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Wickenheiser, Sinclair in sports spotlight

Columnist Bruce Penton writes about the careers of Hayley Wickenheiser and Christine Sinclair
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Newspaper and website headline writers recently took a temporary break from golfer Brooke Henderson and tennis player Biance Andreescu. When it comes to Canadian female athletes, the major headlines recently have been for two others — a pair of Canada’s most accomplished and veteran performers.

Forty-year-old Hayley Wickenheiser, not a stretch to be called the best female hockey player ever, was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame during the same week that Christine Sinclair, Canada’s best ever soccer player and among the top three or four women players in the world, may have played her last game in a historic career.

Sinclair and her Canadian team-mates fell 1-0 to Sweden in the round of 16 to be eliminated from the women’s World Cup and it’s likely the 36-year-old Burnaby native and team captain won’t play another international game with the Maple Leaf on the front of her uniform. If she never plays another game, her body of work on the soccer pitch is unparalleled. She is No. 2 in the goal-scoring annals of international women’s soccer, with 182, trailing only Amy Wambach of the United States. She was named Canadian soccer player of the year an unprecedented 14 times. Basically, she’s the Wayne Gretzky of Canadian women’s soccer, and there’s no higher praise.

If Sinclair is the Gretzky of soccer, then Wickenheiser is the Sinclair of women’s hockey. No one comes close to her rank as Canada’s best. A native of Shaunavon, Sask., Wickenheiser — now studying to become a doctor (talk about an accomplished high achiever) — played for Canada’s national team for 23 years. She was the best player on four Canadian gold-medal teams and one silver-medal squad at the Olympics. She also played professionally for a couple of seasons in European men’s leagues. Her knowledge of hockey and her stature within the sport is such that Toronto Maple Leafs added her to their management staff last year, as the assistant director of player development.

Wickenheiser headlines a group of six inductees to the 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame, the ceremony for which takes place in November. Others to be honoured this year are ex-NHLers Guy Carbonneau, Vaclav Nedomansky and Sergei Zubov and builders Jim Rutherford and Jerry York.

Twenty years from now, Halls of Fame will likely come calling for the likes of Henderson and Andreescu, but for the time being, let’s salute Wickenheiser and Sinclair, both of whom provided long-time excellence and class to the Canadian sports scene.

  • Headline in “Josh McCown retires after signing one-day contract with Cardinals, Lions, Raiders, Dolphins, Panthers, 49ers, Bears, Buccaneers, Browns, Jets.”
  • Goalie Roberto Luongo, announcing his retirement from the Florida Panthers after 19 seasons in the NHL:  “I’ve decided to take my talents to a South Beach retirement home.”
  • Norman Chad of the Washington Post, on Twitter: “Bob Ley retires from ESPN after company declines to move his office further away from Stephen A. Smith.”
  • Humourist Brad Dickson of Omaha, Neb.: “The IOC is poised to add break dancing as an official Olympic event. I'm not making that up. At this rate soon gardening, drooling, farting and napping will all be sanctioned Olympic competitions.”
  • Dickson again: “It looks like a Big Ten school may win the College World Series. This is like a Buick Century taking the checkered flag at the Indianapolis 500.”
  • Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Quebec’s provincial legislature passed a controversial immigration bill that screens migrants based on their labor skills. Question No. 1 on the new application form: How good is your slap shot?”
  • Another headline from ”Norfolk Tides third baseman sent down to Baltimore Orioles.”
  • Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times: “According to Le’Veon Bell’s 911 call, the last time the Jets running back saw those two ‘girlfriends’ who allegedly stole $500,000 of his stuff, he was leaving for the gym and they were still naked in his bed. In other words: Bares 2, Jet 0.”
  • Comedy writer Jim Barach, on the Mets apologizing after manager Mickey Callaway and pitcher Jason Vargas threatened Newsday’s Tim Healey: “Apparently they thought ‘beat reporter’ was less of a job title and more of a command.”
  • Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun, on Kawhi Leonard’s future prospects: “The best way to chase Kawhi out of Toronto: Bring him to more Blue Jays games.”
  • Another one from Perry: “Californians carry the country’s highest mortgage debt — an average of $347,000. ‘Cry me a river,’ say the Baltimore Orioles. ‘We still owe Chris Davis $100 million!’”
  • Patti Dawn Swansson in the River City Renegade, on CFL teams offering cheap beer in an effort to bolster crowds:  “So those won’t be boos you hear, it’ll be booze.”

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