I know I’ve been terrible at updating lately, so I figured I’d write up a book review. I’ve been reading a lot lately, and of course hockey books are always standard fare for me. One day I went to Half-Priced Books to see what sort of gems I could unearth. I found a Dallas Stars season ticket holder commemorative book, a book about high school hockey in Minnesota (which I’m currently reading), and this book.
My high school did not have a hockey team. I live in Texas, it’s all about football here. We don’t have the luxury of having frozen ponds to skate on, strapping on a pair of skates and donning a toque, falling down ten times, getting up eleven. Now that the Stars are here in town, hockey is becoming a bigger thing in this Texas city, but it’s nowhere near the level it is in places like Minnesota or New England.
That is what made Jay Atkinson’s book so fascinating to me. Atkinson played for the Methuen Rangers in Methuen, Massachusetts, the first year that the school got a varsity hockey team. Twenty-some years later, he decided to go back and follow that year’s team, getting to know them, taking on the role of “volunteer assistant”. Ice Time follows the team’s journey that year – the temperamental star of the team, the goalie with girl troubles, the first-year player whose father is battling cancer. Obviously, hockey is a huge part of this book, but it’s not the only thing.
Atkinson still has friends in Methuen, guys he played with on the very first Rangers team. They’re all still rink rats, playing a quick game whenever they can. He spends a lot of time in the book writing about his own childhood as well – things from hockey at his old high school, to a strip mall that was built over a large field near his home.
The thought of a team dynamic and how players interact with each other is intriguing to me. Does the back-up goaltender have a tougher time than the starter, having to sit on the bench and watch the team win or lose while he does nothing but keep a seat warm? How about the guys who try so hard, but know they’ll never be able to be as good as the star of the team? How does a high-school senior take on the responsibility of being captain? Atkinson lets us in on some of that stuff with his interaction with the players.
Along the way, we meet Atkinson’s 5-year-old son, Liam, who is just learning to play hockey. I remember one part in particular where Atkinson takes Liam to a baseball game, and reminisces on going to games with his own father. He then worries that he won’t create the same experience for Liam, and tries so hard to recreate that magic that he felt when he was only five. Liam even gets to be a part of the Rangers team, attending pregame spaghetti lunches with his father. The boys on the team treat him like a little brother, even giving him a Methuen Rangers jersey of his own that little Liam cherishes.
All in all, Ice Time is a heartwarming tale, and an interesting look into the world of high school hockey – particularly for this girl who had never experienced the thrill.
P.S. In the next few days I’ll have some Stars-related stuff up – I PROMISE.