With the NHL and NBA seasons about to begin, baseball getting ready for the playoffs and football well underway, I thought it was the appropriate time to take a look at the best Canadian athletes currently in the world of professional sports.
Again, that says professional, so don't be crying that Simon Whitfield or Cindy Klassen didn't make the cut.
And yes, I mentioned football in the opening but have no football players on the list. I was considering Nick Kaczur, Jesse Lumsden, and Jason Clermont but ultimately couldn't find room for them. Footballer Owen Hargreaves also received consideration, having been born and raised in Edmonton, but from what I can tell he was ready to suit up for Wales even before England came a knocking, so no love for him. Dwayne De Rosario has been a standout in the MLS, but that's a bit like picking the MVP of the AHL.
So with no further ado:
#10 Jason Bay - Boston Red Sox
Outfielder - Trail, British Columbia
After 4 1/2 years in baseball purgatory Bay was traded from Pittsburgh to Boston at this year's trade deadline and has instantly made an impact. His 8 HR and 34 RBI in 40 games while wearing the Red Sox jersey have helped ensure another postseason for Boston and made bar owners everywhere happy. (Who, outside of diehards and those with rooting interests, would watch the playoffs without either the Yanks or Sox to cheer against?) Bay will celebrate his 30th birthday on Saturday in Toronto and at some point over the next few days crack the 100 RBI mark for the third time in five big league seasons.
#9 Rich Harden - Chicago Cubs
Pitcher - Victoria, British Columbia
Eric Bedard and Jeff Francis have received more ink the last few years, but Harden is the most dynamic of the three Canadian hurlers. Of course the reason Bedard and Francis gained more accolades was because they actually made it to the field, unlike Harden who has missed most of the last three seasons with an assortment of arm problems. However, with the Cubbies set to make a run for the World Series, the oft-injured righty with electric stuff will have baseball's biggest stage to perform on. Hardens 2.04 ERA and 11.17 strikeouts per 9 innings this year are far and away the best of any starter in baseball. If he can remain healthy (an that's a gigantic IF) Harden has a chance to join or maybe even surpass Ferguson Jenkins and earn eternal sunshine from the Wrigley faithful.
#8 Vincent Lecavalier - Tampa Bay Lightning
Center – Ile Bizard, Quebec
If you had asked me five years ago who would have the better career, Lecavalier or Joe Thornton my answer would've been Thornton in a heartbeat. Now, it has to be Vinny. He's one of the scariest players to have breaking in on you as a defencemen because he has so many different ways to beat you: speed, power, finesse, deft passing. Some guys do one or two of those things well and have good careers. Lecavalier has them all and can do it in the playoffs. (Sorry Joe). He also did a great job portraying Jean Beliveau in the 'Rocket' film (which if you've never seen, is absolutely worth watching), and happens to have the biggest contract ($77M over 9 years) of anyone on the list, which I feel is definitely worth something.
#7 Russell Martin - Los Angeles Dodgers
Catcher - Montreal, Quebec
In only his third big league season the Montreal native has become one of the best all-around catchers in the majors, and is astoundingly durable having put together back-to-back years of 145+ games caught. Martin, a two-time All-Star, has stolen 38 bases over the last two years, a career OBP of .371, and the best catcher ERA in the game. He may or may not be dating Alyssa Milano, but then again you could probably say that for half the Dodgers so no bonus points there.
#6 Mike Weir - PGA Tour golfer
Bright's Grove, Ontario
The 2003 Masters champion has eight career PGA Tour wins and is currently the 15th ranked player in the world. Consistently one of the Tour's best wedge players, Weir had two near-misses in the first two events of the 2008 FedEx Cup playoffs and appears to be regaining the form that allowed him to rise to #3 in the world five years ago. Have you ever noticed that NBC golf analyst Johnny Miller, who is notoriously critical (read: awesome) of everyone, has a soft spot for his fellow Brigham Young University graduate? Most guys make a mistake and Miller shreds them, Weirsy coughs one up and Johnny makes excuses. Just sayin’.
#5 Jarome Iginla - Calgary Flames
Right Wing - Edmonton, Alberta
The only player to make this list who actually plays for a Canadian squad, Iginla is consistently among the league leaders in goal scoring and might be the best captain in the NHL. Iginla's 252 goals over the last 6 seasons are the most in the league during that span and his combination of power and skill is unmatched in the world of hockey. I can only imagine the joy a Flames fan feels when Jarome puts one in the net and reaches to take out his mouth guard while a huge smile erupts from his face. And getting that feeling up to 50 times a year? Priceless.
#4 Martin Brodeur - New Jersey Devils
Goaltender - Montreal, Quebec
The Three time Stanley Cup champion will go down as the greatest goalie the NHL has ever seen and will own several records including the two biggest for a goalie: most wins and most shutouts. Brodeur has never fully gotten the respect he deserves because pundits all across the league argued his stats were artificial due to the suffocating defensive style his teams used. But that's a copout. Brodeur has been consistently excellent far longer than anyone has the right to be and deserves to be celebrated. He's Barry Bonds without the asterisks.
#3 Justin Morneau - Minnesota Twins
First Base - New Westminster, British Columbia
The two-time All-Star and 2006 AL MVP has been the best first baseman in the American League the last three years, dominating opposing pitching while piling up home runs and RBI's at a rate no Canadian has ever matched. If his buddy Joe Mauer can stay healthy and provide some protection, Morneau could surpass Larry Walker's all-time Canadian record of 383 home runs.
#2 Steve Nash - Phoenix Suns
Point Guard - Victoria, British Columbia
The two-time NBA MVP is the man most responsible for ushering the NBA into the aesthetically pleasing and team-oriented game we see today. He's lead the league in assists 3 out of the last 4 years and hasn't finished outside the top 3 in 5 years. Nash made passing and playing as a team cool again. Even though Chris Paul and Derron Williams have probably climbed ahead of him in the point guard rankings and a whole slew of other players are closing in on him, Nash remains an elite floor general and one of the best three point and free throw shooters ever.
#1 Sidney Crosby - Pittsburgh Penguins
Center - Halifax, Nova Scotia
Entering his fourth season Crosby has become the face of the NHL and is arguably the best hockey player in the world. When it comes to skill and excitement, only Alexander Ovechkin can match Sid the Kid, and Crosby is almost two full years younger. With 294 career points at the tender age of 21, Sid could conceivably join the Great One as the only players to ever surpass the 2000 point plateau.