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In new book by Don Weekes, Canadian cartoonists immortalize Canada’s national game

Picturing the Game: An Illustrated Story of Hockey features 460 illustrations by some of Canada’s most prominent editorial cartoonists
November 27, 2023
By Richard Burnett, BA 88

A man with light brown hair is wearing a bright red half-zip sweater over a grey t-shirt stands outside in front of teal-coloured wood siding Picturing the Game is journalist and author Don Weekes’s 35th book about hockey. | Photo: Courtesy of McGill-Queen’s University Press

Author Don Weekes’s new book Picturing the Game: An Illustrated Story of Hockey (McGill-Queen’s University Press) is being hailed by some as a benchmark book for art and hockey enthusiasts about Canada’s national sport.

The 408-page hardcover is packed with 460 illustrations by some of Canada’s top cartoonists and illustrators, including Bruce MacKinnon, Terry Mosher, LLD 18 (also known as Aislin), Serge Chapleau, LLD 18, Susan Dewar and Brian Gable.

In his blurb for the book, MacKinnon, a cartoonist for The Chronicle Herald, observes, “Inside these pages is not just an illustrated chronicling of hockey in Canada by historically renowned illustrators. It’s also a raw view of the game’s most iconic and evolutionary moments as seen through the art of some of the crankiest, most wretched trolls in journalism: editorial cartoonists. What’s not to like?”

For the love of hockey

Hockey and it’s colourful history has long been a passion and a profession for Weekes, who majored in psychology at Concordia. Picturing the Game is his 35th book on the topic. His previous include the first and second editions of Hockey Hall of Fame Book of Trivia (Firefly Books) and Hockey’s Top 100: The Game’s Greatest Goals (Greystone Books).

“I came up with the idea for this ambitious book about 20 years ago,” says Weekes, a former writer and researcher for CJAD and CFCF Radio, and television producer, director, writer and researcher for CFCF 12 / CTV Montreal. “I had the time to write this book after I left CTV Montreal. It turned into a seven-year project.”

Weekes says he initially worked out the connection between cartooning and hockey by researching well-known hockey events that happened over the last 120 years.

“Putting the book together was a considerable undertaking that required a lot of time with the collaboration of number of people,” he says. These included the cartoonists and other artists who contributed their work, particularly Terry Mosher. “He helped with the evolution of editorial cartooning and, importantly, opened many doors.”

He shoots, he scores

Growing up in Île Bigras — one of several small residential islands where Montreal, Laval and Île Bizard meet on Rivière-des-Prairies — Weekes worshipped the Montreal Canadiens.

“I was a river-skater from the age of four, and soon played pick-up hockey on backyard rinks and community ice. Organized hockey was my choice of winter sport until I was 15 years old.”

A newspaper illustration by Bruce MacKinnon that shows hockey players in red supporting a Humboldt Broncos player, in honour of the April 2018 bus crash that killed 16 players Bruce MacKinnon’s cartoon following the Humboldt Broncos bus crash in April 2018 that killed 16 and injured 13. | Photo courtesy of McGill-Queens University Press

Picturing the Game contextualizes historic and famous hockey illustrations. “Editorial cartoons have a make-believe factor to them, but they can also be more expressive than a camera,” Weekes explains. “What I came to realize is that hockey cartoons can merge politics and sports into a commentary that lampoons the game while analogizing news events and their impact on everyone.”

The book contains many iconic images, such as Bruce MacKinnon’s cartoon following the Humboldt Broncos bus crash in April 2018 that killed 16 and injured 13. “It’s a hockey cartoon that talks about an important news event. It’s about family, driving long stretches in winter to be with someone and how precarious life is. Bruce captured it, and we can all relate to that.”

After graduating from a three-year Civil Technology program at Montreal’s Dawson College, Weekes worked full-time for two years in Ottawa at the then-called Survey and Mapping branch of Canada’s Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. He then surveyed several summers in Canada’s North.

“Those summer jobs put me though Concordia,” says Weekes, who began his university studies in 1974 after Loyola College and Sir George Williams University merged to create Concordia.

Image of the book cover for Don Weekes's Picturing the Game Photo courtesy of McGill-Queen’s University Press

“I loved Loyola Campus. I cherish those years. I majored in psychology, but my greater passion was Radio Loyola.” Weekes became the radio station’s program director and in 1977 was a co-applicant for a CRTC license to broadcast Radio Loyola.

“We turned the student station into CIRL, the first carrier-current station in Quebec. All that hard work landed me a full-time job in 1978 producing Sounds Like Montreal, a current-affairs show at CJAD.”

After leaving CJAD for CFCF 12 / CTV Montreal, Weekes worked with legendary broadcaster Dick Irvin Jr. “He’s a giant in hockey and I worked with him for a number of years on Dick Irvin’s Hockey Magazine, a weekly segment on CTV Montreal. Dick inspired me to write about the game.”

The landmark Picturing the Game is a beautifully packaged, feel-good read. “You look at a good cartoon and you laugh and feel better,” says Weekes who continues his love of recreational hockey in Montreal.

“I still play a few pick-up games on the neighbourhood rinks of NDG [Notre-Dame-de-Grâce],” he says. “If I can play for an hour or two, try to keep up with the kids, then I’ve accomplished something in my day.”

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