________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 21 . . . . June 8, 2007


Blazer Drive. (Orca Sports).

Sigmund Brouwer.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2007.
160 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-55143-717-0.

Subject Headings:
Hockey stories, Canadian (English).
Ranch life-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Laura Ludtke.

***½ /4

Continuing with the world established by Sigmund Brouwer in his previous novels for “Orca Sports,” Brouwer again combines hockey and mystery with the 2007 title Blazer Drive

     Brouwer successfully adopts a double backdrop of cattle ranch life in interior British Columbia and the world of the Western Hockey League (WHL, which includes both Canadians and Americans) as the setting for the adventures of 17-year-old Josh Ellroy’s adventure, the unlikely recipient for the Kamloops’ Blazer’s hockey Most Valuable Player (MVP) award. The events of the novel take place around Josh’s attempt to be noticed and picked up by a National Hockey League (NHL) team.

     As per usual, Sigmund Brouwer excels in his descriptions of hockey matches, which is likely why his books are so popular among his young male audience. Describing a scene in which the coach asks Josh to join the line of his rival, Luke Zannetti, Brouwer writes:

Luke, at center, was skating as if someone had strapped a bag of potatoes to his back. I would go into the boards with one of the Medicine Hat Tigers and fight for the puck. I’d come out, lift my head to look for Luke and see him two steps behind their center. Not two steps ahead where I could pass.

     The plot of the novel switches between two focuses, the first of which is the difficulty of Luke’s antagonism towards Josh and the rest of his own team. While Josh is a very understanding character, Luke manages to provoke him with his constant arrogance and mysteriously diminishing hockey skills. As the former best player on the team, Luke now is the contributing factor in the team’s losses. Josh retaliates with kindness and an attempt to understand his troubled teammate, responses which are met with a puzzling resistance. Josh also emerges as the team’s premier player and piques the interest of the NHL team, the Buffalo Sabres. Brouwer creates a very positive role model in Josh, continually building his understanding and tolerance despite the adversity of the situation:

Coach Price had kept Luke and me on the same line. In five rushes, Luke had passed for times to the other winger and had taken one shot. His moves, of course, were his decisions. But three times I’d been so wide open for a pass that I could have taken a nap after getting the puck and still had enough time to score.

It didn’t surprise me on the next rush when Luke lifted his stick to take a slap shot instead of passing to me. I was wide open—again—but I’d figured out Luke was doing his best to ignore me. I wasn’t going to let him think I cared. I kept skating hard, telling myself all I could do was my best. If I started worrying about Luke, I would be giving him power over me.

Luke snapped his stick downward. As he was taking the monster slap shot, he turned his hips and shoulders and aimed at me instead of the net.

He rifled the puck at my head. Bang! It dinged my helmet just above the ear. I fell sideways and slammed to the ice. For a second, all I saw was black. I blinked a few times, and all I saw was white. I realized I was staring at the ice right beneath my nose.

     The second focus in the novel is the mystery surrounding the slaughter of Josh’s father’s world class Limousin bull, Big Boy. Josh join forces with Stephanie Becker, someone he met under rather embarrassing circumstances when he received his MVP a year earlier. Together, the two investigate leads which might explain the death of not only Big Boy, but of other world class Limousin bulls in the area (Stephanie’s bull, Champion, was also slaughtered).

     Josh is, by far, Sigmund Brouwer’s most interesting and developed hockey playing character. He is kind, perceptive, and intelligent. When Josh takes Stephanie to his parents’ ranch to show her the site of where Big Boy and a dozen other cattle were slaughtered, Brouwer describes Josh’s thoughts:

I did as she said. Although I was looking at the ground as I walked, part of me was happy and grinning. Stephanie had been watching me at hockey games—

I started to daydream about scoring five goals in a play-off game. With her in the stands, of course. Then I figured if I was going to daydream, I might as well make it a good one. I’d score five goals, all right, but only after someone hit me so hard in the first period that my ribs were cracked.

Yes, that was it. I told myself as I reworked my daydream. I’d be a hero. Broken bones and still able to carry the team to victory. Then after the game she would give me hug. I would manfully tell her it didn’t hurt that much when she squeezed me. Then she would see the tears of pain in my eyes and admire me for being able to take all that pain in silence. She would look into my eyes. She would close her eyes and wait for me to kiss her.

     Josh’s character is also very well developed. Brouwer includes several interchanges between Josh and his father, who appear to be very close. This novel is also particularly moral as Josh’s father plays the role of an encouraging and supportive moral force. It is apparent he has taught his son to be a considerate individual, endowed with the abilities to make the right choice in difficult situations.

“Son, ”Dad said as we admired the view, “I’d like to pass all this on to you someday. I sure hope you make this ranch your house when you finish with hockey.”

My horse stamped the ground. It wanted to keep moving. The air was cool, and I could see the horses’ breath as it snorted. 

Dad grinned. “But I hope you play hockey for a long time before you get back here.”

“Remember that, son,” Dad said. “You can be the best hockey player in the world, but it’s who you are that counts.”  

I tilted my cowboy hat back and scratched my head.  “Dad?” Our horses picked their way down the hill. I swayed in the saddle with the movement.


“Each of the last four times I’ve visited the ranch, you’ve said the same thing.”

He laughed. “And I’ll keep saying it. It’s part of my job as your father.”

     As the two plot foci come together, Josh’s father’s teachings come into play. Josh brings Luke along when he goes to meet Stephanie to investigate another lead. It turns out that Josh’s kindness and understanding save his life; Luke begins to trust his rival and begins to open up with his new friend and confidant.

     I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who has any interest in hockey and solving mysteries. Brouwer’s novel, Blazer Drive, is an excellent combination of the sports-themed genre with mystery and teen novel elements.

Highly Recommended.

Laura Ludtke is a candidate for a MA in Classics at Queen’s University. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and reviewing children’s and teen’s literature.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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