MSSA doles out 2013 awards


The Manitoba Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association announced its 2013 award winners at a banquet in Winnipeg on Sunday night.

The Jennifer Jones curling team, which includes Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer and Dawn McEwen, was named the team of the year.

The Jones team won the Roar of the Rings women's berth in the Sochi Olympics at the national trials at Winnipeg's MTS Centre in December. The Jones crew, affiliated at the St. Vital Curling Club, led the round robin in the Canadian trials with a 6-1 record, and won the playoff final 8-4 over Sherry Middaugh's Ontario team.  Earlier, Jones won a record sixth Manitoba women's title, and the team was the runner-up in the 2013 Canadian Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

Jones received 25 first place votes and 156 points in the voting on the finalists by 35 media members throughout the province. Another curling team, the Matt Dunstone Canadian junior men's champions, was a distant second with 116 points. In addition to the Jones and Dunstone curling teams, other finalists in the team division for the Maurice Smith Memorial trophy were the Steinbach Pistons, who won the Turnbull Cup as MJHL champions, the Hannah Guttormson-Stephanie Lowry Canada Games gold medal winners in Canoe-Kayak paddling, and the Hardy Cup finalist Manitoba Bison football team.

The male athlete of the year award went to Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks. Toews won his third Manitoba male athlete honour (previously in 2007 and 2010) by capturing the Frank Selke trophy as the NHL's best defensive forward in leading the Blackhawks to their second Stanley Cup championship in four years. He ranked second in scoring on his team with 48 points in 2012-13, and shared the Chicago team lead in goals with 23. He was third in the NHL with a plus-28 plus-minus rating and became the third Blackhawk player in history to record more than 20 goals and 40 points in each of his first six seasons.

A total of 25 first place votes and 156 points for Toews led the male balloting, well in front of the 121 points received by runner-up Anthony Coombs, the outstanding running back of the football Manitoba Bisons.  Toews and Coombs were followed in voting for the male athlete award by the Western Hockey League's top scorer Brendan Leipsic of the Portland Winter Hawks, light heavyweight boxing contender Andrew Gardiner, and Glenboro's Josh Wytinck, the co-winner of the Manitoba amateur golfer of the year award, who was a finalist for the second straight year.

Breanne Siwicki was selected as the Manitoba female athlete of the year. Siwicki earned the provincial female award based on her gold medal performance in swimming's 1,500 metres at the Canada Summer Games, breaking the Games record by more than 11 and a half seconds.  She added silver medals in the 200 and 400-metre women's butterfly events, plus three bronze medals.  She also won gold medals in the Canadian Age Group Championships and at swimming's summer nationals.  Her swimming efforts now are at the University of Minnesota.

Siwicki won the closest race in the three categories, with 14 first place votes and 126 points, closely followed by UBC volleyball star and Brandon product Lisa Barclay at 118. Other contending female finalists were biathlon's Megan Imrie, standout Manitoba Bison volleyballer Taylor Pischke, and Softball Manitoba's top senior player Hailey Unger.

Meanwhile, Andrew Konowalchuk of BBB Inc. accepted the Cactus Jack Wells Memorial award for the opening of Investors Group Field, which was selected as the event with the largest impact on the Manitoba sports scene in 2013.

The Dallis Beck Memorial Good Guy award was a postchumous choice of the late Don Baizley, the renowned player representative who earned distinction as one of hockey's most influential figures before he passed away last summer. Baizley was a supporter for the Manitoba media for many years.

Two very notable sports journalists, freelancer Judy Owen and Daren Millard of Rogers Sportsnet, were inducted into the Manitoba Media Roll Of Honour at the dinner, recognizing their exceptional contributions in the coverage of professional and amateur sport.

Lastly, the MSSA Jack Matheson award, established to provide financial funding to sports media aspirants, perpetuates the memory of the former Winnipeg Tribune sports editor and CJOB commentator. This year's award was presented to Marc Lagace, who is a first year student in the Creative Communications program at Red River College.

With files from MSSA release