Year in review: The sports moments that resonated with Canadians

We don’t have to pretend that 2022 was the greatest sports year ever.

But after two years in which the pandemic single-handedly tore sports schedules worldwide to shreds, maybe an average year was just what the doctor ordered.

And in a perfectly normal year, sports proved it remains the greatest reality show on earth.

Let’s break it down with the most memorable event for Canadians of each month:

January — Tennis foreshadowing

Down in Australia, Felix Auger-Aliassime clinched Canada’s first ATP Cup title over Spain, completing the series sweep after a Denis Shapovalov win earlier in the day. A similar scene would play out 11 months later at the Davis Cup.

Soon after, the Canadians were stopped in the Australian Open quarter-finals by eventual finalists Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev. It would be the farthest either Canadian would go at any major in 2022. Nadal went on to claim the trophy with a thrilling comeback from down two sets to none, securing his men’s record 21st major title in the process.

But some would argue that it was really his *21st title, because just days before the first round, unvaccinated pre-tournament Novak Djokovic was deported from the country. Nadal and Djokovic would continue to steal tennis headlines in 2022 — one for his dominance, the other for his absence.

WATCH | Nadal wins Australian Open:

Rafael Nadal wins Australian Open, breaks men’s singles Grand Slam title record

Rafael Nadal stormed back to defeat Daniil Medvedev in a thrilling five-set contest to capture the Australian Open. His 21st men’s singles Grand Slam victory moves Nadal past Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic for the most in history.

February — Scandal and stardom at the Olympics

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear Beijing 2022? Perhaps it’s China’s COVID-zero policy that produced an eerie-feeling Games. Maybe it’s the revelation of 15-year-old Russian Kamila Valieva’s positive doping test, which led to a heartbreaking free skate featuring the teenager in tears. You may also recall a spat between Canadian snowboarders over a judging error.

But I’m here to remind you of the good. There was another classic Canada-U.S. women’s hockey gold-medal game, and of course Canadian captain Marie-Philip Poulin scored yet another title-clinching goal, the third of her career at the Olympics and the fourth gold-medal game in which she’s found twine. Poulin would go on to win the Northern Star Award as Canada’s top athlete of the year.

WATCH | Canada beats U.S. for Olympic women’s hockey gold:

Canada’s women beat U.S. to take hockey gold

Captain Marie-Philip Poulin scored twice as Canada’s women’s hockey team beat the U.S. 3-2 to win the Olympic gold medal in Beijing. Forward Sarah Nurse scored Canada’s other goal to win her first gold after settling for silver in South Korea in 2018.

How about Isabelle Weidemann? The speed skater burst onto the scene by winning three medals, including a stirring team pursuit gold. And Charles Hamelin called it quits on his Olympic career with one final medal, a relay gold that equals Cindy Klassen’s Canadian record of six Winter Olympic medals.

Honourable mention: Rams beat Bengals to win Super Bowl LVI

WATCH | Canada wins dramatic women’s team pursuit gold medal:

Canadian women claim 1st ever Olympic gold in team pursuit

Canadian speed skaters Isabelle Weidemann, Ivanie Blondin and Valérie Maltais win the gold medal in women’s team pursuit with an Olympic record time of 2:53.44.

March — A Canadian legend skis into the Paralympic sunset

The remarkable Brian McKeever. If 20 medals across six Paralympics didn’t speak for itself, then consider that 16 of those are gold. Only one other man has ever won that many Winter Paralympic titles. And if that’s still not enough, the Canmore, Alta., cross-country skier was even selected to the Canadian Olympic team in 2010, though he did not ultimately compete.

In Beijing, McKeever announced he’d be competing in his final Paralympics — and he went out in style, collecting three final gold medals.

WATCH | McKeever wins final individual race:

Brian McKeever claims gold in last solo Paralympic race

Cross-country skier Brian McKeever from Canmore, Alta., wins his 16th Paralympic gold medal and 20th overall with a victory in the men’s visually impaired middle-distance cross-country event.

The Paralympics also arrived in the shadow of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the first event in which Russian and Belarussian athletes were banned. The response of Ukraine’s athletes was incredible: seven medals on Day 1 and 29 overall, a record for the country and the second most in Beijing.

Honourable mention: Canada clinches spot at men’s World Cup for first time since 1986 with 4-0 win at Jamaica

WATCH | Canada confirms place at men’s World Cup:

Canada punches ticket to first World Cup in 36 years with victory over Jamaica

Junior Hoilett scored the 3rd of Canada’s 4 goals in a shutout over Jamaica. The red and white’s historic victory earns them a spot in the FIFA World Cup for the first time since 1986.

April — The Cat comes back

It was at once totally unbelievable and completely believable to see Tiger Woods teeing it up at Augusta National just 14 months after a car crash that had the 15-time major champion contemplating leg amputation. That Tiger made the cut was just icing on the cake.

But the 2022 Masters, won by Scottie Scheffler despite a final-round four-putt on 18, served also as a harbinger for a messy year in golf. Phil Mickelson’s inauspicious absence after referring to the Saudis as “scary motherf—–s” eventually morphed into LIV Golf, a breakaway league funded by those same Saudis that splintered the sport by attracted big names like Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka with even bigger guaranteed money.

Honourable mention: Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski retires after loss to archrival UNC in Final Four

WATCH | Tiger’s masterful 1st round at Augusta:

Tiger Woods goes under par in return to Masters 14 months after car crash

Tiger Woods shot a 1-under 71 in the first round of the Masters, as he made his return to competitive golf 14 months after nearly losing his right leg in a car crash.

May — The Battle of Alberta

For the first time in 31 years, the Flames and Oilers faced off in a playoff series — and Game 1 lived up to the hype, with Calgary finding its way to a 9-6 victory despite blowing a four-goal lead. It would stand as the Flames’ lone win of the series, as the Oilers rebounded for four straight games while Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl asserted themselves as the most dominant forward duo in the league.

Edmonton would fall to eventual Stanley Cup champion Colorado in the following round as the Canadian NHL title drought reached 32 years.

Honourable mention: Rap star J. Cole joins the CEBL’s Scarborough Shooting Stars

WATCH | Goals galore in Game 1 of Battle of Alberta:

All 15 goals from Game 1 of the Battle of Alberta

If you chose to sleep over the opener of the Flames-Oilers series last night, you made the wrong choice.

June — Summer’s summer

I hope you’re not tired of the well-worn summer of Summer pun, because with another world championships next, um, summer and the Olympics in 2024, get ready to hear the name Summer a lot. At just 15 years old at June’s worlds, Toronto’s Summer McIntosh captured two gold medals, one silver and one bronze while smashing multiple Canadian records in the process.

WATCH | McIntosh swims to first gold medal at worlds:

Toronto teen Summer McIntosh wins world championship gold in the 200m butterfly

15-year-old Summer McIntosh broke her own world junior record, set only a day before, to win gold in the women’s 200 metre butterfly event at the 2022 FINA world championships in Budapest.

McIntosh was the star of a loaded Canadian team, which also featured Penny Oleksiak capturing her national-record ninth world championship medal, Josh Liendo becoming the first Black Canadian to reach the podium at a major swim meet and Kylie Masse adding three more medals of her own.

Honourable mentions: Iga Swiatek claims French Open title with 35th straight win; Nadal wins recording-extending 22nd Grand Slam title after capturing 14th French Open crown; Canadian Andrew Wiggins helps Golden State Warriors to fourth championship in eight years; Cale Makar takes home Conn Smythe as Avalanche win Stanley Cup

WATCH | Avalanche win Stanley Cup:

Lehkonen’s winner lifts Avalanche to 3rd Stanley Cup title in franchise history

Colorado wins 2-1 in Game 6 to dethrone two-time defending champions Tampa Bay and claim their first Stanley Cup in 21 years.

July — Canada’s rollicking relay win

The 4×100-metre track relay is an exact science — and at the world championships in Eugene, Ore., Canada’s men found the perfect formula. Racing to a season-leading time of 37.48 seconds, Canada edged the Americans as Andre De Grasse caught Marvin Bracy on the final leg and beat him to the finish by less than one-tenth of a second to secure the gold medal.

It was the first time in 25 years that Canada won the event, another notch in what’s proven to be a golden track age for the country.

WATCH | Canada’s men win 4x100m relay gold:

Canadian men golden in 4x100m at World Championships

Canada’s Aaron Brown, Jerome Blake, Brendon Rodney and Andre De Grasse topped the men’s 4x100m podium at the 2022 World Athletics Championships.

Honourable mentions: Brooke Henderson captures Evian Championship to become first Canadian golfer to win multiple majors; Djokovic wins Wimbledon after Nadal withdraws with injury; Cam Smith comes from behind to beat Rory McIlroy at The Open Championship, defects to LIV soon after

WATCH | Henderson claims Evian Championship title:

Henderson wins Evian Championship to collect her 2nd-career major

Smiths Falls, Ontario native Brooke Henderson battled back from a rough start on Sunday to win in France by one stroke.

August — Hockey Canada scandal clouds pair of gold medals

Canada won the men’s world juniors in a flurry of craziness, stopping Finland’s potential winning goal at the goal line before going the other way to end it. Canada’s women beat rival U.S. to pair its Olympic gold from earlier in the year with a world gold (somehow, Poulin didn’t score in the 2-1 win — though she picked up an assist).

But it all felt empty in the throes of the Hockey Canada scandal, which revealed multiple alleged instances of sexual abuse (including one featuring the 2018 world junior team) and a slush fund financed by youth playing fees that went toward settling the ensuing lawsuits. Hockey Canada eventually uprooted its board, but the fallout of a story that reverberated coast to coast is far from over.

Honourable mention: Canada wins third-most medals at Commonwealth Games in England

WATCH | Canada wins world juniors in wild fashion:

Canada claims gold at world juniors with overtime win against Finland

Canada edges Finland 3-2 with Kent Johnson’s overtime goal to win the gold medal at the 2022 world junior hockey championship in Edmonton.

September — Tennis icons say goodbye

Serena Williams and Roger Federer largely defined tennis this millennium. Each played the final competitive matches of their career in September. Serena went out at the U.S. Open with an entire crowd behind her, winning two matches — including an upset of second seed Anett Kontaveit — before bowing out in the third round.

WATCH | Williams stuns Kontaveit:

Serena Williams postpones retirement with upset win over No. 2 seed Kontaveit

Playing in the final tournament of her legendary career, Serena Williams turned back the clock, defeating number two seed Anett Kontaveit 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-2 to advance to the third round of the U.S. Open.

Federer went out with longtime frenemy Nadal, playing doubles together at the Laver Cup, an international tournament pitting Europe vs. the world. The event concluded with the inevitable tears — but from Nadal, who’s now lost his forever foil.

Honourable mention: Aaron Brown surges to two medals at Diamond League Final; Becky Hammon leads Las Vegas Aces to WNBA title in first season as coach; At only 19, Spanish tennis phenom Calros Alcaraz wins U.S. Open title

WATCH | Federer plays final point of career:

Roger Federer plays his final point of illustrious tennis career

Roger Federer and doubles partner Rafael Nadal fell to Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe 4-6, 7-6(2), 11-2 in Laver Cup play, concluding Federer’s legendary career.

October — Blue Jays’ wild-card woes

The 2022 Toronto Blue Jays, a trendy pre-season World Series pick, never quite found their mojo. Still, 92 wins was enough to win the top wild-card slot and a best-of-three series all at home against the Seattle Mariners.

Despite the rocky season, the Jays were a popular choice to advance. In Game 1, a dispiriting 4-0 loss put Toronto on the brink. Game 2 promised an electric pitching matchup — the Mariners’ Robbie Ray, who won the Cy Young as a Blue Jay the year before, vs. Kevin Gausman, the guy signed to replace him.

The Blue Jays took a 9-1 lead into the sixth inning. But a controversial decision to pull Gausman in the sixth opened the floodgates to an epic collapse, and Seattle would go on to score nine unanswered runs to win the game and the series. A fitting end to a season that never truly got on track.

WATCH | Fans in disbelief after Jays collapse in defeat to Mariners:

Blue Jays fans look to the future after post-season loss

After a devastating Game 2 loss in the post-season to the Seattle Mariners, Blue Jays fans are reliving the drama, licking their wounds and looking ahead to the team’s future.

November — Canada’s men’s World Cup moment

It would be hard for Canada to do worse than its lone previous appearance at the men’s World Cup in 1986, when it lost three straight without managing so much as a goal.

Canada’s first game, against No. 2 Belgium, provided hope as it generally looked like the better team despite a 1-0 loss — a missed Alphonso Davies penalty kick ultimately proved the difference.

WATCH | Davies scores historic goal for Canada:

Alphonso Davies makes history with first Canada Soccer goal at a Men’s World Cup

Host Andi Petrillo is joined by former Canadian men’s international player Jimmy Brennan to break down the historic first goal scored by Alphonso Davies at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

When Davies finally buried one just over a minute into Canada’s second game against Croatia, it felt like anything was possible. Instead, eventual semifinalist Croatia responded with four straight markers to eliminate Canada. A loss in its final group-stage match against Morocco means Canada will still be searching for its first men’s World Cup points ever in 2026 when it co-hosts with the U.S. and Mexico.

Honourable mentions: Auger-Aliassime’s three-tournament win streak ends, but he caps year with decisive win in Canada’s first-ever Davis Cup victory; Argos beat Blue Bombers in Grey Cup with blocked field goal; Astros beat Phillies in World Series

WATCH | Canada wins 1st Davis Cup:

Auger-Aliassime clinches Canada its 1st Davis Cup title

Felix Auger-Aliassime rolled through the clinching match in straight sets to get Canada its first-ever Davis Cup championship.

December — Brittney Griner comes home

The nearly yearlong saga was resolved just before the holidays when Brittney Griner, a WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medallist, was brought home from Russia in a prisoner exchange.

Griner, who also played professionally in Russia, was arrested in February in Moscow when she was allegedly found with vape cartridges and hash oil. A guilty plea still landed her a nine-year prison sentence though a trial seen by some as a sham in which Griner was merely a political pawn.

Griner was eventually transported to a penal colony in Siberia. Thankfully, she didn’t spend much time there before landing back on American soil. Griner recently announced her intent to return to the WNBA in 2023.

Honourable mention: Lionel Messi and Argentina win men’s World Cup over Kylian Mbappé, France in instant classic

WATCH | Fans react to all-time World Cup final:

Nail-biting men’s World Cup final thrills soccer fans

Argentina’s victory over France is being described as one of the most exciting men’s World Cup finals in history. The incredible drama-filled match thrilled fans and likely converted some new ones, as Canada prepares to co-host the next men’s World Cup.

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