The opportunity to sit a few feet from a quartet of sports celebrities at Saturday’s 22nd annual Kinsmen Sports Celebrity Dinner was too good to pass up.
Hayley Wickenheiser is shown in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Even though I’m still an Edmonton Eskimos fan, hearing stories from two members of the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ newly minted Grey Cup championship squad — John Chick and Geroy Simon — were two of my night’s highlights.
But so too was polishing off a few brewskis after a busy day’s work.
And while 2011 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Doug Gilmour highlighted the guest speakers, the biggest highlight of my night was seeing three-time World Series champion Devon White on stage.
Baseball was the first sport I fell in love with as a young kid, so to hear from and later meet with an integral part of the Toronto Blue Jays’ only two championship-winning teams (1992 and 1993) was something you couldn’t possibly have scripted better.
“Devo,” as he was candidly known during his Major League Baseball (MLB) days, was not the funniest of the four celebrities, but that didn’t matter to me.
He was the most open and honest of the guests, including when it came to his opinion on steroids in MLB, both past and present. The only problem with Devo, or, for that matter, the other three celebrities at the dinner were that none of them were women. In fact, the last time a woman was a celebrity guest at the Kinsmen dinner was 1999 when three-time Winter Olympic speed skating medalist Susan Auch visited the Friendly City.
Less than two months after capturing the 1998 gold medal in Olympic curling, Biggar’s Sandra Schmirler was part of the celebrity lineup. Previous to her wasHelen Kelsie.
The issue I have is even though we live in a male-dominated sports culture, there are numerous female athletes who deserve to be at the annual dinner.
The most obvious choice is three-time Olympic gold medalist Hailey Wickenheiser, a Shaunavon native.
Humboldt’s Brianne Theisen-Eaton is only 25 years old, but her silver medal performance in heptathlon at last year’s world championships, deserves recognition. She should be considered for a future appearance at the sports dinner, especially if she is able to win an Olympic medal in 2016.
I don’t know why it’s been 15 years — and counting —since the Kinsmen had a woman sit at the head table with past or present CFL, MLB or NHL players, but they ought to have a female celebrity at next year’s event.
Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks