For many Canadians, Saturday nights spent watching legends chase a piece of frozen vulcanized rubber back and forth across a TV screen, or the particularly smell of a rink just before an early morning practice, are deeply rooted in the national identity.
Different generations mark where they were when Paul Henderson defeated the Red Army in ’72, when Wayne Gretzky set up Mario Lemiuex’s slapper to win the 1987 Canada cup, or Sidney Crosby’s Golden Goal to win the 2010 Olympic gold on home soil.
A new exhibit at the New Brunswick Museum explores those emotional connections that Canadians have with the sport that has come to define us.
“It’s about the hockey itself, so the history, but mainly it’s [about] how it affects our Canadian identity,” said Dominique Gélinas, the head of exhibitions and visitor experience for the museum.
The exhibition, officially called Hockey!, is on loan from the Canadian Museum of History and will be in New Brunswick until May 12 and gives Saint John a chance to learn about the history of the game, highlighting the game’s biggest players, coaches, and broadcasters.
But at it’s core the exhibit is about the emotional connection Canadians have with the sport.
“(Hockey) here is like a religion,” Gélinas said.
“We all have memories about hockey. (If) we like it or not, as a sport, or as a fan, we all watch a game some time in our lives.”
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Highlighting that connection is a mock living room set up in the corner of the room, where a chesterfield sits in front of a TV playing all eight games of the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit series on repeat.
“I think it’s mainly to revive the memories and the pleasure that we have with the sport,” she said of the display.
Samm Reynolds says hockey has made up a lot of the back drop of her life.
“For me it was a huge part of my childhood,” she said.
“My whole family played; my dad played, my mom played, my brothers played, my sisters played and we’d watch Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday. It’s just very much a part of the culture and the tradition here.”
Among all the can’t-miss moments adorning the walls is a piece of history on loan from the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame that is bigger than the game itself. A signed jersey from Fredericton-native Willie O’Ree, who broke the NHL’s colour barrier when he made his debut with the Boston Bruins in 1958, sits in a glass cabinet near the centre of the room.
The exhibition is being put on in partnership with the Saint John Sea Dogs and visitors can get 50 per cent off the entrance fee with the presentation of a ticket stub from a Sea Dogs game.
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