Summary: Living in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, a town that is dedicated to its hockey teams, Gary McDonald is a thirteen year-old hockey player hoping to make the local Bantam AAA. A farm team called the New Mexico Snow Dogs moves to Charlottetown, but the small community paired with the team’s overall lack of skill means ticket sales are not meeting the owners’ expectations. One player named Dmitri, however, is headed for stardom in the NHL, but his problems with the Russian Mafia require that he turn to Gary and his family for help. In the midst of all of the drama, Gary is also dealing with the separation of his parents and conflict with another kid on his hockey team.
Number of Pages: 252
Age Range: 13-14
Review: Rink of Dreams is about the reorganization of Gary’s family with the separation of his parents, but it’s mainly about the beloved pastime of hockey in small town Canada.
My favourite character was Dmitri, because I genuinely felt for him in his situation. Trying to make a better life for his family by moving to North America and becoming a NHL player, Dmitri is still bound to Russia and controlled by the Mafia when they threaten his brother. He has trouble adjusting culturally, because while he believes in playing hockey for the pure love of the game, he is understandably discouraged when the media accuses him of only being in it for the money and a spot in the NHL for his brother.
While on the surface this is simple story about one boy’s love of hockey and where it takes him, Russell provides her reader with an incisive look at Canada’s connection to the sport, its pitfalls and triumphs, and the role it plays in smaller communities. Even though the Snow Dogs only came to Charlottetown for a year, the townspeople become quite attached to their team and are angry when they feel the owners aren’t using their best players in the farm league.
Russell also uses her story to comment on a real problem – smaller towns may be quite enthusiastic about their hockey teams, but they do not have the population needed to support a team through attending hockey games. There is a disharmony between players, fans and owners as some fans and players love the game itself, while other players and owners use hockey to make money. I agreed with her that it seemed ridiculous to move a farm team from a loyal fan base in a winter-based country to a place that doesn’t even know what winter is because their arenas will seat a large crowd.
Rink of Dreams is a story for young teen readers who love the game of hockey.
Memorable Quotes: I did learn a lot about hockey and Canada’s devotion to our national pastime, but there were no specific quotes that stood out for me.