Hockey Town: Life Before the Pros
Author: Ed Arnold
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Release Date: October 19, 2004
What makes a hockey town?
It helps that the world’s greatest hockey franchise – the Montreal Canadiens – made the Peterborough Petes part of their powerful farm system in the mid-1950s. And it definitely helps that a number of great coaches – from Scotty Bowman to Roger Neilson – have stood behind the Petes’ bench. The town’s reputation gains lustre, also, from the roster of its player alumni, including such luminaries as Dit Clapper, Stan Jonathan, Barclay Plager, Rick MacLeish, Bob Gainey, Steve Yzerman, Steve Larmer, Mike Ricci, Chris Pronger, and Jamie Langenbrunner – to name just a few. It’s worth noting, in passing, that Walter Gretzky wanted young Wayne to play for the Petes. (And Wayne did, too, for three games.) All these factors help to explain how Peterborough achieved pre-eminence among hockey cradles. But there’s more to it than this.
The story is told thousands of times each winter. It is told by the dads who flood the backyard rinks at three in the morning. It is told by the moms who take their kids to the rink in time for the 6:00 a.m. practice. It is told by the parents who coach and manage the midget teams. Above all, it is told by the players who practise slap shots endlessly in the basement, who play road hockey tirelessly in the spring, and who dream constantly of the day when they will make their mark in the NHL.
In telling the stories of Peterborough’s parents, coaches, and hockey-mad kids, of the ones who made it big in the professional game, and of a few who tried and failed, Ed Arnold comes close to capturing the magic of the best sport in the world.