Top 10 of 2013: The Year That Got Away In the Saskatoon Sports Community?

If one is to look at it, 2013 came and went in the Bridge City and in a lot of ways one could best describe the year as one that got away. Here is a look at my top 10 thoughts from the last 12 months on the Saskatoon Sports scene…

10 Well let’s start with the one that didn’t get away. The Saskatchewan Roughriders Grey Cup victory, their fourth in franchise history, is going to be hard to top on or off of the field. The Green and White after a red hot start faltered in the final third of the season. However, come play-off time Quarterback Darian Durant was not going to be denied leading his team to a win over B.C. in the West Semi-Final and then a dominant performance in the West final at Calgary. That lead to the greatest Grey Cup game in the 101 year history of the contest thanks to the fans and buzz in Rider Nation. With former Quarterback and Coach Kent Austin on the Hamilton sidelines the Green and White used the 13th man to their advantage scoring a 45-23 decision over the Tabbies. In the words of Rod Pedersen, “It’s Elation in Rider Nation!”20131124_211907(0)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2013 WHL playoffs9 Now to the one that got away and that is the WHL play-offs for the Saskatoon Blades! Expectations were sky high for the Bridge City Bunch and Memorial Cup hosts entering the 2012-2013 season. An early season slip put the team behind the eight ball from the get go. However, the acquisitions of Michael Ferland, Erik Benoit and Colin Valcourt paid instant dividends as the team would go on an 18 game unbeaten streak after the January 10th trade deadline which allowed the team to move into top spot in the East Division and the second seed in the Eastern Conference. However, a stumble at the wrong time saw the Blades lose in 4 straight in the opening round of the WHL play-offs setting up what would become a 51 day lay-off before the start of the 2013 Mastercard Memorial Cup! The loss would also trigger the fan base calling for the head of General Manager and Head Coach Lorne Molleken prior to the National Championship. Those calls were put to rest when then-Blades President and Governor Jack Brodsky would meet the media on March 28th to give his head of hockey operations a public and adamant vote of confidence.

The Halifax Mooseheads take on the Portland Winterhawks in the Championship Game of the 2013 Memorial Cup in Saskatoon, SK on Sunday May 26th, 2013. CHL/WHL/Steve Hiscock8 That Memorial Cup tournament from a Blades perspective would lead to another in a series of let downs. The Blades would emerge from their nearly-two-month lay-off to drop the opening game of the tournament to the London Knights. The team would rebound and hand the eventual champion Halifax Mooseheads their lone loss of the tournament two nights later. However, a loss to Portland in the round-robin finale and a second loss to London, this time in a play-off would eliminate the Blades from the Memorial Cup tournament. It was no doubt a disappointing end to a season where the fan base hoped to end the Franchise’s 49 year championship drought.

 

The Saskatoon Blades take on the London Knights in Game 1 of the 2013 Memorial Cup in Saskatoon, SK onThursday May 16th, 2013. CHL/WHL/Derek Mortensen7 On the ice wasn’t the only disappointment for the 2013 Memorial Cup. Organizers will not say it, but the lack of sell outs for the tournament truly was a missed opportunity for the Saskatoon sport’s community to raise the bar for the event! The slow ticket sales and seeming lack of buzz in the community for the Memorial Cup coupled with the very evident empty seats at Credit Union Centre for the Word Junior Hockey Championships and NHL exhibition games has knocked our city down a few pegs on the list of preferred hockey destinations for future marquis events.

 

 

 

The Saskatoon Blades host the Prince Albert Raiders at the Credit union Centre in Saskatoon SK. Friday September 20th, 2013.6 One more on the Saskatoon Blades and a missed opportunity this time for the alumni. Shortly after the Memorial Cup then-President and Governor Jack Brodsky made the official statement that he and his family were indeed entertaining all options regarding the future of their ownership with the Blades franchise. From then on Mum truly was the word as he was courted by a number of groups not the least of which was a group headed by former Blades Rhett Warriner, and Kelly Chase. Their bid came up short to the eventual new owner Mike Priestner. That’s not to say that the group didn’t try everything they could to make the dollars make sense, even an attempted plea to the WHL’s Board of Governors during a vote on the sale of the franchise.

