It was not technically 2015 yet, but one of the memories that sticks out from the past 12 months happened at the Bell Centre in Montreal last New Year’s Eve. It was Canada versus the United States at the world junior hockey championship, and the game was, as expected, electric.
Connor McDavid, who hadn’t scored much yet, gathered the puck in the middle of the ice near the American blue line. Two defencemen retreated, a gap between them. And then McDavid was past them. Without much visible effort, McDavid had whooshed past the Americans, although the rush was foiled by a broken stick on the ice.
The Canadians would win the game, and the tournament, and McDavid was just one of many great forwards on his team, but it was those moments of acceleration that stood out. A moment’s hesitation, and then he was on top of an opponent and then he was past him. You couldn’t figure out how he did it. It was like he had unlocked a video game cheat code for speed burst.
A few days later, I joked on Twitter that Parliament needed to pass a law: An Act to Keep Connor McDavid Away from the Edmonton Oilers. Prophecy sometimes comes from the mouths of fools, the author James Lee Burke wrote. Fortunately, I am rarely so prophetic.
There are a lot of lists about big things at this time of year, so I’m going small. Call it 2015, the Year in Little Moments I Witnessed. I should probably work on a better title for 2016.
I was in Anaheim during the first round of the NHL playoffs when the Oilers won the draft lottery. There was a round of laughter and general disbelief in the press box, and later, as I was getting food in the bowels of the Honda Center, some arena technicians were discussing the result. “Where is Edmonton?” one said.
“I know, but where in Canada?”
“I don’t know. The middle.”
A third guy came to the rescue: “Drive to Montana, and then turn north,” he said. “And then keep driving.”
If you hit Great Slave Lake, you’ve gone too far.
Vasek Pospisil had just put away a nice volley to go up 3-0 in the first set in his second-round match at Wimbledon, and he punctuated the point with a fist pump and a shout of “C’mon!”. His opponent, Fabio Fognini, spat out that it was only the third game of the first set, and he told Pospisil to shut up. Loudly. This was on one of the smaller courts, where everything could be heard, so suddenly the fans had stumbled into a standoff in a Western saloon. The Canadian sat down like nothing had happened. The chair umpire issued the Italian a warning. And then Fognini went into a lengthy argument that could have been a segment on sports radio: Should players get excited early in a match? Wasn’t a shout disrespecting his opponent? Shouldn’t Pospisil act like he’s been there before? Pospisil would win the match and advance to Wimbledon’s third round. He had not been there before.
Sunday afternoon at the RBC Canadian Open, and there is a huge gallery around the first tee at Glen Abbey. It is huge because David Hearn is leading heading into the final round, where he will be paired with two-time Masters champ Bubba Watson. Bubba gets a big cheer. Hearn gets an enormous one; he later says he’s never experienced anything like it in golf. Both men hit their drives, and walk off the tee. A fan yells out, “Second place is pretty good, too, Bubba!”
Long-time Toronto Sun sports writer Mike Rutsey was set to retire at the end of the baseball season. Then the Blue Jays made the playoffs, which extended his career. Then they went down 0-2 to the Rangers, but won three straight elimination games. Then they went down 0-2 to the Royals, then clawed back into that series. And then, in Game 6, with the Jays down 3-1 and facing Kansas City’s murderous bullpen, Jose Bautista stepped in to face Ryan Madson. He ripped a two-run homer to tie the game. Kauffman Stadium groaned. The assembled writers contemplated the futility of their half-written stories. And a voice rang out, “Sorry, Ruts!”
Seems reasonable. http://t.co/FCNcBaFVe6
Scott Stinson (@scott_stinson) May 04, 2015
With some time to kill before Game 3 of the Chicago-Minnesota series in the second round of the NHL playoffs, I walked around downtown St. Paul. It is not exactly bursting with attractions, but there is a kids’ museum there. Actual sign that was posted next to the entrance, which says a lot about America in 2015: “Minnesota Children’s Museum Bans Guns in These Premises”.
The first round of the NHL playoffs saw Winnipeg host a post-season game for the first time in 19 years, a period during which the city both lost and gained an NHL team. It was rather emotional. Before Game 3, the first back in Manitoba, Jets coach Paul Maurice talked about what it was like to be in Winnipeg. He said even though it had been four years since the return, fans were still grateful. “People here, they come up to you and thank you like you had something to do with bringing the team back,” Maurice said. “Which I didn’t.” On the night of that first game, the MTS Centre was completely full of people in white jerseys, and the building absolutely throbbed and shook with “Go Jets Go” chants. This was during the pregame skate. The first whistle of the game also drew a massive roar. It remains the only time I have ever heard 15,000 people cheer an icing call.
But the loudest cheers of 2015 came at the Rogers Centre, in Game 5 of the American League Division Series. A testament to how the Blue Jays had been embraced by non-baseball fans was heard every time a Toronto batter hit a fly ball. The place would roar, and then an opponent would casually catch the ball some distance from the fence. Seriously: watch the outfielders, people. Except no one could be blamed for cheering Jose Bautista’s three-run rocket in the bottom of the seventh inning that day. It was a no-doubt bomb from the crack of the maple. The funny thing about the bat flip that followed it is that it was witnessed by hardly any of the 49,742 fans in attendance as it happened. They were hugging, high-fiving, watching the ball arc into the second deck. And down by the plate, Bautista discarded his weapon, and authored the signature moment of the Blue Jays’ past two decades.
Source: nationalpost golf news