Fred Stenson's "The Hockey Widow"

by Shaun Hunter


Calgary through the eyes of writers

In 1983, three years after Calgary secured an NHL franchise, a new arena changed the city's skyline. To its architects, the roof was a reverse hyperbolic paraboloid. To the majority of Calgarians who participated in a naming contest, it looked like something more familiar. 735 saddle-themed names went into the hat. The winning name received mixed reviews, but Saddledome has stuck. (Photo:  Calgary Public Library Postcards from the Past )

In 1983, three years after Calgary secured an NHL franchise, a new arena changed the city's skyline. To its architects, the roof was a reverse hyperbolic paraboloid. To the majority of Calgarians who participated in a naming contest, it looked like something more familiar. 735 saddle-themed names went into the hat. The winning name received mixed reviews, but Saddledome has stuck. (Photo: Calgary Public Library Postcards from the Past)

Rita is a hockey widow. Come September, she loses her husband, Sid to the game. Then there’s her ten-year-old daughter, Lisa, who is intent on being as good a player as any boy on the rink. By January, hockey is eating into the household finances. The biggest expense? Sid’s season ticket to watch the Bisons, a team he claims to hate.

 

Five years ago when the Bisons came to their city, Rita had been caught up in Sid’s childish delight over it all. She had agreed about the season ticket, had even felt a measure of anxiety when he took his sleeping bag down to sleep outside the Bisons ticket office. What if they ran out just as his turn came? She had accepted it all so easily because, back then, Sid did work hard as a welder and was paying off his welding truck at record speed. At that time, it was also true that he had few amusements.

Well, things had changed. They had changed so completely it was impossible to believe Sid had failed to notice. Few amusements? Relative to whom, Rita wondered. Prince Andrew? His hockey drafts, his “fat man” hockey team, his going out to watch Bisons home games and the other games he watched with his buddies on the big screen down at the bar. Then there was his hockey card collection and his careful supervision of Lisa’s.

Sid played constantly, as far as Rita could see, but she also realized that, somewhere along the line, Sid had ceased to view any of it as play. The season’s ticket and the hockey cards were investments. the hockey pools were business. The fat man recreational hockey league (in spite of the gallons of beer and all the cigarettes afterward) was exercise. And the proof that none of it was play was that none of it was fun.

 

Fred Stenson, “The Hockey Widow,” Teeth (Coteau, 1994)


Fred Stenson's The Story of Calgary

by Shaun Hunter


Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers

Fred Stenson begins his history of Calgary with the words of a teller of tall tales, Robert E. Gard’s Johnny Chinook: “Anything can happen in Calgary and has.” In this slim volume published in 1994, Stenson recounts Calgary’s story of change over the course of the city's first century: from police fort to oil capital, and everything in between. He sees the city with a novelist’s eye, attentive not only to the characters that figure in Calgary’s past, but the way the city shapes the character of the people who call it home.

 

Calgary will always be a little out of sync with the rest of Canada. It did not originate in the fur trade. It is not situated in a forest. The people of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Europe were no more important to its development than the people of the United States. In the Great White North, Calgary is not even much of a winter city. The winter chinooks pull it out of the deep freeze into spring-like conditions again and again. The result of all this is that people either like or dislike Calgary a lot. It inspires little in the way of neutral opinion.

When Calgarians look to the future they tend to see brightness. This habit of optimism may be the key ingredient in the recipe that makes Calgary a pleasurable place to be. The expectation of good fortune lifts it up from the economic busts it is prone to, and helps it fly to record heights during the booms that are just as much its fate.


Fred StensonThe Story of Calgary (Fifth House, 1994)