Conacher takes aim at game

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:37 AM ET

Brian Conacher's book is called As The Puck Turns, but it's really hockey's version of Witness To History.

When reviewing some of the turning points in the game, the first Canada-Russia series, founding of the players union, NHL expansion, the World Hockey Association, the making of Slap Shot and for Maple Leafs' fans, the end of their dynasty, you'll find Conacher's name in the mix.

"So many people had written about these events who were never there," Conacher said. "I figured I had as much right as anyone. But this isn't so much my story, or another 'he shoots, he scores' memoir. It's the observations of someone who has been on all sides, as a minor leaguer, NHLer, coach, team executive, arena manager and media member."

GREAT HOCKEY FAMILY

Conacher, now 66, grew up in one of Canada's great hockey families, one of six of that surname to play in the NHL. He'd be a celeb simply for being on the last Leaf Cup team in 1967, but he made waves three years later with a book critical of the NHL's influence on Canada's international game.

As a believer that hockey and education should go hand in hand, he was also unpopular with conventional hockey thinkers in the 1960s and '70.

"I was somewhat of a misfit and my idealism was challenged," Conacher recalled. "But I've been in hockey 55 years and I think there is room for opinions other than the NHL's."

Conacher's book has colourful stories from the Leafs' golden era, the Slap Shot days of the WHA right up to the machinations around constructing the Air Canada Centre.

He was among the first to warn about the Soviet hockey threat in '72 and humourously recalls the late John Ferguson Sr. calling him "a Commie lover" after Game One when Conacher was working as a commentator.

VARIED JOBS

His varied jobs included managing the WHA's Indianapolis Racers and Edmonton Oilers, Copps Coliseum, Maple Leaf Gardens and the NHL alumni association, as well as trying real estate and running the Royal Winter Fair. But he worries if hockey is headed down the wrong path.

"At the end of the book, I don't expect to have all the answers," he said. "But my opinion is that hockey isn't neccessarily a growing game. It's become too costly, to watch live and too costly (for kids and adults) to play. Now the average person can only watch it on TV."


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