Every time the Lou Marsh Award pops up all Canadian sports fans get an eye opener. There’s a ton of talent out there.
The mystery is why most of the candidates that make it to the final ballot for consideration as Canada’s athlete of the year are anonymous to most people in this country.
This year, Sidney Crosby, the brilliant captain of the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, captured the prize named after the late Toronto Star sports editor — an award that dates back to 1936 and whose recipients have included Wayne Gretzky, Barabara Ann Scott, Catriona Le May Doan and Mike Weir.
For Crosby it’s a second victory and well-deserved considering he’s the best Canadian hockey player alive and led his team to arguably the most difficult championship to capture in North American professional sport.
Just about everybody knows Sid the Kid’s name.
The same is true of Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns, a perennial finalist because he’s the best playmaker in big-time basketball, which is the second most popular team sport in the world next to soccer.
But that’s where the familiarity gets fuzzy.
It’s a revelation to discover that Canada also boasts sluggers like Jason Bay and Justin Morneau, each capable of more than 100 RBIs in Major League Baseball. Or that Daniel Nestor, the best doubles player in tennis, hails from north of the border.
If you dig deeper you understand that world champions like Christine Nesbitt of speedskating, John Kucera of alpine skiing, Jasey Jay Anderson of snowboarding and Alexandre Bilodeau of freestyle skiing also bleed red and white.
This is to say nothing of swimmer Ryan Cochrane, who won two medals at the world aquatics championships, or Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, a hurdler who captured silver at the world track and field summit.
They are Canadians close to the pinnacle of the most contested sports on the face of the Earth.
The names already mentioned barely scratch the surface.
There are golfers, mixed martial artists, figure skaters and football players who also deserve consideration.
There are so many jewels of Canadian sport we have yet to fully appreciate. Maybe we should make the Lou Marsh Award more than a one-day deliberation that seems so fleeting.
Perhaps we should make it more inclusive and spark a national celebration so that all Canadians might uncover our hidden treasures of sport.
– Scott Russell is the Host of CBC Sports Weekend seen Saturday afternoons. He has covered professional and amateur sports including nine Olympic games and numerous world championships.