When artist Russell Hoban visited the Toronto Maple Leafs camp he made hundreds of sketches like the one at left before producing such paintings as those on the opposite and following pages—paintings that give the true feeling of hockey, not necessarily as exemplified by any one team or player, but rather of the sport itself, which he here describes in his own words: "During the mornings and afternoons of training the shouts of the players echo in the frosty air of the empty arena. This is the time of the veterans fighting for their jobs and rookies trying to move up—the time of the 28-man squad that will be cut to 16. The coach, with sharp eyes and sharp voice, skates after the players with a whistle in his mouth and a 70-game schedule on his mind. In this first picture he is snapping at a forward's heels like a terrier. 'Heads up!' he yells as the puck is passed. Then, in the next hurried instant, he follows up with, 'Go, Go! Right through the hole! Go, Go!' "
AT THE END OF THE MORNING'S SCRIMMAGE
"They finish the practice with wind sprints, racing down the rink at top speed. When the coach blows the whistle all the skates dig in, spraying ice as they reverse direction and skate the other way as hard as they can until the whistle blows again. When this rough session is over, the players have very little left in them."
POP OR MIKE OR TOM
"A long time ago he used to be a good middleweight, a shortstop or a wingman, and now he lives in the humid climate of the dressing room, where young men, who never think of growing old, tease him cruelly."
THE SCOUT AND THE PRIEST
"There's a kid in my parish, a 12-year-old pee wee. He has a good shot, skates well, good stick handler. He might be all right on defense. His father wants him to have a good education. You might do well to have a look at him on your next trip."
25 YEARS IN HOCKEY
"First I was a player, then a coach. Now I'm a manager. I guess hockey is like a virus that gets into the system and you can't get rid of it. I'm sure if I had put as much time into something else I'd be richer.... They're not sharp at all today—not getting the puck out of their own end, not checking correctly. They'll have to do a lot better once the regular season gets under way."
BACK TO THE MINORS
"I don't feel too bad about it. I'm borderline NHL material and I know it. Lots of people thought I never would make a major league team, but I was lucky enough to have four years with them.... You see, I don't skate too well. Maybe some of the rookies won't work out so good. Maybe I'll be back before long."