I love hockey (#LetsGoRedWings/GoKingsGo); it’s honestly the only competitive sport I’ve ever taken any interest in. As a kid, I enjoyed playing street hockey with the neighbor kids, and I begged my Mom to let me sign up for the local Pee-Wee league; alas, hockey requires expensive equipment and we were too poor, so my budding NHL career was kiboshed before it could ever begin…still, I remained a fan. I’m the current producer of a hockey podcast called Puck Off! hosted by great comedians/hockey expert Joe Bartnick and radio legend Frazer Smith. Being a part of our show has made me a more passionate and knowledgeable fan; I love going to games, I’m on two different fantasy leagues, and I cried when Pavel Datsyuk announced that he was leaving Detroit to go back to the KHL.
R.C Samo passed Hockey Karma over to me knowing full well it’d probably be something that was right up my alley; written by Pittsburgh-based author Howard Shapiro, Hockey Karma tells the story of two best friends, Jake Jacobson, a professional hockey player who’s career has reached its twilight, and Tom Leonard, his agent who’s also handling a city revitalization plan. I had a blast reading this; you can tell Shapiro is a fan of the game, as there are nice little details that puck fans will love. On the other hand, it’s also a book that doesn’t require you to be an expert on the sport; newbies and the uninitiated don’t have to worry about confusing terminology and unpronounceable player names from Sweden. This book is an easy read for all, and that’s definitely a positive in this case.
Before I go any further, I have to point out that this is the third book in a series; I didn’t know that until I was about halfway through. There are certain aspects about the characters, their pasts, and their relationships that are referenced. Because I didn’t have prior knowledge about the previous books, I sometimes felt a bit lost, but in all honesty it didn’t affect my reading experience in a severely negative way; if anything, I now have an interest in grabbing the other books from the series just so I can have a clearer picture of everything. This is basically just a warning for people jumping straight into the third book of this trilogy; you’ll probably get more of the story if you start at the beginning.
One thing I loved about Hockey Karma is that writer Howard Shapiro added in a recommended playlist that compliments the story. The artists range from Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, The Cure, REM, and Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers just to name a few. I love this idea; it compliments the reading experience and gives it sort of like a movie soundtrack. Another thing I like is the art; Andres Mossa does fine work here. I’ve been a fan of his work on various Marvel books for quite some time. I didn’t even have to check to see who did the art on it, upon first glance his distinctive style identifies itself.
I really liked the character of Jake, and his struggle to keep up with a younger talent, be there for his family, and tend to his well-being stood out as being a particular strong point in my opinion. Slightly less compelling is Tom’s battle to make a difference in his community and court an old crush. I found myself wanting to jump back to Jake’s storyline more just because it’s exciting, it has action, and you feel for his situation. With Tom, you root for him, he’s not unlikable at all…but his portion of the story is just a lot of talking. I have ADHD, but it’s not so extreme that I can’t appreciate the talking bits, but when you have Andres Mossa drawing some really great hockey action, you want to get back to the games.
The story can be a bit predictable at times; there aren’t any real surprises or twists. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just that after a few pages in I had a solid idea of where the story was going, and I was pretty spot on. The pacing worked; everything flowed well enough and nothing felt rushed or dragged out. I do think there are a few weak points in the story; the way Tom’s romantic subplot ended was a bit too open-ended. I understand vagueness, and leaving the door open for possibilities, but when I finished the book I felt I was shortchanged. I wanted a definitive answer: will they? Won’t they? Anything close to a maybe just doesn’t feel right to me. I also like the idea of Jake feeling jealous of rookie Barclay, but I wish there was just more interaction between the characters. We’re told Jake has some animosity towards Barclay, and we get to witness an incident, but I wish that aspect of the story had been played with a bit more.
Hockey Karma is a fun book, and a recommended read. There are no major flaws that bothered me, just some very minor gripes here and there. I think this book will appeal the most to people who know, love, and understand the game of hockey, but like I mentioned earlier, if you don’t know anything you can still come into this and enjoy it for the story and the excellent art. Give it a read!
You can purchase Hockey Karma by visiting Animal Media Group: