Freddy’s Hockey Hero
Freddy’s Hockey Hero
Down at Mile One Centre, Freddy and Dad bought popcorn and Cokes, then jostled through the crowd to their seats.
“I wonder who the surprise guest is?” asked Dad, looking around excitedly. Nobody knows for sure.”
“I know,” said Freddy. “It’s Billy Binkle. The best hockey player ever.”
“Billy Binkle? I doubt it, Freddy. He’s way too famous.”
“Oh, it’s him,” said Freddy, crunching on a piece of popcorn. “I just know it. And he’s going to sign my stick.”
The NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens, traditionally arch rivals, are playing an exhibition hockey game at Mile One Centre in St. John’s, NL, and Freddy and his father are in attendance. From Rose’s illustrations, it appears that father and son have divided team loyalties as Freddy’s dad is shown wearing the Leaf’s traditional blue and white jersey while Freddy is in the iconic red, white and blue of the Habs, with the number 86 on his back.
Though Freddy is thrilled about attending an NHL game, he is particularly excited because he is positive that the game’s surprise guest is going to be none other than Billy Binkle, someone Freddy idolizes and describes as “The best hockey player ever”. As the first period ends in a 2-2 tie, Freddy immediately heads for the arena’s concourse in search of Billy Binkle, with his doubting father trailing behind. “Dodging, dipping, twirling and leaping, Freddy dashed through the corridor.” In his quest, Freddy, almost Pied Piper-like, acquires a retinue of Billy Binkle fans who believe Freddy’s assertion that the hockey legend is truly the game’s surprise guest. And where does Freddy locate Billy Binkle (and get his autograph)? Of course, Binkle’s riding on the focal point of between-period action – the ice-cleaning Zamboni.
By the author’s making “the best hockey player ever” a fictional character, she has greatly extended this book’s shelf life as all hockey fans of every generation have their own idea about the “greatest”. However, somewhat undermining the book’s longevity was Browne’s textual decision to have Billy Binkle in “a bright red sweater. And on the back of the red sweater was a white 86.” Following Browne’s text lead, Rose’s illustration has Binkle in a number 86 Canadien’s sweater. (For trivia fans, I checked and only one player in Habs’ history has worn the number 86, and he only played nine shifts in seven games for the Canadiens.)
Freddy’s Hockey Hero effectively reflects the atmosphere of being at a big league hockey game, and it presents an authentic portrayal of the hero worship that many youngsters have for the game’s stars, past and present. A worthy, fun addition to school and public library collections.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he hopes that the Winnipeg Jets are still playing in the playoffs when this review is posted.