In the days leading up to Canada Day, The Globe is teaming up with Facebook for an unscientific survey of Canadians about what our true national symbols should be. We've also asked a few Canadians to share their picks. Today, hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser makes her pitch.
As a Calgarian, I will risk life and limb and state unequivocally that the Edmonton Oilers are the country's most iconic sports team because they epitomize all things Canadian to me.
The spirit of Canada runs powerfully through the veins of the organization, from the team's fans to the franchise and the city of Edmonton itself.
Edmonton is northern and cold - precisely the locale intended for my sport. The team is engaged with the community and slugs through its fair share of controversy, as well as a gruelling travel schedule - they are tough. And Oilers fans are fiercely loyal and optimistic.
All of these traits are quintessentially Canadian.
Agree or disagree? Are the Oilers really Canada's national team?
And how could the Oilers not be the most iconic sports team when they have produced the most iconic players of the game?
Just to name a few: Coffey, Anderson, Lowe, Fuhr, Messier and, of course, Gretzky. Most of their names are instantly recognizable whether or not you are a hockey fan.
I grew up idolizing and emulating these men. I remember being five years old when my Dad and I would watch Hockey Night in Canada during the Oilers golden age in 1980s.
Dad would say, "You watch that Messier and how he snaps the puck off his outside foot and look at Gretzky and how creative and smart he is."
Between periods, I'd go practice those moves on the rink Dad had built in our backyard and dream of my own career in the NHL, as did millions of kids around the world. Back then no one ever told me that girls didn't play in the NHL.
The Globe is teaming up with Facebook to ask Canadians about what symbolizes Canada
During the Oilers' 1980s reign, when they brought home enough post-season awards to overflow the trophy case, including five Stanley Cups, the team became a part of the Canadian collective sports unconscious. Even non-Edmonton fans had to admire and respect the team, sometimes despite themselves.
I'm the first to admit that their glory days have long since melted away, but I believe the grit and sheer determination that is ingrained in a club with their history and support will bring the Oilers through their rebuilding and into the next phase of championship performance. (A No. 1 draft pick last weekend sure won't hurt either).
We asked Canadians to send us their Facebook photos of their favourite places in Canada. Here are our editors' picks, from Tofino to Twillingate
Which brings me to my next argument: The Edmonton Oilers have the best fans in the country - if not the world. Extraordinarily loyal, they embody the mental toughness that I believe to be part of our Canadian identity. Edmonton fans are blue-collar, not blue-blooded, and yet the arena is always full right from faceoff, no matter the cost of the ticket.
They are also passionate. They believe. Honestly, what other team would get a standing ovation based on its performance last season? But there they were - Oilers fans on their feet at their home closer. Again, so very Canadian in spirit.
Okay, I'll admit to the existence of one other team that might possibly rival the Edmonton Oilers on all fronts - the great dynasty of the Montreal Canadiens.
But I, like all Oilers fans, am loyal. So there's really no question there.
Hayley Wickenheiser is currently training in preparation for Sochi 2014 and will host a female hockey festival in Burnaby in November 2010. For details visit www.wickhockey.com
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