A year in the world of sports: 2010
1. Vancouver 2010
Never before has Canada been brought together in such a patriotic fashion than this past February when Vancouver hosted the world at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Although the games started bleakly with the tragic death of Nodar Kumaritashvili, a young Georgian luger, they were quickly rejuvenated by Canadian freestyle skier Alexandre Bilodeau, who became the first Canadian to ever win gold at home.
The party only continued, with the unforgettable gold medal performances of athletes such as Jon Montgomery in skeleton, Maelle Ricker in snowboard cross and the Canadian women’s hockey team, opening the door for Canadians to set a Winter Olympics record with 14 gold medals – the most ever by a host nation.
There were also incredible stories, such as that of figure skater Joannie Rochette, who had what was likely the most inspirational performance of the games, winning the bronze medal just days after the unexpected death of her mother.
Of course, none of Canada’s accomplishments were as celebrated as Canada’s men’s hockey gold, which was won in dramatic fashion on the final night of the Games when Sidney Crosby scored the golden goal in overtime against the United States.
Even without the success of the Canadadian team – who won a total of 26 medals, good enough for third place overall – Vancouver 2010 demonstrated its ability to unite Canadians and instill a sense of pride that has never been associated with Canada in the past.
2. Tiger Woods
The biggest scandal of the past year was undoubtedly Tiger Woods’ infidelity, which not only messed up his marriage with a supermodel and damaged his image and reputation, but also lost him millions of dollars in endorsements because he could not keep his Escalade away from a tree.
Woods’ squeaky clean image was tainted when his affairs were revealed to the public in late November. After Tiger’s wife found text messages from several women on his phone, Apple approved an iPhone app that poked fun at the golf legend. This app allows text messages to remain hidden when someone other than the phone’s owner is looking at it. However, not everyone wanted something to do with Tiger; top sponsors Gatorade and GM, among others, cut the athlete, as they no longer considered him an appropriate role model.
Although Tiger is set to return to the game with the Masters just around the corner, make no mistake, Tiger Woods will no longer be viewed in the same way he was prior to his sex escapade.
3. Saints win Super Bowl XLIV
After New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, things seemed hopeless for the city and their subpar football franchise. Led by quarterback Drew Brees, who many had written off as injury-prone when he was signed by New Orleans in 2005, the Saints made a stunning comeback this past season, finishing 13-3 and going on to win the 2010 Super Bowl, putting both their city and the team back on the map.
Brees led the team to their 31-17 victory over veteran superstar Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, shocking and silencing critics and restoring hope amongst the “Who Dat” nation.
4. Phoenix Coyotes
It’s been a year to remember for fans of the Phoenix Coyotes. The drama surrounding the team regarding its ownership struggle and potential re-location seemed to be an indicator of what was going to be yet another disastrous year. But once the season started, the desert dogs took the hockey world by complete surprise. The Coyotes astonishingly find themselves among the elite teams in the NHL, currently ranked fourth in the Western Conference having already clinched their first playoff berth since 2002.
What’s even more surprising is how the Coyotes have gotten to this point: goalie Ilya Bryzgalov was considered mediocre at best before this season, and now finds himself as a likely Vezina Trophy candidate; the team’s offence doesn’t have a player ranked in the top 50 for scoring and head coach Dave Tippet is in his first season with the club after the “Great One” Wayne Gretzky stepped down.
It is evident that the Coyotes have, against all odds, made a name for themselves as a team not to count out.
5. Halladay traded
This past December, the face of the Toronto Blue Jays franchise was traded as a massive four team, nine-player blockbuster deal sent Roy Halladay, arguably the best pitcher in baseball, to the Philadelphia Phillies. The Jays received highly-touted pitching prospect Kyle Drabek, third baseman Brett Wallace and outfielder Travis d’Arnaud. Also involved in the deal was former Cy Young winner Cliff Lee, who was shipped from the Phillies to the Seattle Mariners.
Although it is still too early to tell who won this trade, as of right now, it has dealt a large blow to the Jays. The Jays lost a former Cy Young winner, a fan favourite and ace in an already unstable rotation. Canada’s team has now become insignificant in a very tough American League East Division and are definitely looking ahead to the future. No matter what happens in upcoming years, this deal will be one of the biggest in Jays history.
6. World Juniors
For Team Canada in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Hockey Championships, there are only two possible outcomes. Either they win the gold medal or they fail. In 2010, the big story was that for the first time since 2004, the boys in red and white failed.
The squad was, as usual, packed with high-end talent and included 10 National Hockey League first round picks. Headlined by names like Taylor Hall (probable 2010 number one pick), perrennial clutch performer Jordan Eberle, and the NHL-experienced Alex Pietrangelo, this Canadian team seemed set to win the tournament.
After rolling through the round robin – with their only serious competition coming from the U.S. – the Canadians unravelled in the gold medal game against the Americans. Only a heroic performance by the previously mentioned Eberle, who scored two goals within the last three minutes of the game, gave the Canadians a chance in overtime.
However, the record sixth-straight gold was not to be for Canada, as American John Carlson scored 4:31 into overtime.
7. Headshots in hockey
In a long overdue move, the NHL finally addressed the growing concern of players targeting each others’ heads during checks and blindside hits to the head as “incidental contact”. In an unprecedented mid-season rule change, the NHL has put forth the rule that blindside hits to a player where the head is primarily targeted will be penalized.
The rule follows a plethora of recent injuries. This includes the Ontario Hockey League’s Kitchener Rangers’ 16-year-old rookie Ben Fanelli’s season prematurely coming to an end thanks to a reckless head-checking play, which gave the defenceman facial lacerations and a fractured skull.
8. Federer back on top
Arguably the greatest tennis player of all time, Roger Federer returned to his throne in 2009 after losing it to Rafael Nadal the previous year. Over the summer, Federer broke the record for most Grand Slam titles of all time, claiming his 15th in July, 2009 at Wimbledon when he defeated Andy Roddick. Federer now owns 16 titles at 28 years old.
Federer has so far cemented his legacy with four Australian Open titles, one French Open title, six Wimbledon titles, five US Open titles, and one Olympic gold medal in the doubles category. His consistency, as well as his wicked forehand, guarantee that he is almost always ranked No. 1 in the world.
9. Yankees return to glory
The New York Yankees won their 27th World Series Championship this past November, their first since 2000, after dominating Major League Baseball in the mid to late 1990s. The Yankees beat the defending champions, the Philadelphia Phillies in the fall classic thanks to the efforts of the World Series’ Most Valuable Player, Hideki Matsui. The exceptional playoff performance from Alex Rodriguez – who has often been criticized for his inability to come through in the clutch – was also a key component in the Yankees’ return to glory. Rodriguez hit .230 with four home runs and nine runs batted in during his first 24 playoff games with the Yankees. In the 15 games needed to capture the World Series in 2009, Rodriguez batted .378 with six home runs and 18 runs batted in.
10. Stanley Cup rematch
For the second straight year, the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins clashed in the NHL’s 2009 Stanley Cup final. The Wings were seeking their 2nd straight Cup and their 5th in 12 years, while the Penguins were seeking retribution for their loss in 2008.
After falling behind 2-0 and 3-2 in the series, the Penguins would not be denied their first Cup in 17 years and won games six and seven by identical scores of 2-1. Sidney Crosby became the youngest captain in NHL history to hoist the cup; he had 31 points in the playoffs. Marian Hossa, who had bolted from the Pens a year earlier to play for the Red Wings, tasted ironic defeat, ending up on the wrong side of the spectrum two years in a row.