October 29, 2009

Interview With Don Weekes

Our interview today is with Don Weekes, the legendary trivia king. He has two new books this autumn, The Biggest Book of Hockey Trivia and World Class Hockey Trivia.

How many books does this make for you over the years now Don?

I have been writing hockey trivia and statistic books every year since 1992. On a few occasions two per year and once three trivia books in one season, including the Great Gretzky Trivia Book in 1999. The number must be close to 30, if you count the books I've co-authored with Kerry Banks.

Do you have a favorite book out of that collection?

Not one book, because they were all fun to research and write in their own way, but a few held something special, particularly The Unofficial Guide series of three books that looked at hockey's most unusual records and the best and worst firsts in the game.

You must be banned from playing in all those hockey trivia contests at bars and on radio stations. Have you ever tried to enter one of those anonymously and just clean up the winnings?

Actually, my mind doesn't think that way. I could hold my own in a contest, but I write trivia so that I can tell stories about the history of hockey. I write about both the big and little events of the game, both the heroes and zeroes.

How often are you stumped by trivia questions?

I could tell you who won the 1935 Stanley Cup, but not who scored the Cup winner. So, I do get stumped.

What made you decide to get into the hockey trivia book business in the first place?

I always enjoyed local history more than world history. It's closer and more relevant to me and where I live. And I love the game. So it was natural and easy for me to be interested in hockey history, especially in Montreal. This city breathes hockey.

You live in Montreal and must have met many players over the years. Which players really know their hockey history?

In my experience, older players tend to know more about the history of the game. I remember producing a television documentary on the Canadiens move from the Forum to the Molson Centre (the name at that time) in 1995. We interviewed many Habs (Maurice Richard, Bob Gainey, Ken Dryden, etc.) and a few opponents, including Bobby Orr, Vladislav Tretiak, Red Kelly, Ted Lindsay and Bobby Hull. From this perspective, Hull was very impressive. He knew all the Flying Frenchmen dating back to the 1920s, the significance of the Canadiens's dressing room and the mural of players on the wall. His knowledge went beyond his era, both prior to and since.

Generally speaking, do players really know much hockey history, or are they just too busy focusing on the present?

I'm not sure. But I think you are right. They are focussed on the here and now. At one time I was a producer on Dick Irvin's Hockey Magazine, a syndicated TV show in the 1980s and 1990s. On one visit by Eric Lindros, Dick had to explain who his dad was to Eric. Of course, Dick Irvin Sr. was the legendary coach of the Canadiens and the first captain of the Chicago Blackhawks. Eric was about to get drafted by the Nordiques, so I guess he had other things on his mind. And in the end he created a little history of his own.

Have you ever thought about writing hockey books outside of the trivia realm?

I have written a few hockey books that depart from the Q&A concept. Because I work fulltime in television, my research and write time is limited. Although I collect material all year long, when I get down to the job, the trivia in my books is quite compact. And now that you ask, I have a couple of really good ideas, but they are much bigger projects that would demand big chunks of time.

As we said earlier, you have two new books out this fall. Lets talk about The Biggest Book of Hockey Trivia. At 576 pages it is huge? Are these stumpers all new, or a collection of your best over the years?

GreyStone's publisher Rob Sanders had been asking me for years to produce a "best of" book of my work and I said no. Trivia by its very nature changes, sometimes game by game; and I didn't want to go over old work. I wanted to write fresh material. But Rob convinced me that it would be fresh because everything would be updated. He was right and it was a huge seller. That first Big Book came out in 2005 and was reviewed favourably in Sports Illustrated. And this was before I ever had a review for any of my books in The Hockey News. So that was kind of cool. Then, they wanted another Big Book for 2009 and this time I said maybe. The trivia had to sustain 800 questions and, as it turned out, I believe it worked very well. There are a lot of great stories and facts that are all together now in one volume. And I have a bunch of new questions, so it's the real deal with puzzles, games and quizzes.

You also are bringing out World Class Hockey Trivia, a very timely release about international hockey trivia with the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver coming real soon.

My hockey history was really limited to pre-NHL and NHL. I had written a little about the world game, maybe a hundred questions or so on the Summit Series, Canada Cup and the Olympics. With the Winter Olympics at Whistler, I liked the idea of writing something timely and relevant. The process gave me a much broader reference of the game. And the stories are fascinating.

Hockey trivia books are not your only gig. You have a pretty fascinating day job. Tell our readers about that.

I produce advertising for CTV Montreal. That includes TV promos for our news shows, retail sales campaigns, print and radio campaigns. Television allows you to combine words with pictures and sound. Its a compelling medium, especially if you are a creative person.

Since you work with CTV and are so well known in the hockey world, will you be working the Vancouver Olympics in any way?

I was hoping to, but I expect my work will keep me in Montreal. Wherever I am, I will be watching every minute of every game.

Okay, give me your best trivia stumper you've got.

That's tough. How about an easy one and a hard one.

1) Who scored the most goals without winning the NHL scoring title in one NHL seasons?

2) Who is the only player to score 200 career goals without having at least one 20-goal season?

I have no idea! What are the answers?

1) Brett Hull scored 86 goals (35 more than his closest rival) but had only 45 assists. Wayne Gretzky out-pointed Hull 163 to 131.

2) Larry Robinson. As of 2008-09, only the Big Bird has done it. And it not as easy as you might think.


Anonymous,  December 16, 2011 at 4:10 PM  

awesome writer!

Anonymous,  December 16, 2011 at 4:11 PM  

Don Weekes is the trivia king! The very best!

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