The game is six degrees of Canadian history. Take two seemingly unrelated pieces of Canadian culture and connect the dots through various people, places and events to discover how they’re distantly — or maybe not so distantly — related. Along the way we visit the quizzical and curious, the tragic and comic, and everything in between.
Kaetlyn Osmond, figure skater (born 5 December 1995 in Marystown, NL). Figure skater Kaetlyn Osmond has been Canadian champion (2013, 2014, 2017), an Olympic silver medallist in the team event (2014) and a silver medallist at the World Figure Skating Championships (2017). She has won gold medals at five other international events since 2012.
Mark Arendz, Paralympian, biathlon and cross-country skiing (born 3 March 1990 in Charlottetown, PEI). A two-time medallist at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Arendz won a silver medal for Canada in the men’s 7.5 km standing biathlon competition and a bronze medal in the men’s 12.5 km standing biathlon competition. Arendz also competed for Canada in para-cross-country skiing in Sochi and para-cross-country skiing and biathlon at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver. He has also won eight medals (two in cross-country skiing and six in biathlon, including three gold medals) at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Nordic Skiing World Championships. Arendz won eight IPC World Cup events and 40 individual IPC World Cup medals, as well as the 2013 World Cup Crystal Globe in para-biathlon.
Cindy Klassen, OM, speed skater (born 12 July 1979 in Winnipeg, MB). Cindy Klassen is the first Canadian to win five medals in one Olympic Games (Torino 2006). With a total of six Olympic medals, she is tied with fellow speed skater and cyclist Clara Hughes as the most decorated Canadian Olympians. Klassen was also overall world champion in speed skating (2003 and 2006).
Simon Whitfield, triathlete (born 16 May 1975 in Kingston, ON). Simon Whitfield is a four-time Olympian and Canada's first-ever Olympic gold medalist in triathlon. Whitfield won gold at the 2000 Olympic Summer Games in Sydney, the first year that the triathlon was an Olympic event. Although he did not medal at the 2004 Games in Athens, he sprinted to a silver medal at the 2008 Games in Beijing. Whitfield was the Canadian flag-bearer at the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London but crashed during the bicycle portion of the triathlon and was forced to pull out of the event. Whitfield has also amassed a total of 12 World Cup wins in addition to his gold and silver Olympic medals. He retired from competition in 2013 and was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.
Georges St-Pierre (nicknamed GSP), mixed martial artist (born 19 May 1981 in Saint-Isidore, Québec). Considered one of the best ultimate fighters ever in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweight division, St-Pierre has a career record of 26 wins and two losses. A UFC welterweight champion from 2006 to 2007 and 2008 to 2013, St-Pierre holds the record for the most title defenses in the UFC welterweight division, with nine. In 2017, he defeated Michael Bisping to win the middleweight championship. St-Pierre was named the 2008, 2009 and 2010 Rogers Sportsnet Canadian Athlete of the Year, the 2008 Black Belt Magazine MMA Fighter of the Year, the 2009 Sports Illustrated Fighter of the Year and the 2009 World MMA Awards Fighter of the Year.
Lanny King McDonald, hockey player (right wing), hockey executive, humanitarian (born 16 February 1953 in Hanna, Alberta). Known for his talent, dedication and generosity — and his moustache — Lanny McDonald has thrilled hockey fans in Toronto, Calgary and across Canada since he first started playing in the National Hockey League. He began his NHL career in the 1970s with the Toronto Maple Leafs, playing alongside such stars as captain Darryl Sittler. However, McDonald is probably best remembered as captain of the Calgary Flames, with whom he won the Stanley Cup in 1989. He is also known for his charitable activity, particularly his lengthy involvement with the Special Olympics. He has received many honours, including the NHL’s King Clancy Memorial Trophy (1988) in recognition of his leadership and his humanitarian contributions. He is also a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame (1992), the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame (1993) and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame (2017).
