By Rob Del Mundo
Book review: My Greatest Day by Scott Morrison, Key Porter Books
Everyone who has ever laced up a pair of hockey skates has their own greatest day.
From the peewee who can barely stand up scoring his first goal, to the NHL superstar winning a Stanley Cup, the stories of every individual’s finest moment in hockey are as diverse as the people who play the game.
Veteran journalist Scott Morrison compiled a series of fifty stories from around the hockey community in his latest offering “My Greatest Day”, with each anecdote providing the subject’s perspective of his or her most memorable moment in the sport. Morrison’s interviewees range from Hall of Fame alumni such as Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr, to current day superstars like Sidney Crosby and Jarome Iginla, to coaches (Scotty Bowman), officials (Ray Scapinello) and executives (Bob Nicholson).
“You want to make sure that the stories are different, and have a real cross-section,” said Morrison of selecting from a broad spectrum of candidates to share their memories. “You could do a lot of superstars, and that’s fine. But everybody has a story to tell and everyone has a greatest day.
“I thought in some ways, it would be interesting to see what they would be, for the great players – and then, just the average guy. What would resonate with that type of player? Like P.J. Stock getting his call-up, or Jeff Jackson with the 1985 World Junior Tournament, and literally standing on the blue line and wondering if this will be (his) greatest day.”
Of the 50 men and women profiled in the book, one individual stands out as a name that is known for a vocation other than hockey. Recently retired General Rick Hillier was more than willing to relate the tale of last year’s visit by a team of NHL alumni who traveled to Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan to face off against a squad of Canadian soldiers for a ball hockey game. “I was at a charity golf tournament in the summer, and he happened to be my partner,” recalls Morrison of the chance meeting with the man who was once the country’s top soldier. “We just got chatting away and I said ‘Hey, if I asked this question, what would you say?’ He said ‘I know right away what my answer would be.‘”
A key underlying aspect of “My Greatest Day” is a surprise element that is evident in many of the narratives told by the subjects. More than a few players gave answers that were completely different from what the average fan would expect to be that person’s greatest day. Cassie Campbell recalled neither of her Olympic gold medal games as her best day in hockey, despite being the only Canadian athlete in history to captain two teams to Olympic gold. Leafs legend Dave Keon played on four Stanley Cup winning teams, but his entry is not reminiscent of any of the clinching games in 1962, ‘63, ‘64, or ’67.
The biggest ‘curve-ball’ was in fact thrown by Gretzky, whose Hall of Fame career needs no further detailed expansion. Many readers will be shocked to discover that The Great One does not consider winning any of his four Stanley Cups, nine Hart Trophies, or surpassing any of Gordie Howe’s records as his greatest day in hockey. (This column will not play the role of ‘spoiler’, but will only state that Morrison’s reaction was: “Gretzky explained why it was his greatest day. And I stopped and I thought about it, and said ‘it makes absolute, perfect sense’”).
With so many subjects from which to choose, more than enough material was collected for a sequel: readers can look forward to a “My Greatest Day, Volume 2”, although no timetable has been established for its release.
Canada’s national winter sport is ingrained as a part of our land’s culture, from coast-to-coast. Morrison, who spoke by telephone just hours after his son’s morning game, is certainly no stranger to the ritual that is undertaken by many parents and youngsters in every province, long before the sun rises.
“What really struck me all the way through the book – it’s all about families and hockey, and inevitably all these people refer to the sacrifices that were made to get to whatever level of success that they were able to attain.
“That’s part of our being in Canada, part of Canadiana – the fact that these people don’t take it for granted, that they do really appreciate what they’ve got and what they’ve been able to achieve.”
One Hall of Famer in the book has “so many great moments” that he can’t pick just one.
Another superstar says that his best day is yet to come.
The book’s author, the winner of the Elmer Ferguson Award in 2006, has varying favourite moments as a journalist, player, coach, and parent – not unlike anyone who has been an early riser at the local rink.
“At the end of the day, we can all have our Greatest Day,” reminds Morrison.
Rob Del Mundo is the author of Top Shelf, a regular column at TMLfans.ca
(Authors note: The individual who prepared this column is just happy to have two loving parents who drove him to practices and games at Brampton Memorial Arena, in preparation for a career in beer league weekend hockey).