The Last Dance: Canadians Who Deserve Their Own Version

Chances are you’ve already seen it, but did you know The Last Dance wasn’t supposed to be aired until this month? The 10-part sports documentary, produced by ESPN Films and Netflix, was originally slated for a June release but, because of the coronavirus pandemic, executives chose to green light the mini-series back in April. The world was on lock down, sports fans were suffering from withdrawal, and the networks wanted to appease them with an accelerated production schedule.

The Last Dance celebrates one of the greatest players and dynasties ever, and we hope it can serve as a unifying entertainment experience to fill the role that sports often play in our lives, telling a story that will captivate everyone, not just sports fansESPN

Slam dunk! The Last Dance starred basketball legend Michael Jordan, and the cast of characters surrounding him during the Chicago Bulls juggernaut years. With number 23 leading the way, the team captured six NBA championships. Guys like Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and coach Phil Jackson were all profiled. And they even gave their hot takes on a number of controversial topics. Using exclusive, all-access, and never-seen-before footage, director Jason Hehir told the story of Jordan and his teammates masterfully. He focused particularly on the 1997-1998 season, Jordan’s last ever in Chicago. It was also the Bulls last ever title run.

Fans loved The Last Dance. It averaged 6.7-million views per episode, tied for fifth among adults 18-49 in the Nielson ratings for 2019-2020, and received critical-acclaim from the pundits. In hoops parlance, ESPN tossed up a three-pointer, and there was nothing but net. It was good. Good enough for another last dance, this side of the border?

Team Maple looks at ten Canadians who could star in their own award-winning version of The Last Dance:

Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky

With a nickname like ‘The Great One,’ what more needs to be said? Wayne Gretzky is a national treasure. Hockey’s all-time leading scorer, Gretzky has rewritten the NHL record book. He held 61 at the time of his retirement, and most will never be matched. He scored more goals and notched more assists than anyone. In fact, he had more assists than any other player has total points, and is the only player in history to tally more than 200 points in a single season. Something he did four times. Scary. Wearing his iconic #99 jersey, now retired by the NHL league-wide, Gretzky played for four teams in the National Hockey League. He did most of his damage in Edmonton, where he lifted Lord Stanley’s mug four times with the Oilers (before being traded to the Los Angeles Kings).

After hanging up his skates for good, Gretzky was immediately inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame. He went on to coach many seasons in the NHL, with the Phoenix Coyotes, and in 2002, at the Olympics in Salt Lake, was executive director of the gold medal winning Canadian squad.

Mario Lemieux

Mario Lemieux

Turn the number ninety-nine upside down and you have the number sixty-six. Mario Lemieux, like Wayne Gretzky, was poetry in motion, carving edges into the ice, and his opponents, with size, strength and scoring finesse. What a player. Super Mario was one of the very best. He won two Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh, where he played 17 seasons with the Penguins, and was awarded the Hart Trophy, as the NHL’s most valuable player, three times. He won a gold medal 2002, a World Cup in 2004, and was a key figure of that legendary team that captured the Canada cup in 1987.

Like Gretzky, Lemieux was inducted into the Hall of Fame immediately following his first retirement (1997). Also like Gretzky, he wasn’t done with the game. Two years later, the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise was bankrupt, and while recovering from numerous ailments like herniated discs, back pain, and even Hodgkins lymphoma, Lemieux came to the rescue. He bought the team. Then remarkably, in 2000, he returned to play five more seasons. Imagine if he wasn’t injured so often? How many more legendary goals would he have scored?

Christine Sinclair

Christine Sinclair

Lionel Messi, Christiano Ronaldo, Maradona? Pele perhaps? These are names you might automatically consider when discussing soccer, and the greatest goal scorer of all-time. They’d be good guesses, but they’d all be wrong. That distinction belongs to Canada’s Christine Sinclair, who found the back of the net an incredible 186 times in her career. She also represented Canada 296 times, making her the most-capped footballer ever, man or woman.

Sinclair played 20 seasons with the national team, took part in five FIFA Women’s World Cups, and has been inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame.

Ben Johnson

Ben Johnson

Has there ever been a more controversial figure in sports history? Ben Johnson had the nation jumping for joy on that electric night in 1988, in Seoul, South Korea, when he clocked in at 9.79 seconds to win the Olympic gold in the 100 metres. He ran away from the field, including his main rival, the legendary Carl Lewis, to become the world’s fastest human. It was a defining moment for the country.

