"From Triumph To Tragedy In The NHL"
Athletes are immortal to us. They are bigger, faster, and stronger. They accomplish amazing feats of physicality that most of us can only dream of. So when an athlete passes away in the midst of their career, it usually comes as a shock. How could this person die? They're so much better, at least on the surface, of everyone else? "From Triumph To Tragedy" is a book by first-time author Brad J. Lombardo that profiles six players who died during their careers: Bill Masterton, Terry Sawchuk, Tim Horton, Pelle Lindbergh, John Kordic, and Steve Chiasson.
Throughout 160 pages, Lombardo exhaustively recollects each player's career accomplishments, the events that lead to their death, and the aftermath. For example, the chapter about Terry Sawchuk details his entire career, his family problems, his declining health, his off-ice fight with a teammate that lead to his hospitalization, the surgeries to save his life, his funeral, and the subsequent investigation and grand-jury hearing.
While Lombardo does an admirable job of writing about such a heavy subject, his book is at best when discussing Sawchuk, Kordic, and Masterton. Lindbergh, Chiasson, and Horton each made a poor decision that lead to their deaths. On the other hand, Sawchuk, Kordic, and, to a lesser extent, Masterton were already broken men - physically, mentally, or both - by the time their careers were in full swing. The stories of these three men were truly tragic, and their untimely demises seemed all but inevitable. And though Masterton's death is widely believed to have been caused by an injury suffered in a game, Lombardo gives several accounts that suggest other contributing factors.
What I like about "From Triumph To Tragedy In The NHL" - the author has thoroughly researched each subject, and included a list of sources for each player's chapter, should you wish to seek out any further information on your own.
What I don't like about "From Triumph To Tragedy In The NHL" - the author relies solely on what is published and did not conduct any of his own interviews, with former teammates or surviving family members.
(Author note: I actually did conduct several interviews, just not as many as I would have liked. Face to face player interviews included lots of hockey greats we met at the local shows - Gerry McNiell, Gump Worsley, Bill Gadsby, Frank Mahovlich, Bobby Baun, Johnny Bower, and, of course, my good friend, the late Benny Woit, Terry Sawchuk's best friend and long-time minor league and NHL roomate, before Benny was shipped off to Chicago).
Score: 3.5 out of 5
"From Triumph To Tragedy In The NHL" may be more analogous to a research journal entry - exclusively relying on outside sources - and thus read more like a history book. But it is by no means a boring academic work. Lombardo handles a difficult subject expertly, without eulogizing or getting too morose.