Jim Sands was stumped.
He wanted to write a touring tale that would fuse hockey and theatre but he didn't know how. Then, it came to him at 4 a.m.“I have to tell the story of my uncle Charlie,” says the Vancouver-based storyteller, actor and musician.
In 12 seasons, Charlie Sands, played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston Bruins, the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers in the 1930s and 1940s.
“There was a real moment of epiphany in the middle of the night,” he says of the birth of the idea, CHARLIE: A Hockey Story, a blend of storytelling, music and poetry. The play is one of 29 being performed during the Fringe Festival over the next 11 days.
Jim Sands wanted to take the history of his family and transform it into a tale suitable for countrywide touring. Working with a story-developer, it evolved over time. “It tells some important stories I think that are not as well known about hockey history but are relevant to the current times.”
Jim Sands wanted to challenge the superstar-loving sports culture that is indifferent to the lesser-known players. “Many of these players go in and they do their job every night and play year after year — they don’t often get recognized.”
When Toronto Maple Leafs’ right wing “Ace” Bailey’s career came to an end after a bruising, retaliatory hit, Charlie Sands was in the locker room following the game. “He was an observer of all these historical events that are now part of the record,” says Jim Sands.
In his solo show, the playwright melds his love of Shakespeare with his father’s love of hockey. Those competing loves put Sands and his father at odds. “When I explored the hockey career of my uncle Charlie, I found a resolution.”
Though, the curtains will drop before a puck does at the Main Hall, Sands says his one-man show will integrate the two. “One involves three hours of larger-than-life characters and the occasional bucket of blood and the other — well pretty much the same thing,” he quips.
But Sands admits it may not be an easy marriage. “In some sense, it’s a bit of a hard sell because the theatre crowd thinks ‘oh, this is about hockey, I don’t like hockey,’” he says. “The hockey crowd thinks, ‘this is theatre I don’t want to go see a play.’”
“Most people come away with the sense that they have a lot more information about the past and the history,” says Sands. “They also have a sense of wonder and the sense of the magic of hockey.”
He uses music, props, and poetry to share a lesson of forgiveness he discovered by exploring the life of his uncle Charlie. Sands will make his Hamilton debut at the Hamilton Fringe Festival. “I think Hamilton is a great hockey town,” he says. “I’m looking forward to seeing an enthusiastic crowd.”
“We’ll sing and stomp our feet and clap our hands and do the wave maybe.”
CHARLIE: A Hockey Story will play at The Main Hall at 141 Park St. N. from July 19-29.