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March 22, 2019

Conversation Piece: “Mr. Goalie” by Tag Kim

This mural in Stony Plain is a must see for any sports fan.

Photography Paul Swanson

Before there was the Flames vs. the Oilers, there was the Flyers vs. the Stampeders.

In the early 1950s, the Edmonton Flyers and Calgary Stampeders were rivals in the Western Hockey League. The Flyers were the farm team of the Detroit Red Wings, while the Stampeders were affiliated with the Chicago Blackhawks. This was in the days when there were only six NHL teams, and hockey jobs were scarce. The so-called “minor” leagues were filled with very good players who were waiting and waiting and waiting to get their shots.

In 1953, a Humboldt, Sask.-born goalie by the name of Glenn Hall led the Flyers to a WHL championship, including a tense win over the Stampeders, a best-of-five series which saw the Flyers win in overtime of the deciding game. The Stamps outshot the Flyers 45-20, but Hall held his team in.

Hall, who would later go on to a Hall of Fame career in the NHL and set the league record for consecutive games played by a goalie, reflected fondly on the series when I interviewed him for my first book, The Battle of Alberta.

“I guess that, against Calgary, the games were of a higher tempo,” Hall said. “But I always enjoyed playing against a good team… We always played to full house in Calgary and Edmonton.”

Hall is the subject of “Mr. Goalie,” one of 32 famous historical murals you can find in Stony Plain. Of course, the mural was painted on the local arena. The mural celebrates Hall, who went onto NHL stardom in Detroit, Chicago and St. Louis. And while his roots go back to Humboldt – which is part of that mural – his years with the Flyers led him to make the Stony Plain area his permanent home.

The mural depicts a young Hall learning to play the game, starring in the NHL, plus a portrait of him with his late wife, Pauline. There’s also a rendition of their children. It’s about how a kid dreams of playing in the NHL, makes it to the big time, then becomes a well-loved member of the community.

The mural was painted by Tag Kim, who is known for his realistic landscapes and portrait work. The South Korea-born Kim also painted the portrait of former Alberta speaker of the house Ken Kowalski; that painting can be found at the Alberta Legislature.

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