CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 15. . . .December 15, 2017
5-Minute Hockey Stories.
Meg Braithwaite. Illustrated by Nick Craine.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollinsCanada, 2017.
179 pp., hardcover, $17.99.
Kindergarten-grade 5 / Ages 5-10.
Review by Dave Jenkinson.
Did you know that Wayne Gretzky is the only NHL player to ever wear the number 99? No one before him even had a number anywhere near that high. So how did he get that unusual number?
Well, Wayne Gretzky picked that number for a very special reason.
Growing up. Wayne was one of the kids who wanted to wear the same number as their favourite NHL player. For Wayne, that was “Mr. Hockey”: Geordie Howe. Howe wore number 9 for the Detroit Red Wings. Gretzky asked for number 9 wherever he could–and usually he got it.
But when he started playing junior hockey in Ontario with Sault Ste. Marie, number 9 was already being used by another player.
He was disappointed but tried out a new number. And then a second number. But he didn’t like playing with either of them on his back. He was missing number 9. That’s when his coach made a helpful suggestion. Why not wear two 9s? (After all, if one 9 was good, two 9s might be even better, right?
So Wayne had 99 stitched on his sweater–one of the many things that made the hockey star so instantly memorable. (From “What’s in a Number?”.)
According to the publisher, each of the 12 “stories” in Braithwaite’s collection can be read aloud in just five minutes. A note on the copyright page clarifies that “5-Minute Hockey Stories includes certain imagined elements in tales based on real events.” The book opens and closes with a story from an NHLer’s childhood. In “Night Skating”, little P.K.’s passion for hockey is met by his father who nightly drives him miles to the closest outdoor rink with artificial ice. Only in the closing illustration does a young reader learn P.K.’s surname, Subban. “Hockey at Home” finds Mario Lemieux’s mother temporarily transforming the family’s living room into a real ice-covered skating surface so that her three sons could play hockey when their outdoor rink was overwhelmed by snow. Three largely informational, but still fun reading, chapters are “What’s in a Number?” in which Braithwaite explains the reasons behind some players’ jersey number choice, and “The Crazy Adventures of the Stanley Cup” which describes how some Cup-winning players have lovingly“abused” this trophy after winning it. The third is “Zamboni to the Rescue” which reveals how this ice-cleaning machine came to be invented and describes how it works. A pair of stories focus on historical events, with “The Masked Man” relating how Jacques Plante became the first NHL goalie to wear a mask while “The Game That Just Wouldn’t End” describes the March 24, 1936, game between the Montreal Maroons and the Detroit Red Wings that involved six overtime periods and spanned almost six hours. Significant Winter Olympic hockey games are at the heart of two stories. How a Canadian coin, a loonie, came to be planted at centre ice during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City is explained in “Magic in the Ice” while “The Golden Goal” takes readers through the men’s gold medal hockey game between Canada and the United States at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Two current NHL players are featured in “The Best First Game Ever” and “A Big Crease to Fill”, with the former being Auston Matthews” and the latter, Carey Price. Female content in 5-Minute Hockey Stories is limited to “Ab’s Secret”, the story of Abigail “Ab” Hoffman, a trailblazer, who, in 1956 and at age eight, secretly played on a boys’ team.
Nick Craine’s illustrations are generally bright, bold and full of action, but he does change his style to match a story’s mood. For example, “The Golden Goal” is alive with colour and movement as the players strive to win the gold medal whereas the somber colours used for “The Game That Just Wouldn’t End” reflect the players’ fatigue and the lateness of the hour. There are places where portions of 5-Minute Hockey Stories have an almost graphic novel feel to them.
While the publisher recommends 5-Minute Hockey Stories for a 4+ audience, I think the bottom end of that listenership/readership is much too low. Content-wise, the book will likely find a more ready audience amongst those who are capable of reading it for themselves and who already have an established interest in NHL hockey.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.
© CM Association
University of Manitoba
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