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 competed at two Olympic Winter Games, winning bronze in women’s figure skating (2018) and gold (2018) and silver (2014) in the team event. She has also been Canadian champion (2013, 2014, 2017), and a silver medallist at the World Figure Skating Championships (2017). Osmond has won gold medals at several international events, including Skate Canada International and the Nebelhorn Trophy.
Patrick Lewis Wai-Kuan Chan, figure skater (born 31 December 1990 in Ottawa,ON). Patrick Chan is a Canadian champion and world champion men’s singles figure skater. A three-time world champion, he has won 10 national championships in the singles competition, breaking the record set by Montgomery Wilson in 1939. Known for dazzling artistry, Chan has repeatedly won major international competitions such as the World Figure Skating Championships and the Skate Canada, Grand Prix, Trophée Eric Bompard, and Four Continents events. He has set world records for points at competitions including the 2011 and 2013 World Championships and the 2013 Trophée Bompard, and has won three medals at the Olympic Winter Games: a silver in the men’s competition (2014) and a gold (2018) and silver (2014) in the team event.
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 three Olympic medals: bronze in the pairs competition (2018) and a gold (2018) and silver medal (2014) in the team event. They have also won gold medals at nine other international competitions. They were Canadian champions from 2012 to 2018, the longest consecutive streak for Canadian pairs.
Marie-Philip Poulin, hockey player (born 28 March 1991 in Québec City, Québec). Poulin is a three-time Olympian who holds the unique distinction of scoring the gold medal-winning goals for Canada at both the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver and the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. She was also captain of the team that won silver at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. The forward has also won a world championship and two Clarkson Cup titles in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League championships. The recipient of numerous honours and awards, Poulin is considered one of the world’s top players and has been compared to fellow Canadian Sidney Crosby.
Kaillie Humphries (née Simundson), bobsledder (born 4 September 1985 in Calgary, AB). At the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Humphries won a gold medal for Canada in the two-woman bobsled competition with Heather Moyse of Summerside, PEI, becoming the first Canadian woman to pilot a Canadian bobsled team to victory at an Olympic Winter Games. At the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Humphries and Moyse won gold again, becoming the first women’s bobsled team in history to successfully defend an Olympic title. She won bronze at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, this time with Phylicia George as brakeman. Humphries is also the first Canadian female bobsled driver to win the World Championship. She has won two world championships and four World Cup titles in women’s bobsleigh competition. In November 2014, she became one of the first two women to compete in international four-man bobsleigh competition.
Sometimes the past is interesting, not because of its long-term historical significance or because it might teach us some questionable lesson about the present, but simply because it contains wondrous reminders of the serendipity of fate. I am fascinated by a goal that Bill Barilko scored on 21 April 1951, not because it was a precursor to Paul Henderson's life-saving marker in 1972, or to Sidney Crosby's goal of redemption at the 2010 Olympics, but because I was there.
Shawn O'Sullivan, boxer (b at Toronto 9 May 1962). O'Sullivan's amateur record of 94-6 is matched by few Canadian boxers. From a boxing family, he started boxing at the Cabbagetown Youth Centre under Ken Hamilton, his original mentor. As a 16-year old, he won the Canadian junior title in Whitehorse.
George “Punch” Imlach, hockey coach and general manager (born 15 March 1918 in Toronto, ON; died 1 December, 1987 in Scarborough, ON). Imlach won the Stanley Cup as coach and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs four times in the 1960s. He had played junior and senior amateur hockey in Toronto and began coaching with the Cornwall Army team in the Que-bec Senior Hockey League during the Second World War. After the war, he joined the Quebec Aces, with which, between 1945 and 1957, he was a player, coach, general manager and part owner. After a season as coach and general manager of the Boston Bruins’ minor league farm club in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1957–58, Imlach began his NHL career in 1958–59. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1984.
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.
On 15 April 1947, Jackie Robinson played in his debut game with the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming the first African American to play in the major leagues in the modern era. Prior to that point, professional baseball in the United States was segregated, with African Americans playing in the Negro leagues. When Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s colour barrier in 1947, he entered American history books. What many baseball fans may not realize, however, is that Robinson was embraced by Canadian fans one year earlier as a member of the Montreal Royals, a farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Canadian women have participated in every Olympic Winter Games since their inception in 1924. 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 (e.g., Anne Heggtveit in 1960 and Nancy Greene in 1968), speed skating (e.g., Catriona Le May Doan in 1998 and 2002 and Cindy Klassen in 2006), biathlon (Myriam Bédard 1994), and hockey (2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014). Canadian women have also excelled in Olympic sports such as bobsled, snowboarding, short track speed skating, freestyle skiing, and curling. Since the 1948 Olympic Winter Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland, Canadian women have won 88 Olympic medals, including 33 gold medals.
Ross Rebagliati, snowboarder, businessman (born 14 July 1971 in Vancouver, BC). Rebagliati won the first ever Olympic gold medal in snowboarding at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano. However, soon after his victory, the International Olympic Committee announced that he had tested positive for marijuana and would be stripped of his medal. Within a week, the decision had been overturned by the Court of Arbitration in Sport and his medal reinstated. In 2013, Rebagliati founded Ross’ Gold, a medical marijuana business. The company promotes the medical and recreational use of marijuana for athletes.
Mark Lee McMorris, Canadian snowboarder (born 9 December 1993 in Regina, Saskatchewan). McMorris competes in both big air and slopestyle snowboarding. He won the bronze medal for Canada in men’s slopestyle at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi and the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, as well as silver in men’s slopestyle at the 2013 FIS Snowboarding World Championships. He has also won multiple gold medals on the World Cup circuit and at the Winter X Games, Dew Tour and the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships.