a mere matter of skating

Problem: the Canadian government’s gaze is so fixed on celebrating the upcoming anniversary of the War of 1812 that there’s no federal money left over to preserve and promote the rest of our history which means — pause for breath — the museum where Howie Morenz’s last-ever autograph resides is about to fold up and wander off into the barley fields. The Globe and Mail was reporting this yesterday, noting the $30-million Ottawa has pledged for 1812 play-battles, monument repair, and “local observances” saluting the war we probably won. Meanwhile, in Windsor, Nova Scotia, the Hockey Heritage Centre is tired and broke and ready to call it quits. “We can’t fund everything at all times,” says Heritage Minister James Moore. Still, the Globe thinks it’s surprising that a hockey museum would be languishing, given the Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s famous fondness for hockey and its history.

This won’t help them in Windsor, necessarily, but maybe some cross-pollinating might be in order here, generally. I don’t quite know how you’d do it. Can I be the only person who’d pay to see the Battle of the Blades of Queenston Heights? Probably the place to start, though, is with Wayne Gretzky. His great-grandmother on his mother Phyllis’s side was a Brock who always said she was descended from the Hero of Upper Canada himself, Sir Isaac.

Something else, too, just while we’re on page three of yesterday’s Globe. Down at the bottom, the article about The Military Museums of Calgary? They have a clever program where they’re teaching pre-schoolers the value of bike helmets and Canadian history using military headgear. “We want kids to understand that helmets protect your head,” says Lorna Gutsche, the museum’s education manager. “Why does a soldier wear a helmet? It is protective gear. It protects the head.”

Great idea. Just to mention, though, that in looking into the history of hockey helmets not long ago, I came across research into the battlefield experience of soldiers through the ages by the British military historian Richard Holmes. He found that the universality of steel helmets in the First World War actually deepened the hostility of combatants. And a British officer in the Second said that while he had no compunction when it came to shooting an enemy wearing a helmet, he couldn’t do it to a bareheaded man. That’s not to discourage the kids of Calgary from buckling on bike helmets, of course. In fact, you know what? Maybe best just to keep this between us — under our hats, possibly.