If you followed the Calgary Flames for any length of time during their glory days, it’s likely that Peter Maher was the soundtrack to your memories of the franchise. After a few years relaxing in retirement, he’s written a book (with George Johnson) that captures the spirit of some of the biggest Flames moments.
Entitled If These Walls Could Talk: Calgary Flames, Maher and Johnson’s book is part of a series of team-specific books by Triumph Books. Given how in-depth this one is regarding the team’s history and characters, they’ve set quite a high bar for the other team books.
The book is organized into four sections: Maher’s career path, his memories of specific players, his memories of key moments in Flames history, and some stories surrounding his retirement. The challenge in writing a book with Peter Maher is trying to capture the experience of listening to him tell stories about the Flames and his career with the printed word. As somebody who got to know him a little bit during the last few seasons he called Flames games, I can say that Johnson has done a great job capturing Maher’s spirit and enthusiasm with this book.
If you read Johnson’s previous book, 100 Things a Flames Fan Should Know or Do Before They Die, the structure is very similar. The sections each contain a series of anecdotes told from Maher’s perspective, and they’re all digestible, quick reads. I found myself enjoying the section about Maher’s rise through the broadcasting ranks and his perspective on games more than I expected, as he injects those unfamiliar stories with a great amount of self-depreciating humour.
The bulk of the book is familiar Flames history told from a unique perspective, and Maher frequently injects interesting tidbits into the stories to enhance them. He’s retired and doesn’t work in any official capacity in the game anymore, so he has the ability to share his thoughts in an unvarnished way that’s quite refreshing. The book isn’t tilling a ton of new ground, and it functionally retells a lot of anecdotes Maher’s told on air over the years, but it collects all these stories in one spot and adds a few that he hasn’t really told much – his discussion of his retirement is new stuff, but told in the typically classy, understated Maher manner. (I won’t spoil it here, but when you read the book his perspective on retiring the way he did makes a lot of sense.)
All in all, If These Walls Could Talk: Calgary Flames is an accessible, page-turner of a hockey book. It’s valuable as both a run through the history of the Flames and a capstone to the career of one of hockey’s best broadcasters.
For anybody thinking about picking the book up and looking at a fun and unique way to do it, consider grabbing a ticket to Friday night’s Calgary Hitmen game. They have a Meet the Authors package for $48.50 which gets you the book, a lower bowl ticket, a buffet dinner, and a pre-game Q&A with Maher and Johnson. The Hitmen are hosting the Medicine Hat Tigers, who feature highly-touted 2019 NHL Draft prospect Josh Williams, so it should also be a good game.