In the tumultuous beginnings of hockey, the fights were as much off the ice as on it. This engaging new book is about the hockey heroes and hard-boiled businessmen who built the game, and the rise and fall of legendary teams pursuing the Stanley Cup. With a historian’s perspective and fan’s passion, Stephen Harper presents a riveting and often-surprising portrait, capturing everything from the physical contests on the rinks to the battles behind the scenes.
Stephen Harper shows that many things have stayed the same. Rough play, fervent hometown loyalties, owner-player contract disputes, dubious news coverage, and big money were issues from the get-go. Most important in these early years was the question: Was hockey to be a game of obsessed amateurs playing for the love of the sport, or was it a game for paid professionals who would give fans what they wanted? Who should be responsible for the sport—including its bouts of violence—both on and off the ice.
A century ago, rinks could melt, and by halftime the blades screwed to the players’ shoes could be sinking in mud. It was during this time that the unsuccessful Toronto Professionals of 1908 and the victorious Toronto Blue Shirts of 1914 battled for the city’s very first Stanley Cup. Against the fanatical opposition of amateur hockey leaders, these “forgotten Leafs” would lay the groundwork for the world’s most profitable hockey franchise.
In paying tribute to these hockey pioneers and the contagious loyalty of their fans, Harper resurrects the history of hockey’s first decades. Lavishly illustrated with photographs of the game’s greatest arenas and earliest star players, this entertaining and original book will captivate you from start to finish.