2022 in Sports: The Electrifying Moments and Top Canadian Performances
Serena Williams of the United States celebrates after defeating Danka Kovinic of Montenegro during the Women's Singles First Round on Day One of the 2022 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 29, 2022. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images
From the most electrifying performances from Canadian athletes on the international stage to sporting legends making their final curtain call, we take a look at the big sports moments that had fans cheering and tongues wagging this year.
Canada’s showing at the FIFA World Cup this year would ultimately end in with three straight losses and an early exit for the men’s national team. But it was the squad’s qualifying round campaign that provided one of the most uplifting moments in sports this year.
The 4-0 win over Jamaica men’s team in March represented a significant breakthrough for soccer in this country, Canada punched its ticket to the World Cup for the first time since 1986. That they won on Canadian soil, in front of a raucous crowd at Toronto’s BMO Field, made the moment that much sweeter. The team had their shot at qualification just days earlier in Costa Rica, but a 1-0 loss would set the stage for the emotional win at home.
The serendipitous nature of their hometown celebration, which saw fans remain in the stadium long after the final whistle to soak up the win. Celebrations abounded online as well, but none were more emotional than that of the squad’s star winger, Alphonso Davies, who was sidelined throughout his team’s qualifying run with mild COVID-related myocardia. Supporting his teammates from home, he recorded his emotional reaction to the game.
Coming Up Clutch
They don’t call her captain clutch for nothing.
In February, Canada’s women’s team captain Marie-Philip Poulin earned her nickname again at the winter Olympics in Beijing, scoring a pair of goals in her squad’s nail-biting, gold medal 3-2 win over the United States.
Poulin became the first player — female or male — to score in four Olympic gold medal games and now has an incredible seven goals in those matches.
Meanwhile, Poulin is coming up clutch for the women’s game as well. This year, she showed out in a Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association Dream Gap Tour event in Pittsburgh, where she logged a hat trick.
The league was formed after the collapse of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League in 2019 and aims to build a sustainable women’s professional league. “There is light at the end of the tunnel and we truly believe that next year something is going to be in place,” she told Sportsnet of her involvement with the league.
Her performance on the international stage and her work as an ambassador hasn’t gone unnoticed at home. In December, she won the Northern Star Award, which recognizes each year’s top Canadian athlete.
And while she’s the first female hockey player to earn the accolade, with the game growing, she suspects she won’t be the last.
“Honestly, I didn’t think I was the first one,” the 31-year-old from Beauceville, Que., in a video conference in December. “It’s a real honour because the ladies have been there before us, before me, I’ve watched them on TV. They’re my idols and my role models.”
Showing His Mettle
Controversy hung over much of the Beijing Olympics, but nothing could overshadow Canadian snowboarder Max Parrot’s inspiring story.
The Quebec native not only medaled in two consecutive Olympic games with a gold finish in slopestyle and a bronze in big air at the Beijing games, he achieved the rare feat after a battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The 28-year-old was diagnosed soon after winning his first Olympic medal, a silver in slopestyle, at the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang. Despite enduring 12 rounds of chemo therapy spanning a six month period, Parrot was back on his board only 13 months later, earning medals at the 2019 and 2020 X Games.
After his gold medal performance this year, which he called the best of his career, Parrot reflected on his difficult journey. “Three years ago, I was laying down on a hospital bed going through cancer,” he said after taking gold. “It was never an option for cancer to beat me, but for sure I was scared a lot of time.
“I just try to smile all day long now, and the results comes with that as well.”
A Sad Farewell
There wasn’t a dry eye in the building when the Toronto Maple Leafs bid what would ultimately be a final farewell to legendary defencemen Borje Salming at a November home game.
The graceful and hardworking Swedish defencemen, who played for the leafs between 1974 and 1989, died in November at age of 71 after a battle with ALS, just a few weeks after his homecoming tribute, which included a video thanking him for his impact on the club and the game at large while highlighting moments from his stellar stretch with the Leafs.
Despite suffering obvious impairment from the disease, the NHL great displayed some of his signature courage to drop the puck at centre ice. The deafening ovation was met with a wave from Salming, no doubt a familiar sight for fans who grew up watching the Hall of Famer.
