Original submitted photo and resulting painted portrait, 2020. Copyright People of Canada Portrait Project 2020
In Memory of John Robert 'Chick' Webster
The Story behind the portrait, The Spirit of Hockey, by Brandy Saturley
1. Where were you born?
I was born in New Haven Connecticut.(I am a naturalized Canadian Citizen)while my dad was playing for the New York Rangers farm team, the New Haven Ramblers...we moved to the USA each winter when dad played hockey.
2. Where do you call home now?
I live in North Bay Ontario now, about 240 miles north of Toronto, we moved to this area from Toronto in 1969.
3. What was your occupation?
I retired in 2008, after 29 years in the wire rope Industry serving the mining and logging sector.
4. Tell me about your relationship with your Dad, how was it being the son of an NHL player? Did you play hockey? How has hockey shaped your life and the lives of your family?
Hockey has always been a large part of our families life, and hard on my mom once she had us kids. Chick grew up in Toronto, and was always passionate about the game, as was his brother Don, who played with the Maple Leafs in 1943-44. Hockey is all Dad did as a kid. Morning til night in the winter time, it was all about hockey. Dad had 3 brothers and a sister, were not rich by any means. He always played above his age group and dreamed of being an NHL player. I was always proud of his ability and became a rink rat at about age 6-7. I played up until training camp for Jr. B, in Toronto and I was getting killed at camp as I was small, but could skate well. I remember driving home one night in the car from a skate and he said to me,"you don't have to be a hockey player, just because I was". This lifted a huge weight off my shoulders, it was his way of saying I didn't really have what it took to be a really good player at a high level. I always remember that, but I continued playing, and even played with an old timers team dad started in Mattawa Ontario. A little town he retired to in 1968, just 35 miles east of North Bay. My brother in law, Roger Lafreniere, and his son Jason, all played in the NHL, so I had the 4 relatives, all great hockey people and we sure had some great old hockey chats. I miss Dads call after each period of a Leaf game. He was a New York Ranger, but always loved the Leafs growing up in Toronto. I think he would have had a much different career had he not given up his best hockey years to serve over seas in the 2nd world war. After not skating for a few years, then coming back and making the NHL, was a testament to how much he wanted it....even if only a few games before being injured.
5. Do you have any siblings?
I have 2 sisters and an adopted brother....and my younger brother John, died back in 1977.
6. What are you passionate about?
I love our camp (my sons actually), in Algonquin Park at Cedar Lake, Brent Ontario. The outdoors, hunting , fishing. Country Music...and Hank Williams! I have a portrait of him tattooed on my left chest!
7. What sports to you play/enjoy?
I just pleasure skate now with my wife and play ball a bit with the grand-kids and of course love watching my Maple Leafs play!
8. Do you have a hidden talent or hobby that you enjoy?
I love playing guitar at 5 or 6 in the morning. I love writing songs and creating something that wasn't there only a short time ago, comes from my love of country music.
9. How do you celebrate your culture? and what are your family traditions?
We celebrate all regular family holidays, and its been different last 2 years without mom, or dad...but we carry on. People substitute me for dad , and always say we look so much alike, it keeps his memory alive. I enjoy meeting the people and just being on the lake, and outdoors....its peaceful.
10. What is the most important issue to you as a Canadian citizen?
I guess holding on to our 'Canadianisms'. Canada is probably the greatest country in the world...and yet I feel as a society today we take that for granted. Our young people don't learn enough about Canada and its beginnings...and how it got to where we are today. Maybe its a generational thing, hard to say.
11. Where do you go to be in nature?
To the camp. In the park. To the outfitters. Where I see all kinds of different people enjoy our beautiful land.
12. I have three days in your neighborhood, what must I not miss to get a real sense of life in your part of Canada?
We are situated on Lake Nipissing. The waterfront area is really nice and the Dionne Quints museum home, voyageur days in Mattawa each summer for 3 days. Country music open festival in North Bay. North bay heritage museum, Algoquin park logging museum. The lakes , rivers, and tons of wild land.
13. What kind of music do you love?
Country music! Although I did listen to lots of Jazz growing up, as it was dads favourite. He played everyday on the piano, right up until about 3 weeks before he passed in 2018.
14. Mounties, hockey, maple syrup, beer, maple leafs and eh…do you partake?
Do you wish Canada would get over all the stereotypical icons of Canadiana?
Love all the Canadian icons. Its who, and what we are and it makes us special on the world stage. It is what all tourists want to see, our roots and our heritage.
15. What does being Canadian mean to you?
It means being part of something BIG and part of a culture that is unique. A culture that so many other people in the world would give anything to be part of...its who we are, what we do, a way of life that can only be experienced in this land. We are one of a kind...and we should appreciate how lucky we are everyday...not just Canada Day!
16. Tell me about your t-shirt, where is this? Do you own a horse?
I got the shirt at a riding stable in Florida on vacation...seemed funny riding palm tree , as compared to up where we live in Canada. I did have a Horse for a few years and I always loved the cowboy way of life. I competed at our local rodeo and loved it.
17. Where in Canada would you like to explore that you have not yet?
The west coast. My wife has so many relatives in Vancouver and Victoria.
18. What do you feel are the most important issues facing youth today in Canada?
I guess as we have been saying, keeping their identity as young Canadians. They are in an electronic world and there is less emotional contact. We all have to get along as human beings, and help each other, and have respect for the older generation. Young people are our future and they will become what we make them...so that's our responsibility.
19. How is your community preparing for the current Corona Virus pandemic?
As all cities and towns are preparing hospitals to handle influx of patients we are receiving daily news updates.
20. How do you feel about having your portraits painted? And who took your photo that you submitted?
I am honoured and I have always loved your work. I am so happy to see Dad as part of this series. He would be a bit embarrassed, but would like the portrait. Its a great way to celebrate his memory and he was a 'real Canadian'. A gentle person who loved all the simple things in life, and enjoyed everyday. His glass was always half-full, and his story is one of longevity, humour, and love.
Photo by: best friend and wife, the lovely Shirley.
Thank you to Rob for submitting this photo of him and his father, John Robert 'Chick' Webster, and sharing the story of his family. A family that loves hockey, the outdoors, music and art. A family that takes care of family, and their community. Sounds admirably human to me!
Chick passed in early 2018, there is a wonderful tribute article in The Star.