Top Ten Canadian Sports Stories of 2012

Canadian Stories.fw

2012 was another great year in sports with plenty going on for everyone to enjoy and great stories around every corner. There was plenty to talk about throughout the sports world with great performances and inspirational performances. It wasn’t only limited to the USA or to Europe though as Canada had a very interesting year in sports. Canada has not been a sport hotbed for many years as there has not been a Canadian champion in the big four leagues since 1993. For that reason Canada can sometimes fall into the unnoticed category of sports in the global stage. That doesn’t mean that nothing is happening in the Great White north though as 2012 was a very eventful year for Canadian sports. There was history made by Canadians and throughout Canadian sport. There was also some heartbreak in Canadian sports as usual. The dominant stories came in from the Olympics though as Canadians across the country watched closely to see how we could do in the summer games. The good and the bad came and went and in the end Canadian athletes and teams went out like true Canadians. The never die spirit that made Canada was on full display in everything from the big four leagues to the Olympics. It was a great year for Canadian sports as teams climbed back into relevance and Canadian athletes took full focus on the global stage. In the end the 2012 year in Canadian sports was a build up to what promises to be a great 2013. The future is bright for Canadian sports and with 2013 approaching it is time to reflect on the year that was. With that in mind here are the best Canadian sports moments of the last year as Canada began their move into the larger sports world.


10. Cornish’s Record


The CFL was hoping for a historic year with the 100th Grey Cup being handed out at the end of the season. The only true Canadian league would see plenty of history throughout the season with records falling seemingly every week near the end of the season. Chad Owens would break the all-time single season all-purpose yards record. Then JC Sherritt would break the record for most tackles in a single season. Another record broken though would be uniquely Canadian as Jon Cornish would have the season of his life as the starting running back. For years Cornish would sit as the backup running back behind Joffrey Reynolds in Calgary and as a starting linebacker for the Stamps. 2012 would be his year to shine though as Reynolds would no longer be a part of the Stampeders’ offence leaving the starting roll to Jon Cornish. He would be only the latest Canadian born player to become the feature back in the CFL. The New Westminster, B.C. native would finally get his shot as a starting RB in the CFL though and many thought that it could be the beginning of a good year. Cornish was not the main focus of the team though as Drew Tate would be starting the season for the first time as the starting QB and many were focused on him to see what he could do. In the second game of the season Tate would suffer a season ending injury though handing the QB job to Kevin Glen and essentially handing the reigns of the offence to Cornish. The Canadian running back would quickly become the focus of the Stamps’ offence as they would rely on him more than ever to control games. Throughout the season Cornish would rack up the yards and when the season began to wind down he would close in on a Canadian record. He would close in on Norman Kwong’s single season rushing record set 56 years earlier with a 1,457 yard season as he would out his name among the best Canadian running backs of all time.


9. Nash Avoids Toronto


Basketball is a game that has been getting bigger and bigger in Canada every year with more and more Canadians to follow in the NBA. Everyone still loves the original though as Steve Nash is one of the major Canadian athletes in the sports world. Nash is one of the first Canadians to make an impact in the NBA as a two-time NBA MVP and a constant supporter of Basketball Canada. 2012 was a good year for Nash as well when he was named the General Manager of Team Canada. The decision to manage the Canadian team would just endear him more to his Canadian fans as his commitment to Canadian basketball continued. Then his reputation for some took a big shot as Nash would enter the free agency market and began looking for a new team. It would likely be his last contract before he retired. One of the suitors was the Toronto Raptors who were hoping to bring in the biggest Canadian star to the only Canadian team. Many believed it would be a fitting end to a great career as Nash would end his NBA career at home in Canada. It seemed to be a good fit for Nash and for the Raptors who were seemingly rebuilding a solid team. In the end though, Nash would go to Los Angeles who had bought the free agent market throughout the offseason. Many thought that it was a slap in the face of the Canadians as Nash had chosen the Americans over the Canadians. It would have been a great end to the career of the best Canadian basketball player but it wasn’t meant to be. For Nash it was more about trying to win a championship and staying with his family on the West Coast. Even with this reasoning it was a heartbreaking decision for Canadian sports fans who were hoping to see their own son come back to Canada and finish his career. It would not come to fruition and would put Canadian sports fans back to reality in realizing they were still not the most desirable place for any player including a Canadian.


