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The Globe and Mail's annual list ranks the people and players with the influence, and the desire, to affect sport in Canada during 2013

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1. Gary BettmanThe NHL commissioner’s involvement in the lockout – and its eventual resolution – plus a laundry list of the things that remain on his personal to-do list in its aftermath that put him into the No. 1 spot. Bettman will be front and centre in the one conversation that will drive the Canadian sports agenda for the rest of 2013, namely, is the NHL going to Sochi to participate in the 2014 Olympics, and if so, how will Canada’s men’s team look?  Bettman’s workload hasn’t shrunk much, in the two-plus months since the lockout ended. Since then, he has already overseen an ambitious realignment project that will see the Winnipeg Jets play in a geographically more sensible location next season. The league still needs to resolve the Coyotes future in Phoenix. There are a series of new owner-player committees that will focus on a broad range of topics, including player safety initiatives and increasing the NHL’s visibility abroad. The Winter Classic needs to be re-affirmed, a Heritage Classic is likely coming to Canada next year and Columbus, which had the all-star game cancelled this season because of the labor dispute, is owed a game somewhere down the road. Then there is the matter of negotiating a new agreement for Canadian television rights.

Lucas Jackson/Reuters

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2. Nadir Mohamed, George CopeAs co-owners of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, firing GM Brian Burke was their first salvo in resurrecting the Leafs. Cope, with BCE, and Mohamed, with Rogers, run the most influential brand in Canada, but face big challenges in also turning the Raptors and Toronto FC into winners. Who they hire and how they conduct business as owners and broadcast partners will have an impact on Canadian communications and sports for the next decade.

Tim Fraser, Mark Blinch/The Globe and Mail, reuters

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3. Marcel AubutThe Canadian Olympic Committee president will try to generate attention and sponsorships for amateur athletes heading into the 2014 Sochi Olympics. A major coup would be another big fish in the private sector: the COC recently announced an eight-year partnership with Canadian Tire Co. Ltd, which joined The Royal Bank of Canada, Hudson’s Bay Co. and Bell as a premier COC sponsor.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

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4. Alex Anthopolous and Paul BeestonOn the road to nowhere in the tough AL East division, the Blue Jays could have hacked payroll one more time in the name of building up the farm system and making a small profit. Instead, the pair of Canadian executives operating the team decided the time was right to go for the club’s first title since 1993. Beeston convinced the Rogers board of directors that the time was right to spend on payroll, and Anthopoulos started his offseason shopping spree by executing a 12-player blockbuster deal with Miami to land a pair of starting pitchers, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, one of the top shortstops in baseball in Jose Reyes, and a utility player, Emilio Bonifacio. Anthopoulos signed left fielder Melky Cabrera as a free agent despite his suspension for use of a performance-enhancing drugs, and topped it off by trading a pair of top prospects for R.A. Dickey, the knuckleball-throwing ace of the New York Mets. With a payroll hiked by more than $35-million (U.S.), the Blue Jays believe they have the potential of capturing the country’s attention this season. Oh, and the Rogers’ channel Sportsnet has exclusive rights to their games.

Fred Thornhill/Reuters

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5. Mark CohonAs CFL commissioner, Cohon has built attendance and sponsorship revenue for the league. With TV ratings holding, he successfully negotiated the league’s new broadcast deal with TSN and RDS this year, extending it to 2018.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

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6. Keith PelleyThe president of Rogers Media must create a viable new broadcast concept with newly acquired The Score. He also has to create a national TV network using Citytv and other local and regional channels so he can be in the discussion for television rights to the NHL.

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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7. Ken Dryden and Barbara CsengeConcussion doctors and experts have spurred the campaign to bring awareness of the traumatic effects of head injuries to athletes and the public, but the former Hall of Fame goaltender has led the charge that includes an ever-growing number of doctors around the world. For her part, Csenge, the director of learning enrichment at St. Michael’s College School in Toronto, has helped pioneer a system for helping young athletes return to class after suffering a concussion on the field.

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8. Sidney CrosbyThe Pittsburgh Penguins captain remains the most marketable player in hockey, and for better or worse, is also the poster boy for the effects of concussion treatment and recovery. He’ll likely be captain of Canada’s Olympic men’s hockey team in Sochi in 2014 as it defends its gold medal.

Fred Greenslade/Reuters

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9. Murray EdwardsEdwards is part owner of the Calgary Flames, a member of the NHL’s executive committee and was a key hawk in the collective bargaining. Now that labour talks are over, Edwards will not be nearly as visible, but he still exerts considerable influence at governors’ level.

Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

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10. Kirstine StewartThe executive vice-president of CBC’s English Services, CBC/Radio-Canada now owns the Olympic brand through 2016. But can a non-sports executive hang onto the iconic Hockey Night in Canada brand for the network with less money than the competition? Stewart has hired plenty of suits to help her but she will take the bow or the fall on this one.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

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11. Pierre Karl PeladeauIn 2012, the telecom magnate set up an all-sports television cable network that started hoovering up properties from MLS to boxing. In 2013, he has stepped aside from day-to-day management as CEO of Quebecor to concentrate on his plan to attract an NHL team for Quebec City.

Mathieu Belanger/Reuters

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12. Phil KingAs president of CTV programming and sports, King runs the most profitable TV sports speciality channel with the best properties. He renegotiated with the CFL and is now preparing for NHL national rights negotiations for the fall of 2014. If he gets them, he could be the king of the castle.

Handout

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13. Steve YzermanHe is the general manager of Canada’s 2014 men’s Olympic hockey team and, assuming NHL participation in Sochi is confirmed, will be the man with the envelope next December, unveiling 23 names of Canadian men’s players who will try to defend Canada’s gold medal in Vancouver.

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

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14. John CollinsNow that Gary Bettman has led the league through another bruising lockout, it will be Collins’s job to rebuild the shield with disaffected corporate sponsors and broadcasters. The architect of the Winter Classic, Collins, the chief operating officer of the NHL, will need all his skills to restore the roar.

Richard Drew/Associated Press

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15. Georges St. PierreNo one has done more to raise the profile of mixed martial arts in this country. After sitting out most of 2012 with a career-threatening knee injury, he returned to defend his title as UFC welterweight champion, and recently did so again – his 11th successive victory. He is one of Canada’s few bona fide international superstars, and has global reach.

Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

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16. Mark Chipman and David ThomsonThe chairman of the Winnipeg Jets and owner of True North Sports and Entertainment, in partnership with Thomson, Chipman has been an increasingly important voice at the NHL’s board of governors level and was involved in both collective bargaining and realignment talks. The love affair with the Jets in Winnipeg, now almost two years old, shows little sign of waning. And the Jets are threatening to make the playoffs.

The Canadian Press

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17. Christine SinclairCanada’s face of the 2012 London Olympics will turn 30 in June and is positioned to lead the side into the 2015 women’s World Cup, which will be in Canada. Sinclair, captain of the Canadian women’s soccer team, won the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year and the Bobbie Rosenfeld award as Canada’s female athlete of the year.

Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

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18. Bonnie Brooks, Gordon Nixon and Stephen WetmoreEach of these CEOs heads up a premier sponsor of the Canadian Olympic Committee, so expect a huge marketing push from each company as momentum builds for Sochi. Brooks, of Hudson’s Bay Co., Royal Bank of Canada’s Nixon and BCE’s George Cope have been on board for previous Games, while Wetmore’s Canadian Tire Co. Ltd. joined the tiny clan earlier this year.

The Bay, Mark Blinch and Fernando Morales/Handout, Reuters, The Globe and Mail

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19. Peter SisamThe vice-president of IMG Canada is also a veteran negotiator of broadcasting rights for sports. He should be instrumental in brokering new Canadian NHL broadcasting rights, which are up for renewal in 2014. If a revamped Rogers arrives at the table, it could go toe-to-toe with TSN and CBC

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

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20. Daryl KatzThe drugstore billionaire and Edmonton Oilers owner threatened to move the team to Seattle. Now, he’s finally close to a deal for a new arena that will cost $600-million. And the savvy businessman managed to structure a deal where his upfront costs are nominal.

Dan Riedlhuber/Reuters

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21. Peter SwinburnThe CEO of Molson Coors runs one of the best-known brands in Canada, not to mention his involvement with one of the NHL’s biggest sponsors, and he’s not afraid to throw his weight around. He expressed his displeasure over lost revenues in beer sales caused by the lockout. Now that hockey’s back, how many sponsorship dollars he returns with will be crucial to NHL teams.

Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

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22. David BranchThe commissioner of the Ontario Hockey League and president of the Canadian Hockey League has led efforts to ban head shots in part by handing out some of the most severe suspensions in the history of organized hockey. Branch also introduced a new rule for this season that calls for suspensions should a player engage in more than 10 fights.

Larry MacDougal/The Canadian Press

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23. Richard WaughFrom hockey to football to marathons, Scotiabank is one of the biggest sponsors of sporting events in the country. As the bank’s chief executive officer, Waugh’s support of everything from the Grey Cup to Toronto Waterfront Marathon is crucial to their operations.

Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

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24. Geoff MolsonIn the post-lockout era, the Montreal Canadiens’ owner is aggressively tending to the Habs, since they bestride all other sports in Quebec. Molson is leveraging the brand into real estate developments, and ground will shortly be broken on a 10,000-seat arena in Laval, Que., which will be managed by the Habs consortium’s concert promotion arm. The team opened with a bang this season.

