With international hockey on our minds and the World Juniors tournament underway, I've been asked to present about Father Bauer and the Great Experiment: The Genesis of Canadian Olympic Hockey, which came out in April 2017. Thanks for the opportunity.
Here's the synopsis that I came up with ECW Press:
Father David Bauer changed lives — at the rink, in the classroom, and at the pulpit. Bauer’s dream created the first truly national Canadian hockey team. In 1963, that unique group represented Canada abroad and were committed to both country and to Father Bauer. Whether shepherding the hockey program at St. Michael’s College in Toronto or the men’s national team out of the University of British Columbia, Bauer was both spiritual leader and trailblazer.
Through exhaustive research and countless interviews, author Greg Oliver explores a Canadian icon, the teams that he put on the ice, and the rocky, almost unfathomable years of the 1970s when Canada didn’t play international hockey. Finally, for the first time ever, the whole story of Father Bauer’s critical importance to Canada’s game is told in the rich detail it deserves, and a beloved icon is celebrated for his contributions to our nation’s sporting history.
I've got a personal page on the book on my website, OliverBooks.ca as well, where you can order the book. It should be available wherever books are sold.
So, I'm open to questions about the book, but I'll start off with a little more personal detail.
I grew up in Kitchener, Ontario, and always knew about local icon Father Bauer, but not as much as I should. Somehow that was always bubbling in my head that there should be a proper biography on the man -- a priest yet! -- who set everything in motion for what we have now with Hockey Canada, with the best of the best selected to represent the country.
With many pro wrestling books under my belt, my editor at ECW Press, Michael Holmes, was game when we had lunch and I said I wanted to do something else ... and that ended up being hockey. First was Don't Call Me Goon (with Richard Kamchen) and then The Goaltenders' Union with Richard as well. The two Allan Stitt books on archives sort of came out of nowhere, but they complimented my work on Father Bauer in immeasurable ways.
Jim Gregory wrote the foreword for Father Bauer (well, if we are being honest, he gave me some direction, I wrote it, and he okayed it -- this happens more than you think, by the way, with forewords!). But he was a key part of Written in Blue & White, as I talked to all the living general managers of the Toronto Maple Leafs that pertained to the documents. So there was plenty of synergy like that, where I could ask about the Canadian Olympic program too.
Another example is Lou Nanne, former GM of the North Stars. Allan Stitt had a bunch of documents from the team, so some of them ended up in Blue Lines, Goal Lines & Bottom Lines (i.e. the non-Leafs document book), and Nanne helped with that. When I talked to Lou, I asked about Father Bauer and he went on a small rant about not getting a chance to play for Canada, so he ended up representing the United States, and, as you might know, he stayed involved with the American program.
(For the record, I was working on the Gilles Gratton autobiography too, and there were complimentary pieces with the Stitt documents as well. Gratoony the Loony came out in the fall of 2017, so I liked to joke that I wrote one book about a priest and the other about a devil.)
With anything, it's about who you know. The Canadian Olympic team originals from the Father Bauer years try to get together yearly for a reunion, and, after having talked to enough of them, they welcomed me at a reunion in Manitoulan Island, near Sudbury, Ontario. The book was pretty well done at that point, but between the photos I got there and tidbits, it just ended up being a stronger book.
To conclude ... of all the books that I have written, I felt at the time that it was the pinnacle of my work as a writer and researcher. I did it myself, it was lengthy and epic, historically important, and will live on as a documentation of an important person and time period long after I'm gone. (And I feel the same about my newest book, the self-published Who's The Man? Billy Van! about an overlooked Canadian comic genius.)
Phew, I didn't set out to write that much ... but I haven't been writing enough these days, and have been doing so much editing that it felt write / right!
Bring on the questions and thoughts about the book!