The Wide World Of Sports Vis-à-vis Leonard Cohen
As the title of this post, taken from Leonard Cohen’s “Going Home”1 suggests, today, in honor of the Olympics, we’re taking a look at Leonard Cohen and Sports.
One just doesn’t see enough photos of music icons engaged in mini sports. This graven image is from leonardcohen.
In the arena of table-less 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.2
1997 CTV Interview With Valerie Pringle
From “Bird On The Wire” documentary (1972)
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)3 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]
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 cursory 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
- OK, cutting off the opening lines of Leonard Cohen’s “Going Home” after “sportsman” eliminates the punchline, so here’s the complete version of the first three lines:
I love to speak with Leonard
He’s a sportsman and a shepherd
He a lazy bastard living in a suit. [↩]
- Ira Nadel, Various Positions p 232 [↩]
- Found at LeonardCohenFiles News Update 1995 [↩]