Author Darrell Davis discusses Saskatchewan's NHL dominance
Darrell Davis could write a Craigslist "missed connections" entry for Wendel Clark.
© Submitted photo
Author and former Times-Herald sports editor Darrell Davis discussed his new book, Fire on Ice: Why Saskatchewan Rules the NHL. Saskatchewan has produced almost 500 NHL players.
Davis told the Times-Herald of his quest to interview the former Maple Leafs captain.
"My search began in earnest at the Grey Cup in Toronto last year, when I found out I just missed him," said Davis, a former Times-Herald sports editor. "Rather than walk into the Hockey Hall of Fame one day, I went to do my other business and I found out he had been (there)."
It's a story that forms the preface to his new book, Fire on Ice: Why Saskatchewan Rules the NHL.
After a second near-miss at an arena, Davis scored Clark's cell phone number from a fellow reporter.
"I said, 'I guess I should phone him, but I don't want to interrupt anything,'" Davis said. "So I texted him, and I don't know if he ever got the message or not, but he never texted back."
The book moved forward without Clark. Instead, it focuses on the stories of several other Saskatchewan-born NHL players, including legends Elmer Lach — who Davis calls his favourite interview — and Gordie Howe, and young stars Ryan Getzlaf and Jordan Eberle.
"We thought it would be a pretty interesting story. … There's more NHL players per capita from Saskatchewan than there is from any other province, state, country, or any other jurisdiction," noted Davis.
"But it isn't just the number of players we produce, it's the heart-and-soul players we produce."
To hear Davis tell it, "they're all gritty guys" and "hard workers … who hold their locker room together.
"They never take a shortcut. They just grind it out all the time," he added. "I think that's a tribute to the type of community we have."
They are the players, for the most part, who do their talking on the ice.
"When you think of them, they're the heart-and-soul guys … Wendel Clark is a prime example," said Davis.
"(They're) the guys who will hit you from the front and if they have to push you off the puck, that's what they'll do. They'll come away with bloody noses and missing teeth just to help out their team."
And though the horse-drawn sled Elmer Lach rode to games in surrounding towns is a far cry from the buses and jets players like Jordan Eberle ride in today, Davis said that opulence changes little about the values Saskatchewan players have.
"When you meet a guy like Jordan Eberle, you realize he's a lot more like Elmer Lach than you could ever imagine," he said.
"If you're from Saskatchewan, you have a very strong work ethic. I think that shows up in every single player who's ever played in the majors from this province."
Fire on Ice is available at bookstores across the province or online.