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Midnight Hockey: All About Beer, the Boys and the Real Canadian Game

by Bill Gaston

Midnight Hockey reveals a new side of Giller Prize-shortlisted author Bill Gaston. Meet “Gaston Beel,” a Canadian junior hockey player who spent a year in his vagabond youth as a player-coach – Reg Dunlop-style – in France’s Ligue du Sud and who now plays oldtimers’ hockey in Victoria. Gaston’s book includes all of the passed gas, drunken nights, bad backs, and (large) belly laughs that come with hockey for men over the age of 35.

Everything is here, from the excessive drinking to the somewhat more surprising, but quite frank, discussion of sex during out-of-town tournaments. Any oldtimer who picks up the book will undoubtedly find himself somewhere amid Gaston’s honest and occasionally harsh portraits of his teammates, past and present.

Overall, the book is quite funny, and its episodic structure keeps it from getting bogged down in narrative. The closest thing to a continuing storyline the book has is whether Gaston, hindered by health problems and nagging injuries, will be able to continue playing.

Midnight Hockey is not without its faults. Like many aging athletes, Gaston relives a few too many of his old war stories in the book. He has had some unique experiences, including his time in France (where he was dubbed “Gaston Beel,” which sort of makes sense if you think about it), but they don’t justify a nearly 300-page book. This is a light, breezy read that could have, and should have, been even breezier.