Hockey Tales Skate on Thin Ice

Hockey Sur Glace

By Peter LaSalle

Breakaway Books

189 pp., $20

Ice hockey, despite its many years of existence in Northern climes, has rarely been the subject of creative or purely expositional writing. This is surprising in light of the flowing aesthetics which hockey involves: grace, speed, and the continual improvising born out of the reactions to ever changing scenarios on a slick stage.

The mere fact that the stories in Peter LaSalle's "Hockey Sur Glace" attempt to cover the subject in a creative manner inspires a hockey afficionado.

But as Ernest Hemingway understood before entering the dangerous forays of writing on bullfighting, the subject of hockey should be undertaken with caution. Although the sport may be played by the flip and the cocky, few will appreciate the periodic intrusion of a snide attitude in LaSalle's treatment of the subject.

The cover of "Hockey Sur Glace" evokes the spirit of the north country, replete with a skating hut and hot chocolate near the frozen pond where the hockey games take place until sunset.

The illustration portrays the ice shoveled clear for "pick-up" hockey or "shinny," so called because those who play hockey with just the skates, stick, and gloves usually enjoy the walk home with frozen feet and black and blue shins. This variety of hockey is, to many, the most enjoyable, yet LaSalle, in one of his little limericks about such an activity, insults the occasion.

LaSalle turns a corner with his short story, "Wellesley College for Women, 1969." The hostility LaSalle demonstrates through most of his book lifts. He genially and sentimentally describes a date and a relationship between a hockey player and a girl at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Mass. The story has picturesque narrative charms and stands nicely as a piece of fiction happily integrating a variety of people involved with skating and hockey.

* Christopher Bowden is a freelance writer in Boston.

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