Monday, 1 December 2008

TBC: The Montreal Canadiens

After posting that article on the Preston Rivulettes yesterday, I thought it would be a good idea to continue the look back at hockey history. Today's entry into Teebz's Book Club is a literary masterpiece when one considers the amount of history written on the 336 pages of the book. Teebz's Book Club is proud to bring to you a review of D'Arcy Jenish's The Montreal Canadiens: 100 Years of Glory, published by Doubleday. This book was released in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Montreal Canadiens hockey club, and I have to admit that Mr. Jenish has done Les Glorieux a immense service of which they can be proud. If there is a standard in which historians and authors should base their writing on when it comes to sports franchises, this should be it.

D'Arcy Jenish has penned other literary works, including Epic Wanderer: David Thompson and the Mapping of the Canadian West, the award-winning Indian Fall: The Last Great Days of the Plains Cree and Blackfoot Confederacy, and the bestselling The Stanley Cup: A Hundred Years of Hockey at its Best. The historian actually grew up as a Montreal Canadiens fan in southeastern Saskatchewan and Peterborough, Ontario. He spent 15 years as a senior writer for MacLean's magazine. He currently is a resident of Ajax, Ontario with his wife and three children.

Mr. Jenish's work is packed with history, from the start of the club right down to the current hierarchy that runs Les Canadiens. He doesn't offer opinion or hearsay, but he does provide a number of stories from a wide-range of resources. It's in this historical view that one gets a sense of how deeply-rooted this hockey club is in the Montreal community, and why this hockey club has legions of fans devoted to it like no other.

The first chapter, A Haphazard Start, chronicles the 1909-1910 years of the Montreal Canadiens hockey club. While it would seem that this first chapter would be short and uneventful, the history proves otherwise. Mr. Jenish speaks of the birth of the National Hockey Association which was the association of which the Canadiens were part, and how they had to scour the land for exception players in order to outpace themselves against the Montreal Nationals. Newsy Lalonde, Jack Laviolette, and Didier Pitre were stars of the newly-formed Canadiens, and would be the cornerstones of the franchise for the next few years.

From there, Mr. Jenish weaves literary magic in exposing the decades and eras of Montreal hockey: the Kendall/Kennedy years from 1911-1920; the Cleghorn-Joliat-Vezina-Morenz-Hainsworth era from 1921-1930; the Great Depression, World War I, World War II and the Canadiens' battle to stay afloat from 1931-1946; Frank Selke's empire from 1946-1955; the end of a dynasty when the last of names like Blake, Reardon, Geoffrion, and Richard decided to retire in 1964; the Sam Pollock era from 1964-1971; the emergence of Scotty Bowman as a master tactician and coach from 1971-79; the last great Canadiens teams from 1980-1993; and the current state of the franchise in the last 15 years. To say that Mr. Jenish has opened the history books is like saying that an ocean is a drop of water - the information is amazing, to say the least.

As I had mentioned in an earlier article, there was a picture in the Life magazine photos of Jean Béliveau in a Quebec Aces sweater. I never went into much detail as to who the Aces were or why that photo was significant, but I can now thanks to Mr. Jenish.

"[Béliveau] had also made his NHL debut that season. The Canadiens called him up on December 16, 1950. The Rangers were in town, and Béliveau had nine shots on net and was named the game's first star. He made his second appearance on January 27, 1951, and this time he scored.

"Selke assumed that a taste of the big time would convince Béliveau to join the Canadiens in the fall of 1951. He was sorely disappointed when Béliveau signed for ten thousand dollars with the Quebec Aces, a senior team owned by the Anglo-Canadian Pulp and Paper Company."

Mr. Jenish highlights significant moments in Canadiens' history with phenomenal detail. The information behind Jacques Plante's choice to use a mask, for example, is richly detailed from both the Montreal perspective, as well as the media's and the league's perspectives as well. It is this kind of detail that makes the information presented by Mr. Jenish iron-clad with no room for debate. As a fan of hockey history, it is this kind of certainty that I can hang my hat on.

Without a doubt, this is one of the more amazing written historical accounts of any hockey franchise that I have seen, and certainly would rival any sports franchise's historical account. Much like Steve Babineau's Black and Gold: Four Decades of the Boston Bruins in Photographs is the visual pinnacle of what a team's history should be, Mr. Jenish's The Montreal Canadiens: 100 Years of Glory is the literary pinnacle of what a team's history should be. If you're a hockey fan of any sort, this book is highly recommended due to the amazing historical anecdotes told of hockey's most storied franchise. With Christmas on the way, this book would be suitable for teens and older, and Mr. Jenish's work certainly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Bethany said...

With Christmas on the way, this book would be suitable for teens and older

I'm sure there is a girl in Kentucky that wouldn't mind this book for Christmas :P