Wednesday, December 19, 2012
TOP SPORTS STORIES OF 2012
From no NHL hockey to just one Olympic gold medal, here is our take on the top-10 sports stories of 2012:
No. 1 - The Lockout
The NHL lockout likely had a bigger impact on more people who watch or make a living off sport than anything else in 2012.
Arenas were dark, players and owners lost hundreds of millions in pay and revenue, bar and restaurant owners scowled at empty seats and fans grumbled and wondered when it was all going to end.
Facebook groups like "NHL Fans Against the Lockout'' sprung up, trying to muster support for a boycott in 2013.
"I am beyond sick and tired of you guys holding our game at bay,'' fan Yves Benoit posted on one page, in what he said was an open letter to both players and owners.
No. 2 - The Penalty
Referee Christiana Pederson's call in an Olympic women's soccer semifinal pretty much had a whole country gnashing its teeth and feeling betrayed.
The call against Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod for holding the ball too long - which observers agreed was almost unprecedented - gave the U.S. the break they needed to send the game into extra time and win.
"We feel like we didn't lose, we feel like it was taken from us,'' said Canadian captain Christine Sinclair, who was later fined and suspended for an incident after the game, although she first helped the team to a bronze medal. "It's a shame in a game like that, that was so important, the ref decided the result before it started.''
No. 3 - The Tragedy
B.C.'s Sarah Burke was the golden girl of freestyle skiing, widely considered a favourite for Olympic gold in 2014, when she crashed and died in January.
Burke was only 29 when she had what looked like an innocuous fall in Park City, Utah, during a halfpipe training run. It ruptured an artery that carries blood to the brain and renewed calls to look at safety in the sport.
"Her fans from Canada and around the world looked up to her and all she has accomplished as a true leader,'' said Canadian Olympic Committee president Marcel Aubut. "This true champion will be missed but never forgotten.''
In March, Canadian skiing suffered another loss when Nik Zoricic died after a crash during the finals of a World Cup skicross event in Grindelwald, Switzerland. It has also led to an investigation to see whether proper safety precautions were in place.
No. 4 - The Cup
The Grey Cup game celebrated its centennial in 2012 with a party in Toronto made even sweeter by the home team's victory
Originally destined for a national amateur hockey champion, the trophy itself was rebranded for football because donor and Gov. Gen. Albert Grey was a little slow off the mark.
The first cup was awarded to the University of Toronto Varsity Blues in 1909. It only hit its centennial in terms of games in 2012 because of missed championships due to the First World War and a rules dispute in 1919.
A late season surge brought the Argonauts to the big show where they dominated the Calgary Stampeders in a storybook ending for the city and the CFL.
No. 5 - The Cyclist
In a year when cycling suffered its biggest black eye ever with the Lance Armstrong doping scandal, there was one shining story for Canadian cyclists - Ryder Hesjedal's win at the Giro d'Italia.
In May, the Victoria native became the first Canadian ever to win one of cycling's three Grand Tour events.
The Giro is not as famous as the Tour de France, but it's a torturous three-week endurance test that Hesjedal won on the last day.
"This remarkable win in one of bicycle racing's most gruelling competitions is a testimony to Mr. Hesjedal's training, endurance, skill and competitive spirit,'' Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in his congratulatory note.
No. 6 - The Trade
It was a late contender but it certainly got the attention of the baseball world and made headlines throughout North America.
The mammoth 12-player trade with the Miami Marlins was designed to turn the Toronto Blue Jays into a pennant contender. It left Miami fans wondering where their team was headed.
Toronto walked away with all-star shortstop Jose Reyes, pitchers Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, catcher John Buck and infielder-outfielder Emilio Bonifacio.
The trade was startling enough to warrant a more careful review than normal. Commissioner Bud Selig took his time but eventually gave it his blessing.
No. 7 - The Horse
You could argue I'll Have Another shouldn't be on this list but the country of the Kentucky thoroughbred's birth is taking second-place here to the birthplace of the colt's owner.
It was a heartbreaker when, after winning the first two legs of the Triple Crown, the horse was removed from the running of the third just one day before the Belmont Stakes due to a tendon injury.
He could have become the first Triple Crown champion in 34 years.
It wasn't all bad news for owner J. Paul Reddam, a native of Windsor, Ont. He sold the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner to a farm in Japan for US$10 million.
No. 8 - The Kid
It was a holdover from 2011 but - when there was NHL hockey this past year - Sidney Crosby's return after another concussion-induced absence was treated like a moon landing.
TSN said more than 2.2 million Canadians tuned in to watch some or all of Pittsburgh's 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers in March.
Crosby had two assists after returning from a three-month layoff following his second concussion in less than a year.
Crosby, one of the most talked-about players since Wayne Gretzky left the game, has helped illuminate the toll head injuries are taking on athletes in high-contact sports such as hockey and football.
No. 9 - The Other Trade
While it didn't get the same scrutiny as the other trade on this list, the NBA world was certainly rocked when Steve Nash went from the Phoenix Suns to the Los Angeles Lakers.
After eight years in Phoenix (his second stint there) and two MVP awards, Nash went to the Lakers for an estimated $27 million over three years. The Suns got four draft picks.
The Victoria native is probably the most successful Canadian in the game since it was invented by James Naismith.
Nash joining Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles was greeted as the kind of move that could make the team a contender again.
No. 10 - The Gold
Dubbed "Bronzilla'' for its third-place-heavy medal count at the London Olympics (12 out of 18), Canada's spirits were lifted with a gold medal from an unexpected source.
As more highly touted veterans stumbled, gymnast Rosie MacLennan bounced her way to Canada's only Olympic gold on the trampoline.
MacLennan, a native of King City, Ont., was far from unknown in her own sport as Canadian champ in 2005, 2009 and 2011 and world champion in synchro with Toronto's Karen Cockburn in 2007.
But her fanbase exploded after winning gold in London.
"Now everybody knows my name,'' the 23-year-old said as she landed in Toronto after the Olympics.
© 2012 The Canadian Press