The Art of Hockey

By Mary Savig
March 1, 2010
N.E. Thing Co. hockey team
Vancouver youth hockey team sponsored by N.E. Thing Co., ca. 1970. Lucy R. Lippard papers, 1940s-2006. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Hockey is Canada’s sport. The boisterous crowds cheering on Team Canada in their gold medal winning game against the United States at the Vancouver Olympics have recently reinforced this fact. Generations of young Canadians have long aspired to become Olympic medalists and NHL hockey stars.

This photograph shows just one of the countless youth hockey teams. Yet upon close examination, not everything about this photograph is from the ordinary. For starters, it’s in the papers of renowned scholar of conceptual art, Lucy Lippard. Also, the players’ jerseys indicate that the sponsor is N. E. Thing Company. No, Lucy Lippard did not moonlight as a hockey coach and this company with a mysterious name did not manufacture hockey pucks.

The wiles of this photograph reveal the subversive tactics of a conceptual art collective based in—of all places—Vancouver. Founded by Iain and Ingrid Baxter, N. E. Thing Company (NETCO) pioneered the conceptual art movement in Canada. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, NETCO borrowed from corporate models to create and disseminate art. In this example, NETCO sponsored a local youth hockey team, intentionally corrupting the profitable business of hockey into a conceptual art project. Photographs like this remain as the trace evidence of NETCO’s practices.

And I thought the only art found in hockey games were the painted bodies of avid fans.

Mary Savig is a curatorial assistant at the Archives of American Art.

Read more about Lucy Lippard and the N.E. Thing Co. in James Nisbet's article in Vol 47:1-2 of the Archives of American Art Journal


This reminds me of when I was still a kid! I used to love playing with my older brothers!

The painted bodies of fans!? There is some great art on the goalies helmets as well! Cool post by the way.

Nice post here. It does make senses, appreciate for sharing.

That's a really cool article. I never knew that about NETCO.

the real art of hockey you can see in the NHL All-Star game!!!

I love watching hockey and i cant help it to yell specially when my favorite player is bitten.Hockey games are very awesome.

Funny how art can infiltrate something as cut throat and self promoting as "business" and "infect" it with that is what I call turning the tables indeed.

I love the NE Thing jerseys!

I love hockey.It's a great sport with passionate fans and the players themselves are outstanding athletes.

Hockey much like the Maple leaf is Canada, a sport that can at times be violent yet graceful in its movements. Not only limited to athletes it is also a sport that can be played and enjoyed by both male and females of the everyday average kind.