Now out from ECW Press

An unlikely team of dreamers traveled for three and a half weeks from Dawson City to Ottawa to play for the Stanley Cup in 1905. The Klondikers’ eagerness to make the journey, and the public’s enthusiastic response, revealed just how deeply, and how quickly, Canadians had fallen in love with hockey. 

After Governor General Stanley donated a championship trophy in 1893, new rinks appeared in big cities and small towns, leading to more players, teams, and leagues. And more fans. When Montreal challenged Winnipeg for the Cup in December 1896, supporters in both cities followed the play-by-play via telegraph updates. 

As the country escaped the Victorian era and entered a promising new century, a different nation was emerging. Canadians fell for hockey amid industrialization, urbanization, and shifting social and cultural attitudes. Class and race-based British ideals of amateurism struggled to fend off a more egalitarian professionalism. 

Ottawa star Weldy Young moved to the Yukon in 1899, and within a year was talking about a Cup challenge. With the help of Klondike businessman Joe Boyle, it finally happened six years later. Ottawa pounded the exhausted visitors, with “One-Eyed” Frank McGee scoring an astonishing fourteen goals in one game. But there was no doubt hockey was now the national pastime.

Watch the virtual launch of Klondikers, which featured Tim Falconer and Ian Brown in conversation about the book.

This Hazlitt piece offers a better sense of the story. Or watch this reading of the Prologue.


Advanced Praise (aka blurbs)

• “Somewhere between John Huston and Michael Lewis, this frontier romp through hockey’s earliest days is a delight. We are defined in part by the games they play, which means Tim Falconer is teaching us our own history. If that subject had been this much fun at school, I’d have paid more attention.” — Cathal Kelly, The Globe and Mail

• “Meticulously researched and endlessly fascinating, Klondikers offers a remarkable portrait of the often-overlooked story of hockey’s beginnings in Canada’s North. Falconer has done it again.” — James Mirtle,  The Athletic


“This is the story told in Klondikers by Tim Falconer, heretofore best known as the author of Bad Singer: The Surprising Science of Tone Deafness and How We Hear Music but soon to be regarded as one of the principal balladeers of what you might regard as the early 20th-century Miracle on Ice. . . . His glittering pages are full of such evocative phrases as “frozen flapjack for lunch,” “claim-staking” and “perilous journey on ice” – once standard lexicon of classic Canadian tales that became passé after the passing of Pierre Berton, perhaps the last librettist of this sort of literature.” — from the Globe and Mail review by David Shribman.

• “While many sports books, no matter the sport, do combine history, social events of the time and even national pride while discussing a particular event in the sport’s history, this book about a hockey team from the Yukon competing for hockey’s most prized trophy, the Stanley Cup, is a masterful combination of all these subjects.” — from a review by The Guy Who Reviews Sports Books

Year-End Lists

The Globe 100, the Globe and Mail’s list of “The books we loved in 2021”: “Falconer tells the riveting tale of a bunch of guys who travelled from the Yukon to Ottawa because they just wanted to play hockey. The frozen continent they crossed in 1905 was so treacherous that for days, the newspapers chronicling their passage lost track of them.”

CBC Radio’s Day 6’s last-minute gift list: “For the first time in more than a decade as Day 6 books columnist, [Becky] Toyne is recommending a book about hockey. But she says that Tim Falconer’s latest is about far more than that.

• Outside magazine’s 2021 Sweat Science Holiday Book List: “Falconer’s book is the story of the unlikely challenge, but more generally it’s an entertaining dive into what sports—and society—looked like a century ago.”