Hockey theme opens door to discussions about grief, anxiety

Author’s love of the sport extends from middle-years novel to non-fiction tale

Taking the Ice by Lorna Schultz Nicholson is a novel for middle-years readers that takes a deep dive into the interior life of Aiden Mallory and the many factors that affect his life as he adjusts to the loss of his father in a car accident.

His father’s life as a prominent NHL hockey player and his controversial death create seismic repercussions for Aiden and his mother: they move from Florida to a new community in the Canadian Prairies, where Aiden has to make friends at a new school while processing his grief and discovering his personal values.

The story opens with Aiden striving to make his own mark in hockey while dealing with the pride, but also the pressure, that comes from his father’s status as an NHL player.

Edmonton-based Schultz Nicholson is a prolific writer of young adult books about sports. “I do love writing about sports as I was an athlete when I was young,” she says. “I played all kinds of sports and was so passionate. I loved the teamwork and camaraderie of being on a team. I also loved writing, so I feel I’m so blessed to write about something I love.”

As a former hockey mom of three grown children, Schultz Nicholson is well-versed in how hockey affects young players, their parents, and the hockey community at large.

Lorna Schultz Nicholson
Lorna Schultz Nicholson

In Taking the Ice, she wants, first and foremost, for young readers to read and to enjoy. “That’s number one. Secondly, I want them to take away that it isn’t nice to hurt others, especially someone who might be a bit different,” she says. “It’s not kind to hurt people, period.”

Broadening awareness of the issue of anxiety among young people is another goal. “I also want those who do have a little anxiety to see that others do too, and that they can find a few ways to cope; that it’s not weird but something that exists,” she says. “Then there’s the flip side of that – for those who don’t have anxiety to be able to recognize that someone who is having a hard time is not doing it on purpose.”

Schultz Nicholson also writes non-fiction, and her new book in the Amazing Hockey Stories series is about Alex Ovechkin. “I really enjoyed writing about him because he had such a different minor hockey experience growing up in Russia,” she says.

“During my time writing about Ovechkin I wondered what it would be like to come to a country where you didn’t know the language and try to make your way. That’s the fun part of writing non-fiction, finding interesting information about other people.”

Interesting information and different perspectives are part of fiction, too. Taking the Ice is a middle grade sports novel, but Schultz Nicholson wants teachers, librarians, parents, grandparents, and whoever is encouraging reading – “hopefully everyone is” – to know that it is much more than that. “The hockey is a fuel, but there are themes in the book that are universal to all kids,” she says.

“It is a book about friendships, grief, kindness, bullying, leadership, teamwork, anxiety, and so much more.”