July 1st 1867, the birth of a nation took place. A bunch of old white men got in room and signed us all up for a great ride. Over the last 150 years, Canada has become known as one of the greatest countries in the world. We’ve invented a bunch of shit, helped win a few wars and have become leaders on a global stage across many important fields of study. At ONLY 150 years old, Canada has become one kick ass fucking country, especially in sports.
I’m going to review some of the most iconic sporting feats in our history. Some inspired a generation of athletes, some made you remember exactly what you were doing, who you were with and what underwear you were wearing and others united Canada like nothing else ever has.
In Chronological order, these are Canada’s greatest sporting feats of the last 150 years.
1891- James Naismith Invents Basketball
Naismith, born In Almonte Ontario in 1861, was an admirable athlete playing Football, Lacrosse, Soccer, Rugby and even Gymnastics at McGill University. He went on to become a PE teacher in New England. Due to the brutal winters before Climate Change fucked us, the kids often had to stay inside for recess. We all remember the shit we used to cause in indoor recess as kids, so Naismith was tasked with creating a game to keep the hooligans occupied with an ‘athletic distraction’. 14 days later, this beautiful mind invented a game that has lived on for 126 years!
The original rulebook contained 13 rules, most of which are still in effect today. The Game of basketball has obviously grown into one of the biggest international sports and has millions of players across the globe. It was perfectly commemorated in the Heritage Minute we all grew to love.
1915-1940 – The Edmonton Grads
This is the best team you’ve never heard of. The Grads were a University women’s basketball team that currently holds the North American record for the sports team with the best winning percentage of all time. From 1915-1945, this team/franchise amassed a record of 502 wins and 20 losses…over 25 years! That’s a 0.961 Winning %. The team dominated Canadian teams and eventually went on to compete internationally where they won the first ever Women’s World Basketball Title in 1923. They went on to dominate more women who dared challenge them by sweeping the floor with anyone who tried over 4 Olympic games from 1924 – 1936, by winning every single one of their 27 Olympic matches. These girls didn’t fuck around and they absolutely ran shit. Our boy Naismith called them “the finest basketball team that ever stepped out on a floor”. No matter how hard Lebron tries to recruit everyone, he will never be as successful as these girls.
1972 – Summit Series
This was probably Canada’s first greatest hockey moment. To help you understand in today’s terms, Russia (Soviet Union) was basically what North Korea is today. Russia and the US were in a Cold War. Basically they acted like 14 year old girls in a fight and didn’t talk to each other…except they each had fucking nukes. Nobody knew wtf went on within their borders and them and the USA were on the verge of blowing each other out of existence. So it was a scary time, I guess you could say. That didn’t stop some knucklehead Canadians from playing hockey. When the Summit Series started, everyone thought Canada would smash these guys. Nobody had ever seen Russians play (no internet, hand held cameras, satellite TV – it was basically the fucking stone ages). But when the North American reporters first saw the Russians practice live, they were stunned. They skating smoothly, had crisp breakout passes, and had offensive and defensive formations no one had ever seen before. Imagine thinking you own a sport and no one is better, then you wake up and realize there is someone better and they’ve invented their own way of playing it.
Canada was in for a ride. The Canadian team made of of NHL legends, would play 8 games in the series (4 in Canada, 4 in Soviet Union). The Soviets won the first game 7-3, stunning our nation. Canada smartened up and even got a little dirty over the next 6 games. It came down to the final game for Canada to clinch the series, in the Soviet Union. Canada was getting Vegas’d by the refs and team GM Alan Eagleson was going off in the stands. The Soviet police AKA RED ARMY tried to take Eagleson into custody. This was fucked up because if they took him away, you probably never would’ve seen him again, there wasn’t diplomacy like there is today. Again think North Korea. In the middle of the game, the Canada players saw this and jumped off the bench, skated across the rink and started confronting the Red Army and hitting them with their sticks. Let me remind you that these crazy Canucks were slashing at guys strapped with AK-47’s. So when Americans talk about the Cold War, just remind them that more Canadian Hockey Players fought the Red Army than their actual Army did.
After that, the Canadians did what has been etched in our memory despite most of you reading this were never even born (Google analytics tells me how old you all are. The internet knows everything). In The final minute of play, Paul Henderson got an inkling in his body from the divine Hockey Gods to call off Hall of Famer Peter Mahovlich. Henderson (who was a 3rd/4th line player on this team) jumped on the ice and went for the net because he felt like he could score. He tried to redirect a pass from Courneyor and fell hard into the boards, got up with the Defense not paying attention to him, buried a rebound for a goal that will live on longer than any of us. Ask anyone who was older than 4 in 1972 and they will tell you exactly where they were, what they were doing and who they were with when that goal went in. My dad still reminisces of how they stopped school and brought everyone into the gym to watch on a shitty black and white TV. Education takes a backseat to hockey in Canada.
