Time for the annual Lou Marsh Trophy debate. The public vote is ongoing on the website - Cindy Klassen way ahead - colleague Damien Cox weighed in on this a while back and this morning's petroleum-based product put forth its four finalists: Ms Klassen and Messrs Nash, Morneau and Thornton.
|Nash: My choice (barely), but not the public's.|
I don't have a vote, but if I did - and I'm waffling here a bit - I'd buck the trend in the poll (right now, Klassen is at 53 per cent and Nash 18 per cent, well in front of the rest) and argue that Nash gets my nod ever so slightly, as the two-time MVP - rare air, that - in the biggest and best pro league of the world's No. 2 game (and averaging a career high in scoring in this followup season). Outside of a Tomas Radzinski or Jonathan de Guzman winning the Golden Ball in the world's No. 1 game, there really isn't any more outstanding achievement on a global scale - and while we're on the subject of the world's game, Christine Sinclair hasn't even entered into this year's Lou Marsh discussion. Here's the waffle, though: this is one of those either-or calls in my mind. Nash won the Lou Marsh a year ago, and Olympic athletes are penalized, in a way, in that the media making the call, like the public, pretty much ignore Olympic sports in non-Olympic years but give them huge weight otherwise. I expect Klassen to win it, and there are strong arguments in her favour -most of all, five of them, hanging around her neck. Under the most intense pressure, and all by herself, she answered the bell. Ask me who I like five minutes from now, and I may well change my mind. To me, it's that close.
Aside from that tough call, what's really noteworthy here is how deep this list is, with Morneau and Thornton clearly up against it despite their lofty accolades. I asked departmental dean Dave Perkins, who's been part of the selection process for the last decade and a half, what he made of it. Pretty much the best he's seen, he answered. I can't argue.
|PAUL CHIASSON/CANADIAN PRESS|
|Klassen: Five good reasons.|
Go back 35 years, and up into the mid-1980s when Gretzky ruled, and it was pretty much a hockey-or-not era in the Marsh world, with very few outstanding second bananas (one exception and a tough beat was Olympic downhill champion Kathy Kreiner losing out - to Sandy Hawley of horse racing fame, a sport that barely registers now. Sandwiched around that 1976 race was the far more typical default pick of back in the day - Bobby Clarke in '75, and Guy Lafleur in 1977.)
It's a different world now. Not since 1993 has a hockey player won this race, and sorry, Joe, but that string will continue this time around. The past 10 winners came from nine different sports (kayaking being the only two-time winner in that string, with Caroline Brunet and Adam van Koeverden). Men, women, French, English - for such an exclusive award, it's a pretty inclusive list. For a country that has a hard time celebrating excellence (or funding it) in anything but hockey, nothing says more about the depth and vitality of the Canadian sports scene - and the interest engendered by this annual Lou Marsh debate - than those two trends.