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.
Hull won the Art Ross Trophy 3 times, the Hart Trophy twice and the Lady Byng Trophy once, scoring 610 goals and 1170 points in 15 NHL seasons. In 1972 he accepted $1 million to jump from the NHL to the Winnipeg Jets, giving immediate credibility to the fledgling World Hockey Association.
Dr. James Naismith, physical educator, author, inventor, chaplain, physician (born 6 November 1861 in Almonte, Ontario; died 28 November 1939 in Lawrence, Kansas). Naismith is best known as the inventor of the sport of basketball. He established the basketball program at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, where he worked and lived for 41 years until his death on 28 November 1939. Naismith was posthumously inducted to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and in 1959 became the first member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. His original hand-written rules for the sport of basketball were sold at auction for $4.3 million, a sports memorabilia record.
Joey Votto, baseball player (born 10 September 1983 in Toronto, ON). Joey Votto is a Canadian baseball player with the Cincinnati Reds. In 2010, he won the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award and Hank Aaron Award, as well as the Lou Marsh Trophy for Canada’s outstanding athlete of the year. Two years later, he became one of the highest paid baseball players in major league history. In 2017, he was again awarded the Lou Marsh Trophy. He has also won the James “Tip” O’Neill Award seven times.
Sidney Crosby (Sid the Kid), ONS, hockey player (born 7 August 1987 in Cole Harbour, NS). Crosby is a three-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League and a two-time Olympic gold medallist with Canada’s men’s hockey team. He has won the Art Ross Trophy (2007, 2014), the Hart Trophy (2007, 2014), the Ted Lindsay Award (2007, 2013, 2014), the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (2010, 2017), and the Conn Smythe Trophy (2016, 2017). Crosby has also received the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s top athlete of the year (2007, 2009) and the Lionel Conacher Award as Canada’s male athlete of the year (2007, 2009, 2010).2
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.
Cindy Klassen, OM, speed skater (born 12 August 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).
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).
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.
Ron Turcotte, jockey (b at Drummond, NB 22 July 1941). One of 11 children, Turcotte was always a strong jockey because of his early years as a lumberjack in New Brunswick. Unemployment in 1959 sent him to Toronto where he obtained a job as a hot-walker at E.P. TAYLOR's Windfields Farms.
Richard (Rick) Marvin Hansen, CC, OBC, Paralympian, wheelchair racer, humanitarian (born 26 August 1957 in Port Alberni, British Columbia). In the 1980s, Rick Hansen won six Paralympic medals and three world championships in wheelchair racing. He was named Canada’s Disabled Athlete of the Year three times and, in 1983, received the Lou Marsh Trophy for Canadian Outstanding Athlete of the Year — an honour he shared with Wayne Gretzky. Hansen is perhaps best known for his Man In Motion World Tour. From 21 March 1985 to 22 May 1987, Hansen wheeled more than 40,000 kilometres in 34 countries to raise awareness, public support and finances for spinal cord research, rehabilitation and wheelchair sports. The tour raised more than $26 million.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are a football team that plays in the Canadian Football League. Located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the Blue Bombers have alternated between the league’s West Division and East Division; they are currently part of the West Division. Since its founding in 1930, the team has won 10 Grey Cup championships.
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.
Douglas Richard Flutie, football player, philanthropist (born 23 October 1962 in Manchester, Maryland). Doug Flutie is widely considered to be one of the greatest players in Canadian Football League (CFL) history. A Heisman Trophy winner as the best player in US college football, Flutie went on to play for eight teams in three different leagues over a 21-year pro football career (1985–2006). A quarterback with the CFL’s BC Lions, Calgary Stampeders and Toronto Argonauts, he appeared in four Grey Cup games and won three championships, earning MVP honours in all three victories. Flutie is the first non-Canadian inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame (2007). In 1998, he and his wife established the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism.
Carey Price, hockey player (born 16 August 1987 in Vancouver, BC). Goaltender Carey Price has played his entire National Hockey League (NHL) career with the Montreal Canadiens. During the 2014–15 NHL season, Price won the Hart Memorial Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award, Vezina Trophy and William M. Jennings Trophy and was the first player to win all four awards in the same season. In international competition, Price has also won gold medals with Canada at the 2007 IIHF Ice Hockey Junior World Championship in Sweden, the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto.