Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bobbie Rosenfeld

Fanny "Bobbie" Rosenfeld not only ranks as the top female hockey player of the first half of the 20th century, but the top Canadian female all around athlete. Some said she was the best female athlete in the whole world.

Born in 1904 in Russia, she emigrated to Barrie, Ontario with her family as an infant.

Without benefit of any coaching, she grew up to become a star in basketball, lacrosse, softball, tennis, golf, speed skating and especially track and field where she won a gold and a silver medal in the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam.

While she became most dominant in track, interestingly she came by the sport almost reluctantly. She had been focussing her athletic prowess in basketball and baseball when she was convinced to run a 100 yard dash against Canadian champ Rosa Grosse at the Canadian National Exhibition. She won the race and her athletic career bloomed.

Most notably the chocolatier Patterson's took interest in her, offering her a job and sponsoring her athletic endeavours.

That included a spot on the ice with Toronto Pats (short for Patterson's) and was the best player in the league. Hockey was described as Rosenfeld's true love.

Unfortunately severe arthritis nearly crippled her. By 1929 she was mostly bed-ridden for 8 months and relied on crutches to get around in 1930.

Undeterred, she made an amazing recovery, being named the top female hockey player in Ontario in 1932.

The arthritis flared up again before the next season, forcing Rosenfeld to retire from competitive sports altogether.

She remained active in the sporting world, though. She became a sports journalists, notably writing her "Sports Reels" columns for 20 years for the Globe and Mail newspaper. She also became president of the Ladies Ontario Hockey Association.

In 1949 Rosenfeld was named as Canada's female athlete of the first half century by sportswriters across the country.

Since 1978 Canadian sportswriters annually honor top female athlete in the country with the Bobbie Rosenfeld trophy.

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