Home | Canadian Firsts in Sport | Canadian Innovation In Sport
Mini Documentary Canadian Innovation in Sport
[Narrator - Cassie Campbell-Pascall, image of Moe Norman golfing, bobsleigh team, wheelchair curling, curling hack, footage of Canadian Flag flying, with repeat of four images just described, Cassie Campbell-Pascall, images of Jacques Plante and Patrick Roy wearing face masks, Rick Hansen in wheelchair, wheelchair racing, early and current curling action, Sarnia Imperial player in action, Warren Moon running with the football, early skiiers and current para-skiiers, RCAF Flyers action, Scott Niedermeyer with two Team Canada players on the ice, early and current ski jumping.]
What do these things have in common? The one plane golf swing, push-through start in bobsled, the extender stick, the curling hack; they are all Canadian sport innovations. There can be little doubt that innovation is central to success in sport. In fact, to put it more simply without innovation, winning in sport can't happen, but innovation comes from all types of different places. Sometimes innovation is determination; sometimes it is more intelligent thinking or greater awareness of problems that other athletes and coaches hadn't seen, sometimes it comes from a group of people always trying to improve, and sometimes it is pure chance. Wherever innovation comes from, it takes great courage. Innovation by its definition is the natural born enemy of the way things were before. Innovation prompts others to fear, laugh at, ridicule, or more simply completely ignore the innovators, but innovation is always inspiration and every innovator deserves the highest respect and accolade because of their refusal to accept the status quo and nothing but the highest standards.
[Cassie Campbell-Pascall, images of Moe Norman golfing, putting, carrying golf bag, sitting on his car bumper with his many golf clubs beside him, hitting a ball with an iron, Moe Norman with four young players.]
One of Canada's greatest yet largely unheralded sporting innovators was golfer Moe Norman. There are only a handful of iconic golfers in the game's history and two of them, Sam Snead and Tiger Woods, both recognize Moe Norman as the greatest golfer to ever strike a ball. Norman had a distinctive golf swing that was unlike any other golf swing of any other top player in the world. His single plane swing involved a series of unconventional golf swing positions that no top players and few teachers ever endorsed. Even Todd Graves, who is today the official authority on Moe Norman's School of Golf, said "I thought some of his ideas were a bit outrageous, and yes sometimes crazy." But Norman refused to consider striking the golf ball any other way. Norman won two Canadian Amateur Golf Championships, two CPGA Championships, and five CPGA Senior Championships. Sadly, Norman's refusal to be like other golfers and his natural shyness led to a lack of acceptance on the world's greatest golfing stage, the US Tour, and he played mainly in Canada throughout his career. Nonetheless, today, the Moe Norman method of swinging the golf club is part of a unique school of golf that has helped in excess of 1.8 million golfers and Norman's high status in the game of golf is firmly planted.
[Cassie Campbell-Pascall with ski jumping image in background, numerous images of 1964 bobsleigh team sitting beside bobsleigh, riding bobsleigh, European bobsleigh coming down the track, Austria bobsleigh coming down the track, images of 1964 bobsleigh team riding Canada 1 and Canada 2 bobsleighs, four team members.]
Not surprisingly, most Canadian innovations have tended to occur in winter sports. Of the most inspirational innovations was Canada's 1964 Winter Olympic winning four men bobsled team standout. In the 1960's, the dominant bobsled nations were all from Europe where the sport had a long standing tradition. In direct contrast, in North America, bobsled had little if any tradition. From that disadvantaged position, the Canadian team which included brothers John and Vic Emery, as well as Doug Anakin and Peter Kirby were long in spirit and creativity and considered the intellectual team. They constantly tried new ways to match the starting and sliding times of the stronger, faster Austrian and Italian Teams. Instead of pulling the 350 kilo sled through at the countdown, followed by a twisting push start, the Team devised a push-through start that moved them closer to their rivals. Before 1956, no weight limit was imposed on bobsled crews with the result that the heaviest team invariably won through the sheer force of gravity. When a weight limit was eventually imposed, the Canadian Team devised a way to distribute the weight in the sled whereby there was more weight on the back runners than the front ones. This meant a little more speed and the advantage needed to win, and to the surprise of the watching sporting world, they won gold at the 1964 Olympic Winter Games.
[Cassie Campbell-Pascall, images of Rusty Drew and his wife curling, ExtendeR stick, Rusty's wife curling with the stick.]
Equally as inspirational, albeit for different reasons, was Rusty Drew's extended curling stick innovation. Drew's wife was having increasing difficulties curling in the traditional ways and Drew was determined to help so that she could continue to enjoy the sport they both loved. Drew designed an extended stick, the ExtendeR Stick that would help his wife deliver the stone, and so successful was the innovation that within four years he had sold over 11,000 sticks to both able bodied and wheelchair athletes.
[Cassie Campbell-Pascall, footage of close-up of curling rocks and people curling in the background, close-up of rubber hack, Cassie Campbell-Pascall with footage of curlers behind, images of Jacques Plante and Patrick Roy wearing face masks.]
Sometimes innovation occurs through chance and presents an opportunity that only a resourceful thinker is able to take advantage of, as in the case of Elias "Ole" Olson. In a bonspiel in Saskatoon in 1939, Olson slipped having carefully prepared the perfect shot. He was so irritated at his bad luck that he became determined to resolve the problem. By baking rubber into a thick set platform, Olson created a rubber hack embedded into the ice that was so successful, all the local clubs immediately bought it and the hack became standardized throughout curling.
Wherever innovation comes from, without it athletes and their coaches will never progress and sport would not be the amazing spectacle that continues to inspire millions of people today, and as a result we should be inspired by every innovator that dares to overcome any obstacle and that dares to be different.