The Legendary Stanley Cup Stories, re-lived in the 21st century

The most influential trophy in the history of hockey has many stories which have been shared all in one book.

The one and only Brian McFarlane, who produced over 90 books about hockey, demonstrates his extensive knowledge for the game we all love in Legendary Stanley Cup Stories, which came out in 2009. The book shows the sacrifices people have made for the Stanley Cup.

Brian McFarlane was a well-known commentator in hockey, representing the largest hockey platform, starting with Hockey Night In Canada in 1964. With the knowledge he had, he made similar broadcasts to NBC, CBS, and HNIC. He ended his radio career in 1991. With his great knowledge about hockey, he decided to write about his experiences and how the game is played. While broadcasting, he had a side job of publishing books which later became successful. His first book published was 50 Years Of Hockey and it was super successful. From there he found an interest in writing and continued to write. I was captivated with his book Season of Surprises, and followed up many of his books to learn about the hockey experiences McFarlane continues to offer.

In Legendary Stanley Cup Stories, McFarlane has a lot to say. The book shows many stories with various hockey players and referees, such as Frank “King” Clancy, Red Storey, and Tim Horton. The stories have been broken down into 5 major chapters, with 6-15 stories in each chapter telling a different story, all containing very diverse concepts that demonstrate the understanding of what emotions the Stanley Cup inspires in players, coaches, referees, broadcasters, and even fans.

Many of his stories highlight what happened and how it happened; for example, “What challenges did this player face when playing for the cup?” All of the stories are diverse and based off of a different emotion. For instance, in the fifth chapter, Expansion Brings New Champs, the main emotion McFarlane portrays is the accomplishment and gratitude the expansion teams brought to the Original Six by winning Stanley Cups back to back with ease. In other chapters, such as Champions of the Original Six Era, the majority of the stories all paint the image of failure or suspensions, which brings a mellow mood to the stories. The book is typically an emotional roller coaster–I’m not saying you will cry but it can be sad because of the challenges people or franchises had to face. For instance, the Toronto Maple Leafs lost a huge legend William “Bashin’ Bill” Barilko to a disappearance which resulted in death:

“The plane’s wings snapped off when it crashed into the tall spruce trees,” Fields would report. “The branches folded back when the fuselage drove deep into the woods and buried itself in the forest floor. Then the branches folded over the wreckage. That’s why it was so difficult to spot from the air.” The mystery of the missing Stanley Cup hero had finally been solved. After that, the Toronto Maple Leafs did not win another Stanley Cup for 11 years straight.

McFarlane takes diverse approaches to his topic. He doesn’t only talk about players, but also teams, and even referees on how they felt during a “rebuild” situation or officiating the major competition hockey hosts. The story about Red Storey who played in the CFL, became one of the greatest “most colourful and highly respected referees in the NHL. [Eventually], his illustrious career came to a shocking end during the Stanley Cup playoffs in 1959.” The story provided here came from another point of view which he illustrates many times in the book. McFarlane really established what he can write by making this story one of the must reads by portraying the emotions running throughout Storey’s head. He creates strong imagery when he mentions the signature style of the arena and the fans booing Storey off the ice into the dressing room. It really helps you understand the atmosphere and makes the stories more touching.

But one of the most talked-about ideas was the concept of succeeding even with a little spark of greatness. That’s what the manager and coach Glen Sather performed with the 1980s Edmonton Oilers:

Dismissed initially as a journeyman player with minimal front-office skills, Sather quickly made his critics chew on their words. He was busy assembling a core of great young players–Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, Glenn Anderson, Grant Fuhr, and Kevin Lowe. These kids matured as Oilers and soon proved themselves to be a joy to watch and one of the best teams ever.

After this team was introduced, many new rules were also introduced to hockey today, such as the Gretzky rule capping a limit on goals in hockey 1 through 4 to a maximum of 3 because of the way Gretzky would score during his minor and major hockey reign. McFarlane did the best on this story because it evokes the variety of emotions that the coach and players went through in this process. In the beginning, General Manager Glen Sather was at risk of getting fired but instead he used his recruiting skills to get all the future stars. By the end the stress gave way to confidence and elation. McFarlane also showcases the skill of painting a picture using the 5 senses a lot in this story: the smell of the rink, the touch of Gretzky’s jersey, the sound of the goal horn, the taste of a win, and the look of many Stanley Cups. McFarlane made Sather sound like a man who wasn’t worried about losing his job which made me confused in the beginning. I was very worried when McFarlane described him as a calm and collected man because it made me feel scared yet intrigued that in a tight spot like he was in. The nerve-wracking curiosity in this story brings the reader back and wanting more information leading up to the ground-breaking ending.

All in all, McFarlane executed very well on this book with all the detail he put in. Being a narrative book, his writing made you feel that you are actually living in the moment. While describing many stories, the only thing that may be off of this book is the flow, which is a bit choppy since this is a collection of many short stories. Other than that, the book shows the knowledge Brian McFarlane produces–day-to-day knowledge about the inside world that people want to know about NHL players and what they are up to behind the scenes. This book would be most suited to anyone interested in the inside stories of NHL players, coaches, and referees. Brian McFarlane shows many NHL fans the dedication players go through in Legendary Stanley Cup Stories.

Legendary Stanley Cup Stories
Written By: Brian McFarlane
Published 2008
4.5 out of  5 stars

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