Canada: The 17 in ’17 Bit (Part 1)

Display in the (now defunct..?) museum in Charlottetown, PEI's Founders Hall.

Display in the (now defunct..?) museum in Charlottetown, PEI’s Founders Hall.

So 2017 looks like quite the year for landmark anniversaries!  My LA Kings turn 50.  It’s the 100th anniversary of the NHL and of independent Finland – a country from which half my ancestors and plenty of great NHLers hail.  It’s also Canada’s 150 birthday!

To celebrate “The True North’s” sesquicentennial, I’m doin’ a list!  I’ve compiled 17 miens, memories and moments – a random sampling of the many reasons Canada has a dear place in this American’s heart!  And here, in no particular order, are the first 8:

1.  An Overview of Overviews

I’ve never been able to resist a good view!  Whether it takes an elevator ride, plane flight or uphill climb to get it, I’m always ready to pursue a panorama – and I’ve been lucky to catch some magnificent ones in Canada:

tesserology bow river

The mighty Bow River from Alberta’s Banff Springs Hotel.

tesserology rockies from the air

A section of the Canadian Rockies from a plane.

tesserology niagara falls

The awe-inspiring Niagara Falls from Skylon Tower.

2.  Show Me the Color of Money!

Maybe it’s a sign I never quite grew up, but I love currency like Canada’s that’s all different colors – and when you’re in a land where the coins have nicknames like “loonie” and “toonie,” you just know you’re going to have a good time!

3.  Back (and Forth!) to Nature

Something I’ve savored in my Canadian rambles is that even in the midst of urban environs, I never seem far from magnificent natural ones!

Take Vancouver (easily the Canadian city to which I’ve been the most).  I used to visit every year for a women’s recreational hockey tournament and it’s remained a favorite vacation destination when I don’t feel like choosing between culture and countryside.

tesserology vancouver

Vancouver from Granville Island – and mountains just visible beyond.

One of the mountains beyond (where the Olympics were held in 2010!).

4.  Gold Medal for Humor

Though I didn’t get to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver (or to any other – yet), I at least wanted to check out their Olympic cauldron.  It’s actually four intermingling conduits jutting up beside the harbor – and for me, it’s a monument both to sport and to good humor!

tesserology olympic cauldron

Vancouver Olympic Cauldron.

During the opening ceremonies, the indoor version of the cauldron was supposed to emerge arm by arm from the floor to be lit by four legends of Canadian sport.  But one arm malfunctioned and refused to rise, leaving speed skater Catriona LeMay Doan all alone just carrying a torch.  And boy have I been there…

So what to do when a relationship fail happens in front of gazillions of people?  Launch an inquiry?  Pretend it didn’t happen?  Hope at least some of those gazillions were off grabbing snacks in the kitchen?  Even without a lit flame, I’d have feared getting burned again.

But in Vancouver they opted to view it as a comic opportunity, adding a humorous bit to the closing ceremonies where a guy affects repairs, giving Ms. LeMay Doan a chance to light the cauldron after all.  Proof that whether or not the course of true love – or true spectacle – runs smooth, you might as well have a laugh!

5.  “Brava, Brava, Bravissima!”

Sports have always been a big part of my life – but other interests have drawn me north of the border, such as (nerd alert!) a love of musical theatre.

Yes, back in the 80’s, while fellow students were zombie dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, my Glee Club buds and I were thrilling to the voices of Michael Crawford in Phantom of the Opera and Colm Wilkinson in Les Misérables!  

And it was the quest for a well-belted show tune that first led me to Toronto.  My friend Sharon and I were dying to see Colm Wilkinson as the Phantom – so we bought tickets months in advance with no way to be certain he’d still even be playing the role.  But we optimistically arranged for the Toronto date to be the finale of a grand tour through Montreal, Quebec City and Ottawa.

I have to own that the nuggets of Canadian history we picked up along the way were more news to me than they should have been.  It was a real education to tour Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, and a bit of a shock to wander Quebec City battlements and read how the fortifications were built to ward off invasion by…us?  What a relief that Sharon’s and my contemporary conquest as Americans was only to see a good show and give poutine a try!

tesserology Ottawa

View of Ottawa’s Parliament Hill.

