Shooter & Stopper, Creative Quarterly 21
The idea in these drawings was to create something resembling the sport of hockey, but playing on the things that lie beneath the surface of the game and connect it to older traditions of our species.
For example, the motivation for the almost shamanistic names of NHL teams – animal names like the Panthers, the Predators, and the Sharks, or names of elemental forces like the Lightning, the Hurricanes, and the Avalanche – goes way back in our history. Even in modern times we still invoke the perceived power of nature in some subconscious attempt to take some of that strength for ourselves. The two characters bear animal masks for this reason, one styled after a Mayan jaguar mask.
Sport is in a sense a kind of civilised warfare, and hockey players gear themselves up like soldiers in full armor. The goaltender in particular bears a striking resemblance to a Samurai fighter. The characters in these drawings are dressed in a mix of hockey gear (the gauntlet-like gloves mostly) and bits and pieces of different soldier’s costume: a jaguar mask reminiscent of the Maya, cargo pants and packs of modern design, medieval chain-mail, Japanese armor plates and Roman-style sandals.
The charms each figure carries stand in for the little rituals and superstitions that exist throughout the sport. For example the Detroit Red Wings’ traditional octopus, the Hat Trick, most players’ abstinence from shaving as long as they remain in the playoffs, the horseshoe nailed to goalie Kirk McLean’s locker, and perhaps most fascinating; the curse of Bill Barilko.
Between the ages of about 10 and 14, I was a big hockey fan. Some winters my friends and I would spend weekends playing pick-up hockey at the neighbourhood rink, coming back home to play road hockey in the driveway, followed by hockey video games on the Sega after dinner. I was a terrible but enthusiastic skater, I wore Vancouver Canucks hockey jerseys (several sizes too big) and Pavel Bure and Kirk McLean were my heroes. My interest in the sport began to dwindle after the heartbreak of the ’94 Stanley Cup and the Lockout of the next season. I drifted away from the game.
My interest was sparked in the beginning by my friend Charlie’s collection of hockey cards, and the Canucks were instantly my favorite team. Their stark white, black, red and yellow colors and bizarre, semi-abstract logo were what brought me in to the fold. In fact, though I remain a Vancouver supporter I find it much harder to cheer for them in their current colors. In hindsight I think the visuals of the game were absolutely my main interest at the beginning, and it grew from there.
In the last few years I’ve come back to the sport. I still haven’t played it since I was 14, but I now follow the league again as much as I can. Being 5 hours ahead of the NHL’s nearest time zone and 9 hours ahead of Vancouver’s, this means staying up until 7 am to catch a home game, so I generally stick to the away games and only on weekends. Still, the fascination holds.
‘Stopper’ was selected for Creative Quarterly’s 21st issue.