Freddy’s Hockey Hero

The Compass - - TRINITY SOUTH -

The last time I watched hockey on tele­vi­sion, Lib­eral MP Ken Dry­den was a goalie. The last hockey story I read — p’raps the only hockey story I ever read — was Roch Car­rier’s “ The Hockey Sweater.” Re­mem­ber that one? Young Roch, an avid Cana­di­ens’ fan, longs for a hockey sweater. His mother or­ders one from The Cat­a­logue, but in­ad­ver­tently re­quests a Maple Leafs jersey; not a Cana­di­ens. Re­fus­ing to give in to Roch’s sook­ing, Mrs. Car­rier makes him wear the Leafs sweater, de­spite his hu­mil­i­a­tion. Even­tu­ally, un­able to take the scorn from his bud­dies, Rock winds up on his knees in church, pray­ing that moths will eat his hockey sweater.

You’re prob’ly fig­ur­ing out I’ve never been much of an ath­let­ics sup­porter. Yet, here I am Re­Mark­ing on Freddy’s Hockey Hero, the third of Freddy’s ad­ven­tures. Freddy has been to The Races; he has wel­comed the dawn of Canada Day on Sig­nal Hill; now he’s off to a hockey game at Mile One Cen­tre — a place I’ve never been, by the way.

Like Roch Car­rier, Freddy is a de­voted Cana­di­ens fan. Un­like Roch, Freddy has his very own Cana­di­ens hockey sweater that he wears to the game.

Not only does Freddy wear his hockey sweater to the game, but also he lugs his hockey stick, hop­ing that Billy Bin­kle, the most fa­mous hockey player of all time, will sign it.

As you’ve likely guessed, I have no idea if Billy Bin­kle is an ac­tual fa­mous hockey player or a fic­ti­tious char­ac­ter cre­ated by Su­san Chalker Browne.

I did my usual ex­haus­tive re­search, how­ever. I Googled Billy Bin­kle. Ac­tu­ally, I Ya­hooed him. The re­sults were a generic in­vi­ta­tion to join Face­book and be­come friends with Billy Bink­ley, and a num­ber of ref­er­ences to this book.

At the end of the first pe­riod, Freddy de­cides it’s time to prowl the sta­dium — can I say sta­dium re­gard­ing Mile One? — in search of Billy Bin­kle.

Soon, in re­sponse to Freddy’s, “I’ve got to find Billy Bin­kle,” a conga line of peo­ple is fol­low­ing Freddy through the crowd, kinda like the as­sort­ment of char­ac­ters that fol­lowed doom-say­ing Chicken Lit­tle or the ne­far­i­ous flute-toot­ing Pied Piper. A woman with big, shiny ear­rings is the first to trail Freddy. Then a se­cu­rity guard and Mary Ann, Freddy’s friend from school, tag along. Next, a cool guy wear­ing baggy pants joins Freddy’s pa­rade.

Does Freddy find the fa­mous — I still don’t know — Billy Bin­kle?

I’m not telling, partly be­cause it would be ru­in­ing the end­ing of the story, and partly be­cause I want to talk about the cat.

There’s an un­named puss in this story. Since I’m un­able to check its gen­der cre­den­tials, for the sake of speci­ficity I’m go­ing to as­sume it’s a tom­cat. He wears a red col­lar bear­ing a white Maple Leaf de­sign — Go Cana­di­ens?

Ol’ puss, or some por­tion of him, ap­pears on ev­ery pair of pages. Chil­dren as well as griz­zle-faced, hockey-ig­no­rant scrib­blers will be able to en­ter­tain them­selves by see­ing who can first spot puss on the page.

There’s a pop­u­lar chil­dren’s bed­time story book called Good­night Moon — writ­ten by Mar­garet Wise Brown, no e — that has a mouse on ev­ery page for chil­dren and dod­der­ing grand­pas to find. I won­der if Su­san Chalker Browne is imi­tat­ing a mo­tif with ol’ puss. If so, what odds. There’s an­other bed­time book called Good­night, Go­rilla in which a bal­loon is the ob­ject for cu­ri­ous eyes to spot.

Sadly, in spite of all his scam­per­ing around, no one speaks to puss or so much as scratches his ears. To make up for this lack, how­ever, puss does get to close the book, so to speak. The fi­nal il­lus­tra­tion is of puss sprawled out, sound asleep on Freddy’s toque, his pussy­cat tail draped over Freddy’s — au­to­graphed by Billy Bin­kle, or not? — hockey stick.

Kids — and okay, dot­ing adults — if you have Freddy’s pre­vi­ous ad­ven­tures in your book­shelves, you’ll want to add Freddy’s Hockey Hero to your col­lec­tion. Yes, you surely will. Un­for­tu­nately, I close on a down­beat note be­cause I miss some­one. I miss Freddy’s lit­tle sis­ter Clare. I miss her con­stant cat­er­waul­ing.

Thank you for read­ing. Is Billy Bin­kle re­ally a fa­mous hockey player? Is there an­other player called Gret­zky?

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