Review of “The Year of the Rocket”

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 I always like to find books about the Canadian Football League as while the sport is close to that in the United States and the NFL, there’s just something about the CFL that attracts me to not only watch some games and the Grey Cup, but also to read anything I can find on it.  This book is a reason that I do so, as I enjoyed this book on the 1991 Toronto Argonauts.  

Title/Author: “Year of the Rocket: When John Candy, Wayne Gretzky, and a Crooked Tycoon Pulled Off the Craziest Season in Football History” by Paul Woods

Rating: 4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review: When a college football star signs with another professional league that is not the NFL, it usually makes big news.  This was the case in 1991 when Notre Dame star Raghib “Rocket” Ismail signed with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League (CFL).  This book by Paul Woods is a very good account of that 1991 season for the Argonauts, which would not have happened without two other famous celebrities with ties to the team.

Those celebrities were Wayne Gretzky and John Candy, who along with Los Angeles Kings owner Bruce McNall (who was Gretzky’s owner at the time as he was a player on the Kings) purchased the floundering CFL and promised to make the team better.  Their first step was to sign Ismail.  This was done not only to make the Argonauts better but also to bring much more exposure to the league and eventually expand it to the United States.

Some of those goals were accomplished, thanks to the generous cash flow of McNall.  Not only was Ismail’s contract much higher than the limit on salaries placed on CFL TEAMS, but there were also other incentives such as $100 bonuses paid to Argonaut players.  That season, thanks to not only Ismail, whose main contributions were exciting kick returns (the description of his return touchdown in the 1991 Grey Cup championship game is my favorite writing in the book about action on the field) but also a dominant offense led Toronto to the championship. 

What also makes this book quite good is that Woods did NOT limit the book to being about the Rocket, McNall, Gretzky and Candy.  Many players and coaches on that Argonauts team have nice write-ups and for those who want to get a good picture of what the state of the CFL was at that time, this book does that as well.  American readers may not be familiar with all the names, but will still enjoy this book about a championship team that took an entire nation by storm.

I wish to thank Sutherland House for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Links: Year of the Rocket: When John Candy, Wayne Gretzky, and a Crooked Tycoon Pulled Off the Craziest Season in Football History: Woods, Paul: 9781989555446: Books

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