of the writing of this book, there were, according to author Ken Reid, “about 350 men, give or take” whose entire NHL careers comprised one game. Reid, an anchor at Sportsnet, talks with 39 of those men in this book. As the title infers, the book features conversations as opposed to story-telling. Reid spoke with many of his subjects via telephone, so there isn’t a lot of up close-and-personal here and, after a while, the stories start to run together. Still, it’s especially interesting to read how these men felt as they realized the dream of playing in the NHL, and then later realized that, just like that, it was over. There is one horrible editing error — the chapter on Dave Chartier, who played with the Brandon Wheat Kings, features a photo of Dave Chartier, a player of the same name who played for the Saskatoon Blades.


The Pride of the Yankees: Lou Gehrig, Gary Cooper, and the Making of a Classic — Author Richard Sandomir, who writes for The New York Times, has written a wonderfully interesting book that chronicles the last days of Gehrig’s career with the Yankees and all that went into making the movie that followed his death. Sandomir details the search for actors to play Gehrig and his wife, Eleanor, and all that went into getting the movie to the big screen in a hurry. Interestingly, MGM boss Samuel Goldwyn wasn’t a baseballer; he wanted a love story. Gary Cooper, who plays Gehrig, wasn’t a baseballer, either. In the end, there was little about baseball in the movie. Still, the movie is a classic and this book tells the story of how it came to be.


Rink Burgers — Author Todd Devonshire was born, raised and played his minor hockey in Big River, Sask. He and his wife, Dawn, go home for a weekend and open boxes and memories, almost all of which are connected to his days as a minor hockey player. This book is rich in reminiscing and will result in a lot of smiles, especially if you have ever been in a small-town arena that was awash in the smells that come with rink burgers and fried onions.


The Sisters Brothers — A weirdly comic western by Patrick deWitt features a pair of bad brothers — Charlie and Eli Sisters — although one is quite a bit badder than the other. They are assassins for hire and their latest job takes them from Oregon City into California in search of their next target. The humour, you should know, is darker than midnight. In the end, though, the Sisters brothers prove that even the bad guys can go home again.


Stick a Fork in Me: A Novel — Pete Wallace is the athletic director at Western Ohio University and he’s closing in on retirement. Author Dan Jenkins uses Wallace’s reminisces and all kinds of characters to skewer the NCAA, professors, coaches, husband/wife relationships (his wife has a serious case of golf) et all. This is a quick read, but it’s Jenkins at his sarcastic and hilarious best.


Testimony — Imagine being a teenager fresh out of Toronto and finding yourself in Arkansas playing the dives and juke joints with Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks? That’s how Robbie Robertson got his start in the music business, and he tells us all about it in Testimony, an amazing memoir. Robertson now is 74 years of age; this book ends with The Last Waltz, the final concert in the volatile run of The Band, on Nov. 25, 1976. All that transpired between Arkansas and The Last Waltz is between the covers of this book and a lot of it isn’t pretty. That includes a European tour as Bob Dylan’s backup band as Dylan was going electric. Robertson packed a lot into the 33 years covered by this book and he introduces the reader to a whole lot of music history.


Time of Departure — I picked this book because the author, Douglas Schofield, is from Kamloops. A crown prosecutor-turned-writer, he now lives in the Cayman Islands, where he writes and practises law. This book is a crime mystery wrapped around Claire Talbot, who works in Florida and has recently been promoted to Felony Division Chief. I can’t reveal too much without ruining it for future readers, but it’s all about the unsolved murders of nine young women, and there is quite a twist in this story.


War Room: The Legacy of Bill Belichick and the Art of Building the Perfect Team — This one of the best football books that I have read. Author Michael Holley delves into the Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots in explaining how the organization got to the top of the NFL ladder and how it manages to stay there. Holley also looks at how Scott Pioli and Thomas Dimitroff left the Patriots’ front office to join the Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons, respectively. There is lots of inside football stuff between these covers.


The Whistler — Disbarred lawyers. A casino on Native American land in Florida. Organized crime. A crooked judge. What could go wrong? There’s all that and more in the latest work from John Grisham. Maybe it was just me, but this one really didn’t grab me. It’s pretty straight-forward with few surprises.



— This is book No. 21 in the series of books by Michael Connelly that features Harry Bosch. He now is retired from the LAPD but has his private investigator’s ticket and also is freelancing on cold cases for the San Fernando Police Department. That means that in The Wrong Side of Goodbye, Bosch is working two cases — he’s looking for a serial rapist and, at the same time, searching for a possible heir to a fortune — both of which have the usual twists and turns. This is more good reading from Connelly.

