Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Reading When the Lights Went Out
The Russians

I know I've mentioned this before, but I ended up with a pretty exhaustive supply of reading material coming out of Christmas, and only now am I finally getting to wade through it. One of the books at the top of my list was Gare Joyce's When the Lights Went Out, and I'm just starting to crack the spine on it now.

In the early going, I can already say one of the best things about the book is that Joyce doesn't choose to focus on either the Canadian or Russian world junior teams from the 1987 tournament. Instead, we get an in-depth portrait of both teams, and it's in learning about some of the Russian youngsters (particularly those who would go onto fame in the NHL) that the material is undeniably unique.

Here's an excerpt where Alex Mogilny, who was raised in a remote region bordering on China's northern border, speaks to his upbringing in the game:
And all of them had been recruited in their early teens by the state hockey academy in the Soviet capital. They stayed in residence at the academy and trained there for eleven months of the year. Mogilny, for one, didn't see his parents for two years. "It's hard, but the way that we saw it, it had to be done," Mogilny says. "It's an opportunity that thousands try for. All of us cared about our game and about our team. That was something that we didn't need to be told about. I think the Russians are a very proud people — we didn't need to be told to be proud about playing. It came from inside us, not from above."
Mogilny's origin story is an unbelievable one, given he was plucked from the pond (or wherever the ministry happened to see him play in Khabarovsk) and moved a world away. As Joyce notes, his hometown was "closer to Alaska than to Moscow."

The Russian team has other interesting stories as well, from Vladimir Konstantinov, the merchant sailor's son who his fellow players dubbed 'Gramps,' and Sergei Fedorov, the coach's beloved prodigy. And while North American sportswriters of that time dubbed the Russians "mindless robots," Joyce proves rather handily that this was far from the case.

It's all excellent stuff. I'll have more excepts and thoughts as I make my way through the book.



At 3:35 p.m., January 31, 2007, Blogger Doogie said...

Fantastic book. I just with the editor had been more attentive with a few typos. For some reason, that really bugged me.

At 7:19 p.m., January 31, 2007, Blogger Doogie said...

That should say "wish," not "with." I'll leave it to the reader to decide whether that was intentional or simply ironic.

At 3:54 a.m., February 01, 2007, Anonymous Misha said...

I have to agree, one of the best hockey books I have ever read.

At 11:38 a.m., March 07, 2007, Blogger Ms. M's Miscellany said...

Being a fan of Russian/Soviet hockey I found this to be a very informative read. It really goes beyond the "us vs. them" mind set that too many books on the topic have.


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