Before I even begin this review, I’m checking my opinion of Mr. Harper at the door. I’m strictly going to review the book based on the book itself and not touch on the character of our Prime Minister.
Is there anything more Canadian than this? The Prime Minister of Canada writes a book about hockey. Regardless of your feelings on Stephen Harper the politician, Stephen Harper the author, is a driven, research heavy machine.
Before I read this, I had no idea that there was such a fierce battle fought against professionalism in hockey. At the turn of the 20th century, there were a few people who staunchly believed that the sport should only be contested by pure amateurs; that once players began receiving money, it would corrupt the heart of the game. And for a while, they could have been considered correct. Once cold hard cash was up for grabs, all players were considering themselves up for grabs. They could accept offers from all clubs regardless of where they last laced up their skates thus creating a wealth of consistent free agents.
Unfortunately, Harper spends too much time delving into detailed play by play analysis of the hockey games themselves and while he does a very good job emphasizing the atmosphere of the crowd, the horrific ice conditions and the intense level of play, it isn’t long before it begins to feel repetitive. Games began to blend together and I found my mind wandering, wanting to get back into the political battles off the ice.
There’s no denying that Harper did his homework as there’s a wealth of information jammed between the covers. My main issue is that I think consuming the excellent narrative non-fiction books from Erik Larson (Devil in the White City, In The Garden of The Beasts) has lessened my appreciation for textbook style, info-dumping history pieces like Harper’s hockey book.