The Hockey Hall of Fame celebrated a pair of anniversaries in 2018. This past year marked both the 75th year of hockey’s hallowed shrine, and the 25th year since the institution was relocated to downtown Toronto from its original location on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition.
To celebrate both milestones, veteran author Kevin Shea, in coordination with Griffintown Media, has released a coffee table book simply titled “The Hall.” Stocked with over 150 pages of colour and black and white images from hockey’s most famous museum, the book presents a chronology of its evolution, beginning with its establishment 75 years ago.
After Toronto came out on top in a tug-of-war with Kingston to be the home to the Hall, the groundbreaking for the original building came in 1961. Prime Minister John Diefenbaker presided over the opening ceremony. The Hall was open only during the CNE and Grey Cup week, and it wasn’t until 1993 that a more feasible, year-round location was cemented at the corner of Yonge and Front Streets.
“It became fairly obvious as other museums – not just hockey or sports, but all kinds of museums – found that they had to get interactive, because that was the generation that was coming up,” Shea said. “So the Hall of Fame had to buy in. Some of the equipment at the CNE, there just wasn’t the room or the infrastructure to pay for those things.”
“The Hall” illustrates the transformation of the museum from an artifacts-only building to the 50,000 square foot tourist attraction that it is today. Visitors don’t necessarily have to be Montreal Canadiens fans to appreciate the replica of the fabled Forum dressing room, a spectacular image of which is provided in the book.
A generation ago, then school-aged kids like Shea and his brother would be limited to strolling around aisles of bulletin boards emblazoned with biographies of hockey’s greatest legends. It was a good, but not great, way to pass the time during the CNE fair.
Today, the Hall of Fame hosts a multitude of interactive displays, including a simulation at which kids of all ages can test their shot. One such anecdote in the book recalls the story of a staffer giving unsolicited advice to a participant who missed his first three shots.
Suddenly, the shooter revealed his identity and pointed to his own display. It was none other than The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, the tenth Honoured Member to have his induction fast-tracked into the shrine.
“The Hall” also provides an in-depth look into the museum’s facets, including the Doc Seaman Resource Centre, its treasured artifacts, and of course The Stanley Cup. Finally the book is punctuated with the portraits of all 399 honoured members to the end of 2017; the same likenesses that appear on each members’ plaque inside The Great Hall.
Shea, a one-time Manager of Special Projects for the Hall of Fame, has been affiliated with the institution since 2000 when he was hired by the keeper of the Stanley Cup, Phil Pritchard. (Yes, the man who wears the white gloves makes an appearance, too.) The author has worked several late-night shifts in the building, formerly the site of a Bank of Montreal branch, but is rather pragmatic when it comes to discussing the fabled ghost of Dorothea Mae Elliott, another anecdote that the book offers.
“In the evenings, a couple of times, strange things would happen. As a pragmatic guy, I thought – ok, we’ve got a subway running right underneath the Hall, there are the vibrations, a busy street corner. So maybe that’s why a chair happened to move a little bit, or a sweater fell off a display,” Shea said, less inclined to believe that the incidents were created by an apparition of Elliott, a teller who committed suicide on the premises in 1953.
“It depends on the way that you look at it, but it’s a great story!”
The book is the second release in the National Treasure Series. Its predecessor “A Century of NHL Memories” was made available last year.
“The Hall” is available from Griffintown Media.
To win a copy of “The Hall”, please send an email to email@example.com before 12noon on Thursday, October 25, and quote the word of the day: “Keon”. One random winner will be selected from all entries that quote the word of the day. One entry per email address please.
In 2016, Rob wrote “Hockey’s Enforcers: A Dying Breed”, now available at Chapters and Indigo stores everywhere.