It could be our blend of backgrounds that has inspired so many creative innovations, or the way our vast, mysterious landscape ignites the imagination. Whatever the reason, Canadians have always been an inventive people. As signs of our national ingenuity can be found scattered throughout the realm of sport, Canada Post will release a set of four stamps celebrating Canada’s sporting inventions.
Hoping to devise an indoor game to fill the winter months between football and baseball seasons, James Naismith’s experiment in a YMCA class was an instant hit. A long way from its peach-basket beginnings, basketball is now an international athletic and marketing phenomenon that stands among the world’s most widely played sports.
When French explorers were first introduced to the native ball and stick game, baggataway, they called it “la crosse” for the stick’s resemblance to a bishop’s crosier. Europeans began playing the game in the 19th century, but rules were not standardized until lacrosse goalkeeper George W. Beers published the first set in Montreal in 1867. In 1994, lacrosse was declared the national summer sport of Canada.
When members of the Toronto Bowling Club complained about the weight of the standard ten-pin bowling ball, Thomas F. Ryan, the club’s co-founder, introduced a smaller ball and had his father whittle down five pins to match. He devised a new scoring system and introduced his game in 1909. This year, five-pin bowling, now the number-one participant sport in the country, celebrates its 100th anniversary. Note that on the first day cover, a bowler holds the coveted goose prize.
In 1963, Sam Jacks, Director of Parks and Recreation in North Bay, Ontario, combined the speed of hockey with the strategy of basketball to create ringette, an on-ice alternative to hockey for girls and women. Designed to emphasize skill and teamwork with no intentional body contact, Jacks was confident his game would be a hit—and it was. Today, more than 50,000 girls and women belong to ringette teams worldwide.
The stamps issued to commemorate these sporting innovations feature well-worn equipment used in each sport featured. “It’s very interesting how dramatically these four games range in their starting points, from lacrosse’s Aboriginal origins to the far more recent inventions of five-pin bowling and ringette,” notes Peter Scott, Creative Director at Toronto’s q30 design inc. “As much of the equipment has evolved over time, we had a wide selection of artifacts to choose from. We decided to feature those most in keeping with the sports’ beginnings, which are indebted to the creative thinking of their Canadian inventors.” This historic feature is also extended into the stamps’ backgrounds, which portray linear diagrams of each sport’s playing field. Scott explains, “These diagrams indicate Canada’s role in formalizing these games, accounting for their current status as competitive sports.” The first day cover looks back to each sport’s modest beginnings with historic photographs of five-pin bowling, ringette, lacrosse and basketball teams.
Images courtesy of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.