Sometimes it’s fun to read a book that was current at the time, but is 15 years old now.
That’s why I picked up Road Games, A Year in the Life of the NHL.
Written by Roy MacGregor, the book pretty much follows the Ottawa Senators in their year of action. And it was a bad year.
But it’s fun to see what expectations were for young players back then. The cover had a bunch of hockey sticks with names on them. In order, they are Lafontaine, Messier, Yzerman, A. Daigle, Gretzky, Bure, Lemieux, Gilmour, Selanne, Lindros and Hull.
Which of those names don’t belong? Much of the book follows the race to get Alexander Daigle, probably the biggest NHL first pick bust in history. Although MacGregor does mention some of the criticism of Daigle, it’s funny to read on how he was seen as being the next Mario Lemieux or Wayne Gretzky.
There are a lot of neat things to learn in the book. My favourites:
• To prove that Ottawa was not tanking on purpose to get Daigle, Rod Bryden came up with a deal where whoever finished higher in the standings between the two worse teams — which included San Jose — would get the number one pick. The team that came last would get the second pick overall. That way, it would reward a team for trying to get points, and take the tanking question out of the way. San Jose turned the deal down.
• The Quebec Nordiques really wanted Daigle. They were really to trade a bevy of players to get him, including Peter Forsberg. Ottawa said no. How different would Ottawa be now if that trade went ahead? They would have been immediately better, and would not have had all those high draft picks in following years.
• The Sens botched the expansion draft bad. The number of mistakes they made were brutal. There’s too many to mention. Just read the first chapter, and you’ll see what I mean.
• Paul Anka was interested in being a partner with the Sens, but the two sides ended up in court instead.
Overall, a pretty good book. The middle chapters drag on a bit, because it’s hard to sit through chapters written on Mike Peluso and Darcy Loewen. But I recommend it just to learn about the history.