Marie-Philip Poulin was surprised to hear she was the first female hockey player to win the Northern Star Award, but she expects to have some company soon.
Poulin, the captain of Canada's women's team who led her team to Olympic and world championship gold in 2022, was named this year's recipient of the award given annually to Canada's athlete of the year.
"Honestly, I didn't think I was the first one," the 31-year-old from Beauceville, Que., said in a video conference on Wednesday when asked about being the first female hockey player honoured with the award.
"It's a real honour because the ladies have been there before us, before me, I've watched them on TV. They're my idols and my role models."
"Obviously I'm not going to be the only one," she added.
Poulin was instrumental in Canada's gold medal in Beijing. She scored twice in a 3-2 win over the U.S. in the championship game and finished the tournament second in scoring with 17 points, one behind teammate Sarah Nurse.
She had 10 points in seven games at the world championship in Denmark, including an assist on Brianne Jenner's opening goal in a 2-1 win over the U.S. in the gold-medal game.
Poulin's award comes a little over a week after she played in a Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association Dream Gap Tour event in Pittsburgh. She had a hat trick to lead Team Harvey's to a 5-2 win over Team Scotiabank on Nov. 27.
The PWHPA formed after the collapse of the Canadian Women's Hockey League in 2019. Its members are working to build a sustainable women's professional league.
"There is light at the end of the tunnel and we truly believe that next year something is going to be in place," she said.
Poulin said the women's game is growing past something that only gets attention during an Olympic year.
"I think the more that little girls and boys come to see us, and having Sarah Nurse on the cover of NHL 23 (video game), the more you see that I think it creates so much more and you can see people are talking about it as a year-to-year thing."
Poulin is the 10th hockey player overall to win the award. Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price was the last to win in 2015.
Media members from across Canada voted Wednesday on the annual Toronto Star award. Other contenders included tennis player Felix Auger-Aliassime, golfer Brooke Henderson, swimmer Summer McIntosh, speedskater Isabelle Weidemann, soccer player Alphonso Davies, Colorado Avalanche defenceman Cale Makar and B.C. Lions quarterback Nathan Rourke.
The Northern Star Award has been handed out annually since 1936.
Until this year it was named the Lou Marsh Award after a former football player and NHL referee who spent more than 40 years working in the Toronto Star's sports department.
The award was recently renamed after concerns surfaced in recent years over some of the racist language used in Marsh's writing.
Poulin is also a nominee for the The Canadian Press female athlete of the year award, which will be announced on Dec. 28.