I love to speak with Leonard, He’s a sportsman …
In honor of today’s opening of the Olympic Games, we’re taking a look at some of The Favourite Games Of Leonard Cohen. Today’s post is the first of three in this series. Also see Part 2 and Part 3. Update: More Leonard Cohen Favourite Games – Unified Heart Touring Company Teammates
Mini Table Tennis: One just doesn’t see enough photos of music icons engaged in mini sports.
Tennis: In the arena of table-free tennis, Cohen, when he first sought spiritual guidance on Mount Baldy, was advised by Roshi (his spiritual guide) to take up tennis and join a tennis club in Claremont. Despite this and regular play, his game did not improve much.1
Skiing, Skating, & Hockey
Leonard Cohen shown skating and practicing ice dancing with his sister, Esther.
Note the high velocity skiing by a young Leonard Cohen in this 1992 French TV interview:
The Fundamental Leonard Cohen Question: Did Leonard Cohen Play Ice Hockey?
Since the above illustration was published as part of the August 26, 2009 post, Leonard Cohen World Tour ON ICE, it has provoked a dozen or so viewers to indeed ask something on the lines of
Did Leonard Cohen play ice hockey?
Rather than continue to respond to these queries individually, DrHGuy is taking this opportunity to answer this question for all to read.
The Answer To The Fundamental Leonard Cohen Question: Heck, Yes
The straightforward evidence follows:
1. Ira Nadel, in “Various Positions,” his biography of Leonard Cohen, wrote that Cohen was “an unlikely member of the [Westmont High] school hockey team.”
2. Melinda Newman, in “A Thousand Kisses Deep” (Billboard August 5, 1995)2 discussed this point, quoting Cohen himself:
Cohen recalls his Helsinki concerts and the splendid Baltic herrings of the local marketplace. He also loves ice hockey. “I used to be the left defense player myself”.[emphasis mine]
A Photo From Leonard’s Personal Collection
It’s Leonard and his peewee hockey team. (that’s him second from right, bearing a mark from g-d on his temple)
And not just a pic but a confession, and possibly why his smile seems half-hearted.
It’s not a photograph of a victorious pee wee hockey team having just brought home the cup. It was taken before the game; the cup, at the insistence of the photographer, was borrowed for the occasion
Update: Leonard Cohen writes:
Roslyn School hockey team: We are shown with the trophy, but we didn’t win it. The photographer was at the school taking class pictures, and the staff thought that just in case we won the tournament, they’d have the shot for the yearbook.
Your sports section was hilarious.
Bonus #1: Leonard Cohen Knows The (Hockey) Score
I’m Your Man, the June 3, 2008 post at Paulina’s Blog, reports on the blogger’s attendance at the Leonard Cohen World Tour concert in Kitchener. While the entire entry is worthwhile reading, the hockey-pertinent portion is excerpted below:
It was a memorable concert. The audience was enthusiastic and grateful, given him many standing ovations, the first one occurring before he’d uttered a single word. This is a man who can recite hockey scores and make it sound like poetry. He did exactly that, 15 years ago, when I saw him perform at the same location, during the Stanley Cup playoffs. You can’t grow up in Montreal and not be a Canadiens fan. [emphasis mine]
Update 08 August 2012: Hermitage Prisoner had the presence of mind to check on the specific Stanley Cup Finals referenced in the above description. According to the good folks at Wikipedia, the 1993 Stanley Cup Final series was the 34th appearance in the Final for Montreal, Leonard Cohen’s hometown, and the first appearance in the Final for Los Angeles, the city to which Cohen would move a year or so later. The Canadiens won the series four games to one to win the team’s twenty-fourth Stanley Cup.
Bonus #2: Hockey In Leonard Cohen’s Oeuvre
DrHGuy is sad to report that his survey of the songs, poems, and novels of Leonard Cohen did not locate a bounty of hockey motifs, allusions, metaphors, etc. It turns out, for example, that the story about an early version of “Hallelujah” featuring the line,”Love is not a power play,” is, alas, a myth. Still, there is at least one mention of hockey in his poetry.
A Limited Degree By Leonard Cohen
As soon as I understood
(even to a limited degree)
that this is G-d’s world
I began to lose weight immediately
At this very moment
I am wearing
my hockey uniform
from sixth grade
From Book Of Longing
Bonus #3: Leonard Cohen is Hockey-Empathic
Leonard Cohen greeted the audience at his April 28, 1988 concert at Jaahalli Helsinki, Finland with these words:
Thank you very much, friends. It’s very nice to be here. I’m sorry that the concert was delayed one night and that you lost the hockey game. The Montreal Canadians just lost a hockey game, too, so I’m in deep sympathy with all of you
Credit Due Department: Thanks to Maarten Massa for access to the photos of a young Leonard Cohen biking, skiing, skating, and playing golf.
Note: Originally posted Aug 7, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric