Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sporting Favourites

It’s the season for lists so I got thinking about my favourite live sports memories. I’ve been fortunate to see some pretty unique things so here are a few in no particular order. Please share yours as I’d love to hear them!

1997 Western Conference Quarter-Final, Game 3 - Oilers vs Stars

In their first playoff series since 1992, the Oilers trailed 3-0 with four minutes to go against the Stars, a team no one comes back on. Doug Weight got it going followed by Andrei Kovalenko then Mike Grier with the tying goal all in under 2 minutes. I jumped so high I nearly landed on the seat in front of me and from clapping my hands were the colour of Flames jerseys (who weren’t in the playoffs I should note!). Of course Kelly Buchberger’s OT winner didn’t hurt either. The most amazing comeback I’ve ever seen.

1986 CFL Western Final – Eskimos vs Lions

This was my first ever CFL playoff game. The Esks were hosting a playoff game for the first time since 1982, the last year of the five in a row dynasty. They had vaulted back to finish first in the west and were hosting the defending champion Lions. A large crowd, Marco Cyncar’s diving TD, snowball fights and fans carrying John Mandarich off the field were all highlights of my introduction to the CFL playoffs..

2001 World Championships in Athletics Opening Ceremony - August 3, 2001

Being on the organizing committee for the World’s was a lifelong dream come true so this whole day I was essentially on a cloud. In the men’s marathon, included for the first time in an opening ceremony, Gezahegne Abera from Ethiopia and Simon Biwott of Kenya were going so quickly they actually adjusted the ceremony to time their entrance into Commonwealth. After over 41 km, both runners literally sprinted into the stadium bringing 60,000 people jump to their feet in unison. It was an incredible athletic achievement coupled with great fan support that made this so special.

2010 Winter Olympics

As a self-described Olympics junky it was very exciting to be in Vancouver for a week last February. Having been to Vancouver many, many times, I’ve never seen the city so alive. No matter where you walked the energy of being games host was palpable everywhere. Yes, these events cost money but it’s hard to recreate the energy and emotion people feel and carry from them.

Wayne Gretzky’s 50th goal in 39 games – December 30, 1981

I was six years old when I was taken to this game with my mom, dad and grandpa. The five goals he scored that night were incredible but what I think was more amazing was the common belief leading up to the game that he legitimately could score five against the Flyers. This speaks not only to Gretzky’s ability but how dominant he was in that era. People also often forget that he scored four goals three nights earlier against the Kings to set up the possibility for 50 in 39. An amazing experience I can still envision today and a record that will never be broken.

2006 Stanley Cup Final, Game 6 – Oilers vs Hurricanes

This was perhaps the most complete game the Oilers played throughout their crazy playoff run. A decisive 4-0 win that night really gave the 16,839 people in the building the sense the Oilers were going to win the Cup. The thing I remember that night was that no one (me included) wanted to go home. The two month experience had been so enthralling that having the home portion over was sad despite the exhilaration. We just won’t talk about game 7.

2010 Men’s Olympic Hockey Gold Medal Game – Canada vs United States

I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to be one of the few in Canada Hockey Place that afternoon. The three street hockey games randomly occurring in the streets of Vancouver only added to the atmosphere. The energy in the building was unlike anything I’ve experienced as the sea of red surrounded the few, outnumbered Americans. With a script that must’ve been written by the Grimm brothers Sidney Crosby’s winning goal was the ultimate finish. It happened so fast many of us at the other end of the arena didn’t know what had taken place. What followed was jubilation everywhere that eventually made it the proudest, craziest celebration I have never seen. There were so many people with such vigour in one place at one time that it was truly remarkable.