A slice of "The Detroit Octopus" by Peter Diamond

Peter Diamond is a freelance illustrator from Vienna, Austria, whose work has appeared in The National Post, The Progressive, Wired UK, and many other magazines, album covers, and other publications. His work is mesmerizing, matching fine and detailed line work with a boundless imagination and a clear Japanese influence.

Diamond is also a Canadian and a hockey fan, and has applied his skill to the myths and legends of hockey, presenting an entirely different perspective on the game and its history to what we normally see.

I was first introduced to his work during the 2011 playoffs, when he sent his illustrations of the Sedin twins and Roberto Luongo to my blog, Pass it to Bulis. The former depicts the Sedins as cloaked wizards, surrounded by the skulls of their defeated enemies, with the skulls actually being pale white goalie masks. The latter, dubbed “The Playoff Beard” shows a beard to rival that of Gandalf spilling out from under the mask of the battered and bruised netminder.


As a young artist, a big part of what drew him to hockey was it’s visceral visuals. “The game sucked me in when I was about 11 or 12,” he says, “there was a pretty significant visual aspect to it; it just looked really cool.”

On his blog he clarifies exactly why he ended up a Canucks fan, despite growing up in Saskatoon: “Their stark white, black, red and yellow colors and bizarre, semi-abstract logo were what brought me in to the fold. In fact, though I remain a Vancouver supporter I find it much harder to cheer for them in their current colors. In hindsight I think the visuals of the game were absolutely my main interest at the beginning, and it grew from there.”

Diamond’s illustrations attempt to delve deeper into the fantastic elements of hockey and the mythology that grows around the game. His illustrations “Shooter” and “Stopper” turns hockey players into ancient warriors, with their hockey gear mixed with gear cribbed from various soldiers throughout history, capped off quite literally with shamanistic animal masks.


It’s the little things that I love about these two, such as how Stopper’s goalie stick is wrapped in the same manner as a katana and the voodoo paraphernalia dangling from Shooter’s backpack.

This mythologizing goes to a new level in his take on the Winnipeg Falcons, the amateur team that represented Canada at the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp, Belgium, and won the first ever gold medal in ice hockey. The illustration comes just short of deifying the team, depicting them instead as angels, five of them, with each carrying one of the Olympic rings. If hockey is Canada’s religion, then these are hockey’s saints.

“I’m trying to bring some of the weirder things underlying the game to the surface,” says Diamond. “To be honest with you, I think spectator sport is already a fantasy world: we divide ourselves up into clans with our banners and colors and totem animals, and the game becomes a kind of stand-in for tribal warfare.”

“Champions of the past sometimes become heroes with nearly mythological status,” he continues, “and sometimes the whole thing seems to me like it’s straight out of the ancient world.”

One of my favourite of his illustrations depicts legendary Detroit goaltender Terry Sawchuk defending the goal with the aid of a monstrous octopus. Sawchuk was in net the first time an octopus was thrown onto Detroit ice in 1952, starting the playoff tradition that continues to this day. The Red Wings swept the Maple Leafs and Canadiens to win the Stanley Cup, with Sawchuk allowing just five goals in those eight games. Diamond imagines that he had a little help along the way.

“I’m trying to bring out and exaggerate things that I think are already there to be seen if you look for them,” says Diamond. “How to do so in images is a work in progress: I’ve tried a couple of different approaches to it and I’m not yet convinced I have found the best way.”

“Luongo’s ‘The Playoff Beard’ image is a fairly straight-forward comic style homage to that particular superstition, ‘The Detroit Octopus’ is a nod to the samurai prints of Kuniyoshi with a historical reference to the playoff series in which the tradition began, if you can spot it, and the pieces ‘Shooter’ and ‘Stopper’ take a bit more liberties in trying to point out the threads connecting our modern games with the warrior traditions past and present.”

Diamond revisited the style of “Shooter” and “Stopper” recently in a piece titled “Chasing the Cup” that was published in 3×3 Magazine. The piece depicts similar ancient warriors, but also evokes the days of the Challenge Cup, both in the size of the cup itself and its carrier, who looks much like one of the miners who might have played for one of the amateur teams that took a chance on winning Lord Stanley’s mug.

Diamond sells prints of his work, including most of the above pieces, through Thumbtack Press. Check out his website and blog for more of his fantastic illustrations and a peek into his creative process.