Here is the first review of my book, valuable as it is from a fellow hockey historian.
Victoria hockey book a long time coming
Posted August 19, 2019
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If there was a shelf in a bookstore for “Passion Projects,” you would definitely find Helen Edwards’ new book there. It’s called The History of Professional Hockey in Victoria, and, while she’s been working on it for eight years, in reality it’s been a life-long journey.
Edwards has lived in Victoria, British Columbia, all her life, and has been a hockey fan for most of that time. It started when a radio station offered tickets to Victoria Cougars games for a nickel, and then she had season tickets for the Victoria Maple Leafs—“I had season tickets because I was finally working”—and, much later, the Victoria Salmon Kings.
A devasting two-some in 2011 resulted in the book. For one, the ECHL’s Salmon Kings closed up shop, and are the last professional team to play in Victoria. The other was the death of Bill Shvetz, who’d been a Maple Leafs’ defenceman.
“They were a big part of my life, and I suddenly realized that if somebody didn’t document even their part of history, they would all be gone,” said Edwards over the phone. “We’ve got very few of those guys left now. I started researching and I found there was very little information other than the Patricks—everybody writes about the Patricks—but nobody delved into statistics and stuff.”
An architectural historian by training, Edwards decided she was the right one to document hockey history in Victoria, from the Lester and Frank Patrick’s Pacific Coast Hockey Association in 1911 to the Salmon Kings. The History of Professional Hockey in Victoria is 612, 8×10 pages, of statistics, results of every pro game ever played in the city, with profiles of key people and 483 players, and the buildings that housed the games.
“I’m a historian by trade and this just combined my fabulous love of hockey with historical research, so it was easy—it just took a long time,” she said. Of note, there are copious end notes, she added: “If anybody doubts a source, it’s there; I’m very thorough, that’s all I can say.”
Edwards can also say that she was miffed and annoyed at times. Some interviews escaped her completely, like the elusive Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars, who grew up in Victoria; Jamie’s older brother Jordie Benn has signed with Vancouver, and Edwards expects to wag a finger at him — and indirectly at his little brother — at the upcoming Canucks training camp.
Missed interviews are one thing, misogyny is quite another.
“When I phoned people to ask if I could interview them, ‘Oh, you’re a girl, you don’t know anything about it.’ I couldn’t believe it. This is the younger guys, right? The old guys, my God, they talk to you for hours—and some did,” recalled Edwards.
Her reply to a doubter? “I’ve been watching hockey since long before you were born, hon.”
It didn’t stop her. “I’ve run into it all my life,” she said, working in a male-dominated profession, historical architecture. “There, it was not a problem, because it was a history of buildings and nobody cared if you’re male, female or otherwise.” For more on her day job, check out Edwards Heritage Consulting (http://edwardsheritageconsulting.ca/)
The History of Professional Hockey in Victoria was self-published through Friesen Press, and distributed to select book stores and online (ORDER HERE — https://books.friesenpress.com/store/title/119734000067775471/Helen-Edwards-The-History-of-Professional-Hockey-in-Victoria ). However, if you happen to be in Victoria, Edwards is more than happy to share a cup of tea, talk hockey and sell you a book.
“It’s never going to be a bestseller, but I’m proud that it’s out there,” said the long-time Society for International Hockey Research member. “It’s a labour of love and it’s a thank you to all those guys” who played hockey in Victoria.