The Labatt Female Athlete of the Year is swimmer Chantal Van Landeghem. With her three teammates, she won the first medal for Canada in last summer’s Rio Olympics, a bronze in the 4 x 100 metre medley relay. She was the first Manitoba swimmer to medal at an Olympic Games. She added to that Olympic success by swimming Canada's anchor leg in a fifth place finish in the 4 x 100 metre freestyle relay in Canadian record time.
The Nott Autocorp Male Athlete of the Year is football player David Onyemata. In his first season with New Orleans Saints of the NFL he had 18 combined tackles in playing in all 16 regular season games; he had at least one tackle in 10 of those games; he was the first ever Manitoba Bisons player selected in the NFL draft, taken by New Orleans in the fourth round.
The Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball team won the Maurice Smith Memorial Award as the Winnipeg Free Press Team of the Year. The Goldeyes became 2016 American Association champions after clinching their playoff berth on the final day of the season.
In the junior category, rower Emma Gray was named Manitoba Chicken Junior Female Athlete of the Year while Brandon Wheat Kings hockey player Nolan Patrick took home the award as Manitoba Chicken Junior Male Athlete of the Year. Patrick’s team won the 2016 award as Calm Air Junior Team of the Year.
Gray won Junior national trials in single, double and quad races, and is ranked first nationally in both Junior and Under-23 divisions. She is the record holder in both divisions in 2km and 6km races. She was first in the Henley International Regatta in Junior and Under-23 singles, and added two gold and two silver medals in the same categories in the Canadian Rowing Championships.
Nolan was the Western Hockey League's playoff MVP in 2016 and he led the Brandon Wheat Kings to the Memorial Cup with 41 goals and 102 points, fifth in scoring. He led in playoff scoring with 13 goals and 30 points in 21 games. He won the Turk Broda Memorial trophy as Brandon's top Manitoba player, and is the consensus No. 1 pick for the 2017 NHL draft.
In 2016, the Brandon Wheat Kings won their second straight Eastern Conference WHL title with a 48-18-4-2 record. The team went on to a 16-5 record in post-season play, capturing its first league title in 20 years, beating Seattle Thunderbirds 4-1 in the final playoff series to earn a berth in Junior hockey's Memorial Cup tournament.
The 2016 Cactus Jack Wells Impact Award went to the 2016 NHL Heritage Classic, which saw the Winnipeg Jets take on the Edmonton Oilers at Investors Group Field last October.
The MSSA linked up with Sport Manitoba to present the awards for 2016 at Sport Manitoba’s annual Night of Champions on April 22, 2017, at Club Regent Casino Event Centre.
The five finalists in each of the six categories (covering sports activity in the calendar year 2016) have been declared for the MSSA awards. Award-winners will be announced on April 22, 2017 when the MSSA will link with Sport Manitoba for the presentation of awards at the Night of Champions reception at Club Regent Casino.
Tickets for the Night of Champions reception are on sale for $42. For more details, please contact MSSA secretary-treasurer Bob Picken by e-mail (email@example.com) or by phone (204-489-8642).
She was chosen Triathlon Canada Elite Women's Paratriathlete of the Year after an 8th place finish in the Paralympic Games in Rio; she won the P4 title in a World Paratriathlon event in Spain, and was second in the female P4 Paratriathlon event at the 2016 Pan American Championship.
After winning a bronze medal the previous year in her sport's World Championships, she helped her crew to a bronze medal in rowing's Mixed Fours at the Rio Paralympics; it was Canada's first ever medal in rowing at the Paralympic Games.
Selected as Gymnastics Canada senior Athlete of the Year, she qualified for the All-around final in the Rio Olympics; she finished 18th, and became the first ever Canadian to qualify for the beam final, finishing 8th. She also won the senior All-around title in the 2016 Canadian Gymnastics Championships.
A key player in Canada's bronze medal victory over Brazil in the Rio Olympics, a second straight Olympic bronze for Canada in soccer; she started and played in five of the team's six matches in Rio, including all three final games, and played all 90 minutes of the bronze medal game.
With her three teammates, she won the first medal for Canada in the Rio Olympics, a bronze in the 4 x 100 metre medley relay. She was the first Manitoba swimmer to medal at an Olympic Games. She added to that Olympic success by swimming Canada's anchor leg in a fifth place finish in the 4 x 100 metre freestyle relay in Canadian record time.
