________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 5 . . . . October 26, 2007


Growing Up Hockey: The Life and Times of Everyone Who Ever Loved the Game.

Brian Kennedy.
Edmonton, AB: Folklore Publishing, 2007.
369 pp., pbk., $19.95.
ISBN 978-1-894864-65-7.

Subject Headings:
Kennedy, Brian, 1962-

Grades 8 and up  / Ages 13 and up.

Review by Thomas F. Chambers.

*** /4


As we skated around, I looked at the other boys on my team. We had a ragtag collection of helmets, some white, some black. The gloves, too, rarely matched our team's colors. But one thing that most of the other kids had was a stick like the one Jimmy had described. Looking at what they were carrying, I knew my stick would in no way serve to make me a star. I was using the one that I'd had on the corner rink the two winters before. It was all wood, with a blade as straight as the highway between two Prairie provinces. It was wrapped with black electrical tape. My dad had done that.

The other kids had sticks with beautiful hooks and blades covered with dimply fiberglass that, it was said, made them impossible to break. I couldn't possibly go on with my antiquated piece of lumber, and I told my dad that on the way home.

Growing Up Hockey will remind readers of Roch Carrier's The Hockey Sweater. It is about the same boyhood fascination many Canadian children have for "Canada's Game," a fascination many continue to have as adults, judging by the many oldtimers' leagues across the country. Divided into three sections entitled, “Learning the Game,” “Living the Game” and “Loving the Game, ”Growing Up Hockey is a collection of author Brian Kennedy's hockey stories. Based on his memories, some factual, some closer to fiction, these stories will be similar to those experienced by many Canadian children. It is ideal for recreational reading.

     Each section is broken down into many small chapters, 61 in total with titles, such as “Hockey as Tonic” and “Gump Worsley's Last Stand,” which reflect the book's theme. There is no table of contents other than that listing the three main sections. There are no photographs, index, or teaching aids but the latter are not necessary. A few photos of hockey greats would have increased the book's appeal with readers who have not heard of Worsley, Frank Mahovlich, and the many other former stars mentioned.

     Brian Kennedy is the typical Canadian, for whom, as a kid, hockey was everything. Now, a teacher at Pasadena City College and a freelance sports writer, hockey is still a big part of his life as he reports on many NHL games. As the author has a doctorate in English, his book is very well written and a pleasure to read. He conveys his love of hockey onto every page and tells his memories with considerable enthusiasm.

     In “Learning the Game,” Kennedy writes of his desire to own a fiberglass hockey stick, a piece of equipment considered essential for any serious hockey player. With only an old fashioned wooden one, a boy felt inadequate, ashamed to go on the ice and a target for older boys to pick on.

     Much of “Living the Game” deals with the collecting of hockey cards and the activities in which boys engaged in order to acquire the right ones. In Kennedy's case, since he lived in Montreal, these were cards of the Canadiens. To spend your allowance on a pack that contained cards of the hated Maple Leafs was a grave disaster. Those for whom hockey is not the main reason for living will likely find Kennedy's memories of collecting cards monotonous. While his boyhood excitement at getting the right card is a major memory of his youth, one can only take so much of these memories.

     In “Loving the Game,” Kennedy is no longer a child, but a college student in the United States and a graduate employed there. As such, he played a little broomball, the only sport in Ohio similar to hockey. He also played hockey in a number of cities, almost breaking his neck in one game after he was tripped and flew into the boards. His hockey experiences as an adult are much like those of the many oldtimers who lace on their skates every week to play the game they love.


Thomas F. Chambers, a retired college teacher, lives in North Bay, ON.

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

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ISSN 1201-9364
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