“A marvelous evening for Canada,” then Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney said.

Unfortunately, for Johnson and the country, the party was over a short three days later when he was disqualified after testing positive for anabolic steroids.

Daniel Negreanu

Daniel Negreanu

He may not be the most athletic person on this list, but Daniel Negreanu does work out and play soccer regularly. ‘Kid poker’ makes this list because he’s an outstanding card player, and his personality is perfectly suited for a terrific viewing experience. One of the most popular poker players on the planet, Negreanu is also one of the richest. With more than $42 million in live tournament earnings, he ranks third on the all-time money list.

The Toronto native has won six World Series of Poker bracelets, with nearly 50 final table appearances, and is the only player with two WSOP ‘Player of the Year’ awards (2004, 2013). He has also captured two titles on the World Poker Tour. In 2014, he landed his biggest score ever, a whopping $8,288,001, after finishing runner-up in the $1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop.

An avid sports fan, podcaster and poker legend, it all sounds like The Last Dance potential to us!

George St. Pierre

George St Pierre

When it comes to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, GSP is A-okay. In fact, he is a beast. One of the most prolific fighters in the history of mixed martial arts, George St. Pierre was a two-division champion, having won titles at both welterweight and middleweight, and is set to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame this year.

Not one to fear an opponent, St. Pierre fought and beat such greats as Michael Bisping, Nick Diaz and B.J. Penn. He ended his professional career with an outstanding 28-2 record, with eight wins by knockout, six by submission and 12 by decision. His only losses, to Matt Serra and Matt Hughes, were avenged.

Mike Weir

Mike Weir

You don’t see too many left-handed swingers on the PGA Tour, but Mike Weir was certainly one of the greatest. And, during a four-year stretch in the early 2000’s, he was at the top his game. Weir was ranked in golf’s top-10 for more then 110 weeks. Who can forget those memorable scenes in 2003, when Tiger Woods presented him the coveted green jacket for winning The Masters? The only Canadian to ever win a major.

Weir was inducted in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.

Hayley Wickenheiser

Hayley Wickenheiser

A member of the national women’s hockey team for 23 years, Hayley Wickenheiser proved her skills time and again on the ice. She played centre, represented Canada five times at the Winter Olympics (four gold medals, one silver), and is the team’s career point leader with 168 goals and 211 assists in 276 games. She is widely regarded as the greatest female hockey player to have ever laced up skates.

Wickenheiser’s story doesn’t end with women’s hockey, though. She also played semi-professionally for several years in Europe. Hayley was the first ever woman to score a goal in a pro men’s league. She has also sat on the International Olympic Committee’s Athletic Commission. These days, she’s working for the Toronto Maple Leaf’s as the Assistant Director of Player Development.

Sidney Crosby

Sidney Crosby

Still playing and still scoring, Sidney Crosby is widely regarded as one of the best hockey players ever. Right up there with Gretzky and Lemieux. He captained the Pittsburgh Penguins to three Stanley Cups (2009, 2016, 2017). And helped Team Canada take gold at the World Junior Championship in 2005. At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, he mesmerized the country, by scoring in overtime to beat the United States, in thrilling fashion, for the gold medal.

Bobby Orr

Bobby Orr

Number four, Bobby Orr. An absolute legend. He had all the traits of required to be a star hockey player. He was fast, could score, was an excellent defenseman, and always seemed to shine in those big moments. Hoisting two Stanley Cup’s with the Boston Bruins (1970, 1972), Orr was named MVP of the 1976 Canada Cup. He was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1979.

Wear and tear on his deteriorating knees cut his career short, but not before so many wonderful highlights.

Try to picture it. The behind-the-scenes footage of these Canadians’ own version of The Last Dance would be dramatic and captivating. The untold stories would be fascinating. Canada Rocks.

Derrick Oliver

Derrick Oliver

Derrick Oliver Dewan is the founder of High Roller Radio and has interviewed a number of the world's top poker players and gamblers. A former radio and television broadcaster, Derrick was brand manager for Poker Pro Canada magazine and has written for a variety of publications, including the Toronto Star & Windsor Life.

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