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canucks unite

They were crazy and they were ours Crazy Canucks reunite here for future CBC's Life & Times show By Chris Woodall We know them as the Crazy Canucks. They were four guys who took ski racing away from stiff-necked Europeans in the late 1970s and early 1980s when they jazzed it up with their determination and wild abandon to attract the attention and imagination of North America and the world. They are as much a part of Canadian sports legend as the 1972 Canada Cup hockey team and were reunited in Whistler this week to be filmed for a CBC TV episode of Life & Times. "It'll be a unique biography in that it's of four guys on one team who created a legacy that's lasted to today," says John LaRose, producer of the Toronto-based Lauron Summerhill film production company making the documentary. Whistler's Steve Podborski was joined by teammates Ken Read and Dave Irwin, and coaches John Ritchie and John Henderson. The fourth member of the Crazy Canucks was Dave Murray, who died aged 37 in 1990. He was director of skiing for Whistler Mountain. The World Cup downhill run is named for him. The Crazy Canucks were downhill demons. Although never a groom, Murray was often at least in the wedding party, reaching the top five three times and was a familiar name among top-10 and top-15 finishers. Of the rest of the Crazy Canucks, Podborski was the first North American man to win a World Cup Downhill title (1982) and had eight World Cup victories, including winning at Garmisch, Germany, three times in four years. Twenty-seven times in his career Podborski finished fifth or better. In 1975, Read was the first Canadian man to win a World Cup race, his first of five. He also had 21 top-five finishes in his career. Irwin had one downhill win among his seven top-five finishes and 10 top-10 positions. (It should be mentioned, boys, that Nancy Greene still rules. Her back-to-back World Cup titles in 1967 and 1968 and 13 wins in three disciplines — including gold and silver medals at the Grenoble Olympics — still makes her Canada's best skier, period.) As with any documentary, the filming format in Whistler was free-flowing, involving interviews with former technical support staff, family, print and broadcast journalists and others. "We're here for several reasons: Steve and Dave live or lived here, Whistler is a magnet for people we want to talk to, and it's a site for a lot of the story," says LaRose. The film crew will also visit Collingwood, Ont., and Canmore, Alta., among other locales. It doesn't hurt that it just happens to be World Cup Week in Whistler, too, LaRose says. "The basic vision of the piece is to look at what got them on the hill and the impact they had while they were there for the sport of skiing and the Canadian consciousness," LaRose says. That impact was nothing less than to make what was essentially a very European-focused sport and turn it into an attraction for the world, LaRose says. "Before the Crazy Canucks, downhill skiing was just a sound bite for North American sports coverage," LaRose explains. "After them, North American networks were at every World Cup event." There is also the continuing impact that these four have had when their racing careers ended, on people individually and collectively, LaRose says. Every competing nation had ski teams, but what made the Crazy Canucks unique was that they were more than individuals who wore the same uniform: nickel-and-dime funding meant they had to eat together and live together. The Crazy Canucks will be featured on Life & Times, Feb. 1, 1998, one week before the start of the Nagano, Japan, Olympics. o o o Whistler author Janet Love-Morrison is working on a book on the Crazy Canucks, which should be published some time next year.