September 20, 2022
As Queen Elizabeth II is laid to rest, and her son Charles assumes the monarchy, there will be lots of conversations surrounding if his likeness will replace his mothers on Canada’s recreation facility landscape. The Queen is very much part of our currency which is slowly being reduced in use as electronic commerce becomes more common. There was a time that displaying the Queen’s picture in recreation facilities was a standard operational practice. Over the years, this practice has been significantly reduced as facilities changed management and the connection to why this was part of our industry became lost.
Princess Elizabeth attended her first full professional hockey game in Montreal in 1951. She and her husband Prince Philip also saw a game in Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens that October before they got to the Forum, but it wasn’t a real one. The royals didn’t have time in their schedule to attend Toronto’s Saturday-night season-opener, so Leaf’s and the visiting Chicago Black Hawks accommodated them by playing a half-hour exhibition game that afternoon. Maple Leaf Gardens still had a portrait hanging of King George VI. Once Princess Elizabeth was proclaimed Queen throughout her realms, she would eventually ascend (via painted portraits) the walls of several hockey rinks across Canada. The Queen oversaw the Gardens ice in the 1950s and on through the 1960s, until Harold Ballard had her removed in the early 1970s in favour of more seating. I’d like to know what became of that portrait. “If people want to see pictures of the Queen,” Ballard is supposed to have said, “they can go to an art gallery.” [more]
The history of hockey has a direct connection to the Canadian Armed Forces whose allegiance to the monarchy has always been an important part of tradition and ceremonies. This included the Royal Anthem which originated as a patriotic song in London, England, in 1745. The anthem is performed officially in Canada in the presence of members of the Royal Family, as part of the Salute accorded to the Governor General and Lieutenant Governors and by Canadian's at all types of ceremonies and events usually in concert with the national anthem “O Canada”. The migration into sporting venues as part of opening ceremonies brought a form of respect to competition and a way to signify the start of the event. Community rinks adopted the practice and hoisted pictures of the reigning royal as part of the operation. “God Save The King” is in the public domain and may be used without having to obtain permission from the Government [more].
In this time, community ice rink managers emulated the NHL rinks – by default, these operations set the tone for how the ice business should operate. In 1947, the Ontario Arenas Association was formed. How it all started - Jim McCormack felt that these new arenas needed to form an organization to give them some "buying power". Percy Thompson, owner of the Hamilton Arena and Ice Company and George Patterson of the Artic Arena and Ice Company were contacted to come aboard [more]. There was no mass media or instant communication systems in this time, creating a patch work of different levels of ice quality and operational practices. Sporting teams would often have home ice advantage from the energy generated by the crowds that packed the buildings. The reality was that the ice quality significantly differed from building to building. The OAA began the process of collecting and sharing best practices so that ice sheet operations would be standardized. 75-years later, the ORFA remains committed to these roots of service.
CBC sports broadcaster, Don Cherry would often speak about the presence of the Queen’s picture in community rinks and how the loss of this practice was in his opinion, a sad turn of events. An internet thread looked at which rinks still had a picture of the Queen displayed in Ontario rinks [more]. The information is unscientific but does seem to suggest that primarily older facilities still display the Queens picture. Now that she has passed, it will force these facilities to have a conversation about policy surrounding keeping the picture or updating the recognition to King Charles III. If such a portrait is to be displayed, it then becomes a manager’s responsibility to maintain it and keep it respectful through its entire lifecycle.
Regardless of one’s opinion of the monarchy, it cannot be lost that having the Queen’s picture did bring a sense of regal affiliation when it was displayed. In her 70-years, she watched over many a community event and formed a firm memory in many users who would return to their childhood rinks as adults and feel a sense of connection and belonging to their past.
Comments and/or Questions may be directed to Terry Piche, CRFP, CIT and Technical Director, Ontario Recreation Facilities Association
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