There are reasons why Madame Tussauds makes wax figures of some famous former residents of Stratford, Ontario (Justin Bieber) and not others (Howie Morenz), and as soon as I find out what they are, I’ll post them here. In the meantime, Alex Ovechkin is the latest hockey player to have been remade in a creepily lifelike way at Tussauds’ Washington branch where, for just about a month now, he’s been crouched nearby Captain Jack Sparrow, all 44 U.S. presidents, Rihanna, and Rosa Parks. (Justin Bieber is in London.)
During the French Revolution, Madame Tussaud got her start as a waxworker making death-masks of executed aristocrats. That would seem to call out for some kind of witticism regarding Bruce Boudreau, who was fired Monday morning as coach of the Capitals, and if one occurs, I’ll get that up, too. But: Ovechkin. If, as we’re told, exhibitions of wax figures were once a kind of itinerant newscast, bringing members of the public face-to-face with the newsmakers of the day, today they’re all about … allowing us to take pictures with celebrity doppelgangers on our iPhones to amuse and possibly fool our friends?
This is not the place to judge which Ovechkin, real or moulded, looks the more authentic. The debate about just why waxen Wayne Gretzky — he’s at Tussauds New York, if you’re in the area — looks so poorly is probably best set aside for another day, and blog. What does need to be said is that despite what you may have heard, Ovechkin isn’t the only NHLer other than Gretzky to have been rendered in beeswax: Maurice Richard and Glenn Hall were frozen in immortal awkwardness long before Ovechkin was even born.
The scene they’re commemorating — any guesses? You’re excused if you bet on the night in 1961 that Hall fell over and the Rocket tried and failed to help him back to his skates. Hall does look so seriously stricken that it’s hard to accept that he hasn’t been felled by something more deadly than a tricky deke — an assassin’s bullet, or a poisoned dart.
In fact, what we’re supposed to be seeing here is Richard in the act of scoring his 500th career goal, which he did on the night of October 19, 1957. Which doesn’t really explain why he looks like a man just about to take his first tottering steps on skates.
Montreal, if you didn’t know, has hosted a series of wax museums in its time, going to back to 1894, and they’ve been filled with Champlains and Montcalms, Joans of Arc and René Lévesques. Richard and Hall were made by Josephine Tussaud, a descendant of the original Madame, for her Musée de Cire de Ville Marie, which once occupied a corner of Ste. Catherine West and Drummond. Quebec City’s Musée de la Civilisation is supposed to have acquired much of the province’s wax population as the museums closed down over the years. The hockey players among them? It would be good to know whether they’ve survived. Stand by; we’ll see.