An excerpt from Zettell’s novel, The Checkout Girl, published by Signature Editions in 2008.
“Let me say it flat out right here: skating is the single most important part of the game of hockey.”
- Bobby Orr
It was 1955, the year Kathy turned five, the first time she and Charlie flooded the backyard to make Rausch’s Rink. They’d moved that year to a brand new bungalow in Pleasant View Subdivision in the east end of Varnum. They made a rink every winter until 1959, the year Shelly, a distant and fretful baby, was born. As if contagious, Shelly’s unhappiness spread through the family, first to Connie, then to Charlie and finally to Kathy. The next year Charlie was killed in a car accident.
1955 was the same year a hockey coach named Anthony Gilchrist wrote Punch Imlach and told him he might want to send out a scout to watch a young player from Parry Sound, a twelve-year-old. Gilchrist told Imlach he might want to get the boy on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ signing list before some other scout got to him. Bobby Orr was the kid’s name.
Of course, Charlie didn’t know anything about Bobby Orr, and Kathy didn’t either, not then. But in 1966, when Bobby started playing for the Boston Bruins, anybody who knew anything about hockey knew he was the Canadian hope that was going to save the Bruins, and maybe some day take them to the Stanley Cup. What Kathy came to know about Bobby, the thing she knew Charlie would have seen too, that even Connie could see, was that Bobby Orr could skate. He laced his bare feet into a pair of hockey skates and once he hit the ice he was part of it; he never looked down, always knew where his feet were, where the puck was, where the opening was going to be. Always knew when to shoot. Bobby Orr skated as if the ice spoke to him.
Yes, Charlie would have liked Bobby Orr. And everything Kathy hadn’t learned about skating from her father before he died, she learned later from watching Bobby.