When the Lights Went Out: How One Brawl Ended Hockey's Cold War and Changed the Game


346 pages
Contains Photos, Index
ISBN 0-385-66274-2
DDC 796.962'62'094373






Reviewed by Ian A. Andrews

Ian A. Andrews is a high-school social sciences teacher and editor of the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association’s Focus.


Any serious hockey fan will understand where Piestany, Czechoslovakia,
fits within hockey history. In the 1987 World Junior Hockey Tournament
held there, a bench-clearing brawl between the Canadian and Soviet
players led to both teams being expelled from the tournament. This
decision removed Canada from a podium finish—possibly even a gold
medal. Before the game, the Soviets had already been eliminated from any
medal possibilities.

Journalist Gare Joyce has taken this event—considered by some as a
“black mark” on Canadian athletics and by others as an international
conspiracy to deprive Canada of its just reward—and placed it in the
context of the times. Communist Europe, long dominated by the Soviet
Union, was about to fall. Soviet athletes were looking westward for
future careers. Coaching techniques were changing. And the events of
Piestany were to impact the careers of young players from both sides of
the iron curtain—among them, future NHL stars Sergei Federov, Vladimir
Konstantinov, Alexander Mogilny, Theoren Fleury, Mike Keane, and Brendon
Shanahan, as well as assistant coach Pat Burns.

In addition to describing events that transpired (based on viewing a
grainy DVD of the game), Joyce interviewed many of the participants
(players, coaches, trainers, referee, linesmen, and hockey association
officials from both countries) 20 years later to present their
interpretation of events. The results are enlightening.

Conspiracy theories, like those supported by popular Hockey Night in
Canada personality Don Cherry, are seriously questioned. Hockey Canada,
the governing body of amateur hockey (then called the CAHA—Canadian
Amateur Hockey Association) is accused of poor preparations, and of
abandoning the players and coaching staff following the incident; and
the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) is criticized for playing
politics at the expense of young players. But above all, Joyce
emphasizes the necessity of quality officiating at tournaments featuring
fierce opponents.

When the Lights Went Out is an entertaining and insightful read that
highlights the investigative skills of its author.


Joyce, Gare., “When the Lights Went Out: How One Brawl Ended Hockey's Cold War and Changed the Game,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 20, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/16800.