There haven’t been too many dynasties in the 91-year history of the National Hockey League, but after reading this exhaustive account of the Montreal Canadiens, it’s easy to see why the Habs were the gold standard for so long. It’s not just the 24 Stanley Cups. It’s the almost unbroken line of stars, from Georges Vézina and Newsy Lalonde to Ken Dryden, Guy Lafleur, Bob Gainey, and Patrick Roy.
Relying heavily on old newspaper accounts, D’Arcy Jenish knits together a compelling yarn that traces not just the century-old équipe des habitants, but the events of the day that affected hockey and the world away from it, including two world wars, the flu outbreak of 1918, and the Quiet Revolution of Quebec nationalism.
For hockey history and trivia buffs, this book can’t be beat. Who knew that Dryden played defence for Vulcan Packaging in the Toronto Industrial League when he sat out the NHL’s 1973-74 season in protest over the Canadiens’ refusal to renegotiate his contract? If you like the off-ice intrigue of signings, hirings, and firings, Jenish has it covered like Gainey in his prime.
While there is entirely too much game-related minutiae here, the book authentically captures the mood of the times and the stories of the day – be it Lafleur’s sad decline or Roy’s inglorious exit.
The Habs have fallen on lean times since their last Cup victory in 1993, but there may yet be another chapter to add to Les Glorieux.