1980 – Terry Fox & the Marathon of Hope
Everyone knows the name, everyone knows the story. In 1980, a 23 year old began a journey that, despite not finishing, would live on for decades. Terry Fox lost his right leg to cancer and was discouraged by the lack of funding to develop research for this disease. He began his Marathon of hope, with one leg, as he attempted to run from coast to coast. From Newfoundland to British Columbia. I can’t even fathom running a 5K marathon but this crazy Canuck decided to run across the 2nd biggest country in the world…on one leg. He started in St.Johns NFLD with little recognition, but as he travelled, so did word and media coverage. Crowds began to form in towns and cities he visited. People gave him a honk and wave of encouragement on highways. Kids ran alongside him on roadways. He became a national inspiration. He wasn’t running for himself, he was running for everyone else that would need the future research to battle that piece of shit disease. In Toronto he had a crowd of 10,000 people waiting for him at Nathan Phillips Square and Hockey Legend Darryl Sittler gifted him with a jersey. After 143 days (!) and 5,373 KM (!!), the Marathon of Hope came to an end as Fox’s disease caught up to him and he physically could not go any further. Fox died at 23 years old from his cancer, but his legacy will forever live on. That run alone raised $1.7M for cancer research. The Marathon of Hope lives on as thousands across the globe run in Fox’s memory in hopes that we can achieve Fox set out to do on April 12th 1980.
1993 – Touch’Em All Joe
Despite being an American playing America’s National Pass Time (even though we invented Baseball as well, more to come on that), Joe Carter hit the biggest Home Run in Canadian baseball history. In game 6 of the 1993 World Series, bottom of the 9th, down 6-5 with 2 men on base, Carter tee’d up a quick pitch from Mitch Williams of the Phillies and did what all of us dreamt of doing as kids, WALK OFF HOM ERUN TO WIN THE WORLD SERIES. That is not only one of the greatest moments in Canadian baseball history, but baseball history as a whole. If it was Jeter who did that for the Yankees, ESPN would play that 8 times a day for the next 50 years. But Carter did it, for Canadians to own. That is our moment. Canadians across the country erupted and celebrated and that home run inspired a generation of ball players. My parents put me in baseball because of the love of the game they found while watching the Jays in the late 80s/early 90s. Some of you might not understand the impact of that homerun, but remember how you felt on Bautista’s bat flip homerun? Multiple that by 50.
1996 – Donovan Bailey and the 4x100M Relay Team
There will always be debate about who the best player in the world is of a certain sport, but there is never debate about who the fastest man in the world is. At the Atlanta Olympic Games, Donovan Bailey made history by running the 100M in 9.84 seconds, becoming the fastest man in history up until that point, which is crazy to think of. They also say he may have run the fastest 50M ever, since he was in about 6th half way through the race. This was sort of redemption after Ben Johnson had his world record stripped in the 1988 Olympics, despite the entire field being on Dope including the awarded Gold Medalist, American Carl Lewis (who is a grade A piece of shit). Despite all of that, Bailey & Canada retook the title of the 100M World Record in 1996, on American soil.
A few nights later, Bailey, with the help of Glenroy Gilbert, Bruny Surin & Robert Esmie made history again – winning the 4x100M relay. Bailey dominated the 2 crown jewel events of the Olympics, and Canada was on top of the world.
Another fun Donovan Bailey Video – 1997, American 200M runner Michael Johnson claimed he was the fastest runner in the world. Bailey didn’t back down, they compromised to run a 150M race in a SOLD OUT SKY DOME! They sold that place out for a 15 second run, that’s how big this shit was. Half way through, Bailey began to pull away and the American pulled up and didn’t finish (injury was definitely faked). The Best part, Bailey called him a chicken after that race for pulling up. Canadians aren’t always nice;)
1997 – 2010, MVP’s
Canadian’s have had a difficult time dominating the NBA and MLB, although the following players were the best in the league at one point or another and their MVP awards meant a lot to Canadian kids watching those sports. We’ve won plenty of NHL MVP’s, but the one’s outside of hockey are special.
