Top 10 sports stories of 2017

With knees taken and championships raised, 2017 was a memorable year for sports around the world.

Despite the fact that 2017 didn’t include the Chicago Cubs 108-year-old-curse-shattering World Series win that 2016 did ( yes, I had to plug my beloved Cubbies in this piece), it was still a good year.

Last year will be defined by a number of sports stories, from the villainous actions of Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor that prompted millions of people to spend $100 on a lacklustre fight to the gracious donations from sports athletes to cities affected by natural disasters.

Here are the top 10 sports stories from 2017.

Ottawa Senators playoff run

Back in the spring, the NHL’s Ottawa Senators captivated the hearts of Canadian hockey fans around the country by going on an unexpectedly deep playoff run and finishing one win away from the Stanley Cup finals.

The Sens placed a modest sixth place in the Eastern conference during the regular season, and were not predicted to make it far in the postseason.

However, after a first round win over the Boston Bruins and second round win against the New York Rangers, the Senators proved they were a legitimate threat to become the first Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup since 1993.

A date with the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins awaited Ottawa in the Eastern Conference finals, where once again they were the heavy underdogs. The Senators took the Pens to game seven, but sadly lost in an overtime thriller.

Toronto sports dominance

The sports season of 2017 will be a year many Toronto sports fans will not forget.

To start, the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts took home the Grey Cup in a come-from-behind victory over the heavily favoured Calgary Stampeders.

Despite being seven-point underdogs with betting agencies and trailing by eight points in the final quarter, the Argos mustered up a furious comeback in the final five minutes to win their first title since 2012.

Unlike the underdog Argonauts, Toronto FC were Major League Soccer’s (MLS) best team throughout the entire year, topping the league table with a record-breaking 69 points in the regular season and becoming the first team to win the MLS Cup, the Supporters’ Shield, and the Canadian Championship.

TFC eventually beat the Seattle Sounders 2–0 in the MLS Cup final, 13 days after the Argos were crowned champions of the CFL.

Sidney Crosby and Pittsburgh Penguins win back-to-back Stanley Cups

This year, Sidney Crosby cemented his legacy as one of the best players in NHL history with his third Stanley Cup win and second consecutive title.

Crosby led the Penguins  to victory over the Nashville Predators winning four games to two in the finals and was named the NHL’s Conn Smythe winner as the best player in the playoffs for the second year in a row.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal turn back the clock

Pegged by many as too old to continue playing at a high level, Roger Federer (36) and Rafael Nadal (31) proved that age is just a number, with each winning two out of the four Grand Slam tournaments in tennis this year.

In fact, Federer even underestimated himself in an interview with the Guardian in December 2016, conceding that 2017 would instead be dominated by Andy Murray.

“Whoever finishes [next year] as No. 1 is going have to win two slams,” Federer said. “But it’s pretty much on Andy’s racket at the moment.”

Nadal’s victories bumped him up to 16 Grand Slam trophies, three behind Federer’s world record of 19.

Golden State Warriors win second title in three years over Cleveland Cavaliers

For the third consecutive year,  the NBA’s two “super teams” met in the Finals.

The Warriors — led by Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green (and the combined 17 all-star game appearances between them) — defeated the league’s best player LeBron James and the Cavaliers four games to one.

Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor

The most over-hyped fight of the century occurred in late August between Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather and UFC’s Conor ‘The Notorious’ McGregor.

After years of fans begging for the fighting sports’ two biggest stars to square off, McGregor and Mayweather agreed to fight in a boxing match despite the athletes hailing from opposite styles of fighting (Mayweather from traditional boxing and McGregor from UFC, where the athletes are allowed to kick and choke their opponent).

A month before the fight, Mayweather and McGregor embarked on a four city, curse-filled, WWE-style promotional tour, essentially urging fans to buy the $100 pay-per-view fight. It worked — 4.3 million people shelled the cash, the second-highest pay-per-view viewing figure ever, and the highest since Mayweather fought boxer Manny Pacquiao in 2015.

In the end, Mayweather defeated McGregor via technical knockout in the 10th round.

Ex-Toronto Blue Jays star Roy Halladay passes away

Roy Halladay, an eight-time MLB all-star and two-time Cy Young winner for best pitcher in the league, tragically passed away in a plane crash at the age of 40.

Halladay was known as one of the best pitchers in Blue Jays history, finishing his career with 203 wins and 2 117 strikeouts. He was also one of only five pitchers in MLB history to throw a no-hitter and perfect game (where a pitcher neither gives up a hit or walk to the opposing team) during the same season.

New England Patriots win Super Bowl 51 with massive comeback

With perhaps the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots won their fifth championship since 2002.

The first three quarters of the game were dominated by their opponents the Atlanta Falcons, who led by a score of 28–3 near the end of the third quarter.

However, the Patriots furiously rallied to score 25 unanswered points to tie the game at 28 and send the game to the first overtime in Super Bowl history. Brady then led the Patriots down the field and handed the ball to running back James White who scored the final touchdown, winning the game 34–28.

The game averaged an audience of 111.3 million viewers, and the game was rated by numerous media outlets as the greatest Super Bowl game of all time.

Anthem Protests across sports

National anthem protests involving taking a knee became the norm for professional athletes in 2017.

The movement started in 2016 with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand for the national anthem in protest of police brutality against minority citizens.

This year, however, the anthem protests also came to represent defying U.S. President Donald Trump and his outlandish statements. Just after Trump called players ‘sons of bitches’ for kneeling during the singing of the national anthem, approximately 180 NFL players took a knee during the anthem, while three NFL teams refused to come out of their locker room during the song.

Houston Astros win World Series while city recovers from Hurricane Harvey

Possibly the most feel-good sports story from 2017 is that of the Houston Astros winning their first World Series title two months after the city of Houston was ravaged by Hurricane Harvey.

The total damage from the storm is estimated at $190 billion, making it the most expensive natural disaster in United States history.

When Harvey made landfall in late August, it forced the Astros to move certain home games in September to other MLB cities.

However, despite playing many games away from Houston, the Astros kept on winning.

This success came as no surprise for the people at Sports Illustrated, who back in 2014 predicted on their front cover that the Astros would win the 2017 World Series.

This prediction was scoffed at by many baseball pundits, since Houston was a last place team for much of the 2000s and 2010s. Yet, the magazine noticed the talent the Astros were collecting as a result of picking high in the draft with last place finishes and claimed 2017 would be the year that that talent matured into a championship-caliber team.

Sure enough, in 2017, the ‘Stros finished with 101 wins in the regular season and were transformed into a beacon of hope for many citizens who lost their home and much more in the hurricane’s wake.

The Astros ultimately defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games and held a parade for hundreds of thousands of elated fans, who stood on the same streets that were submerged underwater just a few months earlier.

Photos by Keith Allison via Flickr

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