PUCK IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD
Volume 11 Number 5.
Like Scott Young's That Old Gang of MineM,* this is a novel by a sportswriter that culminates in a victory over the Russian national hockey team. While Orr's book is slightly better, both are written at a Junior B level.
When Willie Mulligan and Hartley Laidlaw, star centres for the Montreal Canadians and Toronto Maple Leafs respectively, lead a successful strike of NHL players in support of unrestricted free agency, they are banished to the expansion Cleveland Big Green, a woefully inept team of washed-up castoffs, oversexed juniors, and unknown Europeans. After setting records for futility, they meet and defeat the Russians in an exhibition game, thanks to a considerable amount of guile. At the end of the book, a "modern" coach is in charge of the Big Green, and there is hope for the future.
The many years Orr has spent covering the painfully non-fictional Toronto Maple Leafs have undoubtedly stood him in good stead in describing how not to run a professional hockey team (e.g., coach Andy Jackson's stupid and old-fashioned methods), but unfortunately, much of the rest of the book is rather corny. Characters like Cheat McFatridge, Barf Badgly, Big Z Zybysadoskowski, and the Warp Brothers are nothing more than comic-book stereotypes, and their humour is a little strained. Equally unrealistic are Willie's relationships with his mother, Big Bertha, and romantic interest, Clarice.
The book is, in addition, rather awkwardly structured, with training camp not arriving till after a hundred or so pages have gone by; the season itself is only half over by book's end.
Probably as a result of his association with the Toronto Star, Orr feels compelled to preach. One of the book's messages is directed at how players and press ought to get along (you play fair with us and we'll play fair with you); another is that, if all else fails, professional players must take it upon themselves to improve the quality of the North American game, whose management in many instances is the most Neanderthal of all professional sports.
In short, this book is marginal at best for public libraries, and less than that for school libraries, particularly where there are reservations about books with a high incidence of four-letter words.
*Reviewed vol. XI/3 May 1983 p.TIT
Paul E. Blower, Sault Ste. Marie P. L., Sault Ste. Marie, ON.
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