Walking into the Hockey Hall of Fame, located in downtown Toronto, I couldn’t help but smile as I saw groups of fathers and sons explore the depths of this cavern of accomplishments. Bottom lit displays trumped the corner of every room. Childrens eyes lit up at the sight of jerseys worn by the titans of this amazing sport. This is where dreams of hockey stardom are born, and memories of yesteryear go to rest.
I made my way from one glass display to another, dodging photo-happy parents and children emulating the hockey poses of their heroes. As I read through the history, stats, and obsessed over the minor details of the decayed hockey jerseys from decades ago, I came across the display of one of hockeys most beloved hockey players to ever step foot on the ice. Maurice “The Rocket” Richard.
For those who don’t know, Maurice Richard was the king of early hockey. He was the first to ever score 50 goals in one season, and the first to score 500 goals in a career. Top that all off with eight Stanley Cup wins, it is hard to dispute the fact that he’s a Legend amongst Montreal Canadian fans. Reading through his stats, I remembered a story I was told as a kid while visiting my grandparents farm.
I was around 10 years old, we were finishing up a home cooked meal and my Grandpa and Dad began talking about the Habs season. After discussing the stats of one of the newest additions to the team, my Dad told me that my Grandma’s cousin played for the habs back in the day. I never got a whole lot out of information from that convorsation aside from knowing that some semi-distant family of mine made it to the big leagues of my favourite sport.
Back in The Hockey Hall of Fame, I dodged another group of running kids dressed in their favourite teams jerseys and made my way to one of the interactive displays. While waiting in line to play with the controls, I sent a quick text message to my dad. “At hockey hall o fame!”. I got a reply a few seconds later. “Look 4 Elmer Lach items in there. He is from Nokomis & is your Grandma Fraser’s 1st cousin. You might find him on cmptr in there”
I left the line in search of this mysterious computer that may hold some information on my first cousin, twice removed. The computer took a minute to cooperate with me, but after searching for Nokomis Saskatchewan, he wasn’t hard to find. Elmer James Lach, #16, born 1918, played between 1940 and 1954, retired in ’54 as the leagues leading scorer. I skimmed through some more stats then smiled in confusion. Elmer Lach was a part of the Punch Line, along with Toe Blake, and the infamous Maurice Richard, one of the hockey legends.
I snapped a few pictures, and continued going through the different exhibits, laughing at myself for not knowing something so incredibly awesome. Some distant family of mine was shootin’ pucks, crushin’ beers, and hangin’ out with The Rocket. “To be able to time travel” I thought to myself. A wave of emotion crept over me as I thought of the memories they must have shared, winning the worlds greatest trophy.
A sign marked “Stanley Cup, This Way” caught my eye. I’d be disowned as a brother, son, and Canadian if I didn’t at least get a look at the Lord Stanley`s finest piece of metal. I followed a few arrows, and made my way up a long flight of stairs. The black stairwell opened up to a theatre-esque room, beautifully lit by the stain glass windows adorning the roof. Floor lighting assisted the spectacle.
The Stanley Cup stood proud on a small stage, in the middle of the room. A line had formed where hockey fans and tourists could pose for a photo with this titanic trophy. I waited for a clear shot without any people getting in the way of my shot. My camera stayed at eye level, however this was much harder than I had anticipated. The line was moving and growing. I waited, and waited, when one family left, another would follow right after.
One of the curators to the Hockey Hall of Fame saw my frustration and said they’d be happy to get a photo of me with the cup when the line cleared. I smiled hesitantly. “You get to touch it”, she insisted playfully. I laughed, and had to tell her “No thanks”. She looked shocked and asked “How come?” I told her that “This cup meant so much to me as a kid, that touching it now would feel like cheating, or stealing. I promised myself the only way I’d get a photo of me with that Cup, would be if I had won it.” She smiled then proceeded to tell me about the superstition that a hockey player should never touch the cup if he hasn’t won it. I guess that hockey spark still resides in me somewhere.
My career in hockey ended when I was 17, and I know for a fact that I’ll never win the Stanley Cup. But being near it, seeing it for the first time, was a close silver prize. This whole experience of being in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and being around retired jerseys and old hockey sticks, reminded me of exploring an old war memorial. These athletes may not have died in a war, but they sacrificed a good portion of their lives to play and compete in a sport that’s influenced the lives of so many people around the world. These athletes are heroes, and will remain that way, so long as we remember.
Elmer lach is currently 92 years old and lives in Montreal where he still attends the occasional hockey game. He is the oldest living Montreal Canadian.
30 Yonge St
Toronto, ON M5E 1X8, Canada
Open Weekdays 10am-5pm; Sat 9:30am-6pm; Sun 10:30am-5pm
Youth (4 to 13): $10.00
Children (3 and under): Free