Top Seven Canadian Sports Stories of 2019 - Canada Makes History
Canadian sports enjoyed a historically great year in 2019.
Canada's sports fans witnessed the nation rise to unprecedented heights on some of the biggest stages that the world has to offer. Typically, Canadians are known as a one-sport nation, with hockey constantly dominating the headlines. This changed drastically in 2019 as Canadian athletes and sports teams found success in competitions usually dominated by American and European stars.
The Best Canadian Sports Stories of 2019
Let's have a look back at what happened in 2019.
Canada Makes NBA Draft History
The 2019 NBA draft was a watershed moment for Canadian basketball development.
A total of six players were drafted, including R.J. Barrett at third overall, setting a new record for the most players selected from a country other than the U.S. in a single draft. Brandon Clarke, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Ignas Brazdeikis, Marial Shayok, and Mfiondu Kabengele were the other Canucks ballers drafted.
They aren’t as well known as Barrett, but there’s a good chance that a couple of these prospects will turn into rotation players. Clarke and Alexander-Walker already have 27-point games under their belt, an impressive achievement for any NBA player. The only downside to this unprecedented draft is the fact that Barrett was drafted by the Knicks.
Jordan Binnington Follows the Path of Ken Dryden
The St. Louis Blues had the worst record in the NHL in January 2019 when Jordan Binnington earned a shutout in his first NHL start. A month later, Binnington earned the first star of the week with a 3-0-0 record, lifting St. Louis into the last wild card spot in the western conference. He was named rookie of the month in February and March before the Blues qualified for the postseason.
Similar to legendary hall-of-fame Ken Dryden, who won the Cup as a rookie, Jordan Binnington would backstop the Blues to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history – a drought that lasted 52 years.
When St. Louis clinched the cup in Boston, Binnington set a new rookie record for wins in a single playoff year with 16. Ryan O’Reilly would go on to win the Conn Smythe trophy, but many observers and fans believed that Binnington deserved to be named the Stanley Cup MVP. Patrick Roy, Cam Ward, and Matt Murray are the only other rookie goalies to win the cup.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers Break Grey Cup Drought
In a CFL with only a handful of teams, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers endured a 29-year Grey Cup drought, consistently disappointing pigskin fans from “the Peg”. They entered the 2019 CFL playoffs as underdogs against the Calgary Stampeders, perhaps the best team of the last decade. After destroying the Stamps, the Bombers were underdogs against the Roughriders, but Winnipeg squeezed out a tough victory against Saskatchewan.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were favoured to win the Grey Cup Final, but the Blue Bombers quickly obliterated the TiCats. Winnipeg native Andrew Harris guided his hometown team to victory, becoming the first player to win Most Outstanding Canadian and Grey Cup MVP in CFL history.
Brooke Henderson Is Canada's Most Successful Golfer
Perhaps the quietest star in Canadian sports, Brooke Henderson continued her reign as one of the best players in the LPGA Tour in 2019. She defended her win at the Lotte Championship by a whopping four strokes and earned her second win at the Meijer LPGA classic. With her ninth LPGA Tour win under her belt, she carved out her own spot as the most successful Canadian pro golfer in history.
Brooke first entered national headlines when she became the youngest winner of the Women’s PGA Championship at the age of 18, joining Sandra Post and Mike Weir as the only Canadians to win a golfing major. She’s at the beginning of her prime, so there’s no reason to expect that she won’t be able to become the first Canadian with multiple victories at a golf major.
Kawhi Leonard Leaves the North
Fans of the Toronto Raptors gave their all to help keep Kawhi Leonard in Toronto. Billboards, songs, “Kawactus” plants, helicopters, and a lineup of politicians at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels were part of a coordinated effort from all of Canada to keep the NBA Finals MVP. Rumours suggested that Drake offered Kawhi an album deal. Canadian social media went as far as criticizing people for going too far.
Alas, it was all for naught. The Los Angeles Clippers arranged a blockbuster trade to acquire Paul George from the Thunder, convincing the L.A.-born Kawhi to sign with the beleaguered franchise. The Raptors did not fold after he left, continuing to play excellent basketball without him, but every Canadian basketball fan caught feelings when it became clear that he was gone for good.
Bianca Andreescu Wins U.S. Open
In any other year, Bianca Andreescu would be far and away from the top Canadian sports story after winning the U.S. Open. Bianca toppled the most dominant player in tennis history to win the tournament finals, defeating Serena Williams in straight sets.
Winning a tennis major is one of the most difficult accomplishments in the world of sports. Bianca became the first Canadian to do so, winning the hearts of Canadian sports fans. After a television tour across the U.S. and Canada, Bianca became one of the top sports celebrities in Canada. Still a teenager, Andreescu could turn into a dominant force for years to come.
Toronto Raptors: NBA Champions
From the laughing stock of the NBA to NBA champions – the Toronto Raptors completed one of the least likely playoffs runs in basketball history by defeating the Golden State Warriors in six games, sending the Warriors faithful home with a devastating loss in the last match played at the storied Oracle Arena. Underdogs at the start of the season, most considered the 76ers or the Bucks as the most likely team to represent the east.
But the Raptors persisted, upsetting the 76ers and the Bucks on the way to the finals. Kawhi hit the only buzzer-beater series winner in NBA playoffs history against the 76ers and dunked all over Giannis and Milwaukee to confirm his status as the premier alpha dog in the association. Kawhi deservedly earns the lion share of the credit, but the contributions of Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Norman Powell and Danny Green will never be forgotten.