8. Juniors Still Struggle


The World Juniors has widely been considered a tournament that only the Canadians focus on every year. Canadians do this mainly because Canada is one of the most dominating teams in the Juniors. Team Canada has won five tournaments in a row two times since the tournament was created making them the most successful Junior team in the tournament. That crown weighed heavy on the young Canadian players and it began to take effect in the 2010 tournament when the Canadians finished 2nd to the USA. Then it happened again in 2011 when the Juniors would finish second to the Russians in a massive comeback in the Gold medal game. The 2012 version of the tournament would be a chance for the Canadians to redeem themselves on home soil. The tournament would start promising enough as they walked through most of their competition in the round robin. Then came the Semi-Finals when they would take on the Russians once again and once again would see the same result. The  Canadians would go down early in the game but would try to capture some of the Russian magic from 2011. The Canadians would begin their comeback looking to fend off the Russians who would go ahead 2-0 in the first period and then 5-1 in the second. The Canadians would come up short though as they would lose in the semi-finals forcing them into the bronze medal game. The Canadians would easily win the Bronze with a 4-0 score but the damage was done as the Canadians had their worst finish since 2001. In a country where gold is the only acceptable medal the loss to the Russians was the continuation of a terrible era in the World Juniors. It was the third year where the Canadians would not win the gold and for Canada that means that the Canadians lost. It would be a bad way to start the year but it would not be a sign of the year to come as Canadians recovered and had a great year despite the loss of one of the most important tournaments in the country.


7. History in Toronto


The CFL would have a very important year in front of them when Canada Day came around as they would launch a celebration of history. There was so much to celebrate as well with the one of the most historic leagues in North America reaching a milestone. The CFL would hold their 100th Grey Cup this year and it would mark the end of a season where history would become the focus. The 2012 CFL season would start with a celebration of the first ever Grey Cup at Rosedale Field in Toronto when the Toronto Varsity Blues would become the first champions. The season would continue with a Grey Cup Train Tour and the multiple Grey Cup banners handed out to all of the Grey Cup Champions. As all of this went on there was still a season to play as 8 teams began the year looking to become the 100th Grey Cup in Toronto. As the season moved on the Montreal Alouettes and the B.C. Lions looked like the strongest teams in the league as they seemed to be on the way to the Grey Cup. It would be the Calgary Stampeders and a rebuilt Toronto Argonauts team who would move on though as they would be the two best teams for their shot in the Grey cup. The Stampeders would move into the big game with backup QB Kevin Glen and the Most Outstanding Canadian Jon Cornish. Meanwhile the Argos would look to win the game with new QB Ricky Ray and Most Outstanding Player Chad Owens. The game would be little contest as the Argos would win the Grey Cup in their home stadium beating the Stamps 35-22. It would be the first Grey Cup since the Argos won in 2004 ending a drought for the team. More than that though the Grey Cup would return to Toronto where it would first be handed out and a Toronto team would win it just like the 1st of the championships. It was a historic season that would end with the most historic team winning the most historic trophy.


6. The Golden Girl


The Olympics have always been a major story in any year that has them and for Canada this year was no different in the London 2012 Olympics. The Summer Olympics have never been a strong suit of the Canadians as Canada only has a few months every year to train for many of the events. The London Olympics were not much different as the Canadians did not have the most successful Games in many respects. Despite the medal count a few stories did emerge to inspire Canadians. One of these stories was the performance of Rosannagh MacLennan in London. It would be the 6th day of the London Games and Canada would still be looking for its first Gold Medal of the games. There were chances before as Canadian Olympic stars would fall short of meeting expectations. As the days marched on it seemed that Canada would be once again be falling short of their goals at the Olympic Games. One event would approach though that many would see as a legitimate chance to win a Gold Medal for the Canadians. It would be the Trampoline where Canadians had been one of the dominant teams since the start of the sport in the Olympics. As the event approached man believed that Jason Burnett could be the first gold medalist but a slip in the first round would eliminate him. The next day, 7th of the London Games, would see the women go for the first Gold. Many would look to Karen Cockburn as the hope for the Canadians but instead it would be Rosannagh MacLennan who would pull it off. Rosie MacLennan would win the Gold Medal in the Women’s Trampoline to earn the first Gold Medal of the games for Canada. As the Olympics moved on it would turn out that Rosie MacLennan, the 23-year-old from King City Ontario, would be the only Canadian Olympic Gold Medalist of the 2012 London Olympics. She would become one of the symbols of pride for all Canadians as the only athlete to win a Gold medal in the London Olympics and the one person ensuring the gold shutout would not last.


