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We're, Like, Literally All Canucks

We're, Like, Literally All Canucks

Something happened in the gallery the other day... A small group came in, and, judging by their conversation, they weren’t from around here (Canada). No surprise there; Granville Island, where our gallery is located, is a very touristy area. It’s actually the second-most-visited public place in the country behind Niagara Falls. We get people from all over the world, but a lot of Americans, especially.  I heard one guy in the group ask aloud, “Hey, what’s a Canuck?” Also common here – I wouldn’t expect anyone from outside of Canada to know that term. Most guess it’s some sort of animal, usually a whale or a shark, which they get from looking at the Canucks’ current logo, an orca.  At that point I’ll fill the person/people in – “It’s slang for a Canadian, like how an American is a ‘Yankee’” – and then ask where they’re from. I did that with this group, as I always do, and a woman amongst them said, “Oh I’m from here, they’re visiting from Seattle.”  Me: “Got ya… so why didn’t you tell them what a Canuck was?”  Her: “I didn’t know!” WHAT?! You didn’t know? Shocking… truly shocking. Ok, maybe if you’re a younger person from somewhere else in Canada and don’t watch hockey at all – maybe then I’d give you a pass. But, if you’re from B.C., even if you don’t follow Vancouver’s NHL franchise, you must know what a Canuck is. Surely. When the Canucks are winning their stuff is everywhere. People wear jerseys, put flags on their cars. They put signs in their windows. You’d have to work hard to ignore it. And the Canucks went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011, so if you’re over 20 you’d remember what it was like. This woman was definitely over 20. Maybe I’m being harsh. I’ve been known to be a little snobby at times when it comes to sports and music. I expect people to know things. You don’t have to share the same views, necessarily, but you’ve at least got to know. To me, a Vancouverite not knowing what a Canuck is is akin to a Western person not knowing who The Beatles were. It’s just common knowledge.  But, it’s 2019, and I’m trying to be better – a better human that doesn’t judge people and expect them to be a certain way. I’m trying to be compassionate and accepting. I know a lot of people are turned off by sports, by contact sports especially. The competitive nature, the aggression… I can see why it wouldn’t be appealing and therefore why you might not know what “Canuck” means.  In any case, no matter what a person’s reason is for not knowing something, if I can’t say anything nice in response maybe I should just not say anything at all. Kindness is key. And so why did I take the time to write this, then? Well, initially I felt like ranting a bit, but then I also saw it as an opportunity to educate myself, and others, in a couple of ways. I’ve just buried the lead a little... It’s okay to not care about sports. Sometimes people actually apologize to me when they come in, about not being a “sports person.” Or they just turn around and leave. One of the things that I love about the gallery is that it can actually appeal to all kinds of people. The vintage photography, especially. You can take an interest in the history of it all, in the antiquated uniforms and equipment. You can get a sense, through a sport like baseball or tennis, of how much things have diversified over the years. Or, you can just take a liking to a particular logo or colourway, for no real reason at all.  It’s also okay to like sports, but to not know a lot about them. Competitiveness isn’t restricted to athletes. Sports fans can be the same – they want to be the best, most knowledgeable fan, and they’ll easily ridicule others they see as lesser. I myself have been guilty of this in the past. Oh, well I’m a season ticket holder, and I got my first jersey when I was a baby, and I know X’s stats from 1977… Wait, you’ve only been a fan for two years?? Talk about jumping on the bandwagon. I see it all the time, in person and online.  Making someone feel bad for being new to a team or sport isn’t helpful. We all have to start somewhere. Not everyone is so lucky to have a parent that plays catch and that buys their kid jerseys for Christmas. And the whole bandwagon thing – of course winning gets people involved. That’s the whole point! When a local or national team is doing well, it gives people a reason to band together. To be upset about having more people wanting to cheer on your team is something I’ll never understand. I guess, in short: we all don’t have to agree, but we can still be nice about it.  So, if you, like the woman that was in here earlier, don’t know what a Canuck is – well, you’re in luck. Here’s some information from the always-handy Wikipedia, which will get you even more in the know about all things “Canuck.” Here ya go! "Canuck" /kəˈnʌk/ is a slang term for a Canadian. The origins of the word are uncertain. The term "Kanuck" is first recorded in 1835 as an Americanism, originally referring to Dutch Canadians or French Canadians. By the 1850s, the spelling with a "C" became predominant. Today, English Canadians and others use "Canuck" as a mostly affectionate term for any Canadian [...] Johnny Canuck [is] a personification of Canada who appeared in early political cartoons of the 1860s resisting Uncle Sam's bullying. Johnny Canuck was revived in 1942 by Leo Bachle to defend Canada against the Nazis. The use of the term as a nickname in hockey actually dates back to a Pacific Coast/Western Hockey League team, also called the Vancouver Canucks, who were founded in 1945. Their logo was based on the original Johnny Canuck cartoon. This franchise didn’t carry over into the NHL, but the 1970 Vancouver expansion franchise took on the name. The Canucks brought back Johnny Canuck in 2007, though on NHL ice it’s only been used as an alternate logo.  So, there you go, that is the short-hand history of the term/nickname “Canuck.” I hope it felt like what I wanted it to be – a celebration of acceptance and of all levels of sports knowledge. Funnily, at the end of the day, what may bring this all home best is Vancouver’s current hockey slogan: We Are All Canucks. If you’re a Canadian then you’re, like, literally a Canuck. We’re all different, yet we’re all “Canucks.” Amen.

