It’s been a long year for everyone and while most of Hollywood went on hiatus and concert venues were on COVID-19 lockdown, one of the few sources of entertainment left was sports.
The National Hockey League and National Basketball Association returned to play in bubbles and Major League Baseball and the National Football League powered through regular virus outbreaks while playing in (mostly) fanless stadiums.
The Canadian Football League, meanwhile, cancelled the 2020 season in a controversial decision that left fans and front office staff pointing a finger at both the federal government and CFL commissioner, Randy Ambrosie, for a failed funding request.
While Hamilton went a full year without the Tiger-Cats, the city’s newish pro soccer team continued its dominant run through the first two seasons of the Canadian Premier League with their second title. Forge FC then secured historic victories overseas in Concacaf League play ahead of a dream match for Hamiltonians scheduled for early 2021: Forge FC versus Toronto FC for the Canadian Championship.
The Hamilton Bulldogs didn’t see the ice in 2020 but there was still controversy in the Ontario Hockey League after the league announced a ban on body checking for the following season.
With that, let’s take a look at the Top 5 Hamilton sports stories for 2020:
David Braley, the Hamilton businessman who owned three CFL franchises, died in October. He was 79.
The B.C Lions said in a statement that Braley died in his Burlington home.
He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2012 and the athletic centre at McMaster bears his name. Braley received the Order of Canada in 2019 for his contributions to the CFL, and for his entrepreneurial and philanthropic leadership in his community.
Braley was also a philanthropist and contributed $5 million to the athletic centre at McMaster. He has also made significant donations to the Cardiac, Vascular and Stroke Research Institute at Hamilton General Hospital, which also bears his name.
Ontario’s Minister of Sport said removing purposeful physical contact is a necessity for all sports in the province to slow the spread of COVID-19.
In a speech delivered to the Empire Club of Canada in Toronto, Lisa McCloud said the move is necessary and comes in the wake of news that Ontario’s top junior hockey league has banned bodychecks for the upcoming season.
The Ontario Hockey League (OHL) announced that when their season gets underway, it will be without the bone-rattling contact, a decision that could have repercussions for hockey leagues of all ages across the province.
The decision left critics questioning whether hockey without body checking is even hockey at all. They also wondered how NHL hopefuls would receive proper evaluation ahead of their potential jump to the pros without checking.
You know it’s been a hollow year for local sports when the mere announcement of a future game lands in the top 3 of the most notable sports stories of 2020.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the state of professional sports in 2021, the Canadian Football League unveiled its return to play in June, which concludes with the 108th Grey Cup in Hamilton on Nov. 21.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are scheduled to kick-off the 2021 season with a 2019 Grey Cup rematch against the Blue Bombers in Winnipeg on Thursday, Jun 10.
The Ticats are slated to play their home opener on Thursday, June 24 against the Toronto Argonauts at Tim Hortons Field.
The Labour Classic returns to Hamilton on Sept. 6 when the Argos make the trip.
Honourable mention: ‘Uniquely Hamilton’: Tiger-Cats, CFL unveil Grey Cup 2021 logos
Dr. Nick Bontis, a Hamilton-native and former coach of Hamilton Sparta, was elected President of Canada Soccer.
Members elected Bontis during the virtual Annual Meeting of the Members on Saturday. He’s the 35th President in the organization’s history.
Bontis takes over as the future of Canadian soccer has never looked brighter. Young talents like Alphonso Davies, Jonathon David, and Jordyn Huitema have been turning heads in Europe and the Canadian Premier League, only two-years-young, is already making a name for itself thanks to Hamilton’s Forge FC scoring historic wins overseas.
Looking ahead, Canada will jointly host the 2026 men’s World Cup with Mexico and the United States, which means Canada will be faced with the pressure of proving it belongs amongst the top soccer programs in the world.
Two Canadian Premier seasons are in the books and Hamilton’s Forge FC remains the only club to hoist the North Star Shield as the league’s top team.
The Hammers are back-to-back CPL champions after beating HFX Wanders FC 2-0 in the Island Games Final on Sept. 19.
Forge FC then went on to win twice overseas in Concacaf League play when no CPL club had ever won a match outside of Canada.
Meanwhile, the dream matchup for Hamilton soccer fans finally has a date(ish).
Canada Soccer confirmed that the 2020 Canadian Championship Final between Forge FC Hamilton and Toronto FC will be played in the first quarter of 2021.
The match had been delayed due to current pandemic restrictions, with a date and location to be determined in consideration of club and league schedules.
The 2020 Canadian Championship Final will be the first-ever meeting between the two Ontario sides.