Saturday 19 June 2010

TBC: A Loonie For Luck

The 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics was a special time in Canadian hockey history. Following eight straight losses to the American women, the Canadian women captured the Olympic gold medal by defeating their long-time rivals. The Canadian men, led by Mario Lemieux, Joe Sakic, and Steve Yzerman, started poorly, but rallied to defeat the American men by a 5-2 score to capture their first gold medal in 50 years! There were a lot of hockey storylines at the Olympics that various people followed - Gretzky's rant against the world following Canada's 3-3 tie against the Czech Republic, Belarus' unbelievable upset of the vastly superior Swedes in the quarter-finals, the kissing of center ice by the Canadian women - but the one that author Roy MacGregor followed was the story of Trent Evans. The result? A Loonie for Luck, written by MacGregor, illustrated by Bill Slavin, and published by McClelland and Stewart, which tells the story of how the loonie got into the ice, and how Trent Evans became a legend in the hockey community for his superstitious decision.

Roy MacGregor has written some of Canada's best hockey books in his lifetime. He penned best-selling book Home Game with Ken Dryden, and is a best-selling author for his hockey-based mystery books for children in the Screech Owls series. Born in Whitby, Ontatio in 1948, Mr. MacGregor has written for The Globe and Mail, The National Post, MacLean's magazine, the Toronto Star, and The Canadian magazine. Due to his works, he has won two National Newspaper Awards, several National Magazine Awards, and two ACTRA Awards as the best television drama writer in the country. In 2005, Roy MacGregor was named an officer in the Order of Canada. He and his wife, Ellen, live in Kanata, Ontario with their four children.

There was a lot of hype surrounding the "lucky loonie" once the word got out about the coin being placed in the ice at Salt Lake City's E Center, but it started off as something that Trent Evans would never have thought twice about: pocket change.

While getting a coffee during his normal morning routine at the Tim Hortons on Sherwood Park, Alberta's Main Boulevard, Mr. Evans received change from the five-dollar bill he gave to the server. Amongst the change, he pocketed a loonie, Canada's one-dollar coin minted in 1987 in Winnipeg, that would become a part of the Hockey Hall of Fame three weeks later. With the change in his pocket, he headed to the airport in Edmonton for his flight to Salt Lake City.

So who is this Trent Evans guy?

Trent Evans is an employee of the Edmonton Oilers. His job? Ice technician for at Rexall Place where the Oilers play. His former boss, Dan Craig, was one of the officials in charge of preparing the hockey venues in Utah, and he recommended Trent as one of the official ice-makers for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Trent took the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity after consulting with his family, and he and the loonie were off to Salt Lake City.

The problem he discovered when he arrived at the E Center was that there was no center ice plug on the floor that ice-makers use to measure out all the dimensions on the ice. Every single NHL rink has this plug, but the E Center did not as it only housed the ECHL's Utah Grizzlies. In order to mark the center point after making a number of measurements to find it, Evans used a dime after consulting with Dan Craig as to how he should mark the center ice spot. However, it was something that Craig said that turned Evans onto the idea of using the loonie.

"Craig was checking the ice in one of the two practice rinks.
"'How did they mark it there?' Trent asked.
"'We used a splotch of yellow paint,' Craig answered.
"'How big?'
"'I don't know,' Craig's voice crackled through the static. 'Not big. About the size of a loonie.'"
From that point on, the loonie marked the center ice location at the E Center. Once the ice was finished and the loonie had been buried beneath five-eighths of an inch of ice, the legend of the "lucky loonie" began to grow and circulate amongst the Olympic village. Evans knew that his "secret" was no longer a secret. Sure enough, Dan Craig called to deliver the news: "Take it out."

Evans reluctantly went to the E Center to remove the loonie buried beneath the ice, but he noticed that no one was paying attention to what he was doing on the ice. He drilled the hole and pretended to scoop the loonie up, and no one thought twice about it. And this time, Evans swore, he'd keep it a secret.

Of course, the lucky loonie saw both the Canadian men's and women's hockey teams capture the gold medal in hockey in 2002. It's final resting place, including the three dents that it picked up over the course of the Olympics, is now the Hockey Hall of Fame where fans from all over the world can gaze upon the coin that inspired a nation. Even this guy.

In regards to A Loonie for Luck, Mr. MacGregor has written an excellent story about how the loonie made it to the Hockey Hall of Fame, but has also included some incredible historical notes. There's a short piece on how the loonie was hated by Canadians when it was first introduced. There's a phenomenal chapter on a number of the superstitions that players have had in the NHL, and how it carries over to coaches and staff of NHL and hockey teams.
"When you’ve got both Roy MacGregor and Wayne Gretzky involved in a project, it’s pretty much a lead pipe cinch to be good. And this little book doesn’t disappoint.…The quality of the writing and the compelling nature of the story, not to mention the fact that a portion of the proceeds will go to the Wayne Gretzky Foundation to help under-privileged kids buy hockey gear, make this a great book to buy the hockey fan, including yourself." - Oldtimers Hockey News
The main story about Trent Evans and the lucky loonie is definitely the draw to this book, though. There's a great foreword written by Wayne Gretzky that talks about his experience with Trent over the years and the Olympic experience. Trent's story, told on the 96 pages of the book, is an excellent read, and Mr. MacGregor's writing made it interesting and appealing. I could not stop reading this book. The best part is that it is appropriate for children of all ages, and is suitable for readers aged nine and older.

Because of Mr. MacGregor's excellent work, A Loonie for Luck definitely deserves Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval, and is recommended for all readers! If you'd like to hear Mr. MacGregor and Mr. Evans speak about their collaboration on this book, please click here for a radio interview. The information they give about the lucky loonie is pretty incredible!

Just before we part, there's a charitable aspect included in this book. With the sale of each copy of A Loonie for Luck, a large portion of the royalties will be donated to the Wayne Gretzky Foundation. The Gretzky Foundation helps underprivileged North American children get hockey equipment and join minor hockey teams in their areas in order to get them into sports. The book is reasonably priced, and I'm proud to have helped such a worthy charity!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Obsolete Coin said...

Thank you for sharing your side of story about the lucky Loonie.