Larry Walker (1997) – Larry will be an MLB hall of famer, and not the kind of guy I’d pick a fight with at a bar. He is a bad ass son of a bitch on and off the field.
Steve Nash (‘04-‘05, ‘05-‘06) – Steve Nash became the first Canadian to win Back to Back MVP titles in the NBA. Considering the players he played against, Dirk, Lebron, Wade, Kobe, Shaq and so on is a tribute to his feat. The straggly kid from Victoria BC who had no scouts looking at him in high school became the best player in the basketball world.
Justin Morneau (2006) – Morneau was on top of the baseball world in 2006. He finished that season with 34 HR, 130 RBI and a .321 avg. Morneau will forever be a Canadian great.
Joey Votto (2010) – Joey V is a machine. His humble personality comes with an explosive bat. In 2010 he hit 37 HR, 103 RBI and hit .324 avg.
2003- Mike Weir
In 2003, Mike Weir won the biggest tournament of his life, The Masters. This prestigious event is the pinnacle of golf. Weir became the first Canadian and 2nd lefty to do so, beating Tiger Woods in the process. This was important for gold in Canada, and will forever be lasting image until we begin to take over the sport (there are some good Canadians in the NCAA ranks). Weir is currently the most accomplished Canadian golfer and his achievement deserves a spot on this list.
2010 – Vancouver Olympics
I have never felt Canadian pride on a national level like I did in February 2010. What a month that was. Living in Toronto, everyone is proud to represent where they came from (which is beautiful) but this was the first time everyone and I mean EVERYONE was repping Canada, whether you watch sports or not, these games got you. Here are some top moments
Alexandre Bilodeau winning the first Gold Medal on Canadian Soil
Jon Montgomery wining Gold in Skeleton and being handed a pitcher of beer on the streets and fucking chugging it like a champ
Joannie Rochette making the entire nation simultaneously shed a tear when she won a Bronze in figure skating days after her mother unexpectedly passed away
And of course, the moment that has been epitomized in history – The Golden Goal. You couldn’t write a more perfect ending. OT against the US, Crosby (Hockey’s golden child) scores off a feed from Iginla (my boy) to not only win the Gold, not only the Final medal of the Olympics but also to set a Gold medal record for Canada. It was perfect and everything we ever dreamed of. I’ll never forget watching it at a packed Yonge & Dundas Square in Toronto and going absolutely fucking nuts when he scored, hugging dozens of strangers…but they we weren’t strangers, we were all Canadian.
2016 – Penny Oleksiak & Andre DeGrasse
Canada has usually done poorly in the Summer Olympics. We’re a winter nation, so we lose half a year to training. Despite this, Penny Oleksiak and Andrew De Grasse turned Canada back on to the Summer games and gave us a ride in Rio 2016. First in the pool, an unknown Teenager from the east side of Toronto, stormed onto the international stage and won 4 medals in 6 days. In the prior Olympics, Canada only won 1 Bronze in the pool. She became an instead star and overnight night Canadian hero. I have never seen anyone take over the attention of a nation and become a household name within days. Penny have Canadians a reason to watch swimming again and it was fun as shit
Andre De Grasse burst onto the running scene by accident. He was never a runner and decided to join a high school track meet for fun in 2011 and caught the eye of a track coach. Within 5 years he was on the worlds biggest stage going toe to toe with the biggest name in the world, Usain Bolt. He won 3 medals in Rio, one silver and 2 bronze. The excitement and hype around this kid in Canada and International track world is real. Everyone is touting him to be the one to dethrone Bolt. He showed he had the potential in Rio and again, gave Canadians a reason to watch track and field, something we hadn’t done since 1996. We will always remember when he caught up to Bolt and started smiling at him with a look that said “show me what you got, old man”.
It doesn’t matter where you’re from or how you got here, we have all contributed to the beauty that is Canada. Sports has united Canadians like nothing ever has or will. It is an important institute in this country. These sporting images have inspired us and helped define us as a nation. Sport in this country is for everyone, and we should all take pride in what Canadians in the past have accomplished.
Canada, we love your beer, your beautiful coastlines, your mesmerizing mountains, your breathtaking landscapes, your ketchup chips, poutine, your polite nature, your loonies & toonies, your plastic coloured money, your maple syrup, your free healthcare, your comedians and especially the opportunity you have given us to live the fortunate lives we do. Everything about you is beautiful, except Canadian geese, fuck those pricks.
Happy Birthday to the greatest fucking country in the world and the nation I am fortunate to hold a passport of, Canada. Here’s to 150 more.