The Greatest Logo of All Time?

The Greatest Logo of All Time?

Work the floor at one of our galleries and you will get all sorts of opinions on various sporting topics. These opinions, naturally subjective, will vary, but can usually be placed under one umbrella header: "The Greatest." The greatest team or era, the greatest player, the greatest uniform or logo, etc. People don't go on about mediocrity. You might have a debate over who's worst, but being the worst is still being the best at something, technically... Sometimes you'll see a general consensus develop, especially with uniforms and logos. People's opinions on players and teams are often the product of their generation and therefore vary. If you grew up watching Howe or Orr, one of them will be your GOAT (a commonly-used acronym for Greatest of All Time). If you're a little younger and were around for Gretzky, he's your GOAT. But the aesthetics of sport are different, they seem to transcend generational divides. With results, more is always better. More points, more wins, more trophies. When it comes to uniforms and logos, simplicity is key. Less is more. This is why "vintage" looks are best loved, they come from a simpler time and therefore hold up better. Sticking with hockey, look at the Original Six; none have changed their uniforms or primary logos beyond a few tweaks and they continue to be seen as best in the league. Sometimes a look can be so good it transcends the team itself. One such example is that of the Hartford Whalers. The Whalers, who played from 1972 to 1997 before becoming the Carolina Hurricanes, are sadly a footnote to most. On ice they are best known for being home to Gordie Howe post Red Wings. Mr. Hockey played with the Whalers in the WHA and then for one season in the NHL – in his 50s! – when the team moved leagues. The logo Howe wore became iconic, but it wouldn't be because of any goals scored or games won.  The logo the Whalers would use for their NHL tenure has become an all-time great. To call it a cult classic would be wrong; it holds its own with the best. If I were to make a list based on the number of customer comments and apparel sales – based purely on the logo and not a team's or athlete's success – it might even be the very best. I had one woman say the logo was the thing that inspired her to go to design school. Tourists gravitate towards it, despite having never heard of the Whalers before. Up comes the person to the desk saying, "I'd like this, please... and by the way what is it?" Let's talk about the logo itself, made by graphic designer Peter Good. It is, after all, his sublime work that makes it so enduring and desirable. You have the two obvious pieces, a whale tail up top and a trident/spear below that doubles as a "W." But then there's that little open secret, the "H" that's formed by the negative space between the tail and spear. It takes some serious vision to develop such a simple logo and have it hold a wonderful easter egg. All together, it's perfection. Everything fits just right like the pieces of a puzzle.  Is it The Greatest Logo of All Time? That cannot be said definitively. There's always going to be people out there that disagree, especially when it comes to something as partisan as sports. But the Hartford Whalers' logo is up there. Try walking down the street with one emblazoned on your chest, you'll see. The bright light of a championship never shone upon it, and many don't even know the team. But the logo will live on forever, and with good reason. 

