Last week UFC commissioner, Dana White, made a claim that fighter Georges St-Pierre is the most famous athlete to ever come out of Canada. This statement instantly raised the question, what about Wayne Gretzky? Gretzky is a Canadian icon, who took the game of hockey to levels that it had never seen before. In a league where scoring over 100 points in a season is a great accomplishment, Gretzky was able to score over 200 points in 4 seasons with the Oilers and had over 100 points in 16 season with several different teams. Gretzky finished his career in 1999 totalling almost 3,000 points with about two thirds of those points being assists. Gretzky was able to take bad players and make them 50 goal scorers.
Along with the stats he also had so much hardware that he had to build a second mantle in his living room. He won the Stanley Cup four times, the Hart trophy (Most Valuable Players) nine times, ten Art Ross trophies (league’s leading scorer), two Conn Smythe trophies as the playoff MVP, and five Lady Byng and Lester B. Pearson awards for sportsmanship and performance and the MVP voted by the players respectively. In the 80s and 90s he was all any Canadian could talk about.
On the other hand Georges St-Pierre has been a consistent winner like Gretzky on his own field of play. Also, like Gretzky, GSP has won many awards from championship titles to fighter of the year awards from different sources over the past three years, especially in 2009 where he won the award from many different sources such as MMA Payout, World MMA awards, Sports Illustrated, Inside MMA, HDNET, and others.
He was also voted as the Rogers Sportsnet Canadian Athlete of the Year in 2008 and 2009. GSP has made a huge name for himself as the poster boy for a quickly rising sport.
They both clearly have the resume for fame, but is Dana White’s claim that GSP is the most famous athlete to come out of Canada correct? White defended his comments by saying that when GSP arrived in the Philippines he was mobbed by fans and needed security.
Firstly, why does the Ultimate Fighting champion need security? More importantly, the Philippines is obviously not the exact market that Gretzky was targeting, so it is possible for GSP to be more famous there. When talking about North America you have to think that although GSP is currently more popular, on TV, in newspapers almost every day, and still fighting I believe that in comparing the two athletes that The Great One is still more popular.
Also in the Northern European countries that are developing hockey markets, such as Sweden, Finland, Russia, Germany, Czech Republic, and many other countries, they all are huge Gretzky fans and he is probably more famous in those markets. Finally, White didn’t consider that Gretzky hasn’t laced up the skates on a professional level in over 10 years, at the peak of his career Gretzky was all anyone could talk about. Most nights were multi-point nights in the 80s and 90s and he could not be touched.
As the global community gets larger and professional sports start moving to different countries and targeting greater markets their premier athletes will become more famous on a global scale. This raises the question of Sidney Crosby one day becoming more famous that Wayne Gretzky, simply due to expansion overseas and TV coverage in new markets.
Even GSP said that he hasn’t achieved nearly as much as his idol Gretzky in their respective sports, but he believes that one day his fame will eventually eclipse that of The Great One.