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A Day in the Life of the Maple Leafs

by Andrew Podnieks, ed.

Just in time for the Christmas rush comes A Day in the Life of the Maple Leafs, a beautifully bound, elegant picture book chronicling one game day on Planet Maple Leaf. In this case, it’s the regular-season game between the Leafs and the New York Rangers at the Air Canada Centre on Dec. 8, 2001. General editor Andrew Podnieks, an accomplished hockey author, adds informative cutlines to the hundreds of lush colour photographs.

One challenge of making a book based on a snapshot of time in pro sports is that the landscape is always changing. For example, goalie Curtis Joseph is now stopping pucks for the Detroit Red Wings, having left the Leafs in the summer under somewhat acrimonious circumstances; warrior-like defenceman Dmitry Yushkevich is now a Florida Panther; hot-tempered winger Theo Fleury now annoys opponents for the Chicago Blackhawks. It’s a small point, but it may annoy serious hockey fans.

For most fans, the first half of the book will prove more interesting because it focuses on the pre-game rituals of everyone from Mats Sundin to the window cleaning crew, from the opposing coach to the battalion of Air Canada Centre chefs. It’s here that we get a slightly different view of the operation of a major sports conglomerate than the tightly edited, glossy version to which people have become so accustomed.

The action photos of the game are top notch. One of the best is a shot of Leafs’ defenceman Bryan McCabe draped backward and in mid-air over the back of a hunched Eric Lindros. McCabe looks like a rag doll that’s been thrown against the boards.

This Leafs- and NHL-authorized book naturally portrays the hockey club as full of civic-minded executives and everyday-hero players, and adored by happy fans. But it’s difficult not to notice that both the executives and the players are millionaires and that the socio-economic slice of fans who are able to attend the spectacle the book so lovingly details is increasingly tiny. That might have been worth a photo or two.