A part of Canada died on October 17, 2017. Gord Downie passed away after battling brain cancer at the age of 53. For those outside Canada, Downie was the lead singer of the Canadian rock band the Tragically Hip. The band’s songs are often rooted in Canada whether it is about a late Toronto Maple Leaf player or a small Ontario town. I wrote a piece about Canadian athletes and whether you need international success to be considered great. It is often said that if you are a musician from Canada, you need to be big in the United States in order to have a successful career in music. The Tragically Hip (or the Hip for short) proved that you can achieve that without leaving your home soil.
Downie was a big sports fan. He would often reference the sport of hockey in his lyrics like Fifty Mission Cap, Fireworks, and Heaven is a Better Place. In the last couple of years, he has appeared at a number of sporting events most recently Game 4 of the 2017 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinal between the Toronto Raptors and the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Air Canada Centre. Not many people knew that longtime Boston Bruins executive Harry Sinden was Downie’s Godfather. Hockey Hall of Famer Bobby Orr and former Bruins head coach and current broadcaster Don Cherry were good friends of Downie and the band.
Canadian athletes have drawn inspiration from Downie. Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin used the song Courage whenever he came up to bat during the 2016 season. The Hip’s final concert (in their hometown of Kingston, Ontario) was aired live on the CBC. At the time, the 2016 Summer Olympics were on and the CBC were the main broadcaster of the games in Canada. But they took two hours from their schedule to air that live performance. Canadian athletes who were taking part in the Rio games were huddled around large television sets watching the performance from the Olympic village. That is how much Downie meant to Canadians and sports.
Here’s the official statement from the Downie family:Here’s a sample of what people in the sports world are saying about Downie’s passing:
RIP Gord (1964-2017).