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The Greatest Game: The Montreal Canadiens, the Red Army, and the Night That Saved Hockey Hardcover – Oct 26 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: McClelland & Stewart (Oct. 26 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 077102634X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0771026348
  • Product Dimensions: 15.8 x 3.2 x 23.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 567 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #278,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


"Simply said this is one of the best hockey books written since Ken Dryden's The Game and Dryden and Roy MacGregor's Home Game." 
Peterborough Examiner

"A masterful job."
— Montreal Gazette

"A tense yet thrilling tale." 
Winnipeg Free Press

"The Greatest Game will stand up well as a good treatment of a unique set of circumstances that led to a game for the ages. After reading it, many will want to run out and find a recording of the game. That's pretty high praise."

"One of the most important hockey books ever written."

About the Author

A member of the Society for International Hockey Research, TODD DENAULT is a freelance writer who has had his work featured in numerous online and print publications. He is the author of Jacques Plante: The Man Who Changed the Face of Hockey.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Andre Lieven on July 7 2011
Format: Hardcover
I'm not even finished this book yet, and already I have to say that this is one of the finest hockey books of the last decade. Denault weaves the story of how hockey came to come to the Montreal Forum on the fateful night of 31 December, 1975, giving the reader a wealth of detail and thought and experiences of many of the participants. His research is fantastic, with many sources from both sides of the bench. As someone who eagerly watched the game at the centre of this book, I can say that I have a far better understanding of it after having read this book. This book goes right up with the best hockey books out there, including Ken Dryden's The Game.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. MacDonald on May 4 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My best memories are of watching the Montreal Canadiens on Hockey Night in Canada with my dad and my big brother. We made more noise than the Forum faithful for sure. That Greatest Game has stuck in my brain for 38 years. This book brought that back and filled in all of those details and background bits that somehow now give that moment, that game, even greater significance than my teenage brain could muster at the time. That game saved North American hockey from where the moron teams of the day (Boston and Philly) tried to drag it. It also confirmed for all of us Habs fans . . . . that we were indeed on the righteous path.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I saw this game live. I am a serious hockey fan, and consider this game the best hockey game ever to have been played.. read the book, but even better, watch the DVD if you can..
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Gilbert Michaud on Sept. 9 2011
Format: Hardcover
un match qui s etait termine 3 a 3 . grace aubrio du gardien tretiak . l offensive du canadien etait tres puissante . mais la defensive des sovietiques encore plus.certains disen que ce fut le meilleur match de l histoire du hockey . maybe yes maybe no. great book though.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 12 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Canadiens Rock! Feb. 24 2011
By R Murphy - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book provides an interesting, scholarly, and quite readable trip down memory lane, an especially enjoyable stroll for fans of the great Canadiens teams of the 1970s. While it is ostensibly aimed at those who wish to know the background to the 1975 New Year's Eve classic, Soviet Red Army vs the Montreal Canadiens, Mr. Denault's book will appeal to anyone who has an interest in the history of Soviet hockey, or an interest in the evolution of the NHL in the 1960s and 70s, or is a fan of the les Habitants. This book covers in some detail the beginnings of Soviet "professional" hockey, from the coaches and the Soviet scheme to the heavy-handedness of the Soviet hierarchy. The author takes us behind the scenes of Canadian hockey in the 50s and 60s, the farm system, the evolution of the draft, and the impact of the WHA on salaries and the style of play. Throughout Denault contrasts the disparity in Soviet and Canadian hockey organizations and the reluctance of Canadian coaches to even consider an alternative to their rough and tough, individualistic brand of hockey, doubtless a consequence of the contrasting political and social realities in the respective systems. Some may quibble at the detail that Mr. Denault provides early on, but he does lay out the many concurrent trends in hockey and in sport in general at the time. And his approach sets the stage for vivid descriptions of the 1972 Summit Series between the NHL and the Red Army, and the 1974 series in which the new WHA vainly attempted to repeat the NHL team's success. Numerous personalities are brought to life, from Sam Pollock and Fred Shero, to Ken Dryden and Larry Robinson. On the Soviet side we are introduced to its ground-breaking coach Anatoli Tarasov, and presented compelling portraits of Vladislav Tretiak and Valeri Kharlamov and many others. The Game, the climax of the book, comes rather late in the proceedings, but to be fair, there is only so much that one can describe about a 60 minute sporting event, even a momentous one. The real story, we learn, is mostly prologue. When at last Mr. Denault brings us to the storied Forum to witness the game, he helps us re-live those exciting events through an elegant prose that is equal to the beauty and purity of the game itself. Despite the broad scope of the work and a few editing oversights, I enjoyed the book very much, and recommend it to all fans of the great game of hockey.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
One of the best Nov. 11 2010
By Brent Andrew - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Does a sporting event matter to anything significant beyond its own boundaries?

In 1975, at the height of the Cold War, the Montreal Canadiens hosted the hockey team of the Soviet Union's Red Army. The game itself did not disappoint - the 3-to-3 tie was called "the greatest game ever played" - and is considered the launching point for hockey's global expansion. Author Todd Denault expertly conveys the excitement of the game, but goes deeper, to reveal the political and social forces behind a sporting event that became symbolic of global strategic stalemate between the East the West.

