QMI's top 10 sports stories of 2011
Vanessa Gates, QMI Agency
|Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby speaks during a news conference at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, September 7, 2011. (REUTERS/Jason Cohn)
Like every year, 2011 had its share of milestones, scandals and tragedy. Here are the top 10 sports stories of 2011:
10. Patrick Chan was named 2011 Male Athlete of the Year by QMI Agency and numerous other organizations -- and for good reason. The 20-year-old figure skater had a perfect season, winning gold at Skate Canada International, Trophee Eric Bompard and the Grand Prix Final. Early in December, Reuters released an interview with Chan, conducted months earlier, which indicated he felt under-appreciated in Canada. Chan said his comments were taken out of context.
9. For the fourth time in NBA history, the league faced a season-ending lockout. Both the NBA and its players association were making efforts to avoid cancelling the season. But as both sides figured out, no one was willing to budge from getting what they wanted. The lockout lasted 149 days, before the sides were able to ratify their collective bargaining agreement on Nov. 26, with the season opening Christmas Day. Key points in the deal included: Basketball related income for players and owners, how the luxury taxes were implemented and what the mid-level exception salary would be for players.
8. This year in the CFL, two unlikely teams met in the Grey Cup game -- the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and B.C. Lions. The Blue Bombers, who had a dismal season the year before with a 4-14-0 record, turned their fortunes around and finished 10-8-0 -- first in the East. The B.C. Lions started the 2011 season at 0-5-0 but somehow managed to finish first in the West at 11-7-0. The two teams met on Nov. 27 at BC Place Stadium, the Lions defeating the Bombers 34-23 to win their sixth Grey Cup in history.
7. With the world junior hockey championship getting under way Boxing Day, many Canadians might be wary about what's to come from the Canadian squad -- their loss to Russia last January still lingering in their minds. Canada and Russia met in the gold medal game of the previous world junior at the HSBC Center in Buffalo. By the end of the second period, Team Canada was leading 3-0 and many thought the game was a done deal. However, Russia came out strong in the third period, scoring five goals. Canada lost to Russia 5-3 and settled for the silver medal.
6. Winnipeggers had been wondering for years if their city would have an NHL team again. Their questions were answered in May when True North Sports and Entertainment announced the purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers, and relocation to Winnipeg. Reports say the Thrashers were purchased at $170 million ($60 million going to the NHL as a relocation fee). The only question that remained was, what would the team be named? Although "Winnipeg Jets" belonged to the NHL, commissioner Gary Bettman gave True North permission use it. The team's new logo was released July 22, and the Jets played their first NHL game at home since 1996 on Oct. 9.
5. Vancouver Canucks fans hoped this was the year their team finally would win its first Stanley Cup. The Canucks had a great chance -- after all they did win the Presidents' Trophy for finishing first in the league. The playoff Canucks, however, weren't the same as the regular-season Canucks. While they made it to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final, they suffered an embarrassing 4-0 loss to the Boston Bruins. After the game, angry Canucks fans took to the streets to riot. Cars were set aflame, store windows were broken and buildings were vandalized. During the Vancouver riot, 101 people were arrested. Police are still investigating, and more arrests in connection to the riots have been made.
4. On Sept. 7, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, a Kontinental Hockey League team, went down in a plane crash en route to Belarus for a game. All coaches and players on board were killed. Among the victims were former NHLers Pavol Demitra, Igor Korolev and Canadian Brad McCrimmon. Only one man from the flight crew survived. A new Lokomotiv team has since been reassembled from other teams in the KHL and the league's equivalent of the AHL. Some players even volunteered to be part of the team. Lokomotiv will return to the KHL for the 2012-13 season.
3. After 46 years as head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions football team, Joe Paterno was fired amid the sex scandal centring on former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Paterno was fired for not reporting information to police when witness Mike McQueary told him he saw Sandusky allegedly sexually abusing a boy. Sandusky has been charged with 40 counts of sex crimes against young boys. He denies he's a pedophile and his lawyer insists he was showering with boys merely to teach them proper hygiene.
2. The NHL off-season was shocking to say the least. The deaths of Derek Boogaard, Wade Belak and Rick Rypien -- all of whom were known mainly for their fighting -- raised concerns about hockey's enforcers. It was only after the deaths of Belak and Rypien that the public learned of the severe depression the two had suffered and hidden so well. Last month, studies revealed that Boogaard suffered a degenerative brain disease which raised even more concerns about fighting in hockey.
1. In January, the NHL saw its best player, Sidney Crosby, sidelined for the rest of the season because of a concussion. When he finally returned to a game Nov. 21, he had two goals and two assists. But after playing just eight games, Crosby again was suffering concussion symptoms after he collided with teammate Chris Kunitz and took a hit from Boston Bruins' David Krejci. There has been no word on when he would return this time. Crosby is just one of the 20 or so NHL players who have suffered concussions this year including Chris Pronger, Claude Giroux, Mike Richards and Milan Michalek.