If you’ve wondered what it feels like to have a puck fly at your face at 105km/h, you have a couple days left to experience it at THEMUSEUM. The force alone of the puck smacking the plexiglass just inches in front of your eyes as they’re pressed up against an outline of a goalie mask, is enough to send shivers down your spine and make you call it quits- if only it weren’t for every other interactive goody, educational treasure and at times simply brilliant displays of art in Canada’s favourite sport, hockey.
THEMUSEUM (one word, uppercase), is an ode to the evolution of Kitchener, Ontario. It is located on the downtown strip in the historical home of what was once Western Ontario’s most successful independently-owned department store, Goudies. The building went dormant in the late ‘80s after nearly eight decades of service, and in 2003 found new life re-opening as a Children’s Museum. Some obvious changes have been made in the years since, but only to enhance the overall sophistication of the world class exhibits that pass through these regional museum doors, this time being ARENA.
ARENA - The Hockey Exhibition is a rare collection of glorious hockey artifacts stemming from various sources, including Nova Scotia’s ‘The Art of Hockey’ exhibit, private collectors and local organizations like the Kitchener Rangers and the Stratford Hockey Club, which existed in the early 1900’s. With hockey woven into the cultural fabric of Kitchener, it’s only fitting some of the finest pieces make their way here – nearly half of the memorabilia displayed is courtesy of private collectors. Comprised of three sections – Art, History and Interactive, as you go up each floor in THEMUSEUM you will notice the design becomes more and more sophisticated than the primary colours of the main floor, which has kept with the children’s vibe.
With the ART collection naturally located on the top floor, some of Canada’s finest (and not so finest) pieces are displayed in great white rooms. “The Rejected Commission”, a beautiful painting of a faceless Maple Leaf in action hangs alongside an Andy Warhol original of sport favourite Wayne Gretzky. After my experience with a Zdeno Chara blast, I now have a new appreciation for the faces behind the mask, and the mask itself. The larger than life expressions of Wanda Koop’s five goalies watch not only you, but the bronzed Stanley Cup that rests above a bronzed front-loading washing machine, puck dents included.
The History section forces you to imagine hockey in its more prehistoric days with skates, goalie equipment, and all other team gear going into one travelling box. From Tim Horton’s $9,000 contract to the document that certifies the Toronto Maple Leafs as a franchise in the NHL, the old puzzles and cereal boxes sure take you back to a time when the Leafs were good and the equipment was shabby. The evolution of hockey pads is displayed by decade, as it leads you to the final area on the exhibit.
The Interactive section boasts a massive Stanley Cup replica made out of nickels, a smoke and light induced tribute to goalie masks and a hub that spreads awareness on concussions in hockey. You can try your hand as a goalie or play other kinds of ice sports - not on ice. Amidst the action are displays from the local Rangers, established in 1963, along with the Canadian teams in the NHL and yes, the Winnipeg Jets are in there. They also showcase ringette, sledge hockey and women’s hockey, as it embodies Canada’s love of ice and the passion that comes with success.
ARENA will close its doors to the public on May 6th, 2012 and the pieces that make this exhibit unique will be separated and may never come together again.
THEMUSEUM acknowledges the community has been such a big part in making the collection come together, and feels it is in fact a sure sign that Kitchener is headed in the right direction. That's very reassuring, since I'm here for the long haul.
Upcoming events to THEMUSEUM include the Instructional Works of Yoko Ono in the ADDCOLOUR exhibit as well as a Dinosaur exhibit and a Treasures from China ancient rock exhibit.
I'd like to thank Derek Weidl from the Accelerator Program on behalf of THEMUSEUM for providing such an informative tour of ARENA.