Owen MacKenzie was actually the first character that I envisioned when I started considering a story about hockey. He's just an earnest, striving, and relatively simple dude - which is, admittedly, a bit of a hockey stereotype, albeit one worth thinking about in more detail.
Owen's hockey career is thrust upon him at some point during high school when, seemingly overnight, he grows by about a foot, making him suddenly viable as a serious player. But the only reason that he had even an ounce of viability in the first place - which, to his credit, he realizes - is Agnes, with whom he has shared a respect for the game - and an engrossing rivalry in it - since they were little kids.
As Owen leaves the relatively protected zone of childhood, he encounters a new kind of hockey - hockey as an industry that commoditizes and at times dehumanizes its workers. He also encounters racism and sexism, not for the first time, but in particularly virulent, concentrated forms that adversely affect him and his relationships with other people. They aren’t aimed directly at him, of course, because he's a white male, but he both witnesses them and becomes complicit in them, whether more or less knowingly.
In developing Owen, I wanted to show his privilege and the contradictions that it reveals. I wanted to show the downsides of his (largely enviable) position. And I wanted to show the depth of his loyalty to Agnes - even when she baffles or angers him, he isn't able to disengage. Is it love, or is it some even more primal reflex? He's like a dog hanging onto a stick, his jaw locked, his teeth digging into the soft wood as you try to wrest it free. And the longer he hangs on, the less inclined he is to let go, because - well, just because.
Underneath Owen's easygoing, affable nature is a fair amount of anger and frustration that, thanks to his life-long position of (relative) privilege, is only now beginning to surface. He's forced to acknowledge it, to puzzle out where it comes from, and to address it. If he can combine these efforts with his authentically kind instincts, will it be enough to meet Agnes halfway? And if it is, will halfway be enough?
If you want to find out, you'll have to read the book.