The Class of 2012 is, at bare minimum, impressive.
The nine men and women who have been inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame this year brings the honour roll to a total of 529 since the Hall started counting Canadian sports greats in 1955.
And they are not just athletes who have made an impact in Canada or North America. These are icons of sport that can arguably be classified as the very best on the face of the Earth. It is startling, really, to understand the star power that resides within the four walls of Canada's sporting shrine on the threshold of the Rocky Mountains.
"It's profound," said Scott Niedermayer, the four-time Stanley Cup champion and twice an Olympic gold medallist. "To think that all of these people came from this one country is inspiring."
Niedermayer, who has won every major championship in his sport and can count himself as one of the best defencemen ever, is professional hockey's representative in the class of 2012.
It is a class which includes pioneering soccer player Charmaine Hooper as well as the most prolific sprint speedskater in history in Jeremy Wotherspoon. Add to that Pierre Lueders, the most decorated Canadian slider of all time who won two Olympic medals, including gold in 1998. Lueders is regarded as one of the most ferocious competitors of all-time.
"I had two posters on my wall as a kid -- Wayne Gretzky and Gilles Villeneuve and they are both here [in the Hall]," said Olympic champion figure skater David Pelletier. "It feels surreal for me to be entering this house."
'With joy and with passion'
Pelletier also won a pairs world championship with his partner Jamie Sale.
Together, they also sparked a revolution of fairness in their sport with their exemplary behavior in the face of a judging scandal at the 2002 Olympics. Not only did they justly share the gold medal with their Russian rivals, but the judging system of skating became more quantifiable in the wake of their experience in Salt Lake City.
"What is most important is not what we accomplished," Sale cautioned. "What we are most proud of is that David and I pursued our sport with joy and with passion."
Also entering the Hall of Fame is the late Daryl (Doc) Seaman, who helped to bring the Calgary Flames to the NHL. But Seaman was also a prime mover in Calgary hosting the 1988 Olympics and his hockey foundation, along with partner Harley Hotchkiss, has raised more than $5 million to allow youngsters in the province of Alberta to pursue their dreams of playing the game at every level.
Derek Porter has ascended to the Hall after a remarkable rowing career. He won Olympic gold with the men's eight at the 1992 Barcelona Games and followed up with single sculling silver at Atlanta in 1996.
"It's humbling," Porter reckoned. "These are great athletes from a great country and it's an honour to be with them."
'Opportunity for girls and young women'
Perhaps the most unsung of this year's inductees is Marion Lay.
She won an Olympic bronze medal as a freestyle relay swimmer at Mexico City in 1968. She was also a Commonwealth Games champion.
"My career as an athlete ended 44 years ago," Lay chuckled on the day of her induction. "But after Mexico City, I began a journey that led me to try and discover opportunity for girls and young women in sport."
Indeed, Lay has been a tireless worker for gender equity in Canadian athletics. She is a founding member of the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport (CAAWS) and has made it her mission to ensure that females have the chance to participate, officiate, administer and coach sport in this country.
'Inclusion and equity in sport'
In short, Lay is not only entering the Hall as an athlete, but as a builder. And builders like her are the rock solid foundation upon which the Canadian sporting system has been fashioned.
Lay's words of acceptance were telling.
"I hope Canada continues to journey down a road that is about inclusion and equity in sport," she declared. "Everyone has a right to play and to aspire to the Olympic and Paralympic Games."
The new kids in the hall are, indeed, impressive.
I would think, as a group, they might be unrivalled. To think that these nine men and women come from such a wide variety of athletic endeavours and complexity of backgrounds suggests, there is diversity on Canadian fields of play that we should all be proud of.
It also reveals a depth to our sporting folklore that has few, if any, equals.
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