A FAN’S NOTES
A Near Collision with Greatness
We were downtown yesterday. Our primary destination was the Art Gallery of Alberta and its new exhibit entitled Pop Show! Pop art was a product of post-war prosperity and mass production. Influenced in part by advertising it lingers with us today as a now un-ironic affectation of contemporary graphic design. There’s a world of difference between a green Richard Nixon and a blue Barack Obama.
The collection on display was not overly extensive and given the zest of the genre, did not overwhelm. Of particular interest to Edmontonians was a series of silk screened portraits of Wayne Gretzky by Andy Warhol. The former Oilers star seems impossibly young and his 80s mullet is unfortunate. Warhol, who famously put lipstick on Elvis and Chairman Mao, rendered number 99 as an alarming hybrid of rock star and prom queen. Gretzky would appear much more attractive to me had he spent his career in a Montreal uniform.
It was a fine sunny day in the city so we decided to wander over to the grand Hotel Macdonald which is celebrating its 100th anniversary. I always enjoy a beer under the massive Fathers of Confederation portrait that hangs in the lounge off the main lobby. Cheers, Sir John. A ragged gaggle of hockey fans had gathered outside, maintaining a respectful distance from the main entry. The Colorado Avalanche were in town to play the Oilers who have improved from abysmal to merely dismal.
If you absolutely must use a public toilet, you can’t go wrong with the facilities in a five-star hotel. Between beers, I paused in the lobby to admire a gigantic scale model of the Mac constructed with Lego, some 100,000 pieces and 700 hours’ work according to the Edmonton Journal. I heard someone calling to a friend or colleague in French. I turned and nearly bumped into Avs coach Patrick Roy who was striding through the lobby in sweat sodden workout garb. I did a double take. We made eye contact. My jaw dropped. I lost my voice. I recovered my dignity and headed for the men’s room. Alone in the stall I convinced myself that in our brief moment of one-sided recognition he knew that I saw him not as an NHL coach but as Saint Patrick.
The Canadiens’ last two Stanley Cups, 1986 and 1993, were stolen trophies. These two editions of the club were not the steamrolling flashy machines of the 70s dynasty. They were instead anchored at the goal line by an insanely talented, confident and cocky butterflying magician, Patrick Roy, a man who winked at Gretzky’s L.A. Kings during the ‘93 final: You cannot beat me.
The tragedy for Montreal fans is that Roy spent just 12 seasons of his stellar 20-year career as a Hab. He wanted out after a very public dispute with then coach Mario Tremblay. This was an alpha dog fight of two egos at the old Forum. Only one possessed the actual skills required for such a self-reverential attitude. While the Canadiens have since retired Roy’s 33 sweater, Tremblay was always just another number as a player. It’s worth noting now too that Tremblay is currently embroiled in the courts over charges of allegedly speeding while driving drunk - mainly because the little man played the ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ card with the arresting officer. Schadenfreude come lately.
The martyrdom of Saint Patrick must necessarily bring us to the Internet hockey meme of Jesus Price. Everybody knows the Canadiens aren’t really as good as they have been this winter. There’s voodoo between the goalposts. Goaltender Carey Price seems to be slumming in the modern day NHL, sent down from some celestial loop where Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Bobby Hull, Mario Lemieux and Gretzky are still performing at the all-star height of their unique and various games. Price is poised to tie or surpass regular season franchise records for wins and shutouts. He is chasing Hab Hockey Hall of Famers and Stanley Cup winners Jacques Plante and Ken Dryden.