Posted by: cedarsurf | October 25, 2007

Cold-Cocked

Cold Cocked

On Hockey

by Lorna Jackson

Biblioasis Pub.

There is more pain in this book then a Gordie Howe elbow to the chops. In Cold-Cocked Lorna Jackson writes of hockey and loss and reconciliation. She writes with anger, wit and insightfulness. The book is one part memoir, one part a fan’s notes. But not any fan – as Jackson writes “Players don’t make meaning; spectators do.”

Taking trips to interview Canucks players in the locker room Jackson must balance the notion that fiction writers are trained to look, with the reality of an athletic cup that’s level with her chest.

The title of Jackson’s book is useful as it uses the word cock which is integral to understanding NHL hockey and part of what attracts-distracts Jackson’s push pull relationship with the players. Jackson slips into many hypnotic and beautifully written fantasies of making it with Markus Naslund or other favourite Canucks. (She has a definite thing for Trevor Linden, which makes her a true Canucks fan.)

Cold-Cocked is a manifesto of what Jackson imagines hockey writing should be. “I like research that pokes at hockey through the bars of cinema and television studies in which getting off on a game is more properly called spectating pleasure. The NHL machine ignores people like me, women who abhor the easy cliché, the hypermasculine rhetoric.”

Lorna Jackson grew up in Vancouver watching hockey with her father, “sprawled on the living room carpet while my dad colonized the recliner with a big hunk of cheddar cheese in one hand and a Labbat’s blue in the other.”

Then one autumn afternoon in 1968, Jackson’s father doesn’t come home from work. A suicide note left in his car under the Burrard Street Bridge appears to confirm the worst. Jackson was 12 at the time of his disappearance. Two years later her father resurfaces, his hair dyed, with a new name and drivers licence. After a brief time in a psychiatric unit her father returns home to his family.

Jackson will never have the whole story of her father’s time away – so she reconstructs. Jackson follows the dictum of her former teacher, BC novelist Jack Hodgins who implored: write what matters, what mystifies us, what needs telling and sorting out.

Her father was a World War II bomber pilot and she researches that era in hopes of learning more about him but as Jackson notes, “History is huge and vague when you are looking for a person in it.”

With Jackson’s father disappearance her love for the game goes missing as well. Jackson moved on to other passions including music, when she toured as a country musician and had a few lost years. She became a born again fan during the 2002 Winter Olympics watching Canada win its first Olympic Gold Hockey medal in fifty years. Her rationale:

“Vancouver in 2003 was a great place to come back to hockey, where players gradually became the tragically flawed definitions of complex, heroic, unpredictable. And every night the narrative grew more surprising and exhilarating. It was also a time and place to come back to parts of myself I’d looked away from, staring back when I thought my father was a killer and sporting events had become, in George Orwell’s terms, “orgies of hatred.”

Over the course of two seasons Jackson travels to Canucks games from her home on Vancouver Island in Metchosin with her teenage daughter Lily. Jackson also writes of place and the west’s role in a nation’s hockey psyche. As she notes, “I take a boat to watch hockey.”

The hockey narrative is given a great boost with the Todd Bertuzzi –Steve Moore Orwellian orgy. The publisher’s notes suggest that Cold-Cocked is a way of describing the Todd Bertuzzi ‘incident’ (with a focus on Todd, not his victim Steve Moore). But the title could easily have referred to the shock of Jackson’s husband (writer Tom Henry) leaving her toward the end of the book. Call it Husbandless in Metchosin.

To reclaim herself and her body she turns to fitness (the book is one part insightful gym diary). Self conscious in the gym she is painfully reminded by a friend that she is off the radar of the young exercisers in the gym.

Ultimately Jackson encourages us to create our own narratives from the game and create our own meaning. Her take on Hockey Night in Canada’s colour commentator Don Cherry is spot on, “he sticks to a simplistic narrative that invites only one, over-determined reading of the game.”

Jackson’s mix of the puck and the personal create a dense and rewarding read with precision detail sentences. She shoots – she scores!

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