How small is your world?

Lynn with parents and sibling in 1956

Lyn with parents and sibling in 1956

This newspaper cutout from the Ottawa Journal was shown to me on the weekend, and it’s a reminder of what a small world we live in. The photo belongs to former gymnast Lyn Heward, whom I ran into shortly after posting McGill Sports Hall of Fame Gets Emotional. Much to my surprise, she has a personal connection to the late Vic Obeck, the legendary football coach. Read on to find out more, and then post your own anecdote reflecting on what a small world we live in.

Lyn Heward saw her first football game when she was just two years old. Her dad – Len Shaw – was captain of the McGill Redmen at Moslon Stadium, and she thought he was wearing a bathing cap!

Len Shaw grew up in Ottawa with two brothers, playing any and all sports. He was particularly good at hockey – a roommate of goalie Jacques Plante in Quebec city, he’s famous for being traded to Victoriaville for Jean Beliveau.

Even with his talent for hockey, his first love was football. At age 18, he became the youngest player in the Canadian Football League when he signed with the Ottawa  Rough Riders.

After just one year in the league, Shaw was recruited by Vic Obeck to play for McGill University. Obeck and Shaw developed a strong admiration for each other, as is evidenced with the dedication on this photo.


Lyn lives around the corner from me, but I didn’t meet her until 2006 when I was producing a series for CBC-TV on the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Olympics. She was part of a feature looking at how those Games helped plant the seeds for a generation of gymnasts who would go on to perform professionally for the Cirque du Soleil.

I had no idea that she had a connection to McGill.

But that’s where Len Shaw took his first academic steps on the way to becoming a doctor, and where he met his wife Heather.

“Mom still talks about the day when she fell for him. She was suffering from pleurisy, and trying to walk her way up the big hill along University avenue. He literally picked her up, and carried her to the top,” says Lynn.

Heather’s side of the family also has a rich background in sport – her grandfather Albert D. Kyle was President of Montreal’s Victoria Hockey Club.

“So for both of my parents, life was sport, and sport was life.”

Sport has also been a big part of Lyn’s life. After many years in gymnastics, she went to work for the Cirque du Soleil as a scout for acrobatic talent. She became the head of their creative content division, before becoming a consultant. She now travels the world talking about the creative process, and has developed a unique fitness program for women, which is a collaboration between Reebok and Cirque du Soleil.

Lynn promises to contribute a Guest Post soon, looking more closely at her family’s rich ties to sport.


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