Last Thursday night, on November 7th, I had the great pleasure to be invited to the Scotia Bank “Grapes with the Greats” wine tasting event in downtown Toronto at the Scotia Bank Old Banking Hall down on King St West.
Having lived in a small town my whole life – it sure is something else to be in middle of Canada’s busiest city, bringing along my artwork and displaying it for all to see. Two weeks prior I had been walking around the streets towards an art convention with a friend, and I couldn’t help but comment on the immense size and richness of the buildings all around. Maybe one day I will have a building myself with my own name on it? But, here I was, setting up my “Hockey’s Masked Men” oil paintings of iconic NHL goalie masks as the backdrop behind the stage of this grand hallway.
Having spent hours loading up my artwork into the vehicle, driving to Toronto from Sarnia, unloading, carting around, and setting up my display under a tight deadline after the banking day had finished … I had a moment of marvel once I returned to the Hall, now dressed up in a suit jacket and tie, as I strode along a long and luxurious red carpet which had been laid out for the guests to enter upon.
The Scotia Bank building is so immense that you could spend a lengthy amount of time looking upwards towards its walls and ceiling before running into anything. The building takes on a whole new appearance after hours once the light of day has faded and only evening lights shimmer through the inward facing offices that line the walls of the interior – accompanied by an enormous vertical painting of a waterfall.
Next, one passes through an opening within a row of barred reinforced arches to enter into the Old Hall. A Victorian clock stands tall in the middle of the hall that saw tables draped with grapes, hockey jerseys, ice and candles. Along the outskirts were servers sporting wine bottles and glasses at the serving stations.
Earlier in the day I was told the story of an elaborate Christmas tree decoration that caught fire years ago, damaging the great room. Now repaired, I could not tell of any sign that a fire had ravaged through this cathedral interior. Giant columns lined the nave down a row of golden lights gridding the ceiling. These lights were dimmed to create a nocturnal atmosphere filled with a dressed up crowd of guests, NHL Alumni, Stanley Cup Champions and Hockey Hall of Famers.
Accompanied by his 12-string guitar, voice, and a beat from a hand-drumming partner, Alumni member Kraig Nienhuis performed a song of familiar tunes throughout the night. I thought he had a good ear for choosing popular hit songs and reinventing them to comfortably suit for the occasion.
Passing through all of these people were Diamond Estates Wine Pourers and Lake of Bays Pourers; serving dishes of Hors D’ouvres, Peking Duck on Moo-soo Crepe, Thai Salad Bundle Wrap (with Sweet Chili Sauce), Jumbo Shrimp (with Sauce Aiber), Fresh Shucked Malpeque Oysters (with Lemon & Cracked Pepper), Curied Chicken & Apple Salad in a Wafer Cone, Wild Mushroom Tourtiere (with Gorgonzola and Fig Chutney), Vegetarian Spring Roll (with Wasabi Soy), Brie and Olive Provencale in Phyllo Puff, Angus Beef Sliders (with Chipotle Mayo), and Panko Crusted Chicken (with Jalapeno Mint Sauce)… my favourite with the Angus Beef Sliders – but I’ve never been one with a fancy tongue. I heard great things about the other food too!
And, while I may have been there to present my artwork… and, while I also wouldn’t consider myself a wine guy… I was game enough to try out a few different choices. At weddings I’ve been to I’ve always assumed that I was into red wine – but after speaking with one of the pourers he assured me to try some sparkling wine. I’ll give a Don Cherry thumbs up on that. It was surprisingly good and chilled. There was also East Dell, Sparkling Wines (Buzz n Bubble & Sparkling Rose), Top Shelf, 20-Bees, Hat Trick, and Ice Wine. I tried a few different assortments until one of the reds clapped me on the back.
With a brief pause in the music, Jack Valiquette hosted a Hot Stove question period with New York Islanders four-time Stanley Cup Champions Clark Gillies and goaltender Billy Smith. It’s quite interesting to be present at these events to hear these older players speak – and to see many of their fans smitten and listening to every word. Hockey players have a language of their own – and a sense of professionalism. Even rough-housing players with past mean streaks come armed with eloquent ways of putting words in place and keeping everyone in the audience entertained in an appropriate manner.
At one moment there was a reunion of NHL alumni members on the stage to show who all was present for the evening’s sessions. Afterwards they all gathered in front of my “Hockey’s Masked Men” art display to be photographed by Paul Madder. I even had the chance to step into their group and get a few shots with them too. What an opportunity! A whole bunch of them even stayed afterwards to talk to me about my artwork as well.
At the beginning of the night I think that a lot of the crowd was too shy to walk behind the stage to look at my artwork – almost as if the didn’t know that they were allowed. But once the NHLer’s came on by I had a lot more foot travel and people began to take an interest in talking to me and looking at my artwork.
But, all great nights come to an end. My display was torn down and stored away neatly in their protective pouches – and I had a lot of great help from the staff and loading dock employees of the Scotia Bank place. A special thank you goes out to them. As well, to those who manage the Scotia Bank Branch – this was a wonderful opportunity to display my artwork within your residence. It was an honour.
Finally, I’d like to say thank you to Wendy McCreary once again for getting in touch with me once more to share the nights invitation to come on out. Thank you.