The high points of hockey games start turning into stories minutes after they happen, with post-game analyses happening from rink-side bench to living-room holler to bar stools across the country.
There’s no shortage of hockey anecdotes waiting to be turned into art. When Whitehorse city councillor Ranj Pillai wanted to include an arts component in the Hockey Day in Canada celebrations, he found eager collaborators in film and music.
Stolen From a Hockey Card was born.
Andrew Connors, programmer with the Yukon Film Society, chose seven short films and Toronto musician Dave Bidini (Rheostatics, Bidiniband) curated six musical acts for Hockey Card, which is co-presented by the Available Light Film Festival (ALFF). Ron MacLean will host, bringing special guests onstage between films and songs.
The films range across the decades and the across the country.
The earliest is the 1953 NFB film Here’s Hockey, directed by Leslie McFarlane, ghostwriter of many of the Hardy Boys novels. This Québec film follows Jean Beliveau in his final year in the juniors, after he was already drafted by the Montreal Canadiens.
Guy Maddin fans will enjoy the excerpt from his 2008 film My Winnipeg, a segment that details part of Maddin’s personal relationship to the loss of the Winnipeg Jets and their home arena.
Maddin’s closest moment with the Winnipeg Arena? He was born in one of its dressing rooms.
Rounding out the film lineup, Connors was delighted when the Yukon Government provided funding to commission two new works.
The Mad Miners Muck Up is about a Whitehorse high school teacher who grew up learning hockey on an outdoor rink carved into the mountainside at Elsa.
“The outdoor rink there was the centre of the community in the winter,” says Connors, who is donating his labour and hiring paid contractors to create the work.
There was a brotherhood of miners from Clinton Creek to Elsa and Faro, he says, who would travel around those communities and play tournaments.
“Some of the miners just took it upon themselves to organize the kids into teams and they ran a little minor league,” he adds. “And when the kids hit 13 they would graduate into the men’s league in this hardscrabble mining town, and the game was full contact back then.”
The second commission is a companion piece to one of the songs. John K. Samson’s song “The Petition” is about the citizens of Riverton, Manitoba, who have been petitioning to have ex-NHLer Reggie Leach inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Connors put the call out to a group of Winnipeg filmmakers to find someone who could make a film about Leach, a Métis player who grew up in Riverton and went on to won the Con Smythe Trophy as a right winger with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1976.
Mike Marynuik, who had previously worked on a short film about the demise of the Winnipeg Jets, was chosen. The result, The Riverton Rifle, uses stop-motion animation and documentary to talk about Leach’s early hockey years and his rise through the juniors, playing with the Flin Flon Bombers.
Bidini chose musicians who would offer a variety of musical styles, from beat-boxer C.R. Avery to Whitehorse singer-songwriter Kim Barlow. Except for Samson’s, all the songs were written directly for this event.
“It’s the first time Hockey Day in Canada has really done anything with including the arts,” Bidini says. “Ranj was initially just thinking of a music show, and I said why don’t you take it a step further?”
Bidini’s own new song is about New York Islanders’ centre Bryan Trottier, but Bidini – known for his books and films about hockey as well as his wide-ranging musical skill – is a master of timing when it comes to setting up a story.
“I don’t want to give too much away,” he laughs. “People will have to come and find out who the songs are about.”
Yukoners love their music and their hockey and the combination has already proven irresistible. Stolen From A Hockey Card was initially set up for February 10 only, and tickets sold out in less than 24 hours.
A Friday show was quickly arranged, as more of a music event – Buck 65, Ron MacLean and the special guests won’t be there, and Mathias Kom has been added to the program. Both shows are at the Yukon Arts Centre.