A Manitoba Bison, he was one of two Canadian university representatives in the 92nd East-West Shrine Game; a Canada West all-star, and he was the conference's most outstanding down lineman; a national nominee for the J.P. Metras trophy, and a U-Sports first team All-Canadian.
Another Manitoba Bison, he won the 2016 Presidents trophy as the outstanding defensive player of the year in U-Sports; a first team football All-Canadian at linebacker; he led U-Sports in total and solo tackles, and in the regular season he had 16 total tackles above any other Canada West player.
Triathlon Canada's Elite Men's Triathlete of the Year after a 15th place finish at the Olympics in Rio; he was 7th in the World Elite Male Hamburg Triathlon, had two 10th place finishes in Elite Triathlon events in Yokohama and Abu Dhabi, and was 11th in the Gold Coast Elite Triathlon.
In his first season with New Orleans Saints of the NFL he had 18 combined tackles in playing in all 16 regular season games; he had at least one tackle in 10 of those games; he was the first ever Manitoba Bison player selected in the NFL draft, taken by New Orleans in the fourth round.
Scoring 28 goals and 30 assists for 58 points for Chicago Blackhawks last season, he added six assists in seven Stanley Cup playoff games; he had five points, was fourth in tournament scoring, and assisted on the gold medal winning goal in the final of the World Cup of Hockey.
A member of Canada's best ever 5th place team finish in the U-17 World Championships, he added to it by leading Team Manitoba into 4th place in the Canadian U-17 national championship. He was named a first team All-Canadian in the nationals, and a Canada Basketball Player of the Week in August.
He won bronze medals in U-18 under-73kg Cadet Pan American and Cadet South America championships, and won silver and bronze medals in the Liberty Bell judo tournament in Philadelphia. He added the Canadian Open U-18 under-73kg championship, and represented Canada in the European Judo Union Cadet Cup in Portugal in May.
Capping his 2016 season by winning four distance titles and first overall in the Manitoba Junior championships, he added second to fifth place honours in three distances and overall in the Canadian Juniors, and was 13th overall competing in seven events in speed skating in the Junior World Championships. He skated personal best times in all of his major races.
He won the bronze medal in 85kgs at the Cadet Pan Am Championships in Peru, won two dual meets in Japan, and represented Canada in 85kgs at the Worlds in Georgia. He was the Canadian Fila Cadet trials champion at 85kg, and won a bronze medal in Greco-Roman. Living in Flin Flon, he won a gold medal in Saskatchewan high school wrestling provincials.
The Western Hockey League's playoff MVP, he led the Brandon Wheat Kings to the Memorial Cup with 41 goals and 102 points, fifth in scoring. He led in playoff scoring with 13 goals and 30 points in 21 games. He won the Turk Broda Memorial trophy as Brandon's top Manitoba player, and is the consensus number one pick for the 2017 NHL draft.
After earlier success in winning a gold medal in the Canada Games, she was the Canadian Junior captain in leading the team to the 2015-16 World Ringette Championships in Finland. As a member of the Canadian team, she also is required to play for a National Ringette League team, and she travels to Alberta to play for the Black Gold Rush.
She won Junior national trials in single, double and quad races, and is ranked first nationally in both Junior and Under-23 divisions. She is the record holder in both divisions in 2k and 6k races. She was first in the Henley International Regatta in Junior and Under-23 singles, and added two gold and two silver medals in the same categories in the Canadian Rowing Championships.
She won the 2016 World Junior Tae Kwon Do Championships, and added a bronze medal in the senior division of the Pan Am Championships. She earned four gold medals and three silvers in International open tourneys in senior and junior divisions in her sport, and she was the female MVP and gold medallist in Canadian championships in both senior and junior divisions.
Her top result may have been winning the 800 metres in the Music City Distance Carnival in Nashville, but she also won a bronze medal in the Women's 4 x 400-metres at the IAAF U-20 World Championships and was sixth at 800 metres. She added gold medals at 400 and 800 metres in National Youth, Canadian Championships, and the MHSAA Championships in her home province.
