CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 14 . . . . March 2, 2007
Leslie McFarlane's Hockey Stories. Volume 2.
Toronto, ON: Key Porter, 2006.
173 pp., cloth, $19.95.
Hockey stories, Canadian (English).
Grades 6-10 / Ages 11-15.
Review by Myra Junyk.
It was a weird-looking outfit that Haines iced against the smart Nighthawk squad that night; but, oddly enough, the rink was jammed to the roof, and the crowd let loose an incredible roar of encouragement when the Lions skated out.
Haines hadn't expected a big crowd for that game. Out of common decency, he felt, Riverglen fans would stay at home rather than turn out to watch the massacre. But they came in droves. Not only that, but the surrounding countryside sent rooters by the sleigh load. Noisiest of them all were the rustic fans from Maple Crossing. There was a different spirit about that crowd, too. Everyone expected that the Lions would take a licking, but no one seemed downhearted at the prospect. This wasn't any team of imported strangers. These were Riverglen boys and Maple Crossing lads, amateurs every one of 'em, united in common cause. And, by hickory, Riverglen and Maple Crossing meant to root for them – win or lose.
In this anthology of hockey stories, Leslie McFarlane (the father of Hockey Night in Canada's Brian McFarlane) gives us a glimpse into the importance of hockey in small town Ontario. All of the stories describe the lives of hockey players who "live and breathe" the game!
The first two stories focus on players and coaches who find themselves in difficult situations. In "Stanley Cup Jitters," Bud Porter has been called up to play in the Stanley Cup finals by his father, Amby Porter, coach of the Blues. "This was serious hockey. A world title hung on these games. More than that. He had shown them that Amby Porter knew what he was doing in bringing his own son up from the minors" (p. 13). However, Bud can't seem to perform under the relentless pressure of playoff hockey. He has "Stanley Cup Jitters." If Bud doesn't prove that his father made the right decision, his father could possibly lose his coaching job! Will Bud be able to conquer his fears and play as the competent player he really is?
In "The Softy at Centre Ice," Coach Haines has just started a new job with a new team. With no choice in the matter, Haines puts Clarence, the owner's nephew, on the ice with his other players. Although Clarence plays well, he soon finds himself harassed for being too "soft." When Clarence eventually quits the team, Haines is relieved, but he also knows that his player has quit for the good of the team. At the end of the season, Haines finds himself coaching a winning team, but just before the final game, he loses some of his key players and finds himself without a team that can win. Clarence reappears with three amateurs from Maple Crossing. Will the "softy" save the day?
The final two stories revolve around hockey scout Skates Kelsey. In "Pepper Pot," Steve Regan's team is playing for the trophy. Steve provides the spirit on his team. He encourages others on the team to do their best. He aspires to make the big leagues, but when hockey scout Skates Kelsey comes to see the final game, Steve is convinced that Clyde Harper is the one he wants to see. Steve's enthusiasm is dampened by the seriousness of the final game – and the presence of the hockey scout. However, when his team is in danger of losing, Steve's enthusiasm kicks in, and he leads his team to victory. Later, in the dressing room, Kelsey comes to see Steve and offers him a tryout because "You got some things to learn. A little crude yet. But you got fight. Hockey heart, see" (p.122).
In "Hometown Hero," Skates Kelsey is now down on his luck in Wheelsburg. He finds himself broke and fired because of his gambling habit. Although he is no longer a hockey scout, he goes to the local game where he spots Tim Cardigan, the local hockey hero. Skates realizes that Tim is an amazing player who should be given a chance in the big time. Tim and the whole town believe that he is going to a tryout, and so they have a benefit game to raise money for Tim's travels. Desperate, Skates even considers stealing the returns from the benefit to make good on his promise to Tim. When he learns that another scout is at the game, he tries to get Tim to play poorly so that the other scout will not be impressed. Will Tim play poorly and lose the benefit game? Will Tim be scooped up by the other hockey scout at the benefit game? Will Skates' career be over forever?
When you first take a look at this book, you assume that it is written by Brian McFarlane, the famous hockey commentator of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, but a closer look will reveal that Brian is just the editor and the author is his father Leslie who was the ghostwriter for the early Hardy Boys mystery series. However, Leslie was also an avid hockey fan and young reporter at the Sudbury Star. He wrote hockey stories for various magazines, and four of these stories have been collected together for this volume.
Young people who enjoy hockey will also enjoy this book. This collection of short stories gives the reader a marvelous picture of small town life in Canada. Hockey games were the highlight of social life. Each local team was worshipped by its spectators. The Saturday night game was the highlight of the week. "But Wheelsburg hockey fans didn't mind a touch of inconvenience or even danger with their sports fare. Every game found the ramshackle old rink crowded" (p. 134). Above all, the fans are loyal! Local heroes are important, but all the hockey players aspire to get into the "big leagues!" The characters in these stories believe in the virtues of hard work, loyalty, truth and honesty. These teenage heroes will provide great role models for sportsmanship and for life!
Myra Junyk, the former Program Co-ordinator of Language Arts and Library Services at the Toronto Catholic District School Board, is currently working as a literacy advocate and author.
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