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.
Thomas Laird Paton, athlete, businessman, volunteer (born 30 September 1855 in Montréal, QC; died 10 February 1909 in Montréal). Paton was an accomplished amateur athlete who excelled in lacrosse and hockey. A goaltender with the Montreal Hockey Club, he helped his team to six straight league championships (1888–93). In his final season, the club was awarded the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup — what would later become known as the Stanley Cup.
Stephen "Steve" Gregory Yzerman, hockey player, general manager (born 9 May 1965 in Cranbrook, BC). National Hockey League (NHL) superstar Steve Yzerman, a career Detroit Red Wing known for his exceptional sportsmanship and leadership abilities, is the longest-serving captain in the league's history. Yzerman was captain of the Detroit Red Wings from 1986 to 2006, and led the team to three Stanley Cup victories. In 2002, he won an Olympic gold medal as part of the men’s hockey team. He was also executive director of the men’s hockey teams that won Olympic gold in 2010 and 2014. Yzerman became vice president of the Detroit Red Wings following his retirement as a player, and in 2010 became general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Mark Douglas Messier, "Moose," hockey player (born 18 January 1961 in Edmonton, AB). A talented forward who played in the National Hockey League (NHL) for 25 seasons, Messier ranks near the top of many regular-season records: third in points (1887), eighth in goals (694), third in assists (1193) and second in number of games played (1756). Known for his leadership, he captained the Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks. Messier also won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player with the Oilers in 1990 and with the Rangers in 1992. Messier won six Stanley Cups and received the Conn Smythe Trophy (for most valuable player in the playoffs) in 1984; he is second all-time in playoff goals (109), playoff assists (186) and playoff points (295).
Kay MacBeth (née MacRitchie) was the last player to join the Edmonton Grads, a women’s basketball team James Naismith, inventor of the game, considered “the finest basketball team that ever stepped out on a floor.” At 95 years old, MacBeth is also the last surviving Grad, a club that played from 1915 to 1940. In those 25 years, the Grads accumulated a record that is quite possibly beyond parallel. Over the course of some 400 official outings, the Grads lost only 20 games. The Grads were both national and world champions who often defeated their opponents by lopsided scores. MacBeth played for the Grads in 1939–40. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Eugenie Bouchard, tennis player (born 25 February 1994 in Montréal, QC). At Wimbledon 2014, Bouchard became the first Canadian singles player to reach the final of a senior Grand Slam singles tennis tournament. Although she lost to Petra Kvitova, the match was watched by over a million Canadians and helped make Bouchard a media sensation. Two years earlier, Bouchard had won the Wimbledon 2012 girls’ tournament, becoming the first Canadian to win a Grand Slam singles title at any level. A two-time winner of the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award (2013 and 2014), she was the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Newcomer of the Year in 2013 and won a WTA title in Nuremberg, Germany, in 2014.
For hundreds of years, very few sports were considered appropriate for women, whether for reasons of supposed physical frailty, or the alleged moral dangers of vigorous exercise. Increasingly, women have claimed their right to participate not only in what were deemed graceful and feminine sports, but also in the sweaty, rough-and-tumble games their brothers played.
Cassie Dawn Campbell-Pascall (née Campbell), CM, hockey player (born 22 November 1973 in Richmond Hill, ON). Three-time Olympian Cassie Campbell-Pascall won gold medals in women’s hockey at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City and the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin. She is the only hockey player (man or woman) to captain Canada to two Olympic gold medals. She also won a silver medal with Team Canada at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano. Campbell-Pascall won gold with Canada at six Women’s World Hockey Championships (1994, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2004) and silver at the 2005 championships. In 157 games for Team Canada, Campbell had 32 goals and 68 assists for 100 points.
Russell Nathan Jeanson Coltrane Martin, Jr., baseball player (born 15 February 1983 in East York [Toronto], ON). Russell Martin made his Major League Baseball (MLB) debut as a catcher in 2006. He played five seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, two with the New York Yankees and two with the Pittsburgh Pirates before signing a five-year, $82 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays on 18 November 2014. Known for his intensity, athleticism and intelligence, Martin is regarded as one of the best defensive catchers in the majors. A four-time All-Star, he won the Rawlings Gold Glove Award and the Silver Slugger Award in 2007 — only the third catcher in history to receive both awards.
Benoît Huot, swimmer (born 24 January 1984 in Longueuil, QC). One of Canada’s most successful swimmers, Huot has won 20 medals at the Paralympic Games, 12 medals at the Parapan American Games and over 30 medals at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Swimming Championships.
Patrick Roy, hockey player, hockey coach (born 5 October 1965 in Québec City, QC). One of the greatest goaltenders in National Hockey League (NHL) history, Roy is a three-time Vezina Trophy winner (best goaltender in the NHL) and three-time Conn Smythe Trophy winner (most valuable player to his team in the NHL playoffs). Roy played in 19 NHL seasons from 1985 to 2003 with the Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche. He ranks second all-time in career regular-season victories (551), and has the NHL record for most career playoff victories for a goaltender (151). Roy also holds the Avalanche franchise records for most shutouts in a career (37) and shutouts in a single season (9), which he set in 2001–02.