Lord Stanley, a Hockey Cup, and Stanley Park in Vancouver

Stanley Park is a much-loved 400-hectare area beside the ocean in Vancouver, British Columbia. It was named after Frederick Stanley, also known as the Earl of Derby and Lord Stanley of Preston. He was the Governor General of Canada from 1888 to 1893 and was also the creator of hockey’s Stanley Cup award.

A statue of Lord Stanley stands near the main entrance of the park. He’s holding his arms wide open in a lovely gesture as he welcomes everyone to the area. I visit Stanley Park often and never tire of seeing the sculpture. I enjoy exploring nature in the park as well as the cultivated sections and the public art. The area offers great opportunities for photographers at any time of the year.

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Lord Stanley welcomes everyone to Stanley Park

Frederick Stanley as Canada’s Governor General

The Governor General is the British monarch’s representative in Canada. She or he deals with specific constitutional and ceremonial matters. The position is considered to be a great honour today. The present Governor General is Julie Payette, a former astronaut who has completed two space flights.

Frederick Stanley was both a member of the nobility and a conservative politician. As Governor General, he lived in Ottawa, the nation’s capital, but he travelled across Canada. He visited western Canada in 1889. He appreciated its beauty and met many of its people, including its indigenous inhabitants. On October 29th, he dedicated Stanley Park to the enjoyment of all people, as the inscription in the photos and the quote below shows.

A fund-raising effort was needed to commission the sculpture. It was created by Sydney March, an English sculptor who was born in 1876 and died in 1968. The sculpture was unveiled on May 19th, 1960 by the then Governor General, Georges Vanier. (“Georges” is a French Canadian name.)

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The inscription at the base of Lord Stanley’s statue

To the use and enjoyment of people of all colours, creeds, and customs for all time. I name thee Stanley Park. (Lord Stanley sculpture inscription)

The sculpture is made of bronze and is eight feet tall. The pedestal is made of granite. The sculpture is located at the end of a stone bridge that is attractively bordered by trees. The route was once considered to be the official entrance to the park, but today they are many other places to access the area.

A modern custom is to add decorations to the sculpture to celebrate a special event that has meaning to Canadians. I took the photo below on Canada Day (July 1st). As can be seen, someone has attached the Canadian flag to the statue’s hands. I must admit it added a special touch to my Canada Day visit to the park, even though other celebrations were happening in the area. I entered the park via the stone bridge, so it was nice to see the colourful flag at the end of the bridge and the start of my journey into the park.

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Origin of the Stanley Cup

While Lord Stanley and his family lived in Canada, his sons became keen ice hockey players. His daughter Isabel also enjoyed playing ice hockey, which was unusual for females at the time. In addition, Stanley’s wife was a supporter of the sport.

Isabel Stanley reportedly gave her father the idea of awarding a cup to the winning amateur ice hockey team in Canada. It was first presented in 1892 and was known as the Dominion Challenge Hockey Cup. Today the cup is awarded to professional players. It’s the prize given to the winning team in the National Hockey League (NHL). Despite its name, the league includes teams from both Canada and the United States.

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Girl in a wetsuit and bull kelp; photo by Linda Crampton

Stanley Park Today

Stanley Park has many attractions. It’s an interesting place for almost everyone to visit. Sandy and rocky beaches surround the park and can be reached by walking, running, cycling, inline skating, or taking a wheelchair along the path on top of the seawall. The seawall is 8.8km long but is connected to other paths at its start and finish. The beaches are pleasant for sunbathers and nature lovers. The “Girl in a Wetsuit” sculpture is a popular sight beside the seawall. The Siwash Rock, an ancient sea stack, is another. I’ve written a recent post about each of these attractions.

The park started its life as a forested peninsula. It still contains some of the original forest but has trails travelling through it. Two lakes can be explored in the park: Beaver Lake and Lost Lagoon. The park also has cultivated areas, including a beautiful rose garden, as well as monuments and sculptures, restaurants, concession stands, areas for sports, and the Vancouver Aquarium. Nine totem poles are located at Brockton Point and are very popular with photographers.

