The most important and explicit symbol in the book is the game of hockey. After being forced to attend St. Jerome’s school, Saul Indian Horse discovers that he’s a naturally gifted hockey player. He becomes so adept at the game, in fact, that he gets the opportunity to move to a new town and play with a talented team of significantly older boys. Again and again, Wagamese uses hockey as a symbol for Saul’s life more generally. In Canada in the mid-twentieth century, hockey is viewed by many as a “white person’s game,” and therefore Saul’s love of hockey is symbolic of how different his life is from the lives of his ancestors. The story of Saul’s career as a hockey player in many ways mirrors the story of his life as an Indigenous person living in Canada at a time when racism against Indigenous people is rampant throughout Canada, since Saul struggles on and off the ice to remain true to his identity while also finding his place in a world that many people think he doesn’t belong in (i.e., the world of hockey). Furthermore, the sensation of gliding on the ice that Saul has while playing hockey is repeatedly described as a feeling of freedom, which itself becomes a metaphor for the state of freedom Saul seeks as a young Indigenous man who, pursuing his passion, is met with a great deal of resistance from racist, white Canadians (who, paradoxically, destroyed his people’s culture but don’t want him to have anything to do with theirs).
Hockey Quotes in Indian Horse
I would not feel lonely or afraid, deserted or abandoned, but connected to something far bigger than myself. Then I'd climb back into bed and sleep until the dawn woke me and I could walk back out to the rink again.
"Hockey is like the universe, Saul," he said one day. "When you stand in the dark and look up at it, you see the placid fire of stars. But if we were right in the heart of it, we'd see chaos. Comets churning by. Meteorites. Star explosions. Things being born, things dying. Chaos, Saul. But that chaos is organized. It's harnessed. It's controlled.
"Do they hate me?"
"They don't hate you, Saul." 'Well, what, then?"
"They think it's their game."
I looked around at all those adult faces, lingering on Father Leboutilier's. I'd never been offered choice before.
'All right," I said. "I'll go."
No one said a word. They didn't have to. I stripped off my jersey and sat there breathing in the atmosphere of that small wooden shack. I was a Moose.
When we walked into the lobby the first thing we saw were glass cabinets along the walls filled with trophies and photographs. It was like a shrine to their home team. We stood there with our gear bags in our hands, studying the display. There were no awards in our bush league. The winners were celebrated with feasts and parties but there was no money for trophies.
"My dad never talks about the school," he said. "Mom neither. And they don't say anything about what happened before that. Maybe someone just gave you a chance to rub the shit off the board once and for all."
The press would not let me be. When I hit someone, it wasn't just a bodycheck; I was counting coup.
When I made a dash down the ice and brought the crowd to their feet, I was on a raid. If I inadvertently high-sticked someone during a tussle in the corner, I was taking scalps. When I did not react to getting a penalty, I was the stoic Indian.
When I hit the ice I was effective. I scored twenty-three points in nine games. But the taunting from the stands continued, and I fumed and smoldered and racked up one hundred and twenty minutes in the penalty box. I caused the Marlies to play short-handed a lot of the time, and we lost seven of those games. Finally, they benched me completely. After one night of sitting in the stands, I packed my bag and got on a bus back to Manitouwadge.
He'd told me I could play when I was big enough. I loved the idea so much that I kept quiet. I loved the idea of being loved so much that I did what he asked. When I found myself liking it, I felt dirty, repulsive, sick. The secret morning practices that moved me closer to the game also moved me further away from the horror. I used the game to shelter me from seeing the truth, from having to face it every day. Later, after I was gone, the game kept me from remembering. As long as I could escape into it, I could fly away. Fly away and never have to land on the scorched earth of my boyhood.
"They scooped out our insides, Saul. We're not responsible for that. We're not responsible for what happened to us. None of us are." Fred said. "But our healing-that's up to us. That's what saved me. Knowing it was my game."
"Could be a long game," I said.
"So what if it is?" he said. "Just keep your stick on the ice and your feet moving. Time will take care of itself."
"Even up here in the sticks, we like to use a hockey puck to play hockey," Virgil said and pushed out onto the ice.
"Old habits," I said when he reached me. "New days," he said.
"The guys here?"
"Them and more," he said.