Rated one of the top 20 new sports books - see [...]
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This Book Definitely Rates A Place in My Sports Library Jan. 25 2015
By Bill Emblom - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I rate parts 1 and 2 three stars and parts 3 and 4 five stars. I couldn't put the book down from parts 3 and 4 I found it so riveting. What I remember about hockey from this time period was the names of the Montreal Canadians' hockey players found in the book and the fact that the Philadelphia Flyers were known as the Broad Street Bullies and had Kate Smith, either in person or recording, sing God Bless America prior to the start of their games. Also, I believed that when the highlights of a game were fights I didn't feel you had much of a sport. I knew nothing about Russia playing a series of games against several National Hockey League teams.

That said, I found the game played on December 31, 1975, between the Montreal Canadians and the Russian team to be one of sportsmanship played to a 3 to 3 tie to be, for lack of a better word, heartwarming. The Canadians had 38 shots on goal compared to only 13 for the Russians but the goal tending of Vladislav Tretiak kept things at a game-ending tie. When the Russian team moved on to play in Philadelphia the Flyers embarrassed themselves and the United States by their use of thuggery against the Russians in which the Russian coach removed his team from the ice. The administration of the coup de grace against the Flyers came when the Canadians swept the Flyers out of their rule of NHL champions by defeating them in for the Stanley Cup championship and a return to civilized hockey.

The Montreal Canadians selected Tretiak in the draft of 1983 but the Russians would not allow him to compete in the NHL. Although it was too late for Tretiak the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 all of the best Russian players are now eligible to join the NHL. In 2007 Tretiak was on hand to celebrate the retirement of Canadian goal tender Ken Dryden's jersey in Montreal.

This book definitely filled a gap in my knowledge of hockey's history that I wasn't aware I was living through at the time it took place.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The Greatest Game June 27 2012
By Menikoe - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Greatest Game was recommended to me by a long time friend & hockey coach. It is a very easy read & the background information on 1) the development of the Soviet system, 2) the development of many of the key players & coaches for both teams and 3) what the trends were in the NHL during the 1970s is quite fascinating.I would highly recommend reading this book if you wanted to gain more insight of what took place in the NHL and Soviet Hockey during the 3 decades leading up to the game b/w the Montreal Canadians & the Soviet Red Army. For those of us who grew up playing and watching NHL Hockey during the 1960s and 1970s, you will experience several flashbacks (some good, some not so good)of what we saw.
Outstanding book on the two best hockey teams of the 1970s Jan. 11 2015
By LSmith - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

On December 31, 1975, an international hockey game took place between the Montreal Canadiens and the Soviet Red Army team. These two teams were considered to be among the best in their respective leagues and continents and the game was highly anticipated by hockey fans all over the world. Not only because of the quality of the teams, but because of many other factors. The Cold War was in full force. The entire nation of Canada was nervous because the Soviet Union was now considered either equal to or superior in Canada’s national game. The style of play in the National Hockey League was becoming more physical and violent thanks to the Philadelphia Flyers and their two consecutive Stanley Cup titles. This last point was of great concern to many who believed the game was getting too violent, with less emphasis on skill and more on fighting.

All of these aspects and more are the setting for this terrific book by Todd Denault. Not only does Denault write about the game itself, almost shift for shift, but the game’s chapters are preceded by well-researched and well-written chapters about the history of hockey in the Soviet Union up to that game as well as how the Canadiens built their team that would play in the game and the general state of the sport in the 1970’s.

Like many other books that are written about a specific game or series, this one has a lot of information that is not directly related to the main topic. However, instead of these chapters being merely filler, these passages have a connection to the historic game on New Year’s Eve 1975 as this information gives the reader the feeling of why this game took on such importance. For example, there is a good section about Bobby Clarke, the star center of the Flyers teams that became known as the “Broad Street Bullies” and won the Stanley Cup in 1974 and 1975 as much by intimidation and violence as well as skill. Those who felt hockey was becoming too violent anticipated this game as being a showcase to prove that this type of play is not needed to produce good hockey.

The best written sections of the book, however, are those about the Soviet teams, including the Red Army team. By the time this game took place, goalie Vladislav Tretiak and forward Valeri Kharlamov were well-known in Canada and the United States as well as Russia and Denault treats them in the book as the stars that they were. The reader learns much information about them and their teams as well. The book also recalls how they were well-received by the citizens of Canada. Tretiak was so good in the game (no spoilers on the result if you do not know) that he received a standing ovation from the Montreal fans. I was watching that game as a 14 year old fan in Minnesota and I too was applauding his performance by standing in front of the television set.

This book is an excellent read for any hockey fan, but especially those who want to learn more about the two best teams in their respective continents in the 1970s. The reader won’t feel the “us vs. them” mentality while reading this as if seems the Cold War was temporarily suspended for three hours. “The Greatest Game” lives up the game itself and is a worthy book on the game and the sport of hockey at that time.

Pace of the book:
It wasn’t a fast read as I carefully read the chapters on the history of Russian hockey and some of the earlier games by this team as I was not familiar with that history and wanted to learn more.

Do I recommend?
Hockey fans, especially fans of the sport in the 1970’s, will love this book as it covers so many important players, teams and the history of international hockey played by Canadian and Russian teams during that time frame.

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