When I was visiting some friends recently, it didn’t take long – it never does – for talk at the card table to turn to hockey.
That’s when an interesting topic surfaced and a good discussion started to ripple.
If you had to define hockey with one image, one captured moment in time, what would it be? What’s the first thing that pops into your head when asked that question?
Is it possible to explain the essence of hockey through one flash of a camera? Can it explain to someone discovering hockey for the first time why the sport has entranced so many and made them so passionate and protective of their game?
Is the picture you first envision of Bobby Orr flying through the air like superman after scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal?
What about a triumphant Paul Henderson, arms raised in celebration, being bear-hugged by Yvan Cournoyer as a disappointed Soviet team sags in defeat?
For the historically inclined, maybe it’s Gordie Howe hooking a young Wayne Gretzky around the neck, as if welcoming the next generation of greatness to the spotlight.
If you want to get a little more modern, it could be Jose Theodore wearing a toque over his helmet at the winter classic.
For you goaltenders out there, perhaps it’s Johnny Bower sliding out with a pokecheck to guard his net, despite not having any facial protection whatsoever. What about a bloodied Jacques Plante, donning the mask for obvious reasons? Or maybe it’s Terry Sawchuk, before masks were commonplace.
If those pictures just give you nightmares, perhaps one that’s a little tamer, like Ken Dryden leaning on his stick, is etched in your mind, or even the famous Ken Danby painting.
Maybe it was something simple, like a war-weary veteran lifting the Stanley Cup in ecstasy or an example of hockey’s purity.
For die-hard Canadiens fans or just fans of the game’s intense nature, a shot of Maurice Richard staring back at you with eyes that burn a hole into your very soul speaks volumes.
The most popular answer I’ve encountered was Orr, scoring the goal every aspiring NHLer dreams of before they’ve even learned how to lace up their own skates.
But as I thought about it, there was one image out there that spoke to me. “This is hockey. This is why I love the game. This is what it’s all about.”
It’s simple, victorious and speaks to many different aspects of the game. It’s an exhausted, battle-tested, toothless and smiling Bobby Clarke with Lord Stanley’s grail clutched in his arms.
It’s hockey’s ultimate moment in time. It shows the exhaustion from a battle fought to grab the Cup and doesn’t hide the wounds and the sacrifice that are necessary to achieve it. We all dream of it and this shot shows even grown men look like little children when they finally have it in their grasp.
The subject is a matter of personal taste and there is no one definitive answer, so I ask you: What picture do you think best describes the greatness of the game of hockey?
Rory Boylen is THN.com’s web content specialist. His blog appears Thursdays.
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