portrait of the goaltender as a young artist
x was an elephant who couldn’t keep his laces tied
If you grew up in Canada in the 1970s maybe, like mine, your imagination fed on the elegant excellence of the Montreal Canadiens. Maybe you also found delight and inspiration (as I did, endlessly) in Alligator Pie, Dennis Lee’s monumental 1974 collection of poems for children, illustrated by Frank Newfeld. I keep my copy ready at hand to this day, in case I might need to consult a stanza of “Willoughby Wallaby Woo” or “The Fishes of Kempenfelt Bay” or (obviously) “Alligator Pie” itself, even though I know the whole of that by heart, all the way through its bravura finale:
Alligator soup, alligator soup,
If I don’t get some I think I’m gonna droop.
Give away my hockey-stick, give away my hoop,
But don’t give away my alligator soup.
As a kid who loved to draw goaltenders, I was particularly taken with the illustration on page 52, reproduced here, that went with “The Hockey Game, ”Lee’s homage to A.A. Milne. Featuring Squirm (a worm), Wee (a flea), and George (a George), this poem (as maybe you recall) starred the tearful elephantine goaltender pictured above: his name was X. I was fascinated that he was depicted as a Bruin and no doubt looked up the number 30 (as I just did again) to discover that in Boston in those years it belonged to Ross Brooks. Did I worry that X doesn’t seem to be wearing any pants, protective or otherwise? I’m not sure I noticed. I did love (and tried my best to copy) those pads and that blocker.
Maybe you remember? Lee’s play-by-perfect-play goes, in part, like this:
Hockey with a
Hockey with her
Friends and her foes.
Hockey but he
Couldn’t keep his
And George just played with his toes.
the riel deal
Toronto-born artist Jeff Molloy lived and worked on Gabriola Island, B.C. He died in 2016 at the age of 59. “I started life as Jeffrey Robert Stonehouse before being adopted at six days old,” he wrote in an Artist’s Statement. “As a consequence, considerations of identity, history and spirituality have long been my preoccupation and the driving force behind my art. Much of my work explores historical and contemporary culture through the use of humour, stereotypes, traits and artefacts. As a man with an unspecified cultural heritage, I feel some latitude to stake a tentative, probing claim, if not to a specific cultural group, then to a generalized Canadian past.”
Molloy created several mixed-media renderings of Louis Riel, the Métis leader and founder of Manitoba whose day is today, in tandem with works depicting Sir John A. Macdonald. “As an artist I use hockey as a metaphor,” Molloy said. “Macdonald was the ref and Louis was the player sent to the penalty box.” Hence the title of the piece pictured below: “Two Minutes for Interference, Five Minutes for Fighting, and Death for Unsportsmanlike Conduct.”
To view more of Jeff Molloy’s work, visit http://molloy.ca/jeff/.
Dan Bouchard’s NHL career launched in Atlanta, where he guarded goals for the Flames for nine seasons, but it eventually landed him back home, in the province where he was born: Bouchard tended the crease for the Quebec Nordiques from 1981 through ’85. Born in Val-D’Or, Quebec, on a Tuesday of today’s date in 1950, Bouchard turns 72 today. In a profile included in the Nordiques’ ’82-83 media guide, Bouchard listed his favourite TV show as the PBS science series “Nova.” His favourite food? Fettucini. When Montreal artist Heather Price painted this portrait that in ’82, she called it “Incognito”
étude for skates and sticks
Peter Gzowski spins out the story that may have inspired this 1944 W.A. Winter masterpiece in The Game of Our Lives (1981) and Trent Frayne had a rendition, too, in a 1953 feature, “How They Broke the Heart of Howie Morenz.” But Gzowski’s facts are off, slightly, and Frayne’s accounts may err on the side of romanticism, so best, probably, to go back to Morenz biographer Dean Robinson, who was born, like his subject, in Mitchell, Ontario, and can point out, if you go there with him as I did in 2017, the place where this all happened near where Whirl Creek joins the Thames River.
Here’s the pertinent passage from Robinson’s Howie Morenz: Hockey’s First Superstar, originally published in 1982, updated in 2016:
James Boyd, a retired dentist living in Kitchener, Ont., was a year older than Howie when the two were growing up in Mitchell. “We used to go down to the river on Saturday morning and scrape off a rink with scrapers we’d made at home,” recalled Boyd. “There’d be about six or eight of us, and by the time we’d finish, the snow would be about two feet high, and it would act as boards. We’d stay down there all day long. We might go home for some lunch, but we’d come right back again. We changed down at the river. At times we did build some benches, some roughshod benches, but mostly we just sat in the snow. Practically all of us wore magazines for shinpads. We’d pull our socks over them to hold them up.”
Darkness determined when the games would end, and for Howie there just weren’t enough hours in a winter day. His mom didn’t help matters by scheduling him for piano lessons. On those days, Howie would stash his skates under the bridge, and after school, instead of reporting to the home of Ida Hotham, his piano teacher, he would race down to the pond. It wasn’t the greatest of schemes, but it worked until his mother found it necessary to ask Miss Hotham why Howie seemed to be stalled at “One-Fingered Joe.” The teacher told Rose Morenz that her son had been getting along fine, but she hadn’t seen him in weeks. Howie never did learn how to play the piano, which in later years he said he regretted, but eventually he mastered the ukulele.
a niche for mitch
Toronto Maple Leafs’ winger Mitch Marner scored an empty-net goal in his team’s 3-1 home win over the San Jose Sharks tonight and thereby recorded a point in his 18th straight game, matching the record for the longest point streak in franchise history. Darryl Sittler and Ed Olczyk each had an 18-game point run in consecutive games for Toronto, in 1978 and 1990 respectively. The portrait here is the work of Toronto editorial designer, illustrator, and endlessly interesting artist Nadine Arseneault. Her work has featured before on Puckstruck: you can find it here and here and here as well as here.