Canada is much, much more than strictly a hockey nation, and never has that been more evident than in 2017.
Sure, Sidney Crosby keeps adding Stanley Cups and Conn Smythes to his resume and Connor McDavid solidified himself among the world’s elite this year. But Canadians also had momentous triumphs in basketball, swimming, tennis and MMA, while the country continued to cement itself as a football, baseball and soccer hotbed. Many memorable moments were witnessed over the past 12 months, and while most of them provided proud Canucks something to cheer about, there were a few that are painful to look back on, too.
As another year comes to a close, the Yahoo Canada Sports team has put together a list of the top-10 Canadian sporting moments of 2017.
Penguins, Crosby go back-to-back
The Pittsburgh Penguins winning their second of back-to-back Stanley Cups — a feat no club has accomplished in the NHL for 20 years — was just another feather in the cap for the team’s Canadian captain.
Pittsburgh was led to its fifth championship by several notable Canadians including goaltenders Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray, defenceman Kris Letang, trigger-man Chris Kunitz, and of course, Sidney Crosby. In the postseason, the Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia product finished second only to teammate Evgeni Malkin in points (27) and goals created (9.4), while ranking second in points per game and first in assists. Crosby capped off the third Cup triumph of his career with his second Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP.
Connor McDavid’s coming out party
Connor McDavid not only threw his own breakout bash in 2017, he swept the place up when the festivities were over.
The 20-year-old had a dream-like sophomore season with the Oilers, leading the NHL in assists (70), points (100), assists per game (0.85) and points per game (1.22), while dragging the Orange and Blue on his back towards the team’s first playoff appearance since 2006. At the NHL Awards in June, McDavid became just the 10th player in NHL history to win hockey’s version of the triple crown, capturing the Art Ross Trophy, Hart Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Award. He was also just the fourth player 20-years-old or younger to win the Hart Trophy as league MVP. The others? Wayne Gretzky (twice) and Sidney Crosby.
Toronto FC’s historic campaign
After dropping the Montreal Impact to become the first Canadian team ever to advance to the MLS Cup final just over a year ago, Toronto FC made 2017 even more memorable.
Further breaking ground for league and country, TFC broke the 19-year-old points record held by the L.A. Galaxy en route to becoming the first Canadian MLS franchise to win the Supporters’ Shield. But what ultimately cemented TFC as the greatest club in league history was atoning for last year’s loss in the MLS Cup Final with a dominant victory in the championship rematch with Seattle Sounders at BMO Field.
The return of GSP
The UFC and Canada as a whole were blessed by the comeback of one of the sport’s best-ever fighters and one of the country’s all-time great athletes.
Georges St-Pierre made his long-awaited return to the Octagon after a four-year hiatus, and delivered more than anyone could have imagined in an incredibly entertaining bout with Michael Bisping for the middleweight crown. GSP, bruise-faced and leaking a steady stream of blood, slapped a rear naked choke on Bisping to re-assert himself atop the MMA world. At 36-years-old, St-Pierre is once again a top-flight superstar in the UFC and firmly entrenched in the conversation for greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all time.
Roy Halladay’s tragic death
Though he wasn’t Canadian by birth, the country mourned the loss of one of its own when arguably the greatest pitcher in Toronto Blue Jays history was taken away far too soon.
Roy Halladay tragically lost his life in November as a result of a plane crash off the Gulf Of Mexico. He is certainly one of the most talented MLB pitchers of the last half-century, and he spent 12 of his major league seasons tossing for Canada’s team. He captured his first Cy Young in 2003 with the Blue Jays and was an All-Star six times with Toronto while throwing an absurd 49 complete games with the club (he threw 67 in his career). He later went on to win a World Series, another Cy Young, and toss the second perfect game in postseason history with the Phillies. One of the greatest athletes — and by all accounts greatest people — to ever grace the Canadian sports scene.
Denis Shapovalov begins his ascent
2017 was the year of El Shapo, as Denis Shapovalov thrusted himself into the Canadian sporting spotlight and finished the season as the talk of the ATP tour.
The 18-year-old Montreal native started 2017 as the 250th ranked mens player in the world, while making it known that his goal — which seemed quite lofty at the time — was to crack the top 150 by the end of the year. Shapovalov started making his way up the latter at the Rogers Cup in Montreal with a gutsy victory over Juan-Martin Del Potro, then by defeating No. 1-ranked Rafael Nadal in a miraculous, three-set-thriller in front of a charged up home crowd. Shapovalov followed up his inspiring underdog performance by making it to the Round of 16 at the U.S. Open. He is currently No. 51 in the world — nearly 200 spots higher than he ranked 11 months ago.
Kylie Masse breaking records in the pool
A year after winning an Olympic bronze in Rio, Kylie Masse carried Canada’s momentum in the pool right into 2017.
The 21-year-old made history at the world aquatics championships in Budapest in July, becoming the first female Canadian swimmer ever to win a world title. Masse did so in dominant fashion, to boot, setting a new world-record in the 100-metre backstroke with a time of 58.10 seconds, and in the process throwing out the longest-standing record in women’s swimming.
Under-19 Men’s Basketball claims gold
One the best international basketball clubs Canada has ever assembled was led to gold by the most highly-touted Canadian baller since Andrew Wiggins.
After a historic win over the U.S. in the semifinal, Canada claimed its first-ever gold medal at an international FIBA competition after crushing Italy by 19 points in the championship game. Mississauga’s R.J. Barrett — who later committed to powerhouse Duke after receiving offers from every major D1 program — followed up his heroic performance versus the Americans with 18 points and 12 boards in the final contest, and was named tournament MVP for averaging 21.6 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists throughout.
Toronto Argonauts capture Grey Cup
A tumultuous season for the Argos concluded in triumph with a Grey Cup victory set upon a backdrop of pure Canadiana.
In January, general manager Jim Barker was axed and head coach Scott Milanovich subsequently left his position to become a quarterbacks coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL. The outlook seemed bleak for the Double Blue until the hirings of three-time Grey Cup champion Jim Popp as GM former Montreal Alouettes boss Marc Trestman as head coach. After a 4-6 start, the Argos ended up finishing first in the East and concluded the campaign by knocking off four Western teams including an upset over Calgary in an incredibly exciting (and snowy) Grey Cup.
Ottawa Senators improbable postseason march
Everything about the Senators’ improbable season, and an even unlikelier playoff run, was magical.
After managing to scrape their way to a second-place finish in the Atlantic Division, the Sens took out the Bruins in a thrilling six-game series which included four one-goal victories — three of them in overtime. Ottawa went on to beat out the favoured New York Rangers in round two, also in six games, teeing up a Conference Final matchup with he defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
After a thrilling Game 6 victory, Ottawa’s Cinderella run ended a shot away from a berth in the Stanley Cup Final, losing in double overtime of Game 7 on a heartbreaking Chris Kunitz winner.
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