A 72-foot putt for eagle. A new home for women’s hockey. A rousing farewell to a legend.
Those are just some of the moments that defined sports in 2023 — a year of broken droughts, smashed barriers and shattered records.
WATCH | CBC Sports’ Rob Pizzo takes you through the year’s marquee moments:
Here’s a look at the stories we’ll remember:
The PWHL unites women’s hockey
In a year that featured Connor McDavid completing a 154-point season, the Vegas Golden Knights winning the Stanley Cup in just their fifth year and the Maple Leafs even making the second round, the biggest hockey story came off the ice.
Since then, the news has come fast and furious as the league storms toward its Jan. 1 start. There was a frenzied free agency period followed by the inaugural draft at CBC in September and training camps not long after.
Now, the likes of Marie-Philip Poulin (Montreal) and Hilary Knight (Boston) finally have professional homes. And for the first time in a long time, the conversation around women’s hockey will centre around wins and losses. Let the games begin.
WATCH | Billie Jean King discusses inaugural draft:
Nick Taylor ends 69 years of waiting
You might remember the miraculous putt. You may recall the chaotic scene in Toronto, with rain pouring down on rowdy Canadian golf fans. Surely you can envision the security guard’s tackle of Adam Hadwin that put an exclamation mark on a wild Canadian Open back in June.
I’m here to remind you that the absurdity didn’t end there.
It all could have overshadowed the actual golf. Somehow, though, the competition became even more fascinating. A playoff-hockey style overtime on Sunday came down to Nick Taylor — the B.C. native vying to become the first Canadian man to win at home since 1954 — and Tommy Fleetwood, the long-established Brit somehow still searching for his first PGA Tour victory.
As the rain began to pour, Taylor and Fleetwood battled for four playoff holes in front of a crowd firmly in the Canadian’s favour. Finally, back on the 18th, Taylor’s ball stood 72 feet from the hole — the type of look that typically brings a three-putt into play. Instead, Taylor sank the putt for eagle to win the tournament, then proceeded to flip his putter in celebration à la Jose Bautista. Fellow Canadian Adam Hadwin stormed the green with champagne — only to go unrecognized and end up flat on his back thanks to an unwitting security guard. In the end, Hadwin was fine, with the mishap only serving to cap a scene that should live on in Canadian golf lore forever.
WATCH | Taylor wins Canadian Open with long eagle putt:
Sinclair says so long
It was a rocky season for Canada’s women’s soccer team, including a boycott threat and parliamentary hearings amid a strife over pay equality with the national federation. In the summer, yet another World Cup run came to a screeching halt as Canada failed to advance past the group stage.
Sinclair earned her final two caps for Canada in her home province of B.C. earlier in December. She’ll play one more season with the NWSL’s Portland Thorns — though if it was up to Ryan Reynolds, she may be moving on to Wales’ Wrexham AFC instead. But the 39-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., received the send-off she deserved, complete with a standing ovation and various celebrations, to cap an illustrious career that included Olympic gold and two bronze.
And while Sinclair will no longer be on the field, her impact in taking Canada from an also-ran to a constant contender should be felt for decades to come.
WATCH | Sinclair sits down with CBC Sports to talk about record-setting career:
Canada’s men’s basketball team finally breaks through
From Vince Carter’s iconic dunk contest in 2000 through the Raptors’ 2019 championship, the popularity of basketball in Canada grew exponentially as more and more players began to filter up into the NBA. But that the success never seemed to translate onto the international stage — until last summer, that is.
SGA would go on to win the Northern Star Award as Canada’s top athlete of 2023, but he wasn’t the only Canadian basketball player to impress. Jamal Murray was the second-best player on the championship-winning Denver Nuggets; Aaliyah Edwards asserted herself as a key player for UConn and potential first-round WNBA pick next spring; the national women’s team earned its spot in February’s Olympic qualifying tournament and the U-19 women’s team earned its second-ever medal with bronze at worlds.
Next year — with four potential Olympics medals in the men’s and women’s traditional and 3×3 teams — could be even bigger.
WATCH | Canadian men’s team sets sights on Olympic podium:
Summer sets the bar
Starting with the 2021 Olympics and through worlds the following year, Summer McIntosh has slowly revealed herself as Canada’s — and perhaps the world’s — next great swimmer. She took the natural next step in 2023.
The display of dominance also set the stage for a highly anticipated 400 freestyle showdown against American Katie Ledecky and Australia’s Ariarne Titmus to kick off July’s world championships. The result was a double-disappointment for McIntosh, who missed the medals in fourth and saw Titmus take her record. But the race also revealed some of the Canadian’s character and McIntosh rebounded to leave the meet with four medals, including golds in the 400 individual medley and 200 butterfly.
All that success might let Canadian imaginations run wild with how much hardware McIntosh may procure next summer in Paris.
WATCH | McIntosh wins gold in 200 butterfly:
Canada is now a throwing country
Meanwhile, Olympic champion Damian Warner came into worlds looking to make up for the year prior when he was forced to withdraw with injury while leading the competition. This time, he stayed healthy and earned silver — only behind fellow Canadian Pierce LePage, setting up a fascinating friendly rivalry for Paris.
And if the sprinters — Andre De Grasse, Aaron Brown and the like — can get up to speed after a slow season by their standards, Canada should be on track for plenty of Olympic athletics medals.
WATCH | Rogers captures hammer-throw world title:
And for that reason… the Jays are out
The saga was just a capper to a year of disappointment for Blue Jays fans, whose on-field campaign ended with yet another sweep in the wild-card series as manager John Schneider pulled Jose Berrios in the fourth inning of a shutout. Fellow starter Yusei Kikuchi entered the game and immediately allowed two runs — the difference in a 2-0 loss to Minnesota.
Adding insult to injury, former Blue Jay Marcus Semien led the Texas Rangers to their first-ever World Series title just weeks later.
WATCH | Ohtani spurns Jays for Dodgers:
The queens of tennis
For about a week in November, Canada became home to both the men’s and women’s tennis world champions. After the men earned their first Davis Cup title last year, the women followed suit by winning the Billie Jean King Cup — just days before the men’s championship defence fell short.
And though Canadian singles players didn’t find much success at the year’s majors, Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski and Erin Routliffe, who grew up in Ontario but represents New Zealand, paired to claim Canada’s first Grand Slam women’s doubles title at the U.S. Open.
Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic won three of four men’s major titles to overtake Rafael Nadal and tie Margaret Court atop the all-time standings with 24 championships. He could stand alone as soon as January’s Australian Open.
WATCH | Fernandez clinches BJK Cup title for Canada:
Canadian skiers take over the world
Another challenger for the fake honour of unlikeliest world champion is alpine skier Laurence St-Germain. In a World Cup season dominated by talk of Mikaela Shiffrin’s eventual record-breaking 87th victory on the circuit, St-Germain stunned the American in her best discipline, the slalom, to earn Canada’s first title in the event since 1960.
The Quebec native’s feat came on the heels of fellow Canadian Jack Crawford asserting his contender status on the world stage with a gold medal of his own in the men’s super-G. Canadians also walked away from those worlds with a pair of bronze medals courtesy of Cameron Alexander (men’s downhill) and the mixed-team parallel event, led by brothers Jeffrey and Erik Read. Valerie Grenier, another member of that team, claimed her first-ever World Cup title in a giant slalom in Slovenia earlier in the year.
It all added up to the most successful Canadian skiing season in years.
WATCH | St-Germain stuns Shiffrin for slalom gold:
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