A couple weeks after Saul is officially allowed onto the hockey team, the boys face their first opponent: the “town team.” Saul looks small in his uniform, and some of his teammates laugh at him. At the arena, some of the audience and members from the opposing team also laugh at Saul and shout, “The Indian school brought their mascot!” Father Leboutilier warns his team that the opposing team is very good, recommending that the boys should probably just “play for fun.”
Right away, Saul is belittled and made fun of, not just for his race but for his size. All of a sudden, the hockey rink isn’t just a site of transcendence and freedom; it’s an ugly, harsh place—in fact, just the kind of environment Saul was trying to escape by joining the hockey team.
The game begins, and Saul gains control of the puck. He skates past members of the opposing team, going exceptionally fast. Using the skill he has developed by practicing on his own every morning, he takes a shot and scores. The crowd goes “crazy,” and Father Leboutilier shouts, “You were beautiful.” For the rest of the game, Saul excels, scoring goal after goal. Leboutilier tells him, “The game loves you.”
Just as he did while practicing on his own, Saul intuitively adjusts to the tempo of the game of hockey, and as a result he’s able to tune out the bullies and nay-sayers, and score lots of points.