Best of the Best – BC Edition
Icon – a person or thing regarded as a symbol of a belief, nation, community, or cultural movement
The great thing about sports is that almost everyone can relate to the trials and tribulations that an athlete goes through in order to reach the upper echelon of their respective sport, be it as an individual or member of a team.
Throughout the world, each generation of athlete or fan identifies with an individual who has transcended the sport, whether it be on or off the field of play.
As you will see from the list below (which other than number one is in no particular order) residents of British Columbia should feel proud that they have a long list of individuals that they can refer to as sports icons.
In our three part series, (Part 1) we will take a look at those who have paved the way for today’s athletes, those who are currently setting the tone and those who will lead the next generation of local superstars.
In the second part of this series, we will take a look at five current BC sports icons (not necessarily Canadian born) that are setting the tone for today’s generation of athletes to look up to.
1. Steve Nash
“Hair Canada”, “Kid Canada”, whatever you wish to call Steve Nash, the title of “Icon” just about covers everything that Nash has meant to basketball not only in BC, but throughout the country.
Even prior to his NBA career, Nash had made a name for himself on the Canadian basketball scene with his time on the National Team and at Santa Clara, leading the fifteenth seed underdog Broncos to a stunning 64-61 victory over the second seeded Arizona Wildcats.
As a member of Team Canada, Nash led the country to a seventh place finish in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, captivating the entire county in the process. His journey through the NBA ranks is one of dreams.
As small, white, vertically challenged point guard from Canada, selected 15th overall by the Phoenix Suns, Nash sat behind Jason Kidd and Kevin Johnson for his first run in Arizona before being traded to the Dallas Mavericks.
For six years in Big D, Nash teamed with Dirk Nowitzki to become one of the best duos in league history.
A return to Phoenix saw Nash team up with Mike D’Antoni and his run and gun offense.
Back to back MVP awards!
At 38 years old, when most assume that players are heading into pasture, Nash has been revitalized with a trade to the LA Lakers and a chance at the championship ring that has eluded his otherwise impressive resume.
On a side note, Nash has been known to dabble in a little bit of film work every now and then.
Not bad for a 6’3″, 180lb kid from Canada.
2. Christine Sinclair
Where Dominic Mobilio was to men’s soccer in BC, Sinclair is to women’s. Starting with her youth soccer team, growing up in Burnaby, BC, Sinclair’s name is synonymous with soccer success.
A hand full of league and provincial titles with her club team and three league championships at the high school level, Sinclair dominated the pitch early and often.
Her move on to the University of Portland did not halt her stronghold on the sport as she set numerous records during her four years in Oregon, including the all-time Div 1 goal scoring record with 39 goals in a single season.
Oh ya, and just for kicks (pun intended) she dropped a 3.75 GPA, good enough to be named the Academic All-American of the Year.
For two years following her graduation, Sinclair ran the fields at Swanguard Stadium with the Vancouver Whitecaps Women, before being selected by the FC Gold Pride (Santa Clara, California) of the Women’s Professional Soccer league in 2009.
When the club folded at the end of the 2010 season, Sinclair moved on to the Western New York Flash, where she claimed more hardware as the league MVP and a finals championship.
As for Team Canada?
Sinclair still holds the U-19 World Championship scoring record with 10 goals, which resulted in a Golden Boot award and the Golden Ball MVP. With a place in the 2012 London Olympics with Team Canada, Sinclair looks to increase her record setting 137 goals with the national team.
3. Geroy Simon
What more can be said about Geroy Simon than has already been? The first player on our list of BC icons (past, present or future) that was not born in Canada, Simon has been “adopted” by BC Lions fans as one of our own for over a decade.
In the first game of the 2012 season, Simon captured the CFL all time career reception title from former Winnipeg Blue Bomber, Milt Stegall. As a member of the Leos, Simon has been part of two Grey Cup championship teams and was awarded the CFL Most Outstanding Player in 2006.
A six time CFL All-Star, Geroy is often seen throughout the Lower Mainland, contributing towards the growth of the CFL and minor football, coaching the Cloverdale Bobcats.
While some superstars bask in the spotlight of their stardom and celebrity status, Simon proved that he is no more important to the game than a group of kids, as last season following a victory over the Toronto Agros, Simon made sure that he was home resting following his game in order to be up and early to the field to help the Bobcats capture a victory of their own.
Oh ya, it was his birthday that day as well.
No better way to celebrate than with the game you love and the fans that love you.
4 and 4B. Henrik and Daniel Sedin
They have been a story in Vancouver since 1999, selected with the 2nd and 3rd picks sandwiched by such greats as Patrik Stefan and Pavel Brendl. While it took a couple of years (2000-01) to actually get them physically in Vancouver and on the ice, the wait has been well worth it.
Like the majority of young players in the NHL, it took a few years for the twins to reflect their worth in the box scores, but since the 2006-07 season the twins have been pretty close to no less than a point per game pace every season.
While the holy grail of hockey has eluded the franchise, the twins from Sweden have copped some of the NHL’s most prestigious individual awards over the past few years, including the 2010 Hart and Art Ross trophies for Henrik and the Art Ross and Ted Lindsay trophies for Daniel in 2011.
Want to talk dedication? Out of 902 possible regular season games since they arrived at GM Place (now Rogers Arena) Daniel has played in 859 games. His brother Hank on the other hand has been on shift for 892 games, including his current 581 game iron man streak.
Considering their on ice value to the team, the twins both agreed to taking less than market value for their talents in order for the team to manage their salary cap. At $6.1 mil each, they don’t even register in the top 25 on the NHL payroll.
Taking a page from Trevor Linden’s community playbook, the twins have made their faces known in the community by visiting Canuck Place and other charities, as well as by donating $1.5 million towards the BC Children’s Hospital.
Some may call them “soft”. Some may call them “the sisters”.
Soon some will call them “icons”.
5. Justin Morneau
If you take away his 2011 season, which was greatly impacted by the concussion he received during a mid-season game in 2010, Justin Morneau was carving out what may have been the best resume ever for a baseball player from BC, if not Canada.
Since joining the Minnesota Twins in 2003, Morneau has been a four time All-Star (07-10), two Silver Slugger awards, winner of the 2008 Home Run Derby and in 2006 became the second Canadian to capture MVP honors as the American League Most Valuable Player.
To top off all the accolades, Morneau found himself on the cover of 2KSports “The Bigs” .
Unfortunately the collision at second base during that one unfortunate night in 2010 has dropped Morneau from MLB superstar status, however, his 2012 stats have started to come around, hitting .254 with 11 round trippers and 40 RBI’s while manning first base full time.
While Morneau may not return to the elite status he once held in the Major League, his impact in BC, especially in his hometown of New Westminster has been a strong as ever.
Establishing the Justin Morneau Foundation, focusing on the underprivileged and also contributing to the Arthritis Foundation.
HONORABLE MENTION ICONS: