Battle of Alberta, depicted on canvas.
There are a couple iconic and classic NHL hockey rivalries between cities in Canada. There is the East Coast rivalry between Toronto’s Maple Leafs and Montreal’s Canadiens and then there is the Battle of Alberta, the classic hockey rivalry between the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames. Over the years there have been many famous paintings celebrating Canada’s game of hockey. From paintings of hockey on the ice to paintings of the iconic and legendary players of the game, the game of ice hockey has inspired many artists and paintings over the years. For myself as a Canadian Visual Artist, the game of hockey has figured in my work of the past 15 years approximately 25 times, making it 17% of the time in my work. In 2013 I presented my first solo exhibition in Edmonton, in the show there were four paintings celebrating the game of hockey in a city that has a significant hockey history in the Stanley Cup winning Edmonton Oilers. Since 1980 The Battle of Alberta has been an intense and passionate rivalry between the most populous city of Calgary, against the capital city, Edmonton.
The rivalry also extends outside of team sports to international events. Both cities have hosted numerous national and international championships and other tournaments, often in a spirit of one-upmanship: there is constant need for local politicians to prove that their city is “world class” or at least better than the other. The constant one-upmanship of the two cities in this field has receded in recent years, and they cooperated in a successful joint bid to host the 2012 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. The Edmonton Oilers of 1983–90 are recognized as one of the NHL’s last great dynasties, with line-ups through this period that featured Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF) legends like Gretzky, Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Jari Kurri and Mark Messier, guided by HHOF coach Glen Sather.
When choosing to depict one of Canada’s greatest hockey teams on canvas, I looked to the Great One, a goalie, and the Battle of Alberta for inspiration. My journey began with goal tender Dave Dryden and his iconic goalie mask. In the painting I depict his iconic mask on a postage stamp that bares his jersey number, 28.
For the second painting I would choose the challenge of depicting the earth moving trade of The Great One to the Los Angeles Kings and Wayne Gretzky’s marriage to LA actress Janet Jones.
For the third painting about the Edmonton Oilers dynasty I chose the legendary Battle of Alberta, mixed with humour and art history. An ode to Steve Smith, in the style of Jacques Louis David, referencing The Death of Marat painting created in 1793. “Saturley’s Death of a Rookie, Rise of a Hero is a take on the political painting The Death of Marat by French painter Jacques-Louis David, 1793. In Death of a Rookie, Rise of a Hero we see Oilers #5 (Steve Smith) sitting up in a tub surrounded with empty beer bottles while holding a letter and a pen. The letter that Smith is holding states: “Dear Grant, I have no words…, I’m sorry. So very sorry…”
This letter is in response to Smith’s rookie year when he scored a critical goal on his own goalie in the divisional final that allowed the Calgary Flames to move forward to the Stanley Cup. Grant Fuhr was the Oilers goalie that Smith scored on. The French revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat in the painting The Death of Marat is found in the same position, but, unlike Smith, Marat has been murdered by political enemy Charlotte Corday. Corday blamed Marat for the September Massacre (a wave of killings in Paris and other cities in late summer 1792 during the French Revolution). The huge backlash received by Smith after scoring on his own team can be perceived as similar to the actions of Marat against his own people. But this is where the analogy ends; Smith recovered and went on to be a valued player by the Oilers and when they won the Stanley Cup the following year, Wayne Gretzky (opposite of Marat’s Charlotte Corday), handed him the cup to skate a lap at the arena. Death of a Rookie, Rise of a Hero is about perseverance and continuing on when the chips are down.”
This painting was featured in the 2020 documentary film, “The Iconic Canuck” where the artist talks about the story behind the piece.
See more hockey paintings by Brandy Saturley.