Friday, 12 February 2010

Anybody but Gretzky

I realize that this will make me less than a patriotic Canadian, but I am not a huge fan of these or any Olympic Games. In a previous post, I lamented some of the issues that I had with the Summer Games. With the distinct absence of European Handball, my feelings about the Winter Games isn't all that different. I still believe that the Olympics have become a bloated, excessive, expensive and over-hyped experience that is primarily run by large corporations for the expressed purpose of shilling their products. The very idea that McDonald's is an Olympic partner, pushing unhealthy eating habits to a passive sports-watching world, is beyond ironic.

That said, it is difficult to ignore the sense of patriotism swirling throughout my country these days. Canada rarely has a world stage on which to show herself off, and these Games should display to the world that we are so much more than Mounties, Celine Dion and hockey. Ok, maybe not the hockey thing.

You see, there is a savage debate raging at home as to who should light the flame this evening. Newspapers columnists and average Joes alike have all put in their two-cents, and the majority seems to be decided on the Great One. I passionately disagree!

While it is truly understood at home that hockey rules and that Wayne Gretzky is the finest that Canada has ever produced, I submit that he has had very little to do with The Olympics. True, it was Wayne who guided the Canadian men to gold in 2002, but he didn't play nor did he coach. He managed. Gretzky was never a successful Olympic athlete and in my opinion, that should be the starting point for any discussion as to who should be honoured with the final torch trip. Canada has had several worthy winter athletes who have brought great honour to our country, and while most of them have already participated in the torch relay, that should in no way preclude them from the ultimate honour.

I will suggest three such individuals for the honour. Gaetan Boucher, Catriona Le May Doan, and my personal favourite Nancy Greene. All three of these individuals are multiple Olympic and World Cup medal winners, with Le May Doan actually defending her title at successive winter games. But it is Greene whom I believe is the obvious choice. She is a born and bred British Columbian who was voted Canada's female athlete of the 20th Century. She is still Canada's most decorated skier, male or female, and she is widely credited with breaking European domination in the sport. It is true that I am too young to remember her flying down the Grenoble slopes to victory in 1968, but the mere fact that I am mentioning her in the same breath as Gretzky, should indicate just how famous and beloved she still is in Canada. She serves as a Conservative in the Canadian Senate and many have suggested that her political leanings should disqualify her from the discussion, but I heartily disagree. Her unfortunate alliance with Sweatered Stevie has absolutely nothing to do with her Olympic glory and watching her light the cauldron in her hometown would be a honour befitting her special place in Canadian sport's history.

We Canadians live, breathe, and absorb hockey. It is part of our national fibre and character. The hockey gold medals are truly the only ones that most of my country people care about during these games. There is really no equivalent that I can describe to any of you that haven't experienced our maniacal passion for the game. That said, I believe that the ultimate sports honour that we Canadians can bestow at these hometown Olympic Games should go to an Olympian. An Olympic hero who shone the spotlight beautifully and brightly on her country. With all due respect to Mr. Gretzky, the Olympics are really not his legacy.

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