Retro Winter Recreation and Travel Ads

Temperatures this far south, as well as the extreme cold gripping much of eastern Canada this week, leave no doubt that we’re deep in the heart of winter.  Because of this, my thoughts turn toward skiing, ice skating, hockey and other winter recreations and the many places above the 49th parallel — among them Banff, Quebec, Whistler, the Laurentians and Jasper — that are popular destinations for cold weather and snowy pastimes.  So, I thought I’d share some retro travel ads and posters touting these places and this season’s activities.  Many of these are from the Canadian Pacific Railway, which engaged in  a wide range of travel promotions for locations throughout Canada (and beyond).  The vivid graphics work their magic by conveying visions of boundless wintry pleasures.  Among the more distinctive of these works are those by Peter Ewart and Roger Couillard, two of the more notable artists commissioned for their attractive illustrations.  More Canadian Pacific travel posters may be seen here on an earlier O’Canada Blog post.

Image Credits:  Library and Archives Canada; Canadian Pacific Railway Archives

The Great Fogo Island Punt Race 2011

Rowers in the 2010 Fogo Island Punt Race

Today marks the fifth annual running in Newfoundland of the Great Fogo Island Punt Race, a 10-mile endurance race that requires its challengers to row punts (essentially, small row boats) across five miles of open ocean between Fogo Island and Change Islands and back.  The official event website is here, which includes a couple of fascinating videos, including “Postcard From Fogo Island”, a gorgeous short video about the race which can also be found here on the website of the Shorefast Foundation.  Aside from being great fun, the annual race celebrates the boating heritage of Newfoundland and its reliance on the durable punt, a craft that the people throughout the province have relied upon for over 300 years.

The Long Studio on Fogo Island

I’ve commented on Fogo Island previously in a post on the National Film Board of Canada’s 1967 documentary “The Children of Fogo Island.”  In addition to its achingly beautiful scenery, this rugged island paradise in Atlantic Canada has a lot going for it, not the least of which is the resilient spirit of its people and their strong sense of community.   Fogo Island’s Shorefast Foundation has done a remarkable job in just a few short years in promoting both deliberate economic development and a phenomenally vibrant arts community.  Providing a good examplef this, is the above photo is of the Long Studio, one of three recently constructed and strikingly innovatively designed arts studios on the island as part of a series of broader arts initiatives fostered by the Fogo Island Arts Corporation and the Shorefast Foundation.

Alomar Becomes First Blue Jay in Baseball Hall of Fame

“And especially, to all the Toronto Blue Jay fans [and] the entire organization, thank you for your loyalty and support.  My time in Toronto was the best of my career.  It was with Toronto that we won two World Series together.  You guys embraced me from Day one. You were with me through ups and downs and I am so proud to represent you here in Cooperstown as the first Toronto Blue Jay elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.”

— Roberto Alomar, commenting on his July 24, 2011 induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the first Toronto Blue Jay player to be inducted

Atlanta’s Loss = Winnipeg’s Win

Well-placed rumors have it that a group in Winnipeg is in the final stretches of sealing a deal to purchase the Atlanta Thrashers NHL franchise and relocate the team to Winnipeg.  Here in Atlanta there’s great lament about possibly becoming the only U.S. city to lose two pro hockey teams to Canadian venues — the first being the loss in 1980 of the Atlanta Flames to Calgary.  An official announcement may come as early as today.

Reasons abound for why Atlanta would find itself in the position of losing a pro team, with local columnists trotting out the lack of fan support as the number one reason, although many die-hard hockey fans beg to differ and attribute the move to mismanagement of the team by the current owners.  Although the view that management shortcomings are to blame may have some legs to it, fan support is an issue in a city like Atlanta, where there are simply too many competing professional sports teams, which ends up diluting the focus of local sports fans rallying behind either a single or just a few teams.

Reports suggest that Winnipeggers are ecstatic about the impending move.  Even so, Winnipeg will have its own challenges making a go of this opportunity given that the city lost the Winnipeg Jets franchise about 15 years ago following financial issues then and ultimately leading to the relocation of that NHL team to Phoenix.  Well, we’ll know soon enough how this game of musical chairs will continue.

Vancouver Canucks Not Canadian Enough?

 Canucks Fans (Photo Credit:

Interesting and very entertaining piece written by Jeff Klein in today’s New York Times about the ambivalent feeling shared by many Canadians — at least outside of British Columbia — regarding the Vancouver Canucks, which is the only Canadian team still in the playoffs for the Stanley Cup.  While Canadians would undoubtedly be proud to see a home team win the championship for the first time since 1983, the persistent regional / provincial rivalries and the roster of Vancouver team (being comprised of fewer actual Canadians than some U.S. teams),  leave many hockey fans uncertain.  Among the humorous observations noted in the article is this quote by Paul McDonagh of Dawson City, Yukon Territory:  “Of course, we’re supporting the Canucks.  It’s kind of a love-hate thing [many Canadians] have with Vancouver, like with Toronto.  Only with Toronto it’s mostly hate.”

