Lanny McDonald taken to court by best selling author after refusing to release manuscript to publisher

An off-ice battle between hockey star Lanny McDonald and best-selling NHL author Kirsti McLellan Day has made its way to a Calgary courtroom.

McDonald and Kirsti McLellan Day worked together over past year on book

Hall of Famer Lanny McDonald and bestselling author Kirstie McLellan Day are involved in a court battle regarding the release of the manuscript the two have been working on for the last year. McDonald has so far refused to allow Day to send the manuscript to HarperCollins as per a contract signed by all three parties. (The Canadian Press/

An off-ice battle between hockey star Lanny McDonald and best-selling NHL author Kirstie McLellan Day has made its way to a Calgary courtroom.

McDonald and Day have been working on a book together over the past year, but the hall of famer who won the Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989 as co-captain is now refusing to release the manuscript to HarperCollins.

According to court documents, Day is seeking a judge's declaration that McDonald acted unreasonably and a court order that she be able to release the manuscript to HarperCollins.

Day has written seven best-selling books with former NHL players including Wayne Gretzky, Theo Fleury and Kelly Hrudey. 

In the application filed at the Calgary Courts Centre, Day argues McDonald is in breach of his contract by unreasonably and arbitrarily withholding consent. 

Episode of The Voice changed McDonald's mind

McDonald now says that after watching an episode of The Voice and a long walk, he has decided not to continue with the book, according to a letter sent to Day and her lawyer through his counsel.

The court documents say McDonald heard a song on the TV show that included lyrics about losing your money, but not losing your soul. 

The case is to be heard Friday. 

In July 2019, a publishing agreement was signed between McDonald, Day and HarperCollins for a 100,000-word memoir about McDonald's life and hockey career, according to the court document.

The due date for the manuscript to be sent to HarperCollins was March 15, 2020.

Money was advanced to both Day and McDonald.

McDonald approved 'at every step'

McDonald and Day also entered into a collaboration agreement with each other, which included a 50/50 joint copyright ownership and an equal split of all proceeds of book sales. 

While McDonald has the right to approve the final version of the book, he was under contract not to unreasonably and arbitrarily withhold his approval for the manuscript.

"The completed manuscript is a complex, highly textured and integrated work," reads the court document.

According to the application, the book is "intricately woven together and cannot be deconstructed without collapsing the foundation."

The document claims Day repeatedly confirmed McDonald's consent during interviews. It also suggests he was "integrally involved" throughout the process and approved the manuscript "at every step … including the focus, tone and content."

Day 'invested a year of her life'

Excerpts from the recorded interviews have been filed with the court, according to the application.

On May 19, 2020, when the manuscript was finished, McDonald phoned Day and told her he had decided not to continue with the book.

Beyond the episode of The Voice and his long walk, the document said McDonald was also troubled that his wife had been removed from the book at her request. 

Day "invested a year of her life to develop and complete the manuscript, including 11-hour days (on average) and more than 3,000 hours in total, interviewing more than 50 people" while also incurring substantial costs for travel, transcripts, research, fact checking and editing.

5 issues raised by McDonald

On June 16, HarperCollins issued a 90-day deadline for receiving the completed manuscript.

In the book publishing industry, November and December are the critical book-selling months.

Day is "ready, willing and able to proceed to publication." 

McDonald has five issues with the manuscript as described in a July 20 letter from his lawyer. He claims: 

  • The subject of the book was to be on his humanitarian activities and charitable work, "outside and after his hockey career."
  • The book, which was to be written in "the voice of Lanny McDonald" has used words that "Lanny wouldn't say."
  • "The book seeks to over-dramatize and emphasize things for their controversial and shock value," which McDonald says he refuses to accept.
  • Day made binding verbal commitment to McDonald about his "final say."
  • He will not provide consent unless there is a total rewrite by a new author. 

Day says reputation at stake

The reasons given by McDonald to withhold the release of the manuscript are not reasonable or rational, Day's lawyer argues in the document. 

Day says her property rights, reputation, career and livelihood are at stake, as is her ability to work with other subjects and publishers in the future. 

She is seeking a judge's order allowing her to release the manuscript to HarperCollins without being in contravention of the agreement she's signed with McDonald. 

Day also seeks a declaration that McDonald is in breach of his contract by unreasonably and/or arbitrarily withholding or delaying his approval for the release of the completed manuscript to HarperCollins. 


Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary crime reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach her at or on Twitter at @CBCMeg.


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