Players and coaches of genius come along; rules and tactics and strategies evolve; careers ebb and flow. And the best way to see how the game changes is to look at the goals, the events that led up to them, and the way they change hockey history. From Canada’s ultimate hockey insider comes the lowdown on the personalities, the dressing-room banter, the chalk-talk, the sweat-stained passion behind eight of the goals that changed the game.
There are moments in hockey history that matter even more than the question of who won or lost, when a single goal can tell us about the game itself.
Among the most famous and stirring in hockey lore was Paul Coffey’s dramatic counter-attack in the 1984 Canada Cup against the USSR. Canadian fans were terrified of the dazzling Soviets, and were nervous about another drubbing like the 8-1 loss Canada had suffered the last time the two teams had played. Coffey’s pass interception and rush up-ice is now the stuff of legend, but it was not only the defenceman’s skill that won the day.
Glen Sather was as mindful of the vaunted Soviet attack as any Canadian fan, and he put together a game plan with one objective: to keep the puck away from the Russians. Once Coffey got the puck into the Soviet zone, it was Tonelli’s spadework along the boards and Bossy’s refusal to budge from the crease that allowed Coffey’s point shot to eventually find its way to the net. That goal beat the Soviets and changed the way the game was played forever.
Other goals were equally shaped by their time. Think of Guy Lafleur’s notorious “too- many- men- on- the- ice” goal in 1979, which effectively ended Don Cherry’s career as a coach. Or Wayne Gretzky’s overtime goal in Game Two of the Smythe Division finals in 1988 against the Calgary Flames, arguably the goal that marked the pinnacle of his career. Or Mario Lemieux’s 1987 Canada Cup-winning goal. Or Brett Hull’s disputed 1999 Stanley Cup-winner.
Al Strachan, whose insider hockey connections are second to none, was witness to all these goals. He has been writing about the game we love for more than three decades. Chummy with the players, respected by coaches, and friends with the broadcasters and journalists, he knows what is going on in the dressing rooms and the board rooms, and he understands what is evolving on the ice. He has talked to the men who made the decisions, as well as to those who made the plays. In Go to the Net, he passes on, in the trenchant style of his famous columns, insights into the goals that tell us not only about the way the game has changed but also about the gritty soul of hockey that will never change.From the Hardcover edition.