During our “March to Toronto,” many a plate of poutine did meet its end.  But, even as we sat in the theatre in those final hours, I still couldn’t bring myself to trust that “Operation Music of the Night” had been a success.  In the show, you hear the Phantom’s voice before you see him – so when Wilkinson’s soulful tones first reached us from offstage, it was breathtaking confirmation that our cross-province mission had been accomplished.

And it had all been simply delicious!

6.  The Best Game You Can Name

And then there’s ice hockey!  I’ve had wonderful experiences playing in the States – but I always feel a special reverence in the country where the game we know was born.

Years after The Phantom, I returned to Toronto for a tour of the Hockey Hall of Fame and total immersion in all things twig and biscuit, complete with a post-tour meal at Wayne Gretzky’s restaurant!

tesserology hockey hall of fame

Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame!

tesserology locker room at the hall

Surrounding myself with hockey history!

Speaking of The Great One, my visit to Edmonton couldn’t be complete without a stop at Wayne’s statue (in its former location) memorializing his terrific success as an Oiler.  I was hoping some of his amazing ability might rub off on me for my game – but I think it’s safe to say this did not, in fact, occur.  Still, mad skills or bad, playing hockey has been one of the pure and altogether unanticipated joys of my life!

tesserology gretz n me

Me and The Great One!

7.  “Scope for the Imagination”

Okay, I am aware that there are other fine exports from Canada – including in the field of entertainment.

Among the Canadian big- and small-screen exports I’ve enjoyed are the hilarious and brilliant SCTV series, the sweet and heartwarming Anne of Green Gables saga and the haunting and poignant film, Away from Her.  Also, one of my all time favorite series from any nation is Slings and Arrows – to which I could apply all the adjectives above, right down to “haunting” (in more ways than one – hm!).

8.  The “Vincey”

And then there’s ice hockey!  Yeah, I already said that.  But it’s tough to downplay the influence the sport has come to have on everything from my priorities (now that Mum’s a local, we rarely miss watching a Blackhawks or Kings game together), my travel plans (“Hey, there’s a tournament in Palm Springs!”), to some of my very dearest friendships.  By and by, hockey has shaped much of what I am today – and sometimes, it’s even showed me what I’d like to be.

On Nova Scotia’s rugged and stunningly beautiful Cape Breton Island, the Vince Ryan Memorial Hockey Tournament takes place every spring, and my LA Chill travel hockey club has made its way across the continent to take part on a number of occasions.

The massive tournament raises scholarship funds for local students while giving businesses a boost outside the tourist season.  To manage this, island residents band together to pull off an unbelievable feat of organization and hospitality, resulting in participants’ having an all-around unforgettable time.  I had an absolute blast the year I got to go!

I do remember, though, as I was sitting in the airport afterwards and recalling a whirlwind weekend of events, that two lists were forming in my mind.  One was of all the charmingly new experiences I’d had beyond the excitement of tournament play.  Like I’d posed with the biggest fiddle in the world.  I’d shared with a men’s team from Ontario a marvelously scenic and raucous bus ride from Halifax.  And I’d even appeared on local TV.

Delightful new adventures, all!

But there was another list.  I began to think too of all the things our kind hosts had done for us that, to me, seemed way above and beyond the call.  These lovely (not to mention brave) volunteers had devoted themselves to such tasks as showing us around, performing equipment repairs, sewing patches on a dozen jerseys because we hadn’t managed it beforehand, waiting at the tournament office to find out if we’d made the finals and then driving miles just to tell us in person that we had, offering coaching advice and encouraging words and shoulder pats to a ragtag team full of disparate skill levels and temperaments – and overall, treating members of the Chill like family every single time they’ve made the trip.

I sat there wondering if I could have been counted on to do as much if the roles were reversed.  Was it in me to be that generous of time and spirit?  To be that committed and kind?  Years after my visit, I’m afraid I still wonder.

In any event, the good news is that if I should still need a lesson in any of those qualities, I feel fortunate that I know a great place to go and brush up.

tesserology canadiana

Stay tuned for the next post with 9 more things I love about my neighbors to the north!

