Corner Brook poet takes N.L. literary prize

A biography of poems about a legendary hockey goalie has won Newfoundland and Labrador's top literary prize.

A biography of poems about a legendary hockey goalie has won Newfoundland and Labrador's top literary prize.

Corner Brook poet Randall Maggs won the Winterset Award for 2008 for his book Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems, a book of verse about famed NHL goalie Terry Sawchuk.

Maggs won the award, and its $5,000 cash prize, at a ceremony on Thursday at Government House in St. John's.

Maggs said he has been fascinated with Sawchuk — who played with a number of teams before dying in 1970 at age 40 — since he was growing up.

"There was always something special about him," said Maggs, who teaches Canadian literature and creative writing at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College.

"That name just says hockey from that period — you know, the '50s and the '60s — and he was the best that ever played."

Sawchuk, who played with the Detroit Red Wings, the Toronto Maple Leafs and three other NHL teams, struggled with alcohol and depression.

Maggs said Sawchuk's success was shadowed by personal troubles.

"[It was] ironic, because there he was, the best in the world and he was miserable practically from the start. So I just tried to come at it every different possible way that I could."

Other finalists for the Winterset Award were Sara Tilley for her debut novel Skin Room, and CBC Radio producer Marie Wadden for Where the Pavement Ends: Canada's Aboriginal Recovery Movement and the Urgent Need for Reconciliation.

The Winterset Award was founded nine years ago by Richard Gwyn, the Toronto-based columnist, and commemorates his late wife, St. John's-raised author Sandra Gwyn, who championed Newfoundland and Labrador's arts community throughout her life.

Previous winners of the award include Joan Clark, Kenneth Harvey and Michael Winter.