NEWS

Queen portrait that hung in old Winnipeg Jets arena coming home

02/26/2015 01:52 EST | Updated 04/28/2015 05:59 EDT
A giant portrait of Queen Elizabeth II that was a longtime fixture at the former Winnipeg Jets' home is coming out of storage in Ontario and heading back to Manitoba.

The five-by-seven-metre painting of the Queen that hung from the rafters in the old Winnipeg Arena for 20 years has been purchased by Jamie Boychuk and Michael Cory, two CN Rail executives who plan to bring it back to Winnipeg.

"I remember the portrait very well, and I am excited to bring her back home to Winnipeg where she belongs," Boychuk said in a news release issued late Thursday night.

"It's a very important piece of Winnipeg history, and I am so happy to deliver it back to a place where so many people remember it as part of their lives."

The portrait has been languishing inside a high-security storage facility in Whitby, Ont., near Toronto, since 2002.

Commissioned in 1979

The painting was commissioned in 1979 by then-Manitoba Lt.-Gov. Francis Laurence Jobin.

The work was painted by Gilbert Burch, who also painted the previous portrait of the Queen that hung in the arena prior to renovations, during Winnipeg's championship World Hockey Association years.

When the Winnipeg Jets moved out of the arena in 1996, the Queen left shortly thereafter.

The hockey team moved to Phoenix while the portrait headed for restoration — including to repair marks made by pucks when hockey players would aim for the Queen's mouth.

After several years in the care of Syd Davy, then-president of the Royal Commonwealth Society, the portrait was gifted to Vancouver-based singer-songwriter Tim Lawson.

Lawson had the portrait shipped from Winnipeg to Whitby, near Toronto, where he wanted to display it at a museum that was being planned by the Camp-X Historical Society.

"However, for varied reasons, the portrait remained in storage ever since," states a news release from Anya Wilson, who has been the custodian of the massive painting.

The news release said Wilson had received numerous offers from across Canada to purchase the painting, but she wanted to ensure it returns to Winnipeg.

It was on a recent trip to Winnipeg that Wilson was introduced to Boychuk through a local artist. Boychuk and Cory bought the portrait following a "short bout of negotiations."

Jets came back in 2011

The old arena was demolished in 2005-06, and a year later the MTS Centre opened in downtown Winnipeg as a home to the Manitoba Moose, the city's American Hockey League team.

While the Moose were successful, they were never an NHL-level team, which the city still hungered for since the Jets left.

In 2011, the NHL returned when True North Sports and Entertainment bought the Atlanta Thrashers and relocated then to Winnipeg. True North then resurrected the Jets name.

Since the current Jets moved to Winnipeg, at least one fan has kept the royal presence alive by dressing as the Queen at the beginning of every NHL season.

- VIDEO | The Queen of The Jets

There are currently no details on where in Winnipeg the portrait of the Queen would be put on display.

Officials with the MTS Centre have long said the size of the arena, which is the team's current home, cannot accommodate the large painting.

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