The Fictional Hockey League

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

Friday, October 17, 2014

Play the Man: Post 15

Chapter Ten: I Never Expected to Use the Academia Tag So Often

To Ryan’s credit, he doesn’t shirk his duty or complain when it’s his turn to awaken Nick. The patient, however, at first thinks it’s Jenna who’s come to wake him and invites the intruder into his bed. Sorry slash-fans, his response when he realizes it’s Ryan is “Ew, you’re fucking gross, Biggie. What the hell are you doing here?” because he’s forgotten again that he’s not in his own apartment (64).

Ryan suggests they play cards but changes his tune when Nick says he’d been playing strip poker with Jenna. Instead, they go and play Call of Duty on the Xbox. No, no, no, no, no. That’s a TERRIBLE idea for someone with a concussion. Dammit, that would be the last thing any decent doctor would allow. Gah.

Before, however, they can adjourn to the living room and the tv, Ryan insists that Nick put on pants because there’s no way he’ll allow nearly-naked Nick to sit on his couch. Weird.

This is more or less a throwaway scene that lets Ryan know that Nick has a lady friend of some sort (he assumes this when Nick is mostly out of it and suggesting that someone (Jenna) get in bed.)

The next morning, Jenna gets up as usual and does all her morning chores, including making breakfast, but “[t]oday, she had two growing boys to feed” (65). Could that be any more disgustingly motherly? The mothering imagery continues in the narratives description of what Jenna will be doing that day, instead of her usual Thursday activities.

She was supposed to keep an eye on [Nick]; it was going to be perfect practice for when there were kids roaming underfoot (65).

Which would be fine if Nick weren’t being set up to be her romantic partner. I’m all for being motherly if that’s what floats your boat, but to mother your fiancé is kinda gross, particularly since she’s expected to cook for them.

Ryan takes exception to the fact that Jenna cooked both bacon and sausage, since she doesn’t normally on a weekday and says he’d rather she was cooking it for him instead of Nick. Good grief, dude. She already cooks all your meals, gets your groceries, cleans the house, goes to all of your home games, and works with the Blackhawks charity events. You’re miffed because she cooked a little extra since you have an injured houseguest who is also your teammate? I cannot stand this guy.

And my hatred of Ryan gets stronger when Jenna goes through the mail and finds a notice about the Art Institute featuring a borrowed Caravaggio painting. (I’ll have more to say about that in a moment). Jenna asks Ryan to take her to see it, suggesting that they make an evening of it since they spend so little time together. His response?

He groaned. “You know I don’t like art, babe.” … “It’s art. You know I don’t get it” (66 emphasis original).

She’s not even suggesting that they roam the halls of the museum together—she wants to see one single painting and have dinner out. When she points out that she’s supportive of him and that she’s “not asking [him] to… even pretend to care” (66 emphasis original), he accuses her of guilting him into going.

I don’t condone violence in real life. In fiction, however, I hope someone slams Ryan’s head into the ice next game.

Ryan won’t talk about art, but for a moment I will. Well, sort of. First, I think it’s very odd that Jenna finds out about this exhibition of the Caravaggio through the mail since it’s occurring at the very place she goes to graduate school. I’d be shocked if one of her professors didn’t mention it in the classroom or she didn’t hear it from a classmate. And if she didn’t, I’d be triply shocked that she didn’t get an email about the exhibit, something mass-mailed to all the students. Getting the notice in the mail is a convenient way to shoehorn the information into the story at the right time for Jenna to bring it up with Ryan, but it was hardly necessary and not very likely.

Second, upon getting the notice, the narrative explores Jenna’s reaction.

Although she was focusing her studies on more modern art, she loved the Baroque period as well. This was a great opportunity, and she had to go (66 emphasis original).

My last art history class was more than a decade ago, I must admit. But I’m dreadfully confused by the above. The Baroque period started around 1600 in Italy, which I’d say is still broadly considered the Renaissance, or just after. (The Renaissance, of course, didn’t start one day and all of Europe flowered.) Jenna’s comment that she’s focusing on more modern art doesn’t necessarily mean modern art, just something more modern than Baroque, which, fair enough. But 40 pages earlier, as she had lunch with Ryan before he went off to play the Oilers, and he barely listened to her, she said the following.

“…I’m so excited for this semester’s class. Surrealism is so much fun. I mean, it’s not my favorite art movement, I appreciate the realism of Renaissance so much more, but still, I can’t wait. Picasso! Miro! Chagall! Oh, you know how much I love Chagall” (24).

I find it very odd that in the above passage she’s contrasting surrealism (not her favorite movement) to the Renaissance; she doesn’t say that *is* her favorite, but it’s suggested. Yet now Jenna is saying she’s actually focusing on more modern art. Perhaps someone with more art history experience than I can chime in about whether I’m right to find this weird. Baroque is certainly distinct from Renaissance (in some ways), but the latter is not more modern. I suppose it’s possible the author meant that Jenna is focusing on more modern art (ie surrealism) *this semester* but that’s not at all how graduate students talk about their work.

Anyway, the “pressure” from his fiancée wanting him to go out with her to see a single painting and then have dinner is too much for Ryan and he storms out of the house to go to practice, leaving Jenna, Nick, and way too much food.


  1. Why Picasso and Chagall? (I mean, Chicago has some great Chagall (and Picasso), but I have my doubts that this author even knows that.) Do people really think "Chagall" when someone says "surrealist?"

    *sigh* I can't even parse the whole Baroque/Renaissance thing, honestly. (Realism. Ugh. I hate it when people go all "realism" ... but then again, I love surrealists.)