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

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25. Carol HuynhThe two-time Olympic medalist is fighting to save her sport from being tossed from the Olympics. The new chair of Wrestling Canada’s Olympic Wrestling 2020 and Beyond committee will lobby IOC members to vote against the recommendation of the IOC executive committee to remove wrestling from the core Olympic program. The vote is this fall.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

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26. Dave NonisBy virtue of the portfolio (Toronto Maple Leafs GM) and how he got it – handed to him, days after the lockout ended – his every move will be scrutinized, internally by his overlords, externally by the varied members of Leaf Nation, to see if he can once and for all get the team with the longest playoff drought into the post-season.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

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27. Anne MerklingerAs CEO of Own the Podium, Merklinger is charged with overseeing the effort to produce more World Cup and world championship medals and turn them into Olympic medals in Sochi. To help ensure that, OTP is now investing more heavily in sports with medal potential for future Olympics. Merklinger lost her winter accomplice when Ken Read, who directed OTP’s winter program, stepped down in March. The search is under way for his replacement.

Handout

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28. Clara HughesCanada’s greatest female Olympian retired from competition after the London Games, but the six-time Olympic medalist’s advocacy work on depression and mental health and her involvement on the international advisory board of Right to Play mean her influence hasn’t waned. If anything, it’s grown.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

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29. Steve PodborskiThe first North American man to win an Olympic medal in downhill skiing (a bronze in 1980) now leads Canada into its first Winter Games after 14 golds in Vancouver 2010. As the chef de mission for the Canadian Olympic team in Sochi, the former Crazy Canuck will be ramping up his appearances on behalf of Canada’s Olympic hopefuls.

Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

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30. Don CherryThe CBC has doubled down on the Hockey Night in Canada host, seeing him as a meal ticket. This could be his last 18 months on air, however, depending on how negotiations go for CBC in NHL rights discussions.

Glenn Lowson/The Globe and Mail

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31. Joey VottoThe Canadian first baseman has one of the longest guaranteed contracts in the history of major league baseball, so it was big news when he donned Canada’s uniform at the World Baseball Classic (even if team did fizzle.) Now the 2010 National League MVP just has to keep proving he’s worth his whopping $225-million, 12-year contract with the Cincinnati Reds.

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

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32. Donald FehrThe executive director of the NHL Players’ Association proved to be a formidable foe to Gary Bettman and the owners during the lockout. Fehr’s ability to explain complex legal and labour issues in layman’s terms meant the players never wavered in their support, which resulted in significant gains. Now, like Bettman, Fehr’s most immediate task is to keep the players in the Olympics but on more favourable terms than the past.

Chris Young/The Canadian Press

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33. Milos RaonicRaonic has a chance to do for tennis what Mike Weir did for golf and expand the audience for the sport by steadily climbing up the players’ ranks. He made it to round of 16 in first major of the season and has now ditched his Lacoste sponsorship deal for a partnership with the mainstream shoe company, New Balance.

Andrew Innerarity/Reuters

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34. The Blue Jays' starting rotationLed by Ricky Romero as the de-facto ace coming out of spring training in 2012, the Blue Jays starting pitchers were among the worst in baseball. Anthopolous addressed the situation by assembling an eclectic group. R.A. Dickey, the National League Cy Young Award winner, throws a hard knuckleball. Josh Johnson is a tall, power-pitching right-hander who came from the Miami Marlins with Mark Buehrle, a no-nonsense quick working left-hander who relies on speed changes and acute location to retire batters. Brandon Morrow and Romero are the holdovers, though Romero as the fifth starter is being pushed in spring training by J.A. Happ, a lefty obtained from the Houston Astros last July.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

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35. Bryan ColangeloHeading into the 2012-13 NBA season, the president and general manager of the Toronto Raptors was counting on a competitive year from his team that would help convince his bosses at Maple Leaf Sport and Entertainment to pick up the option clause on his contract that would bring him back for at least another year. A 4-19 start to the season kind of put the kibosh on that. And with the Raptors now heading for a fifth consecutive season without a playoff appearance Colangelo’s continued presence as the man in charge will undoubtedly be a major topic of discussion within the conglomerate’s executive offices.

Chris Young/The Canadian Press

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36. Pat Brisson and J.P. BarryAgents Brisson and Barry (his partner), control arguably the best stable of players in the NHL (including Evgeni Malkin and Jonathan Toews). Their star, Sidney Crosby, is still the most marketable athlete in the league, and now that he is fully recovered from his concussion problems he is having a monster season that will only increase his fame and influence.

Associated Press, Reuters

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37. Bob NicholsonHe’s the president and CEO of Hockey Canada, an organization that runs the cash-generating world junior championship among other events. A supporter of Olympic participation, Nicholson has been making a compelling case to the NHL to suspend play for 20 days in 2014 so the league’s best can go to Sochi. Negotiations are under way.

Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

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38. Mike GillisIn his fifth season as president of the Canucks, with a five-year extension set to start for next season, Gillis looks as though he’ll get tenure that other GMs dream of. But it feels as though the one-time player agent is on a precipice, with his team struggling and his stars aging. Skeptics abound. And he hasn’t been able to trade Roberto Luongo, demanding a high price and getting nothing back, as yet.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

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39. Christiane AyotteAs head of the WADA-approved anti-doping lab, Ayotte has played an instrumental role in unmasking drug cheats at multiple Olympic Games and in several professional sports. The doctor is an internationally recognized authority on illegal doping in high-performance sport.

Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

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40. Ryder HesjedalLast year, the native of Victoria, B.C., native did what no Canadian has done before in cycling, win a grand tour in Europe, the Giro d’Italia. He aims to repeat in 2013 – and carry on to the Tour de France, where he crashed last year but finished a tantalizing sixth in 2010

Christophe Ena/Associated Press

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41. MLS owners/operators Joey Saputo, Kevin Payne and Greg KerfootOf the three leaders of the country’s Major League Soccer franchises, Toronto FC’s Payne has the toughest row to hoe: a team loaded with financial resources but historically shy on brains. Kerfoot’s Vancouver Whitecaps have quickly usurped TFC as the country’s premier franchise, while Saputo’s Montreal Impact are 4-0 in their second season and have some name players – Alessandro Nesta and Matteo Ferrari – who are familiar to fans of the beautiful game. TFC deserves kudos, however, for the academy setup. Canada punches under its weight in international men’s soccer; these three men can do a great deal about it. Kerfoot has been one of the sport’s foremost benefactors in Canada.

The Canadian Press

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42. Francesco AquiliniThe scion of a local construction and real estate fortune and a billionaire family, Aquilini has made unconventional choices in his decade as owner of the Vancouver Canucks. But he’s been in a bunch of scraps of late. The team is not its former self. There’s a nasty, and public, divorce with his ex-wife. There’s a lawsuit from a famous Italian sports psychologist over a botched work permit. And he’s heavily backed B.C. Premier Christy Clark, who looks as though she’ll lose the spring election.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

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43. Jeff HuntHunt will oversee the implementation of the CFL’s newest franchise in Ottawa as president of Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which owns the expansion team. Hunt is a Canadian businessman who currently owns the Ottawa 67’s hockey club of the OHL.

Chris Wattie/Reuters

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44. Susan CohigAs the NHL’s senior vice-president of integrated marketing, Cohig deals with the NHL’s corporate partners. Her biggest job now will be keeping them happy after a tough revenue drought during the lockout. Cohig also manages the NHL’s club services, working with each team in the league on its sales and marketing.

NHL

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45. Wayne GretzkyThe Great One still holds all the records, and when he speaks about the game everyone listens. The slightest rumour about him going to Toronto or any other major NHL city can make the Internet explode.

Aaron Vincent Elkaim/The Canadian Press

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46. Kimberley Amirault-RyanAmirault-Ryan was Canada’s head of sport psychology for the 2010 and 2012 Olympics and will continue in this role for the 2014 Games. She has also worked with a number of NHL and NBA teams: she was the first female performance consultant to work with the New York Rangers and New York Knicks, and has since worked with the Columbus Blue Jackets and most recently the Edmonton Oilers.

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47. Gerry FrappierYes, it has given up the Olympics to Radio-Canada, but RDS – where Frappier is president – is still the dominant player in the sports broadcasting industry in Quebec, given it holds the rights to the Canadiens.

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48. Rebecca MarinoThe 22-year-old retired from professional tennis this year, and, in doing so, spoke openly for the first time about her struggles with depression, joining a growing list of athletes and high-profile Canadians who are turning a spotlight on the illness and helping to diffuse the stigma surrounding it. She reached her highest WTA ranking – 38th – in 2011.

Associated Press

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49. David BraleyThe senator owns the Toronto Argonauts and the B.C. Lions, who will be host of the 2014 Grey Cup. The Argos are in the process of re-negotiating their lease at Rogers Centre and are not planning on going anywhere for the next five years or so, although they are exploring options.

Sheryl Nadler/The Globe and Mail

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50. Andrew WigginsThe teen basketball phenom is considered North America’s top high school basketball recruit in the class of 2013. A native of Thornhill, Ont., and the son of former NBA player Mitchell Wiggins and track and field star Marita Payne, he could be the best Canadian NBA player since Steve Nash.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

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