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.
Stephen Todd “Steve” Bauer, cyclist, businessman (born 12 June 1959 in St. Catharines, ON). Steve Bauer won a silver medal in the men’s road cycling race at the 1984 Olympic Summer Games in Los Angeles. Four years later, he became the first Canadian to win a stage at the Tour de France. He won five stages in total during the 1988 Tour de France and finished fourth overall — a Canadian record. Bauer rode in the Tour de France 11 times between 1985 and 1995, and in 1990 he wore the yellow jersey for nine stages. He received the Meritorious Service Medal in 1994 in recognition of his importance in the Canadian cycling world. Bauer is a member of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame and the Canadian Cycling Hall of Fame.
Kelly-Ann Way, cyclist, registered massage therapist (born 18 September 1964 in Windsor, Ontario). A successful track and road cyclist, Way famously won a stage at the Tour de France féminin in 1984. She was the first North American to win a stage at either the Tour de France or the Tour de France féminin. She was also the first Canadian to wear the maillot jaune as overall leader in the women’s tour. Way represented Canada at two Olympic Summer Games (1988 and 1992) and was a medallist at the Commonwealth Games.
Thomas Charles Longboat, distance runner (born 4 July 1886 in Ohsweken, Six Nations Grand River reserve; died 9 January 1949). Tom Longboat (Haudenosaunee name Cogwagee) was an Onondaga distance runner from the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation reserve near Brantford, Ontario. Largely because of his ability to dominate any race and his spectacular finishing sprints, he was one of the most celebrated athletes before the First World War.
Barbara Howard, athlete, educator (born 8 May 1920 in Vancouver, BC; died 26 January 2017 in Vancouver). Barbara Howard is believed to be the first Black female athlete to represent Canada in international competition. At only 17 years old, she broke the British Empire record for the 100-yard dash, qualifying to represent Canada at the 1938 British Empire Games in Sydney, Australia. At the Games, she finished sixth in the 100-yard race but won silver and bronze medals as part of the 440-yard and 660-yard relay teams. Howard never competed in the Olympic Games, which were cancelled in 1940 and 1944 because of the Second World War. In 1941, she became the first racialized person to be hired by the Vancouver School Board. She had a 43-year career in education, including 14 years as a physical education teacher, before retiring in 1984.
Willie O’Ree, OC, ONB, hockey player (born 15 October 1935 in Fredericton, NB). On 18 January 1958, O’Ree became the first Black hockey player to play a National Hockey League game when he debuted with the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens at the Montreal Forum. O’Ree played a total of 45 games in the NHL with the Bruins. Since 1998, he has been the NHL’s Director of Youth Development and ambassador for NHL Diversity, and has led the Hockey is for Everyone program. He was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018.1
Ryder Hesjedal, cyclist (born 9 December 1980 in Victoria, BC). Ryder Hesjedal is a retired Canadian professional cyclist, and the first Canadian to win a Grand Tour race with his victory at the 2012 Giro d’Italia. He competed in international races between 1998 and 2016, first in mountain biking and then in road racing, and represented Canada at three Olympic Summer Games.
Alex Stieda, cyclist, television commentator, columnist (born 13 April 1961 in Belleville, ON). In 1986, Canadian cyclist Alex Stieda became the first North American to wear the yellow jersey (or maillot jaune) in the Tour de France, as leader of the race. He also won a bronze medal in the individual pursuit (track cycling) at the 1982 Commonwealth Games and competed at the 1984 Olympic Summer Games in Los Angeles, California.
Joannie Rochette, figure skater (born 13 January 1986 at Île Dupas, Quebec). Figure skater Joannie Rochette won the silver medal at the 2009 World Championships and was the Canadian ladies’ champion for six consecutive years (2005–10). She is best known for her courageous bronze-medal performance at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, just days after her mother’s sudden death. Rochette also medalled at several international Grand Prix competitions.
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.
Mark Arendz, Paralympian, biathlon and cross-country skiing (born 3 March 1990 in Charlottetown, PEI). Arendz has won eight medals at the Paralympic Winter Games in biathlon and cross-country skiing, including a gold medal in the men’s 15 km standing biathlon at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. He has also won eight medals at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Nordic Skiing World Championships and has had great success on the IPC World Cup circuit, including winning the 2013 World Cup Crystal Globe in para-biathlon.
Charles Hamelin, short track speed skater (born 14 April 1984 in Lévis, QC). Hamelin has won three Olympic gold medals for Canada in short track speed skating. With five Olympic medals in total, he shares the record for the most medals won by a Canadian male Olympian. At the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, he won the men’s individual 500m event and men’s 5000m team relay event (with Guillaume Bastille, François Hamelin, Olivier Jean and François-Louis Tremblay). At the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, he won a gold medal in the men’s 1500m short track speed skating event. Hamelin also won a silver medal in the men’s relay at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin and a bronze medal in the relay at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, in PyeongChang. As of March 2018, Hamelin has won 12 gold medals at the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships. He became overall world champion in 2018, the first Canadian to hold that title since Marc Gagnon in 1998. Hamelin has been named Male Short Track Athlete of the Year 10 times by Speed Skating Canada.
Waneek Horn-Miller, athlete, activist, broadcaster (born 30 November 1975 in Montreal, QC). Horn-Miller, a Mohawk from Kahnawake, Quebec, was co-captain of Canada’s first Olympic women’s water polo team and a gold medallist in water polo at the 1999 Pan American Games. She is a well-known activist for Indigenous rights and a prominent role model, mentor and advocate for youth involvement in sports. The Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity named her one of the country’s most influential women in sport in 2015.
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.
Jasey-Jay Anderson, snowboarder (born 13 April 1975 in Montreal, QC). Anderson has competed in every Olympic Winter Games since 1998, when snowboarding made its Olympic debut. At the 2018 Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, he became the first Canadian to compete in six Games. Anderson won the gold medal in parallel giant slalom at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. Over his career he has also won four World Championship titles, as well as six World Cup titles, including four as overall World Cup champion (2001–04).