5 Canadian Sports Innovations That Changed the Game

Want to feel a touch of national pride? The next time you watch instant replay, ride a snowmobile, or have your face protected from a hockey puck thanks to a goalie mask, know that you can thank a Canadian.

Instant Replay

It’s older than you think. Instant replay started being used in 1955, when CBC producer George Retzlaff realized that he could use Kinescope technology to show viewers what had just happened. You couldn’t freeze it, put it in slow motion, or set index points—but it worked, and it made Hockey Night in Canada even better.

The Goalie Mask

Believe it or not, hockey goalies used to stop pucks with their faces, no masks in sight. In fact, if you’ve never seen that famous picture of Terry Sawchuk and his many scars, take a look. Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jacques Plante developed the goalie mask with the help of experts, mainly because he needed to protect his face because of a sinusitis operation. His coach initially didn’t want him wearing the mask during regular games because he worried about Plante’s vision. In fact, it took a long time for others to accept that the goalie mask was a good idea—even though it immediately cut down on the number of stiches goalies needed. 

Butterfly Style

These days, almost no goalie plays exclusively standing up. Most use butterfly style, which, if you’re unaware, involves a goalie dropping to the ground and using their pads to stop pucks on the ice. Glenn Hall gets a lot of credit for starting the style, which is amazing, because he started in the days before the goalie mask. Once Jacques Plante popularized the mask, more goalies felt free to adopt butterfly style, as it was safer to get low. Roger Crozier and Tony Esposito also get a lot of credit for developing butterfly style.

Five-Pin Bowling

Back in 1909, bowling lane owner Thomas F. Ryan had a problem. While customers liked bowling, they couldn’t play a full game during a lunch break. So, the Torontonian innovated by cutting the number of pins in half, made them smaller, and started using smaller balls that were so lightweight they didn’t even need finger holes. Thus, five-pin bowling (the superior bowling!) was invented. Tragically, the rest of the world hasn’t caught on to this particular sport.

The Snowmobile

Invented in 1935 by Joseph-Armand Bombardier (yes, he’s that Bombardier), the snowmobile is essential for backcountry winter sporting. However, the snowmobile wasn’t invented to be a sporting device, or even a fun one. Bombardier knew that many rural places in Quebec didn’t ever see a snowplow, which meant many rural Quebecois had to stow their cars during the winter. However, a snowmobile let them travel during the winter months. The snowmobile became important in industries such as logging, and then became a military vehicle during the war. Of course, snowmobiles still have these practical applications, but for many people, snowmobiling is a sport onto itself.