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Amateur sportsBeyond the deadline: 5 reasons to love sport

Posted: Thursday, March 1, 2012 | 11:16 AM

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Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, now a mother, is back on track to restore her dominance in the 100-metre hurdles. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press) Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, now a mother, is back on track to restore her dominance in the 100-metre hurdles. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

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The overhyped NHL trade deadline has come and gone, and in spite of all the anticipation and all the deals that never happened, the talk about the deadline lingers agonizingly on.

Here are five better reasons to love sport, from celebrating the comebacks of Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, Jan Hudec and Alexandre Despatie to admiring the brilliance of Jean Beliveau and Canada's figure skaters.
The overhyped NHL trade deadline has come and gone, and in spite of all the anticipation and all the deals that never happened, the talk about the deadline lingers agonizingly on.

When will we move forward? Why is the non-story of Rick Nash not being traded still a headline story?

Suddenly, the focus has shifted from the trade watch and the non-sporting activity of turning over players like stock market commodities, to waiting like buzzards to see which general managers will get the heave-ho for failing to make a move.

It's incredible that business transactions or the lack thereof continue to dominate the discussion of what's happening with the national obsession of hockey. Isn't the real story what's happening on the ice?

Here are five better reasons to love sport.

Jean Beliveau

Without question, "Le Gros Bill" is one of the most beloved players in hockey. Even if you grew up despising the Montreal Canadiens, Beliveau gets a pass. He has won the Stanley Cup 10 times and is arguably the most gracious figure in a rough and tumble sport.

Beliveau has always exuded class. He was one of the most skilful and accomplished players of his time and played his entire NHL career with the Canadiens, even though Quebec City built Le Colisee for him in the hopes that he would spend more time there.

Beliveau is ailing now, the result of another stroke suffered this week.  Everyone who loves hockey is pulling for his recovery. There is not another sports figure in this country able to inspire a greater affection for the way he or she played the game.

Priscilla Lopes-Schliep

Five months after giving birth to her daughter Nataliya, Canada's top contender for a track medal at the London 2012 Olympics is back in the mix.

Lopes-Schliep, who won a bronze medal in the 100-metre hurdles in Beijing and followed up with a silver at the 2009 world championships in Berlin, finished second to teammate Nikita Holder over the 60-metre distance at an indoor meet in Sherbrooke, Que., last weekend.  

It serves notice that Lopes-Schliep is determined to be a threat in London and that she's capable of living a full and complex life as a high performance athlete. Her dramatic charge back to the front of the international pack while juggling motherhood is nothing short of inspiring.

You never want to make the mistake of counting her out. She's active on Twitter and her daily messages of optimism @GoPriscilla make you want to follow her progress every step of the way.

Figure skating

There are about three weeks to go until the world figure skating championships in Nice, France get underway and Canada is the leader of the pack. In two of the four disciplines, this country's skaters are favourites to win the gold medal.

Patrick Chan is far and away the best male competitor on the planet, and every time he takes to the ice he has the ability to elevate his game. As the outstanding coach Doug Leigh told me on a recent visit to the Mariposa International Centre in Barrie, Ont., Chan is already making history.

"He's certainly one of the best if not the best of all time," Leigh said. "He's a winner, and more importantly he's a leader."

Meantime, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are back on their collective game in the ice dance and their rivalry with training partners Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States is heating up. It may be one of the greatest match-ups in figure skating history, and the best thing about it is they force each other to be better.

Jan Hudec

Here's a Canadian speed skier who is having a renaissance season on the World Cup circuit, and it couldn't happen to a more deserving guy. After seven knee surgeries and at 30 years of age, Hudec won a downhill this month at Chamonix and finished second in a super-G at Crans Montana.

He's also been in the top 10 seven times, including his rookie effort on the much-feared Kitzbuhel course.

Hudec is understated and so low profile that he got a last-minute sponsorship from a small restaurant near Banff called the The Grizzly House to help finance his comeback effort. Hudec is lovingly referred to as "Hanzo" by his teammates and has sparked renewed interest in the Canadian Cowboys.  

Along with Erik Guay, the downhill world champion, and the consummate underdog, Benjamin Thomsen, Hudec is concocting a little magic and making ski racing anything but predictable as the campaign comes to a close.

Alexandre Despatie

The best Canadian male diver in history has risen to his latest challenge and seemingly made the cut for the London Olympics. In spite of missing about a year of competition due to a knee injury, Despatie was on or near the podium in both do-or-die efforts at the World Cup test event in London last week.

Despatie, it seems certain, will appear at his fourth Games this summer and should now get serious consideration as the flag bearer for Canada. He's won two silver medals at previous editions of the Games and first competed at the age of 15 in Sydney in 2000.

Since he dazzled Canadians by winning gold at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Malaysia as a 13-year-old, "The Little Prince" has written quite an international story of accomplishment. Many times a world champion, he came back from a broken foot to get close to gold in Beijing in 2008.

He's one of the most accomplished summer athletes in the annals of Canadian sport and seems to know how to peak at just the right time.

"When I first went to the Olympics I was just a kid," Despatie told me.  "Now I want to experience it from the perspective of being a man."

These are only five of the compelling stories in sport that are unfolding right now. There are many more. The time for the trade deadline has come and gone.

Let's move on.

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