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Hockey is indisputably part of any definition of Canadian culture. So reading John Degen’s first novel, which tells the story of three men whose lives are connected through the Stanley Cup is a treat.

Stan Cooper is a hockey timekeeper whose failed marriage, together with a momentary lapse in judgment, cost him his first job and eventually leads to the gig of cup custodian. After Cooper dies, Tony Chiello, a failed hockey player whose talent is stymied by his average physique, succeeds him. Dragos Petrescu, a Romanian-born hockey player, is bringing the cup home for a wedding.

Any one of these stories could have been a novel in its own right and that’s the failure of this otherwise enjoyable book. Stan Cooper’s story, set 50 years ago, seems only tenuously linked to the gripping story of how Petrescu’s family escapes from Communist-era Romania to start a new life in Montreal. There’s too much story in this otherwise finely written and charmingly Canadian novel. (Ron Nurwisah)

by John Degen, $16.95, 234 pgs, Nightwood Editions, 4437 Rondeview Road, Madeira Park, BC, V0N 2H0

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