At the Canadian Age Group Swimming Championships, she won a gold medal in the 50 metre butterfly event, silver in the 50 metre freestyle, was fourth in the 50 metre breaststroke, and fifth in the 100 metre butterfly event. She attained personal best times in all four events for an excellent overall performance competing against athletes on 85 teams from 10 provinces.
Skipped his team to victories in the Champions Cup and Canada Cup on the World Curling Tour. The Canada Cup title earned a berth in next December's Olympic Curling Trials. His team finished third on the tour's 2016 money list, and fourth in the Order of Merit, improving on those positions in the second portion of the current WCT season.
Won the bronze medal in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, after all four team members were first team All-stars. On the World Curling Tour, her team won the Pinty's All-star Skins Game, the Champions Cup and Canada Cup to earn a berth in the Olympic Trials, while finishing fourth on the 2016 money list and second on the tour's Order of Merit.
Captured the team's first Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League Championship with an 8-6 final victory over the Calgary Chill. The Blizzard also reached the Tier Two final at the Founders Cup of lacrosse, bowing to Coquitlam Adanacs 12-9 in the final game.
Won the Manitoba Viterra men's curling championship for the first time, advancing to finish fourth in the Tim Horton's Brier with an 8-3 round robin record, losing in the playoffs. On the World Curling Tour, the team was fourth on the 2016 money list and third on the tour's Order of Merit.
2016 American Association champions, finishing the regular season with 58 wins and 42 losses despite being one game under .500 as late as July 4. Clinched their playoff berth on the final day of the season, and won four playoff elimination games on the road against teams with the top league records. They capped the season with a fifth game winner-take-all series victory in Wichita.
Won their second straight Eastern Conference title in the Western Hockey League with 48-18-4-2 seasonal record. The team went on to a 16-5 record in post-season play, capturing its first league title in 20 years, beating Seattle Thunderbirds 4-1 in the final playoff series to earn a berth in Junior hockey's Memorial Cup tournament.
After an undefeated run to the Manitoba Junior Men's Championship, the team won the fourth straight Canadian Junior title for Manitoba along with three All-star selections. The foursome advanced to the World Junior Championship in Denmark, compiling a 7-2 round robin record and winning the bronze medal in the playoffs. Another distinction on the year was finishing runner-up to McEwen in the Manitoba Viterra men's championship.
The combination team in Pairs-Duet won a gold medal in the Canadian Baton Twirling Championship in Edmonton, and competed in the Grand Nationals of the sport in the Duet category. The twosome won gold medals in the Valentines and Unicity events in Winnipeg, gold in the provincial competition, and a bronze medal in the Canadian Team Trials.
For the second straight season, the Terriers topped 50 wins and won the MJHL championship. Their records were 52-6-2 and 12-1 in the playoffs. Advancing to the Western Canada Championships, they finished fourth and lost to the Brooks Bandits in the runner-up game to determine a second qualifier for the Junior RBC Cup.
Completed an undefeated season in the Winnipeg High School Football league by topping defending champion Vincent Massey 17-8 in the title game. The Crusaders won seven straight regular season games plus playoff wins over Sturgeon Creek, Dakota, and Vincent Massey. They scored 305 points with only 39 scored against during the regular season.
After 60 editions, the Manitoba Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association has suspended its annual Athletes of the Year dinner. The MSSA now will link with Sport Manitoba for the presentation of awards at the Night of Champions reception, to be held April 22, 2017, at Club Regent Casino.
The MSSA will continue to co-ordinate voting by the Manitoba Sports Media for the selection of the provincial 2016 adult team and athletes of the Year, and will expand its awards to include voting for the 2016 youth team and athletes of the year. Voting will be conducted in February and early March.
The selection of the Cactus Jack Wells Sports Impact of the Year award and inductions into the Manitoba Media Roll of Honour also will continue, and the application period now is open for the Jack Matheson Memorial Awards (established to provide financial support to post-secondary students looking to pursue a career in sports journalism or public relations) with a deadline of Feb. 28, 2017. The MSSA Ron Meyers Memorial Awards will continue to be presented in April, co-ordinated by Basketball Manitoba.
