Back in 1997 just after the Mighty Ducks finished playing the Flames. I was standing in front of the visiting team dressing at the Calgary Olympic Saddledome. The concourse area in front of the players dressing rooms is an area about 15 feet wide but it circles the whole Saddledome. Basically this is the area where you see a lot of the TV interviews of the players as they walk off the ice surface.
I was introduced to Pierre Pagé by an acquaintance of mine Don Wilson. Don was a insurance broker in Brooks, Alberta and a huge hockey fan with Flames season tickets. Don and Pierre have been friends for many years prier to this night. Pierre was head coach of the then Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
We had received the permission to go down and talk to Pierre Pagé. With Dons introduction, the meeting between Pierre and myself turned to why I was there. My answer was, I wanted to do artwork of one particular player on the Ducks team. That player was Teemu Selanne.
After the small chat we headed down this long hallway that lead to the visiting team dressing room. I had with me my portfolio, which was at the time a photo album full of my artwork. Then I had another album with reference photos that I purchased from Bruce Bennett Studios. I believe there was 10 and each one was a different pose of Teemu. In my pocket I had my home made business cards. I was ready, I must of looked like a retard but I was ready! And that’s how I started my art career. I just went and tried my hardest to get introduced to the right people who in turn would hopefully introduce me to the players themselves. If that didn’t work I would wait for the Samboni driver to open the over head door to the building and run in when he had his back to me....Just kidding!
We got to the door of the dressing room and Pierre Pagé turned to us to say “Teemu just finished having a shower so I’m not sure what dressed condition he will be in. You might have to just look the other way for a couple of minutes Ok?”
As we walked into the dressing room Pierre Pagé turned again and said “ Oh he is still talking to the press. You’ll have to wait your turn. You can have a seat right over there.” Pierre Pagé pointed to the locker stall that had the only clothes left in the dressing room. Those clothes belonged to Teemu.
As Don and I walked over to the stall I was mesmerized by what I was seeing. It was like I was watching a scene from a movie..
There in the middle of the dressing room was Teemu perched upon a bench so that he could over look all the cameras and reporters that were waiting to ask him questions about the great game that he just finish show casing. Don and I waited for what seem like 5 minutes but I’m sure it was more like an hour.
Finally the reporters and cameras crews started to leave one by one. Then there was the last scene of Teemu standing upon the bench, towel wrapped around him and still smiling for the cameras. It was a pretty cool scene to view.
You know it’s funny after all these years that scene is quite vivid in my mind. From the lights going off and Teemu shaking hands with the reporter and camera man. To him stepping down and walking towards the stall and sit down right beside me. That I will never forget.
Pierre Pagé was there beside Don and myself. I was sitting down taking this all in. As Teemu came near I stood up and Pierre Pagé introduced me to Teemu.
With a strong accent he said “ Hello Joe. Good to meet you! “ Very nice to meet you too Teemu ! “ Was all I could mustard...
He excused himself and got dressed then he asked what was on my mind. I started to tell him about my artwork and how he needed to have my painting hanging up in his house. The business part took over. As I showed him my portfolio and all the photos of him. He’s interest grew and he seem to really like the painting I did of Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri and Esa Tikkanenof the Edmonton Oilers. He then asked me something that I will never forget. This is something that many artist should take to heart. He asked me “ Why do I paint hockey players? “ I looked at Don, Pierre, and back at Teemu and all I could say was this.
“ I love painting portraits and I love watching hockey so the two go hand in hand. But most important is the thrill to meet a player like yourself, do the artwork, and then watch the smile come onto your face when you see the final art piece of yourself. “
Teemu looked at me and smiled to which he said “ Ok, when can I see this piece?” Pointing to the art piece of Wayne Gretzky...
The conversation turned to when the Ducks would be in Calgary again. At that the time the Olympics' were around the corner and Teemu would be practicing with Finland and it was just too long a time to wait. Pierre said that they would be in Edmonton in two weeks. I asked Teemu how I can get a hold of him up in Edmonton and he gave me his cell number. He gave me his freaken cell number...wow!
I then asked at what hotel they would be staying at in Edmonton and how do I page you at the front desk. Again without hesitation I got an answer from Teemu. “ Call me Mr. Flash! The front desk will know who I am!” The meeting was scheduled. I didn’t get a chance to see him in Edmonton but we did communicate by phone.
I created the painting and met Temmu down in Anaheim, Ca to deliver it to him. He never did get to see the original of Gretzky, Kurri, and Tikkanen, perhaps some day!