CALGARY -- Any afternoon spent with Wayne Gretzky, boxer Lennox Lewis and the downhill skiers, the Crazy Canucks, well, that is time very well spent.
That's exactly what I did on Wednesday, visiting Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.
I live in Southern California, but Calgary is more or less my second home. The Hall is located at WinSport's Canada Olympic Park, a legacy from the 1988 Winter Olympics that is a bustling hub of athletic activity, home of Hockey Canada headquarters and a venue where the Calgary Flames occasionally practice when the Scotiabank Saddledome is unavailable.
The Hall of Fame was in the news Wednesday with the announcement of a class of new inductees, including Hockey Hall of Famer Lanny McDonald and golfer Mike Weir, the first Canadian man to win a major (2003 Masters).
So I decided to take part of the afternoon before Game 4 between the Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks to pay a visit. For a reasonable cost ($12.50, Canadian) you have a chance to take in a delightful slice of Canadian history and decompress in a quiet theater, watching an 11-minute film about the nation's greatest sports moments narrated by Canadian rock star Bryan Adams.
There were plenty of interactive exhibits. The chance to shadow box with Lewis (verdict: survived), the chance to pretend to be a sports announcer (verdict: passed, best left to the professionals) and opportunity to select pictures and write a headline from the Olympic gold-medal hockey game between Canada and the United States in 2010 (verdict: lots of fun).
And where else could you see an exhibit featuring the Barbara Ann Scott doll? Figure skater Barbara Ann Scott won Olympic gold in 1948 and a doll was made by the Reliable Toy Company of Toronto. Next to the doll were the red mittens knitted by Scott's mother for the skater when she was training in Switzerland (Davos and St. Moritz) in 1947 and 1948.
Then there were videos about Gretzky and Gordie Howe.
"Gordie Howe never would have played hockey," Globe and Mail columnist Roy MacGregor said in an interview about Howe. "If it had not been for a neighbor who brought over a bag filled with various things she was essentially going to throw out. And it was a reward for Gordie's mother having helped this family out during the depression.
"In that bag were two skates. Gordie put one on, his sister put the other on and they went out with single-foot skates and tried skating around the nearby slew that was frozen over."
For those of us with a deep love of hockey, seeing videos of the legends never get old. Better yet, you almost always learn something new.