"All hockey players are bilingual. They know English and profanity."
"Hockey Night in Canada" 11X14 March 2010
Sigh. The amazing sport of ice hockey.
I was in elementary school when Wayne Gretzky was declared the Great One. If you were a boy and were old enough to make your own choices about the clothes you wore, you weren't cool unless you had an orange & blue Edmonton Oilers Hockey Jersey with the number 99 emblazoned on the back. If you had one, you wore it every single day over your other clothes, and thought it made you faster, stronger, like lightning. I secretly wanted one too, but wouldn't have been able to stand the ribbing from the boys in the playground. Chicks and hockey sticks weren't a big thing back then. I am happy that is changing. Thank you, Women's Hockey Gold.
Years later in University, I would head down to the local pub with my Canuck-loving friends and watch the Canucks anytime they got into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For me, it wasn't so much the game as the camaraderie among all Canuck supporters, mindlessly eating nachos and chicken wings, sharing pitchers of I.P.A. while we watched that little black puck cross back and forth across the red lines and goal lines. Screaming when we scored, screaming when they scored. Hugging and high five-ing when we won, drowning our sorry asses in more beer if we lost.
But nothing compares to Olympic Hockey watching.Nothing!
Putting on gloves and adjusting their helmets, engaging in pre-game locker room banter. Notice the little ode to Hockey Hair!
The fact that my mother and I watched the game together while my father, the true hockey fan, was out at a friend's, was the first clue that this game was like no other. My mother, who was really only interested in the score, took the first and second period to clean out her car. When Canada scored, I opened up the door and shouted, "Canada scored! one-zeeerooo!", out in to the backyard. Mom would shout back, "Good!" or "Yay Canada!" or something to that effect.
Two minutes before the game ended, I was united with my fellow Canadians in cheering. A minute and a half later, I was again united with my fellow Canadians in utter shock when the Americans scored. I'm pretty sure the mighty "F"-word collectively uttered by this nation could be heard from Coast to Coast.
Phew! Sidney Crosby, I heart you. Thanks buddy. We appreciate you scoring that final goal for us. I'm not even going to imagine what it would have been like otherwise. If any Americans are reading this blog, I just want you to know it wasn't an easy win, and I think that game aged us all. My fingernails still haven't grown back. Thanks for playing a good game.
The numbers on the hockey jerseys weren't randomly chosen. that's all I'm saying.
This painting is a small departure from the Okanagan Series, but still fitting because of a few interesting facts:
My hometown of Penticton is known for the best hockey school in Canada. Many a great Canadian Hockey Player started out spending their summers carving ice in the local arena. Some even stayed year round, joining the Penticton Knights to take advantage of Penticton's coaches. I remember going to watch Paul Kariya play when I was in grade twelve. He was a grade or two behind me.
The world's largest hockey stick and hockey puck, built for Expo 86 in Vancouver, were also built in my little hometown. the stick is 205 feet long and weighs 61,000 pounds, and now resides in Duncan, BC. Now if that is not a fun fact, I don't know what is.
As I painted these hockey players, I thought about the similarities between putting on hockey equipment and how knights of the old days would put on their armour and head out into battle. In some ways, these guys are Canada's modern gladiators, and we cheer them on rink-side as if the lions had just been unleashed. I almost wanted to call this painting something like, "The Battle of 2010," a little cheeky jab at the names of paintings I had to memorize as an art history student of long ago. But after I finished the painting and I held it up to show my Dad, I told him the names I was mulling over.
Dad made the decision.
"The Olympic Game of 2010 will be remembered as one of the greatest games ever played in Canadian history, but "Hockey Night in Canada lives forever."
The sound of Vancouver when we won! Thanks, Crosby!!