Midnight Hockey by
- Reviewed by Angie Abdou for The Fernie Fix's August 2009 Issue
Available at Polar Peek Books & Treasures in Fernie.
I can’t quite believe it, but I’m recommending a non-fiction book about hockey … in August. Midnight Hockey is a memoir by Bill Gaston (or “Gaston Beel” as he was known during his stint as a professional hockey player in France’s Ligue du Sud). Here’s a book that’s funny, smart, and very Canadian. The subtitle (“All About Beer, the Boys, and the Real Canadian Game”) gives a good idea of the memoir’s key topics – though there are enough stories about drugs that I would’ve added another B (“All About Beer, Bud, the Boys, and the Real Canadian Game”).
The book’s focus is oldtimer hockey, and with its mix of anecdotes, pranks, tall tales, musings, and memories, Midnight Hockey provides a whole lot of laughs and a bit of cultural commentary. It’s a light and easy read. Basically, Gaston does for the old, paunchy, injured hockey player what Erma Bombeck did for the bored and overworked housewife. Stylistically, Midnight Hockey is most like a barroom conversation. I can almost hear the friends in the background insisting “Now tell the one about…!!!” These stories read like ones that have been told (no, performed) many times before – and have gotten a little more entertaining with each telling.
Really, I am not the target audience of this book. Midnight Hockey was written specifically for other oldtimers, those hockey lovers who don’t know when to hangummup (see section called “To Hangummup or Not to Hangummup”). There is, for example, an entire chapter dedicated to beer. There’s also an awful lot of humour about farts. The section involving a meat tray coming into contact with a number of naked asses was perhaps a bit much for me. My husband, though, assures me that guys love that stuff, that nothing, in fact, is quite as funny as a pubic hair in a cheese tray. Once I got over the shock of discovering that one of my very favourite literary authors has the same sense of humour as my husband (“Marty the Party”), I found a way to relax and enjoy the voyeuristic peek into the oh-so-bizarre world of men.
But it’s not all laughs. Gaston weaves some truly moving narratives about the emotion involved in sharing your favourite sport with your children, and about beginning to understand your parents only after you’ve sat in the bleachers watching one of your kids play hockey, and about the love for a brother being something beyond language. Gaston also touches on a number of philosophical issues (Zen Buddhism, Mortality, Keats’ Negative Capability) drawing unexpected parallels with hockey. So, while Midnight Hockey is definitely entertaining, it is not so light that I would call it trivial or a waste of time. It’s humourous and accessible, but it’s smart enough that it’s a guilt-free easy read. And that makes it perfect beach reading (and the perfect August recommendation).
Hockey on the beach … how very Canadian.
* * *
Angie Abdou is a local writer. For more information on her publications and upcoming speaking engagements, see this website.