Sunday, 28 November 2010

TBC: Hockey Is A Battle

Teebz's Book Club has primarily been keeping readers up-to-date on a lot of the newer books being published. However, there is a lot that one can learn from older books that may now be out of circulation, and I encourage you to seek out some of these books at bookstores. I was lucky enough to discover one such book at a little bookstore in a small town as I passed through this summer during a road trip, and Teebz's Book Club is proud to bring you Hockey Is A Battle, written by Punch Imlach and Scott Young, and published by Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster Limited. The paperback version I have of this book is even older than the image to the left, and it's still in great condition! And much like Imlach's stories in the book, this book is a timeless classic.

While Punch Imlach is a fairly well-known name in hockey circles, Scott Young may not be. Young was a Canadian sportswriter and journalist who wound up writing more than 45 books for readers throughout his career. Young was born in Cypress River, Manitoba on April 14, 1918, and was hired as a copyboy for the Winnipeg Free Press in 1936 before becoming a sports reporter. In 1940, he married Edna "Rassy" Ragland, the two had two sons: Bob Young, born in 1942, and Neil Young, in November of 1945. Young moved to Toronto shortly before World War II had started, and worked for a number of publications as a short-story writer and reporter, including the Globe & Mail on a number of occasions.

In 1988, Young received hockey's highest honour for a writer as he received the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award from the Hockey Hall of Fame as selected by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, and was also inducted into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame. Young passed away on June 12, 2005 at the age of 87.

Hockey Is A Battle is somewhat unique as it is written in Imlach's own words in a stream-of-consciousness style. Reading the book feels like listening to your grandfather or father tell stories of "old-time hockey" and the way it used to be in hockey. However, make no mistake in that Imlach's personality and insight into these stories are not conveyed. If anything, Young brings the stories to life by keeping Imlach's personality intact throughout each chapter of the book.

The chapter I found most interesting was Chapter 12 where the Maple Leafs and Punch Imlach prepared for the 1967 NHL Expansion. In this chapter, Imlach discusses how the Expansion Draft would affect each of the Original Six teams, and how difficult it was to keep the Maple Leafs together after winning the 1967 Stanley Cup. This entire chapter was extremely interesting to read in terms of the historical aspects of the game, and Imlach's insight as the General Manager and Coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs provides amazing information for the reader.

There are many fascinating stories in the book besides what is found in Chapter 12, though. From the proposed Frank Mahovolich trade to Chicago that fell through in 1962 to Andy Bathgate's falling out with Imlach to how George Imlach got the nickname "Punch", it is all chronicled in Hockey Is A Battle. He talks of coaching Jean BĂ©liveau with the Quebec Aces, how his minor-league career got him into Maple Leaf Gardens, and where he decided coaching was his lot in life. Again, Young's conversational style of writing makes it seem that Imlach is speaking directly to you, giving you some great insight on Imlach's thinking.

There's no doubt that I would have never been able to read some of these stories had I not been able to find Hockey Is A Battle. While the book itself might be hard to find in a local bookstore, I highly recommend purchasing a used copy from Amazon if you have the means. Hockey Is A Battle is an excellent book to read, and really shows off Young's writing talents. Because of Imlach's great stories and Young's abilities, Hockey Is A Battle certainly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

JeffB said...

Imlach is one of the most interesting characters in all of NHL history. Have you heard of his book "Heaven and Hell in the NHL"? It's a later book about the Buffalo Sabres and returning to Toronto.

You simply must love a man who once drafted a made up Japanese player just because he was bored with the draft process. Taro Tsuijimoto.