(Part 3 of 3)


Here are the top 11 books that I read over the past year, in no particular order (I attempted to limit the list to 10 but I just couldn’t do it):

Indian Horse, by Richard Wagamese

North River, by Pete Hamill

Billy Martin: Baseball’s Flawed Genius, by Bill Pennington

Testimony, by Robbie Robertson

My Song: A Memoir of Art, Race, and Defiance, by Harry Belafonte, with Michael Schnayerson

The Miracle Mile: Stories of the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, by Jason Beck

Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann

A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles

Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen

The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse, by Tom Verducci

Game Change: The Life and Death of Steve Montador, and the Future of Hockey, by Ken Dryden

The Book Shelf, Part II

Bookshelf

As most of you will be aware, my original site got hacked late in November and I have been idle since then.

Tonight, I have opened a new site that may be temporary. If the other site is repaired soon, I will move back there.

But I wanted a spot to post these book notes — Parts I, II and III.

I am sorry they are so late but, hey, stuff happens.

In the meantime, enjoy!

What follows is the second of three parts.

Enjoy, and please keep on reading!


Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis — Author J.D. Vance is a hillbilly and damn proud of it. He also is one of the fortunate sons who was able to escape before the vicious circle consumed him. He got out by joining the U.S. Marines and then going to Ohio State U, and followed that up by earning a law degree at Yale. In this telling book, he bares his family’s soul and, in the process, helps explain today’s political situation in his country.


Hockey Talk: Stories Behind the Voice — Dr. Gordon Hunter of the U of Lethbridge has put together a book in which 49 men tell their stories. Each of them is, or was, the play-by-play voice of a major junior or junior A hockey team. Each of them has a unique story, although almost all of them are at least in part about being in the right place at the right time. Hockey Talk is available from the U of Lethbridge bookstore, with all royalties going to Kid Sport Canada.


The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley and the Unlikely Ascent of Hallelujah — A song that received little exposure when it was first released by Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah has become an anthem of our times. Author Alan Light, a former editor-in-chief of Spin and Vibe magazines, examines the song, modifications and covers, and everything else around it. If you’ve heard the song — and you know you have — this is an engrossing read.


The Hot Line: How the Legendary Trio of Hull, Hedberg and Nilsson Transformed Hockey and Led the Winnipeg Jets to Greatness — Phew! That’s a title. . . . Author Geoff Kirbyson provides a real feel for what Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson went through when they joined the WHA’s Winnipeg Jets. Because of the beauty they brought to the North American game, it’s easy to forget the abuse they absorbed, but it’s all right here. Also here are plenty of well-deserved accolades from all kinds of hockey people. Thankfully, Kirbyson didn’t forget the other terrific Europeans who also were with the Jets, players like Lars-Erik Sjoberg, who quietly may have been the best of them all, Dan Labratten, Willy Lindstrom, Kent Nilsson et all. . . . I read a Kindle edition and it really needed an editor as there were a number of spelling errors, especially when it came to names. I would hope they don’t appear in the print edition.


Indian Horse — Saul Indian Horse, an Ojibway survivor of the residential school system, finds escape from his nightmare on the ice as a hockey player. He is a dynamic player, too, but what happens when what he thinks is his game turns out to be white, just like the ice? Author Richard Wagamese has written a wonderful book, one that will drag you through a gamut of emotions and one that will stay with you for a long time. If you haven’t yet read Indian Horse, get a copy and put it on top of the pile. It is that good; in fact, I would go so far as to say this one is unforgettable. The movie is on its way and if it’s half as good as the book, well, look out.


Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI — Oh boy, did this one stay with me after I finished it! The Osage Indian nation of Oklahoma found itself awash — really, really awash — in oil money in the 1920s, but not one member of the tribe could have envisioned the blood bath that would follow. Author David Grann has investigated what went on and what he discovered is mind-boggling and heart-shattering. Countless members of the tribe were killed — the exact number never will be known — by white men after their fortunes. Most anyone who may have been charged with investigating seems to have been bought off, which brings us to J. Edgar Hoover. The FBI was in its infancy and this case, with a man named Tom White assigned to head it up, did wonders for its reputation. . . . This book is one of the best reads this year, without a doubt.


The Late Show — Michael Connelly, the author who brought us Harry Bosch, uses The Late Show to introduce us to Renée Ballard, a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. Due to an incident with a higher-up, Ballard works the night shift (aka The Late Show) and really doesn’t mind it. Like Bosch, she has an independent mind and doesn’t mind going around the speed bumps in order to get the job done. But while Bosch is a lone wolf trying, and struggling, to keep up with the times, Ballard is up to speed on everything in today’s world. She also sleeps on the beach, surfs and, well, if you like cop books give this one a read.


