The book covers the years between 1996 and 2002 pretty well. He starts with the Draper hit and game 6 in 96, details how Lemieux and Roy came to the Avs and then gets going with the story. Between the stories of the games he gives an insight in the columns written by writers in both cities and also gives short biographies on Roy, Lemieux, Bowman, McCarty and Crawford.
The book is well written, and though Dater is no Hemingway, the language floats well and moves the story along well. Dater ha interviewed a lot of the key people in the book and though the book is (too) short he gives a lot of insight both in how the events were percieved from the inside, from the media and in general. He uses the press to show the hostility between the teams and the players to comment on the general events. And it is truly compelling. Dater has of course gotten a gift in the fact that his subject matter is one of the most interesting in recent sports history, but I personally think he manages to tell the story in a good way.
There are of course negatives here. For one thing I hate reading about Lemieux's life and struggles as it humanizes the devil in a way he shouldn't be humanized, but I see why it is relevant for the book. Dater's focus on journalistic integrity also feels a bit weird at times, but it makes sense in a way because the lack of it is so evident in the writers from both sides of the rivalery. What I do find a bit weird however is that Dater has a bit of a focus on himself at times, while he doesn't quote his own writing a single time. I think he should have chosen one or the other, either tell a little of his own story and give a personal touch to it, and quote himself to give his own perspective on the story. This would of course have rocked with the books neutrality, but could have been interesting. Or he could have omitted most of the personal content and, as he for the most does, let the facts and quotes tell the story. The one thing the current balance does that is positive though is that it keeps the neutrality while, managing, through personal experience to convey some of personality in the different people involved in the story.
One thing he does very well though is to stay neutral. There might be slightly more coverage of the Avs side of the story, but this is natural seeing as this is where he has the most insight. All in all the book is a great read, and even though it has its shortcomings, it is a must read for everyone interested in that rivalery. And kudos for the foreword by Scotty Bowman.
The one thing this book really made me realize is how lucky we are today. Most of the local hockey writers might be stupid and without hockey knowledge and work ethics. We sure have columnists who write moronic stuff, but nothing can match the vile, evil and despicable fest of the columnists and writers from the Blood Feud era. Sometimes they were just and arrogant:
...it's a rivalery only in Detroit's spiteful dreams.
Mark Kizla after the March 16th 96 game.
Sometimes they were evil and cheapshotting:
But every time (which is not often) The Automobile & Enema capital of America get a championship team, as in 1984 when the Detroit Tiger prevailed in the World Series, the downwardly mobile citiens try to burn it to the ground again... ...so Claude Lemieux should be praised - not assailed, attacked and assaulted . in Detroit (because he prevented them from winning the cup in 95 and 96 - my note)
That collection of thug, lugs, mugs and slugs (reflecting the city they represent...
No wonder the Dead Things were mad. Even with the overtime triumph, they have to stay in Detroit.
All three quotes, Woody Page, March 28th 1996
And the Detroit press made retarded and feeble attempts to keep up with the meanness:
The McNichols crowd [is] inarticulate at best, and routinely bordering on moronic
Keith Gave of the Free Press in an article called "What a dump: This Game Deserved Better" during the 97 conference final.
The Avalanche complains. The Red Wings persever. The Avalanche moans. The Red Wings score. The Avalanche whines. The Red Wings win.
Jason La Canfora of the Free Press during the same WCFs.
And the shit goes on and on, these guys had a pissing match and let's just say that the Avs reporters were better at being mean, they managed to be truly offensive at times, and also the most juvenile, while the Wings writers were stuck in stupidity.
The book also includes the full transcript of Bowman and Crawford's legendary fight.
If you're only gonna read one book this year, then you re-read Dostojevskij's "Brothers Karamazov", but it you would like some good hockey reading, then this is a must.