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Article

Cowboys and Cowgirls in Canada

Cowboys and cowgirls are people employed to tend cattle or horses. The first cowboys to work on the Canadian prairies arrived in the 1870s. The traditional cowboy lifestyle has since given way to a more contained, corporate model of ranching. But the romanticized image of the cowboy on the “open range” lives on as a symbol of the prairies. Today, the terms cowboy and cowgirl can refer to ranch workers or rodeo competitors.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

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Guy Lafleur

Guy Damien Lafleur, OC, CQ, hockey player (born 20 September 1951 in Thurso, QC; died 22 April 2022). Guy Lafleur was one of the most offensively skilled Montreal Canadiens players of all time. He is the franchise’s regular season career leader in assists (728) and points (1,246). In 1976–77, Lafleur set the Canadiens’ franchise record for most points in a single regular season (136). In 1977–78, he tied the Canadiens’ single-season record for most goals (60). He is a member of the Order of Canada and the National Order of Québec and has been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Article

Mike Bossy

Michael "Mike" Bossy, hockey player (born 22 January 1957 in Montreal, QC; died 15 April 2022 in Montreal). After starring for the Laval Nationals in junior, Bossy joined the New York Islanders in 1977-78. He scored 53 goals that year, becoming the first rookie in National Hockey League history to record a 50 goal season, a feat that earned him the Calder Trophy. He proved this was not a fluke by registering 50 or more goals for each of the next eight seasons, including a remarkable 50 goals in the first 50 games of the 1980-81 season, equalling the 26-year-old record established by Maurice Richard.

Article

Gaylord Powless

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.

Article

Alwyn Morris

Alwyn Morris, canoeist (b at Montréal 22 Nov 1957). He won the K-1 1000 m and K-1 500 m junior national championships in 1977 and was the 1977 recipient of the Tom Longboat Award for top North American Indian athlete. With Hugh Fisher he won a gold medal in the K-2 1000 m (time 3:24).

Article

Waneek Horn-Miller

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.

Article

Shirley and Sharon Firth

Shirley Firth, cross-country skier (born 31 December 1953 in Aklavik, NWT; died 30 April 2013 in Yellowknife, NWT) and Sharon Anne Firth, cross-country skier (born 31 December 1953 in Aklavik, NWT). Twin sisters Shirley and Sharon Firth, members of the Gwich’in First Nation, were among the first Aboriginal athletes to represent Canada at the Olympics, and were members of the first Canadian women’s cross-country ski team at the Olympics.

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Tom Longboat

Thomas Charles Longboat (Gagwe:gih), distance runner, Olympian (born 4 July 1886 in Ohsweken, Six Nations of the Grand River; died 9 January 1949 in Ohsweken). Tom Longboat was an Onondaga distance runner from Six Nations of the Grand River. One of the most famous athletes of the early 20th century, Longboat pioneered training methods still used today. He is considered one of the first celebrity athletes in Canada, with his athletic successes known across North America and overseas. He was a leader in establishing marathon running as an international sport and won many marathons in record-breaking times, beating competitors from all over the world. Longboat was the first Indigenous person to win the Boston Marathon (1907). He competed for Canada at the 1908 Olympic Games. He was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.

Article

Tim McIsaac

Timothy (Tim) McIsaac, swimmer, public servant (born 10 January 1959 in Winnipeg, MB). McIsaac has won the most medals of any Canadian Paralympian, with 28 medals in swimming (including 14 gold) at the Paralympic Games between 1976 and 1988, as well as 17 medals at the World Games in 1979 and 1986. He was the first blind swimmer to use the tumble (or flip) turn, using a “tapping” technique that later became compulsory in competitions for swimmers with visual impairments. McIsaac was named Canadian junior male athlete of the year in 1976 and Manitoban athlete of the year in 1982. He is a member of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame and Swimming Canada’s Circle of Excellence. He was named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2022.

Article

Georges St-Pierre

Georges St-Pierre (nicknamed GSP), mixed martial artist (born 19 May 1981 in Saint-Isidore, QC). Georges St-Pierre is considered one of the best mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters of all time. He retired from the the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) with a career record of 26–2. 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, making him the fourth fighter in UFC history to win titles in multiple divisions. 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.

Article

Joey Votto

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.

Article

Ferguson Jenkins

Ferguson "Fergie" Arthur Jenkins, CM, baseball player (born 13 December 1943 in Chatham, ON). Arguably the finest Canadian-born baseball player, Jenkins began his major-league career in Philadelphia before joining the Chicago Cubs in 1966.

Article

Rick Hansen

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 km 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.

