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Randall Maggs aims to pay tribute to provincial senior hockey players

Randy Maggs will be involved in several events during Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada this week, including a reading at the Rotary Arts Centre tonight.
Randy Maggs will be involved in several events during Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada this week, including a reading at the Rotary Arts Centre tonight. - Diane Crocker

Perhaps a little lost in the hoopla of Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada and former professional players visiting the city are those that entertained the people of the province on the ice for decades.

The senior hockey greats, especially those of the 1950s and ’60s, some of whom Randall Maggs details in his book “Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems.”

Following the tragic life trajectory of National Hockey League legend Terry Sawchuk, Maggs sought to lighten the mood in his book a little by discussing Sawchuk and the Boston Bruins visiting the province in 1956 to tangle with senior hockey teams across the province, including here in Corner Brook.

“Because that section wouldn’t have been done without those guys, I wanted to give something back to them,” he said.

Beginning 8 p.m. tonight at the Rotary Arts Centre, Maggs and author/journalist Stephen Brunt will host a reading that will see Maggs read selections from his book — recently re-released for its 10th anniversary, with a new introduction and a preface written by Ron MacLean — and Brunt will also read a piece.

With a keen interest in former provincial senior hockey player Clobie Collins, Brunt is also bringing along recording equipment in hopes some former players will be in attendance to provide some stories about the man.

“Old hockey players and recording equipment, it’s like a magnet,” said Maggs, mentioning names like Frank Ryan, Jake Critch, Ed Lawrence, Mickey Walsh and Cyril Vardy as some of those former players he was hoping would be in attendance.

On Tuesday night, The Heart of Hockey event will take place at 8 p.m., featuring performances from The Graham Academy, Dance Studio West, Wendy Woodland, Nick Hamlyn, a Tragically Hip tribute band Days for Night, and Maggs and Brunt.

The two do readings together, essentially one reading a passage, which reminds the other of another selection, and so on and it’s done on the fly.

“The whole idea is one piece reads off the other one,” Maggs explained. “It puts a lot of pressure on you, you’re sweating by the end.”

Hockey Day in Canada’s Music of Hockey will be held Wednesday night at Marble Mountain, a 19+ event hosted by Ron MacLean that will see performances by Bidini Band, Kim Stockwood, Sherman Downey, Jody Richardson, Bryan Trottier, with Maggs and Brunt again taking part.

Ron Hynes has a song called “Sawchuk” that was based on Maggs’ book of poetry and often he would perform the song, then step back and strum the guitar as Maggs read from the book.

Maggs will be doing the same thing on Wednesday night, with Downey taking the place of the late Mr. Hynes.

A hockey player in his younger days and a lifelong fan of the game, Maggs said the Hockey Day in Canada concept is “wonderful” and he appreciates the input from local people allowing the arts community to be highlighted as well.

“This is such an incredible town for its arts, for its size, and Ron MacLean is all for that sort of thing,” he said. “It makes the smaller communities feel like they are part of the whole too. It’s great to spread it around and they like getting out here.”

As for any particular aspect of the event he’s looking forward to as a spectator, he said he’s anxious to see who is bringing the Stanley Cup to the city.

The famous, white-gloved “keepers of the Cup,” Phil Pritchard and Craig Campbell, are friends of Maggs’ and were instrumental in helping him with many of the historical elements of his book. He’s hoping he’ll see one or both of them here.

“I worked with those guys for 10 years,” he said. “They are the absolute best.”

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