I promised if the US and Canadian Olympic Hockey teams met for the gold medal game I would do a "KYF" for Canada - so here it is. I have visited Canada many times since my first trip as a drunk college student navigating the tunnel to the Windsor Ballet (some one else was driving). Over the last three or four years I worked for a company based in Vancouver, so I have gotten to spend a good deal of observational time with Canadians. If you are from Canada and read this, understand that most of this is fun, but you also know most of it is true.
Key Facts: The name Canada comes from a St. Lawrence Iroquoian word, kanata, meaning "village" or "settlement". Canada is the second largest country (by land mass) in the world. Our shared border is the longest in the world. The country consists of ten provinces and three territories. Think of a Canadian province in the same manner in which you would think of a US state. There are over 30 million people living in Canada and 80% of them live within 93 miles of the US border.
History: The land that makes up Canada was originally inhabited by various groups of Aboriginal people. Europeans first arrived when the Vikings settled briefly at L'Anse aux Meadows around AD 1000. That colony failed and there was no further attempt at European exploration until 1497, when England's John Cabot explored Canada's Atlantic coast. He was followed by Frenchman Jacques Cartier in 1534. Another French explorer named Samuel de Champlain arrived in 1603 and established the first permanent European settlements at Port Royal in 1605 and Quebec City in 1608. Two years later, the English established fishing outposts in Newfoundland and colonized the Thirteen Colonies to the south. As was the case in the American colonies, a massive percentage of the native people died because they had no natural immunities to the diseases the Europeans carried.
Britain and France repeatedly went to war in the 17th and 18th centuries and frequently used Canada as a battlefield. In 1763 the French were removed from nearly all of its colonies after the Seven Years' War. During the American Revolution there was an attempt by the Continental Army in late 1775 to take Quebec from British control. They were defeated by Guy Carleton, with the assistance of local militias. At the end of the revolution about 48,000 loyalists moved to Canada, where they received lands and reimbursements for lost property from the British government.
In 1867, Canada was formed as a federal dominion of four provinces, combining three British colonies. This began an process a process of increasing autonomy from the British. Although it was not until the Canada Act of 1982 that ended all remaining dependence of Canada on the United Kingdom.
Government: This can be a little confusing. Most Canadians can not easily explain how their government is organized. As an American, I am even more confused and suspicious. In Canadian English, the word government is used to refer both to the whole set of institutions that collectively govern the country as well as the reigning monarch. The Canadian Federal Government covers the major institutions - the monarchy, governor general, federal courts, the prime minister, parliament, government departments and agencies.
WTF, a monarchy ? As per the Constitution Act, 1867, Canada is technically a constitutional monarchy, wherein the reigning sovereign (King or Queen) is both legal and practical. The monarchy only plays a ceremonial role in Canada. The Canadian Governor General is the representative of the Queen in Canada and is also mostly symbolic and ceremonial.
The Parliament of Canada is the legislative branch of the federal government and makes the laws. Parliament is made up of three parts: the Crown (the Queen, represented by the Governor General), the House of Commons and the Senate.
Although the role of prime minister in Canada is not defined by any law or constitutional document, it somehow is the most powerful role in Canadian politics. Essentially the prime minister is the head of government in Canada and he is actually elected. Imagine the role of President without any supporting legal documentation. The Canadian prime minister is usually the leader of the political party that wins the most seats in the House of Commons in a general election.
Flag: The Canadian flag is one of the most recognizable on the planet. Sursprisingly it was only adopted in 1965 as their national flag. Prior to that, they just used the flag of the United Kingdom. Yes, the same one we know as the Union Jack
In 1964, the Prime Minister appointed a flag change committee sparking a national debate. Out of three choices, the maple leaf design based on the flag of the Royal Military College of Canada was selected. The flag made its first appearance on February 15, 1965; the date is now celebrated annually as National Flag of Canada Day.
National Anthem: O Canada is the national anthem of Canada. The song was originally commissioned by the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec for the 1880 Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day ceremony. Calixa Lavallée wrote the music, which was originally only in French and was translated to English in 1906. For my money, the Canadian National Anthem is very moving and patriotic. I love it every time I hear it at hockey and baseball games.
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
Sports other than Hockey: Believe it or not, lacrosse (not hockey) is Canada's oldest and official sport. Soccer has the most registered players of any sport in Canada, but there is no professional league. Other popular team sports include curling, baseball, basketball, cricket, rugby and softball.
They play a mutated brand of football, commonly referred as Canadian Football. This game only has 3 downs and the end-zones are HUGE. Football is Canada's second most popular spectator sport behind ice hockey. The Canadian Football League was founded in 1909 as a rugby organization. It has been around in its current football form since 1958. Today, the CFL is made up of 8 teams separated in 2 divisions. The annual championship, known as the Grey Cup, is the country's largest annual sports event. They also play college football there, but it is not nearly as popular as college football in the US. In fact, I would guess that Texas High School football is more popular than Canadian College Football.
