Sharing in a Canadian Identity

by | Sep 12, 2008

For those of us who are Canadians, there are many aspects of life that we can all share in and take pride in. From coast to coast in Canada, the game of hockey signifies a great deal of importance to many people. After completing a piece of artwork dedicated to Canadian war veterans, sculptor Tim Schmalz began to question why there is no significant piece of artwork dedicated to Canadians and the love that they have for the sport of hockey.

I recently had the opportunity to speak to Schmalz who made me aware of a massive project that he has ahead of him. When Schmalz speaks of some hockey shrines in Canada, he speaks of places like the Montreal Forum and the Maple Leaf Gardens. However, Schmalz also recognizes that both the Forum and the Gardens are no longer home to hockey games anymore. He feels that Canada needs some type of hockey monument that showcases the passion that the country has towards the sport. When finding out that no such monument exists in Canada, this eventually led Schmalz to embark on a project of his own.

Growing up in the hockey town of Elmira Ontario, Schmalz often found himself working in his studio as an artist while his friends were outside playing hockey. After having his own art school in Toronto at the age of 20, Schmalz’s primary focus was to that of Christian sculpture. His hometown as well as his travels abroad quickly allowed Schmalz to realize the bond that Canadians have to the sport. Be it in Mexico City, Thailand or the United States, Schmalz came to recognize that many people around the world associated hockey with the Canadian identity. Schmalz came to the conclusion that he would then create a National Hockey Monument for Canada. What becomes important for Schmalz is that one hundred years from now, people can look at his sculpture as being representative of a Canadian identity.

In order to build a sculpture that reflects Canada, Schmalz incorporates many elements that are representative of the country. A giant maple leaf stands atop the monument and inside the maple leaf are many trees standing in the cold of winter. Other images that are also visible on the monument include images of hockey players from all different age groups and time periods of the game. The emotions of the players are represented by their facial expressions with some showing the characteristics of strength and courage.

Other features of the monument will include a white marble hockey rink with a large number of black, granite hockey pucks. The pucks will contain the names of some of hockey’s greatest players as a number of different hockey authorities will help contribute to the players who are showcased on the monument. Despite the fact that the monument will have a very Canadian feel to it, Schmalz recognizes that a great player from Russia or the United States deserves to have his name on the sculpture just as much as a great player from Canada does. As the stars of the game grow, so will the names grow on the National Hockey Monument.

Over time, news of Schmalz’s project grew and this allowed him to gain a lot of publicity. Recently, a hockey tournament called the Memorial Cup was held in Kitchener, Ontario. The Memorial Cup is an event that showcases some of the top junior teams from Canada and the United States who all compete for the right to call themselves Canadian Hockey League Champions. Every year, junior hockey teams in the CHL make a bid for the opportunity to hold the Memorial Cup in their city. Promotional videos are often a key aspect of each city that tries to host the Memorial Cup. The city of Kitchener emphasized the importance of hockey not only to the elite hockey players but also to the children who play hockey in their campaign.

Coincidentally, the stars of the game and the little children playing on the frozen ponds was one of the key themes that Schmalz used in the design of his monument and this idea did not go unnoticed by the organizers of the Memorial Cup in Kitchener. Eventually, Schmalz was asked by some of the people responsible for the Memorial Cup to make small replicas of each of his sculptures and hand them out to many of the players involved in the tournament. He was also given the opportunity to work on a larger model of the National Hockey Monument during the event and this is where the sculpture was able to gain a lot of widespread attention. Despite having the Stanley Cup being displayed at the tournament as well, many fans wanted to take pictures with Schmalz’s sculpture. The publicity that the National Hockey Monument received at the Memorial Cup is a big reason that Schmalz has decided to proceed with a cross Canada tour.

The tour begins at Signal Hill, Newfoundland on September 21, 2008. During the time of completion, the National Hockey Monument will be around 40-50 feet. While the touring model will only be about ten feet, the smaller version will be a replica of the larger model. As Schmalz proceeds on his tour, he will be working on the monument in places where hockey fans will have an opportunity to see him such as various rinks across Canada. With a journey of this magnitude, Schmalz does not want to make any commitments to potential destinations that are not yet confirmed for the tour. However, his hope is that the tour will be completed at the site of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in British Columbia.

Instead of having the monument being linked to some type of corporate sponsor, Schmalz feels it is important that Canadians build some type of connection with the sculpture. By donating one loonie on the cross Canada tour, those who donate money will help contribute to the building of the monument. Depending on the amount of money collected will be a contributing factor in determining how big the piece really is. While Schmalz acknowledges that he has spoken to some people about the final destination for the monument, there is still a lot of time that needs to pass before a decision is made. For Schmalz, the final resting place for the monument must be somewhere that has some significance to hockey as well as a place where many Canadians will not have too much difficulty in accessing.

When speaking to Tim Schmalz, you quickly realize the passion he has for the preservation of a Canadian identity and the passion he has for his work as an artist. As someone who has many experiences with the world beyond Canada, Schmalz feels that Canadians need to have an eternal shrine like the National Hockey Monument to showcase who they are as Canadians. With a cross Canada tour ahead of him, the artist will have a significant opportunity to display his project from coast to coast. Hopefully Canadians and non Canadians alike will acknowledge the hard work of the artist in creating this piece of artwork. In the years ahead, the belief is that future generations of people will look at the National Hockey Monument and come to embrace it as a part of the Canadian identity.


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