Signage at Rutland Free Library

Gene Carr’s hair? Gene Carr’s hair!

So I was watching the LA feed (hey, free is free) of the Kings / Leafs game and Drew Doughty lost his helmet and was skating around with his hippy hair flying in the wind. The color commentator (Jim Fox … I had to look it up) said it reminded him of the old days, with Guy LaFleur’s hair blowing behind him, or Gene Carr … <insert joke sound effect here>. Wait, who?

Point A, this is the first time I have ever heard Gene Carr mentioned in the same breath as The Flower. It’s possibly the first time it’s ever happened. And Point B, guys with ’70s hair comparable to LaFleur would start with Gilbert Perrault or LaFleur’s Montreal teammate Larry Robinson or Bobby Clarke (whogenecarr pretty much had Farrah Fawcett hair) or Derek Sanderson or Ron Duguay or … well, it’s a long list. So I looked up the LA Kings mustard-PJ days to figure out what the heck Fox was talking about, and sure enough, there was Gene Carr.

So first, for the record, I would like to apologize to Mr. Fox, who I do remember, as an undersized center in the Marcel Dionne (on a bad day for Marcel) model. I still think expecting any but the staunchest old-school Kings fans to remember Gene Carr is pushing it. (Although there is at least speculation on the interwebs that The Eagles’ wimp-rock classic “New Kid in Town” was written about Carr’s move to Los Angeles from NYC, so gone but clearly not forgotten).

But dang, that is some legendary hair.

Stick it



I blame soccer for the latest trend in hockey. Soccer — futbol for the purists — is famous for the diving in attempts to draw fouls which in many games outnumber the fouls themselves. Hockey is developing a similar culture.

Part of it is the European influence. With more players who grew up watching soccer’s divas playing in the NHL, they were bound to bring diving with them.

Part of it is the league’s rejection of fist fights. It used to be diving was a corporal offense. Players adjudged to have dived were fair game for a beating at some point in the near future. And it was a shaming offense. Even bush leaguers hated being called a diver. In the Biddeford (Maine) over-40 league, I was the starting goalie for our team and played forward in just one game, when I forgot my contacts and so had to skate out. We were winning handily in the third period when the league’s yappiest little banty rooster shoved the puck past me at center ice and somehow wound up prone after falling gymnastically over my stick blade. I served the two for “tripping,” we won the game and then afterward in the bar we bumped into each other again. I congratulated him on his dive; he tried to deny it; I laughed at him and noted that he seemed to have better balance when he had a scoring chance in the slot. He visibly deflated; his teammates sort of edged away from him: Diving starts with the scarlet D, even in that league. It’s not how the game should be played.

And I know about the code from the other side as well. Hockey goals are made of hollow metal pipes, with six-inch steel pegs running up the pipe from a flattish spike on the bottom that sticks into the ice, holding the net in place unless there’s sufficient force to shift the pegs. As soon as the net — which typically weighs between 80 and 120 pounds — is moved off the goal line — even by an inch — it’s a stoppage of play.

One game in the over-40 league I was in net on a breakaway when the attacker and my defenceman lost 4952_1998_olympics_ke.0_standard_783.0their balance as they raced toward the net, and both slid into me while I was on my knees, driving me backwards, face-first onto the ice and crotch-first into the goalpost. I felt the net lift several inches off its post before falling back, so felt it was OK to take a short breather — once I could breathe again — to collect myself before I got up. The whistle went, and the ref came racing up to make sure I was alright. It turned out the net had fallen straight back onto its posts and he stopped play not because it was off its moorings but because he thought I was injured — which I wasn’t — as opposed to hurting, which I certainly was. I happened to be wearing a Canadian Olympic sweater that night, and the ref — who it turned out was also Canadian — assured me he would call a penalty on anybody dishonoring that shirt by faking an injury. I apologized for having only moved the 100-pound net half a foot vertically with my nuts and not horizontally as I thought; he dropped the puck and off we went. That’s hockey.

As refs are constantly forced to make instant decisions on fair/foul, right/wrong, the NHL wisely chose to let its officials call both an initial foul and embellishment on the same play. So a guy might get called for a slash, but if his victim overdoes the writhing in pain, he is liable to an off-setting minor for fakery. But there’s one case where I think calling out diving is misguided, and that’s high-sticking. I never played top-level hockey, but I played enough over enough years to have scars on my upper lip and the top of my nose sticks. And that’s not including the countless sticks, fists, elbows and skates I took on the goalie mask, which scars are fixed with paint, not stitches. Throw in half a dozen concussions over the years and I know about high sticks and head injuries. (Although there was blood when I got the scar on my nose, the ref decided I wasn’t “bleeding enough” to make it a major penalty — see the gif of Chris Kunitz, above. Things haven’t changed much in 40 years.)

high_stick.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxMore and more I hear play-by-play announcers who have obviously never played the game dismiss as embellishment when a player’s head snaps back after they get hit in the face with a stick. I’m here to tell you it’s a natural reaction. Watch a batter’s head whip back when a baseball gets within a foot and a half, let alone when one hits him. Sticks are aluminum / wood / carbon-fiber blends. They’re cold, hard and compared to the human face, inflexible. They’re also often moving really quickly, and they hurt when they hit. They hurt when they hit your mask; they hurt a lot more when they miss the mask and catch flesh and bone. My usual reaction after getting a stick (or skate) in the face was to check my teeth with my tongue to make sure none were missing, waggle my jaw to make sure it worked, then use a fingertip to check for bleeding. And yes, I often flinched when I got hit. My head may have snapped back. It doesn’t mean I was embellishing; it’s natural when something smashes you in the face or comes whipping toward your eyes to move your head out of the way. So the next time a TV announcer criticizes a player for snapping his head out of the way of a flying stick, find a picture of the guy. If he doesn’t have scars, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And I’ve checked — none of them have scars.

