Saul and Fred Kelly arrive in Manitouwadge, a mining town. The community where Saul lives is informally known as “the Rez,” meaning that it’s an Indigenous Canadian reservation. The “town proper,” however, is populated by white people, some of whom bully the Indigenous Canadians. But when he first arrives in Manitouwadge in 1966, Saul doesn’t know any of this.
Saul uses subtle foreshadowing to contrast his initial naiveté about “the Rez” with his eventual, more cynical position. This suggests that Saul still has a lot of growing up to do—and that his new home may not be as nice as it appears.
Fred introduces Saul to his family. He has three children: Garrett, Howard, and Virgil. Virgil is captain of the Moose. Soon after meeting Saul, he tells him that the other Moose players aren’t going to like him, at least not at first—he’s a “runt,” and he’s taking someone else’s spot on the team. Virgil advises Saul to make a point of proving himself and showing that he can fight his own battles.
Virgil is a blunt young man who always says what’s on his mind. Instead of dancing around the truth, he makes it known to Saul that he’s up against some considerable odds, and will have to prove himself to his teammates.
Preparing for his first scrimmage with the Moose, Saul notices that his teammates are very serious and mature. Nobody talks to him. Fred Kelly pulls Saul aside and encourages him to take it easy during his first scrimmage.
Leading up to Saul’s first game with the Moose, the tension builds: will Saul be able to prove himself and win the respect of his teammates?
The scrimmage begins, and Saul hangs back from the action, studying the way the other players move. Quickly, he learns how to “read the flow” of the game, and heads for the center of the action. The other players push and shove him, using their superior size and strength. Nobody passes him the puck, so Saul intercepts it and passes it to Virgil, who scores a goal. Virgil tells Saul, “Nice pass.”
Just as he’s done before, Saul is able to familiarize himself with the rhythm and spatial dynamics of the game, and then play brilliantly, earning Virgil’s respect.
As the scrimmage goes on, it becomes clear that Saul is one of the finest players on the team. The opposing players shove him with all their might, and Saul is forced to adjust his style of play—an experience that makes him a better player, he writes. By the end of the scrimmage, Saul has scored several goals and learned how to “whirl and dance” away from the other players. He’s thrilled to feel “the magic of the game.”
Saul is small, but he uses his size to his advantage, moving around his bigger, slower opponents. Again, Saul seems to think of skating as a transcendent activity that frees him from his woes and puts him in touch with an almost spiritual realm.