About the Author

Ron MacLean

RON MACLEAN, host of CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada for 28 years, began his broadcasting career in 1978 as an all-night DJ in Red Deer, Alberta. In 1984, he moved to Calgary to host Calgary Flames telecasts. MacLean joined CBC in 1986, where he hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs’ telecasts on HNIC, before becoming the full-time national host, and popular co-host of "Coach’s Corner" with Don Cherry in 1987. He has also hosted CBC’s coverage of the Olympic and Commonwealth Games, the World Cup of Hockey, the Calgary Stampede and Battle of the Blades. MacLean has been recognized with ten Gemini Awards for excellence on television. The co-author of the bestseller Cornered, he lives with his his wife, Cari, in Oakville, Ontario. Follow him on Twitter @RonMacLeanCBC and @hometownhockey_.

KIRSTIE MCLELLAN DAY ranks among the top hockey book writers in the world thanks to the three national bestsellers: Theo Fleury’s #1 bestselling memoir Playing with Fire, Bob Probert’s Tough Guy and Ron MacLean’s Cornered. She's currently working with Marty McSorley on his upcoming Hellbent. Her other books include Above and Beyond, a comprehensive family and business history of cable magnate J.R. Shaw; Under the Mat, a memoir with Diana Hart of the Hart wrestling family; and No Remorse, a true-crime novel. Kirstie is a mother of five and lives with her husband, television producer Larry Day, in Calgary. Together they own one of Canada’s most successful television companies, Pyramid Productions. Visit her online at www.kirstiemclellanday.com and follow her on Twitter @kmclellanday.

Books by this Author
Hockey Towns

Hockey Towns

Untold Stories from the Heart of Canada
edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook Paperback
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Art Ross

Art Ross

The Hockey Legend Who Built the Bruins
by Eric Zweig
foreword by Ron MacLean
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
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Play Better Hockey

Play Better Hockey

50 Essential Skills for Player Development
edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback Hardcover
tagged : hockey
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The Greatest Athlete (You've Never Heard Of)

The Greatest Athlete (You've Never Heard Of)

Canada's First Olympic Gold Medallist
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
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Excerpt

Chapter 1: The Biggest Race of His Life

“It is not the size nor build nor physique nor qualities of inherited ancestry that determines a track and field champion. The boy of slender build and of apparent constitutional weakness may turn out to be another George Orton, invincible in the distance runs.” — Donald W. Hendrickson, 1909

Imagine you are three years old. You love to run and jump and play with your friends. But the doctor has just told your parents that you may never be able to walk or use your right arm again because of a terrible accident. You lie in bed, paralyzed, while your friends play outside. You dream of someday running again. Fast. Faster than all your friends. Faster than everyone in the world.

On a brutally hot July afternoon in Paris, a slender, curly-haired man with a shrunken arm is running in the Olympic 2,500-metre steeplechase. He had predicted in the newspaper that he would win the gold medal in this event, but he is in fourth place, and victory seems unlikely. The year is 1900. George Washington Orton is the most decorated distance runner in the world, having won over 120 championships in the United States, Canada, England, France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany. At age 20, he had earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto. When he was 23, he became one of the youngest to earn a Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania. He looks more like a scholar than a world-class athlete. He is five feet six inches tall and weighs 120 pounds. He squints a lot, like he needs eyeglasses.

A week earlier, the English track and field championships had been held at Stamford Bridge, home of the London Athletic Club. In 1898, Orton won the two-mile steeplechase there, demolishing the field by 80 yards and becoming the first North American to win the coveted title. It took 24 years before an athlete from outside Great Britain won the steeplechase again.

By 1900, Orton was already a racing legend in Great Britain, and large crowds had come to see him and the other North American track and field stars in advance of the Paris Olympics.

But in the windy and damp conditions of Stamford Bridge, it was English champion Sidney Robinson who won the steeplechase that year, with Orton finishing a distant fourth. It was a painful defeat for Orton, who was in rough shape after a gut-wrenching 10-day ocean voyage from America.

He vowed to get better and defeat Robinson and the others at the upcoming Olympics.

Orton had been hired as a special correspondent by the Philadelphia Inquirer under the byline “George Orton — the famous Pennsylvania athlete.” One of his assignments was to provide an insider’s look at the Olympic track and field events and predict the winners of each discipline. He mostly chose North American athletes to win, believing them to be superior to the Europeans. And when it came time to preview the 2,500-metre steeplechase, Orton didn’t beat around the bush. “Orton has more speed than the others,” he wrote, “and, as he is a good jumper, he should win, if in condition.” It was simple and succinct. He predicted victory, but in the third person, as if he were talking about someone else.

But Orton is not in condition on this day. Not even close. He hasn’t been right since leaving America nearly four weeks earlier. Forty-five minutes earlier, he had finished a close third in the 400-metre hurdles, becoming the first Canadian to win an Olympic medal, although he may not have been aware of the significance of that feat at that moment. While his opponents in the steeplechase were resting up for their big event, Orton was hurdling against the world’s best.

The Olympic track and field events that year were contested on the grounds of the Racing Club of France, in the Bois de Boulogne, a huge park located in western Paris that is two and a half times the size of New York’s Central Park. It may have been perfect for picnics, but it was a terrible choice as the venue for the Olympic Games.

As Orton pointed out, “The grounds are very picturesque, but not as well adapted for athletes as they might be.” He was being very kind. The biggest problem was the track itself. There wasn’t one. The French had refused to install a cinder track in their municipal park. There was no way they were going to tear up their beautiful grass for foot racing. Instead, they laid out an irregular-sized 500-metre oval (standard size is 400 metres) on uneven grass. Orton pointed out that the track “leads around beneath the trees” and its condition was so poor that “no less than four sprinters broke down.” The steeplechase course was especially brutal. Jumps consisted of authentic stone walls that couldn’t be moved, thick hedges that were difficult to vault, and imposing water hazards. Even if one could successfully negotiate the water jump, a soaker would await you on the other side. The hurdles for the steeplechase were one metre high and fashioned from 30-foot-long telephone poles that had been stripped. None of the obstacles could be knocked down, unlike those in the hurdles events, which would fall fairly easily upon contact.

Conditions for the field events were hardly better. The last few yards of the running broad jump approach featured a six-inch incline. There were reports of some jumpers having to dig their own pits. As well, the venue was not spectator friendly. The Bois de Boulogne was at least a mile from any tramway and far from the nearest railroad station. “This inaccessibility affected the attendance greatly, which was disappointing considering the caliber of the runners and the importance of the events,” wrote Orton.

Gaining a good view of the track was another issue. Most spectators had their sightlines obstructed by a large grove of trees that made up the far end of the race course. Those who were fortunate enough to have the latest invention — binoculars — had the best view of the action. Orton may have predicted victory in the newspaper, but he confessed two weeks later that he was anything but confident the day of the Olympic 2,500-metre steeplechase.

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Night Work

Night Work

The Sawchuk Poems
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : canadian, hockey
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