Welcome to the jungle

For those of you arriving here via LS 583 @, my reading journal comprises the next 42 posts on the Reading between the lines page. Clicking on some of the tags may lead you astray (this is a new page for an old blog of mine); if so, simply choosing the correct category from the dropdown at left will bring you home again.

Unofficial bonus points for naming all the cheesy songs / pop culture references in the post titles.

Thanks for reading.


Big little brother

Doctorow, C. (2008). Little Brother. New York: Tor Teen.

Genre: Dystopian / realistic / near-future cyberpunk

Intended audience: Mid-teens and up; anti-authoritarians and rebels

Little brotherPersonal reaction to the book: This is thought-provoking if a little didactic (OK, a lot didactic at times). It’s a well-researched and totally subversive guide for teens. I would have read this book happily in high school.

Sadly, it really doesn’t feel totally over the top, even though it is written as a somewhat dystopian near-future novel. It is no surprise to discover Doctorow is not American; the post-911 American thought police would have got to him before he got around to publishing.

Author facts: Cory Doctorow co-edits the weblog Boing Boing. Born in Toronto, he now lives in London. He is the former European director of Electronic Freedom Foundation.

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Heavy-handed message

Zusak, M. (2002). I am the messenger. New York: Alfred E. Knopf.

Genre: Realistic / fable

Intended audience: Older teens

Personal reaction to the book:

MessengerSPOILER ALERT: Review contains spoiler.

I really enjoyed the book until the final chapter or so.

For most of the book, the game for a reader was guessing who was leaving the playing cards with clues that led Ed through the plot: Was it Ma? Audrey the love interest? One of the card players? One by one they got eliminated as suspects, until we were left with “Hi, I’m your author, here to rub your face in an obvious, moralistic, metatextual ending, where it turns out the AUTHOR, that’s right, me, the AUTHOR, created these little vignettes for Ed to work through.”

It’s a damned shame, because right up until then I thought this was the best YA novel I had read in quite some time. I had Zusak’s The book thief on my list but now I’m not sure I’ll bother.

Author facts: Marcus Zusak grew up and still lives in Sydney, Australia. The book thief is his most successful title to date. He has a wife, two children and two dogs he walks daily.

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Not enough lipstick for this pig

Zindel, P. (1972). The pigman. New York: Harper & Row.

Genre: Mainstream fiction

Intended audience: Teens

PigmanPersonal reaction to the book: Really badly written book. It is told from the point of view of two teens, a boy and a girl, but the author is unable to endow either with a unique voice (for example, when describing their evening together in Mr. Pignati’s house, both use the adjective “lovely,” within a few pages of each other. And it’s an odd choice of words, particularly for a young male character). So the characters aren’t particularly believable, either.

The plot is thin and feels contrived.

There is a point to be made, finally, at the end of the book, when the characters start to discuss the teens as an age between childhood and adulthood, but it’s been made many times elsewhere and often better. In fact, it read like it could have been a good short story and but had been dragged out.

Author facts: Started writing as a playwright, having been taught by Edward Albee. Was a chemistry teacher before he started writing full-time. Used his difficult childhood on Staten Island as the source for much of his writing.

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Sad ending to Funny Story

Vizzini, N. (2006). It’s kind of a funny story. New York: Miramax.

Genre: Realistic

Intended audience: Mid-teens and older

Kind of funny storyPersonal reaction to the book: This has strong overtones of One flew over the cuckoo’s nest. It’s not quite in that league, but a good read. Somehow the book is both less dismissive of and less dependent on the role of the therapist in solving teenage psychoses than some others. I liked the ending — happy without being Pollyannish — and the use of humor throughout.

I, like many others in the class, was sorry to hear that Ned Vizzini couldn’t conquer his demons.

Author facts: Many aspects of Ned Vizzini’s life – where he lived, his time in a mental ward, his depression – echo those of Craig Gilman, the protagonist of this novel. He killed himself by jumping off of a roof in 2013 at the age of 32. He was survived by his wife and a son.

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Mostly harmless

Turner, M.W. (2005). The thief. New York: Greenwillow. (First published 1996.)

Genre: Fantasy

Intended audience: Tweens / young teens

ThiefPersonal reaction to the book: The thief got the Douglas Adams review: Mostly harmless.

You have read better fantasies; you have read worse fantasies. It is appropriate for younger teens / tweens and is a safe recommendation for them. There’s a little violence, no sex, no swearing. It’s a standard quest fable with a nice twist in the tail.

A fun read, but nothing to set it apart from hundreds of other fantasy novels. Writing this from my notes three weeks after reading it, I can’t remember details already, so it’s not destined to stick with me (nor I think many other readers).

Author facts: She lives in Ohio with her husband. They spent a year in Oslo, Norway. She has a degree from University of Chicago.

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Presto! C’est chic

Tobin, P., & Coover, C. (2013). Bandette, Volume 1: Presto! Milwaukie, Oregon: Dark Horse Comics.

Genre: Graphic novel

Intended audience: Mid-teens and older

BandettePersonal reaction to the book: A fun option to the dark violence and manga subgenres that dominate so much of the graphic novel scene. Bandette is a very French protagonist (think Amelie, from the movie of the same name). She is pert, sassy and indomitable: A great heroine for girls to follow. Unlike most costumed female heroines, she wears actual clothing. I would recommend the book for younger readers; the publisher recommends 15+ due to some smoking and a background sexual situation.

One quibble: The volume is a little slim, and very much first of a series. In my youth I read many “comic books” with more panels than this “graphic novel.”

Author facts: Tobin & Coover are a husband-and-wife team. He is the writer and she is the illustrator. They live in Portland, Oregon.

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