This lavishly illustrated book is absolutely packed with beautiful color photography, displaying the most interesting, unique, famous and rare artifacts from the Hockey Hall of Fame's collection.
with cross-section-like images that fill the pages with color and history. Come for the nostalgia, but stay for the remarkable display of bookmaking.
For hockey fans who aren't able to travel to the actual Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, this spectacularly designed showcase comes a close second. The contents are mostly what fans would expect--thematic essays on aspects of the sport surrounded by images of the mementos and memorabilia housed in the hall--but these pages really jump! ... Come for the nostalgia, but stay for the remarkable display of bookmaking.
- Firefly Books, Limited
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HOCKEY HALL of FAME TREASURES
Firefly BooksCopyright © 2011 Firefly Books Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneCelebrating the Game
The ultimate way to celebrate the game is to be there at rink side. However, the physical act of cheering is fleeting and only a small part of celebrating the game. Long after the final whistle blows and the arena is empty, it is the shared memories and the celebration that happens in the day-to-day lives of fans that keep fandom strong between games and across generations.
The tangible keepsakes, collectibles, swag and personal mementos are ways in which fans define themselves and their relationship with the game. Wearing the logo of a particular league, team or player enables a fan to find a community of like-minded people, all rooting for the same thing. To collect or exhibit items that illustrate your favorite team or player is a definitive sign of fandom. From hockey cards and action figures to pinball games and replica jerseys, the message comes across loud and clear: "I am a hockey fan."
As Dave Bidini says in his essay "Moments to Mementos," "[these items] recount the richness of experience that is often too long or tiresome to express to ourselves and to others. Instead, the hockey fan can point to a puck or a stick or a pin, and, in the lingua franca of sports, others suddenly understand.... They're part of an inexpressible shorthand."
Presented in the following pages are items and moments belonging to that shorthand – objects of expression and desire, used and discarded by some and cherished by others – all of which contribute to our communal celebration of the game.
MOMENTS TO MEMENTOS
| DAVE BIDINI
Away from the rink, my hockey life is measured out in memorabilia: crests, decals, pins, cards, pennants, programs, buttons, iron-ons, stickers, books, postcards, scarves, records, sticks and one small, ancient equipment bag from the 1961 Toronto Maple Leafs, which was passed over a crowd to me while I was performing at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern. I also have a life-sized Wendel Clark cutout. It was stolen from a sporting goods store, but not by me. The thief's name is Gary. He is a drummer from Calgary who is legally blind. Still, he can sniff out prized memorabilia as good as anyone. During the Leafs' playoff run in 1993, Gary brought the Wendel cutout to a show my band was playing at the El Mocambo in Toronto. I left with it under my arm; me and my cardboard Wendel, navigating our way through a spring night.
Hockey is about games and players, but it's also about this kind of stuff. I have a mountain of it here, there and in my basement, and so do you. And so does the Hockey Hall of Fame. But the Hall of Fame doesn't have what you and I have. While our things may not hold as much historical importance as the items displayed at the Hall, or be decorated with Bugsy Watson's blood, they do possess a certain magical weight – something that can only be achieved through profound personal connection. And that connection becomes important when we call upon our stuff as a way to remember our lives or define who we are – especially when explaining our relationship with hockey to someone who doesn't quite get it.
There's a chestnut sitting in an antique ashtray on top of the wardrobe in my bedroom. Technically it's a hawthorn berry, but it looks like a chestnut, only a little smaller. I was given this chestnut by a vendor in Harbin, China's ancestral homeland of hockey. I'd just finished playing there for two weeks with a team of ex-pat Americans from Pea Pack, New Jersey. We played games against Chinese old-timers as well as teenagers who represented the next generation of Harbinian hockey players. On our way to the train station we passed a nut vendor. I was dragging my hockey bag and stick – and luggage, ugh – with me, and this apparel amused the vendor to no end. He came out from behind his cart and grabbed my stick. Fearing that I would be late for our train, I tried to wrest it away from him, but he resisted, so I reached for his tray of nuts as a way to divert his attention. He put down my stick, laughed, went over, grabbed one of the nuts and fitted it between his teeth. He made a guttural "Nrrrgghggg!" sound as he bit down and smiled. Standing in the cold of northern China with this strange, grunting man is one of my most vivid memories of that trip. He spat the nut back into his hand, and I held out my palm. He laughed, nodded his head, then gave it to me. My kids call it my lucky chestnut. I suppose it is.
I had an altogether different, but similar, experience in Russia. It was 2005, and I was expected for an 11 p.m. game at a local rink about 40 minutes outside of Moscow. The team, I was told, consisted of veterans of the Soviet Union's Afghanistan war, though none of the organizers could substantiate this. I'd spent most of that afternoon at the apartment of 1972 Team Russia veteran Yuri Blinov. Yuri has cats – lots of cats – and, since I am allergic to them, I left our interview barely able to gasp for air. Sucking on my inhaler as we made our way to the rink in the late evening, I wondered whether I'd have the energy – the air – to skate that night. The people with whom I was traveling convinced me to go anyway. When I showed up at the rink, I could barely muster the strength to put on my equipment. I was an embarrassment on the ice. At one point, a player asked me, in broken English, "Have you played since you were a boy?" I told him that I had. "Then why are you so bad?" he wanted to know.
