WINNIPEG - As you will read in other parts of the Winnipeg Sun, Cincinnati Reds slugger Joey Votto has been named QMI Agency’s male athlete of the year.
Votto, who was named the National League’s most valuable player in 2010, is certainly a worthy candidate for the award and the fact that he hails from Centre of the Universe doesn’t hurt.
But he didn’t get my vote.
That vote went to an athlete who did something we may never again witness in our lifetimes.
That would be Winnipeg’s Jonathan Toews.
Now, many of the sports writers in Eastern Canada will call me a homer for casting such a vote, just as I believe Votto won numerous awards this season due to his home address (Toronto suburb of Etobicoke).
But I stand by this thought: Toews was robbed.
The Winnipeg hockey star, who at age 22 has already accomplished more than most players achieve in an entire career, had a 2010 athletes can only dream of.
He starred for Canada at the Olympics, going from the so-called 13th forward at the beginning of the tournament to leading the team in scoring and earning recognition as the top forward in the entire tournament. Oh, and did we mention he scored a goal in the gold-medal game, while helping Canada to perhaps its most memorable international triumph, on home soil, no less?
As impressive as that was, Toews had plenty to offer in terms of an encore. He returned to the NHL and captained his Chicago Blackhawks team deep into the playoffs, eventually capping the run off with a Stanley Cup. Oh, and did we mention he put up 29 points in the playoffs and was presented with the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP on the same day he became one of the youngest captains to ever hoist Lord Stanley’s mug?
To recap: In the space of five months, the pride of St. Vital won a gold medal that was celebrated in unison by more than 10 million Canadians, was named the top player in the tournament, won the Stanley Cup and was named the top player in that tournament.
What are the odds of something like that ever happening again? Very, very slim.
Now for some reason, the people who vote for athlete of the year awards in this country have a propensity to favour athletes who achieve success in sports at which Canadians don’t usually excel.
Joey Votto is a Canadian who was the best player in an American dominated game this year, but to me that is no reason to give extra weight to his candidacy over a Canadian who did something extraordinary in a Canadian-dominated game.
Toews lost votes because he only scored 68 points in the regular season in 2009-10, 35th best in the NHL.
Meanwhile, Votto was third in the National League with 37 home runs, second with a .324 batting average and third with 113 RBI.
Gaudy numbers indeed and you can colour us impressed.
But Canadians tend to assess their stars’ performances with the playoffs taken into consideration and by that measure, Toews outdistances Votto by a mile.
Toews was named the MVP of two major playoff tournaments, becoming the second youngest player and youngest captain in history to win the Conn Smythe Trophy.
How did Votto do in the playoffs?
One hit and one RBI in 11 plate appearances. His Reds were eliminated in three straight games.
So go ahead and call me a homer if you will, but I wouldn’t change my vote.
To me, and no doubt to many other Canadians who revere the magnitude of the Olympic hockey tournament and the Stanley Cup playoffs, Jonathan Toews had a one-of-a-kind season and deserves to be recognized for what he is.
Canada’s male athlete of the year.