The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Hockey Weekend Across America
This weekend marks the U. S. Hockey's annual Hockey Weekend Across America, an event designed to help spread appreciation for the sport throughout the United States. It spans three days, February 28 – March 2, and each day has it's own theme including "Wear Your Jersey Day," "Try Hockey Day" and "Celebrate Local Hockey Heroes Day." In honor of the weekend, I'd like to share some items with you to help get you in the shinny mood.
First off, in order to play ice hockey, you need both ice and skates. In 1905, a photographer captured some candid shots of folks enjoying a nice winter's day on a frozen Rock Creek within the grounds of the National Zoological Park. The group in the center of the photo looks ready to play. They’ve got their sheet of ice, skates, the child to the left is even wearing a pair of heavy gloves that should protect him from an errant slash. But there’s something they’re missing that every good hockey player needs.
An image from 1944 in the Smithsonian Flickr Commons should be able to help our would-be hockey players. The image features U.S. troops who are attempting to sort through holiday mail. Some items being sent are a damaged box that clearly states "Glass with care," a spare tire, and a hockey stick. Now we’re ready to play!
There is one last, quick story I wanted to share. As I vaguely mentioned in a previous blog post, I often use bears as subjects when testing our collection searches. When I check finding aids, I often use the key word "Hockey." My favorite finding aid that get's returned is for Accession 09-066 - National Portrait Gallery, Dept. of Exhibitions and Collections Management, Exhibition Records, 1979-1983, 1988, 2008. The finding aid contains records of the exhibition Champions of American Sports. Box 7 contains records involving Bobby Hull (One of my all-time favorite Chicago Blackhawks and who's portrait is currently on view in the National Portrait Gallery's Champions exhibit.), Bobby Orr, and Gordon "Gordie" Howe.
It's Gordie Howe that is the subject of my favorite hockey story. Howe, who is best known for his 25 years with the Detroit Redwings, was in the twilight of his career and had moved on to the Hartford Whalers. One day, during warm-ups, he spied a young, 7-year-old boy poking his head over the glass (at that time the glass on top of the boards was much lower than it is now). Howe scooped up some of the snow that accumulates on the ice with his stick, skated over, and dumped it on the boy's head. Skating off, Howe looked back to the boy and gave him a wink.
The boy, Jeremy Roenick, would go on and become a legendary player in the NHL in his own right. When he announced his retirement from the NHL, Roenick recalled that memory. While Roenick was a player, he attempted to reach out to fans as much as he possibly could, and he cited his moment with Howe as a reason for that. "For those three seconds, it was me and Gordie Howe and no one else," Roenick said. "That moment stuck in me, for years, and years, and years, because I know what that made me feel like. It was little, it was small, it took nothing out of his power or his time, but it resonated my whole life."
- Accession 09-066 - National Portrait Gallery, Dept. of Exhibitions and Collections Management, Exhibition Records, 1979-1983, 1988, 2008, Smithsonian Institution Archives