2018 is in the books with many great and not-so-great memories from the playing surface of choice. What will 2019 bring? Everyone has their own top 10 lists and yes, there might be some things on here that you don't agree with or wonder where they are. For me, these are the top 10 stories
10. BACK-TO-BACK FOR BRAD
When the Tim Horton's Brier opened up in Regina on March 3, it was a different looking event. 16 teams were in the field including Nunavut and the Yukon and it was no longer a round-robin as there were pools. The defending champ was Brad Gushue. The Newfoundland rink came in carrying Team Canada colors. He was up against the likes of Brad Jacobs, Reid Carruthers, Mike McEwen and Saskatchewan's own Steve Laycock. In the end. Gushue thrilled a sold out house at the Brandt Centre by scoring one in the 10th to defeat Alberta's Brendan Bottcher 6-4 to become the first back-to-back winner since Kevin Martin in 2008 and 2009.
9. DURON CARTER GETS CUT
Duron Carter's Twitter account is one most Rider fans follow. On a steamy Saturday night while a CFL game was being played, Carter announced his time in Saskatchewan was up and that he had been released. The team's 2017 player of the year nominee was expected to be a big-time weapon for Zach Collaros, but after Nick Marshall broke his hand in the season-opener he was sent back to defensive back where he had played the last few games in 2017. Rider Nation was not happy with the fact Carter was defending passes and not catching them and they wanted Chris Jones out of town on the next rail car for making the move. No real reason was given as to why Carter was released, but the move seemed to take the Riders to another level as their season took off when DC left. He went to Toronto where he saw very limited action. Where Carter ends up in 2019 will be a story. Don't be surprised if he is AAF bound.
8. HUSKIES STUN CALGARY TO WIN HARDY CUP
When the 2018 Canada West football season started, no one was giving Scott Flory and the U of S Huskies much of a chance. After winning their first two games in 2017, the Huskies lost their last six and went into 2018 ranked last in the coaches poll. So much for the coaches poll. The Huskies went into Vancouver and beat UBC in a semi-final game and then they shocked Canada West and USports Canada football pundits by walking into Calgary and beating the previously undefeated Dinos. The final score in that game was 43-18. The Huskies couldn't get to the Vanier Cup as they were defeated by Western, but they let everyone know that football is back at the U of S if there was any doubt.
7. U OF R KILLS OFF WRESTLING AND MENS VOLLEYBALL
With the exception of the women's basketball program (more on them in a bit), it was not a good 2018 for Cougar Athletics as a whole. For the wrestling program and the men's volleyball program, they wish they had a 2018-19 season to deal with.
In a move that created a lot of anger and controversy, a decision was made at the end of April to discontinue the programs. The move was made with very little notice and was not handled well as athletes affected were told in an e-mail.
The cuts were made after a report into Cougar Athletics determined that “supporting 16 programs is unsustainable.”
6. PATS FALL ONE VICTORY SHORT OF THEIR GOAL IN 100TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON
When the Regina Pats were awarded the 2018 Memorial Cup in their 100th season, the goal was clear. They wanted to skate around the Brandt Centre with trophy in hand. It wouldn't be easy and John Paddock knew it especially after a 2016-17 season that ended with the team losing the WHL title to Seattle. Moves were made to make the team better as they sloshed their way through the first half of the season. A first round defeat to eventual WHL champ Swift Current in seven games made for a long break. When the Pats took to the ice against the OHL champion Hamilton Bulldogs on opening night, no one knew what to expect from the host team. What they got was a win.
Attendance was not great due to apathy over ticket prices and packages, but the Brandt Centre was full on May 27 when Regina took on Acadie-Bathurst in the final.
That final ended with the Pats once again watching the opposition skate around Brandt Centre ice with the trophy as the Titan completely shut down Regina winning the final 3-0 in what was the last appearance of Sam Steel in a Regina uniform as the 100th anniversary season while memorable fell one game short of the desired goal.
5. RAMS SEASON GETS DERAILED
On September 29, the Regina Rams blew a late lead, but came back to beat the Manitoba Bisons 32-31 in overtime. The winning touchdown came on a Noah Picton pass to Kyle Borsa that made him the all-time leading passer in Canadian University Football history. It also had the Rams sitting with a record of 3-2. With the season winding down, many were thinking the Rams and Huskies would meet in a conference semi-final with the last game of the regular season determining who would have home-field advantage. On October 5, everything came to a stunning halt.
