Today marks the 100th anniversary of the first game played by the Montreal Canadiens, just one month after the 50th anniversary of Canadiens’ goalie Jacques Plante first wearing a goalie mask. I recently took a tour of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto where they had set up a beautiful tribute to the Habs’ centennial. My attention, of course, was centered on the goalies featured in the exhibit. In case you didn’t get a chance to visit the HHOF before the exhibit ended you can at least view the important parts here.
What a great way to enter the Habs Centennial exhibit! If you watched the Habs during the 1970's the only image more lasting than Ken Drydens's famous pose is that of the Cup being lifted again and again. And then again and again and again and again. What's the opening bid for this statue when the exhibit ends?
Last March I wrote that Patrick Roy’s number 33 would eventually hang above the Bell Center in Montreal in recognition of his performance in Montreal. It took the Canadiens 28 years to so honor Ken Dryden so I hypothesized that fans’ memories of Roy’s bitter departure from the team in 1995 would eventually fade and his importance in bringing two Stanley Cups to Montreal would result in a jersey ceremony in the next 20 years. I was off by only 19.5 years.
The Canadiens announced this week that Roy’s jersey number will be retired this November prior to a game against the Bruins. Expect to see “33” painted behind each net and the Habs players to be wearing Roy jerseys during the introduction. Apparently we can also expect to see a public kiss-and-make-up between Roy and former Canadiens’ president Ron Corey. This reconciliation has obviously taken place in private otherwise the ceremony would never be happening but it would be fitting to have Corey congratulate Roy from his favored seat immediately behind the Habs’ bench.
Roy’s jersey will be the 15th to be retired in Montreal and the third goalie; Jacque Plante’s # 1 and Ken Dryden’s # 29 are the others.
Ever since I was a kid I thought the subject of Ken Danby’s famous painting, At the Crease, was Ken Dryden. I was never told it was Dryden and I never read that it was Dryden, I just assumed it was. Apparently I wasn’t the only one as demonstrated by this anecdote from Danby himself:
“One day, a woman complimented me on my painting ‘At the Crease’, which she referred to as, “That painting you did of the goalie, Ken Dryden”. She said that she had long had a print of it in her home and really enjoyed it. I thanked her, but also explained that, “It isn’t an image of Ken Dryden”. Looking puzzled, she replied, “Yes it is.” I responded, “No it isn’t. ” After a long pause, she loudly exclaimed, “Yes it is!” I quickly apologized, with the sudden realization that she was right. It’s really whomever one wants it to be.”
He’s right. I guess I should have thought it was an image of me! But now I’ve decided the subject is Vladislav Tretiak. Today the IIHF’s all-time all-star team was announced and to nobody’s surprise Tretiak was selected as the goalie. I went searching for Tretiak photos and the first one I found was the one you see above. Is it not scarily similar to Danby’s painting? At the time of the painting we were living in fear of the Reds so there’s no way Danby would have truly made it look like Tretiak by using the same helmet/mask (besides, the stark white mask is far more powerful). But the painting was released in 1972, the same year Tretiak was introduced to the world with his stellar play in the Canada-USSR Summit Series.
I don’t know if Danby ever acknowledged one specific subject for his iconic painting and sadly he passed away last fall so I will never have the chance to ask him. But I guess I know what his answer would be anyway… “of course it’s Tretiak, it’s whomever you want it to be.”
UPDATE: Apparently the subject of At The Crease was Dennis Kemp, a Junior B goalie in Guelph who played for Walter Gretzky. There’s a good read here on how his identity was tracked down after Danby’s death and how Wayne Gretzky once made a slip on protecting Kemp’s identity.
The events that triggered the idea about a site specifically for goalies was the retirement of Ken Dryden’s jersey in Montreal last year. I watched the Leafs every Saturday night growing up in the late 70’s so Mike Palmateer was my favorite goalie but Ken Dryden was my hero.
As I watched the jersey ceremony last year in Montreal I was reminded of everything about him that inspired me to be a better goalie, a better student and more conscious of the world outside of hockey. And it struck me that not only were millions of people watching this ceremony and recalling their favorite memory of watching Dryden play, but there had to be a handful of goalies my age who had not only tried to rest their chin on the butt end of their stick á la Dryden but had also been inspired by him to further the social and academic interests in their life.
There was a community of goalies out there, young and old, active and retired, boys and girls who shared a passion for everything goaltender-related. Ideas about this community stewed in my head for about a year before Tenders Lounge was born. Even though Dryden’s ceremony is well past its news expiration date I still feel compelled to share what went through my mind watching my TV that night. I hope some of these feelings strike a chord with you. Continue reading