behind the lines

Off Duty: The game goes on in “Military Moscow,” by Soviet painter Aleksandr Deyneka, which he completed in the span of wartime years 1941-46. The question is … which game is it? As I wrote in a book of mine, the story of how Russians came to the hockey we know involves a bit of a tangled provenance, a layer of mist, and a Chekhovian touch of men quarrelling offstage. Before 1946, Russians tended to play soccer in the summer and bandy — russki hokkei — when winter came. They’d been doing it, in one form or another, going back to Peter The Great’s time. Canatsky hokkei (ours) wasn’t unknown, especially in the Baltics, but mostly they bandyed, chasing a ball, with 11-man teams skating on a rink the size of a soccer field. Sticks were short and curled and wrapped in cord. Lawrence Martin says that there was a Canadian-sized hockey rink in a central Moscow soccer stadium going back to 1938, and that puck-hockey was introduced to phys-ed curricula starting in 1939. It was in ’46 that the first hockey league got going in a serious way. And so, here, under the barrage balloon? The sticks look fairly hockey-shaped, to me. There seems just to be the one goal, so it could be that they’re just taking shots. Either way, there’s no mistaking, or oppressing, the pure shinny spirit of the moment.

still life for a stalled season

Put Me In, Coach: Seven weeks into its COVID-19 hiatus, the NHL seems to have traded talk of reviving the hockey season with a flurry of neutral-site games in North Dakota and (maybe?) Saskatchewan for a tentative plan for a June(ish) re-start that would see the remainder of the regular season played out in four NHL cities ahead of a … late-summery? … Stanley Cup playoffs. Meanwhile, on Toronto’s downtown Hazelton Avenue, outside the Loch Gallery, artist Patrick Amiot’s patient Leaf has in recent days acquired a mask as he waits for his chance to get back into the game.

the old firm

If Not Now: In another world, one unswept by pandemic, the NHL would have been wrapping up its regular season tonight with a schedule of 15 games, including one featuring old rivals Leafs and Canadiens meeting at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena. The image here dates from 1951; if you can identify the artist, let me know.

steely dan

Q Card: 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. In a profile included in the Nordiques’ ’82-83 media guide, Bouchard listed his favourite TV show as the PBS scinece series Nova. His favourite food? Fettucini. When Montreal artist Heather Price painted this portrait that same season, she called it “Incognito.”