Here's the article which appears in today's online Gazette:
He's been looked up to by generations. But only when you look down on Jean Béliveau from an airplane, into a six-acre corn field in Florenceville-Bristol, N.B., can you grasp how much this Canadiens icon is larger than life.
This Jean Béliveau measures nearly 600 feet from head to stick blade - the length of three hockey rinks laid end to end - in a field on the farm of Chip and Tom Hunter.
He skates, sort of, in a design celebrating the centennial of the Canadiens, since childhood the favourite hockey team of the brothers who are fourth-generation farmers, for the past 32 years working soil that has been in the family since 1890.
Since Labour Day, visitors to their farm have walked roughly four kilometres of paths among nearly a quarter-million stalks of corn, with the Hunters' imagination and GPS technology having fashioned this remarkable maze of maize.
"I have seen statues of myself in bronze, wood and ice. But I have never been made of corn," Béliveau said yesterday.
"I'm sorry I was too busy to go for the opening."
The photo appearing here, taken in late August with the corn having grown to five of its 12 feet, is the first he has seen of the field.
Béliveau first learned of the project in a letter he received last month from Chip Hunter, a 1974 graduate of the Macdonald College agricultural program in Ste. Anne de Bellevue.
The Canadiens Hall of Famer, cutting back on his legendary appearance schedule, phoned Hunter to express regrets that he couldn't visit.
"He must have thanked me five times for this great honour, as he called it," Hunter said. "But he was the one honouring me for even acknowledging my letter."
Florenceville-Bristol, global headquarters of McCain Foods Ltd., is designated the French Fry Capital of the World and is home to Potato World - the New Brunswick Potato Museum. Now the Hunters are putting the town of about 1,400 on the map for their remarkable annual maze.
Chip Hunter knew that this celebration of the Canadiens centennial - he hopes the club doesn't pursue him for unauthorized use of its logo - could feature only one superstar. A famous Béliveau portrait by late team photographer David Bier served as the model.
"It's the quintessential image - upright stance, fluid movement," Hunter said.
"I wanted an iconic symbol. I love Jean Béliveau. I grew up with him."
The Béliveau maze is the 12th in an annual project that began with small fields to attract visitors to the farm's public market.
But modest mazes and a simple labyrinth evolved when the Hunter brothers connected with engineer Trevor Welch, who works with the satellite-based Global Positioning System; GPS is a highly accurate tool for, among others, mapmakers and land surveyors.
Mazes began to feature important events in Canadian history, whimsical themes like Harry Potter and the 50th anniversary of Dr. Seuss's Cat in the Hat and, in 2003, Canadiens goalie Patrick Roy, pegged to local minor-hockey fundraising.
The Béliveau design took shape with a sketch, after which Welch set out into the field to map its enormous scale, plotting many points of the illustration in a tight timeframe around his other work and the capricious weather.
Feed corn was planted on June 25 and then the Hunters waited. When the stalks began to emerge, they sprayed marked areas to kill off strips that would become the paths.
And they'd make this more fun more than a simple maze. Ten bilingual, multiple-choice questions on Canadiens history would be scattered about, visitors given game cards and instructions that they'd need to navigate the entire maze to find them all.
On a lookout bridge, seen at Béliveau's lower glove, the curious can get above the stalks for an elevated look, "since they don't know whether they're walking in Jean's foot or head," said Hunter, who admits he's "not better at getting around this than anybody else."
There's a quiz on the bridge, too, asking visitors to match Canadiens players with their nicknames.
The devoted might spend 90 minutes searching for the challenging questions.
Hunter's brother-in-law, Kevin Rea, a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, scored a respect-able seven out of 10 on the quiz, and for that he was gently heckled.
"I told him: 'How ironic that you'd do so well on a quiz about the Canadiens,' " Hunter said, laughing. "I asked him: 'Do you study their statistics out of envy?' "
It's with a little trepidation that the creators take off in the Piper Cub of McCain pilot Bob West to inspect their work before it opens to the public, never sure until then how it's turned out. In a wing-dipped rapid descent, Hunter said, they can shoot a couple of good photos per fly-by.
It's never perfect. Hunter said that Béliveau's nose seems too thinly seeded and it "looks a little like his head is separated from his body." But the corn, and Béliveau features, have filled in since the photo was taken.
Hunter expects as many as 7,000 visitors will walk through Le Gros, Gros Bill by Nov. 1, when he said he won't be able to sell his post-Halloween pumpkins for a dime and will plow the corn into the field, thus not losing much fertility in the field.
Next year's maze is yet undecided, but it will meet the brothers' criteria of being Canadian, family friendly, topical and with an interesting graphic.
It's for these reasons the mazes lure teachers and kids, hockey being of special interest. Hunter said this year's Canadiens theme, featuring his hero Béliveau, might be the farm's most popular yet.
Of course, his brother-in-law expects equal time for the Leafs. "I told him it was being planned," Hunter said. "For 2017, on the 50th anniversary of the Leafs' most recent Stanley Cup."
See more of the mazes at hunterbrothers.ca/maze.htm