Karina LeBlanc, Brittany Timko Baxter named to Canada Soccer Hall of Fame

Team Canada goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc. (Jason Franson/CP)

TORONTO — Karina LeBlanc and Brittany Timko Baxter, who won 242 caps for Canada between them in a combined 29 years of senior service, have been named to the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame.

“Karina and Brittany have been part of a historic era for our women’s national team program, from winning a bronze medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games to each representing their country more than 100 times,” Steven Reed, president of the Canadian Soccer Association, said in a statement.

LeBlanc, 39, was the first Canadian player to take part in five FIFA World Cups. The charismatic goalkeeper played for Canada from 1998 to 2015, retiring as the second-longest serving member in women’s national team history.

LeBlanc won 110 caps for Canada, collecting six CONCACAF medals and two Pan American Games medals in addition to the 2012 Olympic bronze. She finished her career with a Canadian-record 47 clean sheets.

“As a kid I dreamed of playing for my country, but never did I imagine that my dream would lead me to the Hall of Fame as a individual,” said LeBlanc, who today serves as head of CONCACAF women’s football.

Timko Baxter (nee Timko) participated in three World Cups, playing from fullback to forward in a senior international career that stretched from 2002 to 2014. Today the 34-year-old is head girls coach at the Port Moody Soccer Association in B.C.

“It’s even more special that I get to do it alongside a mentor, friend and sister in Karina LeBlanc,” said Timko Baxter. “Thank you to all the players who came before me to help a five-year-old girl dream of one day wearing the Maple Leaf and representing Canada.”

LeBlanc played her pro football in North America, winning the NWSL championship with the Portland Thorns in 2013 and reaching the Women’s Professional Soccer final with Los Angeles Sol in 2009.

She also set a Canadian national team record for most clean sheets in a season (eight in 2010).

Born in Atlanta to parents from Dominica (the family was taking refuge from a storm in the Caribbean at the time), LeBlanc was eight when she moved from the Dominica capital of Roseau to Maple Ridge, B.C.

LeBlanc has served as a UNICEF ambassador and spoken at UNICEF events at the United Nations General Assembly. She credits Canadian coach John Herdman for helping push her to widen her horizons outside of sports.

“He basically said to me ‘If you think your purpose on this Earth is to kick a soccer ball for Canada, then I’ve failed you … You have something that is more than just the sport,”’ she recalled in a 2017 interview with The Canadian Press.

“And it triggered me. And it made me ask myself ‘Why am I here? What is my purpose on this world?”’

At the youth level, Timko Baxter earned silver at the FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship in 2002 in Canada, won the CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship in 2004, and claimed the Golden Boot as top scorer at the FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship in Thailand in 2004.

Timko Baxter scored five goals and added eight assists in her international career and would have had far more had it not been for her ability to play multiple positions.

She started as a midfielder but switched to striker at the University of Nebraska — which LeBlanc also attended. She played up front for the Canadian under-19 team then subsequently moved back to midfield with the senior side.

Timko Baxter played her club football in North America, Australia, Sweden, and Germany. The native of Coquitlam, B.C., was a two-time USL W-League winner with the Vancouver Whitecaps.

She ranked tied for fourth on Canada Soccer’s all-time women’s caps list when she retired.

This year’s Class of 2020 was selected by the Voting Group for Modern Canadian Players from a list of 11 nominations.

To be eligible for the Hall, players must have been retired for at least five years and played the game with “excellence at the international and club level” over a career that lasts at least 10 years, unless special exception is granted by the Canada Soccer Association’s general secretary

Including the Class of 2020, the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame has welcomed 129 players, 13 managers/coaches, 10 officials, and 41 builders as honoured members since 2000.

“There are so many future Hall of Famers in this country so to that young girl who dares to dream big, work hard, believe in herself, I say go after it,” said LeBlanc. “I was told I wasn’t good enough many times, but you have to see it to believe it.

“I hope that my time playing for our beautiful country inspired someone or two to know that we all have greatness in us, you just have to start believing it to live it.

“Dreams do come true… This honour shows exactly that.”

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