Theatre Preview: Hockey lunch in Canada

By Courtney Post

When thinking of the classical Bethlehem scene, you envision a single shining star up in the night sky. Imagine a manger where a virgin, if you believe that, just gave birth to her holy son. There may even be gold, frankincense and myrrh in your vision. But Christmas is still far off, and what’s on the mind of Canadians is our own absent holy scene–the hockey rink. Cold and late, there’s an iced-over pond with a nice big hockey net waiting in the middle. Of course this image isn’t complete without the beer. Take in an icy cold breath and make no mistake, it’s definitely Canadian.

The stage at Calgary’s Lunchbox Theatre is transformed into such a scene–a frozen pond with fresh snow replacing the traditional wooden stage. Sticks and gloves ready to go, a hockey net sits on the stage. The obligatory duffle bag filled with beer watches off to the side and rows of houses pushed in the distance to not disturb the bliss.

For hockey fanatics out there suffering from the current NHL lockout, Lunchbox Theatre offers the perfect cure with Edmonton playwright Ken Brown’s Life After Hockey. Originally presented in 1985, this one man show stars Rink Rat Brown (Christian Goutsis), a man not just playing hockey, but someone who lives and breathes it. The onstage ice allows Rink Rat to skate around and tell stories like the time he met Guy Lafleur one February evening on a frozen pond in Montreal and how it was he, and not Mike Bossy, who scored the game winning overtime goal in the 1984 Canada Cup series against the Soviets.

Trevor Rueger, making his directorial debut at Lunchbox Theatre, is very pleased to be a part of this production.

“Life After Hockey is a fabulous fabulous play,” he admits. “I hope audiences leave with a great sense of joy and entertainment.”

That shouldn’t be too difficult to take away from this clever combination of humor and multiple-impersonations.

Rink Rat’s monologue depicts the internal conflicts between the realities of his life as a middle-aged husband and father and the professional hockey dreams of his youth. Taken on a journey through the eyes of Rink Rat Brown, audiences are told many wild stories of love, life, and of course hockey.

“There’s something for every Canadian,” exclaims Rueger of the play. “Hockey is just the catalyst for other discoveries.”

Discoveries like falling in love, having a family and Canada’s national identity, or lack thereof.

“This is a timeless play,” maintains Rueger. “There was talk about updating to present day from 1985, even [incorporating] the Flames’ success from last year’s Stanley Cup. The updates wouldn’t have added to the story at all. Modernization wouldn’t make it better.”

Life After Hockey remains a period piece of the sport’s golden age, before such nonsense as the current lockouts and before some of our Canadian teams were being sold off to the United States.

With this in mind, Rink Rat’s conversation with Guy Lafleur seems that much more relevant. “[Playing] inside is for business,” claims Lafleur.

Both characters agree that it’s much better being able to play hockey outside on a pond not worrying about the big business side of the sport. This play is very much about Rink Rat’s revelation of hockey being just a game, there are more important things out there.

There have been more than 750 performances of Life After Hockey, the show touring across Canada and Europe where it has been translated into French and German. It is one of a few plays to be featured on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, and also been transformed in to an award-winning film. So, if you have a burning passion for hockey this season in your soul, Life After Hockey may just be the alternative you have been looking for.

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