Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions, with Kevin Shea

Share |
Ten Questions, with Kevin Shea

We know that hope springs eternal for Leaf fans, but if you get too wistful for the team's bygone glory days, Kevin Shea's latest book of hockey history, Toronto Maple Leafs: Diary of a Dynasty, 1957–1967 (Firefly Books) will give your morale a boost. Here, Kevin Shea talks to Open Book about hockey writing, hockey heroes and hockey dreams.

Cheer the Leafs on tonight as they take on the Sens!

Open Book:

Tell us about your book, Toronto Maple Leafs: Diary of a Dynasty, 1957–1967.

Kevin Shea:

It’s a heavily-researched look back at an era in Toronto Maple Leafs’ history that is regarded with great fondness and much awe. During the ten-year period of 1957 to 1967, the Leafs went from worst to first, and proceeded to win the Stanley Cup on four occasions. A true dynasty.
The book uses long forgotten footage from Hockey Night in Canada to revisit this glorious period of franchise history, and includes interviews woven into the narrative to add further colour to the glory years.

OB:

What was your first publication?

KS:

In 2001, Centre Ice, a book about the Smythe family’s ownership of the Toronto Maple Leafs, was published with Tommy Smythe. Since then, I’ve written nine books about hockey.

OB:

When did you first become interested in hockey’s history?

KS:

As silly as it sounds, likely in utero! I think hockey is generational. My Dad and Mom loved hockey, my grandparents loved hockey… I’ve been fascinated with the history of the game for as long as I can remember, reading every snippet I could get my hands on. I’ve studied it and researched it to the point that I now can wear the mantle of “hockey historian” with great pride.

OB:

What Canadian hockey players inspire you most? Why?

KS:

Best hockey player? Bobby Orr, who is also one of the finest human beings I’ve spent any time with. As a kid, I idolized Eddie Shack, and at the age of seven when I happened to meet him, he was everything a hero should be. Today, I find inspiration in the dedication of athletes — Tim Horton, Paul Henderson, Sidney Crosby. My great-uncle, Jack McLean, played three seasons with the Leafs in the 1940s, and today, I wear his Stanley Cup ring from 1945.

OB:

Tell us about your research process.

KS:

I’ll go to the ends of the earth to work on details as part of my research. It’s so much a part of who I am as a writer and historian. An example is discovering a photo of Terry Sawchuk with a trophy I had never seen before. It turned out to be the Trans-Canada Airlines Trophy as playoff MVP, voted on by the team. I’d never heard of it, so went to work. One newspaper mention was all I could find, so with co-author Paul Patskou, we spoke to the Sawchuk family, Dave Keon, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Hockey Hall of Fame, Air Canada and journalists from that era — and still came up mostly blank. Weeks of work and it merits a paragraph or two in the book.

OB:

What inspired you to write this book in particular?

KS:

This era speaks to me. I’m a child of the 1960s, as are my co-authors. I distinctly remember watching each of the four Stanley Cup celebrations on TV in Windsor (my hometown), and then Dad taking me to the bus station so we could buy the Globe and Mail and Toronto Daily Star, just so I could read more in their game reports and see additional photos.

OB:

How does the Canadian cultural experience influence your writing?

KS:

I have closely followed the media for years, and began my professional career with ten years working in the radio industry followed by years and years working with the media as a publicist. My Canadian cultural experiences are deeply shaded by my interest in the media. I want to know what was going on that influenced various events. You’ll see that woven through all of my books — pop culture and historical references paralleling the hockey narrative.

OB:

What’s the best response you’ve ever received from a reader?

KS:

Any positive feedback is so flattering — to think that someone took the time to read a book that you wrote is a sensational feeling. I have many good stories, but one that stands out was at a game at Maple Leaf Gardens. There was a guy wearing a BARILKO sweater sitting in my section. Someone must have tipped him off that I wrote a book about Bill Barilko (Barilko: Without a Trace) because he came over, very respectfully, and introduced himself and told me that I had fuelled his interest in Bill Barilko and that it was the best hockey book he had ever read. That book generated notes from many in the hockey community who applauded the work. Very flattering to receive notes of praise from people you grew up hearing about!

OB:

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

KS:

I’m not sure that I’m one to pass on much advice, but if I can say one thing it is to find something you are passionate about and write about that. It’s all about passion: passion for the subject, passion for writing, passion for research. You can only dream that that passion translates to the page.

OB:

Do you have any upcoming projects in mind?

KS:

I always have several projects on the go. I have a book for young readers that I’m particularly excited by and another book involving my great-uncle that is my Tuesdays With Morrie. Several other ideas, too.

_________________________________

Kevin Shea is a hockey historian and best-selling author. He is the editor of publications for the Hockey Hall of Fame and teaches hockey history at Seneca College in Toronto, Ontario. He is also a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs Historical Committee and the Society for International Hockey Research.

For more information about Toronto Maple Leafs: Diary of a Dynasty, 1957–1967 please visit the Firefly Books website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Related item from our archives

JF Robitaille: Minor Dedications

Dundurn

Open Book App Ad