    Also, this asshole is a shitty teammate. Both assholes. I know it's a romance novel and all, but I really would like Jenna to run off to ... eh, she likes the Renaissance, Italy or something. Alone. At least without these fuckwits. They can console one another with terrible console games.

  2. I suspect the author picked artists at random. "Surrealist? Let's ask Google!" Which... is more than she did for a concussion...

    Also, let me point out that Ryan isn't just a shitty teammate-- HE'S A SHITTY TEAM CAPTAIN. Ugh. You know, a team really takes a lot of its identity from a captain, well if s/he has a strong personality, and I would hate a team that has Ryan's identity. Oh wait... I already loathe the Blackhawks. ;) (Although not for its captain, irl.)

    Later in the book Nick suggests that Jenna go to Italy on her own, actually. But she can't. Because she has literally no money of her own. Zero income. (She'll later need to consider asking her parents for a ticket home to NH.)

    Terrible teammate, terrible romantic partner... she wants him to go see ONE painting with her then spend the rest of the evening doing whatever he wants. But no, "I don't get art." Ugh.

    Loathe these characters. Loathe.

    1. Oh yes. Worst team captain. Would punch & have team coup. Because seriously does anyone trust him with anything important, like playing hockey with others? I hope not. He obvs can't be trusted to behave like anything other than a petulant six-year-old.

      Oh no no no no no no no no no no no the no income of her own is a giant fucking red flag.

      But seriously tell me the book ends with a goalie crushing him for being a complete bag of dicks. (I know it doesn't. LIE TO ME.)

  3. He starts food fights, can't be trusted to tell other players when to do anything, won't help out his teammates, and doesn't go to optional skates. There is NOTHING about this character that says he ought to be team captain. Hell, everything about this characters says he's a first year rookie destined to be stuck on the fourth line forever or bounced from team to team, regardless of how much natural talent he might have.

    Yeah, later in the book I go into detail about the no income thing.

    Oh yes. The book ends with Sergei the Russian goalie, a giant of a man with a wingspan that can cover post to post, finally getting fed up with Captain Ryan's stupidity and his treatment of Jenna. The Blackhawks/Red Wings playoff series goes very violently, because the Blackhawks want revenge on the Wings for the hit on Nick that gave him the (magical) concussion. Sergei sees this as an opportunity. During an on-ice, bench-clearing brawl (one that would see many, many players get fines), Sergei "accidentally" trips his captain to the ice and in the confusion, hits him several times with his stick and lands on his chest when he himself gets hit by a Red Wings player. (He wouldn't have needed to fall, but found that since Ryan was on the ice below him, he valued the opportunity to sit on his captain, violently, over the bruising his ego would take for being seen as getting felled by another player.

    Sadly for Ryan, in the melee that has ensued, his calf gets cut by a player's skate-- no one ever could figure out, despite replays, whose. Ryan had refused to wear the Kevlar socks that some players have chosen to put on under their shin guards. This means that while he will play again, it won't be during these playoffs. Furthermore, his conduct within the brawl-- he started it-- makes the coaching staff reconsider Ryan's overall conduct as captain. Since he's a bag of dicks, he has his "C" removed, albeit he's told it's temporary until he's back on the ice next season. Instead, he's traded to Winnipeg. In Canada, fans and coaches don't put up with such nonsense, and after a season where he spends more time off the ice than on, he's sent down to the AHL team. His ego cannot handle this, so he retires from hockey.

    Unfortunately, he has absolutely no skills whatsoever and he ends up in massive amounts of debt, living in a terribly dirty house (he has no fiancee to clean for him), living off of ramen (he has no fiancee to cook for him), and begging people to let him play in their beer leagues. Obviously he's better than beer league play so people want him, at first, as a ringer, but when it becomes clear that he's a bag of dicks, they don't let him do even that much.

    Finally, he ends up on Battle of the Blades, but he is quickly eliminated (for being a bag of dicks.) He drinks himself to eventual death in complete obscurity. Once in a while he'll be mentioned by sportscasters when a new player turns out to be a bag of dicks and gets compared to Ryan.

    Sergei gets traded to a team that is not full of bags of dicks and goes on to win a Cup.

    As for Nick, he gets another concussion and the inept Blackhawks trainers again don't force him to go to the hospital and this time he's not in love with someone who can convince him to go. It turns out it's a brain bleed. He survives but can never play hockey again.

    Jenna realizes that while she loves art, she knows absolutely nothing about academia and quits grad school to run a day care, since she has so many mothering skills she learned from taking care of her fiance.

    Katie, the art history friend, has a brief fling with Nick before his tragic second concussion but dumps him because he, too, is an asshat. She then gets her masters and PhD in art history and becomes a successful art historian, not only teaching at a respected university(with her actual PhD, unlike Hayden from Body Check) but also studying art therapy and helping children on the autism spectrum.

    1. And Alex, the asshat best friend, falls madly and truly in love with a guy who works in concessions. He realizes that his terrible actions towards women have all been a cover for his own sexual insecurity. Sadly, the concessions guy breaks Alex's heart. But Alex uses his new-found wisdom and hockey fame to campaign for women's rights and for QUILTBAG rights. Eventually he meets his future husband and lives happily ever after.

      (Alex as written doesn't deserve such a good ending but I figured I was fairly dark with all the other comments....) ;)

    2. GLORIOUS.

      Sergei pleases me greatly.

      The whole thing pleases me greatly, in fact. You win.