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Open Letter to DNTO (Feb. 2005)


To Sook-Yin Lee and the producers of Definitely Not The Opera,


I am writing to alert you to what I consider to be an oversight with regards to your show that aired on February 19, 2005. You interviewed Chris Murphy and inquired as to what he was doing to cope with the cancellation of the 2004-05 NHL season. As Chris had informed us prior to the airing of the program, he told you guys about recently winning the 16th annual Carleton Cup in Ottawa, and had provided a brief overview of the event.

For whatever reason, this segment was edited out of the aired interview.

I listened to the rest of the show to hear people submit their suggestions for a new sport/pastime for Canadians to obsess over now that the hockey season is dead. According to what I heard on DNTO, people should now spend their Saturday nights focusing on Sony Playstation and Leafs pyjamas, Greco-Roman wrestling, or maybe even badminton. And the guy from Degrassi suggested we should all play poker instead of watching hockey (?????).

The following is my unsolicited suggestion for a new national obsession.

The Carleton Cup, aka “The Ultimate Canadian Triathlon”, has been held annually in Ottawa since 1989. It involves skating the entire length of the Rideau Canal, walking/running through the Byward Market, and finishing by taking a sip of the beverage of one’s choice at a local watering hole. In 1995 the event became a “triathlon-a-thon,” and racers now collect pledges which go to the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. To date we have raised thousands of dollars for this very worthy cause. Over the years our race has received endorsements from the likes of the late Pierre Berton, Maurice “Rocket” Richard and Stompin’ Tom Connors, to name but a few.

The Rideau Canal is without a doubt a national treasure. In fact, our government has recently chosen it as our official nomination to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Skating on the Rideau Canal is an experience that is not easy to describe. If you’ve done it, well then you know, but if you’ve yet to have this experience then words don’t really do the job. Skating on the Canal is something every Canadian should experience at least once in their lifetime if financially feasible– indeed, this is our mecca – and if you’ve yet to do so then this is your loss.

The afternoon before the Carleton Cup there are outdoor hockey games featuring teams from the Exclaim! Hockey Association of the Arts. The E!HAA is the national “musician” hockey league that counts the likes of Dave Bidini, Sam Roberts, Tyler Stewart and the aforementioned Chris Murphy as players. Last year Bill Stunt devoted an entire CBC Radio Bandwidth program to the Carleton Cup and was present at our outdoor hockey games interviewing players and fans alike.

In 2004 a few enterprising young men took the Carleton Cup model and founded “the Winterpeg Challenge” in DNTO’s backyard, scenic Winnipeg, Manitoba. This is also an annual event which consists of skating 4km along the Assiniboine River, running through the Forks Market to finish by taking a drink of one’s choice at Finn McCues pub.

People in many of the northern European and Asian countries skate on lakes, canals, waterways, etc. and run corresponding races and events. Likely the most famous is the “Eleven Cities Race” in the Netherlands that takes place over 200 km in the northern Friesland province. However, it rarely gets cold enough to run this race and in fact, it has only taken place fifteen times since 1909.

Warm weather has had a big impact on the Carleton Cup over the years, as well. In the past seventeen years we have had to either a) cancel or b) postpone and reschedule our race three times due to warm weather (in fact, we had “Global Warming” engraved on our trophy as the 1990 winner). Thus for the dedicated Carleton Cupper, Global Warming is not an abstract concept. In preparation for the Carleton Cup, one tends to watch the Ottawa weather closely each year, and in watching closely many of our racers have reached the inescapable conclusion that our climate is changing quite dramatically. For many, myself included, the Carleton Cup has proven to be the catalyst for an increased awareness of the warming of our planet, and an increased sensitivity to our planetary climate changes on the whole.

Definitely Not The Opera promotes itself as “fast-paced trip through the cultural landscape of Canada.” Now I am clearly biased, but I feel that a brief mention of the Carleton Cup in your discussion of how one should cope with the cancellation of the hockey season would have been appropriate. Perhaps you might want to look at including the Ultimate Canadian Triathlon in a future show.


A disappointed yet still loyal DNTO fan,


Jonathan Knowles

Co-Founder, Director
The Ultimate Canadian Triathlon

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