Canadian Runners and Divers Make Marks

Eric Fattah at the Blue Hole FRC - Photo: Peter Scott

Eric Fattah at the Vertical Blue Free Diving Competition in the Bahamas

As they say, when it rains it pours, and so it is with a number of Canadian achievements in individual sports that I’ve recently noticed (and I’m sure there are many more that I’ve not noticed).  Specifically:

  • Torontonian Jean Marmoreo became the first woman to win her age group (65 – 69) three times in the Boston Marathon when she completed this year’s race this past Monday.
  • At the end of last month, Derek Nakulski of Kitchener became the first Canadian since 1996 to win the Around The Bay Road Race,  a 30K race that is held annually in Hamilton, Ontario and is North America’s oldest road race.
  • Eric Fattah of Vancouver set a record last week among Canadians with his free dive of 341 feet (104 meters) at the Vertical Blue Competition held in the Bahamas.  This last seems particularly impressive given that Canada has lots of water but none as warm as the places where free divers (who dive as deep as they can without the aid of oxygen) achieve their greatest feats and seems akin to the incredible bobsled teams of a Caribbean island that famously competed in several Winter Olympics games.

Photo Credit:  Peter Scott

The Glories of Hockey

While I’ve previously written about the significance of hockey to Canada, the abundance of hockey stories of late seems greater than usual and so caught my attention.  Maybe it’s because as regular season NHL play winds down, sports writers and others with commentary to share on some slice of the hockey world feel pressed to get their pieces wrapped up before the post-season dictates a more focused narrative.    Among the more interesting stories I’ve seen in the past couple of weeks is one from the March 1 edition of the NY Times on the rough-and-tumble Ligue Nord-Americaine de Hockey.   That Quebec-based league, which is not well known below the border, averages about 3.2 fights per game as compared to about 0.6 fights per comparatively tame NHL game.  Continue reading

2011 Canada Winter Games Opens This Weekend


This Friday marks the opening of the 2011 Canada Winter Games, which are being hosted in Halifax, N.S.  The Canada Games occur every two years and alternate between summer and winter games.  Halifax last hosted  the Canada games in 1969 when the first Summer Games (and the second Canada Games) were held there.  The idea of all the provinces coming together in a single national event to foster competition among over 2,700 of the country’s talented young athletes  in at least 20 sports is remarkable.  Having seen some of the promo videos and other materials for this year’s Games, the schedule, which extends through February 27, looks to be as exciting as ever.

More info is available on the official website for the 2011 Canada Games at .

Olympics Ending With a Bang


Up to now I’ve purposely avoided posting anything on the Vancouver Olympics simply because there is so much content about the games readily available from many other sources and commentators who are far more knowledgable and insightful about the Olympics than myself.   As this quadrennial display of athletic prowess draws to a close, there are many incredible moments — some poignant and some spectacular — from the past two weeks that will make these Winter Games memorable.

I’ve only seen a fraction of the games this year but some of the moments that stand out include the unfortunate death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, the consistent excellence of Canadian Ashleigh McIvor in the debut of Ski Cross as she handily achieved gold, the mistaken lane mishap of Dutch speed skater Sven Kramer, the first Olympic gold for the U.S.’s Bode Miller, the record eighth medal garnered by U.S. short-track skater Apolo Ohno, and the record-setting points achieved by Kim Yu-Na of South Korea in her gold medal performance.

However, the matchup of Canada and the United States in the men’s hockey final on Sunday is for me the pinnacle of such exciting moments given the back story leading up to this match.  After seeing the U.S. best Canada in the preliminary round, one could readily empathize with the crestfallen despair of Canadians everywhere.  I dare say hockey is truly Canada’s game (its dominance in the arcane world of ice curling notwithstanding) and for the national team to endure an early loss in their own country surely startled the Canadian players at least as much as it probably surprised what was then regarded as the underdog U.S. team.

Weighing conventional wisdom about these two teams against the hockey results so far in Vancouver,  it is difficult to say who should be counted as the underdog and who the favorite going into the final.  This deciding game is likely to be at least as memorable as the astounding surprise victories of the U.S. team 50 years ago  in the 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Games and the later 1980 “Miracle on Ice” at the Lake Placid Winter Olympics.  Regardless of how each team fares on Sunday, here’s hoping for many more future and equally exciting Winter Olympics finals matches between these two countries.

Postscript (2/28/10):  Team Canada pulls off the win 3-2 in overtime play, after the U.S. tied up the score 2-2 with less than 24 seconds left in regulation play.  An exciting finish from two teams with great heart!

(Photos Courtesy of Creative Commons)

Here Comes the Winter Olympics

For the second time, Canada is set to host the Winter Olympics (the first being in Calgary in 1988).  Here in Atlanta, where I now live, we hosted the Summer Olympics in 1996 and I recall the city was abuzz about the preparations and anticipation of having the event come together and being the focal point for so much of the world’s sports attention.  I’ve no doubt that Vancouver — what an amazing place! — will acquit itself well and that the planners and the city itself will all breathe a collective sigh of exhilaration and relief and deserve a well-earned pat on the back as the games draw to a close in about two weeks time.  Good luck to the athletes — and godspeed Vancouver!

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