Tuesday, 5 February 2008

TBC: When The Lights Went Out

Teebz's Book Club is proud to present another great piece of hockey literature today in Gare Joyce's When The Lights Went Out. No, it's not some burlesque story about sordid affairs involving hockey players. Rather, it is Mr. Joyce's telling of the tale of the 1987 World Junior Championship in Piestany, Czechoslovakia that saw Canada and the USSR teams removed from the tournament due to their bench-clearing brawl. Mr. Joyce goes beyond the play-by-play of the game, interviewing players from the game and building the background that was playing out behind either side. He also gets insight from the players about how they feel about the events that transpired in Piestany, and gives an update on those that were involved in the game.

Mr. Joyce is a writer for ESPN The Magazine. He is a regular contributor to several national publications as well, such as Christian Science Monitor, Canadian Geographic, Maclean’s, and The Walrus. He was won three National Magazine Awards, and has three other books that have been published, including Future Greats and Heartbreaks that has been reviewed on this site as well.

Mr. Joyce paints a picture of a Canadian team that was as close to a gold medal as any Canadian World Junior Championship team. The Soviets were all who stood in the Canadian team's way to glory, and Canada simply needed a five-goal victory to guarantee themselves a gold medal. 60 minutes of hockey, however, turned into hockey infamy midway through the second period of that game.

Mr. Joyce speaks to all the key players that were part of that game, including Theoren Fleury, Brendan Shanahan, Mike Keane, Jimmy Waite, Shawn Simpson, Everett Sanipass, Alexander Mogilny, Sergei Fedorov, Evgeni Davydov, and Pat Burns. Instead of coming home with, at worst, a silver medal, the Canadians were sent home by the IIHF officials with nothing but a legacy that would follow them throughout their careers. Mr. Joyce also speaks of how the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association abandoned the team from the training camp right down to when the players set foot back on Canadian soil.

However, Mr. Joyce also shows the fallout on the Soviet side as the Soviet Sports Ministry demanded answers for playing so poorly at the tournament. While it appears that it was less of a concern to the Soviets that the juniors were disqualified from the tournament, it was nowhere near the reaction that Canadians had, especially in the media.

Perhaps what is most revealing is Mr. Joyce's examination of the officials in charge of that infamous game and, in particular, referee Hans Rønning. Mr. Rønning's linesmen tell a story of how a referee basically froze in the face of adversity rather than establishing control. Mr. Rønning is certain that the Canadians were first over the boards in the bench-clearing brawl and maintains that stance today, despite video evidence and eye witness testimonies.

Overall, this book was incredibly detailed and painstakingly thorough its examination of the events surrounding the Canada-USSR game. Mr. Joyce does a fabulous job in the writing of this book, and the historical footnotes that he adds as anecdotes are vitally important in establishing the mood and tone for this story. If you'd like to read an except from the book, please click here.

"A superb piece of storytelling that details one of the most infamous games in Canadian hockey history. An engrossing read.” — Damien Cox, The Toronto Star

When The Lights Went Out certainly deserves attention from all hockey fans, especially junior hockey fans, historians, and anyone who enjoys the World Junior Championships. When The Lights Went Out is an excellent read, and is extremely worthy of the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

meterr70@verizon.net said...

I REALLY want to read this! Thanks for the great review!