Sunday, December 07, 2008

On the Shelf, Part VI: Quotable Quotes and Open Ice

“He who learns must suffer.”

The nexus of my adductor longus and iliopsoas was on the mend. Nearly three months after tearing those muscles, I resumed skating, at least in pre-game warm-ups; I could feel the improvement from week to week as I anticipated an early-December return to the Capitals’ roster. But now, the injury may be getting worse. Maybe it was last week’s violent sneezes (coupled with my predisposition for delayed reaction) that has caused an intermittent searing sensation in the damaged area. Whatever the cause, I’ll be on the shelf for who knows how long. My hopes for a return this season have vanished, but I’m confident this unexpected and prolonged absence will enlighten me as much as I’m hopeful the following review will prod you to purchase the book.

Open Ice
by Jack Falla

Falla was a master at connecting the dots, those seemingly so-far-away quotes—from Aeschylus to Emerson—to poignant points in his own life. From “A Death in Montreal”, where Falla found solace in Emerson’s thoughts about other men, lenses, and reading our minds, to “Goodbye to the Backyard Rink?”, where the self-proclaimed “hockey lifer” juxtaposed Jewett’s comments about chapter endings, Open Ice has become a posthumous farewell to all those who love hockey as much as the author did and—I believe—still does.

“I kept thinking about religion, death and the possibility of an afterlife…,” Falla wrote, in “Requiem for the Cucumber”, about his road trip from Chicoutimi (where cool as a you-know-what George Vezina is buried) to Quebec City (where Falla felt connected to his forebears).

Falla, of French Canadian heritage and a former amateur netminder, chronicled his evolving connection to the namesake for the trophy awarded to the NHL’s finest goalie; describes the rise and fall—and rebirth—of a “particular subspecies of the genus hockey player” in “The Rink Rat”; and finds strength by learning to let go of his home ice in “Goodbye to the Backyard Rink?”

As I recount my reading of Falla’s gracious revelations, I think of the quote that he employed—this one to enrich his respect for hockey’s greatest amateur player in “Searching for Hobey Baker”—as it relates to Falla himself.

“His nature is too noble for this world.”-Coriolanus, by William Shakespeare
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