As anyone who has followed the sport knows, hockey demands of its players a certain humility. Celebrating an easy goal too ostentatiously is a no-no, as is taking too much credit for your team’s success. (Thus, phrases like “it’s a team effort” are drilled into young players’ heads for use in media interviews.) Modesty and team play are untouchable cornerstones of the game – no wonder that Canadians love it so.
This moral is reinforced in Vancouver animator Chris Mizzoni’s first book. A retelling of “Casey at the Bat” (every publishing season must have one, it seems), the bright and breezy story follows the fortunes of Clancy Cooke, a flashy young player whom no one can match. Drafted to the lowly Hogtown Maple Buds, Clancy quickly becomes a star, even helping bring the Buds to the verge of Stanley Cup success. When it all comes down to Clancy in the final game, however, his hubris gets the best of him, and the game is lost. Clancy’s fate isn’t too harsh, however – we next see him as an old man, happily driving the Zamboni.
Mizzoni works at a computer animation company, which has created an animated DVD short that’s included with the book. Though the book’s illustrations were created entirely on computer, they are not so flashy or overwhelming as to be mistaken for a kind of ad for Mizzoni’s employer. The foregrounded human figures are all drawn with a cleverly retro hockey-card look, though there is a definite lack of depth in the rather static and unintegrated backgrounds. Some of the spreads have a cut-and-paste feel about them, but the story’s overall appeal helps to overcome this. This book is a modest charmer, just like its hero, and just like the ideal heroes of the game it celebrates.