October 7, 2008

The Montreal Canadiens: 100 Years Of Glory by D'arcy Jenish

As the Montreal Canadiens embark on their centennial season, it comes as no surprise that 2008 will see a number of titles about Les Habitants hitting bookstore shelves.

The Montreal Canadiens are unquestionably hockey's most celebrated team, including in the literary world. Over the years there are several significant volumes that have not only captured the Canadiens mystique, but contributed to it.

I'm thinking of books like The Montreal Canadiens by Claude Mouton, or Lions In Winter by Allan Turowetz and Chris Goyens or The Habs by Dick Irvin. And the absolute best of the best - The Game by Ken Dryden, My Life In Hockey By Jean Beliveau and The Hockey Sweater and Our Life With The Rocket, both my Roch Carrier.

Can this oncoming onslaught of Canadiens books really offer us anything new?

We will have to judge each book on it's own merits. But I can confidently say that The Montreal Canadiens: 100 Years of Glory by D'arcy Jenish does a great job of telling us the story of the Montreal Canadiens. And in doing so he offers us a new look at that history.

Buy The Book: Amazon.ca - Chapters - Amazon.com

Jenish is an exhaustive researcher, spending four years souring through literally miles and miles of microfilm at archives and libraries. Why? Because he believes that too much of Montreal's glorified history has been passed on has been retold and skewed by wonderful nostalgia. By accessing the long forgotten work of the sports journalists who were reporting the moment history actually happened Jenish believes, rightfully, that his book captures the spirit of history as it unfolded.

By doing so Jenish captures the true history of the Montreal Canadiens, warts and all. He looks at the team's formation and near failing 100 years ago. He looks at how the team survived two World Wars and the Great Depression, barely, before becoming, some 40 years later, the greatest hockey team ever. He carries us through the glory years of the 1950s through the end of the 1970s, when the team unthinkably won 15 Stanley Cups in 23 seasons. Jenish then looks at the past 30 years of relative quiet, where fans have had to learn to be patient and have lowered expectations.

Along the way Jenish, a personal friend of Montreal Canadiens boss Bob Gainey, writes about many key figures in Montreal's history, correcting nostalgic misconceptions about many while remembering some of the more overlooked.

And he does this all largely through the work of the talented newspaper writers of yesteryear.

The book, published by Doubleday Canada, is a great read, and certainly a must for any true fan of the bleu, blanc et rouge. If you don't rush out and get it right away, make sure Santa knows it is on your Christmas list.


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