The New Year is upon us and with the new year here, its time to look back at the year gone past to remember the great and the not so great. Obviously, sports--nationally and locally--had its good moments and its not so good moments. Here are some of the things I will remember in 2014.
10. A BRUSH WITH GREATNESS
When you are in the business I am in and you hear Peter King is going to be in your backyard, you get a little excited. When I heard from the Saskatchewan Roughriders that the popular columnist, who pens Monday Morning Quarterback, and can be seen every Sunday night on NBC"s NFL telecasts was going to be visiting Mosaic Stadium as part of a CFL tour, I thought it was a big deal while others just went who. To have the opportunity to speak with and meet a legend like Peter King was a definite highlight.
9. WATCHING REGINA BASEBALL CONTINUE TO THRIVE
I don't know if the amount of great baseball being played in this city can be traced to the Regina team that went to Williamsport and the Little League World Series several years ago, the success of the Regina Red Sox or something else, but the baseball talent in this city is great and we saw that in 2014 when teams from Regina won the Canadian Little League Junior and Senior titles earning trips to Taylor, Michigan and Bangor, Maine. When you win two Canadian titles, you are obviously doing something right and there are some great baseball people in this town that can take credit for it.
8. YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT??? ABSOLUTELY!!!
I've been a wrestling fan forever. I was hooked on it from the days I went in the mid 80's to the old Exhibition Auditorium to watch the Hart family, Dynamite Kid, Davey Boy Smith, the Honky Tonk Man and the legendary Cuban assassin amongst others do their thing. Its why I go and support wholeheartedly the local wrestling group in town known as "High Impact Wrestling". Say what you will about it, but its a solid night of entertainment and yuks. The fine folks at Access 7 got involved with the High Impact gang by starting to televise their matches and when I was asked if I wanted to be one of the commentators alongside Locker Talk co-host Pete Paczko, there was no doubt in my mind. Being a heel broadcaster promoting the ne'er-do-wells and having fun with the ringside crowd known affectionately as "Gronkville" was a riot and there is more to come this year. Can't wait!
7. SASKATCHEWAN AT THE OLYMPICS
The Sochi Olympics started with Saskatchewan flavor for Team Canada as Mark McMorris gutted out a rib injury to win Olympic bronze in the wee morning hours back home in the wheat province with many glued to the TV hoping he could win a medal after injuring himself just days before the competition. It ended with Canada's mens hockey team beating Sweden to win gold again. I had no idea how many people would retweet this picture of the three Saskatchewan boys--Patrick Marleau, Chris Kunitz and Ryan Getzlaf--and have me trending for a short time, but it was a shot showing some of our best showing that they are the best. Saskatchewan continued to show how good we are when the Weyburn Gold Wings won the Esso Cup, the Prince Albert Mintos won the Telus Cup in Moose Jaw and the Yorkton Terriers won the RBC Cup.
6. COUGARS AND HUSKY WOMENS HOCKEY TEAM PLAY A SERIES TO REMEMBER
The 2014 Canada West womens hockey final was maybe the best playoff series played in all of hockey this year and no one really noticed. However, those who saw the "best of three" series in Saskatoon and who played in it know how epic a battle they had waged.
After upsetting Alberta to get to the final, Sarah Hodges' team went to Saskatoon to take on a Husky team that was favoured to win the conference title and go on to the CIS championship.
Game 1 went to double overtime with Saskatchewan winning the first one 1-0 in double overtime. The next night saw the two teams go to overtime again and then some. Alexis Larson ended the longest game in Canada West history as her goal in the 4th overtime period gave Regina a 2-1 victory setting up Game 3.
The 3rd game saw both teams get to a level they never thought they could get to after two exhausting games and when the horn sounded at the end of regulation, the two teams were tied again. This one ended in double overtime as well as Kaitlin Willoughby's goal gave the Huskies a 2-1 win, a 2-1 series win and ended a series that saw the two teams play over 287 minutes of hockey turning a best of three into a best of five and then some.
5. A NEW ERA IN REGINA HOCKEY
After owning the team for 20 years, the Parker family decided to sell the Regina Pats. Regina hockey fans had lost faith in the Parkers and it was showing at the Brandt Centre. The group known as Queen City Sports and Entertainment, led by Anthony Marquart, purchased the team and while Regina hockey fans have not been quick to go back to the rink as they said they would, people are noticing what is a very good Regina Pats team under the leadership of John Paddock.