Article

Manny McIntyre

Vincent “Manny” Churchill McIntyre, baseball player, hockey player, railway porter (born 4 October 1918 in Gagetown, New Brunswick; died 13 June 2011 in Candiac, QC). Manny McIntyre was the first Black Canadian to sign a professional baseball contract — just six weeks after American Jackie Robinson broke the pro baseball colour barrier. McIntyre played as a shortstop for the St. Lous Cardinals farm team, the Sherbrooke Canadians. A multisport athlete, he was also a member (with brothers Ossie and Herb Carnegie) of the first all-Black line in pro hockey, known as the “Black Aces.” McIntyre was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, the Black Ice Hockey and Sports Hall of Fame, the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame and the City of Fredericton Sports Wall of Fame.

Article

George Dixon

George Dixon, boxer (born 29 July 1870 in Africville, NS; died 6 January 1908 in New York, New York). George Dixon was the first Black world champion in boxing history and the first Canadian to ever win a world championship. Despite his small stature (5 feet 3.5 inches and between 87 and 115 pounds), Dixon amassed several notable accomplishments across a 20-year career and was the first boxer to win championships in multiple weight classes — bantamweight (1890) and featherweight (1891–96; 1897; 1898–1900). A cerebral fighter known as a “pioneer of scientific boxing,” he is credited with inventing various fundamental training techniques, including shadowboxing and the use of the heavy bag. As a dominant Black fighter in the post-Civil War United States, Dixon was subjected to fierce racism. He died in poverty from alcoholism at the age of 37. He was an inaugural inductee into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame, and was also named to The Ring Magazine Hall of Fame and the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Article

Kaillie Humphries

Kaillie Humphries (née Simundson), bobsledder (born 4 September 1985 in Calgary, AB). Kaillie Humphries is the only woman to win three Olympic gold medals in bobsledding. At the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, she and Heather Moyse became the first Canadian women to win gold in the two-woman bobsled. They won gold again at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Humphries won the 2014 Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year and won a bronze medal at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. She was also one of the first two women to compete in an international four-man bobsleigh competition. Humphries has alleged that she was “driven off” the Canadian bobsled team in 2019 after filing a harassment complaint against a coach. She obtained US citizenship in 2021 and competed for Team USA at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, where she won gold in women’s monobob. She is the only woman ever to win Olympic gold medals for two different countries.

Article

Stephanie Dixon

Stephanie Dixon, CM, swimmer (born 10 February 1984 in Brampton, ON). Stephanie Dixon is one of Canada’s most decorated Paralympic athletes. She won 19 Paralympic medals (seven gold, 10 silver, two bronze), six gold medals at the Parapan American Games and 10 gold medals at the IPC World Championships. She set world records in nine long course swimming events — some more than once — and still holds the world record in the women’s 200 m backstroke. Dixon has worked as a coach since retiring in 2010. She was also Team Canada’s chef de mission at the 2019 Parapan American Games and the 2020 Paralympic Games. She has been inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and is a Member of the Order of Canada.

List

Notable Indigenous Olympians in Canada

Drawing inspiration from the Olympic Games in ancient Greece, the modern Olympics began in 1896. Like the Olympics, the Paralympic Games take place every two years, alternating between summer and winter sports. Indigenous athletes from Canada have competed at these games and brought home medals. They have represented the country in various sports at the Olympics, from long-distance running to skiing to water sports and more. This article explores some of the most notable Indigenous Olympians from Canada.

Article

Mary “Bonnie” Baker

Mary Geraldine “Bonnie” Baker (née George), professional baseball player, broadcaster (born 10 July 1919 in Regina, SK; died 17 December 2003 in Regina). Mary “Bonnie” Baker was a catcher and utility infielder in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League for nine seasons. In 1950, she also served as the only regular female manager in the league’s 12-year history. A feisty character on the diamond and a vivacious personality off it, Baker was one of the models for the character of Dottie Hinson, played by Geena Davis, in the Hollywood movie A League of Their Own (1992). After retiring as a baseball and softball player, Baker became Canada’s first female sports broadcaster.

Article

Wilton Littlechild

Jacob Wilton (Willie) Littlechild, CM, athlete, lawyer, Cree chief, politician, advocate for Indigenous rights (born 1 April 1944 in Hobbema, [now Maskwacîs] AB). Littlechild formed and coached Alberta’s first all-Indigenous junior hockey team and created the National Indian Athletic Association. He is a member of seven sports halls of fame. In 1976, Littlechild earned a law degree from the University of Alberta. He went on to become the first member of Parliament with Treaty Indian Status in Canada in 1988. Littlechild served as a commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2009. Throughout his career, Littlechild has promoted Indigenous rights both nationally and internationally.