Don’t bother fact-checking the Great One’s Cup
Memory lane: Just imagine this crew in the NHL
VANCOUVER — Maybe you’ve heard about that Texan, Brad Oldham, the sculptor who was hired to produce a statue of The Great One holding up the Stanley Cup, for the opening of the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre in Brantford, Ont., a couple of months ago.
Everyone’s up in arms since a sharp-eyed 12-year-old lad looked closely at the Cup the other day and saw that some of the things carved in it were clearly wrong, including Wayne “Gretzsky” playing for the 1998-99 Stanley Cup-winning Detroit Red Wings.
Now, it’s bad enough that a statue in his own hometown has the spelling of his last name wrong, but everyone knows Gretzky was playing for Dallas that year, when Ken Hitchcock’s team won the Cup, and to this day Gretzky is reviled in Buffalo because he had one foot in the crease when he scored the winning goal.
But it’s time to put an end to all the caterwauling about the other inscriptions on the bronze Stanley Cup, which the artist says were put there by “a studio employee” who didn’t think anyone would actually read the names.
For example, I actually covered the 2002-03 Edmonton Oilers team that’s on there for having won the Cup, and can vouch for the presence on the roster of players like Ralph Waldo Emerson — what a pain in the butt, always making these deep observations about Life — and Oscar Wilde, the dressing room wit.
More like halfwit, Rocky Balboa used to say, but then, he took one too many hits to the melon. Nobody ever did a baseline test on him.
“He had a brain scan once, and it came back negative,” Wilde said, but most of Oscar’s best lines went right over Balboa’s head.
Good stay-at-home defenceman, though.
Oprah Winfrey, the big power forward, and clever little Robert Frost from San Francisco were on the team, too, and so was the offensively gifted (mostly offensive) Kanye West, though he never seemed to shut up about himself.
“You may be talented, but you’re not Kanye West,” he told Frost one day, after Bobby scored three against the Penguins. “My greatest pain in life is that I will never be able to see myself perform live.”
Emily Dickinson was the chair of the 37-member ownership group, so she would come in sometimes and elbow Craig MacTavish out of the way to make the pre-game speeches, almost like poetry some of them, and that’s how she got her name on the Cup.
Muddy Waters? He was called up from the farm team in Mississippi for the playoff run after Bill Gates got hurt, and was a popular guy on long plane rides, playing guitar and singing the blues — the boys especially liked Got My Mojo Workin’, though more than a few were partial to Champagne & Reefer (and I don’t mean the song, haha).
It’s a little-known fact, as Al Strachan used to say (or was it Cliff Clavin?), that the scribes used to fly on the team charters, so it happened that this one trip to Boston, I was sitting right behind Emily Dickinson and with a bunch of the players across the aisle and in the row behind me.
And they started up, as usual, with some great pronouncement by Emerson, who was looking forward to the trip because he was from Boston.
Wilde was never happy when he was flying to the States.
“America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between,” he said.
But that was another time. This day, Emerson looked over at Jason Chimera, who had a Harry Potter novel going, and said: “A man is known by the books he reads.”
“Oh, crap. We’re screwed,” said Georges Laraque.
“Whatever you do, you need courage,” Emerson said, just rolling along. “To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.”
“Women. Good, I like that,” said Winfrey, whom the writers called The Big O, less for her stature than the fact that she rarely scored.
“I feel that luck is preparation meeting opportunity,” she said.
“Hey, didn’t someone famous say that? Like, Harry Neale?” said Laraque.
“Supposed to be hot in Boston this week, 95 degrees,” said Balboa.
“Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice,” Frost said, and looked around for approval. Nobody got it. He’d just finished serving a suspension for two-handing Jaromir Jagr.
“One could do worse than be a swinger of birches,” he’d told Colin Campbell at the hearing, but he still got three games.
He’d had to sit out in Chicago, which wasn’t all bad, because he had a couple of girls there.
“I am one who has been acquainted with the night,” he said. “For I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.”
“Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same,” said Wilde.
“I didn’t say I was gonna marry them,” said Frost.
Wilde leaned over and said to me: “He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends. I think that God in creating Man somewhat overestimated his ability.”
“Can I quote you on that?” I said, reaching under the seat for my old Olivetti-Underwood.
“The typewriting machine, when played with expression, is no more annoying than the piano when played by a sister or near relation,” Oscar said.
“You’re not a big fan of newspapers, are you?” I said.
“The difference between literature and journalism,” he said, “is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read.”
“The world is full of willing people, some willing to work, the rest willing to let them,” said Frost, who had been ripped a new one over the suspension, and wasn’t very high on the media that week.
Dickinson looked around at that, squinted at me narrowly and said: “Dogs are better than human beings because they know but do not tell.”
Rocky saw I was taking it hard.
“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows,” he said. “It is a very mean and nasty place. You, me or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you’re hit, it is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
Dickinson heard him, and must have realized she’d hurt my feelings.
“Judge tenderly of me,” she said to me. “If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.”
I asked her how pleased the board would be if the Oil went on a long playoff run.
“A little madness in the Spring is wholesome even for the King,” she said. I could smell the booze on her breath. The flight attendants are always falling all over the owners with fresh drinks.
“I must go in, the fog is rising,” she said.
She got up to go to the washroom, and I admired her legs as she walked up the aisle.
“You become what you think about all day long,” said Frost.
“I sure hope not,” I said.
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