Tuesday, 10 December 2013

TBC: Where Countries Come To Play

How is your Christmas shopping coming along? I'm lucky in that I have the vast majority of mine done aside from a few trinkets and gadgets needed for stockings. If you're still looking for gifts, Teebz's Book Club is here to help. Books are always a great gift, I find, and today's book is a good example of why. Teebz's Book Club is proud to present Where Countries Come to Play, written by Andrew Podnieks and published by Fenn/McClelland and Stewart. If you wanted a great primer for the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics or just a book filled with hockey history and facts, Where Countries Come to Play is the book you want to pick up for yourself or others this holiday season!

Andrew Podnieks has written more than 50 books on hockey, including Honoured Canadiens, Celebrating the Game, and Lord Stanley's Cup. Mr. Podnieks has played a major role in researching international hockey for various institutions including the Hockey Hall of Fame, the IIHF, and Hockey Canada. The Canadian author has provided Hockey Canada all of the statistics and historical info on all of Canada's teams at of the IIHF major tournaments since 2003. You can check out his website check out his website here.

Where Countries Come to Play is an in-depth look into ice hockey at the Winter Olympics. The first half of the book looks at the twenty-five players and on coach who have been honoured as members of the Triple Gold Club - winners of the Stanley Cup, a World Championship gold medal, and an Olympic gold medal. The last half of the book looks back at every Winter Olympic Games that has featured hockey, and some of the major stories that dominated the headlines at each of these Olympiads.

I have to admit that I wasn't aware that there were twenty-six individuals in the Triple Gold Club. Some of the men have been there for a while, but recent years have seen the club grow by leaps and bounds thanks to the NHL's inclusion into the Winter Olympics. According to Mr. Podnieks' research, the first members of the Triple Gold Club were inducted on February 27, 1994 where three members of Team Sweden were the first to be credited with the lofty achievement. I won't reveal who they are, though. That's why you need to pick up the book!

The one thing that surprised me? There are only four countries represented in the Triple Gold Club, and none of the members are American! I would have thought that maybe one or two players from the 1980 American Lake Placid Olympic team may have won the three major awards, but Mr. Podnieks' research shows that no Americans who have won all three major awards yet.

I was very interested in the history of ice hockey at the Winter Olympics, so the second half of Where Countries Come to Play was particularly interesting to me. For example, did you know the first ice hockey event at the 1920 Antwerp Olympic Games were actually played in the summer? And the first official ice hockey game at the Olympics was between Sweden and Belgium? These kinds of facts are littered throughout this section, and they really made reading through this historical look at the ice hockey events at the Olympics very interesting.

The first official hockey event at the Winter Olympics saw eight nations play for the gold medal at the 1924 Chamonix Winter Olympics. Canada won the gold medal thanks to the excellent play of the Toronto Granites, a number of ex-servicemen from Canada who simply dominated the Ontario Hockey Association from 1920-1923. During this time, they won the John Ross Robertson Cup three times and were runners-up in 1921. They also won consecutive Allan Cups in 1922 and 1923, sending them overseas to battle for the gold medal in January 1924.

While the conditions weren't ideal in Chamonix - boards that were a foot high, and ice conditions less than perfect day-to-day - the Granites ran roughshod all over their three opponents in the round-robin, outscoring them 85-0! The medal round saw Canada cruise through with relative ease as well. While the American squad had thrashed their opponents 52-0 through their three games, Canada ended up defeating the Americans 6-1 in the deciding game! Harry Watson, Canada's star player, scored an amazing 36 goals in the five games Canada played! Upon returning to Canada, Watson declined opportunities to play in the NHL, making him one of the few true amateurs in the Hockey Hall of Fame!

I won't go through all of the years of history that Mr. Podnieks included in Where Countries Come to Play, but there is a ton of information in this book like the Chamonix info above. Needless to say, this book has a ton of value based on the historical information alone, and Mr. Podnieks shows his excellent writing throughout the book. From the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympic Games write-up,
There have probably never been so few spectators for so important a game in Olympic hockey history, but those who were there witnessed a remarkable contest. The first period featured six goals and ended in a 3-3 tie, and the Czechs got the only goal of the middle period from Miroslav Vlach. Coach Jack Riley gave the talk of his life in the second intermission, his team trailing 4-3 and that close to gold. One apocryphal tale has it that the Soviets, so eager were they to have the Americans win gold instead of the Canadians, came into the dressing room and advised the Americans to use oxygen to boost their recovery for what promised to be a frenetic final 20 minutes.
It was quite the opposite, however, as the Americans pumped six goals past the Czechs, and added their legacy to Olympic lore as they defeated Canada, Sweden, the Soviet Union, and Czechoslovakia to win the gold medal!

It is clear in Where Countries Come to Play that Mr. Podnieks knows his international hockey history well. The Triple Gold Club takes you through the history of each of the players in how he achieved his membership, and the history of Olympic hockey events is fascinating in terms of the number of facts and figures that Mr. Podnieks employs. I have read some other books about Olympic hockey, but Where Countries Come to Play is well-written, well-researched, and extremely interesting. Because of these traits, Where Countries Come to Play absolutely deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

You can find Where Countries Come to Play at your local bookstore or online, and it will certainly make a great gift for your hockey fan as we approach the 2014 Winter Olympics!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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