 

Blades Day 25 Speaking of heartbreak and hockey and the two seemed to go hand in hand in the Bridge City in 2013. 2013 was the first of consecutive years that the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Men’s Hockey team would host the University Cup National Championship. An up and down season with a young team lead the Dogs to a runner-up finish in the Canada-West Conference. The result was them being named the 6th seed for the tournament that they would host and subsequently a tough first game in the National Championship against eventual champion UNB which the Dogs would lose 3-1. Saskatchewan would then be eliminated on Friday night when they would drop their second straight of the tournament to UQTR. The lack of home team participation in weekend action left the cavernous CUC almost empty for the nationally televised semi-final and final. The Dogs will have a chance to redeem themselves in 2014, however, a number of unplanned departures by some key veterans will push another young team to the max. That coupled with reluctance by the CIS to re-format the tournament in time for the 2014 event and organizers once again looking for unique ways to sell this year’s event.

4Huskie Football Staying on campus and the news wasn’t much better for the University of Saskatchewan football Huskies. Inconsistency plagued the team on the field while the constant off the field was injury. The Dogs would wrap up the regular season campaign with a 5-and-3 record tied for second place in the conference, but a late season home loss to the Bisons would force the Dogs to the road to open the play-offs. In that Canada West Semi-final the Huskies would build up a 29-17 lead early in the fourth quarter. The Bisons, though, would storm back and score the eventual winning points with just 1:23 to go in the game for a 37-36 victory over the Huskies and a berth in the Canada West final against Calgary.

 

BlackoutEntrance3 One more missed opportunity for the CIS, Canada West and University of Saskatchewan came in November when the Vanier Cup was held in Laval. Great traction had been gained in the two previous seasons when the top game in Canadian Collegiate ball was held in the same venue as the Grey Cup. Attendance and TV numbers showed great growth. However, Regina’s inability to host the game along with the Grey Cup was Saskatoon’s chance to shine. Unfortunately, local organizers could not persuade the University to stake claim on the event and the opportunity went by the wayside. Not to mention the national television audience numbers.

 

PFC Final 42 Staying with football and the Saskatoon Hilltops missed opportunity came in the franchise’s attempt to win a fourth consecutive Canadian Championship. No one in the nation has been able to accomplish the feat; however, the Toppers seemed to be well on their way after a 7-and-1 regular season. Saskatoon would then cruise to the PFC final with a victory over the Edmonton Wildcats. BUT with two key offensive lineman out for the game and a VERY questionable high hit on Quarterback Matt Karpinka that knocked the fifth year quarterback out of the game the Hilltops fell 21-16 to their provincial rivals from Regina. The Thunder’s first PFC championship would also blossom into the franchise’s first national title when they dominated the Vancouver Island Raiders 55-26 at Mosaic Stadium.

 

 

 

 

 

Saskatoon Yellow Jackets1 Lastly on the baseball diamonds where the Saskatoon Yellow Jackets would come up short in their quest to land a post-season berth in the Western Major Baseball League. Some early season success had the Jackets in a great spot to make their way into the play-offs, however, a late season swoon would be the clubs eventual demise. That coupled with the fact that the Jackets wouldn’t get any help from WMBL who ruled late in the year that a rained out game in Oyen would not be rescheduled despite the play-off implications that the contest could hold for the Yellow Jackets. Here’s hoping that the league will support the Yellow Jackets and the rest of the team’s in the loop to not only allow them to have competitive balance and success on the field but also a fighting chance off of it with more focused media and marketing attention.

 

Thanks for the click! All the best to you and your family in 2014! Keep an eye for a couple more Top 10’s to round out 2013 and usher in 2014.

DT

 

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