BC Sculptor Immortalizes Vancouver Canucks Coach

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Abbotsford sculptor Norm Williams (http://www.normwilliams-sculptor.com) figures it was his passion for hockey that lead the Vancouver Canucks to choose him to create a bronze sculpture of legendary NHL coach Roger Neilson.

Abbotsford sculptor Norm Williams (http://www.normwilliams-sculptor.com) figures it was his passion for hockey that lead the Vancouver Canucks to choose him to create a bronze sculpture of legendary NHL coach Roger Neilson. The larger than life sculpture is located outside of Gate 3 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, and was unveiled on April 7, 2011 as part of the team’s 40th anniversary celebrations. The sculpture of Roger stands 12 feet tall from his feet to the top of the extended hockey stick. It weighs approximately 750 pounds.

The sculpture depicts Neilson waving a towel at the end of a hockey stick. It captures the moment during a 1982 playoff game against the Chicago Blackhawks, when Neilson felt the Canucks were continually and unfairly penalized during the third period. He took a trainer's white towel and held it on a hockey stick, as if to wave a white flag. By doing this, Neilson inadvertently started an NHL tradition. It is a playoff tradition that continues to this day and is widely copied by other sports teams around the world.

Norm was one of several sculptors initially considered for the project. He knew his competition would be steep, so he had to find a way to stand out beyond the quality of his work.

He focused on the fact that he was a local boy with a deep passion for hockey, and made the case that such a piece would require someone with a lot of hockey knowledge. “My edge was my understanding of hockey. Serious hockey fans care about the details. If something about the subject’s expression or movement doesn’t ring true, then they are not going to like it.” 67-year-old Williams is a Canucks fan of long-standing and began following the team before they entered the NHL.

“You would be surprised at how little good photography there is of Neilson from the early 1980s. There are either posed photos where he’s looking straight at the camera and smiling, or action shots that are quite grainy,” explains Norm. “In 1982 I was watching that game of course, and I remember the moment when he waved the towel and how he looked. His facial expression was one of exasperated defiance. Really it was a polite middle finger to the officials, and they took it that way by ejecting him from the game.”

He began work on the sculpture in July 2010 and completed the plaster version of it at the beginning of January 2011. At that point it was shipped to the IN BRONZE foundry in Langley, BC where it was cast in bronze.

Norm studied under well know sculptors Bill Reid, Bill Koochin and Leonard Epp. The focus of Norm’s sculpture is realism that portrays nature or historical events. Norm’s studio is in a barn on his Abbotsford property. Norm has worked in private collections throughout North America, as well as England, Germany, Japan and China.

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Patricia Robitaille
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