– From Don Reddick’s The Trail Less Traveled
If you think that the Pittsburgh Penguins or the Chicago Blackhawks had a long trip to the Stanley Cup, then you will
thoroughly enjoy award-winning author Don Reddick’s The Trail Less Traveled. The author of Dawson Silver Seven and Killing Frank McGee, Reddick masterfully intertwines the history of Canada’s North and the early days of hockey, with his journey from Dawson City to Ottawa with the modern day Dawson City Nuggets.
During the early history of the Stanley Cup, it was a challenge cup; any team could put forward a challenge to the Stanley Cup Trustees, hoping to take on the champions. In 1904, a group of hockey players began the 4,000 mile journey from Dawson City to Ottawa to challenge the Ottawa Silver Seven; perhaps one of the greatest teams in hockey’s illustrious history. Travelling by dog sled and bicycle out of the North, by steam ship to Vancouver, and then by train to Ottawa, the Dawson squad did not fare too well against the Silver Seven but earned a place in hockey history that may never be matched.
In 1996, ninety-two years after the original journey, a new generation of Dawson City hockey players followed the exact same path to Ottawa and challenged the Ottawa Senators Alumni in a rematch of the original series. While the Stanley Cup was not on the line, pride certainly was, and a sizeable donation to charity went to the victor.
As the author of Dawson Silver Seven, a work of historical fiction chronicling the original 1904 journey, Reddick was invited to participate in the modern day re-enactment of the journey. While he had a good idea of what lay ahead, his trip to the starting point of the journey provided a reminder of what was to come.
“When I went up to Dawson to start the trip, I flew from White Horse to Dawson in a small plane,” Reddick explained. “We flew directly over the terrain that we were going to come back over. I looked down for an hour at nothing but ice encrusted rivers and mountains. I just remember thinking, my god, what have I gotten into here?”
“Truthfully, the cold was what I feared the most, but at the same time I was very excited to experience it because I love all things arctic, and I read all my life about arctic experiences. I read about all these guys that had endured the cold and I was really excited to do it myself; I had a very good attitude going in.”
Although they used some modern day equipment, several of the Dawson players travelled by dog sled, while other members of the expedition travelled by snowmobile instead of bicycles, the unforgiving North and the rugged trails were the very same today as they were in 1904; the journey was still difficult and dangerous.
“I had tried to put together exactly how they did it (for Dawson Silver Seven), because there is some evidence that they started out on bicycles because there wasn’t much snow – they started out on dog sled, with bicycles and walking. Every twenty miles, there was a roadhouse in those days, and we actually went by several of them. For a good portion we were on exactly the same trail, but then it diverts a little bit, onto the modern day trail, which is what we eventually followed.”
The entire journey, from Dawson to Ottawa created a unique bond amongst the participants; it was a very unique experience that only two hockey teams have ever attempted and completed – The 1904 Dawson City team and the group that re-enacted the journey in 1996.
“I was an outsider, and I kind of bonded with Earl McRae (a columnist with the Ottawa Sun that also participated in the trip),” said Reddick. “We were the two outsiders that actually participated in the entire trip. After the trip, I had made some very good friends – email is a wonderful way to keep track of people.”
Released in June, Reddick was pleased to find out that his work has found its way into the collection of a noted Canadian hockey historian, Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He recently received a letter from the Prime Minister, calling The Trail Less Traveled a “Welcome addition to my personal library.”
“I was thrilled to be honest with you,” said Reddick. “That means a lot to me. What happened was, Prime Minister Harper was in the Yukon and he ran into Pat Hogan (one of the players and organizers of the re-enactment), who presented him with a copy of the poster of the rematch and he told Mr. Harper about the book.”
In his book, Reddick has captured a uniquely Canadian story, but the passion we all share for the game of hockey knows no borders, making The Trail Less Traveled an essential addition to any book collection.
To find out more about Don Reddick, or to order The Trail Less Traveled and his other hockey related books, visit his website: DonReddick.com
Andrew Rodger is an independent sports columnist and member of the Canadian Association of Journalists. Along with operating The Voice of Sport, he covers the Ottawa Senators and writes the “Ask the Alumni” series here at The Hockey Writers. He is the resident writer for the NHL Alumni Association and a contributor on CBC News Now.