HALIFAX – Many Canadians might consider hockey an art form and its best players scarred Picassos on skates.
But artist Graeme Patterson is literally pushing the connection between art and hockey.
Patterson is turning hockey legend Darryl Sittler’s record-breaking 10-point game of Feb. 7, 1976, for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Boston Bruins into a short animated film using stop motion.
It all takes place on a huge table-hockey set being built to resemble the old Maple Leaf Gardens.
“The game is just something I’m so passionate about and to be able to combine it with art is great,” Patterson said Wednesday as his hockey-themed exhibit was promoted at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
Patterson, who knows Sittler, met the former Maple Leaf star through a mutual friend, an art patron who commissioned this latest work.
It will be called “10-Point Game” and run about five minutes when it’s completed in July, about the same time Patterson’s tenure ends as artist-in-residence at the gallery.
“I’m gonna get Darryl to narrate the game, his recollections,” said Patterson, who grew up in rural Saskatchewan.
Sittler laughed as he looked over the table Wednesday, noting the missing ceramic heads – they still have to be baked – on many of the hapless Boston Bruins, who got bombed 11-4 that night.
On the table, just in front of the porous Bruin netminder Dave Reece is the streaking outline of Sittler, number 27, looking to notch another goal.
“Kinda cool, eh?” said the grey-haired Sittler, chuckling at the bushy brown mop on top of his mini, mirror, younger self.
“It’s an amazing part of my life, this 10 point record, and to see it in animation and in an art gallery is pretty neat.”
Sittler admits he does not have much of an eye for art and the only thing he has collected over the years has been memorabilia from his own career.
“But I appreciate the skill and talent and creativeness of an artist and when I see it I say, ‘Gee how did they come up with that idea?’ “
The Sittler work-in-progress is part of a larger exhibit – “Arena: The Art of Hockey” – celebrating Canada’s game at the art gallery.
Timed to coincide with the 2008 IIHF World Hockey Championship in Halifax and Quebec City, it features more than 50 other artists and almost 100 full colour illustrations.
Jeff Gray, director of development at the Nova Scotia gallery, said finding hockey art wasn’t a problem and its volume has allowed them to mount their largest show ever.
“Contemporary art at the best of time reflects society and you have to say that hockey is a big part of Canadian society,” he said.
“Our mission with this show was to bring more people into the gallery and if I can walk around and see a bunch of guys enjoying contemporary art then I’ve succeeded.”
Sittler’s record setting game, six goals and four assists, remains intact, having survived even the Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux eras in the National Hockey League.
But Sittler is philosophical about it all.
“You never know in this era of Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. They’ve got the skill and talent, these young players, and if everything’s working some night …”
Sittler says he didn’t even know he was about to break the record that cold February night in the Gardens.
He had seven points after the second period when the team statistician told him just one more would tie him with Maurice “Rocket” Richard for the most points in a game.
Sittler went out and scored three more in the third period, the last from behind the net, off the skate of Brad Park.