The U of R found out the Rams had an ineligible player after "an oversight was made during the University's student-athlete intake and eligibility process." The three wins the team had were forfeited making them 0-5.
To make matters worse, Picton suffered a foot injury that became serious in nature as septic arthritis set in meaning his season was done as was his University career.
It was not a happy 2018 for the Rams football team.
4. NO COLLAROS, NO WIN IN THE WESTERN SEMI-FINAL
When Riders head coach/general manager Chris Jones signed a contract extension, the expectations were for the Saskatchewan Roughriders to take the next step and host a home playoff game. The 2017 season had ended in the Eastern final with a last second loss to Toronto.
As 2018 started, there was a new look to the green-and-white. Zach Collaros was the new quarterback and he came with a lofty price-tag. Collaros could not stay on the field though as he suffered what we learned to be a concussion in the pre-season home game against Calgary and another one in Week 2 vs Ottawa that sidelined him.
Despite an inability to get the ball into the endzone on offense, the defense had no problems putting the ball in the endzone as they scored numerous touchdowns helping the team to a regular season record of 12-6 and second place in the West meaning a home playoff game.
In the last regular season game of the year against BC, Collaros took a wicked head shot from Odell Willis that knocked him out of the game. While the team had hoped Collaros would return for the Western semi-final, he was declared out less than 24 hours before kickoff meaning it was up to Brandon Bridge. Bridge could not get the job done and the defence couldn't come to the rescue as the Bombers walked in and won the West Semi 23-18.
Rider Nation is expecting another climb in 2019 with a Grey Cup appearance and a championship. While that is basically the thought process going into every season around here, there is optimism that under Chris Jones it will happen.
3. CANADIAN HISTORY MADE AT THE WASCANA
Those who came out, and there were a lot, had their eyes on Henderson right from the first swing of the tournament. They followed her and watched every shot with Henderson having a chance on Sunday to win the title and make Canadian history.
Henderson had the lead going into the final round and she wasn't going to let that lead slip out of her fingers as she was aggressive right from her opening tee shot on a cold, rainy Sunday August afternoon. She finished with a final round seven under 65 that included an approach on 18 that was less than five feet from the hole as she made Canadian history in what I thought was one of the top sports stories of the year in Canada.
The celebration was capped off by the crowd singing O'Canada in what was a moment to remember for all who were there to see it live.
2. THE THREE-BALL KILLS COUGAR CHANCES OF WINNING NATIONAL WOMENS BASKETBALL TITLE
Thanks to the likes of Christine Stapleton and Jeff Speedy before him, Dave Taylor has continued the tradition of making the program one of the best ones in Canada. Appearances in a national championship are no problems for Taylor. Winning a national has been. The Cougars tried for a 3rd time to win the national title on their home floor in 2018.
After winning a highly-emotional Canada West championship on their home floor against the rival U of S Huskies, the two teams met in a national semi-final on the night of March 10 in a night that those who were in attendance won't forget and there were many in attendance.
You could not squeeze another person into the CKHS for the game. People continued to pour into the gym watching it from the stands or from above as they lined the track. Over 2400 managed to get inside. What a game!
The two teams provided a showcase for the sport to a national audience as it was broadcast live on Sportsnet.
The Huskies went 14 for 28 in three-pointers as they won the game 74-71 to exact some revenge for losing the conference title. The U of S went on to lose to Carleton in the final while Regina took 3rd beating McGill, but the final two games on the Sunday paled in comparison to what had been seen the night before.
1. THE BRONCOS RETURN TO THE ICE
There is no doubt as to what the number one story was and sadly, its one I wish never had to happen which I think is the same sentiment you have.
We will all remember where we were on the night of April 6 when we learned of the tragic bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos. In the days that followed, the Broncos said they would rebuild and get back on the ice. That is what they did and on the evening of September 13 they did.
The Broncos battled the Nipawin Hawks in a game that won't be remembered for the final score, but for pre-and post-game ceremonies to honour those 16 killed and 13 injured.
The game was broadcast across North America on TSN and the NHL Network. Some wondered why that would be done, but in a heartfelt speech after the game, Scott Thomas--the father of Evan Thomas who was one of the 13 killed, thanked a country for wrapping their arms around them in their time of need by doing something whether it be little or large in nature.
With basically a new team, the Broncos are competing for a division title and hoping to bring some joy and happiness back to a community that had its heart ripped out.