Press-Republican

Black

December 27, 2013

Prime minister's hockey history

By my count, President Barack Obama has written three books under his own pen.

We have one here at home, “The Audacity of Hope,” which one of my sons bought, read and found audacious and hopeful. 

Our prime minister is an author, as well. Well, maybe not as “well” in the sense of recounting the struggle to overcome all manner of obstacles to become the leader of the free world.

Stephen J. Harper, while the author of many a treatise on conservative themes before he became prime minister in 2006, has finally delivered his masterwork, a tome he has been laboring upon for many years, requiring deep and meticulous research.

It’s a book about hockey.

My office-party secret Santa gave me a copy of “A Great Game: The Forgotten Leafs & The Rise of Professional Hockey.”

Normally, being a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, a book featuring the ancestors of my contemporary hockey heroes would have been a welcome addition to my library.

However, this volume was written by the prime minister, so as a journalist one feels a certain professional scepticism stirred when dealing with the subject matter contained within.

Without getting into a critique of the book — especially since I’ve only managed so far to stickhandle through a few dozen densely fact-ridden pages — the over-arching impression I am left with is how much the game of hockey has changed in the course of a century.

True, the other major professional sports — baseball, basketball, football — have undergone significant transformations over the years in rules, equipment and marketing. Yet, given its contentious, brutal and confusing beginnings — not to mention that it’s played on a field that has a tendency to melt — hockey has been a remarkable survivor.

These thoughts come to mind — again, this is a Leaf fan at the keyboard — as my heroes in blue and white prepare to battle an historic Original Six rival in the Detroit Red Wings on New Year’s Day in what’s called the Winter Classic, to be played at The Big House of the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor.

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