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.
Christine Girard, weightlifter (born 3 January 1985 in Elliot Lake, ON). Christine Girard is one of Canada’s top athletes and among the world’s best female weightlifters. She was North America’s top female weightlifter in the 63 kg class and holds two Canadian weightlifting records and one Pan American Games weightlifting record. Girard won bronze at the 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing and gold at the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London. She is the first Canadian woman to win an Olympic medal in weightlifting and the only Canadian to win two medals in the sport.
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.
Tessa Virtue, figure skater (born 17 May 1989 in London, ON) and Scott Moir, figure skater (born 2 September 1987 in London, ON). Virtue and Moir are the most successful Canadian ice dance team of the early 21st century, and were the first North Americans to win the Olympic Gold Medal for ice dance, at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games. At the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, they won silver in ice dance and in the team competition. They won gold in ice dance and in the team competition at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, becoming the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history. They have also won four world championships (three senior and one junior), three Four Continents championships, nine Canadian championships (eight senior and one junior) and multiple Grand Prix events, including a Grand Prix Final.
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.
Harold Ballard, hockey executive (born 30 July 1903 in Toronto, ON; died 11 April 1990 in To-ronto, ON). Ballard was a sports enthusiast from a young age and began running hockey teams in Toronto in the early 1930s. After helping to build a successful organization with the Toronto Marlboros in the 1940s and 1950s, Ballard became part of a seven-man committee running the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1957. He was one of three owners in control of the team when Toronto won the Stanley Cup four times in the 1960s, but after becoming principal owner in 1972, his bombastic, autocratic style contributed to the team’s decline on the ice. Ballard was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1977. He bought the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1978 and was elected to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1987.
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.