Beer hockey is not a sport for the faint of heart. Although it substitutes much of the grace,

skill, and teamwork of our nation’s icy pastime for a grittier skill set, it lacks none of the glory.

To the casual observer it may seem a frantic melee, a cartoonish fray of scabby elbows and greasy sticks flung with a wonton fever about a small, dimly lit kitchen. It features the squeak and thud of heavy boots on linoleum, the crash of forgotten dishes jarred to neardoom on the countertops, the persistent cacophony of a radio playing nameless music — not unlike a faint childhood memory of some rambunctious game played underfoot while the adults prepared the evening meal. But this is no child’s game. Nay — fame, fortune, and shinbones are indeed on the line.

What kind of man, you ask, could give birth to such wonderful and terrible chaos? The very same, in fact, that penned the album Tales Of Absurdity: one Mr. Ryan Dorward, a warrior poet in his own right, equally skilled at stick and quill.

But the fierce spirit that one encounters when facing off against the man is supplanted by a gentler, almost woeful one in his latest recorded work; his voice is at times weighed down with heartsickness, disillusionment, and the simple contented loneliness of an artist alone with his instrument.

Recorded live off the floor in a mere afternoon, Tales Of Absurdity examines the human experience through eyes accustomed to the ridiculous and hardened to the stark realities of life.

Often introspective, almost to the point of exclusion, Dorward sings not so much to a confiding ear as to the world and the people he’s traveled amongst in the recent years — ambiguous concrete jungles and ghostly women, who may or may not be.

Though the tone of the album is, for the most part, one of melancholy, there is also an undercurrent of resigned optimism about life’s trials, one that suggests a sturdy soul at peace with the temporal and often unjust nature of life. A soul that insists on laughter at the expense of its devils — laughter at the absurd.

Should you find yourself in possession of a handpressed copy of Tales Of Absurdity, you may find the back of the cover jacket graced by a short witticism or poem, a “tale”, as it were. Some are borrowed; some are just born. You must spot the difference. Regard them, if you wish, as a short foreword to the work within.

They represent the wry wisdom you might expect from a musician who would invite you to play hockey in his kitchen during the wee hours of the morning. “But why?” you ask. Surely something will be broken.

Relax, he says — everything is permitted.

Tales of Absurdity is available for $10 at the Great Canadian Dollar Store.