Review by Sasa Popovich
HarperCollins Canada, 2019
169 pages, hard cover, $16.99 CAD, 978-1-44345-234-2
Ages 7-10, Grades 2-5
Middle Grade, Sports, Science Fiction
Swift looked across the ice at Edge, then at Beatrice, who was nodding.
The Raven’s goalie understood immediately. She was heading for a slump, just like Edge’s. She was thinking too hard, watching the puck too closely. And her hurt wrist was making her lose her instincts.
Am I really going to do this? she wondered.
Slowly, Swift closed her eyes.
She stopped thinking and started feeling.
Soon, she could hear the puck being scraped up off the ice; she could even hear it moving through the air.
And somehow, as if by magic, Swift now knew where that puck was headed, each and every shot.
With the shifting landscape of modern hockey, exactly what space do women occupy in the sport, and what does this mean for young girls just starting out?
In this third installment of Ice Chips—a series following the adventures of a young hockey team whose magical rink allows them to travel back in time—Ice Chips goalie Swift is faced with a difficult decision when the mayor of Riverton asks her to play on an all-girls hockey team with her arch rival, Beatrice Blitz. To help make this decision, Swift; her sister and teammate, “Blades;” and her friend and teammate, Lucas; travel back in time to the 1988 Calgary Olympics. There, they meet a girl called “Chicken,” who turns out to be Canadian hockey legend Hayley Wickenheiser. With lessons from her idol, Swift joins the all-girls team and even befriends her once nemesis Beatrice.
Ice Chips shows Swift defeating obstacles—both the deep-rooted sexism of hockey, and an injury at a pivotal point in the championship’s semi-final game—through the bonds between her and the story’s other female characters. The most empowering instance of this comes when Riverton’s mayor, Abigail Ward, replaces Henry Blitz as the coach of the team. As a child, Henry believed it was cheating for girls to play hockey, and as an adult, he is unable to recognize the contributions of his own daughter, Beatrice, who is one of the best players in the Riverton league. Not only does Mayor Ward replace Henry, but a friendship blossoms between once-rivals Swift and Beatrice. Henry’s defeat and subsequent humbling and recognition of women’s contributions to hockey mirrors the changing landscape of the real world of professional hockey, as efforts continue to establish a women’s national hockey league, and more and more women are working in journalism and front office management.
Another highlight of the story is the authors’ representation of Swift’s disability. Throughout her hockey life, Swift, who has a prosthetic leg, has had to work extra hard to play in a league for non-disabled players. However, the story presents her prosthetic leg as something that she lives and deals with, rather than the only challenge she faces. As such, Swift is defined more by her talent and work ethic than by her ability. These qualities are highlighted in the semi-final game, when Swift faces another physical challenge: her wrist has been bothering her ever since she injured it time-travelling. But just as she fears she may have to leave the game, her new friend Beatrice reminds her of a trick learned from the young Hayley Wickenheiser (AKA “Chicken”). Swift stops worrying about her wrist and begins using her intuition to track the puck. Through her new bond with Beatrice and the wisdom she learned from her idol, Swift is able to stop every puck for the rest of the game.
Ice Chips successfully addresses issues in the contemporary hockey world through the quirky, humorous voices of young children travelling through time. Moreover, it empowers young girls to persevere in a sport that is slowly changing in their favour. While the story takes inspiration from works such as Gordon Korman’s Slapshot series, it carves its own place in children’s sports literature as it deals with contemporary issues and appeals to today’s more “woke” generation.
Sasa Popovich is an undergrad student at UBC in the English Literature program. He has taken several creative writing classes as electives, with a focus on fantasy and children’s literature. In his free time, he is an avid hockey watcher.