Crosby voted most influential sports figure in 2011

Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby has been voted the most influential sports figure of 2011 by a panel of CBC Sports executives, producers, writers and broadcasters.

For the third year, a panel of CBC Sports executives, producers, writers and broadcasters has come up with a list of the people they consider the most influential on the national sports scene over the past 12 months.

We've cut down the finalists to a Top 10 using a simple system of 10 points for a first-place vote on to one point for 10th place.

Only four of last year's Top 10 are back this time, showing how much the sports world in this country has turned upside down since then. Except for No. 1.

As always, we want you to have your say in the comments section below:

1. Sidney Crosby, Injured List, Pittsburgh Penguins

When Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about the "shot heard round the world" in the opening stanza of the poem Concord Hymn in 1837, he was referring to the start of the American War of Independence 62 years previous.

Hockey isn't quite as important as the birth of a nation, but you can argue the shot delivered by David Steckel to the head of Sidney Crosby just hours into 2011 may have not only changed the Pittsburgh captain's own paradigm, but set the game itself on a path to what may be revolutionary changes.

Crosby has missed all but eight games in 2011 with concussion, and is out again for who knows how long.

At the same time, the discussion itself has changed, especially with the death this summer of three former NHL enforcers, to now include the possibility that the game of hockey as we know it could be altered.

Crosby is famous here in Canada for a coffee shop commercial where he says, "Wouldn't it be amazing, getting up every morning … to do something you love to do?"

That he can't is angering a lot of hockey people and making concussion — and the shots to the head that cause it — a cause celebre.

2. Gary Bettman, Commissioner, National Hockey League

There is a wonderful shot of the NHL boss at the opening ceremonies for the Winnipeg Jets (redux) back in October.

The crowd is going insane, the atmosphere electric, and Bettman looks up and around with an expression that seems to say, "What the heck was I thinking? This is great!"

He may have been reluctant to put a team back in Winnipeg unless all else failed (it did, in Atlanta), but you have to say he knows a good thing when he finally sees it.

Might be the same situation in Quebec City soon, if that ville can convince Bettman putting a club back there makes financial sense. 

More importantly, however, it’s going to be Bettman as lead shepherd who will see the league — and indeed the game of hockey itself — through the biggest crisis it has faced since the fall of the Canadian dollar in the 1990s almost wiped out most of the teams north of the border.

What to do about concussions? Should the game be slowed down? How do you slow it down? Should fighting be eliminated? Will that hurt the gate? Can you keep the old guard happy while moving the sport forward? Does that matter?

No one will have more influence on how those questions are answered than Bettman.

3.  Mark Chipman, Owner, Winnipeg Jets

Out on the 100th parallel, as broadcaster Jim Hughson so nicely put it, the Winnipeg Jets were reborn, parented by Chipman and David Thomson.

Chipman kept the dream of hockey alive in Manitoba since the old Jets moved to Phoenix in 1996.

He bought the Minnesota Moose of the IHL, moved them to Winnipeg, helped spearhead the construction of a new arena, kept in touch with the NHL and (this is huge) kept his head and mouth in check where others had lost theirs while backroom manoeuvring worked out in Phoenix and Atlanta.

The devil is in the details and Chipman knew it. So when the league went down to Georgia to see if there was life in the Thrashers, he made sure all the details were in place back home in Winnipeg in case a safety net might be needed.

It was.

4. Nadir Mohamed, President & CEO, Rogers Communications

Idiomatically speaking, the mountain came to Mohamed.

This man was off the radar (he prefers it that way) until the announcement two weeks ago that Rogers would team with Bell Canada to own the Toronto Maple Leafs and all of its accoutrement.

But Mohamed has something George Cope of Bell does not — the Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball. That means Mohamed's influence, in terms of on-field competition and off-field control of communications assets, is that much greater. 

5. Larry Tanenbaum, Chairman, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment

There can't be anyone sitting prettier in the Canadian sports world right now. We're just not quite sure what catbird seat he's in.

Tanenbaum started the year as the 20 per cent minority owner of MLSE, with nought but an influential voice in how the majority owning teachers' pension plan ran things.

He ended it with a 25 per cent ownership share compared to Rogers (37.5%) and Bell (37.5%). What's not understood yet is whether he has a tie-breaking vote in case of dispute between the other two.

But Tanenbaum's still the Leafs' representative at league governors' meetings and, when he speaks, people listen. 

6. Don Cherry, Commentator, Hockey Night in Canada

The Good Kingston Boy dropped a place from last year, but he still has what it takes to get people talking around the plastic water cooler.

"Can you believe what Cherry said on Coach's Corner?" has become the opening line of the unofficial national anthem.

7. Patrick Chan, Figure Skater, Canada

Yes, he let his mouth get away from him — and apologized — but that's not why the young man some call P Chiddy (not I, not in a million years) won the Lou Marsh Award as Canada's top athlete.

He is the world champion. He is undefeated in 2011. He is considered by skating insiders to be someone with the potential, if realized, to become one of best men's skaters in the history of the sport.

And influential? Say what you want about his somewhat thoughtless comments on the way the Chinese look after their athletes as compared to Canada, people certainly heard what he said.

8. Keith Pelley, President, Rogers Media

It's been like Invasion of the Body Snatchers around media outlets this year as Pelley and his crew have picked off journalists from all over to fill out his ever-growing projects.

They include the new Sportsnet magazine, an expanded and beefed up television, radio plus new media and social media properties. Now his bosses own a big chunk of MLSE and will expect him to do something with it.

Oh, he will.

Considered about the brightest mind in the biz.

9. Brendan Shanahan, New Sheriff In Town, NHL

Some journalists have made fun of the videos Shanahan puts out to explain his rulings as the chief disciplinarian, but there's no doubt he's making his mark.

It's Shanahan, an eight-time all-star and three-time Stanley Cup winner (i.e., he's earned respect) who will be the face of league decisions as Bettman and the NHL work their way through the headshot and concussion crisis.

10. Dylan Armstrong, Shot Putter, Canada

Armstrong earned a silver medal in the shot at the world championships in an event Canadians do not traditionally compete well at, then added a gold at the Pan Am Games.

The Kamloops native is one of a handful of medal hopes for the 2012 Summer Olympics.