Johnny Canuck: A View of Canadians from Abroad

July 01 2012

Vancouver Canucks logo, circa 1970

Jebb Sinclair and Mike Pyke Spreading Canuck Lore

posted July 1 2012
[ed. comments below]

On the Canada day weekend it seems fitting to take a quasi-whimsical view of Canadians abroad and how they’re viewed in the cultures they reside. A couple of culture-related stories caught my eye and prompted the article. One is from Australia where Mike Pyke, former Canadian national team rugby player, has become one of the first Canadians to play professionally in the AFL (Australian Football League). The other is from South Africa where Jebb Sinclair is playing professionally for the Stormers in the Super 15 competition.

Mike Pyke is a BC boy, born in Victoria in 1984. He switched to Australian Rules football in 2008 after gaining 20 Caps playing for Canada from 2004 to 2008. Jebb Sinclair was actually born in Red Deer, Alberta but is usually associated with New Brunswick where he went to school and grew up.

People love stereotypes, cartoonists especially so as they make a living from it. It was amusing to come across this cartoon from Fred Mouton the cartoonist at the Afrikaans newspaper Die Burger. It depicts Sinclair on a pair of skates with the caption, “Our new Canadian eighth man is struggling a bit with the game plan...”. It was created May 16th shortly after Sinclair had signed with the Stormers. Is that how the world sees us, hockey skating lumberjacks... of course it is.

It’s not like we don’t promote the stereotype ourselves. Remember the beardos at the World Cup, they were a hit in New Zealand and worldwide.

Johnny Canuck was actually a cartoon character going back to the mid 19th century, he personified Canada in cartoons as Uncle Sam and John Bull did for the USA and England respectively. During World War II he morphed into an action figure similar to Captain America. The Vancouver Canucks even got on the Johnny Canuck bandwagon and before they joined the NHL in 1970 he was their primary logo. When they hit the big time they got rid of Johnny and just kept the stick as their logo.

So on Canada Day raise a glass of your favourite beverage and drink a toast to Johnny Canuck and those who promote his values abroad, “we salute you”.

It is also worth noting that Sinclair scored his first try for the Stormers on the Canada Day weekend, how’s that for timing? The video is below, looks like the celebration started the second he hit the ground. The Stormers went on to win the game.

We’ll travel from South Africa to Australia where rugby-to-Australian-rules convert Mike Pyke plies his trade. He plays for the Sydney Swans in the AFL. They’ve even given him his own column this year and you can catch up on Mike dispensing Canadian wisdom that Johnny Canuck would be proud of. Like “I suppose the [kangaroo] leather must possess an inherent ability to bounce, however it is interesting that we use Australia’s national animal’s skin for the ball used to play its national sport. I suppose it is an effective form of pest control and I am all for the head-to-tail philosophy, but I certainly cannot see Canadians embracing a beaver-tail hockey puck.” Indeed not, and actually the modern Sherrin (AFL ball) is made from cowhide but the story tells better the other way. Mike is a graduate of the famous but now defunct Pacific Pride program which was our development pathway for young rugby players, and apparently future Australian rules footie players.

You can read more of his Canuckisms at He has four articles already on the "Open Pyke" column.

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