Sunday, January 29, 2006

Hockey Hall of Fame: reviewed!

The most pathetic display in the world: three bottles of sports drink, shitty ballcap and t-shirt, mini stick and a bunch of printouts.

Yep, last week two of your Covered In Oil correspondents dropped in on the Hockey Hall of Fame, in all of its underwhelming splendour. I think this display was about NHL's long-standing Gatorade partnership or something, but either way it's still really boring and especially shameless even by NHL standards (Gatorade vending machines were 5 feet away, if, you know, you were thirsty).

Can't say I'm much of a sports fetishist, either. A puck is a puck, even if it has masking tape with "Gretzky's 500th Goal" written on it. Or, as one passing Dad said to his wife, who he thought would care, "Can you believe that? Gretzky used to wear this!" Seemed pretty believable to the wife and me, but maybe we weren't trying hard enough to embrace the spirit of veneration. Later on, I tried to affect a greater sense of awe, even pawing at a pair of Robbie Schremp hockey pants through the glass (as picture, to the right).

And can you say SWEATERS? The bulk of HoF is old jerseys, of which I actually find interesting, especially those that seem exotic (Japanese Olympic sweaters, Jerseys for South Africa, Italy) or merely anachronistic (I wonder how today's Women's Olympic team would feel about "Canada's Ladies" written in capital letters across their chests). But aside from laundry, the attractions are rather lacklustre, unless you consider circa 1992 "interactive" technology with broken touch screens to be "fun." I'm too old and way too competitive to try the "Be a Goalie" thing, where Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky shoot foam pucks at you from slots in a video projection screen, but I gotta say: the kids we saw were fucking terrible. If they were my kids, I'd probably yell at them for embarrassing me and hurl a Rum-and-Coke into the wall.

In fairness to the Hall of Fame, much of the first floor was closed for renovation. This saddened me somewhat since it featured what was the best and most disturbing exhibit in the Hall: behind enclosed glass, a videotaped Dick Irvin Jr. talks to a grotesque, Pirates-of-Caribbean animatronic version of his dad, who has been dead for almost fifty years. Picture Dick Irvin, Jr., chatting amiably ["That's right, dad. The Montreal Forum was once the great cathedral of hockey..."] while a pneumatic sham of a father looks on, all herky-jerky like, with rubber eyelids blinking out of synch. Disgusting? You can bet on it. It will be missed...

The denouement of the afternoon, of course, is the hockey hardware kept upstairs. Under a stain-glassed dome, this is where we keep our holiest of
Canadian sports relics, including that big Silver Daddy, the Lord Stanley's Cup. And like many Edmontonians, I've seen it many times in my life; once even, somehow, when Steve Smith had the Cup for the day. I was one of many local kids to get their greasy palms on the old mug, so maybe it's a bit old hat.

They're all there: the Selke, which most resembles a mature lady's lace panties; the urn-like Norris; as well as the beautiful, eminent Hart trophy (of which, along with Peter Zezel, were the last two stickers I needed to complete my 1984 stickerbook); and yes, even the lowly Bud-Lite Plus/Minus Award was there.

Pictured above, me and Dave (aka "Pleasure Motors") chose to pose next to trophies best suited to our personalities. Being a Gentleman and a Lover, I stand firm with the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (who, as you can see behind me, looked like a Marx brother in drag). Dave, on the otherhand, stands next to the Art Ross, which reflects his penchant for being... a leading point scorer? Well, he gets "points" for the snazzy scarf anyway.

HALL OF FAME RATING: 3.5 Clarence Campbells out of 10 Bud Poiles


sacamano said...

I totally agree with your assessment of the HoF. What was most disappointing to me was the lack of Soviet stuff. The did, afterall, have the greatest team of all time - maybe even the greatest 2 or three teams of all time.

sacamano said...

Man, I just reread this post, and it is fantastic.

Hurling rum and cokes, snazzy scarfs, pheumatic sham of an Irvin . . . I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading this thing.

mike w said...

Heh. Thanks. I spent more time than I should have writing it.

Edmonton 4
Phoenix 2

Julian said...

The crass commercialization of the place is indeed annoying (Bud Lite +- Award? WTF) but..... uh, welcome to Toronto.

MikeP said...

Oh, good, it wasn't just me. I walked out of there having spent about $25 on tickets for me and my fiancee-to-be (at the time) thinking "That's it?" and feeling like a heretic. It didn't help that we chose the same time as a junior high class trip to go there, so the place was crawling with little kiddies being, well... kids. That was about 5 years ago, nice to hear that some things don't change.

Matt said...

The trophies are definitely the saving grace of the place, although it may not make it worth the $$$.

Other highlight of my visit (~ May '98); Alan Eagleson had just been punted, and there was an actual blank space on the Wall of Fame where his likeness had been. I think there was still dried glue there.

mikep said...

By the time we got to the trophies, we were so worn out from dodging kids for the preceding hour and a half or so that we just skimmed through them - plus everybody else had the same idea.

Oh well.

I wouldn't have been so offended if it hadn't been something I was looking forward to and really wanted my girlfriend to enjoy as well, plus the $25 when our entertainment budget was nonexistent was salt in the wound.

If the NHL tries to appeal to non-fans through the HHoF, they fail miserably.

Colby Cosh said...

I should probably just pick OLD FART as my identity and be done with it, but here goes: from '83 to '88 the plus-minus award bore the more inspiring name of the EMERY EDGE TROPHY. OK, maybe that sounds like something you'd give to Phil Niekro for Excellence in the Field of Cheating. It was sponsored by Emery Worldwide, a courier firm that I think is now a division of UPS. You might even have run across the bastard during your visit.

But the awesome thing is that Charlie Huddy was the first-ever recipient of the damn thing, going a snappy +62 in his first full NHL season (1982-83). I hope someone can retrieve an image of the badly-shaven Huddy holding up that unattractive, featureless slice of metal. It pretty much sums up the era for me.

(By the way, you notice that Mario Lemieux only led the league in plus-minus once? I realize there are quirks in that stat, but since Orr and Gretzky led in it a bundle of times apiece, doesn't this have to count against his case as the Greatest of All Time?)

mike w said...

>By the way, you notice that Mario Lemieux only led the league in plus-minus once?

Yeah, more so than the other greats, he really seemed to float around and pick his spots really well. Was his defence always spotty or was that just the 80s?

I might be biased, coming from the West and only seeing a few games in the last few years.