"At the Crease" - LIMITED EDITION - Giclee on Canvas
Ken Danby's 'At the Crease', one of the most famous and iconic images of sport, has now been republished in a new state-of-the-art reproduction print. Rather than simply reprinting from the previous proofs, this edition has been created from the original painting for the first time since it was originally published in 1972. Utilizing the latest print technology under the artists' personal supervision, the resulting prints represent an amazing testimony to the richness and fidelity of this renowned work of art.
- canvas size 25" x 35"
- $1175.00 cdn
The most famous anonymous goalie in hockey history
All these years later he doesn't recall if it was a regular checkup or some kind of emergency that caused the team's other goalie to be at the dentist and miss practice that day. He simply remembers that as the Guelph Biltmore Mad Hatters skated that afternoon, he was in one net and the other was empty.On literally any other day in the entire history of hockey, this would be an irrelevant, forgotten footnote. If even that. But this one particular practice was the one Ken Danby happened to show up at to snap a photo around which he would base his next painting.The subject? A goalie."So I was the only guy who could do the job," Dennis Kemp says.This was the beginning of the story of how an unknown hockey player became the model for one of the most famous paintings in Canadian history. And who somehow remained anonymous for decades until the greatest player of all time let his identity slip.It was November 1972. Hockey was everything at that moment in Canada. Just days before, Paul Henderson had scored to beat the Soviets in the Summit Series. So for Danby to turn his attention to the ice was no surprise. Especially since he always loved the game.As practice wound down at the old Guelph Memorial Gardens, a 19-year-old Kemp was asked to stick around for a few minutes to help out. When he agreed, Danby – who lived in the city – walked out onto the ice, set up his camera and started taking a few pictures. The goalie had no idea who he was. But he saw how seriously he was taking his work."I was thinking, this guy's going to a lot of trouble to get a photograph," he says. "I think I'm going to really look like I'm trying hard here and get a real low crouch."So, pretending he was trying to peer through the legs of his defenceman to prepare for a shot from the point, he assumed the position. It wasn't his normal playing posture. He was more of a traditional stand-up goalie. But this felt right for the moment.A few minutes later when Danby folded up his tripod and walked away, Kemp quickly forgot all about the whole thing. He was focused on his season until he tore a hamstring and was sidelined for six weeks. When he was ready to return, he was sent to a Jr. B team in Brantford to get some playing time as he worked himself back into shape.
Nearly a year went by. Then late the following summer as Kemp was walking down the street in Banff while working at a hockey school, he flipped open the pages of The Hockey News. Then stopped. There was a photo of a painting called "At The Crease."
It was him.
"I was kind of shocked," he says. "This is very interesting. I hope it turns out well."
Oddly, he told almost nobody. He simply didn't think people would believe him, which turned out to be the case the few times he did share. That, and the fact that nobody yet knew the work so he figured pointing himself out would be more than a little impolite.
Funny thing, though. In time he started seeing the image everywhere. Over the years thousands of copies have ended up in restaurants and bedroom walls and rinks and pretty much anywhere else you could imagine. There's almost certainly never been a painting of hockey that's been seen by more people.
But with his tight lips and Danby keeping it quiet, his identity remained a pretty well-kept secret for 35 years.
This was as the artist wanted it. Danby's son, Ryan, had been one of the first three people to see the work in his father's studio once upon a time. He was tiny then. But over the years, he says his dad insisted the painting wasn't supposed to be any particular person. Rather, it was supposed to represent the image of every goalie he faced while playing recreational hockey.
Still, some swore it was Ken Dryden. Others said Tony Esposito. Ryan Danby says his dad had intentionally not given a name to the player because it's art. The viewer can make the goalie whoever they want it to be as he did. That gives it its power.
"Dennis Kemp posed for the reference but dad worked off that," he says.
But when the Canadian legend passed away in 2007, Wayne Gretzky – who'd shot on the same goalie as a child – let Kemp's name slip to reporter Randy Boswell. Suddenly the secret was out for anyone who wanted to know. There really was an actual goalie behind the image.
The Guelph Memorial Garden is gone now. It was demolished in 2005 and a new city hall was built on the site. Kemp is now 63 and living in Alberta where he has mining interests. He still has the print and the thank-you note Danby sent him in 1973.
And he says he has the mask.
To this day, he's only ever signed one, at a bar after a men's league hockey game...
from Ken Radley