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Quotes from 'A Great Game' by Prime Minister Stephen J. Harper

December 17, 2013 - 12:49 PM

OTTAWA - Excerpts from "A Great Game: The Forgotten Leafs and the Rise of Professional Hockey," by Stephen J. Harper:

"Nothing like the government payments and social services of our age existed (in turn-of-the century Toronto). Active benevolent work was undertaken by extended families, neighbourhood interests and, especially, religious institutions."


"John Ross "Robertson was the founder of the Toronto Telegram, which by the end of the 19th century was the country's most powerful newspaper. He was also an ardent British imperialist who distrusted the involvement of the United Kingdom in Canada's affairs; an antiracist, antislavery advocate who regularly employed racial slurs and railed against French Canadians and the Catholic Church; a staunch Tory who consistently opposed the Conservative party; a strict disciplinarian who indulged his children to their ruin; a figure popular and respected, yet authoritarian and controversial. John Ross Robertson was nothing if not complex."


"Around the rink sat and stood the fans — people made of sterner stuff, watching in tougher conditions. Except for a stove in the dressing rooms, rinks were not heated. With buildings housing 'natural' ice made meticulously from buckets and shovels, it could not be any other way. Huddling under blankets and unsupported by sound systems, fans sang and cheered not just to encourage their team, but to keep warm enough to stay alive. Many would also smoke, defying management and often creating clouds so thick they obscured the action on the ice for those higher up in the stands."


"The OHA's annual meetings had become highly scripted, lightly attended affairs where the association's permitted business would still be authorized by the Three White Czars — John Ross Robertson, perennial secretary W.A. Hewitt, AAUC representative Francis Nelson — and a handful of their followers. Virtually all the offices went routinely uncontested. Besides, the committee rarely met, leaving most important business to Robertson's 'subcommittee.'"


"In the midst of the commotion of any era, it has never been obvious what is truly transformational and what is just fashion. With the triumph of the Athletic War and his OHA about to spearhead the formation of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, Robertson no doubt felt the amateur order secure. He could not have known, and would not have believed, that the (1914 Toronto) Blue Shirts' Stanley Cup was the beginning of something else in hockey's second city. Yet in retrospect, it is clear. Toronto's new order — the professional order — was finally beginning to emerge."


"On the other side of the argument, it is easy in hindsight to see the Athletic War's victors as nothing more than excessively powerful, old white men fighting for the values of a dying culture that gave old white men excessive power. Yet we still do hear the echoes of these amateur advocates' cry against professional hockey. They told us that one played for either the love of the game or the money. The pros protested that one could do both. Living in the shadow of four NHL labour shutdowns in 20 years — including one lost season and a recent one nearly so — it is no wonder the old doubts remain."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2013
The Canadian Press

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