Authors: Fran Hurcomb
Text copyright Â© 2008 Fran Hurcomb
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Hurcomb, Fran, 1949-
Going places / written by Fran Hurcomb.
(Orca young readers)
I. Title. II. Series.
PS8565.U72G63Â Â 2008Â Â jC813'.54Â Â C2008-903059-1
First published in the United States, 2008
Library of Congress Control Number
: Girls' hockey has finally come to Fort Desperation,
Northwest Territories, along with vandalism,
a mystery and the possibility of a road trip.
The author would like to acknowledge the support
of the Northwest Territories Arts Council.
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
Cover artwork by Gary Alphonso
Author photo by Kathleen Smith
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Printed and bound in Canada.
11 10 09 08 â¢ 4 3 2 1
To all of the Hockey Girls
across the North.
Thanks as always to Dave and Kathleen for being supportive and helpful with technical details. Thanks also to Ann Westlake for early editing and encouragement and Sarah Harvey of Orca Book Publishers for her skillful editing, which managed to be both educational and enjoyable.
With four seconds left in the final game, Hayley Wickenheiser scored for Canada on an empty net, and that was it. Game over. Canada had beaten the United States 2â0 to win the Four Nations Cup.
“Wow,” said my mom, “what a game.”
“Yeah,” I replied, relaxing back into the couch in the corner of our cafÃ©. “They are so good. How can they play like that?”
Mom reached up and turned off the tv; then she settled down on her stool behind the counter. She's the proud owner and proprietor of Casey's CafÃ©, the only restaurant in all of beautiful Fort Desperation, Northwest Territories. Casey was my dad, whose dream the whole thing was, way back in the eighties.
He died three years ago, and Mom decided to keep the place going. I am the number-one assistant, which means waitress, dishwasher and cleaning lady, when required.
“Years of practice, Jess. Who knows? Maybe someday you'll play for Team Canada.”
I laughed. “Yeah, right. You know what I like best? I like the way they pass the puck around. Way more than in men's hockey.”
“I like that there's no bodychecking,” added Mom. “I hate seeing men being pounded into the boards. This is much more civilized.”
I leaned further back into the couch. “I wonder what it would be like to play girls' hockey?” I said.
“Do you think you'd like it?” asked Mom.
“I don't know, but sometimes I get tired of the boys. Some of them are getting awfully big and mean.”
“Well,” she said, “I was talking with Milly Smithersâ¦you know, the wife of that new rcmp corporal. They have three girls who all played girls' hockey back in Newfoundland.” I'd seen the girls at school. One of them, the middle girl, Daisy, was in my class. Our school is smallâa total of about two hundred students from grade one to twelveâ
so new faces really stand out. Daisy and her sisters were the topic of many conversations. They seemed friendly, but they kept to themselves. Having an rcmp dad probably meant they had more rules to follow than most of the kids in Fort Desperation.
“Just because it happens in Newfoundland doesn't automatically mean that it will happen here, Mom,” I pointed out. “This is the Northwest Territories. We're, like, thirty-five years behind the rest of the country in everything, including girls' hockey.”
“Now you know that's not true. We do have the Internet now.” She did have a point. The Internet had arrived in Fort Desperation two years ago. It was slow, but it was here.
“Anyway,” she continued, “if you'd like, I could do a little research online. I think Yellowknife has girls' hockey now.”
“Mom, Yellowknife is big. They even have a Wal-Mart. We have George's Trading Post and Video Rentals. It's just not the same. You can't compare us to Yellowknife.”
“Honey, couldn't you try to keep an open mind for a few days? Ask around. You never know. There might be some other girls who'd be interested. Playing with
girls might actually be fun, and besides, you're less likely to get hurt.”
Ahaaaaâ¦there it wasâ¦the real reason for this sudden interest in girls' hockey. Last year I'd broken my collarbone in a boy's game against Hay River. That Melvin Laroque plays so dirty. I never even saw him coming. He flattened me into the boards and skated away with a big grin on his face. They took me off on a stretcher. It was so embarrassing. It made me feel a little better to hear that my teammate Michael Greyeyes beat him up after the game. But stillâ¦I was out for the rest of the season, and that sucked.
Boys' hockey was rough, but I was used to it. The boys in town try not to kill me and the other girls, but in the last year or so some of them have grown so much that it even hurts when they lean on me in the corners. I sometimes feel like I'm surrounded by giant aliens. Boys from other communities aren't always so nice. In fact, it sometimes feels like they're out to get the girls, just to let us know that they think we shouldn't be playing hockey.
“Mom, girls' hockey might be totally wimpy. They don't even allow bodychecking. It would beâ¦” I tried to think of the right word. “Dainty!” I said finally.
She laughed. “I can't imagine you or Sam or Geraldine ever being dainty, dear. Sorry. Anyway, think about it a bit and talk to the others. You never know, it might work.”
As I walked down the main road after school the next day, trying hard not to break my ankles in the frozen ruts, I did think about girls' hockey. In some ways, it seemed like a good ideaâ¦to have other girls to change with would certainly be more fun. Right now, we had to change in the bathroom off the lobby, one at a time, while the boys got to monopolize the two changing rooms. And I had to admit that even though I had been playing with these boys since I was seven and knew them inside out, I really didn't feel like I belonged with them anymore. Some of them would be quite happy if girls never played.
This year I was supposed to play Bantam. I have one of those end-of-the-year birthdays that always
leaves me younger than everyone else on the team. My parents let me stay home an extra year when I was kindergarten age, so I started school later. It works out okay. I'm actually one of the oldest in my grade seven class, which might be why I get good marks.
Bantam was going to be tough. Some of those boys are really big, and they love bodychecking. It seems like that's their favorite part of hockey.
But nothing would ever make me quit hockey. It was the biggest thing in my life. I missed it when the season was finished, and I started dreaming about playing in July or so. In October, a gray time of year in Fort Desperation, the thought of it was all that kept me going. Since we had natural ice in the arena, we wouldn't be playing indoors till almost Christmas, but the pond behind the school would be frozen any day now, so at least there'd be a chance to play outside until the arena was ready.
When I got home, Spider, my skinny, long-legged, totally loveable dog was bouncing up and down on his chain beside the woodpile. His ice-blue eyes were
fastened on me, pleading for a walk. “Just a sec, boy. Let me grab your leash, and we'll go,” I said.
Spider is great. He's a reject from the sled-dog racing scene. He runs like the wind, but not when he's in harness. Show him a harness, and he goes on strike. One of the dog mushers from down south gave him to me last year after our local race. I was his last chance, and he knew it.
I unclipped him and let him run loose. There wasn't much traffic this time of day. There was never much traffic, come to think of it. We headed to the riverbank, where, with any luck, he might scare up a rabbit for a chase. I liked walking along the riverbank. It was sort of restful, but also interesting. The river was always changing.
The Mackenzie River is the whole reason for Fort Desperation being here at all. Fort Desperation isn't nearly as bad as it sounds. I think that the fur traders who founded it almost two hundred years ago were starving to death or something when they named it. But things must have improved, because it's still here today. About eight hundred people live here now, people of every kind. Lots are Dene or Metis, like me. Some are descendents of the original fur traders.
But there are also people from all over Canada. There are families from China, India and Europe and even a few old draft dodgers from the United States. Mostly everyone gets along okay.