After three years as president of the MSSA, Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun has been succeeded for 2017 by Terry Frey of the Steinbach Carillon. Frey will be supported by vice-presidents Ted Holland and Judy Owen. Bob Picken and Glen Dawkins have been re-elected as secretary-treasurer and assistant secretary-treasurer, and Kirk Penton, Ernie Nairn and Ashley Prest will serve as directors on the executive committee.
Manitoba has a five-time winner of the Male Athlete of the Year award in the province. Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Black Hawks was selected for the third straight year in 2015, and for the fifth time in his outstanding career.
Sharing the honours with Toews is swimming star Chantal Van Landeghem, who won her second Manitoba Female Athlete of the Year award, and the Portage Terriers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, named the 2015 Manitoba Team of the Year for their RBC Cup victory as Canadian Junior A hockey champions.
Members of the Manitoba sports media voted for their choices of five finalists in the three categories, and the winners were announced by the Manitoba Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association at the 60th annual awards dinner Jan. 22, 2016, at the Delta Winnipeg Hotel.
Toews had 66 points, scoring 28 goals along with 38 assists in the 2014-15 NHL regular season. The captain of the Stanley Cup champions added 10 goals and 11 assists in 23 playoff games, including the game's first two goals in Chicago's 5-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks in the seventh game of the Western Conference final. He also won the league's Mark Messier leadership award. His previous selections as Manitoba's top male athlete came in 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2014.
In the voting, Toews was selected first on 22 of the 34 sports media final ballots, and had a decisive total of 148 points on the one-to-five point voting process. Manitoba Bison David Onyemata, who won the J.P. Metras trophy as the most most outstanding down lineman of the year in CIS football, was the runner-up with eight first place votes and 117 points. Other finalists for the Nott Autocorp Award were Nolan Patrick of the Brandon Wheat Kings, archery's Jay Lyon, and Manitoba amateur golfer of the year Devon Schade.
Van Landeghem was a double gold medallist in the Pan American Games last year, setting a personal best and a Games swimming record while upsetting American legend Janet Evans in the 100 metre freestyle event. She also led the Canadian team to an unexpected victory in the 4x100 freestyle relay. At the world championships, she was a bronze medallist in the mixed 4x100 relay and finished fifth in Canadian record time in the individual 50 metre freestyle.
Van Landeghem, a previous Female Athlete of the Year winner in 2011, had 24 first place votes and a runaway total of 154 points. Manitoba Bison Rachel Cockrell, selected as CIS volleyball's player of the year, was second with 104 points. Other finalists for the Labatt award were soccer star Desiree Scott, cyclist Leah Kirchmann, and excellent Bison hockey rookie Alanna Sharman.
The Portage Terriers won the RBC Cup with playoff wins over Melfort and 5-2 over Carleton Place in the national Junior A tournament final. Earlier, the team dominated the regular season in the MJHL with 53 wins, the third-highest total in league history.
The Terriers won a close race over Braden Calvert's world junior curling champions for the Winnipeg Free Press Maurice Smith Memorial Award in the team category. Portage received 19 first place votes and 154 points, to 13 and 137 points for Calvert. Other finalists were the WHL regular season leading Brandon Wheat Kings, the Manitoba ringette Canada Games gold medallists, and the WinMan Wesmen, 18 and under boys national volleyball champions.
In other presentation features at the MSSA dinner, the drive to an NHL playoff position by the Winnipeg Jets was the selection for the 2015 Cactus Jack Wells Memorial Award for the premier impact on the provincial sports scene, and "Dancing Gabe" Langlois received the Winnipeg Free Press Dallis Beck Memorial Good Guy Award for his promotional efforts in the sports community.
The MSSA also inducted CTV sports director Shawn Churchill, and former Winnipeg Sun sports editor Dave Komosky into the Manitoba Media Roll of Honour for their dedicated service in sports journalism.
The Jack Matheson Memorial Award, established to provide financial support to sports media aspirants, honours the memory of the former Winnipeg Tribune and CJOB commentator. This year's recipient is Danielle Doiron, a student in the joint Creative Communications program at Red River College and the University of Winnipeg.
Dennis Beyak, the television play-by-play voice of the Winnipeg Jets, was the dinner emcee, and the headline guest was Jets owner Mark Chipman on the night when Manitoba paid tribute to its outstanding athletes and teams for the 60th time.
