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Before the Lights Go Out: A Season Inside a Game on the Brink

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  123 ratings  ·  24 reviews
A love letter to a sport that's losing itself, from one of Canada's best sports writers.

Canadian hockey is approaching a state of crisis. It's become more expensive, more exclusive, and effectively off-limits to huge swaths of the potential sports-loving population. Youth registration numbers are stagnant; efforts to appeal to new Canadians are often grim at best; the
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 1st 2019 by McClelland & Stewart
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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Danny Allen
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
An interesting duality between the state of minor hockey in Canada and the ebb and flow of being part of a team in the major junior hockey League in Canada. Fitz-Gerald does a great job providing objective views, interviewing all sides, and covering many different perspectives. Fitz-Gerald also helps to show that despite all the fame and pressures we put on hockey players of all ages and abilities, they are all just kids and people playing a game they love.

Something all fans of the game should r
John Chidley-Hill
Feb 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Despite my friendship with Sean Fitz-Gerald -- Fitzy, as we call him in our industry -- I was reluctant to read this book. I thought "here we go, another schmaltzy ode to Canada's game.

But Sean takes an unflinching look at the world of amateur men's hockey, examining why the sport is dying in Canada at the grassroots level. Definitely a must read if you have any interest in hockey.
Patrick Damp
Apr 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
A scary but informative read about the state of youth hockey in Canada. A lot of parallels to how it’s going here in the US.
Mar 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fitz-Gerald writes two books in one. The first is the story of the 2018 Peterborough Petes, the city's OHL franchise. It's a storied team fallen on hard times, in part because of a hard time modernizing (facilities, especially), although it's fun to read about Nick Robertson. The team goes through a rough season after a promising start, and Fitz-Gerald is particularly impactful in describing the GM and the tough decision to fire the long time head coach. Intertwined with this story is the story ...more
Benjamin Kahn
Dec 27, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sports
I thought this book was a bit of a mess. Fitz-Gerald follows the Peterborough Petes for one season, talks about how hockey was in the old days - the real old days, because I grew up in the '70s and stories of people using catalogues as shin pads sounded quaint even back then - and the whole culture of the hockey parent. But the whole thing fails to hang together. I didn't feel that he really did the deep dive that he implies he did.

I have a son who played house league up until this season - he'
Jul 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I grew up just outside Peterborough (albeit, a number of years ago ;) ) & still have family in the area so I can appreciate the accuracy of Mr. Fitz-Gerald's observations. My dad had season tickets for years & is part of the senior's cohort that is now often the majority at games. I had noticed the declining fortunes of the team but now, thanks to the author's investigations & explanations, I better understand why.

My son played his first year of hockey on a GTA house league team in 2017-18. He
May 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A must-read for anyone who cares about hockey and/or Canada. This book paints the picture of life on a junior hockey team, while weaving in the problems hockey is facing (or refusing to face) about the game's dwindling supremacy in Canada. The Peterborough Petes are a once-great Canadian institution now crumbling after decades of inertia, and serve as a metaphor for the game itself and its place in Canadian culture. The vignettes of life on the bus, candid moments with parents and billet familie ...more
Oct 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian, non-fiction
Becoming a somebody in Canada's game is getting priced out for the average kid and being a hockey fan is being priced out for the average person. That's sad, really.

Fitz-Gerald has written a surprisingly warm and funny book about the game, its roots and its future.
The anecdotes are heart-warming - the guy who had his first date at a Pete's game, he held her hand - that's a story every Canadian kid can relate to, or could when arenas were more like community centers.

Hockey may just be moving a
Tommy Stamadianos
Jul 16, 2020 rated it liked it
An interesting look into what is causing the stunting interest in hockey in Canada. At times, the author does a very good job tying in one part of the story (following the Petes OHL team) into the other part (the declining interest / issues with minor hockey). Overall, I think it would have been a better read had the author focused less on the personalities and results of the OHL team, and spent more time focused on why hockey is failing relative to other sports (which is the more interesting pa ...more
Bryan Day
Nov 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A true and honest account of the state of hockey in Canada today. Told from the perspective of not only a sports journalist, but also as a hockey parent. The introspective of the Petes and their current struggles, outlines the reality of hockey today in Canada. Once a powerhouse franchise, now an organization looking for ways to win on and off the ice. The same can be said for the national teams as well. Sean has done a wonderful job telling the story that needs to be told, there is no quick and ...more
Jan 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fitz-Gerald outlines some crucial areas where the development (and enjoyment) of Canadian youth in hockey are falling behind while bringing the reader along on an OHL team's journey through the regular season.

