Halifax Central Library was abuzz with excitement Tuesday night as a hockey legend shared stories of his childhood with a crowd in Paul O’Regan Hall.
An audience of more than 100 people listened to Ken Dryden recount his life story, sharing excerpts from his upbringing in the suburbs of Toronto in the 1960s, the beginnings of his hockey career and his time as a member of Parliament.
Dryden, who was visiting Halifax to promote his latest memoir, The Class: A Memoir of a Place, a Time, and Us, sat for a public interview hosted by his friend and former colleague in Parliament, Mayor Mike Savage, to discuss the book, which focused on the lives of his former classmates growing up in 1960s Toronto.
Dryden spoke of the sense of optimism among their parents at that time.
Those parents, many of whom lived through the Great Depression and the Second World War, and never received a university education, were for the first time experiencing rapid upward mobility as result of the Canada’s economic prosperity in the post-war period, best encapsulated by the rise of the suburbs, he said.
“They would sort of look at what existed, this amazing space of the suburbs, and all that was there and somehow they had created that,” Dryden said. “Imagine what their university educated sons and daughters would be able to create.”
He added that this hopefulness for the future would inform the way he and many of his peers saw themselves, as many of them became determined to go to university.
Copies of The Class were available in the hall, where many in the audience lined up in droves to get their hands on one. Following the interview, the attendees lined up once again to get their copies signed by Dryden himself.
Many attendees, some sporting Montreal Canadiens jerseys, were lifelong hockey fans, and were ecstatic about getting to see the sports icon in person.
Darren Hann has been a Dryden fan since childhood. He said the experience made him “feel like a kid again,” when he would watch Dryden play on TV in the early 1970s. He also said that he had met Dryden in person several times before and said that he hasn’t once been disappointed.
“He’s a class act,” Hann said. “He’s a gentleman, an inspiring person, a lawyer, an athlete and quite a role model.”
Glenn McMinn, a Halifax-based artist who Dryden initially commissioned a painting from back during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, also attended.
His painting, which depicted side-by-side portraits of Dryden’s hockey mask, one of the exterior and the other of the interior design, was displayed in the hall.
In an interview after the talk, McMinn said the portrait was not only intended as a tribute to Dryden, but also as a love letter to his father.
He said his father, like many men of his generation, was not very affectionate with him growing up, so he almost never received gifts from him.
One notable exception, he recalled, was when his father gave him a copy of Dryden’s book The Game, a memory he cherished and represented one of their few bonding moments.
“When I had the opportunity to connect with Ken, we were talking about what we wanted to do,” McMinn said.
They settled on a mask metaphor for the painting, “because it represented the relationship with my father and I.”
About the author
Karsten Greene is a Master of Journalism student at King's. He's passionate about storytelling and hopes to make a difference through it.