Who are they...
More than a quarter of a century has passed since a group of young, fresh Canadians stormed the international ski scene.
Ken Read was twenty when, with a victory and spectacular team result at the opening race of the season, five unknown Canadians turned the traditional hierarchy in ski racing upside-down.
To describe the phenomena that shattered the idea that only Europeans could win World Cup downhill races, the French journalist and founder of the World Cup, Serge Lang created the word “Crazy Canucks”. With this he described the bold stance the young Canadians took towards the ski establishment. A few spectacular falls later and their reputation was cast in stone. Amongst them were Jim Hunter, a farmer’s son; Dave Irwin, whose father ran the Loch Lomond ski region near Thunder Bay; Dave Murray, son of a pilot; Steve Podborski from Toronto and Ken Read who grew up in town but enjoyed the advantage of skiing in the Canadian Rockies for six months of the year.
In January 1976 Dave Irwin was on his way to making a new best time when he flew into the safety bales of straw in the finishing schuss. A day later both Dave and Ken Read were victims of the treacherous corner after the hair-raising Minshkante and a new term was created – “Canadian Corner”.
It was not only the victories or their fearlessness that made them the focal point of the World Cup. They posed a great challenge for the dominating Swiss and Austrian teams. They loved taking part in races and they showed it. As outsiders they accepted that it was harder for them being away from home for months of the year and therefore functioned as a team, sharing all information and supporting each other. Their deep respect for race tradition and the beautiful locations of the classic races, but also their efforts to speak German, French or Italian made them very popular.
The term “Crazy Canuck” is now a proud heritage in Canadian sport. Just as donning a Montreal Canadiens shirt represents fulfilment, for a ski racer the term “Canadian Canucks” signifies he has made the breakthrough in the World Cup. Initially many believed that winning a World Cup was an unattainable goal for Canadians. Five young men and their coach weren’t afraid to attempt it. For thousands of Canadian ski racers today there are no more limits. These young future champions dream about one day being called “Crazy Canucks”.