4. I GET TO DO WHAT? ABSOLUTELY---PART 2
Would I want to interview Jose Canseco on stage at the Regina Red Sox annual dinner? DUHHHH!!!! When dinner organizer Sharon Clarke phoned to ask, I couldn't say yes fast enough. One of the most controversial baseball players to ever play the game was coming to Regina. I never ever thought that would happen. It was a great night at the Turvey Centre as Lee Jones of CTV Regina and I grilled the big man on a variety of topics. He was an interesting guy that's for sure and his appearance in Regina was certainly one of the bigger moments for the Regina sports media who had the chance to interact with him.
3. THE WESTON DRESSLER SAGA
There is no doubt I am a Weston Dressler fan. How can you not be? Yeah, we in the media aren't supposed to say things like that but I don't care because I am just as big a number 7 fan as many of you are. When the Riders released him in March so he could pursue an NFL dream, I was happy to see him go and like Rod Pedersen said on the Sportscage once he had signed with the Kansas City Chiefs "I hope to never ever see him again at Mosaic Stadium unless he is a fan or he is being honored at a game. When he left, he said he had asked the team (later to be discovered it was Kansas City) he had signed with that he wanted to wear 13 as a tribute to Rider Nation in a comment that endeared him to all who were willing to sacrifice green and white for Kansas City's red and white. Dressler appeared to be doing alright at mini-camps and many were excited to see him do his thing in pre-season action. On a Sunday night, FOX cameras caught him sitting on the bench right beside Coach Andy Reid as a national game between the Chiefs and Carolina would be played. Alas, that would be the last we would see of Dressler that night as he never played a down and soon after he was released. Being a free agent, there was no certainty he would come back to Saskatchewan, but he did and he didn't need the lure of free sandwiches, ice cream treats and car washes. Dressler knows where he wants to play and there is no reason to think he won't end his football career here and become one of the greatest to ever wear the uniform. He certainly had the 2nd best play of the year in my mind....
Of course, the best play of the year belongs to Odell Beckham Junior of the Giants for the catch he made against the Cowboys.
Dressler might also get credit for being a part of the picture of the year....
Methinks Hoppy is happy!
2. A SEASON ENDS ON ONE PLAY
You know where I'm going with this. The Riders were 8-2 and were looking good until the 3rd quarter of the Banjo Bowl when Darian Durant was hit by Winnipeg's Bryant Turner and never got up. Durant suffered a torn elbow tendon and that was it---season over! We hoped Tino Sunseri and Seth Doege would do the job, but I think we all knew it was over and even though Kerry Joseph brought a glimmer of hope to an offence that was pitiful without number 4 under centre, the season ended with a loss in Edmonton where the 42 year old Joseph threw 5 interceptions. While the Calgary Stampeders were more than deserving of their Grey Cup title, I will always wonder what would have happened had Durant stayed healthy.
1. SEAHAWKS WIN SUPER BOWL
As I returned to Casa de Blair after watching the Seattle Seahawks decimate the Denver Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl 48, I texted Regina born Seahawks punter and friend Jon Ryan to congratulate him and let him know he had made a man in his mid 40's rather misty-eyed. I've been a Seahawks fan since day 1 back in 1976...from Zorn to Largent to Easley to Kennedy to Alexander to Wilson, I have cheered this team on the way Rider fans cheer on their team and on that February afternoon and evening I saw them win. To have someone I know help in that win was just icing on the cake. Obviously, it was something else to have the opportunity to put on and wear the Super Bowl ring when Jon brought it home for his 2nd annual golf tournament this summer. That may go down as THE all time moment.
There were many other stories and moments. The retirement of three men --Frank McCrystal, Jim Hopson and Dick White---who have been instrumental with the success of their various organizations, the CIS womens volleyball championship and the energy and excitement inside the CKHS on night 1 when the Cougars nearly upset top ranked UBC, the passing of former U of R basketball star Crystal McGregor and the way the basketball community came through for her with a couple of events, the construction of the new stadium and how it grows and grows with each pass by Evraz Place. I'm sure there are some that have been forgotten.
Thanks for reading this blog in 2014 and keep coming back in 2015. I sometimes wonder if I should keep doing this, but for some reason I do. I guess part of that is the positive feedback a lot of you give and I thank you for that. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!