An ineffective Granthshala Bruce supporter, Trent Buehler deeply regrets that he never made the pilgrimage to Granthshala Gardens, the iconic sports arena was vacated in 1995 and demolished three years later. With such a black mark against his hockey-fanatic Bona Fides, Bühler did what any obsessive middle-aged man would do: he produced his own miniature replica of the arena.
“I had been thinking about doing it for about 20 years,” Buhler said, talking to Edmonton about his long-time brewing mind. “I finally started on it 2½ years ago, but I’m not sure it will ever end.”
In fact, it is a laborious undertaking. Beginning with a functioning table-top hockey game from the late 1970s, he added sari authenticity to seating, fans, board advertisements, player benches – even for a small beer vendor.
Pewsey diorama is set somewhere in the 1970s and 80s. Granthshala’s Rick Middleton is on ice, goalie Gilles Gilbert takes action from the bench and Derek Sanderson is in the broadcast booth.
A machine-shop jack of all trades by business and a musician by hobby, Buhler spends an estimated four hours a day carefully re-creating the smallest game on ice. “Another line of fans and I have crossed so little Bruce’s jersey from the painting,” 53-year-old Tweeted Recently.
The project has drawn mixed reactions from his family. Her two children can take it or leave it. “Whenever they come here and there to ask me for something, I force them to play a game,” says Buhler.
and his wife? “We’ve been married long enough that if I have something to keep me busy, she’s happy.”
The reconstruction process is complex. Buhler uses a closed game brand – Coleco Game Room Hockey – which has three-dimensional player figures instead of cheaper and more common flat pieces. After taking off the original paint, he remembers them in the uniforms of the Bruins and Montreal Canadiens. A 3D printer is employed for other components.
For inspiration, Bühler uses photographs taken during games at the garden. In order to recreate the less public areas of the arena (such as the player tunnel on the ice), Bühler crosses records found on the Internet.
He has been in contact with longtime bruin photographer Steve Babinew, now immortalized in Buhler’s Copy-Cat Arena, taking photographs from the visitor’s penalty box, including a mini Chris Nilan (a Montney tough guy, whom See you two minutes, but not so good looking.)
The venture has created a cottage industry for Bühler, who has received a commission to help other table-hockey enthusiasts build their own arenas. He also accepts requests from those who wish to have their passion represented in the project. They have not charged for keeping their commonalities in the stands, but Buhler asks that they advance this side by doing small acts of charity and citizenship.
“That’s the least I can do, seeing what’s happening now,” he says.
For its next stadium, Buhler is considering a model maple leaf garden. But, first, more work has to be done on the Beantown area. Posting photos of Buhler on Instagram, one can’t help but notice that a controversial Bruins coach is missing from the era.
“He works,” Buhler says of a certain thoughtful icon. “He’ll eventually be behind the back, but I’m making my way to him.”
A cherry on top, then, for labor at the end of love.