Cockrell was named Mary Lyons Award recipient as CIS women’s volleyball player of the year, the first Bisons player to be selected for the honour since 2001-02 season. In the regular season she was first in the country in kills per set (5.06), total kills (471), total points (535.5) and points per set (5.8), leading the Bisons to a sixth-place Canada West finish with a 13-11 record. She started and played in all 24 conference matches and led the team in kills in every match but one, with 20 or more kills in 10 contests, and had a season-high 29 kills against Calgary on Oct. 9, 2014. She had eight matches with 10 or more digs and added 29 kills in the quarter-final series finale, establishing a new Canada West record. She was named Bison Sports female athlete of the year for the second time in her university career.
Kirchmann was named Manitoba Cycling Association road rider of the year and top female road rider. She finished 11th overall at the Route de France Feminin (the female Tour de France) and was 32nd overall in the women’s road race and ninth in the team time trial at the world championships. She was second in the road race and third in the time trial and criterium at the Canadian National Championships. She was second overall in the Tour of California, winning two of the stages. She finished seventh in Philadelphia, the sixth round of the women's UCI World Cup, for an overall point total of 664 to win the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar individual title.
Scott was one of eight finalists for Soccer Canada female player of the year, after appearing in 14 games for the Canadian Women’s National Team, including 12 starts, bringing her national team total to 95. She helped Canada finish sixth at FIFA Women’s World Cup, playing in all five Team Canada games, starting four, and helped Notts County reach the inaugural English FA Women’s Super League Cup final, losing to Chelsea 3-0. She played in 15 of Notts County’s 16 games and started 14, including the FA Cup Final.
Sharman was named CIS women’s hockey rookie of the year and to the CIS all-rookie team, the first Bisons player to earn rookie of the year honours since 2009-2010. She won the national scoring title with 17 goals and 23 assists for 40 points in 28 conference games and became only the third rookie in the 18-year history of the conference to top Canada West in scoring. She ranked second in the country in assists, tied for third in goals and tied for third in power-play goals (5), while finishing second in Canada West with a +32 rating. She had 15 more points than any other rookie in Canada West and ended the season with a nine-game point streak.
Van Landeghem was a double gold medal winner at the Pan American Games, setting a personal best and Pan Am Games record and upsetting American swimming legend Janet Evans in the 100m freestyle, while also helping upset Evans and the USA in the 4x100m freestyle relay. She was a bronze medalist in mixed 4x100m relay event and fifth in a Canadian record time in the 50m freestyle at the world championships in Kazan, Russia.
Lyon was a bronze medalist in individual and sixth in team at Pan American Games in Toronto. He was 33rd in individual and ninth in team at the World Championships in Copenhagen and helped Canada finish second at Aquece Rio International Archery Challenge, the test event for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Onyemata grew up in Lagos, Nigeria but has lived in Winnipeg the last five years. He was the 2015 J.P. Metras Trophy winner, presented to the outstanding down lineman of the year in CIS football (first Bisons player to win it since Israel Idonije in 2002 and just the fourth overall) and was named a CIS first -team all-Canadian at defensive tackle. He started all eight conference games and tied for ninth in CIS and second in Canada West with five sacks. He also tied for 18th in CIS and second in Canada West with 7.5 tackles for loss and was 12th in Canada West with 38.5 total tackles. He was the top-ranked CIS player in the CFL Scouting Bureau’s initial draft rankings (released in September), placing at No. 2 on the list.
Patrick was named Western Hockey League rookie of the year and Canadian Hockey League finalist after finishing third in scoring among first-year players in 2014-15 and leading all rookies with 30 goals. He became the first WHL rookie to score 30 goals since the 2008-09 campaign. He had two goals and three assists in five games, including scoring the shootout winner in the semifinal and adding an assist, in Team Canada’s 7-3 win over Sweden in the gold-medal final of the U18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup in the Czech Republic.
Schade was the Golf Manitoba male golfer of the year and medallist at the match play championship qualifying. He won the Nott Autocorp Men’s Amateur Championship and shot a course record (and recent Golf Manitoba competitive record) 61 in the third round at the host Bridges Golf Course. He finished fourth at the Saskatchewan Men’s Amateur Championship and tied for 20th at the Canadian University/College Championship. As a member of the University of Manitoba Bison men’s team, his fall competitive resume included a win at the Jamestown Invitational and three other Top-10 finishes.
