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.
Montreal Canadiens are a hockey team that plays in the National Hockey League (NHL). The Canadiens are the only existing NHL club to have formed prior to the league’s inception in 1917, and are the only team to have operated continuously throughout the league’s history. The Canadiens have won 24 Stanley Cup championships.
Chris Williamson, Paralympic alpine skier (born 5 May 1972 in Edmonton, Alberta). Williamson competed in four Paralympic Winter Games over the course of his 17-year career, winning four medals, including gold in the men’s slalom at the 2002 Paralympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. He also dominated the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Cup competition, winning 56 gold medals (105 medals in total), 14 titles in individual disciplines, and 8 Crystal Globes. At the IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships, Williamson won two gold medals and 14 medals overall. He retired from competition in 2015.
Georges St-Pierre (nicknamed GSP), mixed martial artist (born 19 May 1981 in Saint-Isidore, Québec). Considered one of the best ultimate fighters ever in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweight division, St-Pierre has a career record of 26 wins and two losses. A UFC welterweight champion from 2006 to 2007 and 2008 to 2013, St-Pierre holds the record for the most title defenses in the UFC welterweight division, with nine. In 2017, he defeated Michael Bisping to win the middleweight championship. St-Pierre was named the 2008, 2009 and 2010 Rogers Sportsnet Canadian Athlete of the Year, the 2008 Black Belt Magazine MMA Fighter of the Year, the 2009 Sports Illustrated Fighter of the Year and the 2009 World MMA Awards Fighter of the Year.
Sonja Gaudet (née Melis), Paralympic wheelchair curler (born 22 July 1966 in North Vancouver, British Columbia). A three-time Paralympian, Gaudet won gold for Canada at the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games in Turin, 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver and 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi. She was the first wheelchair curler ever to win multiple Paralympic gold medals. Gaudet is also a three-time world champion, having helped Canada win a gold medal at the 2009 World Wheelchair Curling Championship in Vancouver, 2011 World Wheelchair Curling Championship in Prague and 2013 World Wheelchair Curling Championship in Sochi.
Gaylord Powless, Mohawk lacrosse player (born 1 December 1946 in Six Nations of the Grand River, ON; died 28 July 2001 in Ohsweken, ON). Gaylord Powless was a box lacrosse player who transcended the game to become one of Canada’s most famous athletes. Powless lived most of his life in Six Nations of the Grand River, near Brantford, Ontario. He became the signature player on the Oshawa Green Gaels’ junior lacrosse dynasty of the 1960s and shattered the Ontario junior league scoring record in his sophomore year with the team. The Gaels won the Minto Cup, Canada’s national junior lacrosse championship, in all four years that he played at the junior level. Powless also won the 1971 Mann Cup, which is emblematic of the Canadian senior lacrosse champions, and was a marquee player in three different professional leagues. Powless and his father, Ross, are both members of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame and the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame. In 2017, Powless was elected to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.
Anik Bissonnette, OC, CQ, ballerina, arts administrator (born at Montréal 9 Feb 1962). Québec's best-known ballerina, Anik Bissonnette is renowned for her exceptional musicality, purity of line and extraordinary balances, and for using her technical assurance to plumb exciting emotional depths. After garnering wide acclaim in many performances with Louis Robitaille, she was a principal dancer at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens (LGBC) from 1989 to 2007 and made annual appearances at Montréal's Gala des Étoiles from 1983 until 2006. She was artistic director of the Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur from 2004 to 2014, and has been artistic director of the École supérière de ballet contemporain de Montréal since 2010. An Officer of the Order of Canada and a Chevalière of the National Order of Québec, she has received the Prix Denis Pelletier and the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Hull won the Art Ross Trophy 3 times, the Hart Trophy twice and the Lady Byng Trophy once, scoring 610 goals and 1170 points in 15 NHL seasons. In 1972 he accepted $1 million to jump from the NHL to the Winnipeg Jets, giving immediate credibility to the fledgling World Hockey Association.
Joey Votto, baseball player (born 10 September 1983 in Toronto, ON). Joey Votto is a Canadian baseball player with the Cincinnati Reds. In 2010, he won the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award and Hank Aaron Award, as well as the Lou Marsh Trophy for Canada’s outstanding athlete of the year. Two years later, he became one of the highest paid baseball players in major league history. In 2017, he was again awarded the Lou Marsh Trophy. He has also won the James “Tip” O’Neill Award seven times.
