||Who: Martina Hingis
Born: Sept. 30, 1980, Košice, Czechoslovakia
Sport: Tennis, Women’s Tennis Association
When: 1995-2007, 2010-11
Why: I started following tennis back in the mid-90s when the Swiss Miss was taking off in the Women’s Tennis Association. Yes, I realize she was born in the former CSSR. Do the Stastnys ring a bell?
||Who: Ozzie Smith
Born: Dec. 26, 1954, Mobile, Alabama
Sport: Baseball, San Diego Padres/St. Louis Cardinals
Why: I am certainly not a Cardinals fan, given my baseball team competes with them in the NL Central, still who didn’t love this back-flipping shortstop who put in a days effort at the athletic position.
||Who: Clyde Drexler
Born: June 22, 1962, New Orleans, Louisiana
Sport: Basketball, Portland Trail Blazers/Houston Rockets
Why: During the height of MJ, I bucked the trend of rooting for #23 and cheered for “The Glide” who donned #22. One of the best stealers in the game, anyone taking on this shooting guard one-on-one would be in for a surprise.
||Who: Wally Joyner
Born: June 16, 1962, Atlanta, Georgia
Sport: Baseball, California Angels/Kansas City Royals/San Diego Padres/Atlanta Braves/Anaheim Angels
Why: I played first base while growing up, and even though my loyalties as a kid were to the Reds I appreciated the talents of players like Joyner and Will Clark.
||Who: Jerome Williams
Born: May 10, 1973, Washington, DC
Sport: Basketball, Detroit Pistons/Toronto Raptors/Chicago Bulls/New York Knicks
Why: Junkyard Dog was a personality that drew many fans to the Raptors cause during his two-season stint with the Purple Pack. I was no exception.
||Who: Andre Agassi
Born: April 29, 1970, Las Vegas, Nevada
Sport: Tennis, Association of Tennis Professionals
Why: My dad watch John McEnroe battle it out with Jimmy Connors, and in my day I would witness Andre Agassi vie for top spot with by-the-book Pete Sampras.
||Who: Steve Nash
Born: Feb. 7, 1974, Johannesburg, South Africa
Sport: Basketball, Phoenix Suns/Dallas Mavericks
Why: Though he was born in South Africa, Nash is as Canadian as they come, and who doesn’t like a fellow Canadian schooling Americans at a sport they think they own? After all, the game was created by a Canadian.
||Who: Dave Gagner
Born: Dec. 11, 1964, Chatham, Ontario
Sport: Hockey, New York Rangers/Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars/Toronto Maple Leafs/Calgary Flames/Florida Panthers/Vancouver Canucks
Why: It was painful to watch the Blackhawks bow out in the first round to Minnesota. However, there were players on that North Stars squad that I respected.
||Who: Kirk Gibson
Born: May 28, 1957, Pontiac, Michigan
Sport: Baseball, Detroit Tigers/Los Angeles Dodgers/Kansas City Royals/Pittsburgh Pirates
Why: I always remember that homerun he smacked off Dennis Eckersley that won the Dodgers the World Series, but I also vaguely recollect the trouble he gave the Blue Jays while he played with the Tigers,.
||Who: Jonathan Toews
Born: April 29, 1988, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Sport: Hockey, Chicago Blackhawks
Why: The Blackhawks nation waited 49 years for their team to bring them back a Stanley Cup and their captain was none other than the centre, Mr. Serious.
||Who: Lou Whitaker
Born: May 12, 1957, Brooklyn, New York
Sport: Baseball, Detroit Tigers
Why: Part of the 1984 World Series Detroit Tiger roster I always remember Magnum PI wearing his Tigers hat and the passing references to baseball. The Tigers during that span were an exciting team to watch. The team’s second baseman was not exception to that.
||Who: Craig Hartsburg
Born: June 29, 1959, Stratford, Ontario
Sport: Hockey, Minnesota North Stars
Why: During the ’80s there was a great number of players in the NHL that were unmatched, Larmer, Bossy, Sandstrom and then defenceman Hartsburg who played on the 1987 Canada Cup.
||Who: Maria Sharapova
Born: April 19, 1987, Nyagan, USSR
Sport: Tennis, Women’s Tennis Association
Why: Regardless of her svelte appearance, the Russian tennis star, whose roots can be traced to her father befriending Yevgeny Khafelnikov’s dad, actually wins tennis tournaments unlike the popular Anna Kournikova.
