Freddy’s Hockey Hero
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?