Canadian Museum of History scores major hockey acquisition

September 15, 2017


For immediate release

Gatineau, Quebec, September 15, 2017 — The Canadian Museum of History is proud to announce the acquisition of the Mike Wilson and Debra Thuet, The Ultimate Leafs Fan Collection, one of Canada’s most acclaimed private collections of hockey artifacts. The collection comprises more than 1,700 items, including rare treasures that belonged to Canadian hockey legends such as Wayne Gretzky, “King” Clancy, Paul Henderson, Tim Horton and Conn Smythe.

The collection was built over 50 years by Toronto resident Mike Wilson, earning him the nickname “The Ultimate Leafs Fan” from ESPN and other media. The Museum recently acquired the collection from Mr. Wilson and his spouse, Debra Thuet.

“Every item in this collection has a story to tell about the history of ‘Canada’s game’ and hockey’s singular place in the hearts and minds of Canadians from coast to coast to coast,” said Jean-Marc Blais, Director General of the Canadian Museum of History. “We are grateful to Mike and Debra for building and maintaining the collection and working with Canada’s national history museum, where it will be preserved for the benefit of present and future generations.”

The Mike Wilson and Debra Thuet, The Ultimate Leafs Fan Collection has been deemed to be of “outstanding significance and national importance” by the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board. Objects include players’ equipment, trophies, paintings, pucks, sculptures and items linked to the former Maple Leaf Gardens — including the door that hung at the entry of the home team’s dressing room from 1931 to 1999. Archival materials consist of hockey cards, books, calendars, photos and memorabilia.

In addition to over 1,250 artifacts associated with the Toronto Maple Leafs — founded in 1917, the year the NHL was established — the collection contains items linked to Wayne Gretzky, the Canada Cup, other Canadian hockey teams and the NHL. The collection will help the Museum document the evolution of hockey as a game and a business, explore its social and cultural impacts, and illuminate the everyday experience of fans.

“The game of hockey not only symbolizes Canada, but identifies us as Canadians,” said Mike Wilson. “The Ultimate Leafs Fan Collection connects the observer with their own memories of the game no matter which team they follow.”

With the acquisition of this large and diverse collection, the Museum has become the keeper of one of the most historically significant and comprehensive collections of hockey artifacts in Canada. Among its other holdings are iconic objects relating to Montréal Canadiens greats Jacques Plante and Maurice “Rocket” Richard, and to five-time Olympic medallist Hayley Wickenheiser.

The acquisition of the Mike Wilson and Debra Thuet, The Ultimate Leafs Fan Collection follows the couple’s loan of artifacts, of which 35 items were selected for display in the Museum’s current special exhibition Hockey and special display The Ultimate Hockey Collection. More than 154,000 visitors have seen the exhibitions to date. In conjunction with the exhibition and display, the public is invited to meet Mike Wilson at the Museum on the morning of Saturday, September 16, when he will showcase some of his most rare and interesting pieces, tell some of his favourite stories and share tips on building a collection (artifact display, 10 to 11 a.m.; lecture, 11 a.m. to noon).

Located on the shores of the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec, the Canadian Museum of History is Canada’s largest and most popular cultural institution, attracting over 1.2 million visitors each year. The Museum’s principal role is to enhance Canadians’ knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the events, experiences, people and objects that have shaped Canada’s history and identity, as well as to enhance Canadians’ awareness of world history and culture. Work of the Canadian History Museum is made possible in part through financial support of the Government of Canada.

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