Posted by: Kate | December 23, 2013

Book Review: The Lonely End of the Rink

I laughed out loud more with this book than I have in ages, which is saying something considering parts of this book deal with school bullies and overcoming obstacles. Grant Lawrence is a CBC Radio show host and author of “The Lonely End of the Rink: Confessions of a Reluctant Goalie“. His book is part memoir and part hockey history, combining my beloved west coast with my favourite hockey team, The Vancouver Canucks. And Mr. Lawrence is only two years older than me, so all of his cultural references are completely relevant to me as well. Really, pair all that with intelligent, fun writing and it’s a win-win for me!

“It barely snowed in Vancouver, maybe a day or two a year if we were lucky, so we played ball hockey the entire school year. When it rained, the tennis ball let out a plume of water, like a rooster’s tail, as it spun down the court….”

Lawrence holds nothing back as he delves into life in school as the smallest, physically weakest kid in class. His descriptions of some of his encounters made me wince in discomfort, wondering which kids I went to school with were subjected to similar treatments by the other boys. The bullying and tough guys were one of the reasons Lawrence turned away from hockey, as the organized sport seems to attract a lot of the tough guys who were the same ones that picked on him and made him constantly feel lesser than everyone else. How could he love a sport like that?

It only takes mere seconds, or one experience, to put someone back into that place, as Lawrence deftly points out from an experience he had as a teen-ager.

“In mere seconds my long built-up coolness had been stripped down to the quivering nerdiness I had tried so hard to leave behind. I was immediately reduced from a rock-n-roll king pin back to a stuttering, teeth-chattering invalid. Buck had been right all along; I was a WIMP.”

Lawrence turned to music and became part of the alternative music scene in Canada. But he never quite left behind his love for hockey and the Vancouver Canucks. The book takes the reader through the ups and downs of the franchise, from the cup runs of ’94 and 2011 (including the awful, drunken riots afterwards) to the horrible “re-building” years of the late 90s. It helps that he holds similar opinions to mine on which coaches helped, which players were stars, and which coaches or players did little to help the team (and in one case almost destroyed it).

Lawrence’s story comes full circle when he finds himself as an adult playing recreational hockey. He found a belonging, a team and a group where it wasn’t about being the toughest or the greatest, it was about being part of a team playing a game you loved. I think this was my favourite message of the book, that everyone can find their place, and do what they love. You don’t have to buy into the commercial superstar images, you can simply play. Hockey is a game that most Canadian kids play at some point, whether it is on ice skates, in runners, or in roller blades. It doesn’t have to be with coaches in the organized world of bigger is better, it can be a group of friends, at any age, picking teams by “Prince George Shuffle” (all the sticks thrown in a pile and pulled out at random) and playing their hearts out.

The book covers a lot of ground, including references to Canadian alternative music (along with a lot of hockey songs). It was a quick read, and a lot of fun amidst the uncomfortable parts. For anyone who loves hockey or grew up in the 70s/80s in a hockey-loving town, this book will resonate.

*A warning, those who went through the organized hockey systems will likely take exception to his portrayal of hockey jocks. Remember, this is a view from the other side.

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Responses

  1. sounds like an interesting read, and an interesting look, from a different perspective, at the world of hockey.

    • I adore the Canucks, but I have to admit I kept BB out of hockey for a lot of the reasons he talks about. (And the early morning rink times, and the costs, but attitude was certainly part of it at the younger ages.)

  2. Excellent review, Kate. He found a belonging, a team and a group where it wasn’t about being the toughest or the greatest, it was about being part of a team playing a game you loved. It’s a game, some people need to look this word up in the dictionary.

    My stepson, J, was involved in organized hockey for years & years, I swear he was born with his hockey skates on. DH brought him to alot of early morning games and was there with him at (nearly) every game.

    Our ‘boy’ was small, never minding that he wasn’t a big as some of the others. He perservered & near the end of his ‘career’, he was given a chance to play WHL in Red Deer, AB but chose not to because of work and his new g/f in Alberta.

    He experienced bullying, teasing but showed them what a great forward he was & was eventually ‘accepted’. Now he plays shinny hockey or wherever someone wants to play.

    I will look for this book & our son might like it, too. Thanks, Kate.

    • Sounds like your step son was very lucky to have such supportive parents!

  3. Thanks for the very kind review, Kate! Much appreciated!

    • A good book deserves a good review! Thanks for stopping by!


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