Sidney Crosby in Riga, Latvia. \"The Canadian Hockey Atlas\" is full of interesting hockey facts, including those on NHL sensation Crosby. (CP/Jacques Boissinot)
Seems strange, but "The Canadian Hockey Atlas" is all about strange, which makes for an interesting read.
Stephen Cole, the Torontonian who put together this rich hockey tome, attacks the sport region by region and, with more than 1,000 players mentioned, there will be readers in every nook and cranny in the country who can identify with them.
By combining hockey and geography, "The Canadian Hockey Atlas" is unique.
Brophy and Crosby are both from Nova Scotia so, of course, they're in the same section of the book - followed closely by Al MacInnis. He's from Port Hood, pop. 835, which was named in 1786 in honour of Samuel Viscount Hood, the British commander in chief of North America. Cole makes sure we get a history lesson with the nuts and bolts of each feature player's biographical sketch.
Ever wonder why MacInnis had the hardest shot in the NHL? He spent his summers as a teen lifting lobster crates and slamming slapshots off the family barn.
In the section on Ontario, Cole, in his segment on players from Ottawa, describes how the ban on Sunday shopping that was once in force helped Steve Yzerman become an NHL star. A supermarket parking lot at the corner of Baseline and Merivale Roads was an immense playing surface for Yzerman and boyhood buddy Darren Pang every Sunday.
"The long runs to fetch errant balls helped further develop Steve Wonder's incredible stamina," Cole contends.
The following page tells us of Ottawa's King Clancy.
There have been 26 native-born NHL players from St. Catharines, Ont., including Gerry Cheevers, Brian Bellows, Doug Favell and Bryan McCabe. Before white settlers arrived, St. Catharines was believed to be one of North America's most heavily populated aboriginal encampments.
Saskatchewan has produced more big-league stars than its population base would suggest. There's Gordie Howe, Johnny Bower, the Leswick brothers, the Bill (The Regina Rocket) Hicke, Wendel Clark, Hayley Wickenheiser . . . the list is endless.
A photo of the six Sutter brothers who played in the NHL is on page 323. The book is crammed with colourful pictures. Also in the Alberta section is Jarome Iginla doffing a cowboy hat to fans at a public rally during the Flames' 2004 playoff run - long after Paul Thompson of Calgary, a 1938 NHL all-star, augmented his salary by appearing in cigarette ads for $50 a week "and all the smokes he wanted."
The New Westminster Royals were the first team in Canada to win a hockey game on artificial ice, beating the Victoria Senators 8-3 in 1912 in Victoria Arena.
The section on players and teams from British Columbia also tells the tale of Paul Kariya, whose grandparents, Isamu and Fumiko, were taken by military police from their Vancouver home in 1942 and put in an internment camp in a depleted mining town.
The Quebec town of Thurso, current population 682, is an old lumber camp on the Ottawa River that got a boost in 1925 when a sewing machine factory started up. Guy Lafleur, the son of a welder, was from Thurso.
A lot of great goalies came out of Brandon because bus trips to junior games took so long that the likes of Ron Hextall developed the eyesight of prairie falcons, Cole says, while crediting Trent Frayne for the scoop.
It's pricey, but few hockey books contain this much info - and all of it interesting.
(400 pages, Doubleday Canada, $60)