April 06, 2017

Father Bauer and The Genesis of Canadian Olympic Hockey

Look at what arrived in the mail today:

I always find it odd when hockey books are released in the spring rather than the traditional beginning of the season. But could author Greg Oliver and publisher ECW Press have had better timing? The same week that we learned that a bunch of no-names will likely represent Canada at the 2018 Olympic hockey tournament comes a book about the ultimate bunch of Canadian Olympic hockey no-names and their legendary leader, Father David Bauer.

Father Bauer is one of the most unique trailblazers in the history of hockey, and is recognized as such as a rare non-NHL builder in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Bauer led the legendary St. Michael's Majors hockey program for many years before fulfilling his dream of establishing a true Canadian national team that would send an entire season together representing the nation in international tourneys including the Olympics and World Championships.

His story is interesting in that his beliefs in how hockey should be played and how his players would be groomed - not only as hockey players but more importantly as whole people - was visionary and critically important.

I just got the book and have not had a chance to delve into it. But the praise for the book on the back cover is about as impressive as it gets:

“Father Bauer and the Great Experiment fills an important gap in the history of hockey as it is today played. Greg Oliver has done a masterful research job in showing how Father Bauer was far ahead of his time in the evolution on what is, today, a truly international game. Hockey around the world ― Canada, USA, Russia, Sweden, Finland, everywhere ― is deeply indebted to this fascinating Canadian character.” ― Roy MacGregor, bestselling author of Home Team: Fathers, Sons and Hockey, and Wayne Gretzky’s Ghost

“While David Bauer’s ‘great experiment’ to create a men’s national hockey ‘team-in-being’ focused on excellence, education, and values may have seemed quixotic, especially in a sport dominated by the NHL, his vision set the aspiration for the Canadian sport system to this day. It’s important that Canadians know his story. Greg Oliver’s well-researched biography ably captures the man, his mission, his players and his times.” ― Bruce Kidd, author of The Death of Hockey, vice-president and principal, University of Toronto Scarborough

“It’s the labour and passion behind each word that makes Father Bauer and the Great Experiment such an excellent read. The ice beneath Bauer’s skates was rough at times, but his vision was solid. This is an amazing history of where our national game was and how it has progressed. A tap of the stick to Greg Oliver for his amazing efforts.” ― Jiggs McDonald, broadcaster and 1990 recipient of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award from the Hockey Hall of Fame.

As a student of international hockey I can not tell you how excited I am to see this book arrive with very favorable first impressions. I do think this book immediately gets put to the top of my long reading list.

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