10 of the Most Iconic Hall of Famers in Canadian Sports HistorySeptember 2, 2021
Canadians are passionate about sports, whether it's action on the ice in the NHL, or the global sporting drama of the Summer and Winter Olympics. Although most at home in snowy and icy terrain, Canadian sports have produced heroic performances on the track and in the major leagues, providing inspiration for aspiring youngsters to this day. Here are ten of the finest Hall of Famers to hail from Canada.
Canada's Most Successful F1 Driver and Hall of Famer
Jacques Villeneuve, son of the legendary Gilles, followed his father's footsteps into the world of Formula 1 and managed to achieve that which had eluded his father: the world championship title. His first forays into motor racing was go-karting at a young age, and later in life he funded racing lessons by working as a garage painter. In 1988 he made his racing debut in the Italian Touring Car Championship, and went on to sign a three year contract in the Italian Formula Three Championship, but his big break came in 1996 when he joined the Williams F1 team to land arguably the coolest job in sports.
In his first season Villeneuve competed with team mate Damon Hill for the title, but ultimately the Briton won despite a very strong season from the Canadian racer. He finished runner up and won four races in his debut year, an impressive achievement by any measure, but in 1997 it was even better. Villeneuve took the title for Williams, leading the team as Hill left for Arrows. This time his rival was no less a figure than Michael Schumacher and the title tilted this way and that, but in the end the Canadian Hall of Famer ended up on top and became the first man from Canada to take the F1 title.
Canadian Sports' Leading Multi-disciplinary Winner
He's not a Hall of Famer yet, but it would be no surprise to see Damian Warner join that august company in the near future. There are few sporting challenges as immense as the decathlon, a multi-disciplinary sport that requires phenomenal dedication to master wildly varying events in order to win overall. In the Summer Olympics of 2021 (officially the 2020 Olympics) Warner beat the world across the smorgasbord of decathlon events to claim the gold medal for Canada - much to the delight of those sports betting at Sports Interaction. He had been tipped as one of the two main contenders, the other being France's Kevin Mayer. Warner started as he meant to go on, breaking the Olympic record time in the 100m sprint and setting another Olympic record in the long jump, before doing the same again in the 110m hurdles. And, to cap it off, his points tally of 9018 was, you guessed it, another Olympic record.
Warner's Olympic gold is added to the bronze he won in Rio 2016 and golds from the Commonwealth and Pan American Games. He's already indicated his desire to defend his title when the Games return in Paris in 2024.
The Best Canadian Golfer
When it comes to the realm of Canadian golf, one star shines brighter than the rest, and that star is Mike Weir. This Hall of Famer is also a left-handed player, and has achieved the feat of becoming the only Canadian player to ever claim a major (when he won the Masters in 2003). Nor was this a flash in the pan, with Weir showing remarkable consistency as proven by his 110 weeks in the top 10 of the rankings (between 2001 and 2005).
Golf was not the first sport this Canadian tried, like many others hockey held sway initially. Shifting to golf, Weir was fortunate to be gifted some left-handed clubs early on until, at the age of 12, his first tournament win bagged him a full set of irons. Come 1992, Weir became a pro and in 1999 his victory at the Air Canada Championship ended a 45 year wait for a Canadian to win a PGA Tour event in Canada. One of his finest seasons came in 2003, when he won multiple tournaments, including the Masters, the Nissan Open, and the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. That same year he hit his ranking high point of third spot, and in 2004 he won the Nissan Open for the second year on the trot. Although form, affected by injury, would wax and wane in the later years, he remains Canadian sports' leading golfer by some distance.
Canadian Sports' Most Determined Star
Ice hockey is one of the Canadian national sports so it's fitting we begin our look at a septet of great Hall of Famers on the ice. And there are few more famous athletes than Mario Lemieux, also known by various nicknames such as Super Mario and The Magnificent One. Does Lemieux deserve such epithets? Well, his record speaks for itself. A feinting giant on the ice, this hockey legend spent all 17 of his NHL seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins and led them to one of the best sporting comebacks winning the Stanley Cup glory on two consecutive occasions, before winning three as an owner and becoming the only man to get his name engraved as both a player and owner.
Feats and accolades are Lemieux's in almost embarrassing abundance. No other player has scored from every one of the five possible situations in a single NHL game, and he won a quartet of Lester B. Pearson Awards. Three Hart Trophies for being the league's MVP were also his, as were half a dozen Art Ross Trophies as the NHL's leading points scorer. On the international stage he led his country to Olympic gold in 2002 and the 1987 Canada Cup.
Perhaps most incredible is that much of Lemieux's impeccable sporting performances were made amid significant pain which meant he never completed a full season. Cancer and back pain so severe others had to tie his laces were just two of the many medical ailments that held him back, but despite all that he's still generally seen as one of the best players in NHL history.
Queen of the Slopes
The only Hall of Famer on our list who not only accomplished great things for Canadian sports but went on to become a senator, Nancy Greene exceeded expectations in just about every way and is one of the most well known Canadian champions. Born in Ottawa, Greene moved to Rossland at a young age and cut her skiing teeth on the infamously challenging, even dangerous, Red Mountain. This most intimidating of skiing sites proved the perfect preparation for a future Olympian.
During her career Greene won the Canadian ski championship on nine occasions and was thrice the winner at the United States championship. When she arrived at the 1967 World Cup, Europeans dominated the sport. The same was not true when she left, having won almost half of the events (seven of 16) and claiming the overall title for herself, and for Canada. But it was 1968 that saw Greene win Olympic gold, skiing in Grenoble. She dominated the giant slalom to become champion by a crushing margin, before bagging silver in the slalom. The same year she retained her World Cup title too. Fast forward to 2009 and Greene was appointed to the Senate, serving faithfully until 2018 when she retired.
The Best Baseball Canadian Hall of Famer
Born in Maple Ridge in British Columbia, Larry Walker is a baseball Hall of Famer who spent 17 years in the MLB, an extensive career during which he racked up an array of accolades, silverware, and records. Ironically, he spent his youth watching the NHL and dreaming of being a goaltender, but hockey's loss was baseball's gain and the Montreal Expos signed him up. Walker subsequently joined the Colorado Rockies, and in a six year period he was the major league batting leader half the time and second on two occasions. After the Rockies, Walker joined the St. Louis Cardinals in time to help the team contest the World Series against the Boston Red Sox.
His lengthy career and prodigious skill enabled Walker to earn a bevy of awards, including being named MVP of the National League in 1997. This was perhaps unsurprising as in that season he'd managed to become the only man in MLB history to achieve both a .700 slugging percentage (SLG) and 30 stolen bases. From 1997 to 1999 he also had a batting average of .360, the first player in more than half a century to do this for three seasons in a row. Not to mention the seven Gold Glove Awards, three Silver Slugger Awards, nine Tip O'Neill Awards, and being considered the best athlete in all of Canadian sports in 1998 when he won the Lou Marsh Trophy.
The Fastest Man in Canada
Canada excels at the Winter Games but also has its fair share of Summer Olympics success stories, and one of the best Hall of Famers the country has ever seen, and one of the most outspoken, is Donovan Bailey. Born in Jamaica and an Olympian under the Canadian sports flag, Bailey was dominant on the track in a career that was crowned with golden glory but sadly cut short by injury. Bailey was 12 when he migrated to Canada and began racing on a professional basis in 1990. Just four years later he was part of the 4 x 100m relay team that took gold in the Commonwealth Games. And the Gothenburg World Championships in 1995 proved even better, with a pair of golds in the 100m and the 4 x 100m relay once again.
The stage was set for the Atlanta Olympics of 1996, with Bailey now widely seen as one of the favourites for gold on both an individual and team basis. And the fastest sprinter in Canadian sports history did not disappoint. Bailey claimed the 100m gold medal with a new record time, and played his part securing the relay team's now customary gold medal for the 4 x 100m relay. A year later he sealed the deal as the fastest man in the world by beating Michael Johnson (the 200m gold medallist in Atlanta) in a one-off 150m race. Bailey had to settle for silver in the World Championships of that year, but injuries meant that he never competed in another Olympics.
