Friday, October 16, 2015

Hockey Skates

Oil on Gesso Board (8x8 in)

My father was a professional hockey player in the NHL for a brief moment in time back in 1949.  He was born a hockey player, and as a very young boy, he woke early in the morning every day in winter to go out and practice his hockey skills on the frozen ponds nearby, before having to return home to his daily chores, and then head off to school.  Where hockey was concerned he was passionate and determined.

He had just begun his junior hockey career in the late 1930’s, but when war was declared he enlisted in the army around the time of his 18th birthday.  He came out of the army in 1945 as a Sergeant, but he also sustained a severe knee injury during his service which would dog him in all the years that followed.  Still, after the war his hockey career continued and with a lot of hard work he eventually earned a spot on the 1949 New York Rangers; however, remnants of the knee injury drastically shortened his NHL stint to less than one season.

Knee problems notwithstanding, Dad was still very much an able and talented hockey player and his contract was enthusiastically bought out by the Charlottetown Islanders of the “Maritime Big Four”, an extremely competitive pro league where the fans took their hockey VERY seriously.  There he assumed the role of team captain, earning the league’s MVP award.  As the years went by Dad’s career migrated from player to coach and player, successfully leading teams both in Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island to winning championships.  When his playing days did finally end, he ran the Charlottetown Forum hockey arena, where he helped and encouraged many young hockey players to realize their potential.

By the time I came along, his days of playing hockey were all behind him.  As a very young child though, I remember him lacing up my skates for me and then his own, and leading me out onto the ice at the Forum, just the two of us and a metal chair that held me up and guided me on the little patch of ice that I dared venture around.  I was quite shaky on those skates, but Dad knew I could handle it.  He derived great satisfaction seeing each of his daughters take to the ice, although we would only ever be recreational skaters, and pretty average at that. 
I remember seeing his skates hanging in the back closet for many years after he had finally stopped lacing them up, at some point his injured knee having curtailed his ice time for good.  Eventually his skates were given away, leaving only my mind’s eye to tend to their memory.

Recently I saw this pair of old skates at an antiques and collectibles market; they took me right back to that rink, that moment when time slowed down, and it was just Dad and me.  I knew I would need to paint them.

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