Hockey, by the Book Returns
Hockey, by the book, is back! After a long hiatus, we are back. There are a number of reasons for the hiatus but I won’t bore you with the details, because I have an exciting book to tell you about.
There are an ever-increasing number of books written about the NHL and its players. Many of them are great reads, but Hockey, by the book is always on the search for books that tell another part of the story.
Enter Midnight Hockey: All about Beer, The Boys and the Real Canadian Game, by Bill Gaston
This book is at times lewd, sometimes insensitive but also insightful. Above everything, it is an honest look at beer league hockey. Gaston captures the spirit of a quickly growing part of the game, old-timer hockey leagues. Gone are the quick-twitch muscles, okay maybe not gone, but depleted for sure. No more vibrant muscles that propelled players in their youth. Recovery time takes weeks, instead of hours. For minor injuries and a little more than that and you could kiss your season goodbye. There is a great section of the book in which Gaston is injured and laments the missed ice time. More than that he laments the loss of the camaraderie and feeling of belonging to the team. During that time the question of when to hang up his skates looms large.
Beer League Confidential
Gaston, a professor at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, is a prolific and decorated writer of fiction, short stories, and plays. His awards include winning the inaugural Thomas Findlay award for his body of work. Though a professor he is anything but bookish in his writing style. Midnight Hockey reads like a post-game, locker room with a beer conversation with a friend. At turns self-deprecating and smart ass, there are also stories featuring the successful exploits of he and his teammates. That said, more often than not he exposes the unseen side of the game for anyone that is not a part of it.
Some of the more saucy parts include the extramarital affairs and trouble that his middle-aged teammates get into when traveling to tournaments. The old “boys will be boys” attitude. There is a particularly poignant piece in the book in which he neither condemns those folks nor cheers them on. Instead, he reflects on the choices that they make and reports on them while considering the effect the actions might have on the families involved. As promised there is much beer drinking and more than a few stories of its effects on the game. Case in point is the beer that his goalie had after suffering a car crash. The goalie still showed up for the game. It was a well-earned beer and the lead up to the goalie’s arrival is tinged with the hatred a team has for any player that is late to the game. This is especially true of the goalie.
Hanging up the Skates
Ultimately this book amounts to a sometimes crass, sometimes hilarious, fewer times smart, a love letter to the game. Gaston, who spent time playing in France and China brings the rink stink into the pages of this great book. When reading it, if one has experienced it, can almost smell the rank hockey gear, mixed with sweat, beer, and the smell of refrigeration wafting from the pages. Would Jack Hughes get this book, no, but you can be damn sure that his Uncle would recognize himself in these pages.
Got a book recommendation or one you want to mention? Let us know over on the ABNT Forum!
Feature Image Credit: Fred Thornhill/Reuters