In the tumultuous beginnings of hockey, the fights were as much off the ice as on it. A Great Game 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 of the early years of hockey, capturing everything from the physical contests on the rinks to the battles behind the scenes.
A Great Game shows how much about hockey has stayed the same. Rough play, fervent hometown loyalties, owner-player contract disputes, partisan news coverage, and big money were issues from the get-go. 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?
A century ago rinks could melt, and by halftime the blades screwed to the players’ shoes could be sinking in mud, but the hockey pioneers were unstoppable. Teams sprang up across North America, from Victoria to Winnipeg, Halifax to Montreal, and Detroit to Pittsburgh. In the Queen City, in spite of the fanatical opposition of amateur hockey leaders, early teams such as the Toronto Professionals of 1908 and the Toronto Blue Shirts of 1914 took turns battling for Toronto’s very first Stanley Cup. These “forgotten Leafs” would lay the groundwork for the world’s most profitable hockey franchise.
In A Great Game, Stephen Harper brings alive the history of hockey’s first decades and pays passionate tribute to the earliest star players of the game. This entertaining and original book will captivate fans from start to finish.