January 26, 2024

Hockey Book Review: Breaking The Ice by Cecil Harris

 Cecil Harris's "Breaking The Ice" is a compelling and multifaceted exploration of the African American experience in hockey, weaving together personal narratives, historical insights, and cultural analysis to shed light on a largely overlooked aspect of the sport. With meticulous research and heartfelt storytelling, Harris brings to life the struggles and triumphs of black athletes who have defied the odds and carved out a place for themselves in the predominantly white world of hockey.

At its core, "Breaking The Ice" is a celebration of resilience, determination, and the power of representation. Harris's narrative spans generations, from the pioneers who blazed trails in the early days of organized hockey to the modern-day stars who continue to inspire future generations. Through a series of compelling vignettes and interviews, he introduces readers to a diverse cast of characters whose stories illuminate the complex intersection of race, identity, and sport.

One of the book's most poignant themes is the notion of hockey as a catalyst for social change. Harris traces the evolution of the game as a vehicle for empowerment and self-expression within the black community, highlighting the ways in which hockey has served as a platform for marginalized voices to be heard and celebrated. From the historic achievements of players like Willie O'Ree to the grassroots efforts of community organizers and advocates, "Breaking The Ice" illustrates the transformative potential of sport as a force for social justice and equality.

Moreover, Harris delves into the broader cultural and historical contexts that have shaped the experiences of black hockey players in North America. From the legacy of slavery and segregation to the enduring legacy of the civil rights movement, he examines how systemic inequalities have influenced access to opportunities and resources within the hockey world. Through insightful analysis and firsthand accounts, Harris offers readers a deeper understanding of the challenges and barriers faced by black athletes in pursuit of their dreams.

One of the book's greatest strengths lies in Harris's ability to humanize his subjects and capture the essence of their lived experiences. Through intimate portraits and candid interviews, he brings to life the triumphs and tribulations of black hockey players from all walks of life. Whether recounting moments of triumph on the ice or confronting instances of discrimination and prejudice, Harris's writing is infused with empathy, compassion, and a profound sense of respect for his subjects.

However, "Breaking The Ice" is not without its flaws. At times, the narrative can feel disjointed, with abrupt shifts in tone and pacing that detract from the overall coherence of the book. Additionally, while Harris's focus on individual stories provides valuable insights into the lived experiences of black hockey players, some readers may find themselves longing for a more comprehensive analysis of broader social and cultural trends within the sport.

In conclusion, "Breaking The Ice" is a thought-provoking and deeply moving exploration of race, identity, and community in the world of hockey. Cecil Harris's passion for the game and commitment to amplifying marginalized voices shine through in every page, making this book a must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of sports and social justice. Whether you're a die-hard hockey fan or simply someone who appreciates a good story, "Breaking The Ice" offers a powerful testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the transformative power of sport.


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