Anik Bissonnette, OC, CQ, ballerina, arts administrator (born at Montréal 9 Feb 1962). Québec's best-known ballerina, Anik Bissonnette is renowned for her exceptional musicality, purity of line and extraordinary balances, and for using her technical assurance to plumb exciting emotional depths. After garnering wide acclaim in many performances with Louis Robitaille, she was a principal dancer at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens (LGBC) from 1989 to 2007 and made annual appearances at Montréal's Gala des Étoiles from 1983 until 2006. She was artistic director of the Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur from 2004 to 2014, and has been artistic director of the École supérière de ballet contemporain de Montréal since 2010. An Officer of the Order of Canada and a Chevalière of the National Order of Québec, she has received the Prix Denis Pelletier and the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Gaylord Powless, Mohawk lacrosse player (born 1 December 1946 in Six Nations of the Grand River, ON; died 28 July 2001 in Ohsweken, ON). Gaylord Powless was a box lacrosse player who transcended the game to become one of Canada’s most famous athletes. Powless lived most of his life in Six Nations of the Grand River, near Brantford, Ontario. He became the signature player on the Oshawa Green Gaels’ junior lacrosse dynasty of the 1960s and shattered the Ontario junior league scoring record in his sophomore year with the team. The Gaels won the Minto Cup, Canada’s national junior lacrosse championship, in all four years that he played at the junior level. Powless also won the 1971 Mann Cup, which is emblematic of the Canadian senior lacrosse champions, and was a marquee player in three different professional leagues. Powless and his father, Ross, are both members of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame and the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame. In 2017, Powless was elected to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.
Meagan Duhamel, figure skater (born 8 December 1985 in Sudbury, ON) and Eric Radford, figure skater (born 27 January 1985 in Winnipeg, MB). Figure skaters Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford have been competing together in pairs competitions since 2010. Known for their technical excellence, they have won two world championships (2015, 2016) and an Olympic silver medal, as well as gold medals at nine other international competitions. They were Canadian champions from 2012 to 2017, the longest consecutive streak for Canadian pairs.
The first Canadian woman to medal at the Games was figure skater Barbara Ann Scott, who won gold in 1948. Her success was followed by gold medals in such sports as alpine skiing, speed skating, biathlon , and hockey. Canadian women have also excelled in Olympic sports such as bobsled, snowboarding, short track speed skating, freestyle skiing, and curling.
Steve Nash, basketball player (born 7 February 1974 in Johannesburg, South Africa). Nash is widely considered the greatest Canadian basketball player of all time. He is a two-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player (MVP) and the first Canadian to win the award. Nash is an eight-time NBA all-star and ranks third on the NBA’s all-time assists leaderboard with 10,335. He has represented Canada in international competition and led the Canadian Senior Men’s National Team to the quarter-finals of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Nash is a three-time winner of the Lionel Conacher Award, given to Canada’s best male athlete, and in 2005, he won the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s top athlete. In 2007, he was inducted into the Order of Canada.
The Calgary Stampeders are a professional football team that plays in the West Division of the Canadian Football League (CFL). The Stampeders are one of the nine founding teams of the CFL and have won the Grey Cup seven times. The team played its first game in 1945 and has won the second-most CFL West Division championships, with 15.
The Edmonton Eskimos are a community-owned football team that plays in the West Division of the Canadian Football League (CFL). In the CFL’s modern era (post-Second World War), the Eskimos have won the Grey Cup championship 14 times, second only to the 16 championships held by the Toronto Argonauts. This included three victories in a row from 1954 to 1956 and an unprecedented five straight championships from 1978 to 1982. The club also holds a North American professional sports record for reaching the playoffs in 34 consecutive seasons between 1972 and 2005. Notable Eskimos alumni include former Alberta premiers Peter Lougheed and Don Getty, former lieutenant-governor of Alberta Norman Kwong and former Edmonton mayor Bill Smith.
The Montreal Alouettes are a Canadian Football League (CFL) franchise located in Montréal, Québec. The team was founded in 1946 and played until 1987 before folding due to financial difficulties (from 1982 to 1986, the team was known as the Montreal Concordes). In 1996, the Baltimore Stallions relocated to Montréal and were renamed the Alouettes, reviving the franchise. The Alouettes play in the East Division and have won seven Grey Cup championships.
