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Wayne Gretzky's Ghost: And Other Tales from a Lifetime in Hockey Hardcover – November 1, 2011
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
“The Harper government should just go ahead and designate Roy MacGregor a national treasure and be done with it…. He’s the best writer around whose subject happens to be hockey…. MacGregor shows why he’s the best at chronicling Canada’s game.”
“The nation’s most incisive and interesting writer on the game and its hold on us.”
—The Globe and Mail
“The closest thing there is to a poet laureate of Canadian hockey.”
—The Washington Post
“He brings a rare—and trust me, admirable—touch to his work.”
“MacGregor has a unique ability to balance objective reportage with a keen, emotional core; he has a good eye for the human interest angle, which intensifies his editorial thrust, rather than distracting from it.”
“Roy MacGregor’s friendly wit, acute observations, sympathy for people, innate curiosity, delightful modesty, and love of country have made him the reader of our national soul and diviner of our foibles, par excellence.”
“Peter Gzowski’s gone and both Douglas Coupland and Will Ferguson are a bit too young yet, so that should probably hand the print title of Captain Canada to Roy MacGregor—if he weren’t so deserving of it anyways, for both craft and heart.”
About the Author
ROY MacGREGOR is the acclaimed and bestselling author of Home Team: Fathers, Sons & Hockey (shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award); A Life in the Bush (winner of the US Rutstrum Award for Best Wilderness Book and the CAA Award for Biography); and Canadians: A Portrait of a Country and Its People, as well as two novels, Canoe Lake and The Last Season, and the popular Screech Owls mystery series for young readers. A regular columnist at The Globe and Mail, MacGregor's journalism has garnered four National Magazine Awards and eight National Newspaper Award nominations. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada, and was described in the citation as one of Canada's "most gifted storytellers." His most recent book is Northern Light: The Enduring Mystery of Tom Thomson and the Woman Who Loved Him. He lives in Kanata.
Top customer reviews
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MacGregor has been one of Canada's top columnists and authors for more than three decades, and not just because of his work on a number of books. MacGregor can be sentimental when the occasion calls for it, but he can also do a little carving. But when he criticizes he uses a scalpel instead of a club.
A top sports columnist in Canada naturally writes about hockey, a lot. MacGregor has attended many of the major events in the sport over the last 30-plus years. Now he's picked up some of his best work in this anthology, "Wayne Gretzky's Ghost." And it's fabulous.
The title refers to one of MacGregor's assignments. When Gretzky retired, he was hired to "write" some columns the following season. It was MacGregor's job to shape Gretzky's thoughts into columns. In other words, MacGregor was a ghost writer.
Once the author gets through that story, the work from his career comes out one after another. There are stories about big NHL games, profiles of players and coaches, looks at international tournaments and Olympics. Some are straight features that gives MacGregor time enough to stretch out a bit, while others are obviously written right on deadline. There are stories on the state of hockey, and how it can be improved. There's even fun stuff -- a section on "Bar Debates" wonders about a study that says that best way to get your son into the NHL is to make sure he's born early in the year.
Want to see what Bryan Trottier was like when he was just breaking into the NHL? How about Jean Beliveau, still regal in retirement? The riddle of Alexandre Daigle? Here's your chance. There's plenty to be read about the Gretzky family, naturally. The stories tend to lean toward more current columns, so this anthology doesn't feel particularly dated. Even so, it's fun to read about someone like Borje Salming from the perspective of 35 or so years later.
Some of MacGregor's best work comes on some sad stories, such as the painful loss by Bob Gainey of his daughter, or a look back at when a Sakatchewan town mourned the deaths of four of its junior hockey players. Throughout the collection, it's obvious that MacGregor understands the grip that hockey has on his country, and how important it is in terms of national pride. There's nothing like it in America, and it gives many of the stories a bit of urgency and importance.
By the way, MacGregor adds a personal update on all of the articles. He might tell what happened to the players or teams since the story appeared in print, or how well his idea did down the road.
You should get the idea by now. "Wayne Gretzky's Ghost" is a delight, and it's thankfully available to American audiences. Do yourself a favor and read the work on one of the best writers in the business.
Would almost say....a must read for every hockey fan!
The book is broken up into sections and the best are when he writes on the Legends of the Game and Stars of now. You learn so much that really I wonder why I'm not checking the Ottawa Citizen Web site every week. Who knew "Burnaby" Joe Sakic really is Vancouver Joe and only played his minor hockey in Burnaby? He grew up in Vancouver. I knew Guy Lafleur was a smoker but he used to smoke in the between-period intermissions. He's the first writer I've ever seen explain kids' affection towards Alexander Ovechkin's style of play. We also learn the real family reason why grandpa Jean Beliveau turned down Canada's Governor General posting. You thought Beliveau was the epitome of class already. His actions in this case choosing his family over country are beyond honorable and really the man should be sainted.
MacGregor also understands the game and the beauty of international play better than any sportswriter around. He's the first writer I've read who "got" how good the Nagano '98 Team Canada team was and put the whole thing in Hasekian perspective.
The great thing about the book is there is so much in here that is so current from articles on the Sedins, Ryan Kesler, Drew Doughty, Kris Letang. Marc Savard (pre-concussion), Alexei Kovalev, Canada at the Olympics both men's and women's teams and the World Junior Tournaments including the meltdown vs. Russia in 2010.
Finally, the piece de resistance is his criticism of the way Hockey Night in Canada seems stuck in the past. The funny thing I think MacGregor does not touch on is, being out here in the West, I don't really know anyone who sees HNIC as must-see TV ever since the advent of TSN and Sportsnet carrying games-a-go-go. After all who really wants to watch the Make Beliefs every Saturday when you get Blackhawks, Red Wings, Flyers, Pens, Caps, Rangers, what have you all week long. Let alone once you get the NHL Centre Ice package, HNIC becomes totally irrelevant.