'Captain Clutch' Poulin named Canada's athlete of the year

2022 Beijing Olympics - Victory Ceremony - Ice Hockey - Women's Gold Medal - Wukesong Sports Centre, Beijing, China - February 17, 2022. Marie-Philip Poulin of Canada celebrates with her gold medal during the medal ceremony. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/file photo

TORONTO, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Marie-Philip Poulin was named Canada's top athlete of 2022 on Wednesday, capping a year in which she led the national women's ice hockey team to gold medals at the Beijing Olympics and world championships.

The long-time national team captain, who finished second in scoring at the Beijing Games where she netted her third career gold medal-clinching goal, is the first female ice hockey player to receive the Northern Star Award as Canada's top athlete.

"I didn't think I was the first one. It's a real honour," said Poulin. "The ladies I watched on TV, they're my role models, they're my idols.

"It's hard to put it into words. I'm not going to be the only one. There will be more to come."

The award, which is handed out annually by the Toronto Star newspaper, is voted on by a panel of sports journalists and broadcasters from across Canada.

Among the other finalists for the award were tennis player Felix Auger-Aliassime, golfer Brooke Henderson, swimmer Summer McIntosh, cross-country skier Brian McKeever and Cale Makar of the National Hockey League's Colorado Avalanche.

Poulin served as Canada's flag bearer during the opening ceremony at the Beijing Olympics in February alongside short track speed skater Charles Hamelin.

Known as "Captain Clutch" given her knack for delivering on the big stage, Poulin went on to become the first hockey player — male or female — to score in four Olympic gold medal games and finished the tournament with six goals and 11 assists.

At the women's world championships, Poulin had 10 points in seven games for a Canadian team that successfully defended their crown in September to pick up their third major international title in the span of a year.

"Congratulations to National Women's Team captain Marie-Philip Poulin for becoming the first women's hockey player EVER to win the Northern Star Award as Canada's top athlete!" Hockey Canada wrote on Twitter.

Past winners of the award include Bayern Munich's Alphonso Davies (2020) former U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu (2019) and decorated Olympic swimmer Penny Oleksiak (2016).

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto Editing by Toby Davis

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