Friday, February 01, 2008

Gretzky to Lemieux: The Story of the 1987 Canada Cup

As ‘fans’ of this site have come to realize, I have a few things that really pique my interest when it comes to hockey. This includes, (but is not limited to), Team Canada, Wayne Gretzky, the Edmonton Oilers, hockey history, international competition and finally, the little stories about players and personnel that gives the game flavour. This book has all of that in spades, and I found it to be an utterly fantastic read.

Gretzky to Lemieux, The Story of the 1987 Canada Cup mostly concerns the 3 game Canada Cup final, but to say the book purely about 3 hockey games would be a true disservice. The book puts the tournament within a lot of historical context, both in terms of Russian and Canadian hockey history.

Willes does an excellent job of framing the big personalities involved and illustrating the stakes of the series by giving the reader an excellent prologue involving Canada’s biggest names, (not Gretzky and Lemieux, but Gretzky and Eagleson, the man who often tried to be a bigger story than the game itself) and the biggest names in the USSR (which I think we can safely say were Viktor Tikhonov, the biggest opponent of the West, and Igor Larionov, the biggest proponent of glasnost and perestroika). Willes details the story of Eagleson’s shady dealings putting his Canada Cups together in the prologue of the book, while he completes the epilogue with the stories of the Soviets’ introduction to the NHL, and the dismantling of the Edmonton Oilers, the core of Team Canada in 1987.

My only true contention of the book comes about due to a diatribe Willes writes regarding the current state of the game, or at least the current style of play as compared to that of the 1987 Canada Cup. Willes makes little hesitation about his admiration for the talent and play of the Canada Cup, but I think he loses the context when comparing it to today’s game, 20 years later.

It was a quick read but I thoroughly enjoyed it and I would recommend it to anyone who watched hockey in the 1980s, or at least wishes they had.

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