The election and Canadian sport

Wayne Gretsky has endorsed Stephen Harper in the federal election.

On Monday October 19, sports will take a back seat in Canada due to the federal election.  The election will still be the number-one news story, even if the Blue Jays get in the American League Championship Series.

This election has had next to no connection to sports. The only party that raised the issue of athletics funding is the NDP, who have pledged $28 million for Sport Canada to help poor and disadvantaged youth play sports. The one prominent athlete who offered their support to a party or candidate was Wayne Gretzky, who publicly endorsed Prime Minister Harper at an event in Toronto recently. Where are you, Steve Nash, Eugenie Bouchard, Milos Raonic, Hayley Wickenheiser, and Sidney Crosby? What would be the effect if Seattle Seahawk Luke Willson made a day trip to Vancouver to endorse a candidate?

Other countries have a huge connection between celebrity endorsements and the involvement of athletes in elections. In the United States, many famous athletes have served in elected office. The most famous athlete to enter the American political arena is the Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The greatest athlete to ever enter the Oval Office, however, is undoubtedly President Gerald Ford. Ford had his number retired after a stellar career at the University of Michigan, where he started at center and middle linebacker as a key cog in the Wolverines’ 1932 and 1933 National Championship teams. 

One of the most famous international athletes to enter politics was the hero of the 1992 Cricket World Cup, Imran Khan. Khan is one of the most popular politicians in Pakistan and is head of a major political party. However, the Canadian track record does contain one truly remarkable story.

Normie Kwong was the first Chinese-Canadian to star in the CFL, playing for the Calgary Stampeders (1948–50) and Edmonton Eskimos (1951–1960). Star is an understatement, as Kwong was a true superstar. He won the Schenley Award for most outstanding Canadian in 1955 and 1956, and was named Canadian Athlete of the Year in ’55.

Kwong was also a three-time all-star and rushed for 9,022 yards and 93 touchdowns in his 13-year career. He is a member of the CFL Hall of Fame, Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and he received the Order of Canada in 1988. Kwong was also a part owner of the Calgary Flames in 1989 when they won the Stanley Cup.

As such he is one of only a handful of people to have their names engraved on both of Canada’s most venerated trophies. From 1988–91 Kwong also served as the General Manager of the Calgary Stampeders.

Politically, Kwong was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta in 2005 and served until 2010. He was the second Chinese Canadian to be a vice-regal and earned the title “The Honourable” for life.

So remember: Don’t forget to vote on October 19. Even if no athletes are running and only Gretzky endorsed a candidate, it still vitally important to our future as a country.