Toews captained the Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup for the third time. He won the Mark Messier Leadership Award and was a finalist for the Selke Award (top defensive forward in the NHL). He also won the ESPY Award as best NHL player. He scored 28 goals and 38 assists in the regular season and added 10 goals and 11 assists in 23 playoff games, including the game’s first two goals in the 5-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final.
The Wheaties captured the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy for winning the Western Hockey League regular-season title, with a record of 53-11-4-4, marking the first time in 19 years that Brandon has finished atop the standings. They reached the WHL championship final before losing to the Kelowna Rockets.
The Calvert foursome won the world junior championship and Canadian junior men’s championship (second year in a row as Canadian junior champ), defeating Saskatchewan’s Jacob Hersikorn 8-6 in the final in Corner Brook, N.L. After losing the first game, Calvert rattled off 10 straight wins. Third Kyle Kurz and second Lucas Van Den Bosch were named to the first all-star team, while skip Calvert and lead Brendan Wilson were named to the second all-star team. Wilson was named the Fair Play Award winner. At the world junior championships, Calvert defeated Switzerland 6-3 in the final while shooting an impressive 91.5 per cent. The team qualified for the provincial men’s championship, reaching the championship round Page playoff before losing to Jeff Stoughton and finishing fourth overall.
The Terriers defeated the Carleton Place Canadians 5-2 to win the RBC Cup championship, becoming the seventh host team to win Canada’s National Junior A Championship and the first since 2005. They dominated the MJHL with a 53-3-4 record (the third-most wins in MJHL history), finishing 25 points ahead of second-place Steinbach and sitting on top of the CJHL national rankings in each of the final 14 polls of the season. They topped the MJHL in goals for (285) and goals against (120), scoring 54 more goals than any other team and allowing 30 less. They set league marks for fewest regulation losses (three), fewest total losses (seven) and highest winning percentage (.917). They romped through the MJHL playoffs without losing a game, sweeping Waywayseecappo, Virden and Steinbach and going 307 minutes and three seconds without allowing a goal in the first two rounds.
The Manitoba entry became the first ringette team from the province to claim gold at the 2015 Canada Winter Games, which were held in February in Prince George, B.C. Manitoba downed Ontario 6-4 in the gold-medal match on the strength of three goals from Kinley Graves and singles from Janelle Wotherspoon, Nicole Desrosiers and Keyona Tomiuk. Head coach Rob Walker's squad posted a 2-1 record during the round-robin portion of the tournament, losing 6-3 to Quebec, but still finishing in a tie for first with Ontario. Manitoba downed B.C. and New Brunswick by identical 7-4 scores in the quarter-final and semifinal rounds, respectively, to set up the final against Ontario. Five players from the team were named to the national junior team for the world championships in Finland in December.
WinMan went undefeated to capture the 18 and under boys’ gold medal at the Volleyball Canada national championships in Calgary. The title marks an unprecedented 10th national championship for the WinMan Volleyball Club, which has been in existence since 2003. They defeated a very tough NOOKS Volleyball Club team (Alberta champions) in the final, 25-21, 25-10. Eric Loeppky of Steinbach was named tournament MVP with Mikael Clegg of Selkirk and Seth Friesen of Brandon named to the tournament all-star team. Over the past five seasons, this WinMan team has won the Volleyball Manitoba provincial championship as a 14-under team as well as 15U, 16U, 17U and 18U.
The spotlight focussed on achievements at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, last February in the selections by the Manitoba sports media of the Athletes and Team of the Year for 2014.
The Jennifer Jones curling team, gold medallists in Sochi, repeated as Manitoba's Team of the Year, coming close to a unanimous first place vote on the final ballot from 36 members of the sports media in the province. The team's undefeated performance in Russia also was chosen as the headline event having the largest impact in 2014 on the Manitoba sports scene.
Sharing the honours with Jones and her team of Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer, and Dawn McEwen, was another repeat winner in hockey star Jonathan Toews, who won his fourth Manitoba Male Athlete of the Year award for his leading role in Canada's gold medal victory at the Olympic games, along with Jocelyne Larocque of Ste. Anne, whose outstanding defensive play in the women's gold medal hockey triumph for Canada in Sochi earned her the province's Female Athlete of the Year award.
