From Protection to Expression
by Diane Petricola
Canadians love their hockey, no question, but one man’s passion for the fastest game on ice inspired him to make more out of the sport.
Peter Manchester, born in Connecticut, discovered his passion for hockey after moving to Sackville, New Brunswick, with his wife and kids. A long-time practitioner of eco-art (the art of turning trash into art), Manchester says it was only natural to make art with broken hockey sticks. “I saw hockey sticks as an under-utilized resource in Canada,” he says. “The hockey sticks were essentially ubiquitous in everybody’s house, cottage and garage.”
His passion for the rare art form inspired him to pen the bestseller 50 Things to Make with a Broken Hockey Stick. In the book, Manchester transforms typical busted-up hockey sticks into useful pieces of art. He goes far beyond the expectations of making a simple walking stick, however. Every turn of the page is a new invention that shows the full possibility of a broken hockey stick. “As an artist,” he says, “I like the form of the hockey stick because, of course, you have the long shaft for the handle and you have this great curve that curves outward and bends left or right. I was intrigued by that and I just started thinking about things you can make with those and it went from there.”
You don’t have to be a hockey enthusiast to enjoy making these creations or having them in your home. His creations include curtain rods, pot racks, a toilet paper holder and even a catapult. The first piece of hockey-inspired art Manchester made was a mock moose- head trophy.
“I made that moose-head thing out of skates and hockey stick blades. I wanted to do something sculptural and functional and I was intrigued,” Manchester explains. “The moose- head thing was kind of a Canadian trophy but I wanted to make a really goofy one out of any available materials.”
Having lived in the United States and Canada, Manchester says he has noticed the difference in the amount of hockey enthusiasm.
“Hockey is sort of an interest in the States but it’s a lifestyle in Canada,” he says. “People were curious about hockey but it wasn’t a passion like it is here and I don’t think you get it until you live in a cold place. For the time that I lived in Connecticut, there was a pond that would freeze behind our house and we would go down and play hockey there, but by no means did we have the competency that other kids have in Canada just because they skate so much more.”
After 50 Things to Make with a Broken Hockey Stick was published in September 2002, Manchester began to experiment with other hockey equipment.
“When it first started, I wanted it to be just hockey sticks and then I started incorporating skates. Then, for the second book, I started incorporating all hockey equipment because I feel that there’s no other sport that has as much equipment as hockey.”
In October of 2004, Manchester released his second book, Fabulous Fabrications from Busted Hockey Gear.
His art has been featured in several galleries in New Brunswick, including the Fog Forest Gallery. Fog Forest owner Janet Crawford has worked with Manchester in putting together many exhibitions of his work including his paintings and his hockey stick art. “Peter is probably one of the most creative people I’ve ever met,” Crawford says. “He can lend his imagination to almost anything. He comes up with the most interesting and off the wall kind-of-stuff.
“With Peter, nothing is ever static. It never stays in one place. It always is a stepping stone to the next thing.”
Manchester is interested in showing his work outside of New Brunswick and getting his work displayed in bigger cities.
“I was looking for a gallery in Toronto to see who would want to carry this thing, but I couldn’t find a decent match. I hiked all around town and poked my head into different galleries, but I didn’t seem to find any that were interested in hockey material art.”
Despite the lack of big-city interest, Manchester plans to continue creating his unconventional art. “I think it’s one of those things that is going to get bigger the longer I stick with it.”