Top 11: The Biggest Superstar Sports Stars to Ever Play in Vancouver, Canada

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by Sammy Emerald

Northwest Correspondent, White Cover Magazine

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Seeing as VanCity and British Columbia only account for one major North American league team – the Canucks, of course – it’s not often that international sports superstars roll through our town or our province. And, now that Toronto has surpassed Lotusland as Canada’s chosen city for Hollywood’s international film capital, we’re thinning at the celebrity crown.

Los Angeles, Seattle, San Fran, and San Diego? Psshhhh… they get plenty of attention. Vancouver? None, unless you count The Economist‘s rankings of “Where You Should Be Living If You Had the Kind of Money Our Writers Think They Do”.

On Thursday, David Beckham announced his retirement from the game of soccer. Becks is the only Englishman to win four titles in four different UEFA and MLS country leagues – England, Spain, United States, and France – and he’s as well-known, well-grommed, and well-traveled off the pitch as he is on it.

Beckham’s certainly in the discussion, but here are the 10 Greatest (Biggest) Athletes to Ever Visit Vancouver:

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Wayne Gretzky

The greatest hockey player of all-time is one of the easiest calls there is for any kind of list like this. Vancouver, New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago, he’d make any ticket worth it in and of those towns.

Gretzky had a whale of a career in games against the Canucks, highlighted by his record-setting 802nd NHL goal (in L.A.) and his hat trick against Kirk McLean on October 11, 1997 (the clip is below, and you’ve no doubt seen the first goal many times on countless highlight shows).

Sidney Crosby

Mark my words. When all is said and done, only a handful of players in NHL history will be considered greater than Sidney Crosby. Of course, none of them notched a Gold Medal-winning overtime goal in the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Jarome Iginla

Iginla gets a spot simply because of how dominant he is when he plays Vancouver. His greatest performance in Rogers Arena – besides the assist on Sid’s goal above – was his performance in Game 7 of the 2004 quarterfinal against the Canucks. Calgary won in overtime, and they won it almost solely on the back of Iginla’s powerful performance.

Michael Jordan

Like, duh…

Shaquille O’Neal

Not only did Shaq love to play in Vancouver, he apparently lived there once, too:

Steve Nash

We call this a home-field advantage.

Ernie Els

Always a good sport and an internationalist, Ernie Else is now a staple in the RBC Canadian Open, including in 2011 when it made its way to Vancouver’s Shaughnessy golf club.

David Beckham

Becks is a superstar in almost every sense of the word, and his ability to still transcend the sport – as a 38-year-old – is truly incredible.

Pele

There’s no video, and I wasn’t alive to see it. All I know is that Pele came to Empire Field for a friendly match in 1975 – his first year with the New York Cosmos – and beat the Whitecaps with 26,495 in attendance.

Bryant ‘Big Country’ Reeves

Kidding.

Bobby Orr

Not only did this happen, but it happened so long ago, it was before Pele.

Orr looks like a modern day Brad Marchand in this video…