What is the point of view in The Boys of Winter by Wayne Coffey? Is this point of view effective or not? 

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The full title of Wayne Coffey's book is The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the U.S. 1980 Olympic Hockey Team. Of course this story is familiarly known as the "miracle on ice" and has been memorialized in a Disney movie called "Miracle." Wayne Coffey has written a book which he claims reveals the "untold story" of this dramatic event. The book contains many first-hand accounts and personal quotes; however, the book is not written from a first-person point of view.

Except in direct quotes, Coffey refers to Herb Brooks, the coach of this gold medal-winning game, in the third person. Note the following lines taken from page 11 of the paperback edition of the book:

Brooks didn't just put up a wall between himself and the team: he threw in a moat and alligators, too. It was a way to make sure that his own regional bias, and his personal feelings, didn't get in the way of personal decisions.

Here we see that Coffey refers to Brooks in the third person, either by using his name or by using the third-person pronouns he and his. This clearly indicates that the book was written from a third-person point of view, and we read the descriptions of this historical event primarily through Coffey's eyes.

The next question is whether the book is written from a third-person limited point of view, in which Coffey reveals only the thoughts of one character, or from a third-person omniscient point of view, in which he writes from many characters' perspectives. It is clear from the above excerpt that Coffey writes at least from Brooks's perspective, since he explains what Brooks was thinking when he placed a figurative wall between himself and his players. Consider this quote from page 25 of the book to determine which specific literary point of view Coffey is using:

Led by goaltender, Jim Craig, the players charged out of the locker room, turned right and then turned right again. At the threshold of the ice, Craig paused and looked up for a second. The building was shaking from the cheers. He took it in, and he felt great. 

This is not a quote or a story told by Jim Craig; this is Coffey's description of what Craig did but also his interpretation of how Craig felt. Undoubtedly he feels confident in writing this after having talked to or read accounts from the goaltender, but in this book it is written as something he knows to be true about Craig's feelings at that moment. If a narrator knows what more than one character is feeling, the story is written in the third-person omniscient point of view.

Whether it is effective or not, Coffey did not have much choice but to write this book from a third-person perspective since he was not one of the participants and since he wanted to include a broad range of information from many people who were part of this singular event. The only thing he could have done differently was to use a third-person limited point of view, but of course that would have made his storytelling far less dramatic. 

In general, this POV is effective for this story because it allows Coffey to share the feelings and thoughts of many people about this dramatic event. Perhaps if the event he was writing about were not so emotionally charged, another choice might have been better. Since he cannot tell it in the more dramatic and revealing first-person point of view, he chose the next best thing and it is effective.