5. The Rebuild


With two World Series Championships the Blue Jays are also one of the great franchises in the game. That has hardly been the case over the last few years though as the Jays have struggled to stay relevant since the 1993 World Series. Since that season the Jays have been at the bottom of the league almost every year and have quickly faded from the Canadian sports scene. In 2012 the Jays looked like they would have some promise with a decent pitching rotation and an offence led by Jose Bautista. It seemed to be going fairly good as the MLB had added a second wild card spot and the Jays were poised to be in the hunt. Then came the injuries as three of the starting five pitchers went down and then the top offensive talents including Jose Bautista made it to the IR. The season was over and once again the Jays had fallen short of their expectations ending way out of the playoffs. The popularity of the team had grown in the past few years but the disappointing season seemed to have many fans on their way out. As the offseason started many expected the Jays to move through their usual steps and staying silent throughout the manager meetings. That is not the way the Alex Anthopoulos seems to work though as he would change the way the Jays operate in the offseason with one big move. After a few months of talks Anthopoulos would pull off one of the largest trades in MLB history with the Miami Marlins. The Jays would get Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, and John Buck in exchange for Henderson Alvarez, Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Jeff Mathis. It would immediately change the Jays but it was not the end of the rebuild as Anthopoulos would get right back to work completed a trade for NL Cy Young Award winner RA Dickey. It was an eventful offseason for the Jays and one that created a buzz that hasn’t been felt since 1993 around Canada’s only MLB team.


4. Canada’s Summer

Simon Whitfield

The Olympics are always an entertaining time for any country but for Canada the excitement can usually be reserved for the Winter Olympics. In 2010 the Vancouver Olympics were a coming out party for Canadians all over the country. It was a change in the attitude of Canadians to be a little more cocky about themselves and not put themselves down. In 2012 the Canadian Olympic Committee was hoping for a continuation of the 2010 feeling in Canada as the Canadian Olympic Team would travel to London for the 20102 Games. The only problem was that these were the Summer Olympics and Canadians were not the best at summer sports.  There have been past glories like Donovan Bailey but generally they are few and far between. Even with that the excitement was building to see how well the Canadians could do with a goal of making it to the top 12 of the medal rankings. The COC was focusing on the Summer Games in looking to meet expectations with the Own the Podium Campaign. It would not take too long for the first Canadian medal when Emilie Heymans and Jennifer Abel won a bronze medal for the Women’s Synchronized 3m Springboard Diving. Although it would only take three days to earn the first medal the rest of the medals were hard to come by. There would be no real medal rush for the Canadians as it would remain a steady flow of medals throughout the two weeks. The other issue was that there would only be one Gold Medal for the Canadians in the two weeks of the games, from Rosie MacLennan. The Canadian effort was not bad because all of the athletes did the best that they could in the toughest competition of their lives. Still it was not overly impressive to earn 18 medals and sit in 13th spot in the total medal count. It was not a complete failure for the COC as the Canadian team improved this summer and with some inspirational performances the Canadians did not leave London without some promise for the future.