The Toronto Argonauts are a professional football team in the East Division of the Canadian Football League (CFL). Formed in 1873 as part of the Argonaut Rowing Club, the team has won 16 Grey Cup championships, the most of any team in the history of Canadian football. In total, the Argonauts have appeared in 22 Grey Cup games, losing only six. (The Grey Cup has also been won by two other Toronto teams — the University of Toronto Varsity Blues and Toronto Balmy Beach Beachers — for a combined 23 championships for the city.)
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are a professional team in the Canadian Football League (CFL). The franchise dates back to the formation of the Hamilton Football Club (the Tigers) in November 1869. The Tigers and another Hamilton football team, the Wildcats, amalgamated as the Tiger-Cats for the 1950 season and played in the Inter-provincial Rugby Football Union (IRFU), which became the Eastern Conference of the CFL in 1960. Since the early 20th century, the Tigers and Tiger-Cats have been associated with a tough, physical brand of football that reflects the blue-collar roots of Hamilton as an industrial city. The team’s iconic cheer, “Oskie Wee Wee, Oskie Waa Waa, Holy Mackinaw, Tigers… Eat ’em Raw!” is well known throughout Canada and dates back to the early 20th century. The Tiger-Cats have won the Grey Cup 13 times, including five times as the Tigers.
Meaghan Benfeito, diver (born 2 March 1989 in Montréal, QC). Three-time Olympian Meaghan Benfeito and partner Roseline Filion won bronze in the 10m synchronized dive at the Olympic Summer Games in 2012 and 2016. Benfeito also won bronze in the 10m individual event at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil. Benfeito has won titles at the Pan American Games and Commonwealth Games and multiple medals in both synchro and individual competitions at the FINA Diving Grand Prix circuit, FINA Diving World Series, World Cup and World Championships. She has also won multiple Senior National Championships.
Penelope (Penny) Oleksiak, swimmer (born 13 June 2000 in Scarborough, Ontario). At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Oleksiak won four medals, setting the Canadian record for most medals won at a single Olympic Summer Games. Her four swimming medals came in the women’s 100 m freestyle (gold), women’s 100 m butterfly (silver), women’s 4 x 100 m freestyle relay (bronze) and women’s 4 x 200 m freestyle relay (bronze). In the 100 m freestyle, Oleksiak tied for gold with American Simone Manuel, with both swimmers setting an Olympic record of 52.70 seconds in the final. Oleksiak is tied with the late Victor Davis for the most Olympic career medals won by a Canadian swimmer (four) and holds the record as the youngest Canadian ever to win an Olympic gold medal (16 years and 59 days). In 2016, Oleksiak received the Lou Marsh Trophy (Canada’s athlete of the year) and the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award (Canadian Press female athlete of the year).
The Saskatchewan Roughriders are a team that plays in the Western Conference of the Canadian Football League. They are the oldest continuously operating professional football club in western Canada, and second only to the Toronto Argonauts of the Eastern Conference in length of history. One of only three community owned football teams in the CFL, they play their games in Regina, the least populated sports market in Canada; only the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League are based in a smaller centre. Like the Packers, however, the Roughriders are famed for the intensity of their supporters, known as “Rider Nation,” many of whom live well beyond the borders of Saskatchewan.
Joseph Albert (Pierre) Paul Pilote, hockey player (born 11 December 1931 in Kénogami, QC; died 9 September 2017 in Barrie, ON). Pilote was a National Hockey League (NHL) defenceman and was regarded as one of the best blueliners from the Original Six era. He played a hard-hitting style but was also respected for his offensive prowess. Pilote won the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1961 and was awarded the James Norris Memorial Trophy three times. During his NHL career he scored 80 goals and tallied 418 assists and 1,251 penalty minutes during the regular season; in 86 career playoff games, he scored eight goals and 53 assists.