There’s Only One “Canada’s Greatest Athlete”

A bunch of us were sitting at a bar one day, about ten years ago, talking about who we thought Canada’s all-time greatest athlete was, and the usual suspects came up – Wayne Gretzky, Lionel Conacher, Rocket, Howe, Terry Fox, Bobby Orr and the likes, and one of the guys laughingly piped up that he could remember when Gene Kiniski, one of the nations’ most colourful wrestlers of the 1950’s and 60’s, used to bill himself as “Canada’s Greatest Athlete.”

We chuckled and ordered more beer.

At the time I was writing a regular column for a newspaper and decided from that barroom chat that Gene Kiniski would make a great story. So I tracked him down and gave him a call.

He answered the phone as “Canada’s Greatest Athlete.”

And as it turned out, Gene Kiniski was one of the nicest and funniest guys, and he made our phone call a barrel of laughs. I came away a Gene Kiniski fan. Later on I mailed him the column I wrote and he sent back a great picture and an invitation to join him at his son’s restaurant in Point Roberts. 

I never managed to make it, and sadly, the great man passed away just last April at the age of 81.

Maybe I was afraid he’d put me in an anaconda vice or thumb choke hold. But I sure regret now not going.

In my book, Gene Kiniski was and is Canada’s Greatest Athlete.

16 thoughts on “There’s Only One “Canada’s Greatest Athlete””

  1. Hey Dennis, I remember Gne quite well,living in Gold River before the arena was built,we had All Star Wrestlinmg to watch on tv.My best friends dad was a cousin to the great Bulldog Brown and whenever the wrestling show came to Gold River ,the Bulldog and my friends dad would go on a big drunk.I always enjoyed Gene Kininski,he was a great story teller as he rambled off some of his lore to Ron Maurier.I’m saddened to learn of his passing ,I would have enjoyed meeting him as well.

  2. Dennis, Gene was a fine athlete and a wonderful entertainer.

    But there is someone else who really stands out as an outstanding Canadian athlete, and that is Clara Hughes. She has the distinction of being the only athlete to win multiple medals in both the Summer and Winter Olympics (cycling and speed skating).

    Her medals count totals six including two bronze for cycling and one gold, one silver and two bronze for speed skating.

    She is a really fine person too and I thought she would have been a fine pick for the Governor General’s job.

  3. Danno, I completely agree with you. The Clara Hughes story is amazing and she’s amazing. Kiniski was just marketing himself right up until he died but he did it as a lark. Hughes is the real deal.

  4. Dennis, I’m pretty sure that I’ve heard this post’s title of “world’s (Canada’s) greatest athlete” come straight out of Kelly’s mouth whenever this subject arises. He really did enjoy Kiniski.
    Hey Derry…I lived in Gold River before the arena was built…those were the days of the one channel on t.v. …if the reception was any good. Actually pretty much grew up there. I only can remember one Derry….Mann. That you?

  5. Hey Dennis, Yes that is me,although I have heard of a few people with the same name as me ,I have only ever met one person with the name Derry.I am now wondering just what Jan’s last name is or was when she lived in Gold River.I only just left there 3 years ago.

  6. Hey Jan, How are things ?I was trying to think of people that I knew with the name Jan but the Mclean threw me off .Good to hear from you,take care eh

  7. Derry, met up up Dennis Kane awhile back…regardless to the fact that we have our different favourite teams…he and my husband worked together for B.C.ferries. Often wondered if Derry was you, as like you say, the name is not that common. We are in Courtenay now and am patiently waiting for hockey season to begin…I keep the hockey legacy going in my family as my brother lives offshore and Dad is no longer alive.

  8. Hey Jan,Sorry to hear about your dad,my parents are both gone,I have been living in Mackenzie for he last 3+ years,but was in Port Alice working there last winter,played hockey there as well as in Gold River.How is Laurie doing?Good to hear from you Jan,I now know who posts are from

  9. You had to ask…She has never left the 70’s…only with grey hair. Married, but dog and motorcycle are her bffs….Stop by if your ever in this valley…block behind McD’s…with the Canuck in the front window…Oh Ya

  10. Jan, you have a Canuck in your window? Shouldn’t he be with his wife and kids? Doesn’t he get tired just being in your window. How does he go to the bathroom?

  11. Hey Dennis, Whats with the canuck in the front window Jan,is thee Canuck poop on your front lawn?I might make it down that way in september as Lynda wants to go to Savory once more this year.I actually should be in Gold River cause all my kids are there right now visiting their mom.My oldest son Brendan is heading to Afganistan in March ,so it would a good time to see them all together.

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