By his second winter at St. Jerome’s, Saul has found an important ally in Father Leboutilier. Leboutilier defends Saul from teachers when they’re too cruel to him. Emboldened by Father Leboutilier’s kindness and support, Saul takes greater risks. He practices skating in secret, stashing a pair of skates in his bag for when he cleans the hockey rink every morning. After a couple months of this, he’s become “a bird” on the rink, gliding elegantly from side to side.
Saul again paints a picture of Leboutilier as a good man—one who’s willing to take care of the children and protect them from cruelty of any kind. Saul also characterizes hockey as a way of transcending his misery. While he’s skating, he seems to fly away from his earthly troubles.
Saul “senses” how to skate long before he knows how to do it. He intuitively understands how his body needs to move to change speed and direction. Saul can never put into words how he understands these things, but he’s grateful for being able to do so. Without ever playing a game of hockey, he gradually assembles all the skills required for doing so. Moreover, he’s careful to keep his practicing a secret from the rest of the school. He can’t wait for the day he’ll be old enough to join the hockey team.
Saul seems to intuit the game of hockey in the same way that he intuited his parent’s disappearance. Working hard, he uses this sense of intuition, combined with a solid work ethic, to become a great hockey player before anyone even knows it.