Leo Durocher: Baseball’s Prodigal Son — In baseball’s long and glorious history there may have been no figure who was more polarizing than Leo Durocher. Here was a manager who during his days with the Chicago Cubs chose to demean Ernie Banks and Ron Santo, perhaps the two most-loved figures in that franchise’s history. If you are like me and love the stories and anecdotes from our sporting history, you will enjoy author Paul Dickson’s in-depth look at Durocher and his life on and off the baseball diamond. Don’t forget that Durocher was great friends with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Danny Kaye and George Raft, and his third wife was Laraine Day, a big-name movie star back in the day. Yes, Dickson had lots to write about and he did it well.


Life — There is a meme kicking around the internet that reads: “We need to start worrying about the kind of world we are going to leave for Keith Richards.” Dig into Life, the memoir written by the Rolling Stones’ guitarist, singer and co-founder, and about halfway through you start to think that meme hits the nail squarely on the head. Richards, now 73, should have been dead a dozen times over, if not more. Oh boy, what a life this man has led, and he chronicles every inch of it between the covers of Life. The drugs, the women and, yes, his relationship with Mick Jagger . . . it’s all there.


The Miracle Mile: Stories of the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games — This truly is an important book, one that should take its place on the shelf with others that dig deeply into events that were important to Canada’s history. Author Jason Beck, who is curator and facility director at the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame in Vancouver, started researching this book in August of 2006; it was published in 2016. The important thing to understand is that this work is about so much more than the Miracle Mile and its two primary participants — Roger Bannister and John Landy. It is full of the history of the 1954 BECG — how did they land in Vancouver, the decision-making process in selecting sites, what being the host city meant, etc. The research is impeccable and the stories about an untold number of athletes are invaluable. It also is the story of a city on the cusp of becoming an international showpiece. This book is, in a word, a masterpiece.


Mississippi Blood — This is book No. 3 in a trilogy that began with Natchez Burning and continued with The Bone Tree. If you read the first two, you won’t want to miss this one. If you like long reads that draw you in and give you a front row seat these are terrific, and Mississippi Blood doesn’t disappoint. Author Greg Iles tells the story of Penn Cage, the mayor of Natchez, Miss., his family — his father, Dr. Tom Cage, is much beloved in Natchez, especially by the black community — and so much more. Believe me when I say it’s all multi-layered and oh, so readable.

(Part 2 of 3)

The Book Shelf, Part I

Bookshelf

As most of you will be aware, my original site got hacked late in November and I have been idle since then.

Tonight, I have opened a new site that may be temporary. If the other site is repaired soon, I will move back there.

But I wanted a spot to post these book notes — Parts I, II and III.

I am sorry they are so late but, hey, stuff happens. I am stumbling along trying to get this stuff posted, so, at least for now, this site will be all about words. OK?

In the meantime, enjoy!


American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst — If you don’t remember, Patty Hearst —  yes, of that Hearst family — was kidnapped by a rag-tag outfit that called itself the Symbionese Liberation Army on Feb. 4, 1974. Author Jeffrey Toobin, who is a senior legal analyst with CNN and who also wrote The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson, provides us with an engrossing tale of all that followed the kidnapping. It’s all here, from the bank robberies to the strangeness of attorney F. Lee Bailey to Hearst’s trial and everything in between. Remember as you read this book that there was nothing resembling social media in 1974, and the FBI, well, it couldn’t have found its butt with either hand.


Anatomy of a Song — Author/music historian Marc Myers has written columns for the Wall Street Journal that feature interviews with singers, song writers, musicians et al. In effect, he has been writing about the stories behind the songs. In this book, he expands on that theme to profile 45 songs, all of them big-time hits that live on. Why 45? Remember when you purchased music on 45s? Included are tunes by Otis Redding, Elvis Presley, Bonnie Raitt, Merle Haggard, The Neville Brothers, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, Rod Stewart, Joni Mitchell and on and on. The stories behind these songs are mesmerizing.


Behind the Bench: Inside the Minds of Hockey’s Greatest Coaches — Craig Custance, a hockey writer with ESPN, sat down with 10 successful coaches — Mike Babcock, Dan Bylysma, Bob Hartley, Ken Hitchcock, Claude Julien, Todd McLellan, Joel Quenneville, Mike Sullivan and John Tortorella, and Ron Wilson — and watched video from a key game in each of their careers. Custance then wrote about what he witnessed and the chatter that went on in each session. You may not learn anything that really is earth-shattering, but this is interesting stuff. If you weren’t aware, successful coaches are intense individuals, something that really stands out here. . . . One word of caution: Best to read this book in six or more sittings so that the chapters don’t run together. . . . One other thing: I found it odd that Custance didn’t even make reference to McLellan’s six seasons as the general manager and head coach of the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos and how much that meant to his career. After all, McLellan, then 27, took over from the soon-to-be disgraced Graham James as the Broncos’ GM and head coach.


