By Peter McCambridge
On 26, Nov 2013 | In Literary translator | By Peter McCambridge
I Hate Hockey
I Hate Hockey
a hardboiled novel
by François Barcelo
Baraka Books, Montréal, 2011
“The literary equivalent of a sudden death shootout.” – The Hockey Writers.
“McCambridge’s excellent translation retains the prolific Québécois author’s tight narrative and biting voice… powerful.” –Publishers Weekly
I HATE hockey!
I’ve played just enough of it to know I’m the worst player ever. And I’ve watched just enough of it to know it’s the worst sport ever.
I Hate Hockey
“I hate hockey!” is the first and last sentence in this novel that offers a great take on our love-hate relationship with hockey. Narrator Antoine Vachon blames the game for killing his marriage with his beautiful ex-wife (well, that and the power outage that brought her home unexpectedly to find him in bed with her intern). But hockey is a pretext for unlikely adventure in this sardonic roman noir that at times flirts with the outrageous.
I can sense the siren coming soon to send them back out onto the ice. I get up and stand in front of the door to stop them leaving in case I don’t have time to finish my speech:
— Listen, guys. I never got the chance to meet your coach…
I hesitate for a minute because I should say his name, or at least his first name, at the start of the next sentence. But I don’t know either. Too bad.
— He was a good, demanding coach who knew how to get the best out of each of you. And I think you have to win the game tonight as a tribute to him. He deserves nothing less.
I’m in luck. The siren—which also isn’t unlike the insufferable cry of a loon in search of a mate—breaks off my speech just as I wasn’t sure what to say next.
The guys stand up. I get out of the way and they file past me solemnly. I’m sure they’ve gotten the message.
For a communications graduate, I must give the world’s worst pep talks because they didn’t understand a word of what I was expecting from them. I wanted them to play with at least a little intensity and grace. True, I might not necessarily have spelled it out for them. But I was sure they would understand. Playing without intensity or grace was going about the game the wrong way. Surely they understood that?
But they start to play like goons instead. Why? Don’t ask me. That’s not what I told them to do.
They send their opponents crashing into the boards, especially the smaller ones. It must all be perfectly legit, because the ref only dishes out four penalties. But that’s enough for the other team to score two more goals.
With only a few minutes to go in the period (I’ve just found out there are twenty minutes in a period and I’m not going to argue), the Loons, understandably ticked at the way our players are getting on, worked up by a noisy crowd, and confident of winning the game no matter what, start hitting back. As hard as they like because the idiot of a ref doesn’t react at all. My players are penalized for nothing at all, like tripping an opponent without meaning to, while the Loons go unpunished for blatant acts of violence, like slamming one of my smallest players into the boards.
One of them—Gervais, according to the name on his back—comes up behind our K. Nguyen, puts his stick between his legs, and sends him flying over the boards. Our Jonathan races over and smacks him one in the face. I would be proud of him if punching a shock-proof visor with a well-padded hockey glove was ever going to deter such a violent individual.
The two boys must have read my mind because they drop their sticks and gloves, fling their helmets to the ice, raise their fists, and get ready to box.
K. Nguyen’s head pops back up over the boards and he gives a smile to show he’s OK. But it’s too late. All my players on the ice have already gone after the other team.
I’ve had enough. I might not be able to stop my team losing, but I’m not going to let them behave like a bunch of hooligans. I leap onto the ice. But I’m wearing my Saturn salesman shoes. The finest Italian shoes made in China, with the slipperiest of leather soles. I slide and fall on my ass, and that draws a laugh from the crowd.
You can read more about the book and purchase it from the publisher here.