I had no good answer. After the game, we tore off our equipment, at which point I noticed the players' chests: scraped and carved and decorated in crude Russian tattoos, all of them worn while fighting in the Afghani mountains in the 1980s. Settling in front of our stalls, the players told us war stories and illuminated us about what Russian life had been like before and after the fall of Communism. Then the team's ringleader – a former soldier turned convict turned free citizen named Misha – made a phone call, and, 10 minutes later, a boy appeared carrying 12 Heineken tall boys and a bag of deetchka, Russian dope.
We drank and talked deep into the night, and, before leaving, a player whose name I was never told gave me a gift: an Orthodox Russian prayer cloth that, he said, his mother had given to him before he had headed to war. I told him that I couldn't possibly have it, but he insisted, pressing it into my hand with his.
"It gave me very good luck," he told me. "And now, it will give you good luck."
But why would a soldier give away his lucky charm? I wanted to know. He told me that he was already lucky: he had survived the war and was back playing the game he loved best. The prayer cloth – dark purple with gold and silver Cyrillic lettering across it – now sits in a drawer just below my lucky chestnut.
There are other items that keep my Sino-Russian collection company: Mongolian sheep bones that two Asian hockey elders gave to me before I left Ulan Baatar and a specially made sweater from Al Ain, the desert town in the United Arab Emirates where the national team makes its home. One item I didn't bring home but wanted to is two pounds of smoked bacon, brought to me after a night of showing hockey films in an old Transylvanian town. Instead, we left it for our hotel clerk. In Romania, it's actually what I left behind that counted more than what I brought home with me. There, a local hockey manager planted a wild cherry tree for my newborn daughter. Today, it's 11 years old, 6 feet tall and blossoms every spring.
All of these things – my chestnut, my prayer cloth, the bones, the bacon and the cherry tree – reveal something about my life – where I've been, who I was, what I was doing – when I found them and when they found me. That they've stayed with me while other memories (and tokens) of people and places have become lost, in reality and in the recesses of my memory, shows how connected the game is to my sense of self and to my sense of time.
I've collected a lot of things as an adult, but never as much as I collected as a kid.
I've kept many of my childhood hockey mementos. Flipping through my weathered Esso Power Player album with Paul Henderson's looping signature on the back page is to return to the days of lying on my stomach in front of the wood-grained Zenith television that sat in our wood-grained basement. Of course, I have hockey cards, too, wound in old rubber bands and stacked team-to-team and year-to-year on a shelf in my office. There is the WHA fold-out mini-posters that were included in some Cream of Wheat or Rice Krispies boxes (only Mike Walton of the New England Fighting Saints remains) and flats of 80s puffy stickers with relief headshots documenting the first wave of Europeanalia: Nilson, Salming, Lidstrom, Bubla, et al.
I still even have a set of Gary Unger-era St. Louis Blues postcards, which I've resisted mailing, even though I have scads of friends who'd be delirious to find one of them dropping through their mail slot. I've kept programs and boxes of old Hockey Pictorial magazines, which evoke the scent of old smoke shops, bubblegum and cigars, and what it felt like to stand, as a boy, in the glow of the shop's warm light with my father, who would reach into his pocket to jangle the dollar fifty required to purchase what, back then, was one of the game's true pictorial bibles.
I have photos, too. My most treasured is a set of crudely snapped Instamatic images I took of Team Canada 74 and their game against the Russians at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. In one series, you can't see much more than the rows of larger adults sitting in front of me and, down below, on the ice, the back of Bobby Hull's head, whose thinning hair (or hair piece, perhaps?) couldn't quite hide his bald patch. With the photo comes the memory of Gardens' popcorn, the rattling of the clapped-up seats, the shrill cry of the organ, the grumbling of the crowd whenever the team fell behind, the sudden expression of joy after a goal or great play, and the heat of the arena in the early fall, which closed in on us as we took our seats for the big game.
In the end, a lot of these tokens are just that, ephemera that lingers on shelves, in the basement, in drawers, atop old furniture. But they're here for a reason: they recount the richness of experience that is often too long or tiresome to express to ourselves and to others. Instead, the hockey fan can point to a puck or a stick or a pin, and, in the lingua franca of sports, others suddenly understand. Sometimes expressing one's love and devotion to hockey will fall on deaf ears. But anyone can hold a magic chestnut or bits of a broken blade in their hands and understand. They're part of an inexpressible shorthand, and, although grounded and flightless, they still seem somehow alive to us – and to others.
