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Review: "A Loonie for Luck"by Roy MacGregor

How loose change helped Team Canada win Olympic hockey gold.

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

By

A Loonie for Luck
McLelland and Stewart
The tone of this little tale (96 pages) is set by its subtitle, "A True Fable About Hockey and the Olympics." We are dealing with hockey legend here. This is not a story that delves into the grim details and crushing pressure associated with the world's most prestigous hockey tournament.

"...About the Size of a Loonie"

A Canadian one-dollar coin (commonly known as a "loonie" because its face shows the profile of a loon) lay buried in the Salt Lake City ice throughout the 2002 Olympic hockey tournament, its existence revealed after Canada's victory in the men's gold medal game. It is now on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame, as the most famous loonie in Canada.

The story begins with Trent Evans, the Edmonton ice technician who worked at the Games' primary hockey venue, the E Center. As the floor of the arena was being flooded and frozen in layers, a colleague mentioned that centre ice should be marked with a drop of paint, "about the size of a loonie."

The next day Evans fished a dollar coin from his pocket and dropped it at the centre spot, where it was cover by 5/8 inch of ice (later, when ordered to remove the coin by his superiors, Evans added a dab of paint for camouflage). The loonie bore silent witness as the Canadian men's and women's teams won their respective gold medals, after which Wayne Gretzky displayed it to a bemused international media.

With the focus on Evans and his talisman, this book provides only a perfunctory account of the games themselves. But the tale of the buried loonie neatly encapsulates the anticipation, despair, tension and exaltation of Canada's Olympic hockey experience. With its mythic qualities enhanced by a series of color illustrations, it is an ideal book for young readers, though anyone who cheered for Canada in 2002 will revel in the story.

While "A Loonie for Luck" does its job nicely, it makes you wish for the book that tells the broader and more compelling story of Olympic hockey gold: how the men evolved from underachievers to champions, how the women dramatically beat the odds and - most importantly - how the entire drama gripped Canadians from Kamloops to Kanduhar. That book might never be written, as the Salt Lake City Games already seem like a long time ago.

But Roy MacGregor's offering is a modest gem, a little piece of myth-making to fire the imaginations of a new generation of Canadian hockey fans and players.

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