The Shared Sport History of Canada and the United States


Canada and the United States are tied together at so many different levels. That includes having our national holidays three days apart, making for interesting shared long weekends like the one that ushered in the second half of 2022 this past week. What began as a Canadian long weekend with Canada Day celebrating confederation on July 1st, 1867 ended as an American long weekend commemorating the signing of the politically iconic Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776.

The ties that bond Canada to the U.S. – and vice-versa – include our shared British roots. They also include our combined sport history. It’s a sport history that includes the creation of the original rules of basketball in 1891 by Canadian-American chaplain, physical educator and coach James Naismith, while working for the YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts. About a century and a quarter later, basketball is generally-regarded as the second most popular sport in North America. When we celebrate hoops at the BC Sports Hall of Fame, we acknowledge the history that was made in 2019 when the Toronto Raptors won their first NBA championship in franchise history – and we proudly point to the connection of Honoured Member Alex McKechnie of Burnaby, B.C. to that team. Alex was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame as a builder in 2018 and proudly brought the Larry O’Brien Trophy to the Sports Hall at BC Place in August of 2019.

There are also many intersection points between Canada and the sport of baseball in the U.S., from BC Sports Hall of Famer Larry Walker (Class of 2009). Walker is a product of Maple Ridge, B.C., and played for the Montreal Expos, Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals before being named to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. in the summer of 2021. Walker is just one example of many Canadian athletes who played professionally on both sides of the 49th parallel. Jeff Francis, Vancouver-born, North Delta-raised and an alumnus of the UBC baseball program, made the World Series with the Rockies in 2007 and was inducted to follow in Walker’s footsteps as part of our Class of 2020. Justin Morneau of New Westminster – a member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and the Minnesota Twins Baseball Hall of Fame but not yet the BC Sports Hall of Fame — is another example of how Canadians (and British Columbians) have raised their games and made their presence felt on the continental stage in both baseball and basketball.

There are plenty of Can-Am moments in football in the BC Sports Hall of Fame, in both the Canadian Football League and the NFL. Among the most famous: The three Super Bowl rings won as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers by BC Sports Hall of Famer and kicker Roy Gerela of Powell River, B.C. (Class of 2019). The same can be said for soccer, where American Jay DeMerit will always be remembered as the first captain of the MLS version of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC. His connectivity to Canada is only heightened as the husband of Vancouver 2010 ski cross gold medalist Ashleigh McIvor, a member of the BC Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2012. Of course, Christine Sinclair (Class of 2015) and her Canadian national women’s teammates have such a heated rivalry with their U.S. counterparts, who won the FIFA 2015 Women’s World Cup against Japan at BC Place, a goal kick away from the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

And what can one say about the special moments that have been produced in hockey between Canada and the U.S.? Many such moments have been created by arguably one of the best rivalries in all of sport, the one-two punch prominence of Canada and the U.S. in multiple women’s hockey World Championships and Olympic Winter Games, including Canadian gold at Vancouver 2010. Former Vancouver Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo, “golden goal” scorer Sidney Crosby and overtime set up man Jarome Iginla will be forever enshrined in our hockey memories for that magnificent gold medal game between Canada and the U.S. (Note that “Iggy” pops up again as a member of the 1995 Kamloops Blazers Western Hockey League team, one of the best ever inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame).

Shaun White and Lindsey Vonn, American gold medalists on Canadian soil at Vancouver 2010 and Burnaby Joe Sakic and Lori Fung, golden British Columbians on American ground at Salt Lake 2002 and Los Angeles 1984, respectively, are only two of the countless pairs of Canadians and Americans who prove that the shared storytelling is strong when it comes to Can-Am moments in BC sports history. So do iconic and globally-recognized athletes such as Babe Ruth and Mohammad Ali, who are part of BC sports history along with countless other snowboarders, skiers, figure skaters, softball players, rowers, boxers, wrestlers, golfers and tennis players such as Grant Connell, who won many (12) of his 22 ATP Tour doubles titles with his long-time American partner Patrick Galbraith, four with Canadian-born and naturalized American Glenn Michibata and another with American Todd Martin (not to mention yet another with Zimbabwe’s Byron Black).

They are just a few of the athletes from dozens of different sports that bring the two countries together in a shared sport history that is as long as the world’s longest unprotected, shared border. Many of those moments have strong BC connections – especially given that our province borders with the United States — and are immortalized at the BC Sports Hall of Fame.


Tom Mayenknecht, Chair

BC Sports Hall of Fame

Tom Mayenknecht is the Chair of the BC Sports Hall of Fame. A principal at Emblematica Brand Builders in Vancouver and a nationally-recognized sport business commentator and founder and host of The Sport Market sport business radio show, he is a strong advocate for KidSport, Right To Play and other children’s charities. He is also a member of the Ringette Canada Hall of Fame as a builder and Chair of the Paul Carson Sports Broadcast & Media Awards.