April is usually a joyous time for Canadian sports fans, with the NHL post-season and baseball starting up. Unfortunately due to COVID-19, both baseball and hockey fans will have to wait to cheer on their teams.
So to satisfy both hockey and baseball fans, here’s the All-Time Canadian Baseball player hockey team – an 18-“men” hockey club made up of some of Canada’s best multi-sport athletes on the diamond and the rink.
This Club will feature two Baseball Hall of Famers, one Hockey Hall of Famer and a whole bunch of NHL and MLB All Stars.
Canada’s goaltender trio will feature three Canadian Baseball Hall of Famers, with a combined 40 MLB season between them.
Justin Morneau – Canada’s number one spot will go to former Twins slugger and Portland Blackhawks goalie – Justin Morneau.
The New Westminster, BC-native had an illustrious MLB career over 14-years between Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Colorado, and the Chicago White Sox. His 247 career home runs is fourth and his 985 RBI is second all time among Canadians. He is also the only Canuck to have ever won the AL MVP.
Morneau’s hockey resume includes playing one exhibition game for the Portland Blackhawks and serving as the Club’s back up-back up goalie. Even so, he was considered part of the 1997-98 Memorial Cup winning team.
Larry Walker – Canada’s greatest slugger of all time is riding the bench for this Club.
Walker will become the second Canadian to be inducted into Cooperstown, after he was voted in this January. He is a 5-time All Star, 7-time Gold Glover and he leads all Canadians in most offensive stats.
As a youngster the 1997 NL MVP dreamed of NHL stardom and would be a successful amateur goalie in his teens. The story goes that the Swift Current Broncos attempted to recruit him when he was 16, but Walker turned down the offer.
He grew up playing ball hockey with his friends, a group that included future Hockey Hall of Famer Cam Neely. Larry’s brother Carey was actually drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 1977 and would have a lengthy minor league career.
Walker was supposed to serve as the Colorado Avalanche’s emergency backup goalie in a game against Las Vegas, earlier this year, but due to the cancellation of the season that dream never came true.
Corey Koskie – Canada’s third-string goalie is also a Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer. Koskie played nine-seasons between Minnesota, Toronto and Milwaukee and is a career .275 batter, who hit 124 home runs.
The Manitoban played 28 games in goal for the Selkirk Steelers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL).
Jenkins was a top Junior-B defenceman in his hometown of Chatham, the highest level without turning pro. Canada’s first Cy Young winner had a recurring hip injury during his hockey days and stopped playing after he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies.
He once said, “The defenseman does certain things to assure control for his team. I loved the position.” Seems like an adequate description of his style on the mound.
Gagne who won the 2003 Cy Young and still holds the Major League record for consecutive Saves, attended Polyvalente Edouard Montpetit High School in Montreal (the same school Russell Martin went to). He was a self described “goon” on the ice and had NHL ambitions before baseball. He wore his iconic sports googles on the mound due to a hockey eye injury.
The French (Canadian) Connection: Our second pair will feature two famous Quebecois players – Russell Martin and Claude Raymond.
Martin grew up a baseball enthusiast and cheered for his hometown Expos, but like many youngsters in Quebec he also dabbled in hockey. The 4-time MLB all star played defence and winger between the ages of 12-15.
Raymond was the first Canadian/Quebecois player to play for Canada’s/Quebec’s first MLB team. The Expos legend grew up in rural Quebec in the 1940s and was a huge fan of Maurice ‘the Rocket’ Richard and the Montreal Canadiens.
Raymond once said about his passion for hockey,
“During the Christmas holidays, I would leave the house early in the morning with my skates already on my feet. At noon, I didn’t even take them off for lunch. My mother would cover the floor with newspapers right to the table. At suppertime, it was the same thing.”
Axford grew up an avid fan of the LA Kings, and idolized Hall of Famer Rob Blake. Orr said he grew up playing hockey and baseball and was often encouraged to wear Bobby Orr’s number 4. Unfortunately for this team Pete and Bobby are not related.
The Ringers: The original plan was to make a roster of hockey playing-baseball players, but to give this team a little more pop we resorted to a line of baseball-playing hockey players.
