Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sharing the Hockey Spirit, Part I: "Small Towns and Big Dreams"



Courtesy of Hockey Spirit Fundraising Calendars
 
June 6, 2011
Maynard, MA

“…The best things around/that I have ever seen/Come from small towns and big dreams…”


-“Small Towns and Big Dreams” by Paul Brandt


Elizabeth Urlacher, one half of the married team that designs what she and her husband Brian call “the Hockey Spirit Fundraising Calendar” shares, via email, that “Small Towns and Big Dreams” is her favourite tune by Brandt, a native Albertan. “It speaks largely of who Brian and I are; it reminds me of my small town community each time I hear it! It’s really a song about good people, good ethics, and community camaraderie.”

The Urlachers reside in Red Deer, Alberta. Equidistant between Edmonton and Calgary, Red Deer is home to Urlacher Photographics Ltd and is the focal point for those familiar with the Battle of Alberta: the rivalry between the Oilers and the Flames. The Urlacher household, however, is a harmonious one. Oilers all the way.

Elizabeth and Brian grew up as Oilers fans, so neither had to compromise hockey loyalties when they married. And in 2006, they fused their passions—hockey and helping others—and talents—imagination, photography and design—to pursue their dream.

“I’m not sure why...,” Elizabeth writes, “but we always pictured it as a fundraising calendar that would help kids play hockey. It just was—and so it now is.”

The realization of these big dreams is rooted in their childhood memories.

Brian, whose imagination sparked the business, writes, “Growing up in the Drumheller Badlands and playing hockey on the frozen Red Deer River—at times there was no snow and I could skate for miles! If I missed the net I’d have to chase the puck for what seemed like forever to retrieve it (and that’s why I became such a prolific goal scorer and never missed the net.)

The Badlands, Brian continues, are known as the Dinosaur Capital of the World (Glen Rose, Texas also stakes a claim), and the enduring images of his early hockey days will be featured in a calendar some day.

Elizabeth recalls her halcyon hockey days, when the calendar would flip from fall to the frozen months. “Each winter,” Elizabeth writes about her family’s farm about forty-five minutes west of Red Deer, “Dad would plow a section of our backyard. He taught my big brother and me how to flood it with precision to create a sheet of ice that would be our winter rec center right in our own backyard. I remember my brother and I actually wearing old-old skates (similar to the antiques we feature in our calendar). A puck and a couple plastic hockey sticks ordered from the Simpson Sears Catalog were everything we needed. We’d play out there almost every night that the temperature would allow us to. I was a little more of a Jamie Salé (Alberta girl and Olympic gold medalist), in that as soon as I could put on figure skates, I was really at home on ice. Even if they weren’t a perfect match for playing hockey, I wore them while playing hockey!”

The hockey and calendar business—travel to nearby small towns and to other sites far and wide across Canada (think Newfoundland); capturing the images on camera; designing the fifteen-month calendars to include ample space for recording family activities, hockey statistics, and season highlights; and coordinating production, marketing, and distribution efforts—keeps Brian, a photographer and Elizabeth, a photographer and graphic artist, more active than Bruin goalie Timmy Thomas.

The Urlachers postpone their dates with calendars, though, when the playoffs are on TV. The Urlachers, like any hockey fans worth their metal, are watching the grown-up versions of those kids—who grew up in towns from Smithers, BC to Bonavista, NL—as they pursue their loft, shiny silver (and nickel) dreams.

As the splendor of the Stanley Cup Finals unfolds, sharing the spirit of hockey with good people is one of the best things around.

Stay tuned for Part II.
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