John K. Samson, Winnipeg singer-songwriter and Weakerthans frontman, is heading to downtown Toronto on Feb 23 to perform in front of the Hockey Hall of Fame. The goal is to get First Nations ex-NHL star Reggie Leach inducted into the Hall of Fame and submit a petition that as of Friday afternoon is nearly 3000 signatures strong.
Samson will play his song "www.ipetitions.com/petition/rivertonrifle/", written in the form of an online petition, with about a dozen other musicians at 2pm. The singer says now seemed the right time for the performance.
"Well, my record came out last year in January and I was looking at the submission guidelines for public submissions to the Hockey Hall of Fame and the deadline is March 15th of every year," Samson tells The Huffington Post Canada from his Toronto hotel. "So I figured I was going to be in Toronto, this is the weekend I was going to be in Toronto. So I decided this would be the time, so I geared up for this weekend being the time to make the submission."
In an odd coincidence, Samson's performance tomorrow shares was the same Feb 23 date in 1972 that Leach was traded from the Boston Bruins to the California Golden Seals.
"Oh, you're kidding?" the musician says when informed of the timing. "That's hilarious, that's great! Well, I'll mention that tomorrow. Yeah, that's awesome."
Samson said he realized the petition had some traction while touring last year behind his album "Provincial" and performing the tune about Leach, nicknamed "The Riverton Rifle" for his goal scoring talents.
"I toured all over North America and Europe in the last year and played the song," he says. "So it was interesting because I got to talk to people about hockey and about Reggie and about First Nations people, all these kinds of topics that one doesn't always get to talk about in places other than Canada. It was just really interesting for me and people seemed really interested and people signed the petition from all over the world. That was kind of the most exciting part for me, just the conversations that started."
Samson says he'll play the song outside the Hall (located on the corner of Front St. and Yonge St.), enter the Hall to give the petition to the submissions desk and then either "go for a beverage" or take "a nice walk around the Hall." He also is quick to point out the statistical work of Phil Russell, an Ottawa resident whose research helped Samson's argument for Leach's possible inclusion. Leach, who played the majority of his career with the Philadelphia Flyers, scored 381 goals in regular season games and another 47 over his playoff career.
The singer also met Leach – who is aware of the petition – during Hockey Day In Canada back in 2010 when Samson performed the tune. "The organizers brought Reggie in and surprised me, brought him out of the audience," Samson said. "I was frankly so surprised and delighted that I don't even really remember what I said to him. But I got to meet him and shake his hand and that was a real thrill to me."
The musician is heading off to Newfoundland next month as part of the March Hare Poetry Festival in St. John's from March 6-10, something he's looking forward to. Samson also says he's "hoping" to be writing another Weakerthans record later this year. But is there a follow-up to the Reggie Leach song if the petition is successful?
"That's a good point," Samson says with a laugh. "I don't know. I'd love to keep writing about it. That song is as much about Riverton, Manitoba as it is about Reggie. That was kind of the starting point for me. I wanted to write a song about Riverton because that's a place where some of my family came from and a place I've always been really interested in. So I wouldn't rule it out, I wouldn't rule out another song about Riverton and Reggie would probably get in there somehow."