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Above, Saskatchewan quarterback Darian Durant and the Grey Cup; left, Nadir Muhammed and Gary Bettman and their $5.4-billion handshake.<252> (RYAN REMIORZ/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Above, Saskatchewan quarterback Darian Durant and the Grey Cup; left, Nadir Muhammed and Gary Bettman and their $5.4-billion handshake.<252> (RYAN REMIORZ/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Robert MacLeod

2013: The year in sports, highs and lows Add to ...


Saskatchewan’s home-town title

The CFL could not have scripted the end result any better with the Saskatchewan Roughriders delighting a frenzied and frigid hometown crowd of just under 45,000 with a 45-23 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the 101st Grey Cup.

The stands were awash in a sea of green in support of the Riders, who were spurred to victory by Kory Sheets. He set a Grey Cup record when he rambled for 197 yards and two touchdowns in Saskatchewan’s convincing win.

Cornish wears crown

A member of the Calgary Stampeders, Cornish led the CFL in rushing with 1,813 yards, surpassing his own record for most rushing yards by a home-grown player.

The native of New Westminster, B.C., also led the league with 2,157 yards from scrimmage and scored 14 touchdowns that helped bolster his selection as the winner of the Lou Marsh award as Canada’s top athlete. Not since Russ Jackson won the Lou Marsh in 1969 has a CFL player laid claim to the honour.

Rogers, NHL put a ring on it

It will mark a seismic shift in the way Canadians will consume hockey with November’s announcement that Rogers Communications will be the NHL’s exclusive broadcast and multimedia partner in this country, beginning for the 2014-15 season. Rogers paid dearly for the rights – $5.2-billion over the course of a 12-year agreement, the largest media-rights deal in NHL history. The CBC will now have to share Saturday’s iconic Hockey Night in Canada stage with the people at Sportsnet, which is intending to flood coverage of the games across all of its platforms.

Old hands, new life

While it came as a bit of a shock to the cities where they made their names, both Daniel Alfredsson and Jarome Iginla decided it was time to move on with their hockey lives.

First it was Iginla, the longtime fan favourite of the Calgary Flames, who agreed to waive his no-trade contract in March that allowed the Flames to trade him to the playoff-bound Pittsburgh Penguins.

Iginla recorded 12 points in Pittsburgh’s playoff run, which came to an abrupt end with four successive losses to Boston in the Eastern Conference final. In the off-season, Iginla signed as a free agent with Bruins.

In Ottawa, Alfredsson decided that after 17 seasons with the Senators a change of scenery was in order, signing a one-year, $5.5-million free-agent contract to play this season with the Detroit Red Wings.

Beautiful music at MLSE

Drastic times call for drastic measures and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. went all in in its desire to reverse the fortunes of its struggling sports enterprises, hiring Tim Leiweke to move from California to oversee the operations. Bryan Colangelo was soon relieved of his duties running the Toronto Raptors basketball team and replaced by Masai Ujiri, the reigning NBA executive of the year. International hip-hop star Drake was also brought on board by Leiweke – and not just to help out with the fortunes of the basketball team as the Raptors’ global ambassador. Drake also reportedly whispered in the ear of Jermain Defoe to persuade the England and Spurs star striker that Toronto FC would be a good landing spot for his talents.

NHL achieves labour peace

It was looking bleak early in the new year as the prolonged lockout that forced NHL players to the sidelines for the first three months of the regular season might result in the cancellation of the entire year. But negotiators on both sides emerged from a Manhattan hotel boardroom in the early morning hours of Jan. 6, following a marathon 16-hour bargaining session, to announce that a contract had been reached. A revised 48-game regular-season schedule was quickly drawn up and play resumed on Jan. 19. The fans rejoiced. Average attendance on the year was up 2.6 per cent from the previous season as the Chicago Blackhawks would go on to defeat the Bruins to win their second Stanley Cup title in four years.

Ujiri’s magic touch

He was brought over from the Denver Nuggets with a reputation of being able to get things accomplished and so far Masai Ujiri has lived up to the promise with the Toronto Raptors. First he unloaded the seemingly unloadable Andrea Bargnani, the human turnstile, to the New York Knicks. Then Ujiri pulled off an even bigger shocker when he was able to foist the huge contract of Rudy Gay on the Sacramento Kings in another noteworthy deal. The trade helped clear some $12-million in salary-cap room for the Raptors next season as the GM continues his restructuring of a team that has missed the playoffs the past five season.

Canada’s basketball punch

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