There are approximately 50 NHL players currently playing in the league out of about 700 players. Yet Saskatchewan is far more disproportionately represented in the NHL. Our province produces NHL players at 4.8 players per 100,000 people while the next leading province, Manitoba, has 2.6 players per 100,000.
Current Edmonton Oiler forward, Jordan Eberle, wrote the forward to the book. He grew up on Janzen Crescent in Regina just down the street from the home of Darrell and his wife, Eva, playing street hockey with Darrell’s sons.
Darrell accompanied L.A. forward, Jarret Stoll, and the Stanley Cup back to the village of Neudorf (283 people) where he started playing hockey and the city of Yorkton (18,000 people) where his family moved as a teenager. (For readers unfamiliar with Stanley Cup tradition each player on the winning team is allowed to take the Cup anywhere they want for a day after the Championship season. Most players take it to their home towns.) Over 1,000 people went to the celebration in Neudorf and hundreds had their photo taken with Jarret and the Cup.
Not surprisingly for Saskatchewan two other NHL players, Brian Propp who played in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and Eddie Litzenberger who played a generation earlier, came from Neudorf. Darrell also notes the village honours Henry Taube, a Nobel Prize winning chemist, who grew up there.
Darrell, after a story on Stoll’s willingness to do what is best for the team set out the characteristics of a Saskatchewan player:
That’s typical of a Saskatchewan hockey player – somebody you want on your team. He’s the glue who holds the dressing together, A back-checker. Somebody who never floats through a shift and doesn’t care if his accomplishments are recognized by the fans or the media, as long as his teammates respect his efforts. He remembers his roots, where he came from, who preceded him, who helped him, and he respects the sport’s tradition, how it binds Canada together on every frozen pond and indoor arena from Newfoundland to British Columbia.
Exploring the roots of Saskatchewan hockey Darrell makes a 3 hour drive to Wawota to watch a Big Six Senior League hockey game. Saskatchewan’s love of hockey has hundreds of teams of men playing organized hockey for the joy of the game. Wawota has several citizens who made the NHL and a major contribution to their Zamboni came from the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL.
Darrell uses the example of Brooks Laich from Wawota on the attitude of Saskatchewan hockey players. After his team, the Washington Capitals, lost the 7th game of a hard fought series to be eliminated from the playoffs he was driving across a bridge where he saw a car with a flat tire. He stopped and changed the tire for a mother and her daughter. No one who lives in Saskatchewan was surprised he pulled over to help them.
Saskatchewan hockey players are consistently tough men. Dave “Tiger” Williams holds the NHL record for penalty minutes racking up 3,966 minutes during his career. Darrell tells a powerful story about Tiger inspiring a young Bryan Trottier to keep playing by becoming his personal protector.
The first aboriginal player in the NHL, Fred Sasakamoose, came from Saskatchewan. His life is filled with accomplishment and addiction.
I loved the stories in the book but found the recitation of player statistics and backgrounds took away from the stories at times. I wished Darrell could have included more stories. I wanted to learn more about the players.
The book will help readers understand Saskatchewan hockey but I regret that Darrell did not really analyze the information and offer his thoughts on what has made Saskatchewan so successful in producing NHL players. Knowing him he had the ability to provide such analysis. Maybe there is another book to be written. (Oct. 21/13)