Lou Marsh Trophy to be renamed with help from Star readers

The most prestigious award given to an individual athlete in Canada is changing its name.

The star will retire the name of the historic Lou Marsh Trophy, which has been awarded to the country’s top athlete, male or female, over the past 86 years. Extraordinary athletes from 28 different sports — including Bobby Orr, Nancy Greene, Jacques Villeneuve, Wayne Gretzky, Silken Laumann, Terry Fox, Sandy Hawley and Chantal Petitclerc — won it. For decades, he has been a symbol of Canadian excellence in sport.

Now, however, is the time for change, says Toronto Star editor Jordan Bitove.

« We have decided to retire Lou Marsh’s name for the Canadian Athlete of the Year award, » Bitove said. “The original decision to honor Lou Marsh by naming the award was made nearly 90 years ago. But we realize that in recent years some concerns about his writings from the turn of the last century have been raised and that people who supported putting his name on the trophy in the past are less comfortable with it now. .

“We will go through a process of determining a new name worthy of this prestigious award which, since 1936, has honored the best athletes in Canada.

The change will begin with the 2022 edition, with the announcement of the winner in early December.

Submissions for the new name will be accepted by Star readers, and a committee of former voters will provide a recommendation to Star’s editor.

« We are committed to engaging with our readers and others to determine the best way forward, one that preserves the tradition of the award and honors its past winners, » Bitove said.

Marsh, a Campbellford, Ont., native and World War I veteran, worked for the Star as a copyist, sportswriter, columnist and sportswriter – a career that spanned 43 years. He was also a football player, NHL referee, boxing official and professional wrestling advocate.

He enjoyed a remarkable, long-standing working relationship with Indigenous distance runner Tom Longboat, hired the Star’s first female sports columnist, and covered all sports under his famous « With Pick and Shovel » logo.

When he died suddenly in 1936, it made headlines across the country and an award was created in his honor to recognize Canada’s top athlete. Since then, a sports media panel votes every year.

For some time, however, concerns have been raised about language in some of Marsh’s writings at the turn of the 20th century – particularly racial tropes – as well as his role in Longboat’s career and his opposition to a proposed Canadian boycott of the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, leaving some to wonder if attaching his name to the trophy was still appropriate.

The 2021 winner was Olympic decathlon champion Damian Warner after a record breaking performance at the Tokyo Olympics. Thirty-three voters overwhelmingly chose Warner from a star-studded group of finalists that included Alphonso Davies, Andre De Grasse, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Stephanie Labbé, Connor McDavid and Maggie Mac Neil.

After Warner’s victory, he suggested it was time for a name change.

« I don’t want to vilify a man or attack a man who isn’t there at this time to defend himself, » Warner said. « I think he definitely said things that weren’t consistent with Canadian values, even at the time they were said.

« I’m definitely behind the name change. »

There was a time when only the sports editors of Toronto daily newspapers voted for the winner. Former CFL Commissioner Jake Gaudaur chaired the committee for many years.

Over the past few years, efforts have been made to diversify and increase the size of the panel, to better reflect perspectives from different parts of the country and to ensure that different ages, genders and backgrounds are represented. Last year, broadcaster Rob Snoek became the first Paralympian to join the panel and former national team water polo player Waneek Horn-Miller became the first Aboriginal member. Media outlets represented include the Star, Toronto Sun, Postmedia, CBC, TSN, Sportsnet and The Athletic.

« What started as a select few voices at the table making those tough choices has grown into a more diverse group of informed voters from coast to coast who better represent our country, » said the Star Sports editor. , Dave Washburn. “Our goal has always been to honor athletes and their accomplishments.

« I hope we can come up with a suitable new name to keep the focus on our great athletes, and we would like Star readers to help us do that. »

Many sporting institutions across North America have changed their names in recent years to better reflect Canada’s history and modern culture. The CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos are now the Elks, and the McGill University Redmen are now the Redbirds. The Mississauga Girls Hockey League has changed the nickname of its teams from Chiefs to Hurricanes. Ryerson University was recently renamed Metropolitan University of Toronto.

Similar changes are impacting non-sporting institutions. Brampton’s main Sir John A. Macdonald Public School is now Nibi Emosaawdang Public School. In 2021, Toronto City Council voted to rename Dundas Street, with recommendations on a new name expected next year.

Now, Canada’s top sports award will join the bandwagon. Readers are invited to send their name suggestions to topathlete@thestar.ca or submit your suggestions online here.

Damien Cox is a former Star sportswriter who is currently a freelance columnist based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @DamoSpin


Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of conduct. The Star does not share these opinions.

CA Movie

Back to top button