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Siwash Rock

Other Attractions

The park offers many other attractions that are worth seeing.  For example, the nine o’clock gun is a real cannon that fires a black powder from the seawall every day at 9 pm. Artists create and sell their work at several locations in the park. In the summer, performances are held at the outdoor theatre. In spring and summer and at Halloween, Christmas, and Easter, the miniature train ride is in operation.

A heated outdoor pool is located by the seawall in the Second Beach area. It’s open from May to September and is always supervised by a lifeguard. A café with free wireless Internet is located by the pool and a children’s playground is located nearby. The park contains other playgrounds. As Lord Stanley said, it offers enjoyment to all people.

Girl in a Wetsuit Sculpture in Stanley Park

“Girl in a Wetsuit” is an iconic sculpture in Stanley Park, Vancouver. The girl is located on top of a large rock near the seawall. The rock may or may not be partially covered by the tide, depending on the current conditions, but the girl is always visible. She’s meant to be seen by people travelling along the path on top of the seawall and is a popular sight. She’s sometimes referred to as the “Little Mermaid” after the famous Copenhagen sculpture.

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Girl in a wetsuit and bull kelp; photo by Linda Crampton

Elek Imredy and his Girl in a Wetsuit Sculpture

The sculpture was placed on the rock in 1972 and was created by Elek Imredy. It’s located on the north shore of Stanley Park next to Burrard Inlet and is best reached from a route or path near the waterfront. Imredy (1912-1994) was Canadian and lived in Vancouver but was originally from Hungary. He is known for the creation of other statues as well as “Girl in a Wetsuit”.

The statue was based on the pose of a model named Debra Harrington, who was one of Imredy’s friends. It’s made of bronze and depicts a woman sitting on the rock. She’s wearing a wetsuit and has a mask on her forehead and flippers on her feet. She seems to be thinking about something as she looks into the distance.

There’s often more to see than just the girl. Birds such as gulls and cormorants perch on her head and bull kelp can sometimes be seen bobbing on the surface of the water around her, as seen in my photo above. The backdrop of activity in Burrard Inlet is often interesting as well as the condition of the water and the sky.

Rumour and Controversy

The sculpture is much-loved but is also somewhat controversial. A rumour says that it’s a loose copy of the “Little Mermaid” sculpture in Denmark. Imredy knew of the rumour and denied it. He said that he wanted to create a sculpture of a life-sized scuba diver for the rock, since the sport was becoming popular in Vancouver at the time, and that he had no intention of copying the Copenhagen sculpture.

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A different view of the sculpture; photo by Bobanny, public domain license

The Little Mermaid Statue in Copenhagen

“The Little Mermaid” also depicts a girl sitting on the rock, surrounded by the ocean, and looking into the distance. Her expression looks more sad than pensive, however, as befits the character that she represents. In this case the girl is a mermaid who is wearing no clothes, as might be expected for the mythical creature. The statue was unveiled in 1913 and is located by the Langelinie promenade in Copenhagen.

The mermaid was created by Edvard Eriksen (1876-1959) and is made of bronze. She has an interesting history. She is based on the little mermaid in the fairy tale written by Hans Christian Anderson. Two women posed for the sculpture. One was a Danish ballet dancer named Ellen Price, who posed for the head and face. The dancer refused to pose in the nude, however, so Eriksen’s wife Eline was the model for rest of the body.

Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Mermaid

Hans Christian Anderson published his story in 1836. It a sad, dark, and somewhat disturbing tale about a mermaid who wants to become a human. She yearns to obtain an immortal soul after she falls in love with a human prince. She experiences physical pain and psychological heartbreak in the effort to reach her goal.

In the original ending of the story, the mermaid fails to achieve her goal and disintegrates into sea foam. In a revised ending created later by the author, she is told that if she does good deeds for humans for three hundred years she will gain an immortal soul. The story can be read for free at the Project Gutenberg website, which is a great resource for public domain books and stories.

The Vancouver Sculpture

The Vancouver sculpture is linked to none of the pathos of the Danish one, so from that point of view it could be seen as unrelated. On the other hand, it does depict a female on an ocean rock close to shore who is looking into the distance and the girl does have flippers that are reminiscent of a mermaid’s tail.

Both sculptures are interesting. The only one that I can visit in person is the Vancouver one, and I’m happy to do so. I always stop for a little while to look at the girl in the wetsuit before I continue my walk along the seawall.