The Fictional Hockey League

Critiquing hockey romance novels, of which there are many. Overthinking it is the point.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Play the Man: Post 13

Chapter Eight: Suddenly! Plot!

Jenna resorts to passive-aggressiveness regarding Ryan and the guest list. Instead of nagging him, she leaves bridal magazines and mock-up invitations around the house, but he still doesn’t bother to create the list. Once the recapping of the wedding troubles has been accomplished, the next scene starts properly at a home game for the Chicago Blackhawks versus the Detroit Redwings.

Before this game, Jenna runs into Nick, whom she hasn’t seen in two weeks. They chat briefly, and since we jump from perspective to perspective, his response to seeing her is to get away.

Jenna tilted her head to the side and tried to peer past the façade he had built up to purposely keep her out. All his years of hard work and dedication would be going to waste if he let her sabotage him. He couldn’t let that happen (55).

Note, of course, the egregious change of POV in those few sentences. But beyond that, I find the characterization of Jenna sabotaging Nick to be downright bizarre. Surely he cannot blame Jenna for his crush on her.

Out of nowhere, we learn that “games…across the NHL, had been increasingly violent and devastating” (54). So apparently there isn’t currently a Director of Player Safety in this novel’s NHL? Injuries happen in hockey—the game is too fast paced and, y’know, on ice, for that not to happen.* But if there’s been a noticeable increase in injuries caused by violence, the League takes action. Granted, the repercussions doled out aren’t necessarily consistent—one player might get a suspension while another gets only a fine—but there are repercussions. And if there’s a pattern, then repercussions get stepped up. If this is a normal game in November, as the text declares, then the Department of Player Safety would definitely be taking action, since that sort of thing only increases over the season and exponentially into the playoffs.

During the third period, however, Nick takes a “devastating open-ice hit delivered by a hulking Red Wing defenseman in the neutral zone” (55). The text gives us no further clue as to what happened here. Was it an intentional hit? A late one? Did Nick have the puck? Was the Red Wing targeting Nick’s head? Was his shoulder up? So many unknowns. So even if Nick was entirely likeable, which, frankly, he’s not, I wouldn’t immediately blame the Red Wings player without knowing a hell of a lot more.

Generally, though, the players don’t really know what happened at any given time on the ice—they’re too busy doing their own things and hits like this happen incredibly fast. So the team’s reaction—that one of them rushed to fight the Red Wing who did the hit—makes sense. Two Blackhawks end up in the penalty box for roughing after the hit. The team wants to do their best to at least tie, if not win, for the player who’s been hurt, but at the same time they’re distracted and worried and angry, and that doesn’t generally make for good hockey play. So the Blackhawks lose in regulation.

As for Nick, he had to be helped off the ice and to the dressing room. It’s pretty common during games to hear that someone is “going to the dressing room” if they’ve been hurt, but it’s odd that this author chooses to really send her character there. There are actual examination/health rooms where anyone hurt should be taken. But no, he is definitely in the locker room itself, because later he’s described as being at his stall. Nick spends the rest of the game with an altered (angry) personality, confusion (he thinks the game hasn’t started yet), and absolutely refusing to go to the hospital for a CT scan.

This also seems odd to me. Clearly, Nick either has a concussion or worse (a brain bleed.) Everyone in the NHL knows about traumatic brain injuries and their likelihood. That’s why they wear mouthguards and helmets and the NHLPA and the League are often talking about ways to minimize the potential for these kinds of injuries. So while Nick may be refusing to go to the hospital, he’s not currently of sound mind. Surely someone else in the league, be it coach or trainer, would have the power to get him to the hospital in a situation like this. Instead, they’re arguing with him, so he’s still sitting in the locker room when the team finishes the game and returns.

Furthermore, media has access to the locker rooms after games; it’s part of the NHL rules. There is just no way that they’d have Nick in the room; the media would be mobbing him to learn more. The wives, girlfriends, and family are already coming into the locker room, where is the media?

Nick snaps at Ryan that he’s not going to the hospital. Jenna shows up and asks Ryan what’s going on with Nick—which is odd since he can’t be more than a couple of feet away since he’s in the locker room—and Ryan tells her that Nick is refusing to go to the hospital.

“What? Is it that bad that he needs to go to the hospital?” (57 emphasis original).

What? Is Jenna so stupid that she doesn’t know about the most troubling aspect of hockey player injuries despite having dated a hockey player for eight years, three of those while he played in the NHL and before that in the AHL? You hit your head, you sit in the quiet room and probably go to the hospital. You hit your head hard enough to be confused, you go to the damn hospital. You just do.

Ryan suggests that Jenna convince Nick to go to the hospital and he agrees if she’ll go with. The trainers beg her to go and she reluctantly agrees and also agrees that he can come home with her and Ryan afterwards, since he’ll need observation. Ryan is angry about this agreement, since things at their house aren’t exactly happy at the moment, but she points out that he’s the captain and thus he should be offering to take care of him.

So now we’ve brought the three romance players into one setting. I’d say that this is the breaking point, but we’re only at page 58 of 165.

*One friend’s response to learning I’d taken up hockey was, “Does she want to DIE?!”

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