________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 5 . . . . October 29, 2004


Words on Ice: A Collection of Hockey Prose.

Michael P.J. Kennedy, ed.
Toronto, On: Key Porter Books, 2003.
253 pp., pbk., $24.95.
ISBN 1-55263-203-2.

Subject Headings:
Hockey-Literary collections.
Canadian prose literature (English)-20th century.
American prose literature-20th century.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Tom Chambers.

**** /4


I recognized only one of the guests, a woman from the Ottawa press gallery who seemed surprised to see me. Most of the others were lawyers. Pierce offered me a bottle of Danish beer. "Got any skates?" he said. His face was flushed. The room was warm and smelled of nutmeg and furniture polish.


"Skates. Do you own any?"

"I haven't played since college."

"There's a bunch of us playing Thursday nights at the Winter Stadium. We could use another player if you're interested."

"Thanks. I'm not in town very much. I don't have any equipment."

"We can always dig you up some gear. It's a terrific way to keep in shape, more fun than running or squash. That stuff's for masochists. You don't have to be a regular either. I'll give you a call some time. Nobody gets hurt. We keep the sticks low and go easy on the checking." (From "Wives," by Peter Behrens.)

As the title says, Words On Ice is a collection of hockey prose. It has been edited by Michael Kennedy who has a Ph.D. in Canadian literature and teaches a course at the University of Saskatchewan with the intriguing title, "Reading Culture: Hockey in Canadian Literature." He clearly loves his subject and has put together a first-rate collection of hockey stories, some of them fact and some fiction. His book will be enjoyed by anyone who likes the game of hockey. Even those who abhor the game should like Words On Ice because of the excellent prose. The quality of writing is very high, the stories well told.

     Words On Ice is divided into four sections, much like a hockey game. There is one section for each regular period of the game and one for overtime. The most amusing section is "Third Period: The Puck Stops Here." It includes a selection by celebrated American journalist and author, the late George Plimpton. Plimpton loved sports. To learn more about the game of hockey, he became a goalie for the Boston Bruins when it was coached by the redoubtable Don Cherry. (Plimpton did similar things to learn about baseball, football, boxing and tennis.) Plimpton found the experience quite profitable, as far as hockey lore is concerned, and shares some of this lore in the aptly titled "Open Net."

     Also from "Third Period" is an essay on the celebrated Montreal Canadians' net minder, Jacques Plante. Written by Douglas Hunter and taken from his book, A Breed Apart, it creates a fascinating portrait of this Canadian great. All who remember the Canadians in their glory days, and hockey as it was played when skill mattered, will enjoy it. Plante was an unusual man. Even those who know little about him will enjoy Hunter's work.

     One of the best-known fiction selections in Words On Ice is "The Hockey Sweater" by Roch Carrier, the National Librarian for Canada. It tells the story of a boy in a small Quebec town where hockey is king. The hero of the story, and all the other boys in the town, play hockey wearing Montreal Canadiens sweaters. Their idol is Maurice "The Rocket" Richard. One can imagine the trauma when the hero's sweater becomes too small and its replacement from Eaton's is not the red and blue of the beloved Canadiens but the blue and white of the hated Toronto Maple Leafs. "The Hockey Sweater" has been made into an animated cartoon. It is a very Canadian story. Its inclusion in Words On Ice helps to make the anthology so excellent.

     There are no photographs or teaching aids in Words On Ice, but it doesn't need any. The 22 selections are so well written that the reader's imagination creates all the necessary images. Pictures would be redundant. This is a book to be cherished by hockey fans because it helps to explain the fascination of Canadians for the game. It will be a popular, and easy to use, text in an English course and will be enjoyed by anyone who likes a good book.


Thomas F. Chambers is a retired college teacher who lives in North Bay, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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