CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 21. . . .February 1, 2013
Cody's fearless, passionate hockey smarts catch the eye of Coach Connors, a scout (and later head coach) for the Junior A Watertown Warriors Connors is the hockey "man", a knowledgeable, organized, inspiring teacher beloved by all he meets. Cody can't quite believe he has escaped his negative alcoholic father and his boring school for this fabulous chance to succeed at hockey and come closer to his goal of playing in the NHL. But once Connors has Cody in his control, he begins to sexually assault him, threatening to destroy Cody's hockey future and even to kill him should Cody reveal the truth about their relationship. Although Cody drinks beer to forget the assaults, his thoughts turn to suicide, and he finally tells the hockey team's owner about Connor's attacks. Connors is fired by the team, charged and admits his guilt, especially after three former Junior A players testify about their experiences as Connor's sex slaves. Cody struggles to continue playing hockey and, with the help of a therapist, finds the will to skate again and to refocus on his lifetime goal of playing in the NHL.
Cody is the epitome of the hockey star whose entire life revolves around hockey. He is incredibly quick to judge the intricacies of the game, with a sixth sense for what to do not only on the ice but also with leading other players off the ice and with handling the adults around him. Cody is a complete pragmatist, well aware of his father's shortcomings and his fellow players'weaknesses and strengths. His fierce competitiveness and his drive for success make him stand out. He will do anything to succeed, even keep quiet about his coach's sexual assaults, for speaking up against Connors would destroy his dream of the NHL Cody's descent into despair, his breakdown in the principal's office and his gradual coping with his coach's attacks are all totally realistic.
Connors is a crafty, methodical predator, planning his seduction of Cody, choosing him and using alcohol to confuse him and threats to control him, even compiling a false diary about Cody that might prove Cody's instability. He is careful to build up his reputation in the community so that everyone trusts him and looks up to him. He is also careful to abuse only one boy at a time.
Secondary characters are equally well-drawn, from Cody's blustery, boasting drunken father to his weak but loving mother, and the team's owner, Terry Fisher, whose thoughtful, concerned approach eventually saves Cody's life.
Walters excels at the hockey scenes, especially the complex relationships players have with each other – at once enemies and friends. No holds are barred here – the fighting, teasing and prank playing, not to mention the alcohol and the puck-bunnies, all reflect the reality of Junior A hockey in Canada. But most importantly, Walters magically weaves the web of belief as he shows how Connors slowly and carefully draws Cody into his clutches. The speed at which Connors is charged and convicted and Cody returns to play hockey does not reflect real-world experience, but it will satisfy the intended reader's moral indignation.
Reminiscent of the true-life story of sexual predator Graham James, this novel is a must-read for any aspiring hockey player. However, all readers will be chilled by its rivetting depiction of an abuse of power. Students will no doubt be compelled to turn the pages at top speed and then turn to each other to share their outrage.
Joan Marshall is a Winnipeg, MB, bookseller.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal
use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any
other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.