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.
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.”
“If you notice,” Molloy wrote in an e-mail, 2014, “Louis has a black eye.” The drawer below is filled with earth from Batoche, Saskatchewan, where Major-General Frederick Middleton’s federal troops overwhelmed Riel’s forces in 1885.
To view more of Jeff Molloy’s work, visit http://molloy.ca/jeff/.
Bullet Joe Sawyer was the star goaltender for the Montreal Mounteds, see, but then he went to war and lost his nerve, as happens, and when he got back to guarding goals, it just wasn’t the same. With all those pucks piling up behind him, Montreal just had to let him go, which is how he ended up suiting up for their rivals, the Red Ants, in their big game against — yes, that’s right — the Mounteds.
Staggering to this feet, though he tottered and sagged against the goal post, Bullet Joe faced the surging forms in front. He tossed aside the stub of his hockey stick as useless, and extended gloved hands, spreading the fingers wide. A woman’s hysterical, high-pitched scream carried above the human battery of sound. “Stop them, Bullet Joe!”
Electrifying. I’ll let you guess how Harold Sherman’s novelette “Bullet Joe, Goalie” ends, and who gets the girl — yes, there’s a girl.
Hockey’s not your thing? In 1928, readers of Top-Notch Magazine could take their pick of torrid tales: also included in this mid-winter issue were stories of cowboys (“Blazing Six-Guns”) and canny courtroom stenographers (“All is Not Wasted That Leaks”). There’s even something for fans of big, striped-game hunting. I haven’t read that particular story all the way through, it’s true, but I like to think that the title suggests that this is a grasslands tale told from the point-of-view of the wily quarry as he outsmarts the bumbling human hunter, gets his gun, teaches him not to be such a bloodthirsty idiot. It’s called “Zebra Guile.”
(Maclean’s cover by John Little, 1958)
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”