CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 13 . . . . February 28, 2003
The story of the Winnipeg Falcons hockey team and their 1920 Olympic Gold Medal was essentially lost to our collective historical memory until a fortuitous Hockey Canada blunder. Prior to the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, Hockey Canada determined that a commemorative patch honoring Canada's first hockey gold medal should be stitched onto the Team Canada uniforms. Luckily, they looked in the wrong book and picked the wrong team. Consequently, the Falcons were reborn. The spurned Winnipeg Falcons, all of whom, except the goalie, were of Icelandic decent, became the darlings of arcane fact collectors and hockey trivia sticklers. More importantly, however, there was a historical recognition within Manitoba's Icelandic community of their forefathers' distinctive place in Canadian hockey. From this small seed, it seems that Kathleen Arnason undertakes the praiseworthy task of fostering a regeneration of ethnic pride in the consciousness of Icelandic-Canadian youth.
In her story, Eric is given the hockey puck his grandfather caught in the gold medal hockey game the Falcons played in 1920. The puck has magical powers, and it is able to bring the Falcons to life and transport Eric into the past to relive the team's glory days. It also revives Charlie Thorson, the Icelandic-Manitoban animator, the creator of Snow White and Elmer the Safety Elephant, who acts as Eric's guide in his journey of re-discovery. The puck, it seems, was passed on because it no longer revives the Falcons for Eric's grandfather. It must be passed on to new generations for its magic to work. Eric asks his grandfather if something different happened after he had caught the puck. "Well," he answered, "it was a long time ago and when you get to be my age sometimes you forget."
Adult readers will have difficulty with this story. Arnason has some very interesting ideas about the construction of human memory and the necessity to handle physical artifacts to retain and reveal memories. Unfortunately, there is an unnecessary metaphorical complexity to the book's narrative construction which makes it very challenging to unravel Arnason’s thoughts, and adolescent readers may well be stymied.
Recommended with reservations.
Ian Stewart teaches in Winnipeg School Division and is a frequent contributor to CM and the book review pages of the Winnipeg Free Press.
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