How Hockey Saves Saul

06 Feb How Hockey Saves Saul

Wrought with loneliness, quietly drowning in despair, Surely Richard Wagamese’s protagonist, Saul, would have died at St. Jerome’s if not for the salvation of the good, old hockey game.

Father Leboutilier brings a little light and humor to St. Jerome’s but above all, he brings hockey. In traditional Canadian fashion, the school’s rink is a home made stretch of ice outdoors.  The priest introduces Saul to the game and from the moment he witnesses the older boys play, he is mesmerized. He sees their play as expressions of new found freedom, “the white glory of the rink” a haven where strangled boys can move with the spirit of wild horses. “The excitement in the air was so thick, you could smell it. When the priest turned them loose to scrimmage, they broke with the abandon of mustangs.”

Immediately Saul’s gift of “seeing” flourishes. He possesses the uncanny ability to see the spaces…”not just the physical properties of the game and the action but the intent.” This combined with his utter dedication to do anything to get near the game, from rising before anyone else to clean the ice, to collecting frozen horse turds to use as pucks, sets Saul’s life on a new path. He learns to move deftly upon the ice so no one will hear him, he practices, by moonlight,  moves he learns from watching Hockey Night in Canada at the priest’s quarters, he even stuffs an old pair of skates (way too big for him) with balled up newspaper and teaches himself to skate.

Saul finds beauty and mystery, escape and magic on ice. When at last one of the older boys is injured, he astonishes everyone by taking the boy’s place. Self-taught, the sight comes to him and the puck seems to follow him. He unleashes, tearing up the ice and scoring a goal. At long last, he finds something akin to home and when the boys make room for him, he says, “We stood there like stallions home from the range.”

Indian Horse progresses through the middle section with descriptive tales of hockey, both at the school, and eventually when Father Leboutilier arranges for the immensely talented Saul to be move on, to be billeted with Fred and Martha, so that he can play the game at a higher level…and perhaps so that the Father can finally honour Saul’s soul…for it is a sacrifice to let him go.

The LOL meet this week…a couple more blogs before we wrap up this Canada Reads contender.