October 14, 2007

Gretzky to Lemieux: The Story Of The 1987 Canada Cup

Ed Willes has gone down a road that I am very familiar with.

Willes, hockey journalist extraordinare of the Vancouver Province daily newspaper, revisited his youthful memories of the 1987 Canada Cup only to find that the hockey he may have mythologized in his own memories was even more spectacular, more special and more impacting than even he realized. He captures it all nicely in his new book Gretzky to Lemieux: the Story of the 1987 Canada Cup

I know the road Willes has travelled all too well. In 2002 co-author Patrick Houda and I released our first book World Cup of Hockey: A History of Hockey's Greatest Tournament, sort of an encyclopedic history of all the Canada Cup/World Cup tournaments. This project allows me to give a real unique review of Willes' new title.

Firstly, I can attest Willes' book is incredibly thorough and well researched. I've always considered myself to be more of a researcher than writer, and I have exhaustively researched the 1987 Canada Cup. It is obvious Willes has too. I can attest has expertly fit everything of importance into his dissertation.

I will end any comparisons of "Gretzky to Lemieux" and "World Cup of Hockey" right now. I feel no shame in telling you that Willes' book blows mine away.

I don't think Willes' book is a particularly profound or prolific piece of literature, but then again such a find is incredibly rare in the hockey book industry. What it is is a fun, engrossing read that you can't put down. It is thoroughly complete, expertly written and, through the use of countless quotes, incredibly well connected to the main characters. And Willes has a real professional publisher in McLelland & Stewart. The word professional is all over this book.

So is the word entertaining. But how could any book about the greatest hockey ever played not be entertaining. With names like Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Mario Lemieux, Grant Fuhr, Viacheslav Fetisov, Vladimir Krutov, Sergei Makarov and Igor Larionov all in the primes of their caree, the greatest collection of hockey talent translates in every language into the games of their lives and of our lives.

Willes' intense passion for such hockey is obvious on every page, and allows us to relive it all, all over again. The drama. The intrigue. The memories.

Willes immediately captures readers with an opening chapter about how Wayne Gretzky was initially reluctant to play in the tournament. He goes on to subsequent chapters of introducing the teams, giving the Russians the same time as the Canadians. Though the two teams seemed worlds part on and off the ice, Willes lets everyone know how strangely identical they actually were.

Willes devotes a chapter to a whirlwind recap of the other countries and the entire tournament That chapter may have been short and sweet, but realistically that is all that is needed. The other countries, for the most part, were supporting actors in the epic drama between eternal rivals Canada and Russia.

Willes quickly jumps into the three classic games that comprised the Canada Cup finals, giving a nicely detailed blow by blow description. Along the way he takes time to further look into many of the key protagonists from the series, packing the pages with many interviews and quotes. He captures it all, and also looks at the true villains of the tournament - Alan Eagleson, Viktor Tikhonov and Mike Keenan.

All in all, this Gretzky to Lemieux: the Story of the 1987 Canada Cup is a real solid book, and a definite must have for any fan who witnessed the greatest hockey ever player. This book is very much deserving of your $25.

3 comments:

Marc February 19, 2010 at 5:20 AM  

Hey Joe,

Have you read any of Ross Brewitt's books?


Last Minute of Play

Into the Empty Net

Clear the Track

Marc

Marc February 19, 2010 at 5:20 AM  

Hey Joe,

Have you read any of Ross Brewitt's books?


Last Minute of Play

Into the Empty Net

Clear the Track

Marc

Joe Pelletier February 19, 2010 at 11:48 AM  

Yeah, I have all three. I liked all three, nothing spectacular or out of the ordinary, but enjoyable reads.

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