Among all the things I have kept over the years, I still have a Toronto Toros crest. It is huge, the kind you put on the back of a jean jacket. I can't remember where I got it, but I do remember that the Toros were it in my neighborhood in 1974, the one year they rivaled the Leafs in popularity.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine, also bitten by the Toros bug, who'd relocated to New York, gotten married and started a family was delivered a set of boxes from his mother. She'd taken to cleaning out the family basement and decided to return his childhood keepsakes. My friend told me how thrilled he was to have some of his boyhood tokens on hand, and how he planned to pass them on to his son. He said, excitedly, "You'll never, ever guess what she brought me!" But I didn't have to guess. I knew exactly what it was.
DAVE BIDINI, the Hockey Nomad, is a musician, journalist and author. He was a founding member of the acclaimed rock band the Rheostatics and has written several books, including Tropic of Hockey and Home and Away: In Search of Dreams at the Homeless World Cup of Soccer.
Playing the Game
The Hockey Hall of Fame is filled to the brim with items that recall the heroics, inspirational plays, awe-inspiring achievements and legendary exploits that have happened on the rink – a collection of emotions and moments seared into the fabric of time and preserved for all to see. Of course, a museum can't actually exhibit an emotion or preserve a memory. Instead, hockey's hallowed halls exhibit items that offer hockey fans a way to relieve the emotion and vividly remember the game.
To see Guy Lafleur's No. 10 Montreal jersey is to remember his grace and speed – hair flying in the wind – as he streaked down the wing on those fabulous Canadiens teams of the 1970s. To view the carvings and tape job of the goal stick used by Percy LeSueur during the pre-NHL Cup-challenge days is to recall newsreel footage of old-time hockey and sepia photos of neatly groomed gentlemen who wowed fans with displays of speed and skill previously unmatched in sport. To gaze upon Sidney Crosby's "golden goal" Olympic puck is to remember the feeling of a nation rising to its feet in exalted joy while simultaneously exhaling a communal sigh of relief.
The magic and importance of the Hockey Hall of Fame is found in these items, which intersect personal and collective memory. The sticks, skates, pucks and masks shown in this chapter illustrate hockey's touchstone moments, obscure records, defunct leagues and Hall of Fame careers. They provide a window into the emotions and memories of playing the game and into those who played the game well.
THE PRODIGAL SON Loving Hockey, Leaving It and Coming Home
| DON GILLMOR
Stop me if you've heard this one: As a boy I used to leave my house in the dark and walk to the rink and put on my skates in the player's box then play hockey by myself, calling out my heroics in a play-by-play voice learned from Foster Hewitt's final years, waiting until the next boy arrived and a game would start. Others would arrive in the hesitant dawn, and I remember every day being cold, bright and windless. The game evolved as the day went on and more players arrived, players of different ages and skill levels and pugnacity. Like the Roman Empire, it grew from barely connected villages into a mighty entity that was fast and dangerous, and then it slowly collapsed, 10 hours later, as people finally left for dinner, called home by older sisters, collected by fathers. The game went on after the lights were turned off and the clubhouse was locked up, a handful of us playing in the dark until someone was hit in the face and we walked him home, weeping, and presented him to his outraged mother.
My story and thousands like it are part of the fabric of the idyllic Canadian childhood. It is a mythic and familiar story that could be transplanted to any number of towns across the nation. I lived for hockey, and the reasons I eventually left the game were sown during these early years.
The majority of my youth hockey career was played as a member of the Wildwood Warriors, the smallest community team in Winnipeg, Manitoba. So tiny was our community that we had trouble finding enough kids to put a team on the ice. We lost almost every game.
We did beat a private boys' school that had students from England and the Middle East who were dismissed locally as uniform-wearing nancies. It was one of the few games I looked forward to. They had kids who had never seen ice outside of a drinking glass and who still walked on their skates. We beat them 6–0. Afterward they came into our dressing room, introduced themselves with handshakes and poured us all hot chocolate from a large steel tankard. We felt they didn't really understand the game.
Our most critical game was against a team of girls, a match arranged by our coach and billed as a morale-booster, though I suspect it was born out of a bet against their female coach. They were, in memory, bigger than we were. Their captain was 13, a year older than me, and a fearsome tomboy who had impressive hockey skills – a rarity in those pre–Hayley Wickenheiser days – and who made adolescent boys wary because there was a good chance she could beat them up. After two periods the game was still scoreless. Our coach began calling us by feminine derivatives of our names (Joan for John, Donna for Don, etc.) and wondered aloud how long we would carry this disgrace if we lost. ("Forever" was his opinion.) In the third period I broke the scoreless tie – backhand, top shelf – rescuing us from this final ignominy.
This stirring victory didn't help us against the rest of the league though, nor did it help my desire to play organized hockey. We continued to get thrashed weekly, and after a while I began to dread the games. I lived for shinny, where my true hockey soul was released: I could fly down the ice and experiment with new moves and call out my own greatness in Hewitt's distinctive tone. In a game of shinny there are few worries about being on the losing side because the sides change as new players arrive. The weak side can easily pick up a deadly sniper, and with a few quick ones everything is equal again.
Excerpted from HOCKEY HALL of FAME TREASURES Copyright © 2011 by Firefly Books Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of Firefly Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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