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Ty Dilello had most of his second book about the best hockey players from Manitoba finished when a new partner came into the picture—the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame.
All along, Dilello had been thinking of a sequel to 2017’s Golden Boys: The Top 50 Manitoba Hockey Players of All Time, something more inclusive, as not everyone is a superstar.
“I wanted to do something for the lesser known guys, or the guys that just missed. I just want to tell more stories,” said Dilello over the phone from Winnipeg. “For the last five years, on and off, I’ve been compiling interviews of really old hockey players and then just expanding that the last couple of years and turning it into this book.”
During that time period, Dilello had been adopted as the historian for the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame, sitting in on board meetings and being consulted about the past.
“They were happy that I was writing a book about Manitoba. They wanted to be involved and to have their their logo on the book,” said Dilello. Since his aim and the Hall of Fame’s were similar, they teamed up. “It just seemed like a nice little collaboration.”
The result is Manitoba Hockey: An Oral History: Official Publication of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame. There’s a variety of players in the book, from superstars like Brett Hull and Andy Bathgate, to local icons such as Joe Daley and Ted Irvine. And it spans a century, from Clem Loughlin in 1917 until recent NHLer Tyler Arnason. He aimed for as little duplication as possible from Golden Boys, though there’s a chapter on Bob Chrystal, which was Dilello’s previous subject with 2018’s Block That Shot: The Bob Chrystal Story.
“There are so many players that came out of here that I have not scratched the surface yet it seems. Maybe at the end of all this, I’ll have an encyclopedia of Manitoba players or something,” said Dilello, who also works at a small newspaper, freelances hockey stories, and is a competitive curler.
Teaming with the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame, it begs the question, was anything changed because of the new partnership?
“I did edit some stuff out of the book, some more than PG stuff,” chuckled Dilello. “One of the players who played in the NHL back in the ’40s had his NHL career ruined because he was out chasing women all hours of the night and not going to practice in the morning. I cut a little bit out because maybe it was a little too vulgar.”
The book is just heading to shelves in mid-August, and is expected to be for sale through the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame and Museum website (http://www.mbhockeyhalloffame.ca). The display for the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame is located on the Second level of the Bell/MTS IcePlex just west of Winnipeg’s Perimeter Highway off 3969 Portage Avenue.
Ninety-year-old Reg Abbott holds up a copy of Manitoba Hockey: An Oral History. Abbott had a three game stint with the Montreal Canadiens in 1952-53
One of Dilello’s “gets” from a few years ago is the Winnipeg-born Andy Bathgate, who died in 2016. The Hockey Hall of Famer’s words form the foreword for Manitoba Hockey: An Oral History.
“Before he passed away, he’d given me permission to use that part of our interview for the foreword of the book when I had talked to him, so I guess I envisioned it a pretty long time ago,” said Dilello. “I just didn’t know how I would fit it all in, but I’m glad I was able to talk to Andy.”
Hockey players are mostly modest, but like attention too. There were a few moments of “I should be in the book.”
“If I was trying to contact a certain player, I might have had to go through another player, and the other player is like, ?Oh, you’re talking to him? Maybe you should be talking to me too!’” said Dilello.
As excited as Dilello is by Manitoba Hockey: An Oral History, he’s equally pumped about the next book, about storied Winnipger Bill Mosienko. He has been working with the family of Mosienko, who died in 1994. “I’m pretty much all done all the interviews, just have to write it all out now,” he revealed, crowing about some great interviews. “It’s great story that a lot of Winnipeggers and Manitobans will resonate with because Mosienko was a pretty big figure here with his hockey career. He owned a very popular bowling alley in Winnipeg, that he ran for the last 30-40 years of his life.”
One particular experience stands out. “I drove out to Delisle and spent a couple days with Max Bentley’s son and just got their stories,” Dilello said. What he didn’t expect, while staying over, was to share the room with history. “I got to literally sleep with the Stanley Cup, Max Bentley’s 1948 Stanley Cup was on the nightstand next to me as I slept in their guest room. That was a pretty awesome experience.”
Paul Masnick, Reg Abbott, Jean Beliveau, Dickie Moore, Frank Selke.
AN IMPORTANT BOOK, WITHOUT HOCKEY
Taking a Knee, Taking a Stand: African American Athletes and the Fight for Social Justice, written by veteran journalist Bob Schron, immediately caught my attention when it was published in March (before the world came to a standstill).
The premise is simple, offering up a history of the activism and achievement of African American athletes. It spans from Jesse Owens all the way to Colin Kaepernick, with so many others along the way. Having worked on many sports books over the years, most of the stories were familiar to me, but by taking them all and placing them in one volume, it leaves a greater impact. And Schron is a good writer.
Knowing that he knew some of the names, like Muhammad Ali, LeBron James and Jackie Robinson, I encouraged my 13-year-old son, Quinn, to read it, and to send a letter to the author, reprinted here:
Dear Mr. Bob Schron,
I must say, I really enjoyed your book. It’s not really a type of book I’d normally read, but I definitely enjoyed it. I mostly knew about all the stories you mention, but the depth of your storytelling really helped to expand my knowledge of this topic.
The best picture in the book, in my humble opinion, is the one with Tiger Woods and the former U.S. presidents. That just encapsulated culture in the U.S. so perfectly. All those presidents and such little progress. Really makes you think.
I’m not American, and I must say that this book tells distinctly, “American,” stories, yet its message transcends countries. The book tells of American athletes, but the underlying messages could be applied to pretty much any minority, ever. Similar things have happened to First Nations and Asian athletes, as far as I know, which really speaks about our society.
Sadly, history is doomed to repeat, as we are seeing unfold in the streets of Minneapolis and other cities. I thank you for educating people about the past so we can be better in the future.
It got me thinking, and not just because hockey doesn’t come up in Taking a Knee, Taking a Stand. Pioneering hockey players like Fred Sasakamoose and Willie O’Ree were Canadian, so I suspect automatically out of the author’s rules for inclusion, but they also never had the platform to speak out; nor, as hockey players, were they so inclined.
Who are the hockey players who have been the most outspoken on social issues? Theron Fleury and Sheldon Kennedy immediately spring to mind. Beyond that, hockey often sticks to hockey. I’d love to hear your thoughts on people who are not springing to mind.
DON’T BET ON IT
Sports Betting for Dummies has just been released, in its 2020 version. This one is written by Swain Scheps. I checked it out of my local library to see what was in it as far as hockey goes, and the answer is ... nada, nil, zippo, zero. Not a single mention of hockey, even with a team in Vegas now. You can’t tell me that no one bets on hockey! I recognize it is not the powerhouse that football and basketball especially are in the betting world. That very day, I turned in my cash for the playoff hockey pool that I’m in annually, and the organizer said that he had placed a bet on the Bruins to win it all at 6-1 odds when he was in Vegas. (Go anyone but Boston!) Anyway, bet away, just don’t place any wagers on this book.
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