Over the last few weeks I’ve been sharing a selection of my favourite stats and feats from my new book Canadian Geographic Biggest and Best of Canada: 1000 Facts & Figures (in stores now!). If you enjoy trivia, particularly Canadian trivia, or have a particular fascination with Canadian facts and accomplishments, you’ll surely enjoy my book. In the hopes of further capturing your interest, I’ve been sharing a top-10 selection of items from each category that particularly stood out for me. This week: sports and leisure.
1. The Winnipeg Falcons were the first team to win an Olympic gold medal in hockey, in 1920 in Antwerp, Belgium. At the time, the winner of the Allan Cup, awarded to the nation’s top senior men’s amateur hockey club, was selected to represent the country at the games. The Falcons dominated the tournament, besting Czechoslovakia 15-0, the United States 2-0 and Sweden 12-1 to claim gold. At the time the event was held in the summer.
2. The first person known to wear a goalie mask in a hockey game? Bet you didn’t know it was Elizabeth Graham. In 1927, Graham used a fencing mask to protect her face.
3. Talk about a sports dynasty. The first eight women’s World Hockey Championship tournaments were won by Canada. Canada beat the American team in each championship game, from the inaugural tournament in Ottawa in 1990 to the Halifax/Dartmouth event in 2004. (The 2003 tournament slated for Beijing, China, was cancelled.)
4. The game of ringette was invented in Canada by Sam Jacks, who at the time was the director of parks and recreation in North Bay, Ontario. The game, developed as an on-ice skating game for females, was first played in Espanola in northern Ontario in the winter of 1963—64.
5. The Queen’s Plate, held annually since 1860, is the oldest continuously run horse race in North America. Today, it’s run each July at Toronto’s Woodbine Racetrack. The race has been attended by reigning monarchs five times in its history, and by representatives of the monarchy another dozen times.
6. The first National Basketball Association game was played in Canada. On November 1, 1946, the New York Knickerbockers beat the Toronto Huskies 68 to 66 at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens.
7. In 1930, Hamilton, Ontario, was the first host of the British Empire Games, which eventually became the Commonwealth Games. Participating nations included Australia, Bermuda, British Guyana, England, Northern Ireland, Newfoundland, New Zealand, South Africa and Wales. The games featured six sports: athletics, boxing, lawn bowls, rowing, swimming and diving, and wrestling.
8. So baseball is America’s game, eh? Explain this: a year before the game’s accepted creator Abner Doubleday is credited with founding the sport, the first recorded baseball game in North America took place in Beachville, Ontario. Teams from Oxford and Zorra townships played on June 4, 1838.
9. Legendary baseball player Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run in Toronto. On September 5, 1914, as a 19-year-old rookie in the International League, Ruth hit that monumental homer at Maple Leaf Park on the Toronto Islands.
10. The Royal Montreal Golf Club is the oldest golf club in North America. Formed as the Montreal Golf Club in 1873 (it received the Royal designation in 1884), the first course was nine holes on Fletcher’s Field, part of Mount Royal Park on the outskirts of Montreal.