Billy Martin: Baseball’s Flawed Genius — In the days when the New York Yankees seemed to be defined by the actions of George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin, Bill Pennington covered the American League team for the Bergen Record and The New York Times. That means that Pennington was an eyewitness to a lot of what happened in what came to be known as the Bronx Zoo. Pennington was in a lot of the bars that were frequented by Martin, who had a propensity for finishing scraps that he may not have started, and he was at most of the games in which Martin’s baseball genius was on display. This is an entertaining read, one that reads as though the author was there, which, of course, he was.


The Bone Tree — It started with Natchez Burning and author Greg Iles continues the story with The Bone Tree. If you like long reads, these two books are for you. But note that each runs more than 800 pages in paperback. Still, they are well worth it, with Iles bringing in JFK, the KKK, the FBI and a whole lot more as he explores what once was a way of life in the Deep South.


Born to Run — It took more than seven years for Bruce Springsteen to write his autobiography; it would have been worth the wait had it taken him 14 years to produce what is an extraordinary book. This is the story of a legendary music man who really is just like the rest of us. He had issues with a father, who obviously had his own problems, and there are battles with anxiety and depression. Springsteen writes of all that, along with life, death, love and, yes, the E Street Band, and he does it without any puffery. This is easily one of the top books that I read in 2017. In fact, this was so good it took me a month to read it. I didn’t want it to end, so I would pick it up, read a few pages, then put it down, savour it for a few days, and do it all again.


The Chemist — Her name is Alex — or is it Juliana? — and she is a seeker of truth by any chemical means necessary. She is well-educated and well-trained and really, really good at her job. But now the very government that employed her is hunting her down. Written by Stephenie Meyer — yes, that Stephenie Meyer, who wrote the Twilight franchise — this isn’t science fiction or fantasy, just good escapism.


The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse — Author Tom Verducci received an amazing amount of access to the Chicago Cubs as they won the franchise’s first World Series title in 108 years in 2016. He used that access to tell the story of how the championship roster was built, in the process telling the stories of many of the participants. This is an enjoyable read and one that provides a whole lot of insight, especially into manager Joe Maddon and how he looks at the game of baseball.


Burning Bright — If you like the Jason Bourne movies, or the Jack Reacher and Harry Bosch books, you will enjoy reading author Nick Petrie’s works that feature Peter Ash, an Afghanistan veteran who battles white noise — his PTSD includes claustrophobia — and bad guys. This is good escapism for those smoky summer days or chilly winter nights. . . . Burning Bright is the second book in the Ash series; The Drifter came before it..


Game Change: The Life and Death of Steve Montador, and the Future of Hockey — This is a book about Steve Montador, who never was a top-end player on any of the teams on which he played. But he was the kind of player every team needs — one who does the dirty work and never complains. Montador died in 2015 and an examination of his brain showed CTE. Ken Dryden, who also wrote The Game, which is in the discussion as one of the best sports books ever written, has done it again. His examination of Montador’s life shows the stresses with which a depth player must learn to cope as he struggles to get to the NHL and then works to stay there. Everyone loved Montador and yet he was a loner, but Dryden is able to get close to him and give the reader a real feel for him. As the book nears its end, Dryden, a former NHL goaltender, offers up two ways — really simple ways — to save hockey from this kind of story. Unfortunately, the Gary Bettmans and Ron Robisons of the hockey world, the men who wield the power, won’t be impacted by books and stories of this nature. So the battle to lessen the number of brain injuries in hockey will continue.


A Gentleman in Moscow — It is 1922 and Count Alexander Rostov has been sentenced by a Bolshevik tribunal to house arrest in the Metropol, a hotel that just happens to be right by the Kremlin. But this is a grand hotel . . . as in really, really grand. That is the basis for a truly glorious book by Amor Towles, an author whose writing is rich and enjoyable and fun. The reader encounters twists and turns and glorious characters. My goodness, but this is a great book.


The Gray and Guilty Sea — This is the first in a series of Garrison Gage mysteries written by Scott William Carter. Gage is a private investigator who has retired to the coast of Oregon — to a town called Barnacle Bluffs — in a bid to escape from memories and lose himself where nobody knows his name. That lasts until the body of a young girl washes up on a beach. Gage is a likeable character, albeit with plenty of snark to him, and that makes it all work.

(Part 1 of 3)