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The Greatest Game: The Montreal Canadiens, the Red Army, and the Night That Saved Hockey [Hardcover]

Todd Denault
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 26 2010
This game wasn't about money, points, or trophies. Instead it was played for pride, both personal and national. It was a confrontation twenty years in the making and it marked a turning point in the history of hockey.

On December 31, 1975, the Montreal Canadiens, the most successful franchise in the NHL, hosted the touring Central Red Army, the dominant team in the Soviet Union. For three hours millions of people in both Canada and the Soviet Union were glued to their television sets. What transpired that evening was a game that surpassed all the hype and was subsequently referred to as "the greatest game ever played." Held at the height of the Cold War, this remarkable contest transcended sports and took on serious cultural, sociological, and political overtones. And while the final result was a 3-3 tie, no one who saw the game was left disappointed. This exhibition of skill was hockey at its finest, and it set the bar for what was to follow as the sport began its global expansion.

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"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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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fond memories... June 8 2014
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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5.0 out of 5 stars My youth relived 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars grand bouquin Sept. 9 2011
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) 4.7 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 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
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Nov. 11 2010
By Brent Andrew - Published on
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
5.0 out of 5 stars 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.
4.0 out of 5 stars I was sad to see the book come to an end. Jan. 3 2014
By Terry Hawes - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Denault has put together a gem of a book that tells the story of hockey from both a Canadian and Soviet perspective. The New Year's Eve game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Soviet Red Army is the feature, but after finishing the book I gained a better appreciation for the way the Soviets developed the game of hockey in their own special way.

I was pleasantly surprised by this as I was expecting little to no background on the Soviet side of things; however, the author has reviewed the history of Soviet hockey from its initial foundations and one particular story about the Godfather of Russian hockey, Anatoli Tarasov, is particularly memorable.

Hockey in the mid-1970s had become more about the fisticuffs instead of the skilled play that most true hockey fans wanted and the author has detailed in great length about how the New Year's Eve game would start to tear away at the need for hockey teams to use bullying and brawling tactics as a means to win games. I don't think this point is valid as such tactics continued to persist despite the fact that the Canadiens would go on to win 4 straight Stanley Cups.

All in all though, it is a great read and I would highly recommend it.
4.0 out of 5 stars Hockey History to Remember or Discover April 3 2013
By B. Lindsay - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
This is a very good chronolog of the relationship of Soviet and North American hockey culminating with the New Years Eve game of 1975.

Interesting for those that followed hockey in the 1960s and 70s and hopefully to a younger generation who are interested in seeing how a part of hockey history was made.
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