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Brian McFarlane is looking for someone who can count really well. No, not for his latest book, 101 Fascinating Hockey Facts, but instead to establish just how many books he's written. He's lost track. It might just be 101.
“I only planned to write one book, you know, 60 years ago or something, and it's turned out to be almost a hundred or maybe a hundred, I don't know,” McFarlane chuckled on the line from his winter home in Florida. “I hope my wife or somebody is keeping track.”
Limited to 101 Fascinating Hockey Facts for the new book, published by Dundurn, McFarlane knows he's got more in him—more facts and anecdotes, and more books.
“I like to do a hundred more. Hockey has such a fascinating history. I could easily do a hundred or 200 or 500,” he said of being limited to 101 facts. “I was a little worried about that book, it seemed like such an easy book to do.”
Dundurn promotes the latest as such: “Packed with trivia and did-you-knows, hockey fans will love flipping through this collection to test their knowledge and to find tidbits to share with their friends.”
The 88-year-old McFarlane, who Dundurn calls the “NHL elder-statesman,” is not one to take himself too seriously. He's fine that 101 Fascinating Hockey Facts is “bathroom reading.”
“That doesn't bother me. It's sort of been my specialty over the years, you know, doing It Happened in Hockey and More, It Happened in Hockey, Still More, It Happened in Hockey, those three books, there were a lot of facts in there and I can go back there now. That's 20 years ago they were published and this whole new generation's come along, so I can redraft the book or an item, or make a longer story shorter, that sort of thing.”
Do people read in the bathroom any more, or just play with their phones? Again, that prompts a chuckle from McFarlane, who has seen it all. “And so you're right about, everywhere a device. You can't fool them 'cause if you tell them a lie, they'll check it right away. 'So all that didn't happen on '62. Here, right in my telephone, it says '61.'”
During our conversation, he often referred to the files on his computer, the cassette tapes of his many interviews that he had digitized, and his love of finding arcane stories. “I just feel hockey has a great history. I was looking through my tapes last night ...” he began, launching into a story about game in the early 1900s in Renfrew, Ontario. “The ladies played with the men in hockey and it describes how the referees favored the women and all the men had to sit in the penalty box so the women could score the goals and they won 3-2 and they went to a victory dinner up at the local restaurant. Now, it may not appeal to anybody else, but what a chuckle I got out of reading this. So I digested the story and put it in a paragraph and I'll find a room for it somewhere, maybe.”
But where? He has future books in the works.
There's Hockey Ha-Ha, which doesn't have a publisher, but would certainly work for a story that made him chuckle. “There's so many funny stories in the game. I'm filling a lot of pages there, but that's for a year or two down the road,” he said. McFarlane also has a hockey novel written that he might self-publish if his agent doesn't come through with a deal in the near future. His website is brian-mcfarlane.com.
A book that does have a publisher, ECW Press, is about the Leafs that he knew in the 1960s. He's gotten more comfortable talking about himself in print, and some of the real gems in 101 Fascinating Hockey Facts relate to moments he experienced. The Leafs book started out about the 1960s teams, but then he realized that it had to be more personal. “Then I thought, 'Well I did this, I heard that, and I worked with Foster and Bill [Hewitt] and Ward Cornell and Jack Bennett, and, these guys and Keon came along,' and so I may as well say, 'They told me this or that.' Now I don't know whether that's a proper approach or not, but people seemed to relate to it, and the editors never complain about it.” (An aside, his editor on the 1968 McGraw-Hill book he did with King Clancy, Clancy: The King's Story, was Jack David, who went on to found ECW Press, and is still there today, though no longer the owner.)
Peter Puck and his creator Brian McFarlane
There's also a book about his father, Leslie McFarlane, The Man Who Wrote the Hardy Boys, written, aided in large part from the diaries that his dad kept. He can recount a couple of entries from memory: “I took Brian for a walk today and his shoes fell apart on Main Street. So I had to bring him home.” “I was going to send the manuscript out, but I didn't have any money in my pocket.” Anything related to the Leslie McFarlane (and his pen name Franklin W. Dixon) and the family has been donated to McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario; hockey-related material goes to the Hockey Hall of Fame. (He is sending in his cassette tapes with hockey interviews, but wants to make sure he hasn't said anything uncouth on them first.)
He'll defer to his sister, Norah McFarlane Perez, on the book on their father, though. “My sister is writing a family memoir and I know she'd be upset if I publish my book before hers,” he said. “She's got a very touching family memoir ready for publication. She's done about 15 books and won some awards. So if she gets that done, fine. If she says, 'Why don't you go ahead with yours, because I'm not finding it hard to get a publisher,' then I'll do that. But I think, I think I'd like to see hers in print before my own because I can do other things.”
The main other thing that McFarlane does these days is paint. He's had a showing at a gallery in London, Ontario, and another upcoming. Even in Florida, he's painting away.
“I'm delighted to have an art studio nearby and a guy that sells his space for $10,000 standing next to me and giving me little pointers,” he said. “My hockey art is selling well.”
“The painting is really fascinating to me though, I really sort of converted to having more interest in art than I have in hockey, but I still have a yen to do some writing in hockey.”
And the hockey world is better because of Brian McFarlane, whether the end result is on a bookshelf or hanging on a wall.
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