There are some authors who are known quantities. When you buy their books, you know what you’re going to get. One hockey author that springs to mind is Dick Irvin. If you’ve read one of his books, you know what to expect from the others – extensive interviews with players, officials and management personnel accompanied by a linking narration that you can almost hear as you read along with the printed words.
With the release of A Season in Time, author Todd Denault completes his hard cover hat trick with a third well-crafted volume and joins the ranks of predictable writers. While the adjective “predictable” may not be one that is always the most welcome in arts and letters circles, when it comes to hockey writing, there’s always room for one more guy who knows his stuff.
He opened the scoring with his in-depth bio of Jacques Plante and repeated with The Greatest Game, an extensive examination of the Montreal Canadiens-Soviet Red Army News Year’s Eve match-up, one often cited as the best game ever played. After first re-visiting a player and then expanding his focus to a legendary game and the men involved in it, Denault widens his field of vision to encompass an entire season, the 1992-93 NHL campaign.
And what a season it was. Mario Lemieux came back from chemo to capture the NHL scoring title. A guy named Gretzky led the LA Kings to what was, until very recently, the team’s best-ever finish. A kid from Finland named Teemu Selanne shredded Mike Bossy’s rookie record of 53 goals, potting 76 for the Winnipeg Jets. Gritty Doug Gilmour became a hockey god to the long-suffering citizens of the Leaf Nation. And last but far from least, a Canadian team took home the silverware, something that has gone repeated in the intervening two decades, with the Montreal Canadiens riding Patrick Roy all the way to a Stanley Cup parade down Saint Catherine Street.
Denault makes the events of a generation ago come back to mind for those that were around at the time. Predictably, his work is meticulously prepared and exhaustively researched. Above and beyond rereading what seems to be every word that has ever been written or broadcast about the 1992-93 campaign he spoke to virtually all the available significant principals involved. Over a hundred men agreed to share their memories with him as he put the book together.
The result is another book by Denault that takes readers back in time, this one to a time that more of his readers will have personal memories of than his earlier releases. It brings back events that were forgotten and brings others to light for the first time. Readers are advised to pay attention to the small print as well as the regularly-sized text. Footnotes are important both in academia and in a Todd Denault book.
If you skip over the tiny type at the bottom of the pages you’ll miss out on some interesting tidbits that have not been common knowledge. For instance, you won’t learn why (or even that) the Los Angeles Kings players chipped in to cover the costs of taking an assistant trainer on the road when the club tightened its financial belt.
A lot of hockey insiders have a great single volume emerge from their lives in the game, particularly if they (or their collaborator) manage to avoid the dreaded “And Then I” autobiography. Hockey authors from outside the game are often a hit and miss proposition. Some of the most frequently published do not always rise to the standard that their best work established and as a result often leave readers disappointed. Denault doesn’t.
A Season in Time – Super Mario, Killer, St. Patrick, the Great One, and the Unforgettable 1992-93 NHL Season
Author – Todd Denault
Publisher – Wiley
Print Edition – 32.95 (Canada) E-Book – 16.99 (Canada)
Note – The author of this review has been complimentarily referred to in the book’s introduction. Moreover he has also met Mr. Denault socially on two occasions with alcohol being served with the meal on the first and poutine serving as the meal on the second. Neither has had any impact on the above review.