Who Were They? The Toronto St. Pats

Who Were They? The Toronto St. Pats

Time for another journey back in time via our Who Were They? series. There's more hockey history on the docket (click the links for our Original Six and Class of '67 pieces), though this time we'll be looking at the history of an individual team, the Toronto St. Pats.  Think of hockey in Toronto and one thing comes to mind: the Maple Leafs and their famous blue and white. The Leafs are one of the National Hockey League's Original Six teams, the core group that battled between 1946 and 1967. The franchise has been around since the dawn of the league in 1917 and is still beloved despite having not won a Stanley Cup since 1967.  Their look – blue shirt, white leaf, and white stripes – is so iconic, and has remained largely untouched for so long, that many tend to think it's been that way forever. In actual fact, the Leafs were not always the Leafs. The franchise had two previous identities; first they were the "Arenas," from 1917-1919, and then they became the "St. Patricks," or "St. Pats." It was in 1927 that the now-famous "Maple Leafs" moniker came to be when Conn Smyth took over and wanted something more uniquely Canadian.  The St. Patricks name was decided upon for promotional reasons; there was a visible Irish population settling in Toronto, and branding the team in such a way was meant to get players on the ice and fans in the stands. Their ownership group ran amateur hockey clubs under that name in the city since the beginning of the 1900s, and when the Arenas went up for sale before the 1919-20 season those at the St. Patricks figured it was their time to make the step up to the big leagues. They bought the team for $5,000 on December 13, 1919.  As you can imagine, the St. Pats wore green and white, providing an eight-year colour deviation for the franchise. And during this period they managed one Stanley Cup win, in 1921-22. They beat the Vancouver Millionaires three games to two in a best of five series. But, in the seasons following this big win, the St. Pats struggled to make the playoffs and would suffer financially. In stepped Smyth, and the rest is history.  Though the St. Pats years were relatively uneventful – under the Maple Leafs moniker the club would win 11 cups – this previous identity remains popular. The Leafs have made a tradition of wearing throwback St. Pats uniforms around St. Patrick's Day in March, something we very much approve of!

The Songs of Sport

The Songs of Sport

When out at a sporting event, there's certain songs you're bound to hear blasting from the jumbotron. "We Will Rock You," "Jump Around," and "YMCA" are major ones. The probing beat of The White Stripe's "Seven Nation Army" has been adopted by teams and their fanbases across the globe. Queen actually has two stadium hits, as what would a title win be without an emotional rendition of "We Are the Champions"? The running trait of all of these songs is their ability to excite a crowd and get them to believe in their team, in a moment of glory. Each delivers a succinct statement, and/or has a strong and repetitive rhythm. They make you want to sing or move or both. Interestingly, while this kind of composition quickly jumps out as a arena rocker, the lyrical content tends to not actually reference sports. There are relatively few songs out there that are dedicated to teams, athletes, or a sport. The big one, which most baseball fans will know, is "Centerfield" by John Fogerty. It's a catchy, classic-rock hit that speaks to the mystique of the national pastime and its language, stories, and stars. "Centerfield" also, in the chorus, appeals to every little-leaguer's desire to get on the field and play their part: "Put me in, coach, I'm ready to play." There's another baseball-themed song out there that's written by a major artist, though it's by no means as popular. Bob Dylan penned a tune titled "Catfish," which speaks of Jim Hunter's legend. Jim "Catfish" Hunter was one of the best pitchers of his era and was the first to sign a million-dollar contract, with the Yankees. Dylan's ode is captivating, but is more bluesy bootleg than catchy stadium rocker.  Hockey has inspired a few songs, and most are by Canadian artists, which isn't a surprise given the sport's popularity up north. Tom Cochrane's "Big League" is a powerful rock hit that still gets frequent airplay. The song is actually rather sad – it, from the perspective of a parent, tells of a talented player that dies in a bus crash before he can break it.  Canadian giants The Tragically Hip also have a hit that tells of a hockey tragedy. The verses of "Fifty Mission Cap" are a tribute to Toronto Maple Leaf Bill Barilko who died in a plane crash shortly after scoring the series-winning goal in the 1951 Stanley Cup Final. The song has become an all-time favourite for The Hip, though it doesn't have the pop sensibilities to be regularly played in hockey arenas.  Perhaps the most fun and charming, and therefore popular, song to be inspired by the game of hockey is "The Hockey Song" by Stompin' Tom Connors. It's a popular one at hockey arenas around the National Hockey League, including the Maple Leafs', where it is played every game. You may not be familiar with Stompin' Tom himself, but if you're a hockey fan you'll know the chorus: Oh! The good ol' hockey game, is the best game you can nameAnd the best game you can name, is the good ol' hockey game It's a honky-tonky, rollicking-good-time of a song that, like Fogerty's "Centerfield," really captures the essence of the subject matter. The crash of the boards, the "insane" fans, a last-minute winner, the Stanley Cup filled with beer... it's all jammed in there in just a couple of minutes. It's become hockey's theme song, and for good reason. To take us out, here's Stompin' Tom making the only U.S. TV appearance of his entire career, on the Conan O'Brian Show. 

A Story of Expansion Glory

A Story of Expansion Glory

No expansion franchise has had an inaugural season like the Vegas Golden Knights. Traditionally, being a first-year team means heavy losses and lots of them. After four or five seasons you might find success, but not right away. According to NHL.com it takes an average of 11.9 years to reach the Stanley Cup Final. These things take time.  Well, the Golden Knights said "bah" to that. They won their first division race, put together a first round sweep of the Kings, got through the Sharks, and then beat the highly-touted Jets four games to one in the Conference Final. Win three more and they will be champions. The new guys have made quite the first impression.  In truth, there has been one other NHL team to make it within four games of the Stanley Cup in their first year: the St. Louis Blues. They had a bit of a leg up, however – the six "Class of '67" franchises were initially grouped into the same conference, so they only had to beat their equally mediocre classmates to reach the Final. The Blues actually made it to the promised land in each of their first three years, but were swept all three times.  Vegas had to take on the established Western Conference and did well, finishing third overall. They've won all of the playoff series they've appeared in thus far. They won a Final game, becoming the first expansion franchise to do so in their debut season. It's been, to put it simply, a cinderella year. Let's see if they can finish it off in style. ***  We've got two awesome, custom Class of '67 tees here at The SPORT Gallery. Made by Red Jacket clothing, they're perfect for a lover of hockey history, or of quirky logos. Grab one in store or online!

