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The unexpected reason that Canada’s national team kits are blue

The third colour has appeared alongside red and white in the design since the 1960s

Louis Garneau

The baby blue of Team Canada’s cycling colours stands out distinctly from the red and white branding of other Canadian disciplines. It was worn by three-time cross country mountain bike world champion and Olympic silver medallist Alison Sydor, three-time Olympian Jocelyn Lovell and track cyclist Curt Harnett, who won three medals at the Olympics. Gordon Singleton, who was the first cyclist in history to hold the world records simultaneously in the 200-m, 500-m and 1000-m sprint races, and Steve Bauer, winner of Canada’s first Olympic medal and numerous professional races, also wore the blue, white and red uniform.

Team Canada races the women's madison at the milton world cup
Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

The shade of blue, not found in any other Canadian national branding, has been featured as the third colour in the iconic Cycling Canada kit designs since the 1960s. Kris Westwood, high-performance director at Cycling Canada, points out that cycling isn’t the only Canandian athletic discipline to use a design that distinguishes it from dozens of countries whose national colours are red and white. Many Canadian sports disciplines, such as track and field, have integrated black into their uniform design. Alpine skiing in Canada has often used a bright yellow in its design, Alpine Canada’s signature colour.


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Canadian Cycling Blue

The origin of the cycling blue is shrouded in mystery. Westwood says that the colour is commonly thought to represent the many Canadian bodies of water, such as the Great Lakes and oceans. “Some say it specifically represents the three oceans our coastline touches,” he says. For a landlocked sport, water symbolism seems unexpected, but around the 1960s, when the first blue, red and white kits were released, Canada came very close to using a similar design for its new national flag.

The Pearson Pennant
image: Wikipedia

The Pearson Pennant

The suggested flag was known as the Pearson Pennant, after Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, who made it no secret that the design was his favourite during  the 1964 Great Canadian Flag Debate. The blue bars of the flag reflect Canada’s motto, “From Sea to Sea” (A Mari Usque Ad Mar), and the design was used to inform the final Canadian flag we see today. While there is no official connection from the kit to the flag, the shade of blue, and its symbolic meaning, are unmistakably similar and likely linked.

Louis Garneau