Essay Example on Hockey's Sacred Bonds: Unveiling the Essence of Wayne Johnston's 'The Divine Ryans'

Published: 2024-01-19
Essay Example on Hockey's Sacred Bonds: Unveiling the Essence of Wayne Johnston's 'The Divine Ryans'
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Culture Sport
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1153 words
10 min read


Written and published by Wayne Johnston in 1990, The Divine Ryans introduces the audience to a nine-year-old boy, Draper Doyle, who has been traumatized by the death of his father to the point that he is having nightmares even during the day. In different instances, Doyle sees his dad through the window of his bedroom. During these visits, Doyle's dad always appears holding a hockey puck. However, the nightmares about his dad do not seem as odd as what he has to face every day while growing up in his new home in Newfoundland, St. Johns.

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Doyle hates being involved in the Catholic choir, visiting the family funeral parlor, and boxing practice. Despite all these, hockey is one thing that Doyle enjoys and values the most. Throughout the narrative, Doyle experiences challenges in trying out hockey, adapting to the new home, adolescence, and finding a close friend who can help him overcome his father's death. By seeing his father's ghost, Doyle can discover the hidden secrets lying deep in the family. This paper analyzes how hockey plays a vital role in Draper Doyle's life and his relationship with his father. It also discusses how Doyle understands hockey apart from being a punk.

How Hockey Is Important in Draper Doyle's Life and His Relationship with His Father

Doyle is a huge fan of hockey, and just many other fans, this type of sport serves as an inspiration to him. Before shifting to Aunt Phil's residence, Doyle adorned his bedroom with portraits of former hockey players in the Habs team who had also created a succession line in the extended family (Johnston 16). As a Ryan, Doyle was needed to continue with the succession line. Hockey was an important element in Doyle's family lineage as it ran in their blood. Therefore, Doyle believed that he was destined to carry on the sport to other generations as he was the only male child in the family (Johnston 38). Being an heir, he had to value the sport more than anything else to ensure that the family's name maintained its value in the game.

According to Doyle, hockey and family are intertwined and omnipresent. Indeed, he visualizes the five Ryan family members as a hockey team. Hockey serves as a symbol of unity among the Ryan siblings, whereby without it, the family is disintegrated and divided. With the death of his father, Doyle considers the team to lack a centerman, and therefore he must fit in his father's position to ensure that the team is complete for the purpose of creating unity in the family. Doyle uses the hockey team comparison to come to terms with the absence of his father (Johnston 158). The team's fantasy showcases a disastrous gap since Doyle's father is not gone for a certain amount of time but forever. The endless gap showcases how it is difficult for Doyle to picture nothingness as he fights with a world without a dad. Therefore, Doyle values hockey because it helps him to come to terms with the loss.

Doyle values hockey as it provides important memories and connections with fathers, especially at an early age. Donald (Doyle's father) used the hockey game as a teaching tool to help Doyle understand the basic concepts of playing the game. At a young age, when Doyle could not stay beyond Hockey Night's first period, his father Donald used to engrave the game scores with an inkless pen on the Cartoon Virgil's cover. Doyle would then use the engravings to find the total scores (Blake). Even after Doyle was of age to watch the three periods in the hockey game, he would still use the etching lessons taught by his father on his Aeneid juvenile version. Therefore, Doyle developed a strong connection with his father through hockey sport, whereby he even taught him to analyze texts even if they might be as simple as a score in hockey sport.

Using hockey as an educational tool, Doyle developed the ability to decode games several years back and tell about the present. The knowledge acquired through hockey makes Doyle decode documents surrounding the death of his father (Blake). An example is when he analyzes a photo of his father in Oxford while playing for Rhodes Blades, where he gains insights that his father could have been gay during that period. Doyle was also able to decode the suicide note engraved by his father on the hockey scores. By decoding these scores, Doyle came to understand why his father had decided to take his own life (Johnston 123). Therefore, through hockey, Doyle developed a strong connection with his father to the extent they could use coded messages for their communication, which other people could not understand.

Hockey gives Doyle a sense of enjoyment, which he cannot get anywhere else. After his father's death and moving to Aunt Phil's residence, Doyle feels out of place since he is being pushed to engage in activities he does not like, such as participating in the choir and boxing under the watch of Uncle Seymour (Johnston 127). Such activities are not his passion only does them since there is external pressure from the relatives. However, hockey proves to be the only activity where Doyle can overcome the pressure caused by relatives and enjoy the moment with other players. Hockey serves as the best approach to refresh from mind-blowing and stressful activities.

The extended Ryan family portrays hockey as an element of religious conflict that symbolizes cultural tensions in Canadian society whereby Catholics are turned against the Maple Leafs Protestants. The larger family believes that God created hockey to allow Catholics to humiliate Protestants on national T.V. Other than using hockey as a unifying factor between the two groups, the sport serves to express existing religious and cultural differences (Buma 115). However, Doyle, a hockey fanatic, has a contradicting opinion as he believes hockey and punk should be used as a symbol of unity for the two groups.


In conclusion, the Divine Ryan narrative uses hockey as a symbol that divides people of different cultures and religions, specifically the Catholics and the Protestants. However, Doyle considers it an important sport that helped him create a strong relationship with his father and even learn some skills to decode messages. To Doyle, hockey is not just a sporting event but rather an activity that boosts morale and helps overcome challenging situations such as stress. Therefore, Doyle wishes that he could not think about anything other than hockey, which is like a fantasy from the real world. Hockey should be a symbol of national coherence rather than embodying intangibility and differences among people in a society.

Works Cited

Blake, Jason. "Hockey, Humour, and Play in Wayne Johnston's The Divine Ryans." Writing the Body in Motion: A Critical Anthology on Canadian Sport Literature, 2018.

Johnston, Wayne. The Divine Ryans. Vintage Books, Canada, 1998.

Buma, Michael. Refereeing Identity: The Cultural Work of Canadian Hockey Novels. McGill-Queen's Press-MQUP, 2012.

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Essay Example on Hockey's Sacred Bonds: Unveiling the Essence of Wayne Johnston's 'The Divine Ryans'. (2024, Jan 19). Retrieved from

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