The Urbanite – Jon Liedtke – Dec. 4, 2013
When CBC Radio 3’s Grant Lawrence sought to write his second book, The Lonely End of the Rink: Confessions of a Reluctant Goalie, he had intended the topic to be about music as did many of his fans. What he wrote however was an introspective and revealing retelling of his rocky experience with Canada’s national pastime, hockey, and how he had previously associated the game with bullying, intimidation and violence.
Lawrence’s first book, Adventures in Solitude: What Not to Wear to a Nude Potluck and Other Stories from Desolation Sound, was about his experiences at a remote summer camp. In an interview with the Urbanite, Lawrence explained that his reasoning for not writing about music the second time around was that he was led astray by doing his own art.
“I’m a music journalist [and] that’s my job sometimes [five to seven] days a week,” said Lawrence. “When I get home, I often feel like the last thing I want to do [is] to write about it.”
Understanding he disappointed some fans with this genre choice, Lawrence promised that his third book would be about music. Lawrence’s latest book focuses on his long and deeply conflicted relationship with hockey and how he was pushed away from the game as a child, only to be “drawn back to it later in life, finally on my own terms.”
Like many Canadian children, Lawrence wanted to like hockey, but he found it difficult. “All the kids that beat on me, mentally and physically, were wearing hockey jackets, so I associated violence and intimidation and fear with hockey. I didn’t want anything to do with it.”
As he matured, Lawrence became an artist and musician and it wasn’t until years later when he first learned of a hockey tournament comprised of arts-based teams. (think musicians, authors AND comedians) that hockey began to appeal to him again.
“I thought, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe that that’s even possible, and I actually went out to it a few times and covered it for the CBC and it was kind of like finding a Shangri-la of hockey,” said Lawrence. “The whole point of the tournament was to create an environment that was free of intimidation and violence and bullying, exactly what I [had] associated with hockey.” Ten years ago, Lawrence brought the idea home and formed the Vancouver Flying Vees, an amateur team comprised of authors, musicians and comedians.
“All of [us] were pushed out for one reason or another,” said Lawrence. “It’s pretty cool that we’ve been able to form this team and just play this game, this thing, this pastime that is supposed to be Canada’s right of passage… on our own terms.”
The biggest challenge Lawrence had writing this book wasn’t reliving painful experiences but instead writing about the bullies.
Since it’s a non-fiction book, Lawrence took effort to change the name of his childhood bullies to protect their identities as he didn’t want to expose them for past childhood missteps.
“Most of [the bullies] are alive and doing well and probably did not expect an expose on about how much of a douchebag they were in elementary school to hit the shelves,” said Lawrence. “If you’re a bully in Grade five… you probably mature to a certain point by your 30s or 40s, so I didn’t want to throw them under the bus.”
Lawrence has hesitation about his infant son playing hockey because of the potential for bullying, explaining that his main concern is whether or not his son will open up to him about problems.
“I’m definitely going to teach him how to skate like my parents did when I was very young and then we’ll see. If he feels like getting into hockey he can; I won’t helicopter. But I will make sure to try to keep a close eye on it,” he said.
Lawrence explained that the main theme of the book was social survival and the idea that “it gets better.”
“No matter what is dictated upon you in life, whether you’re a little kid or whether you’re an adult, I would hope the takeaway is that we should always try to live life on our own terms,” Lawrence said.
“I’m not talking like Rob Ford like ‘I feel like smoking crack therefore I will smoke crack, just living life in the best way you can without that fear of intimidation, being able to do what you want to do as long as it’s vaguely legal and have fun with it, and live the life that you want to live.”
Jonathon Liedtke is the managing editor of The Urbanite, Windsor’s alternative newspaper. He is also a member of Windsor’s “Punk with Horns” band The Nefidovs, and as such, is committed to enhancing and sustaining the arts community.