Most of you that follow are aware a major part of our collection which has been deemed to be of “outstanding significance and national importance” by the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review has been acquired by the Canadian Museum of History, located in Ottawa. When the official announcement was made last Friday it ended three long, tedious, onerous, stressful and emotional years of negotiations. The response from the masses has been greatly supportive and for that we are forever grateful, however there has been some pushback from Toronto and Ottawa patrons.
The pressing question seems to be Why Ottawa? That’s Senators territory. It’s in Quebec? That’s Montreal! Aren’t these the sworn enemies on the ice? The Museum is located across the river or a driver, wedge (or in my case 2 lost balls and a drop) from the Parliament buildings.
Let’s be clear about one thing; this is Canada’s National Museum, located in the Nations Capital and has absolutely nothing to do with the Ottawa Senators or Montreal Canadiens. Deb and I carefully examined the many options that were presented to us and all the obvious players were considered. The Leafs were in transition rebuilding the fine product we are about to be presented with in a few weeks. Tim Leiweke’s departure a few years ago certainly didn’t help our process or the movement of personnel during that period, but we did have many conversations. MLSE lead by Brendan Shanahan have been nothing but supportive of our efforts and we have hosted events attended by numerous members of the team including Larry Tanenbaum and Mike Babcock and will continue to work with them moving forward.
The HHOF is in a different situation and a first class group that would have happily welcomed us but they cover hockey globally and that didn’t fit with our objective. Because they have to rotate the exhibits frequently with so many areas to cover, they couldn’t possibly commit to a permanent display. That is basically what the decision came down to.
Our goal is to have a permanent display that focuses on Canada’s contribution, past, present and future to hockey from a Canadian only perspective. We want to be a part of the initiative and continue to help build the program.
Canada has been instrumental in the development of the four major sports (much to the chagrin of our friends south of the border) and while an argument can be made either way regarding baseball, football and basketball, there is no denying hockey and the Canadian role.
How many of you know about the Coloured Hockey League founded in Nova Scotia in 1895 that operated until 1925? It employed 400 African Canadians, was credited with the first slapshot used in a game and allowed goaltenders to leave their feet to cover a puck.
We have a Canadian National Team for the deaf (I’m in process of setting a day for them to visit) along with a league for the blind. What do we know about the aboriginal contribution to the game of hockey? With the demographic of Canada changing, diversity certainly has played a role in the advancement of the game.
The Women’s game has grown organically and internationally; a team from Beijing will compete in the CWHL this year challenging for the Clarkson Cup as the league expands.
The game is much more than the seven NHL teams, the National men and women’s programs; how about the development at the grassroots level?
Our dream to have a permanent site that addresses the game from everything Canadian is very possible at the Museum of History; they have the space, time, location and ingenuity to see this through to fruition. The HHOF has enough to continue their great work on all things pertaining to hockey including internationally covering the Olympics, World Championships and European Leagues.
The Canadian Museum of History should be our version of the Smithsonian. Period. They have as I mentioned earlier, deemed our collection to contain “historical artifacts of National importance.” Researchers, historians and fans alike should have the opportunity to view these items along with hundreds from the archives.
The Museum hosts over 1 million visitors a year; the “Hockey More Than Just a Game” exhibit will draw 200,000 visitors when it ends its 6 month run the first week of October this year. In November it’ll open in Montreal followed by Winnipeg; negotiations with other locations are on going. I suggested to the Museum, Beijing as a possible destination; the game continues to grow in that country exponentially leading up to the 2022 Olympics. During the past NHL final the Chinese TV feed averaged 22 million a game; our networks are over the moon with 4-5 million.
Sadly my dream like anything at this level takes time and the ever present elephant in the room, funding. What doesn’t? A proud Canadian has to start the ball rolling on this initiative and I plan to spearhead this project to find the means.
I firmly believe a permanent display on Canada’s role in sports, lead by Hockey of course, will one day be realized and my collection, which also includes Team Canada artifacts along with numerous historic Wayne Gretzky items, will be the foundation to build.
So have the faith folks and think long term, because nothing bridges the gap of unity in Canada more than Hockey.
As I said in Ottawa on Friday it’s about time we step up and take pride in the great game of Hockey and our contribution, because nothing identifies us more as Canadians or defines us more as a nation.