Friday, December 29, 2006

Incidental References to Hockey in Literature #1: The Florida Panthers

In honor of the Canadiens’ visit to Miami tonight, I present the first in what I’m sure will be a very occasional series on references to hockey in non-hockey-themed fiction. Today’s example is perhaps the only significant reference made to the Florida Panthers in a novel to date. The book is Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, an alliterative thriller about a charming, surprisingly likable serial killer. This particular exchange takes place between the titular fiend and a detective co-worker (pp. 92-94).

“They found the body,” she said. “You know. The rest of it that goes with the head.”

I stood up. “Where?”

She looked at me the way a cop looks at somebody who finds corpseless heads in the street. But she answered. Office Depot Center,” she said.

“Where the Panthers play?” I asked, and a little icy-fingered jolt ran through me. “On the ice?”

LaGuerta nodded, still watching me. “The hockey team,” she said. “Is that the Panthers?”

“I think that’s what they’re called,” I said. I couldn’t help myself.

She pursed her lips. “They found it stuffed into the goalie’s net.”

“Visitor’s or home?” I asked.

She blinked. “Does it make a difference?”

I shook my head. “Just a joke, Detective.”

“Because I don’t know how to tell the difference. I should get somebody there who knows about hockey,” she said, her eyes finally drifting away from me and across the crowd, searching for somebody carrying a puck. “I’m glad you can make a joke about it,” she added. “What’s a—” she frowned, trying to remember, “— a sam-bolie?”

“A what?”

She shrugged. “Some kind of machine. They use it on the ice?”

“A Zamboni?”

“Whatever. The guy who drives it, he takes it out on the ice to get ready for practice this morning. A couple of the players, they like to get there early? And they like the ice fresh, so this guy, the—” she hesitated slightly “—the sam-bolie driver? He comes in early on practice days. And so he drives this thing out onto the ice? And he sees these packages stacked up. Down there in the goalie’s net? So he gets down and he takes a look.” She shrugged again. “Doakes is over there now. He says he can’t get the guy to calm down enough to say any more than that.”

“I know a little about hockey,” I say.

She looked at me again with somewhat heavy eyes. “So much I don’t know about you, Dexter. You play hockey?”

“No, I never played,” I said modestly. “I went to a few games.” She didn’t say anything and I had to bite my lip to keep from blathering on. In truth, Rita had season tickets for the Florida Panthers, and I had found to my very great surprise that I liked hockey. It was not merely the frantic, homicidal mayhem I enjoyed. There was something about sitting in the huge, cool hall that I found relaxing, and I would happily have gone there even to watch golf. In truth, I would have said anything to make LaGuerta take me to the rink. I wanted to go to the arena very badly. I wanted to see this body stacked in the net on the ice more than anything else I could think of, wanted to undo the neat wrapping and see the clean dry flesh, wanted to be there so much that I felt like a cartoon of a dog on point, wanted to be there with it so much that I felt self-righteous and possessive about the body.

While I do think most Americans probably know what a Zamboni is, I find this passage oddly expressive of the general national attitude towards hockey. On the television version of Dexter, which is actually slightly better than the book, the same situation takes place, but for some reason the Panthers declined to allow their name to be used, so the team referred to is fictional- the Miami Something-or-Others. You’d think the Panthers would be grateful for whatever televised publicity they can get, even on premium cable, but maybe they didn’t like the idea of being associated with exsanguinated, dismembered hookers.

Anyway, I do hope that Aebischer/Huet doesn’t find anything untoward in his net this evening…


Reality Check said...

Just three too many pucks! Jokinen's head would have been nice - even that moustache !

Sherry said...

That passage is great, I always feel giddy when I see hockey references in non-hockey related fiction. I suppose that's how desperate we are for publicity.