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Article from Toronto Star: Canada 150: Capturing a country through sport

There have been so many great sports stories since Confederation, it’s hard to pick just one that stands out. To celebrate our country’s birthday, The Star offers 150 of them in a 10-part series, beginning with memorable people and moments in our sporting history and running until Canada Day.

To capture the essence of sports in Canada over the last 150 years is to try to capture the essence of the country as a whole.

It is to tell the story of the coming together of cultures from around the world, encompassing sports of every imaginable ilk because there is so much about this country, its people and its sportswomen and sportsmen to remember.

It goes from the ubiquitous hockey that is ours to treasure and celebrate to runners and jumpers, skiers, skaters, snooker players, dart throwers and footballers — women and men whose impact on Canadian life has transcended fields of play.

Athletes and teams who have done Canada proud on a global stage, those who have been part of us for years and those who have been like stars shooting across the sporting landscape.

There are so many great stories, memorable moments, individuals and teams to cherish. There are moments of great heartbreak and disappointment. There are tales of perseverance and celebration.

There is no one single thing that stands out because the impact of sports and sports stories in Canada since Confederation is breathtaking.

Starting today and running until July 1, The Star will present a 10-part series to try and capture the quintessential moments and people of the last 150 years, to stir memories and celebrate history.

There is no one common theme that runs through the list because it is impossible to find one, just as it’s impossible to find one common thread that has carried Canada from 1867 until now.

The 150 people and events that we’ve come up with is not an all-encompassing list; it captures a representative look of Canadian sports and athletes and offers a glimpse of what we’ve done, how we did it and what it meant.

Once asked what it meant to be “wholly Canadian,” Steve Nash said this:

“One thing it is to be wholly Canadian is to not get carried away with this answer, you know? We know who we are, we do our best, we try to play as a team and we try to look out for other people rather than ourselves more often than not and let’s just leave it at that.

“It becomes wholly un-Canadian to gush over that answer, you know?”

Maybe. Maybe not.

Maybe now is the time to gush a little bit as we approach the 150th birthday of our country.

Maybe it is time to shine a light on so many great years of Canadian sports, great moments of Canadian sports, great people of Canadian sports.

We hope the next 10 days makes you smile and think. We hope you learn some things and remember some others. We hope it captures us.

 Wayne Gretzky

The numbers are almost too much to comprehend: 200 points in an NHL season on four different occasions, 894 goals and 1,963 assists in 1,487 games, nine Hart Trophy wins as the NHL’s most valuable player, 16 seasons of 100+ points, four Stanley Cup championships with the dynastic Edmonton Oilers.

The Great One? Indeed.

The Brantford native is always in the conversation about the greatest hockey player ever; he wasn’t the biggest or strongest or fastest player on the ice but his intelligence and a sixth sense that seemed to let him see plays before they developed set him apart.

He credits his father, the equally famous and beloved Walter Gretzky, with helping him develop the instincts that made him such a special athlete.

“I’ve just learned to guess what’s going to happen next,” he said. “It’s anticipation. It’s not God-given, it’s Wally-given.”