TORONTO – Walk in from the street in Toronto and the Hockey Hall of Fame doesn’t look like the Cathedral of Hockey. It’s in the basement of a giant glass building, just a few steps away from a McDonald’s.
Then you go in, and this isn’t heaven – it’s almost better. The first things you see are walls of glass cases with jerseys, masks, sticks and more. There are entire cases devoted to Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe and plenty of space reserved for Montreal Canadiens greats.
But amid things like the first trophy Gretzky ever won – from a kids league in the late 1960s – and jerseys worn in the Olympics and All-Star Games, there are pieces of Capitals history.
There’s Roger Crozier’s jersey from 1976-77, Karl Alzner’s Canada world junior jersey, Mike Gartner’s pads and more. In one room, each NHL franchise has a case of its own, with a “fan favourite” named for each. For the Caps, it’s Olie Kolzig, shown in the old red, white and blue jersey.
In the middle of that room is an interactive area where visitors can take shots on a virtual goalie or grab a glove and try to stop virtual shots. Playing not your thing? You can record your own call for one of hockey’s greatest moments, including the Miracle on Ice and the 1972 Summit Series, that for Canadians is the greatest international achievement in the nation’s history.
Close-by, the “Stanley Cup Odyssey” film plays, chronicling the trophy’s history from $50 piece of silver to hockey’s holy grail.
OK, let me stop for a minute. This whole thing was pretty cool. If you’re in Toronto, find a way to get there.
Speaking of the Cup, go up the stairs and there it is. There are actually two Stanley Cups – one that travels and one that stays at the Hall. You can touch it, get your picture with it or just stand there and admire how many players have cried over just being able to hoist it. (I’ve yet to cover a team that won the Cup, so I didn’t touch it.)
All the trophies are there, plus the faces of all the inductees from over the years. It’s hard not to be in awe of the entire experience, and even harder to put it all in words.