Last week, the head of Canada's Manitoba province, Greg Selinger, announced that Chicago Blackhawks captain and Winnipeg native Jonathan Toews(notes) was going to receive a peculiar honor: Getting a lake named after him in Northern Manitoba, after winning a Stanley Cup and an Olympic gold medal in the same year.
It's not unheard of for one of the province's 100,000 lakes to be named for a living person, but it is an exception to the usual protocol of naming them for fallen members of the military who were from Manitoba.
As Dwight MacAulay, chief of protocol for the government of Manitoba, told us:
Virtually all of our lakes are named after casualties of war from the Province of Manitoba, from World War I through the Afghan War. The premier has the discretion to also name lakes for other people. There are very few living people that have lakes named after them. The Province of Manitoba, in 2002, had Queen Elizabeth visit and we named lakes after each six of her grandchildren. And now we're naming one for Jonathan.
To most, Toews Lake was a goofy tribute to a hockey hero; but to Shirley Seggie, it was an insult to the memory of her son and a "travesty." From the Vancouver Sun:
"Our son Cpl. Michael James Alexander Seggie was killed in action in 2008 ... thus far there has been no lake named after him despite a program that is in place to name lakes after military personnel killed in action." [...]
"While it is commendable that Jonathan Toews has accomplished so much in his short life thus far, I feel it is a travesty he has had a lake named after him," said Shirley Seggie.
The program Seggie mentions is Manitoba's own Commemorative Names Project, a program solely dedicated to naming geographic features after fallen soldiers. As it turns out Seggie's son will be one of the five soldiers the province will honour this November.
"Every Manitoban soldier who is killed in battle is automatically nominated for a geographic fixture," said MacAulay. "But under a national policy there is a mandated three-year wait period before we can go about naming."
But as the paper points out, that waiting period is hardly a mandate: Two of the soldiers that will be honored this Remembrance Day were killed in 2009; Seggie will be honored as well.
The celebration of Toews' accomplishments was a feel-good story for the community, but the fact that any military family with a fallen soldier is distressed by it is sobering. It's an issue with bureaucracy rather than with sports — and one that, hopefully, will be resolved going forward — but you still can empathize with a family that feels like a celebrity "jumped the line."