CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 18. . . .January 14, 2011.
The Mighty Tim Horton.
Mike Leonetti. Illustrated by Greg Banning.
Toronto, ON: North Winds Press/Scholastic Canada, 2010.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.99.
Horton, Tim, 1930-1974-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.
Review by Dave Jenkinson.
Coach Regan pulled me aside after the game.
“Trevor, you took a needless penalty. And this isn’t the first time. If you keep this up, there might not be room for you on the team,” he said as he walked away. I stood alone, thinking about what I’d done.
I knew he was right. I was bigger than most of the boys in my league, and I liked to use my size. I had the most penalty minutes on our team. One time the coach even benched me for fighting.
I had to change. I loved hockey, and I really wanted to keep playing.
Author Leonetti and illustrator Banning have previously collaborated on other hockey-focused books: The Rocket (2009), Wendel and the Great One (2008), Maple Leafs A-Z (2007), A Hero Named Howe (2006) and Gretzky’s Game (2005). In this year’s offering, Leonetti continues his pattern of linking a youngster who is experiencing a hockey-related difficulty with an NHL star player who offers some advice that assists the young lad in resolving his particular concern. In this instance, Trevor, a defenseman on his Toronto school’s hockey team, has been taking so many unnecessary penalties that his coach is threatening to drop him from the team. Trevor’s favorite hockey player is the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Tim Horton, a defenseman who averaged just one penalty minute per game during his NHL career. While Trevor is selling boxes of Christmas cards to raise money for team jackets, he unknowingly arrives on Tim Horton’s doorstep. Not only does Horton purchase Trevor’s last box, but, when Trevor tells him “that I was mostly riding the bench” and asks if Horton has any tips for him, Horton offers four, plus the advice, “And remember, it’s okay to throw good, clean bodychecks. But I rarely fight. It really doesn’t help your team much.” By practising the tips that Horton had given him, tips that dealt with clearing the puck out of your own end, playing the man, not the puck, shooting hard and low from the point, and improving skating backwards, Trevor finds that his penalty minutes decline while his playing time increases, and he is even named an all-star on defense in a losing effort at a weekend tournament.
As Leonetti has done in his previous boy and hockey hero stories, the central juvenile character and his father attend an NHL game. In this case, it’s game five of the 1962 Stanley Cup finals in which the Leafs were matched against the defending champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, and the series is tied two games apiece. During this pivotal game at Maple Leaf Gardens, Horton has three assists in the Leafs’ 8-4 victory while, in the Leafs’ Cup-winning game, which Trevor watches on black & white TV at home, Horton assists on the goal that is the game-winner.
Because most youngsters today will likely only associate Tim Horton’s name with a chain of coffee/donut shops that sponsor Timbits Minor Hockey teams, it is most appropriate that the book closes with a one page “About Tim Horton” biography that also includes a black & white photo of Horton.
Leonetti’s storyline is stronger than it has been in some of the earlier books while Banning’s realistic art continues to be impressive in not only recreating the work’s historical time period but also in expressing the story’s on-ice action and the characters’ emotions. While aimed at a juvenile audience, The Mighty Tim Horton will also be of some interest to older adults (such as myself) who recall seeing Tim Horton play in black and white TV on Saturday night’s Hockey Night in Canada.
Residing in Winnipeg, MB, Dave Jenkinson, who is CM’s editor, is also old enough to recall watching NHL hockey when Don Cherry was “just” an NHL coach.
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