3. Canadians Get Angry


The rivalry had been a long-standing rivalry for both USA and Canada as they have regularly played each other. They would face off once more in the semi-finals of the Olympic tournament game would start in a tight battle between the two teams that would go back and forth for 90 minutes. After 80 minutes the game would be on the verge of a big upset with Christine Sinclair guiding the Canadians to a 3-2 lead with a hat trick. It seemed to be possible until the referee would begin to play a massive role in the outcome. The referee would call the Canadian goalkeeper for delay of game as she had held the ball too long. The only problem was that there was no warning towards the keeper which is the way that the call is made. The result would be a free kick just outside of the box for the USA. The kick would be made as the Americans launched the ball towards Melissa Tancredi who would brace for the impact of the ball. In the process the ball would hit her arm and the Americans would earn a penalty kick. It would be the second bad call as a ball that hits a players arm while the arm is drawn into the body is never called a hand ball because there is no intention to stop the ball with a hand. Still the Americans would get a penalty shot in the 80th minute which Abby Wombach would score. The Canadians were broken at that point as they had come within a few minutes of a win as it was stolen from them. The Americans would go on to win in extra time eliminating the Canadians from the Gold medal game. It was not so much the game as the reaction to the game that was the story as Canadians everywhere including those on the field would immediately let the world see their rage. The game was stolen from the Canadians and for once Canadians were letting everyone know about it showing the world that Canada is not a doormat for anybody.


2. More Rich Fighting


There is really only one Canadian sport in the world and that is hockey as Canadians love the sport that they created. It is more than just a hobby for many Canadians as it has become a way of life for more than a few. Fans live and die with their teams and indoctrinate their children into the Blue and White, The Bleu Blanc et Rouge, The Oil, The Flames, The Jets or the Canucks. It is just the single thing that unites Canadians more than anything else in the world as it is truly Canadian. Yet in 2012 the lifestyle would slip away from the Canadian fans in large part due the interests of a larger American contingent. Canadians have gone through this before in 2004 when the NHL and NHLPA could not come to an agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. This time though it seemed different as the 2004 season was a time when the NHL may have been right to ask for more financial control. The NHL was still trying to build their brand from a damaged financial system that was seeing many teams struggle. In 2012 teams were still struggling but the NHL as a league was doing just fine as they would report a $3.3 billion revenue from the 2011-12 season. It seemed that there was not much that both sides could argue about yet they found something as the CBA has yet to be made and the fans are suffering. The season is in serious jeopardy with one last dead until a cancelled season and for many it is simply the NHL’s fault. For Canadians it seems like the NHL has been taking them for advantage. Canadians will come back to the game every year with or without a lockout the Canadian fans will come back. For that loyalty these fans are hoping for some honesty from the NHL and NHLPA and that has not been the case. Canadian hockey fans are angrier than ever as billionaire owners fight with millionaire players all the while the loyal fans are being left out putting Canada’s sport in limbo for another season.


1. The Inspiration of the Olympics

 Canada's team poses with their bronze medals after the women's final soccer match at the London 2012 Olympic Games in London

Sports fans across Canada were taken aback by the performance of the Canadian Women’s Soccer team in the best Canadian sports story of the year. The Canadians have never been a dominant force in the Summer Olympics and they likely will not become one anytime soon. Still Canadians usually look to the team sports, like hockey in the Winter Olympics, to measure how good the Canadian contingent can be. Then in walked the Canadian Women’s National Soccer Team with a gritty attitude that only Canadians could pull off. Led by Christine Sinclair the Canadian team would capture the imaginations of many throughout their qualifications when they finished second in the CONCACAF Championships to earn a spot in the Olympics. Then they would enter the Olympics as a potential medal contender. It wouldn’t start well for Canada as they would earn their first game against the defending Women’s World Cup champions in Japan. They would lose that game 2-1 but put up a good effort against a very good team. They would move on to beat South Africa and tie Sweden to earn the third and final qualification spot in their group. In the quarter-finals the Canadians would begin to get hot as they would beat the Great Britain team to earn at least a shot at a medal. Then came the infamous semi-final game where the Canadians would receive a number of questionable calls leading to their loss.  In true Canadian form though the Canadians would come back and thanks to an injury time goal by Diana Matheson would win the bronze. The Women’s team capture the imaginations of all Canadians as they fought the entire way through the tournament to earn a Bronze medal that might as well have been a gold. It was the moment that the COC was hoping for as the Women’s team united a nation much like the hockey team’s do in the Winter Olympics. It was the most inspirational story for Canadians and the best part of 2012 not for what they did but for how they did it.

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