Virgil was a supervisor at the mine. He was married and had three boys. The days of the far-flung reserve tournaments had long gone, and there were Native teams in town leagues and amateur leagues across the North. As more Indian hockey players made the National Hockey League, it had become easier for Native kids to get on established teams. The reserve tournaments had evolved into huge annual tournaments in places like Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury and Timmins. Those tourneys featured up to twenty-four teams, and the skill level was so impressive that big-league scouts were no longer oddities in the stands. The Moose had all grown up, married or moved away, and what remained of them was called the Manitouwadge Miners now. They played in a Senior B circuit and had yet to come close to a championship. But they were good. Fred filled me in on everything as we ate the lunch Martha prepared for us.

“You’re only thirty-three, Saul,” he said. “They could use you on the Miners.”

“I haven’t played since I left here. Haven’t been on skates since then either.”

“Talent like yours doesn’t go away.”

While we ate I told them about Father Leboutilier. I told them about how the game was the means of my emotional and mental survival. I told them how I could lose myself in it and how when I found I couldn’t any longer, the joy I’d found and the elaborate cover it offered me both disappeared. They listened and nodded, and when I had finished we sat in a well of silence.

“So I think what I want to do is coach,” I said finally. “Kids. Native kids. I want to bring them the joy I found; the speed, the grace, the strength and the beauty of the game. I want to give that back.”

Martha smiled. “Virgil’s looking for a coach. The mine sponsors a bantam team. Virgil’s been trying to coach them, but it’s hard to make time, with shift work and all.”

“They’re practicing tonight, if you want to have a look,” Fred said.

“End of the season, isn’t it?” I asked.

“Two more games. Still, you should take a look at the squad.”


“Town built a big expensive arena a few years ago. You can’t miss it. It’s got a white roof you can see from most anywhere. I can drive you over.”

“Think I’ll walk. Be good to see the old town again.”

“She ain’t changed much. A few bigger stores, more people. But she’s always been a mill and mining town and she’ll never get away from that.”

“Sounds perfect to me,” I said.