Volume 91, Issue 54

Wednesday, December 3, 1997

Jack Frosh


Russell and Cuthbert don't skate around the area issue

The Rink
Chris Cuthbert and Scott Russell
Penguin Books
$32.00/332 pps.

They are always cold and sometimes dark, but many of Canada's small hockey arenas are as exceptional as the players they have produced. In The Rink, Scott Russell and Chris Cuthbert, a broadcasting duo from the CBC's infamous Hockey Night In Canada, drop their gloves and take a shot at writing. The Rink is an exploratory book about a series of randomly-selected Canadian arenas – one from every province (two from Ontario) to sample the history and stories behind these unique buildings.

"We decided to look at the small arenas because they symbolize more than just hockey," Russell says. "Nowadays the players won't talk to you about their contracts but they will always be quick to defer back to the rinks where they came from."

Russell, a graduate of Western's journalism school and Cuthbert, a Queen's University graduate, spent one year working on the book, visiting the arenas between broadcasts. It was completed last fall – just prior to the end of Dallas and Edmonton's last playoff game – as Russell wrapped up an excerpt on history-rich Memorial Stadium in St. John's, Newfoundland while sitting in a deluxe press box. The irony of writing about a small arena from inside a pro arena is of particular interest to the co-author.

"Some of the pro arenas I walk into now make me feel like I'm living in an ivory tower with people drinking latté in the lobby," Russell says. "That's not what hockey in Canada is really about. If you go beyond the pro rinks you will see that [small] rinks are really the monuments."

In Ontario, The Rink examines the story of Ted Nolan, the 1997 NHL coach of the year who overcame racism (as an Ojibwe Indian) to play, coach and win in Sault Saint Marie's Memorial Gardens with the Soo Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League. Brampton's Memorial Gardens, described as a pinnacle of barn-esque hockey buildings – a true-to-life adaptation of the term "beat 'em in our barn"– is also explored.

Of particular interest is the Carena Viking arena in Viking, Alberta – home to the six Sutter brothers who played in the NHL. The Rink takes a down-home look at the Sutter family and the arena that watched them grow.

With each building inside The Rink, Russell and Cuthbert offer well-planned insight that would impress any hockey enthusiast. And as far as following in Don Cherry's marketing footsteps (maker of 10 installments of Rock 'em Sock 'em videos), Russell says although there are thousands of arenas to choose from for a sequel, a second book is not yet in the works. "We don't want to dilute it right now."

–James Pugsley

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1997