The Last Good Spring

The Last Good Spring

It's officially playoff time for the NHL. The lone Original Six match-up this year is Maple Leafs vs. Bruins, and thus far it's been an all black-and-yellow affair. The Bruins won the first two games handedly, 5-1 and then 7-3. The series now shifts from Boston to Toronto and the Leafs will hope for some home-ice magic.  You never know how things are going to go when these two teams meet. This is the 14th playoff match-up all-time and momentum has always heaved from one side to the other. The last meeting, in the second round in 2013, was especially tempestuous.  The Leafs are leading 4-1 in the third period of game seven – run out the clock and they will be bound for the Eastern Conference Finals. But run out the clock they will not; the Bruins mount a wild comeback, scoring three goals to force overtime and another 6:05 in to seal it. The Leafs' season, just like that, is over. Unfortunately for their fans, the Leafs have become synonymous with failure. The club does have 13 Stanley Cups to its name, but has not won one – or even made a Finals appearance – since the 1966-67 season. Their series loss in 2013 is representative of the last 50 years, of high hopes quickly dashed.  The Leafs are still fixing to exorcise their playoff demons. Their chances remain good this time around – even down two games in the series – with this core group of young talent, especially with the experience of going toe-to-toe with Washington last season under their collective belt. Who knows, maybe this year will finally be the year. Winning tonight will be a good place to start.  *** To get a better sense of how long Toronto has been waiting and what a Finals appearance would mean to the city, lets take a look in at two very different generations of Leafs fans... "What was it like back then? When we were actually good... What was it like to see the cup raised? I can't even picture it." Jon asked these questions of his grandfather. 1967 felt like an eternity away and he wanted to get a better sense of what winning felt like, to know if the stories of the Maple Leafs raising the Stanley Cup were actually real and not just some fairytale. They sure felt make-believe. "We weren't known for losing then," Jon's grandfather said. "We had won close to ten Cups over a 20-year period. But it was still a party when we won. There were parades, thousands of people downtown, streamers and whatnot. It was a blast. And we walked a little taller, I guess. Yeah." "It's just so hard to imagine. We're so removed from it – it feels like a entirely different team now." "Well, it is in a way. The experience is different at least. For me, it was the whole package... The Garden was such an intimidating building. When you walked down Carlton and came up to it, you felt like an ant. As a young man, this towering structure above you, home to so many greats... it was intimidating. I think visiting clubs felt that too." "Right, right. What was it like inside then?" "It was simple! Hah. No jumbotron, no HD highlights and loud music. No ads on the boards. There wasn't much light in the stands when the game was on either, just this glowing white oval in the middle of it all... drew you in. A simpler time." "Crazy." "I guess to you it would be! To us it was normal. So was winning. We had good teams back then, with guys like Armstrong and Mahovlich, or Bower. Real legends. We weren't the butt of jokes, that's for sure." They certainly were not. The Maple Leafs of Toronto held Stanley's famous cup aloft in 1918, 1922, 1932, 1942, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1951, 1962, 1963, 1964, and, most recently, in 1967. It would be a suspect few laughing at the Leafs in the first half of the 20th century. The idea of 50 straight trophyless seasons would have seemed utterly absurd in '67. "I wish I could have lived through that. I'm just hoping we can make one finals by the time I kick it." "Hah, my poor boy, you will. This team we've got now is on their way! We've got to put the last 50 damn years behind us and look to the next 50. These young lads will get us there, I'm sure of it. We're worlds away from my time, sure, but we can be winners again." "Matthews pushes it down the ice, skirts one defender as he crosses the blue line. Cuts in, drags the puck back... a quick wrist shot – and he scooooooooores! Goal, Austin Matthews!" Winning has finally become the norm in Toronto as this young Leafs squad continues to stand their ground in a competitive Atlantic Division. They made the playoffs last year and are poised to do so again. The role of Mike Babcock – so popular in Toronto he's inspired a line of socks – cannot be overstated; the head coach, who has won a Stanley Cup and Olympic gold as bench boss, has really groomed his young talent well. The Leafs have also brought back the vintage 32-point leaf logo from more successful days to help provide a greater connection to the past, to the 50 years of the franchise that are worth remembering. The simplified 11-point leaf saw nothing but failure in its five decades and has been banished, and with it, the Leafs hope, their inability to reach the Stanley Cup Finals. Put exciting young players in inspiring throwback uniforms and throw in some excellent coaching – it's certainly a good recipe for reaching the promised land. "Alright kid, are you ready to go?" "Yeah, grandpa, one sec! I just need to grab my hat!" Jon put on the weathered snapback hat he had worn to countless games and met his grandfather, who had come down from Guelph, at the door. It was March and they had tickets for a St. Patrick's Day showdown against the Habs. Tonight Jon would also wear a "St. Pats" t-shirt – before 1927, when the team became the Maple Leafs, they were known as the Toronto St. Pats, an attempt to appeal to the large Irish population in the city. Before that they were the blue and white "Arenas." "You know it's funny, Jon, you wearing that St. Pats shirt... that was way before your time – I remember it!" "I know, I know, it's just a good look!" They sat in section 318, row 9, and watched as the Leafs grabbed an 1-0 first period lead on a cool, late-winter Toronto night. Jon, 25-years-old – who had never seen the Leafs even reach the Stanley Cup Finals – and his grandfather sat together, fans of two very different times. Things got worse for the Habs early in the second as the Leafs grabbed another on a breakaway. They would make it 3-0 before the third and 4-0 by night's end, a solid "W" for the boys in blue. "I've got a good feeling this year," said Jon's grandfather.  

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