This early in the morning, the rink is almost empty, but the upstairs offices are filled with loud men’s voices. The club president sweats at his desk, messily eating a sandwich. From the outside, the president seems to be in charge. He appoints the general manager (Peter), who recruits players and hires coaches. In reality, the president answers to board members and sponsors—many of them major investors and employers in the district. Right now, all these men are gathered in the president’s office for an “unofficial” meeting, agreeing on one thing—who should be fired.
The meeting in the president’s office is a visible representation of not just the complicated hierarchy within the Beartown hockey club, but also the various stakeholders throughout the town as a whole. The town’s economic wellbeing is invested in the sport. Every personnel decision, therefore, has implications for the town as a whole—and the pending decision appears to be taking place behind closed doors.
Peter Andersson grew up in Beartown and has occupied most of the hockey-related roles in the town, from promising youth player to NHL star. But right now he’s just hunting for the keys to his Volvo. He keeps getting texts from the club president about the meeting. As GM, he does just about everything—besides his official duties, he helps out with rink maintenance and arranges team travel, too. He was hired for this job by Sune, his own youth coach and father figure. Sune had explained to him that as GM, it’s Peter’s role to pull together all the hockey club’s stakeholders. To Kira, Peter explained that his job is to “make sure no one catches on fire” from Beartown’s burning passion for hockey.
Peter’s past is strongly tied to Beartown’s hockey culture, and his role as General Manager places him right in the center of Beartown’s intertwined tensions. His position as a former hockey star and lynchpin of the town contrasts with his somewhat hapless domestic life—he’s having trouble even getting out of the house in one piece. This brief scene hints at the way that hockey success doesn’t actually guarantee life success, even though many people in the town act like it does.
When Sune and Peter set the goal of rebuilding the junior hockey team to become the best in the country, many people laughed, but no one is laughing about that now. As the club president and the other men wait impatiently for Peter to arrive, some of them joke that Peter’s wife probably has a more important meeting than him, and that maybe they should hire Kira instead—stilettos suit a GM better than slippers. They all laugh.
Peter has been one of the architects of Beartown’s culture of winning, having successfully transformed its hockey record. His involvement will have major repercussions later. But he’s also the target of derision because of his wife’s career success. Sexist jokes are evidently part of the hockey culture, too.
In his kitchen, Peter finds Maya’s best friend, Ana. She’s making a huge mess while preparing a smoothie. She greets him cheerfully and explains that she’s spent the night again. Peter tries to look pleased about this while shouting for Kira again. Kira, meanwhile, moves through the house much more calmly and gracefully. She urges Maya toward the shower and says that she’s fine with Ana staying here as long as Maya teaches her how to clean a kitchen. She hears Peter yelling as she slips the Volvo’s keys into her pocket.
Kira has a much more collected and commanding presence in the Andersson home—she’s more on top of things, more unflappable, and better positioned to get the upper hand than Peter is. The contrast between Peter and Kira is actually used as an example of a well-balanced household throughout the book, even though it’s fodder for sexist mockery at the hockey club.
Fatima comes into the club president’s office while the men are still laughing over the joke about stilettos. She apologizes, but nobody looks at her. When she finishes emptying the wastepaper bin, she briefly clutches her painful back, not wanting anyone to notice and tell Amat, who would only worry. Downstairs, on the ice, Amat races across the rink again and again. He appreciates his mother’s gratitude for Beartown, but his job is to dream—he dreams that Fatima “will one day be able to walk into a room without having to apologize.”
The men’s ignoring of Fatima, especially on the heels of their sexist joke, underscores her lower status in Beartown; she is a nonentity in their eyes. Ironically, even now Amat is training to become one of the greatest assets to the team, and one of his personal goals—in contrast to the more narrowly ambitious dreams of a privileged kid like Kevin—is to free Fatima from toil.
When Kira finally appears in the kitchen, Peter desperately asks her about the car keys. Kira explains that she’s taking the Volvo to work while he takes the other car to the garage; her morning meeting at the law firm is more important than his meeting at the hockey club. They play rock-paper-scissors, Kira clearly cheats, and Peter can only yell in protest as she takes the keys and leaves.
Kira’s and Peter’s exchange, which Kira deftly wins, shows more of the dynamics of their marriage, and suggests that Peter is feeling generally taken advantage of lately, both at home and at work. It seems here that Kira displays more of the characteristic Beartown “winning” drive than Peter does.
Back at the club, the president assures the sponsors that Peter always does what’s best for the club and won’t disrupt the sponsors’ plans. The president is confident that this is true even though Peter is going to be asked to fire his mentor, Sune.
The president takes for granted that he can get Peter to do what he wants to please the sponsors. This shows how many stakeholders are jockeying for power in Beartown hockey; it’s clearly more than a game to the town.