Wolverine great Tshimanga Biakabutuka played high school (and college) football in Canada before he hung 313 yards on the Buckeyes in 1995.
Canada has a long and interesting baseball history. When the Brooklyn Dodgers decided to make Jackie Robinson the first black player in MLB history, they sent him to Montreal for a season of preparation. In 1969 the city of Montreal was awarded a Major League Baseball franchise. Named after the Expo 67 World's Fair, they were called the Expos. After a decade of losing seasons, the team won a franchise-high 95 games in 1979, finishing second in the National League East. The team won its only division championship in the strike-shortened split season of 1981, only to lose to the LA Dodgers in the playoffs. In 1994 they had an awesome team and had the best record in the majors when the strike forced the cancellation of the remainder of the season. The franchise never recovered, moving to Washington DC ten years and many empty seats later.
Canada can claim the two MLB titles ('92 & '93) by the Toronto Blue Jays, which were founded in 1977. Canada has participated in both of the World Baseball Classics. In 2006 they upset a powerful Team USA in first-round play. Some people in Canada call this the "Miracle on Dirt".
Ice Hockey: The modern form of ice hockey began in Canada in the late 1800s. It is widely considered Canada's national pastime, with high levels of participation by children, men and women at all levels of competition. Canada has a massive junior hockey league and has six teams in the National Hockey League.
The Stanley Cup is the famous trophy awarded NHL champion. The trophy was donated in 1892 by then Governor General of Canada Lord Stanley of Preston, as an award for Canada's top-ranking amateur ice hockey club. In 1915, the two professional ice hockey organizations, the National Hockey Association (NHA) and the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA), reached a gentlemen's agreement in which their respective champions would face each other for the Stanley Cup. After a series of league mergers and folds, it became the de facto championship trophy of the NHL in 1926.
The last Canadian NHL team to win the Stanley Cup was the 1992-93 Montreal Canadians. Since that time, the Detroit Red Wings have won it four times.
Quite simply some of the most famous hockey players in the world come from Canada, led by The Great One: Wayne Gretzky. The list of greats is impressive including Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Steve Yzerman, Maurice Rachard, Mario Lemieux, and currently Sidney Crosby.
Olympic Hockey: Canada won the first Olympic hockey tournament played during the 1920 Summer Games in Antwerp, Belgium. Four years later they won the first Olympic Winter Games competition are held in Chamonix, France. The Canadian hockey team wins all five of its games, outscoring opponents 110-3. In 1936, after four consecutive gold medals and a 20 straight victories, Canada loses an Olympic game to Great Britain and finishes second. Ten of the 12 British players live in Canada. They have won a total of seven gold medals in hockey, the last in 2002 when they defeated the United States in Salt Lake City.
One of the most famous international hockey events did not take place in the Olympic games. It took place later in 1972 when the gold medal winning Soviets play a team of Canadian NHL stars in an exhibition series called the Summit Series. Initially shocked by the speed and excellence of the Soviet players, the Canadians win the series by the margin of a single goal in the final game.
Olympic teams manned by professional players was not the norm until just recently. In fact, in the 1972 Winter Games Canada refused to send a team, having withdrawn from international hockey to protest the definition of amateur athletes. The Canadians argued that the Soviets and other eastern bloc teams are amateur in name only. This boycott was expanded in 1976 when Sweden joined the Canadian boycott. This protesting the use of sham "amateurs' by eastern bloc countries eventually led to the inclusion of professionals in 1988.
Famous Canadians: Besides famous hockey players, Canada has produced some other people. Some name you may have heard of: Jack Kent Cooke (sports team owner), Louis Mayer (co founder of MGM), Alexander Graham Bell (actually he was from Scotland but invented the telephone in Canada), James Naismith (inventor of basketball), and Peter Jennings (news anchor). They have produced a boatload of actors, including Pamela Anderson and musicians, including Neil Young.
Who the heck is Tim Horton? If you have ever been to Canada, no doubt you have seen or heard this name. Tim Hortons is a Canadian institution known for its coffee and doughnuts. It was founded in 1964 in Hamilton, Ontario by Canadian hockey player Tim Horton and another guy. Horton played in 24 seasons in the NHL for the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Buffalo Sabres. He died in an automobile crash in St. Catharines, Ontario, in 1974. He was 44. Today there are 2,700 locations in Canada, there are over 556 in Michigan, Ohio, New York and Connecticut. The company is larger than McDonalds in Canada.
The GAME: The 2010 United States Olympic Hockey team has blazed through every game they have played. A week ago they beat the Canadians in a memorable showdown. Both teams are stacked with NHL All Stars and future hall of famers.
This is going to a lot of fun to watch. I can not wait. Picking a winner in this one is tough. My heart so badly wants the Americans to win -- but my head believes Team Canada won't be beaten twice in their own country. I think this one is going to come down to a deflected shot for a goal. I hope I am wrong on who gets it.