Summary: When Tara’s championship-winning baseball team finds themselves in their off-season, a goading dare from a local boys hockey team nudges them into becoming hockey players. While they have the skills, the politics behind playing on a girls hockey team quickly become apparent as they face one obstacle after another: the loss of their coach, limited ice time and outrageous practice hours. As the dare becomes a bet that involves having the highest standings in their respective leagues, Tara and her friends face extra discrimination as they must fight for the right just to play the games they have scheduled as opposed to only focussing on winning them. Their struggle for equality on the ice infects the community; challenging long-held beliefs about who belongs in sport, and what being equals really means.
Number of Pages: 151
Age Range: 13-17
Review: I admit to prejudging Hockey Girl by Natalie Hyde. Some books on my Marathon of Books I look forward to reading, and some I don’t. I tend to shy away from books about sports because it is one of my least favourite genres. But the old adage about the folly of judging a book by its cover proved true today as I found myself immersed in an empowering tale of female equality.
Hockey Girl is more than a simple sports book, it is a sensitive and thoughtful exploration of the institution of hockey in Canada and the double standards that exist for female and male players. Though the book is about Tara and her team’s struggles, I love Hyde’s juxtaposition of Tara and Kip, one highly discouraged from playing the game, and the other encouraged to the point of obsession. They share similar feelings and frustrations for different reasons, which leads to their easy connection and attraction.
Tara and her team face challenge after challenge, constantly having to rise above and prove themselves as serious athletes. When their ice time gets cancelled because too many male teams need it, the team challenges the status quo and shakes things up with a t-shirt campaign. Simple, yet effective, the t-shirts feature an equal sign, indicating that female hockey players should get as much ice time as their male counterparts. The shirts spark a community discussion about equality, putting pressure on those in charge, and the revelations of key characters wearing the shirts was immensely enjoyable.
Hyde keeps levity in her tale with the bet between the girls and boys hockey teams. The stakes of having to cheer on the other team all season long in a predetermined costume is perhaps unfairly balanced with the guys’ insistence on a revealing outfit for the girls if they lose, but serves as a huge motivator.
I like Hockey Girl as a pick for teen girls of all ages, because its’ message of the importance of fighting inequality is powerful and moving. Inspired by real life events (see http://www.fitzhenry.ca/HockeyGirl/ ), Hyde’s book reminds us of how far we still have to go when it comes to being equal.
After the end of the book I just had one question: “Where’s my t-shirt?”
“I tried not to, but I couldn’t help smiling. ‘It’s my family,’ I said. ‘For my brothers, it’s hockey this and hockey that, and for me, it’s “Tara, can you be our maid so the boys can play?” And when I have to miss one tiny thing because of a practice, I get the “guilt look.”‘
Kip nodded. ‘Oh, I know that look well. Only I get it if I even hint that I might miss a practice because I’m not feeling well, or heaven forbid, need to study for an exam. And don’t even think about missing a game. You should have heard my dad arguing wit the doctor to let me back on the ice only a week after the concussion. Dr. Chan was having none of it. Given the chance, I’m sure my dad would wheel me out onto the ice on a stretcher or tape my hockey stick to a cast before he let me miss a game.'” – Conversation between Tara and Kip from Hockey Girl by Natalie Hyde, page 99
“‘Oh, poor baby hockey star,’ I said. ‘It’s terrible that you are so talented and forced to follow your dream. Do you even know what it’s like to have someone else telling you what you can and cannot do?’
Kip got quiet. ‘As a matter of fact I do. I’ve told my dad in a thousand different ways that I don’t want a career in hockey. I want to study mechanical engineering. Might as well be telling him I want to be a chicken plucker. He keeps pushing me to go straight to the OHL so I have a better chance at playing pro. I want to play Junior A so I can get a real hockey scholarship down the road. He just brushes it off like it’s a phase I’m going through and keeps talking about tryouts for hockey camps and invites scouts to watch my games.’
‘But you’re so good at hockey. You told me you love the game.’
“I do love hockey. But not as my job. It’s a pretty unstable business and besides…’ he smiled wryly. ‘I wouldn’t mind keeping all my brain cells.'” – Conversation between Tara and Kip from Hockey Girl by Natalie Hyde, page 110-111
“We chomped our fries in silence. It really was a bit hard to take. When it came right down to it, the men in town only tolerated us as long as we didn’t inconvenience the “important” sports teams. It was not unlike how it was at home. My parents came to my softball games only if there was nothing else on the schedule. And forget practices altogether. We were alone on that field. And now the same with our hockey team. It didn’t matter what sport we played or how well we did, we girls were always second best.” – Tara from Hockey Girl by Natalie Hyde, page 113
“‘A girl has a better chance of making it to the National Team than a boy does of making it into the NHL. On those statistics alone we should be letting all the girls play ad cutting the boys’ ice times back.’
My dad’s mouth hung open.
‘Not to mention that the city seems to have no trouble taking taxes from every working woman in town to help pay for the arenas, parks, and ball diamonds. Why then shouldn’t the women have equal access?’
She stood up and unbuttoned her sweater and took it off. I almost had tears in my eyes when I saw what she was wearing underneath. A hot pink T-shirt with a glittery gold equal sign stamped in the middle.” – Tara’s mother from Hockey Girl by Natalie Hyde, page 122