Just 24 hours after news of his passing, the Leafs honoured the late legend with a moment of silence before they took to the ice against the Minnesota Wild. The squad also wore their grief on their sleeves with blue and yellow Borje shoulder patches and even secured a win for the late Leaf, who had remained a loyal fan of the team despite playing for other organizations in his career.
“It’s very special,” William Nylander, a fellow Swede who scored a goal in the 3-2 victory, said of the win. “It was a tough and emotional day yesterday and it is nice to get the win for him and get that goal for him.”
Calling an Audible
Legendary quarterback Tom Brady served up one of the more bizarre sports stories of 2022 when he announced his retirement in February and promptly reversed course on his decision less than two months later.
“These past two months I’ve realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands,” he announced on social media.
Meanwhile, the end of his marriage to supermodel Gisele Bundchen in September would lead many to speculate whether his return was entirely football related.
On the field, Brady has yet to capture his former glory as his Tampa Bay Buccaneers hover around the .500 mark. While the legendary quarterback is on pace to set the single season record for completions, achieving that mark would say more about his team’s weak running game and over reliance on throwing than Brady’s return to form.
Despite the team’s woes, they sit atop a weak NFC South division, meaning football fans may still get a glimpse of Brady in the post-season, however brief it may be.
As for next season, sources close to Brady say he’s weighing all his option as he approaches free agency in March of 2023.
Whether he suits up for another year or not, his decision certainly won’t have anything to do with securing his legacy. With his status as the greatest quarterback of all time already well in hand and his storybook ending already in the books with his seventh Super Bowl win at the age of 43 in 2021, Brady truly has nothing left prove.
Marking the end of an era in women’s tennis, Serena Williams played her final match at September’s U.S. Open.
Dressed in her signature black outfit, the tennis legend gave fans one last highlight reel, winning a dramatic tiebreak in round three before Australian Ajla Tomljanovic proved too much for the 41-year-old.
After a tearful goodbye in front of a crowd of adoring fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York, the most dominant woman’s tennis player of all time spoke about her plans for life after tennis.
“It takes a lot of work to get here. Clearly I’m still capable. It takes a lot more than that,” she said after the match. “I’m ready to, like, be a mom, explore a different version of Serena.
“Technically, in the world I’m still super young, so I want to have a little bit of a life while I’m still walking.”
Despite joking about a potential return at the Australian Open — where she won seven of her 23 Grand Slam singles titles — the undisputed GOAT of women’s tennis has managed to stay off the court so far.
And while she’s made no concessions about how hard it was to call it quits, unlike her NFL counterpart, Brady, she says she’s ready for what’s next.
The difference, perhaps, is in Williams’ philosophy about retirement, which, ironically, involves an aversion to the R-Word all together.
“I have never liked the word retirement. It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me,” she wrote in an article she penned for Vogue, where she first announced her retirement. “Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution.”
Andrew Wiggins, the highly-touted first pick in the 2014 NBA draft hailing from Thornhill, Ont., was long considered a bust.
But after years of toiling away in obscurity on the Minnesota Timberwolves, a trade to the Golden State Warriors provided the reset he needed.
While the 27-year-old had always scored with ease, it was his defence that proved crucial to the Warriors championship run this year. In each of the Warriors’ matchups, the University of Kansas product was tasked with neutralizing the most talented offensive player on the floor.
His assignments during his squad’s playoff push included the unenviable task of guarding Slovenian phenom Luka Doncic in the first round. Wiggins proved equal to the task, helping to secure a crucial Game 1 win as he forced the all-star guard into seven turnovers and limited him to 20 points, with only two of them coming in the second half.
“That’s why he was the No. 1 pick,” Golden State’s Klay Thompson told the New York Times of Wiggins’ defence on the crafty, European guard. “You can’t teach that athleticism. You can’t teach that length. You can’t teach his timing. I’m just happy the world is getting to see who he really is.”
Wiggins’ defence would come up big once again in their finals matchup against the Boston Celtics, which saw the Canuck star contain Jayson Tatum, yet another offensively potent superstar.
In their final Game 6 win, Wiggins limited Tatum to a dismal 6-of-18 from the floor with five turnovers. While you might chalk up the 24-year-old superstar’s struggles up to first-time finals jitters, clips of Wiggins’ suffocating defence throughout the series tells the real story.
Wiggins also provided consistent scoring punch, averaging a steady 18 points per game on route to the Warrior’s fourth title in eight years.