Hall of Famer
Inducted in 1993
Olympic Games, gold medal - ice hockey
Named to the Order of Canada
Canadian Olympic Order
George Mara enjoyed the Olympic experience first-hand. He dedicated much of his professional life to ensuring that future potential Olympians would have the same opportunity. After graduating from Toronto's Upper Canada College in 1942, where he captained the hockey team, Mara joined the Royal Canadian Navy and served as a lieutenant for the duration of the Second World War. After the war, Mara continued to play amateur hockey, turning down professional contract offers from both the Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers. In 1947, the Royal Canadian Air Force endeavoured to put together a team to represent Canada at the hockey tournament at the 1948 St. Moritz Winter Olympic Games. As the team struggled at the last minute to find a full complement, Mara was one of three Toronto-based players added to the RCAF Flyers on Dec. 31, 1947, just ten days before the team set sail for Europe. Mara was named captain of the team, contributed important goals in close games against Sweden and Great Britain, and led the Flyers to a surprising and inspirational gold medal. But Mara's support of Canada's Olympic efforts was far from finished. After returning from the war, Mara had joined the William Mara Company, a wine and spirits business, as a salesman in 1945. He became president of the company in 1959. A year later, he began a long association with Maple Leaf Gardens, serving on the executive committee of the corporation that owned the famed arena and hockey team throughout the 1960s, becoming president and CEO in 1970. During his professional career, Mara also served on the board of directors of a number of Canadian companies, including Ford and Confederation Life. These corporate connections served him in good stead as he embarked upon one of the biggest challenges of his sporting career. In 1970, with the Montreal Olympics on the horizon, Mara sought to address what he and his colleagues thought was a chronic underfunding of Canadian Olympic athletes. At the urging of friends, he conceived and founded the Olympic Trust of Canada. Its aim was to alleviate the financial problems faced by the Canadian Olympic Association and to better fund Canada's Olympic athletes. He assumed the chair of the Trust, a position he held until 1988, and set about lobbying the Canadian corporate community for support. The results of his efforts were remarkable. By the time of his induction into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, the Trust's value exceeded $50 million and provided 93% of Olympic team funding. For his efforts in supporting athletes who competed in the Munich and Montreal Games, Mara was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1976. For his continued work up to the Calgary Winter Olympics and for his outstanding contribution to the Olympic Movement and its ideals, he was awarded the Canadian Olympic Order in 1994. Mara is also a member of the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame.