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Local hockey legend Liam Maguire parlays love of hockey into a one-of-a-kind career

If the NHL had an award for "most knowledgeable hockey historian", Liam Maguire would win, hands-down.

If the NHL awarded bragging rights for most extensive knowledge of NHL history, the award would go to Liam Maguire every year.

Self described as “the world's #1 NHL historian,” Maguire's authored four books of hockey trivia, appeared and hosted leading radio and television hockey broadcasts — including Hockey Night in Canada — made more than 3,000 appearances as a public speaker and made a small fortune on the beer-league trivia circuit. He even has an Irish pub named after him, Liam Maguires.

Now, On March 19, the 62-year-old Irishman from Osgoode, Ont. is adding a new gig to his post-COVID career: hosting a Jeopardy-style hockey trivia game show at the Rideau Carleton Raceway.

It's a skill set Maguire's been honing since he was a boy.

“I became obsessed with hockey as a young boy. I wanted to know more about the NHL than anyone else, and discovered I have a near photographic memory. Drop a name or a date, and I can recall details visually.”

Then it's time for a demonstration. “Who won the Stanley Cup in 1920?”

“The Seattle Metropolitans played the old Ottawa Senators for the Stanley Cup in 1920,” he says without hesitation. “Ottawa won the Stanley Cup that year on Jack Darragh's Cup-winning goal. A member of Ottawa's 'Super Six,' Darragh also scored the Cup-winning goal in 1921. He was the only player to score two consecutive Cup-winning goals until Mike Bossy did it in 1982-1983 with the [New York] Islanders. The series was played here in Ottawa before the ice got too slushy, so they moved the remaining two games to Toronto where they played at the Mutual Street Arena, which was the home of the Toronto franchise before Conn Smythe built Maple Leaf Gardens in 1931.”

By the age of 18, Maguire was testing his expertise at the local pub, charging pub patrons $1 or a pint of beer for each question.

“I drank for free all night and go home with $50 in my pocket,” he laughs.

Then, in 1981, a call to Hal Anthony's trivia show on CFRA-AM changed his life. Maguire kept answering listener's questions. Anthony invited Maguire back the following week, paying him the princely sum of $75 a show.

More importantly, it opened a door into a career as a sports broadcaster.

After taking Radio and Television Broadcasting courses in Toronto, he returned to Ottawa to open a pub, The Original Six. Despite its popularity, the pub closed after only three years when one of Maguire's had a disagreement with a partner.

At the same time, Maguire's reputation as a NHL historian started spreading like wildfire. He started doing guest appearances on Dick Irvin's pre-game Habs hockey show, earning $750 for each appearance. In 1994, he landed his own show, “Liam's Hockey” on CFRA-AM, which ran for a year before it was cut short after a dispute with station management over syndication. A restaurant on St. Laurent Boulevard paid Maguire rights to use his name.

More gigs followed, including a hockey show on 1310-AM and a gig as the Senator's reporter for a Kingston TV station. He also wrote his first book, Liam Maguire's Hockey Trivia; Book #1.

“I was bouncing around with my career, but the one constant was the hockey trivia and public speaking. I started getting hired to speak publicly at banquets. Every year, there were more and more and bigger offers for me being the NHL expert of the world.”

In 2019, Maguire wrote The Real Ogie! The Life and Legend of Goldie Goldthorpe, a biography of the veteran NHL enforcer upon whom the character Ogie in the film Slap Shot is based. Maguire's national book tour was cut short when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Instead, he used the quarantine to start writing the screenplay for The Real Ogie!

“Mark my words, it'll premiere at the Toronto or Sundance Film Festival one day,” Maguire promises.

In the meantime, he'll continue to write and talk about the NHL as long as there's an audience.

“Ottawa has a fascinating hockey history,” he says. “It's a big chapter of Canadian history. I can't think of a better way to celebrate our country's heritage.”

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