Class Explores Cultural Connection to Hockey in Canadian Literature: College Course Combines Pucks and Prose

Article excerpt

When science student Krista Lazzarotto tells people she's taking a class about hockey in Canadian literature, she gets an interesting reaction.

"Everybody does a double take or asks again, thinking they heard wrong," says Lazzarotto.

Her English instructor Laura Davis is defying the notion that Canadian literature and hockey don't mix.

Davis began teaching a new course in January at Red Deer College. The class explores our cultural connection to hockey through Canadian fiction and non-fiction.

Hockey in the Canadian Literary Imagination, or "Hockey in CanLit" as her students call it, is a fairly new subject in academia. Davis knows of just two universities -- Victoria and Saskatchewan -- that have taught similar courses.

"It's not a common course offering," Davis admits from Red Deer. "I wanted to challenge that idea that hockey and literature are separate.

"I think because literature has this reputation -- I don't think it's correct -- as being this high-culture thing. Even within the history of Canadian literature, we ask 'Where do we find our culture?' and we never really look to hockey because that's seen as low culture or popular culture, rather than literary culture."

While teaching a pair of hockey essays to first-year English students recently, Davis was struck by how keen her students were on the material.

"I thought 'This is really close to home for a lot of people' and 'This would make a good course,'" she says.

While athlete biographies and how-to-play books dominate the sports shelves in bookstores, Davis found no shortage of home-grown hockey literature.

Paul Quarrington's "King Leary", Fred Stenson's collection of hockey short stories called "Teeth", W.P. Kinsella's "Truth" and Roch Carrier's "The Hockey Sweater" are among the works her students will analyse.

Non-fiction works include Tim Bowling's essay "Na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye" which is about his love-hate relationship with the sport.

Excerpts from Theoren Fleury's book "Playing With Fire" and Laura Robinson's "Crossing the Line" examine the darker side of the country's obsession with hockey.

"Everybody has this idea that it's the great Canadian dream to be an NHL hockey player and you've got to be happy if you make it," Davis says. "(Fleury's) biography shows a lot of unhappiness and in a way, it challenges that myth. …