The first Canada Winter Games took place in Québec City in 1967, the same year as the country’s centennial. The competition brought together young athletes from across the country, reflecting the theme of the first Games: “Unity Through Sport.” Gold medal winners included figure skater Toller Cranston from Hamilton, Ontario; gymnast Teresa McDonnell from Toronto; speed skater Doreen McCannell from Winnipeg, Manitoba; and Inuvik cross-country skier Janet Tourangeau from the Northwest Territories.
Two years later, Halifax and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, hosted the first Canada Summer Games, where British Columbia’s Debbie Brill and Saskatchewan’s Diane Jones (later Jones Konihowski) won the high jump and the pentathlon, respectively. Since then, the national competition has been held every two years, with the Winter and Summer Games held at four-year intervals.
The Canada Games have played an important role in the development of some of Canada’s most successful athletes, including Sylvie Daigle, Catriona LeMay Doan, Bruny Surin, Annie Pelletier, Hayley Wickenheiser, Marc Gagnon, Steve Nash, Alexandre Despatie, Adam Van Koeverden, Sidney Crosby, Charles Hamelin, Eugenie Bouchard, Lennox Lewis, Gaétan Boucher, Cassie Campbell, Andre De Grasse, Nicolas Gill, Cindy Klassen, Jennifer Heil and Russell Martin.
Here are some of their stories.
Sidney Crosby (Sid the Kid), ONS, hockey player (born 7 August 1987 in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia). Crosby is a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League (2009, 2016) and a two-time Olympic gold medallist (2010, 2014) with Canada’s men’s hockey team. He has received the Art Ross Trophy and the Hart Trophy twice (2007, 2014), the Ted Lindsay Award three times (2007, 2013, 2014) and the Lionel Conacher Award three times (2007, 2009, 2010). In 2016, he was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner for most valuable player in the NHL playoffs. Showing his trademark humility, upon winning the individual award he said, “I look at this as a total team effort. I tried to work hard every night, do my job just like everyone else. I don’t know if I did anything different or specific. I think everyone just competed, everyone tried to do what’s expected of them, tried to play their role. If you do that every night, we have a pretty good chance of winning.” (Read the full article here.)
Sidney Crosby at the 2003 Canada Winter Games
Sidney Crosby competed for Team Nova Scotia in hockey at the 2003 Canada Winter Games in Bathurst-Campbellton, New Brunswick. The team placed sixth, its best finish since the 1979 Games, and Crosby won the Roland Michener Canada Games Award in recognition of his leadership on and off the ice.
Cassie Dawn Campbell-Pascall (née Campbell), CM, hockey player (born 22 November 1973 in Richmond Hill, Ontario). 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. (Read the full article here.)
Cassie Campbell at the 1991 Canada Winter Games
In 1991, Campbell captained Team Ontario at the Canada Winter Games in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island — the first time that women’s hockey was included in the Canada Winter Games. In six games, Campbell scored two goals and two assists as Team Ontario finished in fourth place. The tournament was won by Team Alberta, which included 12-year-old Hayley Wickenheiser on the roster.
“It was a really neat experience and it gave me perspective on what it would be like to be an elite athlete,” Cassie remarked in a 2017 interview with Jeremy Freeborn for Calgary Hockey Magazine. “It came at a time in my life when a lot of girls quit because they didn’t see a future in it. That event kind of kept me in the game.”
Catriona Le May Doan
Catriona Le May Doan, speed skater (born 23 December 1970 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan). Speed skater Catriona Le May Doan won back-to-back gold medals in the women’s 500m event at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano and the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. She also won a bronze medal in the women’s 1,000m event at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games. On 22 November 1997, Le May Doan became the first female speed skater to break the 38 second barrier in the women’s 500m at a World Cup in Calgary. Her final world record time of 37.22 seconds (set on 9 December 2001) lasted more than five years.
Catriona Le May Doan at the 1983 and 1987 Canada Winter Games
Catriona Le May Doan competed for Team Saskatchewan in speed skating at the 1983 Canada Winter Games in Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean, Québec, winning bronze in the 3,000m relay. At the 1987 Winter Games in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, she took silver in the 400m and bronze in the 800m.
In an interview with Jeremy Freeborn on 30 November 2015, Le May Doan talked about her experience at the Canada Games.
"I really believe it was crucial to my success at the Olympics to have experienced a multi-sport games at a younger level. I won three medals. I wanted that Canada Winter Games gold medal, but I never got it. It was tough competition. The Canada Winter Games really drove me. It also made me aware of the other athletes from other sports and the other teams that came from not only my province of Saskatchewan, but the rest of the country."
(Read the full interview here.)
Andre De Grasse
Andre De Grasse, sprinter (born 10 November 1994 in Scarborough, Ontario). While Donovan Bailey was the first Canadian to run under 10 seconds in the 100m dash, De Grasse was the first to break both the 10-second barrier in the 100m dash and the 20-second barrier in the 200m dash. At age 20, De Grasse burst onto the international stage, winning double gold at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, Ontario, followed by a bronze medal in the 100m at the 2015 world track and field championships. He is the Canadian 200m record holder. At the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio, De Grasse won three medals: silver in the 200m, bronze in the 100m and bronze in the 4x100m relay. (Read the full article here.)
Andre De Grasse at the 2013 Canada Summer Games
Eugenie Bouchard, tennis player (born 25 February 1994 in Montréal, Québec). 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 one 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. (Read the full article here.)
Eugenie Bouchard at the 2009 Canada Summer Games
Eugenie Bouchard competed for Team Québec at the 2009 Summer Games in Prince Edward Island, winning the gold medal in tennis.
Russell Nathan Jeanson Coltrane Martin, Jr., baseball player (born 15 February 1983 in East York [Toronto], Ontario). 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. (Read the full article here.)
Russell Martin at the 2001 Canada Summer Games