Friday, 2 April 2010

TBC: Leslie McFarlane's Hockey Stories

It has been a while since Teebz's Book Club made an appearance on here, but there will be a pile of books that will posted in the coming weeks thanks to my recent reading indulgence. Today, we look at a book written by a very well-known author of another name, but this author's name should be recognizable by hockey fans. Leslie McFarlane, the father of long-time hockey broadcaster Brian McFarlane, was an author around the time of the Great Depression, and he wrote a variety of stories for various publishers. Today, TBC is proud to review Leslie McFarlane's Hockey Stories, written by Leslie McFarlane and published by Key Porter Books Limited. The 138-page book was edited by Brian McFarlane.

Leslie McFarlane was a Canadian author, journalist, and film-maker. Born in 1902 in Haileybury, Ontario, the writer passed away September 6, 1977 just shy of his 75th birthday. McFarlane is probably better known by his pseudonyms that he wrote under, and the most famous of these would be Franklin W. Dixon. Dixon, of course, penned 21 of the Hardy Boys books in that literary series.

During the Depression, McFarlane began working for Stratemeyer Syndicate after answering a want-ad. Stratemeyer Syndicate published titles such as Nancy Drew, Tom Swift and the Bobbsey Twins, and McFarlane began work on the Hardy Boys as way to earn some cash during the tough economic times. He was reportedly paid $100 per story with no royalty rights, and only did so to support his growing family.

McFarlane began writing sports stories for a second magazine to supplement his income. While the editor of the magazine felt that hockey stories wouldn't be accepted because they were "too Canadian", McFarlane continued to wear down the editor until his first fictional hockey story was published. "Goalie, Keep Your Cool" received an enormous amount of good feedback, and McFarlane kept writing hockey stories about his cast of characters that he created.

Thanks to his son, Brian, the first volume of some of these stories has been published as Leslie McFarlane's Hockey Stories. The book is broken up into four separate stories, and each one is different from the others.

The first story, "Montville Makes Good", is about a young man from Montville, Quebec named Adelard Touchette who has been called up by the NHL's Montreal Canadiens. His entire town boards a train to Montreal to see the young man in action against the rival Boston Bruins. McFarlane's story is funny and enjoyable as we hear about the adventures that both Touchette and his townsfolk take to get to the game.

The second story, "Goalie Garrison's Goat", speaks of the first-hand account of a coach in junior hockey competing for the Memorial Cup, and the struggles his goaltender runs into during the Memorial Cup Final.

Written from Casey's perspective, we hear about Tub Garrison's amazing netminding that led the Indians to the Memorial Cup, but the Cubs and their rowdy fans have found a weakness in Garrison. Casey hears a story of a young goaltender in a lower league, the County League, named Temple who is nearly unflappable. Casey takes Garrison to the game, and both are amazed at how well the goaltender plays in front of what looks like a mob, and Garrison begins to believe in himself again. The conclusion to the story is rather humorous, and entirely unexpected!

The third story, "Too Slow To Count", looks at how one player's passion for the game of hockey helps him overcome a major injury. Tim Cordwell, a chatty and speedy centerman, is a fan favorite on the Tigers team. He's fast, scores goals, sets up his teammates, and chirps with anyone who will listen. That, however, comes to an end when a check leaves him with a torn knee ligament. His return is met with much fanfare, but it is clear that his knee isn't what it once was, and any speed he once showed was gone. The treatment he receives from teammates is less than admirable, but Cordwell persevered. The ending to this story is inspiring, and shows exactly how far hard work can take one on one's journey.

The final story, "They Didn't Know Hockey", is the perfect story for any up-and-coming player in terms of knowing how important one is to a team by filling a role. Dan Hawley is told by his girlfriend, Mary, that he needs to stop setting up goals and to start scoring them himself. After all, scouts only look at players that produce, right? Dan buys into this logic, and starts scoring in bunches. However, the team around him that was once dominant starts to show cracks in their armor. The conclusion of this story has a very good lesson in it, and definitely should be read by minor hockey players as an example of how good players working together make good teams.

Overall, the four stories were very enjoyable reads, and all four stories, despite them being written in language that may have been common in the 1930s, have lessons and humour that can be enjoyed today. Mr. McFarlane's tales are very well-written and show a comprehensive understanding of hockey, but the language is on a level that middle school children and older will have no problem absorbing. Leslie McFarlane's Hockey Stories are a fabulous read, and the book certainly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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