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Martin C. Barry

David Sherman remembers Chomedey back in the days when the old Récréathèque at the corner of Notre Dame and Curé Labelle was a fun place for teenagers to go on Friday evenings or on weekends to hang around for a while.

Or then again, there was the cozy little hole-in-the-wall, the Paragon Bar, that he and a few buddies liked to stop into for a drink or two or three when they were old enough to be seated without being carded.

“When we turned 18, we graduated from the Récréathèque to the Paragon and that became our hangout,” said Sherman. “Southern Comfort while listening to Janis Joplin and the Rolling Stones – that was my growing up.”

Although it’s been around five decades since he left Chomedey, a significant amount of David Sherman’s experience while living in the area can be found in Crossing the Line.

Remembering Chomedey

Perhaps more than anything, he remembers playing junior hockey on outdoor rinks on Lévesque Blvd. in Chomedey during the winter in the 1960s. This was at a time when heated indoor rinks were virtually non-existent in the local districts of Laval.

By the time he was attending Chomedey High School (now Laval Senior Academy), Sherman had switched to basketball – a “much warmer” sport, he acknowledged during an interview with The Laval News.

The former journalist’s work of fiction was recently launched under the imprint of INDYPress, a literary publisher founded by retired playwright and theatre director Guy Sprung with Montreal journalist and writer Susan Kastner along with Sherman.

Hockey’s untold story

According to a descriptive blurb furnished by the publishers, Sherman’s book, which revolves thematically around hockey, is “a breakaway novel that exposes the seamier side of our national obsession: a love story, a story of uneasy stardom, and of tawdry truths beneath Canada’s preoccupation with hockey.”

For the main protagonist, Blake Fowler who is in his mid-20s, the sport has been his life and his escape. He’s been able to succeed quite nicely in a domain where most others fall by the wayside early on or at least eventually.

Traded to his native Montreal, where the fans expect, even demand that he lead the team to the Stanley Cup, he confronts the ghosts of his childhood and the racism, sexism and inequities inherent in pro sports, as well as the comforts of a loving relationship.

An unusual hockey story

However, by Sherman’s own admission, Crossing the Line is not a sports novel like any other – or at least not in the way most such narratives are usually written. “The book is really not about hockey,” he said, explaining that the sport serves primarily as a backdrop for a story whose meaning is rooted more closely in social realism.

“The book is a tale of struggling working people and a young star athlete now back in his home town,” said Sherman. “Here, his consciousness is raised by all the poverty he sees. He battles with himself about making so much money to play when so many are fighting to survive, including his own extended family.”

He said he deliberately tried to keep away from clichéd “he shoots, he scores” sports narratives, describing the action on the ice, “because it’s really boring to read.” As a result, “there’s not a lot of hockey in the book,” Sherman added.

Calls it ‘social realism’

“It’s more about people who play the game. It tells the story of struggling working people: people who are homeless, people who are hungry and in between. And then those who are incredibly wealthy because they play a sport. It’s one of the ironies of our society.”

He explained why he chose the title for his book. “Pucks cross the goal line, a player is offside when he crosses the line ahead of the puck, and a person crosses the line when he does something unacceptable,” he said. “Our protagonist’s efforts to help the less fortunate and his confessing to the press that athletes make more money than they need, crosses the line for many.”

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