Who do you think of when you think of the greatest players of all time?
Wayne Gretzky. Bobby Orr. Gordie Howe. Mario Lemieux. Rocket Richard.
The very best of the very best?
Jean Beliveau. Doug Harvey. Mark Messier. Bobby Hull. Terry Sawchuk.
The Ice Warriors?
Guyle Fielder. Eddie Dorohoy. Connie "Mad Dog" Madigan. Lucien Dechene. Sandy Hucul.
Wait a minute! Who?!
The legends of hockey are not always the NHL's all time greats. For many other fans, hockey's heroes come from leagues NHL fans know little about.
One of those leagues was the old professional circuit known as the Western Hockey League, previously labelled as the Pacific Coast Hockey League. From 1948 through 1974 the WHL dreamed big, and honestly was not far off from NHL Original Six quality.
During the NHL's Original Six era, there was only 120 jobs available. But the tyrannical NHL owners and managers did not always employ the top 120 hockey players in the world. No, for whatever reason they buried some amazing talents in the minor leagues, in leagues like the WHL.
Unlike today's minor leagues, a lot of WHL teams probably could have fared well against NHL teams. Teams like the Portland Buckaroos, the Seattle Totems, the New Westminster Royals and the original Vancouver Canucks were powerhouses that helped establish the league into a Western near-equivalent to the Eastern based National Hockey League.
Fans of the old Western Hockey League were treated to some great hockey and some great hockey players. Now the long forgotten league and it's unappreciated ghosts gets one last moment in the spotlight, thanks to Jon C. Stott's new book Ice Warriors.
Buy The Book: Amazon - Chapters
Stott is a professor at the University of Alberta who previously authored the minor league hockey book Hockey Night in Dixie: Minor Pro Hockey in the American South in 2006. He returns to his own roots and rekindles many great memories of his youth with Ice Warriors. In the 1950s and 1960s he spent his winters watching WHL hockey in Vancouver and Victoria.
With passion and zeal Stott retraces the history of the league's creation and development, it's rise and fall. He replays each season, sharing the highlights and heroes, ultimately analyzing the league's surprising influence on hockey. Through interviews with former players, coaches, builders and fans, he nicely captures the heart and essence of a league that had a lot to be proud of.
While Stott is striving to keep the memories of the WHL and it's great players alive, for most of this book is more of an introduction to the past. If you're a hockey history nut like me, you will not be able to put this book down.