Fans of hockey in Canada, or parents concerned about their child's participation in the sport, should read this book. As a fan of Canadian hockey, I hope this book finds its hands into the homes of many Canadians and into the hands of the people who possess the power necessary to right the
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-reads
A detailed and well-researched look at the systemic problems facing the hockey pipeline in Canada today, which has the ability to jeopardize the game’s future as this country’s biggest sport. It’s all juxtaposed next to an in-depth view of the disappointing 2017 Peterborough Petes season, which represents a microcosm of some of the biggest problems. How does an increasingly expensive and exclusive past-time stop the decline in enrollment? The answer is complicated but entirely worth contemplatin ...more
Tyler  Hughes
Nov 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fitz-Gerald beautifully captures Peterborough’s culture in this book. He also makes some valid observations about the state of minor hockey within Canada. Hockey Canada, hockey parents and the country need to reflect on why hockey has become so intertwined with our identity as a nation. The pursuit of fun doesn’t seem to be top priority anymore. This book is a must-read for hockey fans, especially those who have ever cheered for the mighty maroon and white.
Jun 10, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. I really enjoyed the telling of the Peterborough Petes' 2017-18 season, but felt that the book failed at its promise... To explain why hockey is no longer the de facto sport in Canada. There were a couple of points where I thought it would evolve into that, but most of it felt like musings that needed more data and writing to flesh out. ...more
Nov 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is the story of the Peterborough Pete's and minor hockey in general. Told through stories about current and past players with a focus on the Petes 2017 season. Fitzgerald at his best when telling the individual players stories, especially Nick Robertson. Great look at how the system has been failing to keep players and fans and what needs to happen to keep growing hockey. ...more
Clare Hutchinson
Jan 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
A wide-ranging look at minor and junior hockey - not just the romance of the heyday, but the modern challenges and stagnations. I liked following the Peterborough Petes (not just because Mike Oke is a former mentor) on the ice and off. The whiteness of hockey culture, particularly the scouts grumbling about the citizenship ceremony, rung true and troubling.
Oct 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Couldn’t put this book down to the detriment of my sleep. Regardless this is a superb book on all levels. True hockey fans in Canada should read this book. Hockey parents should especially read this book.
Dave Cottenie
Jun 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An excellent commentary on the current hockey environment in Canada with a curious backdrop of the City of Peterborough. Very interesting how a story that was to follow the resurgence of a legendary OHL team had the season go sideways. Lots of fun and a smooth, fast read.
May 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sports-books
Great look into the state of hockey in Canada, and how changing demographics within the county are not being mirrored in the sport.
Feb 20, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hockey, nonfiction, sports
I liked all the individual pieces of this book, but put together it had a somewhat disorganized feeling. It felt like two or three smaller books smashed into one. This book has a lot of important things to say about the state of hockey as a Canadian cultural touchstone, I just wish it said them in a more orderly fashion.
Jordan Voth
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I liked it and I also can’t wait to see Nick Robertson play for the Leafs.
Mike Mackley
Jan 11, 2020 rated it liked it
It has its interesting moments. But overall pretty disappointed. The author constantly complains about hockey being an elitist sport where parents are forced to go broke for their kids to find even moderate success. The interesting points come when he writes about the trials and tribulations of the OHL team, as it's a behind the scenes look at the day-to-day operations. I found his chapters on intergrating new canadians to hockey via Peterborough Pete's games to be a tough read. An the stories a ...more
It was good for what it was, but I was expecting something different, so I am left a little disappointed. Definitely a good picture of hockey in Canada though.
Dec 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
With its stock similes, workmanlike narrative and wistful, lamenting tenor, this is standard sports-book fare; two “mehs”
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