Sidney Crosby (Sid the Kid), ONS, hockey player (born 7 August 1987 in Cole Harbour, NS). Crosby is a three-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League and a two-time Olympic gold medallist with Canada’s men’s hockey team. He has won the Art Ross Trophy (2007, 2014), the Hart Trophy (2007, 2014), the Ted Lindsay Award (2007, 2013, 2014), the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (2010, 2017), and the Conn Smythe Trophy (2016, 2017). Crosby has also received the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s top athlete of the year (2007, 2009) and the Lionel Conacher Award as Canada’s male athlete of the year (2007, 2009, 2010).2
Cindy Klassen, OM, speed skater (born 12 August 1979 in Winnipeg, MB). Cindy Klassen is the first Canadian to win five medals in one Olympic Games (Torino 2006). With a total of six Olympic medals, she is tied with fellow speed skater and cyclist Clara Hughes as the most decorated Canadian Olympians. Klassen was also overall world champion in speed skating (2003 and 2006).
Meaghan Benfeito, diver (born 2 March 1989 in Montréal, QC). Three-time Olympian Meaghan Benfeito and partner Roseline Filion won bronze in the 10m synchronized dive at the Olympic Summer Games in 2012 and 2016. Benfeito also won bronze in the 10m individual event at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil. Benfeito has won titles at the Pan American Games and Commonwealth Games and multiple medals in both synchro and individual competitions at the FINA Diving Grand Prix circuit, FINA Diving World Series, World Cup and World Championships. She has also won multiple Senior National Championships.
Penelope (Penny) Oleksiak, swimmer (born 13 June 2000 in Scarborough, Ontario). At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Oleksiak won four medals, setting the Canadian record for most medals won at a single Olympic Summer Games. Her four swimming medals came in the women’s 100 m freestyle (gold), women’s 100 m butterfly (silver), women’s 4 x 100 m freestyle relay (bronze) and women’s 4 x 200 m freestyle relay (bronze). In the 100 m freestyle, Oleksiak tied for gold with American Simone Manuel, with both swimmers setting an Olympic record of 52.70 seconds in the final. Oleksiak is tied with the late Victor Davis for the most Olympic career medals won by a Canadian swimmer (four) and holds the record as the youngest Canadian ever to win an Olympic gold medal (16 years and 59 days). In 2016, Oleksiak received the Lou Marsh Trophy (Canada’s athlete of the year) and the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award (Canadian Press female athlete of the year).
Joseph Albert (Pierre) Paul Pilote, hockey player (born 11 December 1931 in Kénogami, QC; died 9 September 2017 in Barrie, ON). Pilote was a National Hockey League (NHL) defenceman and was regarded as one of the best blueliners from the Original Six era. He played a hard-hitting style but was also respected for his offensive prowess. Pilote won the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1961 and was awarded the James Norris Memorial Trophy three times. During his NHL career he scored 80 goals and tallied 418 assists and 1,251 penalty minutes during the regular season; in 86 career playoff games, he scored eight goals and 53 assists.
Ron Turcotte, jockey (b at Drummond, NB 22 July 1941). One of 11 children, Turcotte was always a strong jockey because of his early years as a lumberjack in New Brunswick. Unemployment in 1959 sent him to Toronto where he obtained a job as a hot-walker at E.P. TAYLOR's Windfields Farms.
Richard (Rick) Marvin Hansen, CC, OBC, Paralympian, wheelchair racer, humanitarian (born 26 August 1957 in Port Alberni, British Columbia). In the 1980s, Rick Hansen won six Paralympic medals and three world championships in wheelchair racing. He was named Canada’s Disabled Athlete of the Year three times and, in 1983, received the Lou Marsh Trophy for Canadian Outstanding Athlete of the Year — an honour he shared with Wayne Gretzky. Hansen is perhaps best known for his Man In Motion World Tour. From 21 March 1985 to 22 May 1987, Hansen wheeled more than 40,000 kilometres in 34 countries to raise awareness, public support and finances for spinal cord research, rehabilitation and wheelchair sports. The tour raised more than $26 million.