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


352 pages
Contains Photos, Index
ISBN 978-0-385-66275-8
DDC 796.962'62094373






Reviewed by Matt Hartman

Matt Hartman is a freelance editor and cataloguer, running Hartman Cataloguing, Editing and Indexing Services.


The World Junior Hockey Tournament of 1987 was held in Czechoslovakia, with the final game between Canada and the Soviet Union played in the small industrial city of Piestany. Gare Joyce, who now writes for ESPN: The Magazine, is one of this country’s foremost hockey writers, specializing in covering junior hockey. The subtitle of When the Lights Went Out itself provides an excellent summary of the book: How One Brawl Ended Hockey’s Cold War and Changed the Game. When the fighting began in the second period of the game, the officials lost control of the contest and, as battles raged and the benches of both sides cleared, gave up trying to restore order. The game was never resumed and both teams were disqualified from the tournament’s medals. The record books show no mention of either team.


Joyce’s technique is to write as though he is watching a DVD of the game, a DVD he obtains after a search on Google. “Insert the disk,” he says at the beginning. “Press play.” This conceit is continued throughout. “Listen to Don Wittman and Sherry Bassin, the guys in the mustard-yellow CBC jackets,” he says to set the tone. And, indeed, the technique works. The reader can almost see and feel the game as it unfolds with all its ugliness. Joyce says in his acknowledgements that the book “is the product of more than 100 interviews over the course of the year.” To his credit he has interviewed the Russian players as well as the Canadians to get, as much as possible, a balanced picture of the mayhem that went on that day more than 20 years ago. Alexander Mogilny and Sergei Federov are interviewed as well as Brendan Shanahan and Theo Fleury. The interviews and the video-watching technique provide a sense of immediacy which pulls the reader along.


Those who follow hockey, especially junior hockey, will find this book indispensable in describing a game which one poll has called “the fourth most famous game in international hockey history.”


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 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/27800.