If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Calgary Flames Ice, Locker Room, and Press Box, by Peter Maher with George Johnson

Nine stars

There’s something magical for a sports fan to be able to read something penned by one who has been in the middle of the game for so long. Such was my feeling as I read this collection of memories by Peter Maher, long-time radio play-by-play announcer for the Calgary Flames of the National Hockey League. While I did not grow up in Calgary, when I arrived here and dusted off a (sometimes) spot on the Flames bandwagon, I took to the radio and listened to many of Maher’s game calls when I was not home. This book is a wonderful collection of Maher memories over a long radio career, form as far back as his time in New Brunswick and introduction to the world of play-by-play by the legend, Danny Gallivan, through to a three decade love affair with fans of hockey. Gathered less in chronological order than themes memories, Maher share his perspective on key moments in Flames history, personal remembrances that shaped the team and League, as well as the longevity of having seen so much, thereby creating a lasting legacy for the city. Having narrated three trips to the Stanley Cup Finals, as well as horrible years best left swept under the rug, Maher feels that he would not trade them in for anything at all. Many people from around the League recognized Maher for his hard work with the game, earning him entry into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2006. He was, and remains, a staple to the Calgary Flames organization and will surely always be remembered for his balanced reporting and keen eye when it comes to trends within the club. Whether fans are new to the game or remember Maher’s first call on the radio back in the early 1980s, the book has a little something for everyone, including laughs, tragedy, and many bouts of celebration. Highly recommended for sports fans who want an added dose of life in the broadcast booth, as well as fans of the Calgary Flames organization.

It’s actually quite difficult to see this book appealing to many outside of the Flames circle, though Peter Maher (with the help of George Johnson) does a fabulous job showing how hockey can transcend a single season or team. He is able to bring the reader under the umbrella of the organisation, no matter how far back their being a fan has gone, while always dazzling people with his knowledge and memory of key events. That is, perhaps, the crux of this book. To show how the ebbs and flows of the Calgary Flames has found itself etched in the psyche of many who have witnessed the team’s successes and failures. Maher fills the pages of this book with wonderful anecdotes, sometimes only a few paragraphs long, as he peppers the pages with random memories. While they are not organised chronologically, they tell a poignant story all their own and leave the reader to digest much of the narrative in their own way. While i love a good biography or memoir as much as the next person, I can accept this as following a thread that becomes apparent the more you read. While there are some areas of repetition, one can accept that Maher (and Johnson) did not write the book entirely in order, perhaps forgetting that some things had been mentioned earlier on. Still, a powerful piece that I am pleased to have read. “You can put that in the win column!’ as Maher would say. “Yeah baby!”

Kudos, Mr. Maher, for a powerful book that moved even a fan of hockey, even if I am not a diehard Flames fanatic!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons