Things could get even better in Vancouver's sports world
As years go for big sporting events in Vancouver, 2011 will have been one of the best ever. From a Stanley Cup run to the debut of a Major League Soccer team to a Canadian Open to the upcoming reopening of B.C. Place Stadium and a Grey Cup, there has been no shortage of opportunities to see some of this city’s best athletes take their games to new levels. Using that as a cue, the Georgia Straight has selected some of the best of Vancouver’s sports scene.
He isn’t there yet, but within weeks, B.C. Lions slotback Geroy Simon will become the Canadian Football League’s all-time leader in receiving yards. With 14,549 yards, the 36-year-old is closing in on Milt Stegall’s mark of 15,153. In his 11th year with the Lions, Simon is headed for his ninth straight 1,000-yard season. He has been the model of consistency and will go down as the greatest receiver in B.C. Lions history when he decides to call it a career. But that doesn’t look like it’ll be anytime soon, as Simon continues to get the job done.
Best Event on the Horizon
The 2011 Grey Cup at B.C. Place Stadium. And it’s quite likely the game itself won’t even be the highlight of the final week of November. When the last Grey Cup was held in Vancouver, organizers took the event to a whole new level, making it a weeklong football festival. This year, organizers are vowing to outdo themselves. They have already sold every ticket to the game and can now focus their efforts on the nonstop pregame party that makes Grey Cup week unlike anything else in Canadian sports.
Best Hope for the Grey Cup
Let’s hope civic officials don’t ruin the fun with a knee-jerk reaction to the June riot by turning the city into a police state. Yes, the Grey Cup is the next big sports event to take place in this city since the Stanley Cup. But that’s where the discussion should end. This is a stand-alone game that quite likely won’t involve the home team, will take place on a dreary November night, and won’t have 100,000 people cramming the streets of Vancouver, and the event won’t have had two months of every-other-night buildup the way the hockey playoffs did. Yes, the city should have a plan in place for crowd control, but there will be no need for the riot squad. None.
In baseball terms, the Vancouver Canadians’ first season as the single-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays was a grand slam. The Cs had a successful season on the field (Northwest League champions) and at the gate, and their association with the Blue Jays played a role in that. From front-office visits from Blue Jays brass to former Jays being saluted as part of the Canadians’ annual Superstar Series, it only made sense that the two franchises would work together to promote baseball in this country.
In an effort to take the relationship between the Cs and Blue Jays to the next level, it has been suggested Toronto should move one of its regular-season home stands to B.C. Place Stadium. And what better opponent to pick than the Seattle Mariners? The Ms aren’t a huge draw in Toronto, but would be the perfect fit here to bring some of their fan base north. It’s an idea that is likely still years away. But with Lower Mainlanders Brett Lawrie and Adam Loewen on the Jays roster, interest in Canada’s only Major League Baseball team seems to be on the upswing out west.
Best Challenge (Individual)
Daniel Sedin need only ask his brother Henrik how difficult it is to repeat as National Hockey League scoring champ. With 104 points last season, Daniel took Henrik’s crown and became the 10th player to win the scoring title in the past 10 seasons. Jaromir Jagr was the last player to win back-to-back Art Ross trophies, and the last player to win multiple scoring titles, when he won his fourth straight in 2001-02. Since then, Jarome Iginla, Peter Forsberg, Martin St. Louis, Joe Thornton, Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, and each of the Sedins has led the league in scoring. For Daniel to defend his title, he’ll have to do something that hasn’t been done in a decade.
Best Challenge (Team)
The Vancouver Canucks will have to find a way to replace the 14 goals and 50 points now-departed Christian Ehrhoff contributed from the blueline. The skilled German was a big part of the Canucks’ top-ranked power play, which clicked at 24.3 percent and produced 72 goals last season. The Canucks were deadly with the man advantage. Kevin Bieksa, Sami Salo, and Alex Edler will likely see increased time on the power play, but none has the natural offensive instincts that Ehrhoff possesses—instincts the Buffalo Sabres feel are worth $40 million over the next 10 seasons.
With Don Hay tabbed to coach Canada’s world junior hockey team in Calgary and Edmonton over Christmas, the Vancouver Giants knew their head coach would be leaving the team for the better part of a month. So over the summer, the Western Hockey League team hired former Canuck goaltender and former Washington Capitals coach Glen Hanlon as Hay’s assistant. In a league like the WHL, which develops both players and coaches, the Giants now have two guys who have been head coaches in the NHL behind their bench. That should serve the Giants well while Hay is off trying to lead Canada to gold in January.
Jeff Paterson is a talk-show host on Vancouver’s all-sports radio Team 1040. Follow him on Twitter.