THUNDER BAY – SPORTS – Who among us as sports enthusiasts can recall, in recent years, the incredible media hubbub and hockey palaver that has gone viral regarding this inaugural NHL season for one called Connor McDavid drafted by the Edmonton Oilers last summer.
As my wife and I have travelled over these last two months from Ottawa to Calgary everywhere the hype edges into one’s days. There are the breezy call-in Sports talk Radio shows, the around the clock highlights of McDavid’s latest game—even practice sessions–being filmed and packaged as local news reports where he has become a marquee phenom in waiting.
Not long ago in sharing our family’s passion with Ireland’s grand triumph in Euro playoff in
Dublin where the men in Green became the first post World Cup euphoria to defeat Germany 1-0, one sports writer reacted with, “Soon I hope my Oilers Eyes Will Be Smiling when Connor McDavid finally gets home, to Alberta, after his team’s extended road trip.”
Well all the ink being garnered for the 18 year old Connor is not totally new. My colleague Roy
MacGregor wrote a rather prophetic column for the Globe and Mail a few years ago as McDavid played for Canada’s Juniors at the World’s. MacGregor ever one to take his visionary viewpoint with his own shufflings around hockey rinks was writing to indicate how much the youthful McDavid was so keen on defying naysayers and critics at large who doubted his talents his evolution to come on the stage of ice hockey rinks.
Only this week while stepping through the baggage stations at Calgary’s airport two of the first fellows we heard talking while gripping their luggage were so joyfully happy receiving news they had a pair tickets awaiting them at the Saddledome for the hometown Flames game with McDavid and his Oilers.
The tickets they were also quite happy to pay for were going for $325 each. Meanwhile one of Canada’s finest sports writers Eric Duhatchek had a very fine piece in Alberta’s Saturday morning newspapers asking—as resolutely as Duhatchek does as as a scribe—will Connor McDavid (be able to) reignite the Flame in the Battle of Alberta on Ice tonight?
Again all this may allow my comparison to a current book that is accompanying our family’s little odyssey in seeing our country in Autumn. It is the story of another Irishman though this renown traveller did his Canadian touring in the 19th century. That’s when Ireland’s Oscar Wilde took a boat to North America on a speaking engagement that would include literally thousands of lecture appearances from Ottawa to New York, Chicago, Montreal and even a mining field in Colorado. Wilde had become such a fabled and arresting wit, lecturer, and soon writer of seminole books to come, that a national poet W.B. Yeats declared upon meeting Wilde in London, “I truthfully have never encountered another artist who could not only talk but also think so rapidly while on his feet.”
Yet, the gifted and genius-like Oscar Wilde had a very astute line, which one might refer to Connor McDavid in his, obviously under the microscope, whatever will be Rookie season. Wilde liked to say, “no matter what is before you—just be yourself. Because every one else is already taken.”
To round out my juxtaposition of two Irish rooted celebs a little story about how Oscar Wilde’s Fame from his American and Canadian cities landed back home before his return. It comes in an anecdote Wilde’s precocious mother (also a gifted Dublin poet in her own writings) told.
Back in time British Isles makers of miniature brooch and lock images of famous writers and artists would be comparable to today’s souvenir shops. Where posters, T-shirts and sporting jerseys acknowledging Hall of Fame NHLers, like those who wore Nos. # 4 and # 99, become statements to the levels of how high an athlete’s esteem has risen in the eyes of an admiring public.
Wilde’s mother must have gradually realized, and certainly, felt how much her son’s illustrious speaking itinerary and sold out performances were being relished in his travels encompassing over a full year abroad. One morning she noticed something of new kind of hero worshipping had arrived at her abode in Dublin. “Why,” she gushed, “I was overwhelmed to notice the milkman had bought a picture of Oscar.”
However, Oscar Wilde was not removed from art critics. And we hope that Connor McDavid will be capable of deflecting the kind of harsh talk great ones must. A professor of ours used a quote by WILDE when speaking about this topic. Wilde wrote, “the critic has to educate the public bout the playwright and artist—we may pencil in here: as ‘the modern athlete—has a role to educate the critic about the virtues of all the good plays he makes.”