For Joe Pelletier, hockey is more than just a game.
It’s the rise and fall, the heartbreak, the excitement of the crowd and the life stories that made the players who they are on ice.
Growing up, Pelletier would sit in his room listening to the radio broadcasts of hockey games and imagine it all in his head. He could see the puck being passed, the players gliding, and feel the roaring energy of the stadium when the winning goal shot through at the sound of the buzzer.
“Having the game evolve in my head, I just saw the beauty of it in my own way and I loved that about it,” says Pelletier. “To this day, sometimes, I’ll listen to the game rather than watch it just to have that innocence of the game back.”
Although he says he was never a strong hockey player and didn’t envision himself joining a hockey league, he always knew his fandom was his strength.
He would inhale every hockey book in the library, learning the history of each Canadian team and memorizing every detail about the players.
And for him, the Vancouver Canucks are his team. Their losses feel personal, their wins are celebrated as if they were his own. He cheers them on despite their dark periods and travels to their games, leading him to recently author a book highlighting the best times of their 50 years as a team.
Pelletier’s self-published book, 50 Years of Vancouver Canucks Hockey, is the ultimate contribution of his appreciation for the team. He says he knew that other Canucks fans would enjoy reading a tribute to the team, especially given the significant milestone.
The 183-page book features 50 of the most memorable players, along with an overview of each decade that brought them to who they are now.
“It is obviously a history of the team as this is their 50th anniversary, but it’s told from a fan’s point of view or more specifically my own point of view but I think a lot of fans are going to resonate with that point of view,” says Pelletier.
“A fan is someone who in my case, is blindly loyal to the team and you’re going to always be there. They break your heart time and time again, especially the Vancouver Canucks, because they just never seem to win. They’re always rebuilding and that’s just part of the connection you have with other fans is that heartbreak… It talks about the highest and lowest of the frustrations of being a fan of the team and kind of hating the team that you love.”
Having worked on the book for a few years, it’s a process he’s quite familiar given this is his fourth publication. From the World Cup of Hockey: A History of Hockey’s Greatest Tournament, Legends of Team Canada, to Pucks on the ‘Net, Pelletier’s fandom for hockey is no ordinary feat.
His documentation of hockey history and its personal stories go beyond a labour of love, managing to carve his name into the industry as a notable sports writer. His lifetime quest of curiosity and dedication of the sport has led him to take on contracts with different publishers and organizations, including the Canadian Museum of History and even Hockey Canada.
“I remember as a kid making my own magazines… I had all these different hockey books and always dreamed of writing… then getting a cheque with the Hockey Canada logo on there, it was surreal. Like wow, I’m working for Team Canada.” Pelletier recalls.
“It’s kind of like a bit of my own legacy, my own immortality, it’s out there and hopefully my grandkids are going to read it one day.”
Pelletier had dreamed of making his way into the hockey leagues and standing shoulder to shoulder with the biggest names in the sports writing industry. He says there were once a few glimmering opportunities but those promises fell through.
For him though, it’s not entirely over. His recently published book is his way back into writing.
He says he suffered from writer’s burnout for a few years after struggling with unfulfilled contracts but realized it wasn’t about the money or fame. Owning 1,400 hockey books at home and also running greatesthockeylegends.com, he wanted to continue feeding his passion.
He also discovered his athletic abilities after trying on a pair of running shoes. Now the president of the Skeena Valley Runners, Pelletier laughs that he’s found something else he’s obsessed about and is now thinking about writing a book about his journey as a runner.
“Although my dream to get to the top died many years ago, it’s cool that other people do get there,” he says. “And I always found that some of the best stories are the people who don’t truly make it to the top.”