||Who: Reggie Miller
Born: Aug. 24, 1965, Riverside, California
Sport: Basketball, Indiana Pacers
Why: Who doesn’t like a player who can lead his team deep into the playoffs with the likes of Jalen Rose, Dale Davis, Mark Jackson, Rik Smits and Austin Croshere. Not to forget Chris Mullin too.
||Who: Steve Larmer
Born: June 16, 1961, Peterborough, Ontario
Sport: Hockey, Chicago Blackhawks (Black Hawks)/New York Rangers
Why: I’m a Blackhawks fan, so when the squad made runs for the Cup in the early ’90s, I was all about the team, one that included Jeremy Roenick, Ed Belfour, Dominik Hasek, Chris Chelios, Steve Smith and Steve Larmer.
||Who: Drew Brees
Born: January 15, 1979, Austin, Texas
Sport: Football, San Diego Chargers/New Orleans Saints
Why: It feels odd being a fan of a player that’s born in the same year as you, but being a Saints fan, Brees has brought a new joie de vivre to a team with a pied past of losing. He brought back the spirit to a city ravage by Hurricane Katrina.
||Who: Barry Larkin
Born: April 28, 1964, Cincinnati, Ohio
Sport: Baseball, Cincinnati Reds
Why: One of the best shortstops ever, in my humble opinion, he was part of that World Series team in 1990 and played through the Griffey Jr. Curse years from 200-2007.
||Who: Dale Hawerchuk
Born: April 4, 1963, Toronto, Ontario
Sport: Hockey, Winnipeg Jets/Buffalo Sabres/St. Louis Blues/Philadelphia Flyers
Why: To be honest, your favourite players don’t have to play on your favourite teams. So, while growing up, watching the Canada Cup series in 1987, Hawerchuk became I player I wanted to see on Chicago.
||Who: Ed Belfour
Born: April 21, 1965, Carman, Manitoba
Sport: Hockey, Chicago Blackhawks/San Jose Sharks/Dallas Stars/Toronto Maple Leafs/Florida Panthers
Why: Though the Hawks came up short in 1992, one of reason they got that far was Belfour. He also buoyed his Chicago ice denizens to the Western Conference finals in 1995.
||Who: Eric Martin
Born: Nov. 8, 1961, Van Vleck, Texas
Sport: Football, New Orleans Saints/Kansas City Chiefs
Why: I first started watching the NFL when Bobby Hebert was tossing the ball to this guy, Eric Martin. I quickly became a fan of the Saints, a team that also had Craig Heyward, Ruben Mayes and Morten Andersen.
||Who: Paul Ysebaert
Born: May 15, 1966, Sarnia, Ontario
Sport: Hockey, New Jersey Devils/Detroit Red Wings/Chicago Blackhawks/Winnipeg Jets/Tampa Bay Lightning
Why: Who here can admit to owning a Paul Ysebaert jersey, but not with Detroit. How about Chicago. I like the workhorse players. He was also the Lightning’s first captain.
||Who: Jesse Barfield
Born: Oct. 29, 1959, Joliet, Illinois
Sport: Baseball, Toronto Blue Jays/New York Yankees
Why: Growing up as a young kid, meaning under 10, I didn’t know too much about the world, so the hometown Jays were the team. Barfield was my favourite player. Can’t give you much more because I was six at the time.
||Who: Eric Davis
Born: May 29, 1962, Los Angeles, California
Sport: Baseball, Cincinnati Reds/Detroit Tigers/Los Angeles Dodgers/Baltimore Orioles/St. Louis Cardinals/San Francisco Giants
Why: Sure hockey players come back from battle scars, Hodgkins Disease. But Davis came back from colon cancer, in the ’90s. Still, I remember him in the World Series, 1990.
||Who: Paul Molitor
Born: Aug. 22, 1956, St. Paul, Minnesota
Sport: Baseball, Milwaukee Brewers/Toronto Blue Jays/Minnesota Twins
Why: Just for his sportsmanship and calm, collective demeanor in leading the Brewers, a team, for a time, that I liked along with the Jays. That was before I discovered the National League.
||Who: Mats Naslund
Born: Oct. 31, 1959, Timra, Sweden
Sport: Hockey, Montreal Canadiens/Boston Bruins/SEL
When: 1982-1990, 1994-95 (NHL)
Why: My dad was a Habs fan. Maple Leafs were the enemy, and eventually a mutual enemy when I defected from the Rouge, Bleu et Blanc once I grew into my own personality. So, when the Canadiens were winning, I liked the 5’7″ winger that was a workhorse.