The “Down Goes Brown” History of the NHL: The World’s Most Beautiful Sport, the World’s Most Ridiculous League, by Sean McIndoe

Nine stars

In the craziness that is the National Hockey League (NHL), even diehard fans can only retain so much information outside the regular statistics that help fuel the best fantasy hockey picks. Sean McIndoe provides readers with a detailed history of the NHL, though chooses not to recount many of the better-known aspects. Instead, he regales the reader with little-known (or long forgotten) facts that helped fuel many of the League’s successes and downfalls. From a collection of teams that had a labour dispute an hour before the first puck-drop through to teams and players trying to make precedents with contracts and trade, while also including the details around all of the League’s expansions, McIndoe illustrates that the NHL was not always a multi-billion dollar business. Its decisions were rarely rational when it came to simple choices (the spinning wheel to decide whether Buffalo or Vancouver should get the first pick in the expansion draft), but always intriguing to the curious fan. This League that has been around for over a century has seen its fair share of drama, gaffes, and moments that are buried in the history books, but it is also one that fans can enjoy. McIndoe simply seeks to entertain those who love the game with the lighter side of events. Recommended for those who love hockey and enjoy learning about the nuances that have made the game what it is today, even if that means hearing about Gary Bettman and all his apparent achievements.

When I noticed this book had been published, I wanted to give it a try. Being a lifelong NHL fan, as well as someone who enjoys history, I could not pass up the opportunity. McIndoe offers not only a glimpse into the creation of the League, but also discovers some of the trivia-worthy pieces of information that made me enjoy it all the more. From little known skirmishes to blockbuster trades that never saw the light of day, McIndoe has used a great deal of time, culling the history books, to find the perfect collection of vignettes to educate and entertain the reader in equal measure. I would likely still have wanted to read the book had it been one thousand pages, as McIndoe writes so seamlessly and keeps the reader enthralled with both stories and rules that have been dusted off after rarely being used. Hockey would not be the same without its bumps and bruises, though I would not have it any other way!

Kudos, Mr. McIndoe, for this masterful collection. I hope other hockey fans will find it as amusing as I did!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: