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.
In part 1 of our series we honored those who paved the way for today’s athletes, motivating and inspiring both on and off the field of play and also throughout the community (or for some on the list, throughout the world).
In part 2 of our series, we took 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. While not everyone on the list was homegrown, they have become adopted and made honorary British Columbians, by fans all over the province and country.
Today, we check in with the five athletes that will take all that they have learned from their predecessors and with hopes, put it all together to make a complete package.
While they will never make us forget our generation, these five individuals (again in no particular order) have already shown that they will bring something special to the rich history of sport in British Columbia.
1. Travis Lulay
After three attempts to catch on in the NFL (twice with the Seattle Seahawks) the redheaded QB out of Oregon has quickly become a BC Lions fan favorite, with a little bit of Dave Dickerson mixed with a dash of Casey Printers and a pinch of Doug Flutie.
After bidding his time in 2009 and for half of 2010, Lulay was given the keys to the ride in 2011 and after figuring out how to get out of second gear, Lulay threw it into RAMMING SPEED on route to a Grey Cup Championship, the Grey Cup Most Outstanding Player, the regular season Most Outstanding Player and CFL All-Star.
Following the first five games of the 2012 season, Lulay has the Lions sitting in a tie for first place in the Western Division and although his stats during the first four games were seen as no more than mediocre, Lulay found his groove in a convincing 34-8 pounding of the Calgary Stampeders.
It’s looking more and more likely that GM Wally Buono will have to open up the check book and sign Lulay to a long term agreement, because chances are Lions fans could revolt if he gets away.
2. Cory Schneider
Sure Schneid’s has posted some fantastic numbers during his short life with the Canucks, but that was in the role of backup and then moving up to a full time tag team partner.
Now with Bobby Lu heading out of town, the spotlight of the Canucks nation shines brightly on Cory Schneider. Showing that he can handle the full time load as a member of the Manitoba Moose (AHL), Schneider has posted a 36-12-3 record for the Canucks in 58 games over the last two years.
If Schneider can lead the Canucks to the top of the mountain and plant the team flag at the peak, chances are he would be enshrined forever in this hockey crazed city.
3. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
He may play in for the divisional rival Edmonton Oilers, but Burnaby born Nugent-Hopkins, the 2011 1st overall pick in the NHL draft has all the tools to be a star in the big leagues for a long time.
Although he fell short of claiming the Calder Trophy as the Rookie Of The Year, a season in which he tallied 52 points in only 62 games, Nugent Hopkins was on pace to claim the hardware before a shoulder injury took him out of the race.
Along with Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov, the 2012 1st overall pick, the Oilers future is extremely bright and once the kids learn to play together, extremely scary for the rest of the league.
As a minor (which is funny to say, considering he is only 19) RNH dropped a ridiculous 214 points, including 119 goals in his second season with the Burnaby Winter Club before he captured the 2008 BC Minor Hockey Player Of The Year award, based on his contributions to the Vancouver Giants and his role in the Mac’s AAA Midget Tournament.
Following his single season with the Giants, Nugent-Hopkins spent two full seasons (plus 5 games in 2008/09) with the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL.
Although his stock was already high, RNH put an exclamation point on this final WHL season, tallying 106 points in 69 games.
4. Brett Lawrie
The Langley born and raised Lawrie may not have the numbers that the others on this list do, but he has created a cult like following as the Toronto Blue Jays third baseman.
Raised in a family of ball players (sister Danielle is a fastball pitcher for Team Canada), Brett was selected 16th overall by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2008 MLB Draft.
As a minor, Lawrie’s resume includes being a member of the Canadian Junior National Team and Team Canada in the 2008 Olympics.
In 2009 and 2010, Lawrie found himself invited as a member of the MLB All-Star Futures Game as part of All-Star weekend.
Following a trade to Toronto in 2010, Lawrie received a call from the Blue Jays and has not looked back since.
Hitting a respectable .286 in his short career with 18 HRs, Lawrie has brought a different level of energy and excitement to the Blue Jays club since joining the team on August 5, 2011.
Note: Lawrie Video
5. Robert Sacre
He may never see the floor, he may never even see anything other than a LA Lakers summer league jersey, but for Rob Sacre, the 60th and final overall pick in this summer’s NBA draft, the first step to fulfilling his dream has come true and has given many other Canadian basketball players continued hope of making it to the promise land.
A 7 foot centre out of North Vancouver, Sacre is the first player from British Columbia in sixteen years to hear his name among the 60 NBA hopefuls (the other being Steve Nash in 1996).
He may spend a season being Kobe Bryant’s whipping boy and take his lumps from Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, but for “Big Rob”, the challenges that lie ahead appear to be nothing that he can’t handle.
With a big body to help the Lakers on the boards and a defensive energy, Sacre may endear himself to the defensive minded Lakers head coach Mike Brown.
With Nash as his teammate, Sacre will have a chance to pick the brain of the greatest Canadian basketball player and if he can come away with a portion of what Nash has brought to the league and to basketball in Canada, Sacre may make the other 29 teams regret their 59 mistakes.