With the Vancouver Canadians the only one of this city’s professional sports teams to win a playoff game in the past 12 months, it has hardly been a banner year in sports. Still, there were some positives.
Almost by default, that honour falls to the Cs, who recently won their third-straight Northwest League baseball title. Five straight seasons of record crowds at Nat Bailey Stadium are proof that this city could once again support a higher level of professional baseball. The packed houses have the Canadians considering adding seating so more people can get out and enjoy a day at the ballpark. The biggest shame about the Canadians’ season is that it’s just 76 games, and even with the playoffs, it ends in the second week of September.
The B.C. Lions don’t have as many victories as they’d like in the win column this so-so season, but they absolutely came up with a winner when they unveiled their gun-metal–grey alternate jerseys for a July 20 home game against Calgary. The matte-black helmets completed the sleek look that had the crowd buzzing and heading to the souvenir stands. Adding to the effect, the Lions’ training staff kept the cool threads a secret from everyone—including the players—and didn’t hang the new uniforms in the players’ locker-room stalls until moments before kickoff.
Best supporters group
The Southsiders deserve a mention for their unbridled enthusiasm, even though they haven’t been rewarded often enough by their team. They are a huge part of the terrific game-day experience at Whitecaps home matches. Unfortunately, their performance has been better than the home side’s in a few too many recent contests. No one deserves a home playoff game more than the Southsiders, and it would be fun to see how they would respond. However, it looks like that opportunity might have to wait at least one more season.
Best hope for the Vancouver Canucks this season
Ryan Kesler gets mad and John Tortorella doesn’t. Kesler has already let the hockey world know he’s upset with the way last season ended, with the way his season went, and with the way people continue to doubt the Canucks’ ability to contend for a Stanley Cup. If Kesler can carry that chip—and the entire team—on his shoulders this season, the Canucks may be tough to play against. If not, look for the new head coach to find himself squirming as he faces the intense media glare in a Canadian market for the first time. And that’s bound to produce fireworks despite Tortorella’s insistence that he has turned a page from his days in New York, when he had a handful of sparring partners among those who covered the Rangers.
Hockey fans heading to the Pacific Coliseum this season should get a kick out of seeing a Ronning wearing number 7 for the home team. Former Vancouver Canucks favourite Cliff Ronning’s son Ty is about to start his Western Hockey League career as a member of the Vancouver Giants. Undersized like his dad, the younger Ronning is listed at 5-9 and 160 pounds and won’t turn 16 for another month. He may be small, but Ty Ronning is a big part of the Giants’ future: the kid was the team’s first-round bantam draft choice in 2012.
Best longevity in a position where careers are usually short
Dante Marsh has been patrolling the B.C. Lions defensive secondary for a decade now. There is a long list of guys whose careers didn’t last 10 games at cornerback in the Canadian Football League, and almost none who’ve stuck with the same franchise for 10 years. Yet the 34-year-old is still getting the job done in his 10th season in the Lions Den. With longevity like that, it’s hardly a surprise that Marsh holds the distinction of being the all-time tackles leader in Lions colours. Other players get more attention, but few have been as reliable as the veteran defensive back who is still going strong after all these years.
Best milestones on the horizon
If all goes well for Henrik Sedin, the Vancouver Canucks captain should eclipse 800 points and 1,000 National Hockey League games in the upcoming season. Sedin starts the 2013–14 campaign with 792 points in 940 career games. Provided he stays healthy—and he starts the season with an ironman streak of more than 600 games—those big round numbers should be easily attainable. With 906 games under his belt, twin brother Daniel can’t reach the 1,000-game mark until next season. Trevor Linden holds the franchise record, having suited up for 1,141 games in a Canucks uniform—the only player in Canucks history to play 1,000 games for the organization.
Best climb up the corporate ladder
Over the summer, former Vancouver Canucks forward Peter Schaefer went from being a first-year assistant coach to becoming head coach, general manager, and president of the B.C. Hockey League’s Surrey Eagles. Schaefer has his hands full rebuilding an organization that loaded up to win the BCHL title last spring but returned only four veteran players to start this season. If things go well, Schaefer will, deservedly, get the glory. If not, the coach won’t be able to point the finger at the GM or the president—unless he’s looking in a mirror.