In the meantime, here are some previous posts covering my Canadian adventures:

The Fluid State of Grace Bit

Edmonton: The Statues, Forts and Timbits Bit

The “Guide” to Vancouver Bit

The Nova Scotia Dreamin’ Bit

The Bit About Viking Scoreboard



  1. You are absolutely correct; Founders’ Hall in Charlottetown has floundered. No fitting re-use in sight. Many people think we (PEI) should create a provincial museum in the building. I like your take on Canada’s 17 wonders. This week the best wonder is we’re multi-cultural and refugee friendly and very proud of it despite the tragic incident in the Quebec City mosque.

    1. Disappointing to hear about the museum – my folks and I really enjoyed it and, as I admitted in my post, those are opportunities for me to learn (like about Confederation). And yes, that’s tragic news out of Quebec City – it’s awful to face such trials but I know cooler and finer heads will prevail. Sending out my prayers.

    2. Oh – and thanks for reading! 😃

  2. We have only been to Toronto, that was a day trip from when we stayed at Niagara Falls, and really enjoyed the city. But I want to thank you for the photo of Niagara Falls from Skylon Tower. We went up the tower, but I lost all our photos, this was 16 years ago, and I had forgotten how spectacular the view was, so thank you for sharing 🙂

    1. Glad I could help with the Niagara Falls photo – it was spectacular there, wasn’t it? Thanks for reading!

      1. Yes it certainly was, its the roar of the water that I remember the most 🙂

  3. Gorgeous pictures!!

    1. Many thanks – with scenery like that, it’s hard to go wrong!

  4. This post is probably as close as this Texan waaay down at the bottom of North America will get to Canada waaay up top, so I enjoyed reading about all the things I may never see, including colored currency and high mountain views.

    1. Thanks very much! The money’s only green but there’s a lot of beauty in Texas too!

  5. Beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Jack Niemi · · Reply

    Hi Amy,

    Great article. I am so impressed with your photography and recall of memories!

    Are you still playing hockey?

    Keep writing and entertaining us, my friend.

    Say hi to Mum from me.

    Peace, love, and HOPE,


    1. Thank you so much! And I can add that, when it comes to lessons for living, Hope holds a most treasured place in my heart! Cheers and good wishes from Mum and me both!

  7. Love the photos! Our son played travel hockey and made us visit the Hockey Hall of Fame every time his team played in Toronto. So much fun, many good memories of traveling throughout Canada.

    1. Thank you! And glad you and yours had good times in Canada too!

  8. I really enjoyed this tribute to Canada, Amy. We Americans, myself included, can be a bit complacent about our wonderful northern neighbors, and I am doing my best to enjoy this country more and take in its many beauties…so this post was informative, and also a joy.

    1. Thank you so much! And I sure agree – we’ve got a lovely country but there’s an awful lot to enjoy just north of us as well!

  9. beautiful memories of Canada! I’d love to visit it one day:)

    1. Thank you – and hope you add Canada to your impressive list of visited countries! 😃

      1. hope so:) thanks!

  10. […] Canadaaa!  Picking up where Part 1 of my Canadian sesquicentennial tribute left off, here are reasons 9 through 17 (still in no […]

  11. Jasmine Ive · · Reply

    Canada is definitely somewhere I’d like to visit one day. Your pictures are gorgeous and it makes it difficult to decide where to go first, hehe.

    1. Yes, it’s a varied and beautiful country! Hope you check it out /and thanks for reading!

  12. Glad to know that you’ve enjoyed your trips north, Amy. We’ve been lucky enough to spend many winters in your lovely country, RVing through UT, NV, CA and AZ. The friendships we’ve made have surprised and delighted us, reminding us yet again that we are more alike than different. Thank you for the memories. 🙂

    1. Thank YOU for reading! And discoveries like yours are what make traveling so wonderful!

  13. You’ve certainly seen much more of eastern Canada than I have! I live in Alberta and it seems like the Rockies have a magnetic force that sometimes lets you get all the way to Vancouver, but discourages any wandering past the Alberta/Saskatchewan border.

    1. There IS something about Alberta and its beauty that’s hard to resist! I’d love to see more of Canada and my own country but I’d be as happy to get back up and see the Canadian Rockies again. Thanks for reading!

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