I do not follow hockey nearly as much as I follow other sports and I have never pretended to be knowledgeable about the sport. When I got my copy of Sudden Death, The Incredible Saga of the 1986 Swift Current Broncos, I was not sure what to expect. If I know only a little bit about the NHL, then I surely know next to nothing about junior hockey in Canada.
Since Gregg Drinnan is one of the authors, I thumbed through the pages and my eye happened to fall on the name , Graham James; that rang a bell in the recesses of my memory. After skimming a paragraph or two, I remembered that he was the junior hockey coach who plead guilty to sexually molesting junior hockey players while he was their coach. I thought the book would be about that sort of thing; it was not.
The Swift Current Broncos’ team bus went off the road and killed four of the young players right after Christmas in 1986. These players, between the ages of 16 and 20, had to deal with their own injuries, the deaths of 4 teammates and friends and a manipulative sexual predator as their coach. Somehow, they made the playoffs that year and won the Canadian junior hockey championship three years later.
There are three authors. Bob Wilke was a player on that Broncos’ team. Leesa Culp was one of the first people on the scene of the accident who tried to give CPR to some of the injured players and watched at least one of them die in front of her. Gregg Drinnan was the former sports editor of the Kamloops Daily News.
This is not the typical sports book story of how the team rose from adversity to attain glory. This is the story of a singular event that was part of a much larger tragic situation for a group of young men that affected them for the rest of their lives. I am glad I read it; I suggest that you might want to read it too.