A Crowded Field
To understand the depth of quality athletes in this country, all you have to look at is the fact that Steve Nash has found himself a bridesmaid in the Lou Marsh Trophy voting the last two years.
That's no shot at Nash. He's a dazzling athlete and sportsman. It's more of a comment on the extraordinary qualities of speed-skater Cindy Klassen, last year's Lou Marsh winner, and Sidney Crosby, this year's winner. To be seen as superior to the fabulous Nash in any year is a startling achievement.
Crosby won Canadian athlete-of-the-year honors, but only after a spirited discussion between many of Canada's most experienced sports media types and our esteemed chairperson, former Olympic rowing star Silken Laumann, a discussion that included heavy arguments in favour of Nash and alpine skiing star Erik Guay, among others.
It really was a terrific discussion to be part of, one which most avid sports fans would enjoy. The Fan 590's Bob McCown made a passionate argument in favour of Nash, while Scott Russell of the CBC explained with equal passion the achievements of Guay as part of our revitalized national ski program. The Star's Mary Ormsby, a former collegiate volleyball star and a dedicated hockey mom, made a convincing case for Crosby.
I went in planning to vote for Crosby, but found myself swayed heavily by those passionate pleas on behalf of others. It's not easy to compare team athletes with individual athletes, or those who bring down multi-million dollar salaries with those who still hold the status of amateur.
Curiously, in a hockey country, it's probably hardest for a hockey player to win, if only because Canada has so many talented players that its difficult to demonstrate that one has risen that significantly above all his fellow countrymen in the field.
Indeed, neither Martin Brodeur nor Scott Niedermayer, two of the most decorated and successful Canadian hockey players in history, has ever come close to winning the Lou Marsh. Vinny Lecavalier, to some the best player in the game right now, didn't get much of a mention this year.
For Crosby to become the first hockey player to win since '93, then, is an extraordinary achievement. He won, I think, because he has risen above his sport and above his team to become an ambassador for hockey and, really, the NHL's franchise player.
Where would the NHL be, exactly, in the post-lockout era without Crosby? Where would the Pittsburgh Penguins be? Kansas City?
In the end, I voted Crosby first, Guay second and Nash third, but in truth, I would have been more than satisfied had any of the three won. I kind of liked L.A. Dodgers catcher Russell Martin too, and he didn't even make it to the final round of balloting.
But feel free to disagree. Passionately. And don't be afraid to marvel at the quality of athletes in our country.