Photo credit: Tom Wilson’s Instagram
There comes a time in a teenager’s life where the dream of becoming a star athlete dims and must be replaced. At the age of sixteen, that’s what happened to Toronto native Peter Wilson.
“I really fell in love with writing when I was in grade 11,” Wilson, who played hockey competitively as a kid, explained. “I had a really great literature teacher who took me under her wing and showed me some really cool books. I found writing to be really fun and therapeutic.”
In college, Wilson continued to explore literature and challenge himself, just like he did on the ice with hockey. When his passion shifted away from the ice, Wilson dropped gloves with a new opponent: the competitive field of writing.
I guess it’s a good read at the beach? (Photo credit: Peter Wilson)
“During my fourth year at Queen’s University, I set out to write a short novel that was forty- to fifty-thousand words long,” Wilson told me in an interview in early March. “And I did. Then, I went through the whole process of shopping it around and trying to get it published.”
That novel, entitled Defenseless (buy it here), was published by BPS Books in May 2012. A first-person narrative, the protagonist finds himself in a fight which escalates into a vicious beating by six men. With the character’s life changed forever, he tries to figure out what happened. As the pieces come together, his desire for justice becomes a thirst for vengeance. Victim becomes perpetrator.
For Wilson, the book, which sold a couple hundred copies, was a huge success simply because it was a dream realized. The feedback was even more rewarding. A few months after publishing, he received a special note from someone who had gone through a similar experience to that of the narrator. He said Peter’s story helped him through a tough recovery.
“I remember it sinking in at that moment that I had achieved what I wanted,” Wilson said. “I remember thinking in that instant that the work was worth it. That was success, connection.”
Three Hockey-Playing Brothers
Peter, Tom, and James. (Photo credit: Peter Wilson)
On June 22nd, Peter’s middle brother — referred to lovingly as Tommy, heard the sentence that most Canadian boys dream about.
“The Washington Capitals are pleased to select from the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers, Tom Wilson,” announced General Manager George McPhee.
The entire Wilson family had traveled to Pittsburgh that day, hoping their talented 18-year-old would be drafted in the first round. The likelihood of being drafted so high was slight, but with this fanatical hockey family, it was no surprise.
Growing up in a suburb of Toronto, the family had a backyard hockey rink and played together constantly. Peter, the oldest of three Wilson brothers, loved the sport, getting as high the ‘AA’ North Toronto team.
“Tommy was always playing with with me and my friends in our backyard rink,” Peter explained. “That’s how he got exposure to guys five years older than him. He was really competitive out there.” Playing against more talented players as well as being blessed with his own unique physical gifts led Tom to star for Plymouth, a junior hockey team located several hours away from Toronto.
A few years later, James, the youngest of the three Wilson brothers, was drafted by the same junior team Tom was, Plymouth, in the 10th round of the 2012 OHL Draft. He currently plays in AAA.
As these events unfolded, Peter set out to write his second book.
“It’s Kinda My Love Letter to Hockey”
Photo credit: Peter Wilson
Wilson’s second book, entitled They Play Hockey In Heaven (buy a personalized copy here for $12), is a gripping, 126-page read about how one of the hockey-playing Austin brothers deals with the death of his father and the closing of the old rink where his family’s bond was strongest. Making it his mission to re-open the rink no matter what, the brother works through a series of challenges to accomplish what his dad failed to before his death. The journey repairs a community and allows his family to find peace.
While They Play Hockey In Heaven is fiction, many of the details are drawn from Peter’s vast background in the sport that he and his brothers so deeply love. It even includes a fight between both Austin brothers, which you have to assume is something Peter did with Tom as kids.
“You could compare the book to the Field of Dreams, but for hockey,” Peter explained during our call. “It’s kinda my love letter to hockey. If you like the sport I think you’ll like and identify with this book.”
Peter has already gotten a bunch of support from his little brother on Twitter. Tom has instagrammed a photo of the book and he’s also tweeted out links to buy it. And then there’s the support he got from frigging rock legend Tom Cochrane, the man best known for singing “Life is a Highway.”
Before each chapter begins, lyrics from Cochrane’s Big League appear.
“I actually had the opportunity to send it to him and have him read it,” Wilson said. “I didn’t really think anything of it initially, but then a few weeks later, I had an email from Tommy Cochrane. That was probably my wow moment of this book.”
In fact, Cochrane loved the story so much, he wrote a glowing recommendation for it, which was both a surreal and exciting moment for Wilson. Part of it read, “[This book] is a must read for any Canadian who is truly connected to their cultural roots in our country.” Capitals fans will love it too.
They Play Hockey In Heaven is just another notch in the belt for an uber-talented Canadian family that will see Tom Wilson make his NHL debut in the not-so-distant future. Peter’s book honors the game and connects it with real-world problems.
On page 124 he writes, “There are thousands of distractions and obstacles when you are trying to score. Trying to achieve a goal and score a goal. You have to be focused. You can’t let anything get in your way. You can’t give up. That’s why hockey is the best place to learn about life.”
That’s the stuff. Buy it here.