Despite the poor showing of Canadian teams during this past hockey season, right now is a pretty exciting time for Canadian athletes. Milos Raonic and Denis Shapovalov showed the world that Canadians can play tennis as well as the rest of them. Captain Canada himself, Michael Saunders, made it to the MLB All-Star game. And this weekend Sidney Crosby will be taking his second Stanley Cup home to his Nova Scotia hometown.
Given the overwhelming reasons to be proud of our nation’s athletic output, what better time to look at the all time great athletes Canada has given the sports world.
Now such a list will undoubtedly bring about some strong opinions (rightfully so) so let’s just get a few things out of the way first. The list is made up from athletes whose skills are undeniable, as well as their place within their respective sport and their representation of Canada. This whole list could be populated with hockey players, but to add a little variety, I’ve chosen to limit their representation on the list. It may be shocking to see the likes of Lemieux, Roy and Messier missing but rest assured their talents are not overlooked.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the 12 greatest Canadian athletes of all time!
You don’t earn a name like “The Great One” without being something special. Called the greatest hockey player of all time by many and it’s unlikely he’ll lose that title anytime soon. Name just about any hockey record and you’ll see that the legendary 99 holds it firmly.
Few athletes on this list hold the type of legacy that Fox has among Canadians. Not the athlete with the most titles under his belt or the most trophies to show off, but rather Fox is remembered as a great Canadian athlete due to his amazing bravery in the face of something terrifying. He continues to inspire countless Canadians after all these years.
Like Terry Fox, Rick Hansen is often honoured for his courage and strength against adversity, but he’s also celebrated as a truly gifted athlete. Probably Canada’s most famous Paralympic athlete, he’s won three golds, two silvers and one bronze between 1980 and 1984.
Gretzky holds the title of “The Great One” due to his undeniable skill in the game, but why is it then that Gordie Howe holds the title of “Mr.Hockey”? More than any other player, Howe played the whole game. He was a goal scorer, a puck-handler, a scrapper, a bruiser, a leader, a right-hand man. His amazing career is one of the longest in NHL history, and though we sadly lost him earlier this year, he’ll always remain a huge part of Canadian history.
Ferguson “Fergie” Jenkins
When it comes to sports in which Canadians are underrepresented, being the first goes a long way. For instance, though there have been several notable Canadian baseball players, Fergie Jenkins was the first Canadian to win the Cy Young Award. A significant milestone, but even more significant is that he’s also the first Canadian to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Canadians have never been the strongest contenders in the summer Olympics, but for an entire generation of Canadian children, Donovan Bailey represented the height of Canadian pride. He won gold twice at the 1996 games and was the record-holder for the 100m sprint. It’s always an inspiring sight to see a Canadian with that gold medal around their neck.
Being the best at one sport is quite an accomplishment, but being the best at two sports is phenomenal. A cyclist and a speed skater, she set records for not only Canadians, but athletes from all over the world. She remains the only athlete to win multiple medals in both the summer and winter Olympics.
Auto racing is another sport that few Canadians excel at, but Vileneuve certain helped to put our country’s name on the map with the sport. His championship wins and titles are too many to name, but he’s won the Indianapolis 500, and the Formula One World Championship–only the third racer to have done so and the first Canadian to win the Indy 500 and F-1 championships.
The face of women’s Canadian soccer and likely the greatest Canadian soccer player ever. Sinclair has shown unbelievable skill on the field as well as proven to be a true leader of her team again and again. Off the field, she continues to be a inspiration to countless Canadian girls with their own dreams of athletic glory.
Hockey has proven that Canada has its fair share of fighters, but not too many of us make a splash in the world of boxing. But not all of us are George Chuvalo. Muhammed Ali said Chuvalo was the toughest fighter he ever faced. What else needs to be said?
The first ever World Cup ski race was held in 1967. At that point, Greene had already won several high-profile events in Canada and The States. The sport was dominated by European’s at the time but Greene managed to clench the title, and went on the more glory including Olympic gold. No surprise she was voted the top female Canadian athlete of the 20th century.
Steve Nash’s stature may not immediately make you regard him as an amazing basketball player, but you know what they say about judging books by their covers. His career with the Phoenix Suns was outstanding and saw him awarded as NBA’s MVP twice. Without a doubt, Canada’s greatest basketball player.
Let’s hear it. Who did we miss?
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