25th Trillium Award

Special Feature! Hockey Lovers Interview with David Ward, Greg Oliver, Richard Kamchen & Ken Reid

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Whether it's a favourite player or a goal that turned a game around, it's not hard to get Canadians to talk about our national obsession. And if you're looking for books that measure up to a true fan's passion, ECW Press has you covered this season with a slew of titles for hockey lovers of every stripe.

Today we're speaking to Greg Oliver and Richard Kamchen, authors of The Goaltenders’ Union: Hockey’s Greatest Puckstoppers, Acrobats, and Flakes. Greg is also the author of Written in Blue and White: The Toronto Maple Leafs Contracts and Historical Documents from the Collection of Allan Stitt.

Also joining the discussion are Ken Reid, who wrote Hockey Card Stories: True Tales from Your Favourite Players and David Ward, author of The Lost 10 Point Night: Searching for My Hockey Hero... Jim Harrison.

They tell Open Book about the most interesting players in the league, their own favourite hockey moments and just why hockey occupies the hearts and minds of Canadians so consistently. Even as many aspects of Canadian culture change, hockey remains our constant — head to any bar on game night and you'll see that. Read on to hear about great times in bad seats, the players to watch next season and why "it's not over yet" are words to live by.

Open Book:

Who do you think is the most interesting player in the league today and why?

Richard Kamchen:

The trouble with the NHL is there’s a slew of amazing talents, but a dearth of interesting personalities! And that’s a product of the media being unable to make up its mind about what kind of personality it wants. When a player goes off in an interview, makes an offensive gesture on the ice, or says what he feels on Twitter that goes against the grain, the press is all over him, scolding him about how times have changed, reminding him of what year it is, etc. And yet when the players deliver their post-game answers from seemingly the same song sheet, the beat reporters criticize them for being boring robots. The players can’t win! But the fans lose too when colourful personalities are repressed by the PC police in the press and PR departments.

Greg Oliver:

Isn't the most interesting and compelling one the “next one”? Will it be Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel as the number one pick in 2015? Will either be able to save a fumbling franchise, like the Buffalo Sabres? With massive leagues of 30 or more teams, major league sports relies on hope and possibilities rather than sure things, meaning that the youngsters get far more press than they used to — and a whole lot more playing time as well.

Ken Reid:

I think the most interesting player in the NHL is Alexander Ovechkin. The key word is interesting. I didn’t say the best, I said interesting. You never quite know what you are going to get with Ovechkin. He is a 50 goal scorer — but is he a fifty goal scorer that you can win with. He scored 51 goals last year but was a minus 35!!! That to me is interesting. Can he change his game to fit the style of his new Head Coach Barry Trotz, or will Ovechkin’s outstanding individual skills once again fail to provide team success? Last year’s Caps did not even make the playoffs. Will it be more of the same again this year for one of the best goal scorers in the game?

David Ward:

The guy who has captured my imagination is 23-year old Ryan O’Reilly of the Colorado Avalanche, because his penalty totals are so low, yet he plays a somewhat aggressive game. He must be channeling Davey Keon. Another thing Ryan has in common with Keon is, when he scores, he doesn’t jump all over the place in celebration. He’s very business-like; he has a brief word or two with teammates and then gets on with the next leg of the game. You won’t see Ryan trying to embarrass the other team, or wasting a lot of time trash-talking.

Ryan is also really courageous at contract time. Despite his youth, he knows his value and is not afraid to take risks or fight for what he believes he deserves.


Tell us a little bit about one of the following: your favourite game, your favourite goal, or your favourite save.


Favourite goal this year has to go to Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues, who wowed the entire hockey world November 3 with a series of moves that saw him turn the New York Rangers into a series of turnstiles, before he tucked in the puck with one hand just past the reach of goalie Cam Talbot. I thought only Evander Kane had moves like that. If he wasn’t there before, Tarasenko’s on everybody’s radar now.


Some people have amazing recollections of games or moments, but I don't. For me, it's often more about the circumstances. I'll always remember the 1990 Memorial Cup finals in Hamilton, Ontario, as I spent the week going to games with my Dad, following our hometown Kitchener Rangers as they tried valiantly, and unsuccessfully, to knock off the evil Eric Lindros and his Oshawa Generals. We also got invited to a luncheon hosted by the Mayor of Kitchener too, which obviously made an impression as well.


My favourite game of all time was game three of the 1987 Canada Cup final — Canada vs. Russia. Mario Lemieux scored the series winner with 1:26 to go in game three on a perfect feed from Wayne Gretzky. It was a pass from the era’s greatest playmaker to the era’s greatest sniper. It was Lemieux’s coming out party and a tournament that truly defined Gretzky as The Greatest of all time.

And for me, a 13 year old kid from Nova Scotia, it was a life changing moment. About ten minutes into the first period Canada was down 3–0. I thought it was over. My Dad told me, “It’s not over yet.” He drilled one simple message into my head, in hockey and in life, you never give up. I bought into this never say die attitude. By the end of the second it was 5–4 Canada. The Soviets tied it up in the third, setting the stage for Lemieux’s heroics. I swear, in the years since, I have never jumped as high in the air as I jumped that night when Lemieux scored the series winner.

It was the greatest hockey I have ever seen, and as a bonus, it came with a valuable life lesson as well.


My favourite goal came in my favourite game, when Peter Mahovlich scored a shorthanded goal for Canada against Russia in the ’72 Summit Series. It was game two of the eight game series and Canada had been blown out in game one, so there was a lot of pressure on that team that night.

Peter, after faking a slap shot, used his long reach to get around a Soviet defender before putting a gorgeous move on goalie Tretiak. It was a huge goal by a huge guy in a huge game in a huge series. The game was played in Toronto. I was 13, and I was sitting in the second last row with my late sister Wendy.


Why do you think hockey continues to be such a quintessential Canadian passion even as Canadian culture evolves and changes?


Canadian culture is evolving and changing? I guess I missed the memo. Sports fans especially don’t change their passions. If high school football is the biggest show in town, it’ll remain the biggest draw till the end of time. Hockey’s certainly no different, particularly in Canada. It’s always had a huge base here and for the foreseeable future, those who grew up loving it will keep watching, no matter how many bungling clowns come along to push their own goofy agendas and implement idiotic new rules.


The fact of the matter is that we're a northern country and we need something to do in the winter. Hockey has always been there and will continue to be. Even as newcomers arrive in Canada, there's that winter void and it needs filling, whether it's the pond down the road, an outdoor or indoor rink, or watching one of the zillions of games now available on TV. Plus it's a quick way for a newcomer to fit in — talkin' hockey is a regular part of a lot of people's lives.


Hockey is who we are. It is as simple as that. We can try and read too much into it and we often do. But think about it. Our ancestors did not pick an easy country to settle into. It is cold, vast, and the terrain is rough. If you settled in the prairies circa 1900, quitting was not an option.

These values translate perfectly to the ice. Hockey is a tough game, it is a game you cannot quit. But like Canada hockey is also a beautiful game. Out of pure hopelessness pure magic can emerge.

These Canadian values have been passed down through our game (see above and that 13 year old kid thinking it was all over for Canada in game 3 of the 1987 Canada Cup) and the game continues to define who we are.


I think it is because of the change that is constantly occurring in Canadian culture that keeps people hanging onto hockey. There is not a lot in our lives anymore that reminds us of our past the way that hockey does. Plus, as the world becomes more and more homogeneous, there is no longer a lot that differentiates us from other nations. So even as other hockey-playing countries catch up to us in skill level and style, Canadian hockey fans are still demonstrably different — more committed — than fans from other nations, and we don’t want that distinguishing difference to die.

Richard Kamchen is a freelance writer in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Greg Oliver is the author of the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame series: The Canadians, The Heels, The Tag Teams and Heroes & Icons. He has been writing about professional wrestling for over 25 years, starting with The Canadian Wrestling Report newsletter when he was still in high school. Upon completing a degree in journalism from Ryerson University, he worked at the Toronto Sun and Canoe.ca for a decade. A freelancer since 2001, he has worked on more than 40 books as an editor, writer and layout artist. At the moment, he has two hockey books in the works. He lives in Toronto with his wife Meredith, son Quinn, and is active in the community, both in Scouting and as a soccer coach.

Ken Reid is an anchor of Sportsnet Connected. He has been a huge sports fan and a huge sportscard freak for as long as he can remember. He lives in Toronto, Ontario, with his wife and son.

Moving freely between his hometown of Kitchener, Ontario, and his adopted home of McCallum, Newfoundland, David Ward is an author, teacher, columnist, and part-time lobster fisherman.

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