Father Quinney and Sister Ignacia protested at first about my age and small size and the effect that breaching rules would have on the rest of the children. But once Father Quinney saw me play, things changed.

“He has a God-given gift for it, Sister,” he said when Sister Ignacia pressed the issue.

I kept my morning job, but now I wore the skates when I shovelled. Once the ice was cleared I would pull one of the nets from its place on the snowbank and dangle my boots from the corners and practice hitting them with wrist shots. I created skating drills for myself. I did figure eights in both directions. I did them skating backwards. I set up lines of pucks and practiced cutting between them at as fast a speed as I could manage, switching between skating forward and backwards as I did it. I’d watched figure skaters on Father Leboutilier’s television, and I started to mimic their movements in my play. I made spinning turns, abrupt changes of direction on one foot. There wasn’t a nuance that I didn’t try to incorporate into what felt like flying, being borne across the sky on great wings. I loved that. I was a small boy with outsized skates, and in the world that hockey had created I found a new home.

I’d never heard from my parents. Maybe they couldn’t find me. Maybe their shame over abandoning us in the bush was too great. Or maybe the drink had taken them over as easily as hockey had claimed me. Some nights I felt crippled by the ache of loss. But I knew that loneliness would be dispelled by the sheen of the rink in the sunlight, the feel of cold air on my face, the sound of a wooden stick shuffling frozen rubber.