Virtual Event: Hockey’s Gift to Canada
Rick Vaive, Willie O’Ree, Harnarayan Singh, and Kirstie McLellan Day, Moderated by Christine Simpson
” Bestselling Hockey Authors Celebrate the Game’s Cultural Contribution “
Dec 15, 2020
There’s maple syrup, the word “sorry”, and a Tim Horton’s Double Double. But it’s widely agreed that there is nothing more universally Canadian than hockey. At a time when Canadians seek normalcy and comfort, they have maintained their connection to the country’s favourite game.
Join Canadian Club Toronto on December 15 for an insightful conversation about the timeless social and cultural impact of hockey in Canada, from some of this season’s best selling authors. This expert panel will be moderated by Christine Simpson – Reporter, NHL on Sportsnet and will feature:
• Kirstie McLellan Day – One of the Top Hockey Book Writers in the World
• Willie O’Ree – Author, “Willie”, and Former Player, Boston Bruins
• Harnarayan Singh – Author, “One Game at a Time”, and Co-Host and Play-by-Play Announcer, Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi
• Rick Vaive – Author, “Catch 22: My Battles, in Hockey and Life”, and Former Captain, Toronto Maple Leafs
Rick Vaive, Former Captain, Toronto Maple Leafs
RICK VAIVE played in the NHL from 1979 to 1992, for the Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Blackhawks and Buffalo Sabres. As captain of the Maple Leafs from 1982 to 1986, he set and still holds the franchise record for goals scored in a single season. He coached seven seasons in the minor professional leagues, including an ECHL championship, and one season in the Ontario Hockey League. He makes regular appearances for the Toronto Maple Leafs and NHL alumni.
Willie O’Ree, Former Player, Boston Bruins
Willie was an exceptional hockey talent. He fought for a place in a league, which at the time, comprised only six teams, and 132 players (compared with today’s 713), breaking through not only the most significant cultural barriers, but also surmounting significant physical injury—playing with only one eye.
Willie credits pond hockey for his soft hands—the imperfect surface, pocked with divots, dips and embedded twigs forced him to develop top notch stickhandling skills at a young age.
Willie says that listening to HNIC on the radio–rather than seeing his heroes on TV—eliminated the realities of colour and race from the experience, allowing him to imagine a place for himself in the game.
Quebec Frontenacs coach Phil Watson was the first to recognize Willie’s exceptional talent, telling him in his rookie season he had the chops to make the NHL and become “the Jackie Robinson of hockey.”
Punch Imlach once showed up on Willie’s doorstep to offer him a spot on his Quebec Aces roster. The contract was good—$4,000, pretty rich for the time—but Willie drove a hard bargain, and got the famously frugal coach to part with another $600, surely a rare instance of the purse strings loosening.
After being called up to the Bruins, Willie found his teammates to be supportive, eager to look past differences and welcome him to the fraternity of players. When asked by the media about Willie’s race, coach Milt Shmidt would say “He isn’t Black. He’s a Bruin.”
After a retiring from the ice, Willie bounced between a number of interesting jobs—delivery truck driver, car sales man, working security for the San Diego Chargers—but always dreamt of returning to the NHL in some fashion. Eventually the opportunity arose in 1996, when he was asked to make a series of speeches and public appearances supporting the NHL’s fledging diversity program, which ultimately culminated in him being named the league’s official Diversity Ambassador, a position he still holds today.
Willie’s career has been an inspiration to many of the NHL’s BIPOC players working at the forefront of efforts to address racism and drive change in the league and beyond—Leafs star and Hockey Diversity Alliance co-founder Wayne Simmonds credits him for opening the door to his dream to play in the NHL.
Harnarayan Singh, Co-Host and Play-by-Play Announcer, Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi
HARNARAYAN SINGH is a co-host and play-by-play announcer, having called over 700 NHL games for Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi, along with becoming a host in English with Sportsnet for select national games. Having previously worked for CBC and TSN, Harnarayan also produces a segment in Calgary called Flames TV Punjabi and serves on the Board of Directors for HEROS Hockey, a charity empowering marginalized youth through mentorship. In 2018, Harnarayan was the recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal by the Governor General of Canada for his contributions to Canadian society. He also serves as an ambassador for the NHL’s Hockey Is For Everyone program and Chevrolet Canada’s Good Deeds Cup.
Kirstie McLellan Day, One of the Top Hockey Book Writers in the World,
Kirstie McLellan Day has made an indelible contribution to Canada’s cultural landscape as an accomplished writer, film and television producer, playwright, newspaper columnist, business leader and philanthropist. But her proudest accomplishment is her contribution in raising awareness, through documentary film, television series and nonfiction books, issues surrounding child sexual abuse, violence against women and mental health.
With seven national bestsellers (five instant #1 bestsellers in a row) under her belt, including Wayne Gretzky’s #1 bestselling non-fiction book in Canada for 2016, Kirstie McLellan Day is considered one of the world’s top hockey book authors.
Harper Collins Canada Chief Editor Jim Gifford credits her with creating a new genre of sports book. Maclean’s Magazine has dubbed her Canada’s “Ice Queen”, while the Globe and Mail calls her “Hockey’s Leading Muse”.
Kirstie spent the winter of 2016 working with Wayne Gretzky on his bestseller, 99: Stories of the Game. Sports Illustrated review the book said, “I have held (Ken Dryden’s) The Game as the best hockey book ever written… I can say that more about this one. (Gretzky) has every record there is, (and now) might as well notch his name down for best hockey book.”
One of her best-known books, Theo Fleury’s Playing With Fire, was on the national bestsellers list for more than 52 weeks and continues selling briskly to date. In fact, it has sold into the hundreds of thousands, a major feat for a non-fiction book in Canada. The book broke the story of the abuse Fleury suffered at the hands of his junior hockey coach. Playing with Fire was nominated for a prestigious Libris Award and has inspired hundreds of victims of abuse to seek help.
Playing with Fire led to a feature length documentary for HBO and a one-man play Kirstie wrote. The play has won numerous awards and continues to tour across the county. First staged at Alberta Theatre Projects in 2012, it was named best theatrical production of the year. It also led to the powerful documentary that Kirstie produced called, Theo Fleury: Playing with Fire for HBO Canada. The film was accepted into Hot Docs and won The Garden State Film Festival for Best Overall.
Kirstie’s other hockey books include Cornered with Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean, as well as his second book Hockey Towns, a cross-country collection of emotionally powerful and personal stories from Canada’s favourite sport. Kirstie worked with the late Bob Probert on Tough Guy, which became a Reader’s Digest Book of Choice. And in 2017 she worked with former L.A. Kings goalie, and Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster, Kelly Hrudey on his top seller, Calling the Shots. In 2018 she worked on Cujo: The Untold Story of My Life On and Off the Ice, with goaltender great Curtis Joseph, which also debuted at #1.
Kirstie was born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan and studied drama at the University of Regina. She relocated to Alberta and has since worked as a private detective, investigative journalist, columnist, television host, producer and CEO of Pyramid Productions Television. She got her start as an entertainment reporter and writing biographies for A&E Biography Channel in New York.
In 2017 BookNet Canada released a list of the 150 bestselling Canadian books since 2007. Author Robert Munsch topped the chart with a remarkable 35 titles. McLellan Day was second on the list with five (now seven) bestsellers (including the top-rated hockey book) while Margaret Atwood had four books on the list, and Alice Munro and Chris Hadfield were some of the writers with three.