Hockey Mom Book Club: The Hockey Saint and Hockey Karma By Howard Shapiro
Summer is the perfect time to catch up some reading. Rink time has slowed down (hopefully) and long, lazy, hot days just beg for you to pick up a good book. Of course, my selections also include hockey themed books so stay tuned each week for a different title and even ones that your player might enjoy! Disclosure: I have not received compensation for this review and opinions are my own. I did purchase The Hockey Saint however author Howard Shapiro kindly added in Hockey Karma complimentary.
It's a two-for-one in the Hockey Mom Book Club this week! I had the long overdue pleasure of reading the graphic novel The Hockey Saint by Howard Shapiro and he kindly offered the sequel to me to read as well.
Both The Hockey Saint and Hockey Karma follow college hockey player Tom Leonard as he navigates life and hockey amidst personal demons. A not-so-chance encounter with his hockey idol Jeremiah (Jake) Jacobson, who likens himself to the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards; Tom's life soon takes on a whole new dimension as he finds out more about himself, the game of hockey and the idea that perfection doesn't exist. Taking a very real look into some of the darker areas of professional sports, The Hockey Saint, explores sports media and its expectations of professional athletes, alcohol addiction and the pressure people put on themselves when in the limelight. It also proves the point that selflessness and friendship can be salve to the soul.
Hockey Karma picks up years later as both Jake and Tom, now well into adulthood, are facing their own different challenges. A new kid on the team forces Jake to take a long, hard look at the fact that he is slowing down and aging out in the professional hockey world. Not accepting that reality lightly he pushes himself to the brink of losing everything, including his wife and kids. Tom struggles with his adult identity and making the difficult choices about who he is and what he wants. While still best friends, Tom and Jake find their friendship tested with painkiller addiction, and selfish motives while trying to work toward a common goal...saving a community from economic crisis.
I have not read a graphic novel in quite a while. Having never been a comic book it's a genre I've never really explored. That being said, I enjoyed The Hockey Saint and Hockey Karma very much. Far easier to follow for me than other graphic novels I've run across, the illustrations keep up with the action and serve, as they should in my opinion, to be a supporting character to the story, not THE story. Fun fact, Howard makes song recommendations as an accompaniment to each chapter. And for those in their 40's bands like Rush, The Flaming Lips, Bill Idol, David Bowie and The Kinks are excellent choices that serve to enhance the story.
The thread of lasting friendship despite bumps in the road and disagreements is a refreshing theme for your older teen player and what parent doesn't relate to the "getting older" lessons to be learned? As the mother of a hockey playing DAUGHTER, I also appreciated the female coach character and the discussion on gender equality in sports in Hockey Karma. Very timely considering the challenges facing the newly formed NWHL and its players.
Recommended for your older teens and up, I give both Hockey Karma and The Hockey Saint 4 pucks out of 5 for tackling addiction, unrealistic expectations for athletes and for showing us that friendship and selflessness can still work in the world.