WINNIPEG – Blink, and you might miss it.
After spending nearly two decades out of public view, the giant portrait of Queen Elizabeth that once hung in the old Winnipeg Arena has been put on display outside The Pint on Garry Street.
But it won’t be there long: it will be up for just 12 hours starting at 1 p.m., so the clock is ticking.
“About a year and a half ago, I purchased it. It was in Toronto, not in Winnipeg where it belongs,” explains Winnipegger Jamie Boychuk. “We made the purchase, shipped it here, had some minor work done. But this is the first time we’ve actually put it together. With the Heritage Classic this week, it’s great timing.”
Back in the summer there was a posting on Kijiji featuring the painting, and some got the impression that it was for sale. Boychuk says that wasn’t the case.
“I was never trying to sell it. What I was trying to do was get partnerships to find the right place to put it. This belongs in Winnipeg. We’re just looking for the right place to keep it. It just happened to come across not that long ago to put it up on the wall here for the day.”
Dozens of passersby stopped to take a look, some of them clad in Jets gear.
“It’s incredible. She belongs here. I’m so glad that somebody from Winnipeg was able to save her,” said Val Parker, wearing a Jets jacket. “And I’m hoping True North is able to have the ability to bring her back, either at MTS Centre or the new True North Square.”
Michael Young was also excited to see Her Majesty up close.
“It’s pretty exciting. I’ve never been this close to it. I think True North Square is the place to go. MTS Centre would be better but that ship sailed. That needed to happen when they built the new place.”
Another fan, Jeff (who did not want his last name published), showed up with the ‘W’ from the old arena.
“When they were tearing it down I said to the wife, ‘I’d like to get the W on the outside.’ She made a few phone calls and, lo and behold, when they were tearing it down they took it down for us and we went and picked it up.”
Acquiring the ‘W’ didn’t cost him a dime. He has also gotten over 30 autographs on it.
“Gordie Howe was the first one. Bobby Hull, Dale Howerchuk, Burton Cummings, Randy Bachman, Ulf Nilsson, Anders Hedberg, Ken Dryden is on there. I just lug it around if I know they’re going to be there. I’d say it weighs around 30 pounds.”
Jeff was also fairly impressed by the portrait of Her Majesty.
“I think it’s fantastic, it’s great that somebody kept it like this. It’s part of Winnipeg history, just like the ‘W’ from the arena. I would like to see it in the new arena. Maybe hang it from the rafters. It should go somewhere special.”
Boychuk was coy about where the next appearance of The Queen would be, saying only that it is yet to be decided.