Kowal writes for help

Alaine Kowal reads The Little Dance Teacher with daughter, Reagan, on her lap, and son, Troy, daughter Jenny-Sue and husband Tom Kowal also listening at their home in High River, Alta. - Photo Submitted
Alaine Kowal reads The Little Dance Teacher with daughter, Reagan, on her lap, and son, Troy, daughter Jenny-Sue and husband Tom Kowal also listening at their home in High River, Alta.
— image credit: Photo Submitted

As the wife of a longtime NHL referee, Alaine Kowal has heard plenty of funny, touching and crazy hockey stories.

There is, however, nothing Slap Shot like in her children’s book, The Little Dance Teacher.

“No, there’s nothing about hockey,” she laughed, in a phone interview. “It’s all about dance.”

Alaine, who has been married to Vernon’s Tom Kowal for 19 years, took seven months to write the book as a charitable project to support local dance studio Dance Tech Inc.

The devastating High River flood of 2013 affected thousands, including the Kowal family.

She saw many sports, including her son Troy’s hockey association, receive funds to help recover lost equipment but there was never any funding to support young dancers.

He two daughters, Jenny-Sue and Reagan, lost dance uniforms and some dance families had trouble finding cash for dance tuition.

“We have a family from the dance studio still living at Saddlebrook, the temporary housing, still waiting for their house to be rebuilt,” said Alaine.

“We lost everything that was in our basement (including a piano her father once played) so were lucky compared to some people. It’s raining right now and it has been for four days so everybody’s on edge.”

The Kowals live on Sunshine Place and a small block party, complete with a live band, was held Friday to mark the first anniversary of the disaster.

“Lots of people have left. I lost my doctor. It’s brought the community closer though. People are always asking, ‘How’d you make out?’”

She has raised $300 since releasing the book in April, and has ordered 1,000.

“Little Miss Jenny-Ray is a dance teacher in a small town at the base of the mountains. When her little town floods, Miss Jenny-Ray wants to help but doesn’t know what to do. So, she does the only thing she can think of – she dances and helps bring back the spirit of her dancers and the town.”

Koval explained that The Little Dance Teacher is dedicated to those who want to help in times of disaster but don’t know how.

“I was trying to think of a way to help the dancers and I wanted to come up with a way to help that would reach outside of High River to bring outside dollars into the community and I think the whole idea for this book chose me.”

She noted that Dance Tech owner Amanda Messner was a huge inspiration for the book because of all of the hard work she put into rebuilding the dance studio.

“Miss Amanda was a huge inspiration for the book itself but she was also a huge inspiration for the main character in the story, who I actually named after my daughters,” she said.

The illustrator is Matt Zoumer, who donated his work.

“He’s a 60-year-old cowboy from Longview who is an amazing artist,” said Alaine.

Those outside of High River can order the book online with a PayPal account at for a cost of $18, including shipping.

Hockey enforcers speak out

Brian D’Ambrosio of Missoula, Mont. used to work as a boxing writer in New York.

“In general, I’m a roaming, nomadic reporter, looking for the next cool subject,” he wrote me in an e-mail.

D’Ambrosio recently published Warriors on the Ice: Hockey’s Toughest Talk, a book available through Amazon.

He interviewing 30 of the toughest guys in the history of the NHL, in a 250-plus page book.

Some of hockey’s greatest enforcers, from Tim Hunter to Tony Twist, discuss the evolution of the tough guy position.

Former Vancouver Canuck Craig Coxe, ex-Philly Flyer Glen Cochrane, who lives in Kelowna, and one-time Flame and Panther Rocky Thompson also discuss their first fight and more. Each player shares a memory of Bob Probert, considered the toughest fighter ever.

“Secondly, it’s about the overall evaporating enforcer role and the death of fighting in the modern NHL,” said D’Ambrosio.

Former Canuck d-man Jim Agnew talks about how he and Alan May once bet $50 before a bout and then proceeded to the penalty box and asked one another about their folks, much to the surprise of the gate keeper.

Says Agnew, who had one assist in 81 NHL games: “My skill level probably wasn’t all that high. My old junior coach told me, ‘When you get the puck, just get rid of it. I don’t want to see you going more than two strides with that thing.’ I more or less bluffed my way through the NHL.”

Added Flyer ruffian Ed Hospodar, on the mind-set 30 years ago: “Glen Sather once said he had two boxes ready for me in Edmonton. One was for my head and the other was for the rest of my body.”



We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

You might like ...