Members of the Manitoba media voted for their choices of five finalists in the three categories, and the winners were announced by the Manitoba Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association at the 59th annual awards dinner on Jan. 25, 2015, at the Delta Winnipeg Hotel.
The Jones foursome had a perfect 9-0 record in cruising to curling's Olympic gold, earning the top of the podium with a 6-3 victory in the final over Margaretha Sigfridsson of Sweden. It was the first unbeaten run to the gold medal for a team in Olympic curling competition.
The team was selected first on 34 of the 36 final sports media ballots, and had a runaway total of 173 points on the one-to-five point voting process. The University of Manitoba national champion women's volleyball team received the other two first-place votes, and was the runner-up with a distant 129 points. Other finalists for the Maurice Smith Memorial trophy were the Mike McEwen curling team, the Team Manitoba Under-17 national champion basketball team, and the Canadian champion University of Manitoba men's golf team.
Toews won the male athlete award previously for 2007, 2010 and 2013. The Chicago Blackhawks captain scored the winning goal in Canada's 3-0 gold medal victory over Sweden in the Olympic final. He became the third player in Blackhawks history to record more than 20 goals and 40 assists in each of his first seven NHL seasons. He had 68 points in 76 regular season games, plus a career-high nine goals and eight assists in last season's playoffs including four game-winning goals.
In the voting, Toews won a narrow decision over Olympic gold medallist curler Ryan Fry, who sparkled at the third position on the Brad Jacobs team, and Manitoba Bison all-Canadian football star Nic Demski. Toews had 12 first place votes and 142 points, Fry had 11 firsts and 136 points, while Demski was third with 13 first choices and 135 points. Other male finalists were William Kohler, who led the Manitoba Under-17 basketball team to the Canadian title, and Manitoba's golfer-of-the-year Bret Thompson.
Hockey's Jocelyne Larocque was named to the Canadian women's Olympic team for the first time, and boosted the team to the gold medal in Sochi. She anchored the defensive corps, scored Canada's first goal in the tournament, had more than 25 minutes of ice time in the team's thrilling 3-2 overtime victory over the United States in the final, and assisted on the goal that started a late Canadian comeback in the game.
Larocque received 14 first place votes and 132 points, topping Brandon's UBC volleyballer Lisa Barclay with 123, and outstanding Manitoba Bison volleyball player Taylor Pischke at 110 points. It was the second straight year for Barclay, the CIS women's volleyball Player of the Year, to finish second in the Manitoba voting. Jennifer Saunders, who won her eighth national women's singles championship to become the most winning female player in Canadian racquetball history, and rugby's Mandy Marchak, a member of Canada's World Cup runner-up team, were the other finalists for the provincial female athlete award.
The fallout recognition for the Jones team's impressive march to gold in the Olympics continued all year, and was an obvious choice for the 2014 Cactus Jack Wells Memorial Award for major impact on the provincial sports scene.
In other presentation features at the MSSA dinner, Bison football coach Brian Dobie received the Dallis Beck Memorial Good Guy Award for his exceptional multi-year relationship with the Manitoba sports media. Bison volleyball coaches Garth Pischke and Ken Bentley received special recognition for their longtime dedication and commitment, and retired CBC sportscaster Ernie Nairn was saluted for his excellent contributions to sport over many years in Manitoba.
The MSSA also inducted Brandon Wheat Kings play-by-play voice Bruce Luebke of CKLQ, and former Winnipeg Tribune and Winnipeg Sun sportswriter Patti Dawn Swansson into the Manitoba Media Roll of Honour for their dedicated service in sports journalism.
The MSSA Jack Matheson Memorial Awards, established to provide financial funding to sports media aspirants, honour the memory of the former Winnipeg Tribune sports editor and CJOB commentator. Two were presented at the dinner to Zach Peters and Scott Billeck, who are students in the Creative Communications program at Red River College.
Paul Edmonds of TSN 1290 radio was the emcee, and former Blue Bomber Troy Westwood was the guest speaker on the night when Manitoba paid tribute to its outstanding athletes and teams for the 59th time.