Speed Skater and Hall of Famer
Cindy Klassen is a speed skater and the joint most successful Olympian in Canadian sports history, with half a dozen medals to her name (tying with Clara Hughes, below). Her medal haul began with a bronze in 2002, during the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. A year after this Klassen put in a fantastic performance at the World Speed Skating Championships to become the first Canadian in over a quarter of a century to claim the overall title. In fact, this proved to be something of an omen for how her next Winter Olympics would unfold.
In 2006 the Games were held in Turin, and Klassen evidently found the Italian surroundings very much to her liking. As in the preceding Olympics, she won bronze in the 3000m, but didn't stop there. Klassen also won bronze in the 5000m, and silver in the team pursuit, as well as silver in 1000m. Four medals in one Games might be enough for some, but Klassen get the cherry on the cake with gold in the 1,500m, taking her tally to six medals in total (a Canadian sports joint record) and five in one Olympics, an achievement no other Canadian Hall of Famer has managed before or since. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she won the Lou Marsh Trophy in 2006, officially recognizing her as Canada's best athlete in that year.
Canadian Sports' Medal Machine from Winnipeg
To be an Olympian in a single category is impressive, and to cover more than one is astonishing. But there are very few athletes indeed who have won Olympic medals not only in differing sports but in both Summer and Winter Games. Clara Hughes is one such individual, which makes her one of the most talented individuals in Canadian sports history. She's won medals in no fewer than four Olympic Games. The first of these was the 1996 Summer Olympics, when her sport of choice was cycling. Hughes bagged a brace of bronzes, one in the road race and another in the time trial.
Despite this great result, Hughes decided to shift her focus, retaining her love of speed but moving from cycling to skating. And that meant shifting from Summer to Winter Olympics. Her first medal success was at the Salt Lake City Games of 2002, when she achieved bronze in the 5000m (a feat she repeated in 2010 in Vancouver). But Turin 2006 was her best Olympic result, winning silver in the team pursuit and becoming Olympic champion in the 5000m. Not only did that complete her medal set, but it also made Hughes the only person to ever win multiple Olympic medals in both Summer and Winter Games. With half a dozen medals to her name, only Cindy Klassen can match her for Canadian sporting success. Usually folks only have this sort of luck when they use Canadian no deposit bonuses at casinos, but the truth is that 100% dedication is what contributed to her success.
Canadian Sports' King of the Ice
It's no surprise that our last man makes the list, as he is for many Canadian sports fans simply the greatest athlete the country has ever produced. As one of the wealthiest sports stars in Canada, Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky retired decades ago but still dominates the offensive record books of the NHL, making him a figure that stands above his sport in the manner of Tiger Woods or Michael Schumacher. Gretzky was born in Brantford (Ontario) and benefited from being able to play hockey growing up thanks to a backyard rink that proved a fantastic investment by his parents. Although not a titan in size, Gretzky had the sharpest of sporting minds and a level of endurance that was the envy of his rivals. So, how good was he?
No other player has scored more than 200 points in any season. And Gretzky did it four times. Of his 20 seasons in the NHL, 16 of them saw him score in excess of 100 points. He retired in 1999, and at that moment he held an almost greedy number of NHL records, 61 in total. He tops the charts for most points per game, short-handed goals, empty net goals, assists, assists per game, and the list goes on and on.
Nor is Gretzky running short when it comes to silverware. He led the Edmonton Oilers to a quartet of Stanley Cup triumphs, won nine Hart Trophies for being the most valuable player, and 10 Art Ross Trophies for scoring most points in a season (half the seasons he played). As playoff MVP he earned himself a pair of Conn Smythe Trophies, and received a quintet of Lester B. Pearson Awards for being deemed the most outstanding player by his peers.
And the King of Ice brings us to an end of our leading Canadian sports heroes from the major leagues and Olympics, both Summer and Winter. Let's hope the next Wayne Gretzky is just around the corner.