The difficulty in discussing an award such as Canada’s athlete of the year is that you have to be careful not to diminish or belittle the accomplishments of the various contenders for the prestigious title.
That includes this year’s winner who was announced on Wednesday. Marie-Philip Poulin of Beauceville, Que, became the first female hockey player to win the newly-named Northern Star Award.
She was captain of the Canadian team that won the gold medal at the Winter Olympics. Poulin, 31, scored twice in Canada’s 3-2 win over the U.S. in the Olympic final in February. She finished second in scoring at the Olympics and also led Canada to a world championship.
Poulin has established herself as one of the top female players to emerge from this country, so to argue with her selection just seems petty and skewed towards the candidate who the complainer is backing.
Poulin was in tough against some outstanding candidates for the Northern Star, including tennis player Felix Auger-Aliassime, golfer Brooke Henderson, swimmer Summer McIntosh, soccer player Alphonso Davies and Colorado Avalanche defenceman Cale Makar, among others.
That list of contenders will tell you winning that award is a rare feat. Needless to say, the debate among the sports media types who select the winner must be rather spirited when considering this cast of characters that has included Henderson several times in past years.
Just as Poulin has established herself among the biggest names in her game, so has Henderson, who has more wins than any other Canadian on tour with 12. She won twice this year, including her second career major at the Amundi Evian Championship, and finished the season with 10 top-10s.
The debate is not whether Poulin or Henderson should have won it this year. That train left the station when the sports media types who vote on the award adjourned on Wednesday. The question now is will Henderson ever win the Northern Star?
As mentioned above, she’s been in the running several times such as 2016 when she also won twice, including her first major at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, and finished in the top-10 at 15 events, including a run of eight consecutive tournaments.
That year, swimmer Penny Oleksiak won the award, then known as the Lou Marsh. Oleksiak and Poulin are in a group that includes five consecutive Olympians to win it in an Olympic year, which narrows the possibilities for Henderson or anybody else.
Henderson has been an Olympian, so perhaps, she needs to win gold at the Olympics if majors and other victories aren’t enough for the judges.
You’ll never hear anything out of Henderson about not winning the Northern Star, which she surely would be thankful for, to this point and that’s the way it should be. There are way too many more important things to concern herself with as her career moves forward.
Overall wins and major championships is all the counts. Awards and honours will take care of themselves as her career progresses, even if it is or isn’t the Northern Star.