Poetry in Motion: Canadian Hockey Icon, or Experimental French Writer?

POETRYINMOTION1In our continuing unification of the sporting life with that of the bookish, bespectacled square, we bring you our initial foray into the wide world of hockey.  Anglo-Norman facial features of the ruggedly handsome were interchangeable between some of the NHL’s all-time greats and some of the most smarty-pants of intellectuals that 1960s France had to offer.  Do you think you have what it takes to tell who’s who simply from out of context photos of questionable origin?  Play along, Dear Reader, and see if you can tell who among this group of suave and grizzled monsieurs was scoring hat tricks, who was smoking peace pipes in salons, and who was more apt to hug the Stanley Cup than they were to embrace Stanley Kubrick.

Maurice Richard

We begin with this fellow’s impressively slicked coif, cold existentialist stare, and whip-smart gray patterned suit add up to the makings of a La Sorbonne professor who you’d like to sore-bone. And so it may surprise you that this gent works not with “le cerveau”, but rather “le baton”: it’s the greatest goal-scorer of his era, Maurice “The Rocket” Richard!

Alain Robbe-Grillet

A mustache like this one immediately calls to mind the whisker-tickles of NHL greats like Paul Maclean, Harold Snepsts, and Jerry “King Kong” Korab. Is this hair-lipped devil an ice rat then? No, monsieur: it’s Nouveau roman icon, Academie francaise member, and screenwriter of Last Year at Marienbad, Alain Robbe-Grillet!

Serge Gainsbourg

This son of a gun looks to be sporting what is known in hockey and other fight-intensive sports as “cauliflower ears”, in which one’s lobes harden, flatten, and deform after years of being mangled in headlocks and other skirmishes. A rink-bound brawler? Je regrette, mon amis: that’s pop music icon, Evguénie Sokolov author,and renowned pervert, Serge Gainsbourg!


When we envision French intellectuals of the cultural revolution, we often picture them with a self-rolled cigarette in hand, cooly lost in deep thought. Probably pondering the will of kindness in a Godless universe, that’s no writer, that’s the finest centre of his generation: Stan Mikita of your Chicago Blackhawks!

Bill Flett

A dirty hippie like this isn’t clean enough to lace up Gretzky’s skates or wash Mario Lemieux’s car. A book-learning cretin, no doubt. Unless? Could it be! It is! Beloved as both a superb Right Wing and part-time rodeo rider, it’s 1967’s Rookie of the Year, “Cowboy” Bill Flett!

Claude Simon

Now here’s a jawline that looks like it’s been viciously smashed into a few half boards. To say nothing of the militant, regulation-style haircut and blackened eyes. If that’s not a hall of fame goalie, I’ll eat my hat. And eat it I will, while continuing to ogle this handsome photo of Nobel laureate and sometime Stalinist, Claude Simon!

Lanny McDonald

Another day, another obscene tuft of facial hair. This is just the sort of ruffian you saw hitting the streets of gay Paris to protest work and sensible grooming with the likes of Jane Fonda. Or so you’d think, fellow sports/book junky. In point of fact, we see before us not a bohemian, but a working class hero: Calgary Flames captain Lanny McDonald!

SP Howe.hr

Who’s that, some metaphysics professor more apt to share a bed with Michel Foucault than a shower with Bobby Hull? Au revoir, les enfants: that right there is ambidextrous marvel Gordie Howe, one of the most phenomenal puck slappers to ever work the professional hockey circuit.

George Perec

The National Hockey League has had more than its share of crazed maniacs barely fit for civil society. But none of them were weird enough to write A Void, a three hundred page novel that manages to not once utilize the letter A. Enter a beloved father of the Oulipo movement – and Bobcat Goldthwait impersonator – Georges Perec!

Albert Camus

Regardless of who he is, this dude seems pretty willing to bite your face just as soon as he’d look at you. Probably all the ennui. If you guessed that this was no jock, but in fact esteemed Algeria-born absurdist Albert Camus, then you’re no étranger to this rollicking game of wits!

Bob Baun & Frank Mahovlich

Double trouble: look at these two cads out on the town! Happy go lucky and tres moderne, they look like they’re off to a day at the offices of Cahiers du Cinema. If you’re Cahiers du Uninformed, that is. Looks can be deceiving: these ain’t no critics. They’re Bobby Baun and Frank Mahovlich, a two-man wrecking crew who terrorized the league during their shared triumphant tenure with the sixties edition of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Yves Klein

Finally, we end on a muscular bear of a man fit to hunt Yukon wildlife with his teeth and wits alone. You’re likely thinking: a rinkmeister for certain, oui? Instead, we’d have to look to a different sport altogether: the gentle art of judo, and its resident scribe supreme, The Foundations of Judo author Yves Klein. Klein was an adored realist painter and a pioneer in the world of Performance art. Yet he also took the time to remove his paint-addled duds and develop a knowledge of martial arts that made him a force to be reckoned with.  One fit enough to even survive a hockey-caliber brawl or two.

Follow Vol. 1 Brooklyn on TwitterFacebookGoogle +, our Tumblr, and sign up for our mailing list.