Jarome Iginla‘s hockey credentials are impressive. He was a 4 time all star, 2-time Olympic Gold Medalist and won the Maurice Richard Trophy twice for the most points in the NHL.
But the Edmonton-native also excelled at baseball, as a flame throwing pitcher. He admits that at one time he imagined himself becoming a double-sport athlete like Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders. But like many players on this list realized he needed to pick one over the other.
Hockey Hall of Famer Hayley Wickenheiser will centre our top line. The Saskatchewan-native is one of Canada’s most-decorated Olympians, having won five Medals (4 golds, one silver) between 1998 and 2014. But she also represented Canada at the 2000 Sydney Olympics in softball.
We will add one more Hall of Fame hockey player – Pierre Turgeon, who is a member of the Little League Baseball Hall of Fame. In the 1982 Little League World Series, a Turgeon would lead Canada’s team from Rouyn-Noranda.
Before he was a NHL all star he was a young pitcher (who could hit too) for Canada and led his team to within two wins of the Championship.
The Double Threat Line: This line is made up of three men that were legitimate double threats, having professional success in both hockey and baseball.
Jim Riley holds the distinction of being the only player to have played in both the NHL and MLB. The Bayfield, New Brunswick-native had only 14 MLB at bats for the St. Louis Browns in 1921 and the Washington Senators in 1923 and only 9 games in NHL for the Detroit Cougars and Chicago Black Hawks in 1926-27. Riley was a jack of all trades, master of none – but we couldn’t have a baseball-player hockey team without him.
Kirk McCaskill is one of only four Canadian-born pitchers to have recorded over 100 MLB wins. He played 12 seasons between the California Angels and Chicago White Sox. His most famous MLB moment was probably giving up back-to-back home runs to the legendary father-son duo of Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. in 1990.
McCaskill was also drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in 1981, after an impressive hockey career at the University of Vermont. He played one season in the AHL for the Sherbrooke Jets in 1983-84. But after that he would return his focus to baseball and the Angels, who had drafted him in 1982.
Jack Caffery played 57 NHL games between 1954-58 for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins. At the age of 23 he hung up the skates and turned to professional baseball. Between 1955-63 he would pitch 104 minor league games but would never rise above the Triple-A level.
The Baller Line: The final line will feature three of the leftover baseball players, that once excelled on the ice before they put all their eggs in the baseball basket.
Matt Stairs is one of Canada’s most prolific sluggers and his 265 home runs is third all time among Canadians. In his 19 year MLB career he played for 13 different teams, including the Toronto Blue Jays and Montreal Expos.
Before all his MLB success Stairs had dreams of NHL glory. The Fredricton, New Brunswick-native grew up a diehard Montreal Canadiens fan and described his on ice style as “finesse.”
The Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer acknowledges that in high school his hockey skills were greater than his baseball skills. But after he suffered a knee injury in his final year of high school he decided to focus his attention on baseball.
Stairs will serve as the fourth-line centre/player coach for this Club. He has been a coach at a Fredricton high school for the last 14 years.
Stubby Clapp had just 25 MLB at bats as a member of the 2001 St. Louis Cardinals, the team he is now the First Base Coach for at the MLB level.
Clapp played Junior-B hockey for the Windsor Bulldogs between 1990-92 and was named team Captain for the 1991-92 season. He received a scholarship from Texas Tech University for baseball and after that his hockey ambitions were put on the back burner.
Eric Cerantola is the only player on this roster (other than Wickenheiser) that has no MLB and/or NHL experience. In 2018, the 6’6 righty was taken in the 30th round by the Tampa Bay Rays before he decided to take a scholarship at the University of Mississippi instead.
But in 2016, Cerantola was drafted in the eighth round of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Draft by the Owen Sound Attack. After being cut in camp, the Montreal-born winger decided to turn his sights to baseball.
There it is – Canada’s double-sport hockey club. Considering that Canada and the United States are the only two countries with a decent size pool of both baseball and hockey players, Canada’s only competition will be Tom Glavine led Team USA.
Would Canada beat the Americans? That’s a question for another article entirely.
Top Photo: (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)