Book Review: Queens of the Ice

Carly Adams adds to the case for Hilda Ranscombe and the Preston Rivulettes’ induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.  Toronto – I hope you’re listening.

Queens of the Ice: They Were Fast, They Were Fierce, They Were Teenage Girls by Carly Adams


Queens of the Ice: They were fast, they were fierce, they were teenage girls By Carly Adams.  (2011, Toronto: James Lorimer & Company. Softcover. Pp. 131. $9.95. ISBN 978-1-55277-720-6.)


Many adult readers overlook books geared toward juvenile readers as basic, written in simple language, or just a story with no depth.  Unfortunately, reviewers often take the same attitude and only review mass market, adult books.  However, overlooking Carly Adams’s Queens of the Ice is a HUGE mistake for hockey fans.

Adams treated her main audience, readers aged 12 and up, to the exciting and compelling story of the Preston Rivulettes girls hockey team.  The Rivulettes were founded by a girls softball team whose players were looking for a participatory sport to fill the long winters between seasons.  Most of the girls on the team had grown up playing pond hockey along side the neighborhood boys.  They approached a local sportswriter, who also happened to be female and familiar with existing leagues for women’s hockey, and founded the Rivulettes in 1931.

The narrative began with the recap of one of the Rivulettes first games – an exciting match between Preston and Grimsby.  If not for the title of the book, there was no way to tell if Adams was writing about girls or boys.  The match kept spectators on the edge of their seats with amazing stick-handling, fast breakaway plays, intense goalies, a great wrap-around goal, and plenty of penalties for high-sticking and rough play.  The Rivulettes won 4-1 and introduced the citizens of Preston to the excitement of women’s hockey.

As Adams explained, the Preston Rivulettes “were the most successful women’s hockey team in history.”  The team played for ten years during the Great Depression, one of the most difficult times in modern history.  Through their decade of play, they lost only two games – yes, TWO games in TEN years.  Adams reminded readers that women had been playing hockey since the 1880s.  In fact, the first women’s hockey game was played in Ottawa at the home of Lord and Lady Stanley.

This tale of women’s hockey during the Depression was peppered with both new stories and familiar names.  Hilda Ranscombe, probably the highest scoring female forward in women’s hockey history, was a teenager when she helped found the Rivulettes.  Her sister Nellie played in goal and the Schmuck sisters joined Hilda on the top line.  Quite often, this starting line would play the entire game.  As for familiar faces, in addition to Lord Stanley, readers will find the likes of Clarence Campbell as a referee, the Montreal Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens hosting championship games, and a variety of NHL players popping up in the stands to watch the Rivulettes and their rivals.

When writing for a younger audience, it can be difficult to include all of the information in a concise and easy to read manner.  However, Adams accomplished this in two ways.  First, the narrative flowed well and enticed the reader to continue following the story.  Second, and a great way to get some of the more interesting “tidbits” into the book, was through the use of text boxes.  For example, Adams used text boxes to discuss ticket prices, chaperones, sponsorships, and exhibition games.  She also took advantage of this space to explain things younger readers might not be aware of or understand very well.  These topics ranged from the Great Depression to the prevailing mindset that participating in competitive sports were once considered detrimental to women’s health.

Carly Adams’s Queens of the Ice is the type of book that will not only get young readers interested in history and reading, but will also keep the attention of older readers.  The Rivulettes’ story needed telling and Adams did these women justice.  The team has been inducted into the Cambridge Sports Hall of Fame (Preston is now a part of Cambridge), but recognition outside of the Hockey Hall of Fame’s museum still eludes these women.  Maybe now that Angela James and Cammi Granato have a place in the Hall, Hilda Ranscombe and other pioneering women hockey players can join them.


Rebecca Dobrinski


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