Journeyman’s tale leaves it all on the ice

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS - Re­viewed by Shel­don Birnie

FOR those who just can’t wait for NHL hockey’s reg­u­lar sea­son to get cracking again, David Ward’s The Lost 10 Point Night: Search­ing for my Hockey Hero Jim Har­ri­son pro­vides a quick, sat­is­fy­ing read to tide you over un­til the puck drops, with food for thought on the side. From the get-go, Ward sets his sights on craft­ing a hockey tale in the tra­di­tion of Stephen Brunt’s Search­ing for Bobby Orr and Gret­zky’s Tears. And while he never quite hits that mark, Ward gives it a good go, leav­ing it all on the ice for the reader. Ward’s sub­ject, 1970s pro/third-line cen­tre­man Jim Har­ri­son, may not be a house­hold name like the great num­bers 4 or 99. Nev­er­the­less, Ward man­ages to craft an en­gag­ing por­trait of a man who played the game with the best, yet re­mains mostly for­got­ten. In that, The Lost 10 Point Night shares more in common with Dave Bi­dini’s The Best Game You Can Name than Brunt’s two con­tem­po­rary hockey clas­sics. Both Ward and Bi­dini’s books tackle the sub­ject of the jour­ney­men of the sport rather than su­per­stars, shed­ding light on the unglam­orous life of a pro­fes­sional hockey grinder in the 1970s. The long hours of travel, the half-assed na­ture of some flyby-night or­ga­ni­za­tions in the up­start World Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion, and what passed for “pro­fes­sional” med­i­cal at­ten­tion in the Slap Shot era of hockey’s his­tory are all cov­ered. So is the dress­ing-room ca­ma­raderie and the (over-) re­liance on booze many turned to when fac­ing off against hard times. A prod­uct of the Este­van, Sask., ju­nior hockey sys­tem, Jim Har­ri­son played for the NHL’s Bos­ton Bru­ins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Black Hawks and (very briefly) Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers. He was a mem­ber of the 1974 Team Canada squad and the WHA’s Al­berta Oil­ers and Cleve­land Cru­saders be­fore chronic back pain forced him to re­tire from hockey in 1980. It was with the Al­berta Oil­ers, in 1973, that he recorded pro­fes­sional hockey’s first 10-point game, a record matched only by for­mer Maple Leafs team­mate Dar­ryl Sit­tler in 1976. How­ever, Sit­tler’s record is the one that stands of­fi­cially in the NHL record books, an “in­jus­tice” that of­fers Ward a launch­ing pad to delve into the life of his “hockey hero.” The in­jus­tices Har­ri­son faced in the hockey world aren’t con­fined strictly to the record books. Har­ri­son was a client of no­to­ri­ous scam-artist Alan Ea­gle­son, who mas­ter­minded the 1972 Sum­mit Se­ries and helmed the NHL Play­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion. Har­ri­son pulls no punches when speak­ing about his feel­ings for Ea­gle­son or the NHLPA. Early on in their re­la­tion­ship, Har­ri­son tells Ward that he doesn’t “want to come across as a whiner or com­plainer.” And while Har­ri­son has plenty to call the NHLPA to task for, the lack of any of­fi­cial word or counter-state­ment from the Play­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion or those out­side the Har­ri­son camp do leave the nar­ra­tive feel­ing some­what one-sided. Ward uses first-per­son in­ter­views with Har­ri­son and a swath of play­ers who came up with him through ju­nior and the bigs, mixed with the au­thor’s own (some­time­sawk­ward) per­sonal re­flec­tions and mem­o­ries of the game he grew up with. In this way, The Lost 10 Point Night is once again rem­i­nis­cent of Bi­dini, and in par­tic­u­lar his lat­est, Keon & Me, which mines the same era. At the end of the day, The Lost 10 Point Night is an en­gag­ing, en­dear­ing read that sheds wel­come light into some of the darker cor­ners of pro­fes­sional hockey. Ward presents read­ers with a com­pas­sion­ate por­trait of his “hockey hero” that’s both in­sight­ful and en­ter­tain­ing. Like its sub­ject, The Lost 10 Point Night might not go down as one of the greats of the game. But Ward proves he can at least take a wild stab at it, and de­liver a cou­ple good shots in the process. Shel­don Birnie is a Win­nipeg writer, ed­i­tor and third-line beer-league hockey grinder.

The Lost 10 Point Night: Search­ing for My Hockey Hero Jim

Har­ri­son

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