Top News

Looking back at Nova Scotia's memorable sports moments of 2020

The Dalhousie Tigers celebrate their 76-64 victory over the St. F.X. X-Men in the men’s basketball AUS Championships final at the Scotiabank Centre on Sunday, March 1. (RYAN TAPLIN/Chronicle Herald)
The Dalhousie Tigers celebrate their 76-64 victory over the St. F.X. X-Men in the men’s basketball AUS Championships final at the Scotiabank Centre on Sunday, March 1. (RYAN TAPLIN/Chronicle Herald)

It's probably safe to say we'll never see a year quite like 2020 again.

COVID-19 coloured just about everything in our society, including sports. We had a couple of uninterrupted months to start the year but competition has only been possible in fits and starts ever since.

Without letting the pandemic overshadow the events of the past 12 months too completely, here's a look back at the key moments from a challenging year:

January 5

Truro's Jared McIsaac and his Halifax Mooseheads teammate Raphael Lavoie help Canada beat Russia 4-3 in the final of the world junior championship in the Czech Republic. It's Canada's first gold medal since 2015. The very next day, the Mooseheads trade McIsaac to the Moncton Wildcats and Lavoie to the Chicoutimi Sagueneens.

Mary Anne Arsenault throws her stone during a January 24 match against Team Tanya Hilliard at the 2020 Scotties Tournament of Hearts at the Dartmouth Curling Club. (RYAN TAPLIN/Chronicle Herald)
Mary Anne Arsenault throws her stone during a January 24 match against Team Tanya Hilliard at the 2020 Scotties Tournament of Hearts at the Dartmouth Curling Club. (RYAN TAPLIN/Chronicle Herald)

January 26

 Mary Anne Arsenault defeats former teammate Colleen Jones 7-4 to capture her fifth Scotties Tournament of Hearts provincial championship. Arsenault celebrates the victory with third Christina Black, second Jen Baxter and lead Emma Logan. The Arsenault team's bid for a Canadian Scotties title ends in a tiebreaker loss to British Columbia three weeks later.

Jamie Murphy of the Halifax Curling Club makes Nova Scotia history in the Tankard when he secures his sixth career crown. He and third Paul Flemming, second Scott Saccary and lead Philip Crowell defeat clubmate Kendall Thompson 10-4 in the final. The crew went 3-4 at the Brier to come up just short of advancing to the playoff round.

Halifax Thunderbirds’ Brandon Robinson checks Saskatchewan Rush’s Matthew Dinsdale during a Feb. 15 game at the Scotiabank Centre. (ERIC WYNNE/Chronicle Herald)
Halifax Thunderbirds’ Brandon Robinson checks Saskatchewan Rush’s Matthew Dinsdale during a Feb. 15 game at the Scotiabank Centre. (ERIC WYNNE/Chronicle Herald)

February 15

Nova Scotia's newest pro sports franchise, the Halifax Thunderbirds, was a hit from the start but it was actually a loss that pushed the National Lacrosse League team's popularity over the top. The Thunderbirds electrify a Scotiabank Centre crowd of 8,800 with a wild comeback, only to fall to the Saskatchewan Rush in a frantic OT. Still, everyone leaves the building buzzing that night about the new show in town.

 Dalhousie Tigers' Catherine Callaghan digs the ball during the winning point of the first game against the Saint Mary's Huskies during the AUS women's volleyball championship ship at Dalplex, February 28. (TIM KROCHAK/Chronicle Herald)
Dalhousie Tigers' Catherine Callaghan digs the ball during the winning point of the first game against the Saint Mary's Huskies during the AUS women's volleyball championship ship at Dalplex, February 28. (TIM KROCHAK/Chronicle Herald)

February 28 to March 1

Championship weekend around the AUS provides its usual drama.

The Dalhousie Tigers beat the St. Francis Xavier X-Men 76-64 in the final to repeat as men's basketball champions. It's their fifth title in six years. In the women's tournament, the UPEI Panthers get 25 points from tournament MVP Reese Baxendale to win their first conference crown since 1998.

The St. F.X. X-Women rise above runner-up finishes in the three previous years to complete a 2-0 series sweep of the Saint Mary's Huskies for their 11th women's hockey championship in school history and first since 2015. The UNB Reds continue their dominance in men's hockey, defeating the Acadia Axemen 2-1 in the best-of-three final for their third straight title.

Julie Moore and Catherine Callaghan play key roles in Dalhousie's sweep of Saint Mary's in the women's volleyball final.

March 7

The International Ice Hockey Federation announces the women's world championship in Truro and Halifax will be postponed until April, 2021, because of the rapidly spreading coronavirus. The decision is an ominous sign of things to come.

March 8

Dalhousie led by four points after three quarters, but couldn't hold on for its first men's national basketball title in school history. The juggernaut Carleton Ravens outscore the Tigers 24-11 in the final quarter to win 74-65 and secure the school's 15th crown in 18 years. Lower Sackville's Alex Carson finishes with 20 points to help Dal to its best finish ever at the tournament.

March 12

The NLL becomes the first major local league to suspend operations because of the virus. The QMJHL and National Basketball League of Canada follow later in the day in a series of pauses that eventually become cancellations. The pandemic also claims the 2020 U Sports hockey championship in Halifax, as well as all local competition ranging from high school sports to the Maritime Junior Hockey League.

Leighton Carruthers, Saint John Sea Dogs.
Leighton Carruthers, Saint John Sea Dogs.

June 5

The QMJHL goes forward with its first-ever online draft and Upper Tantallon's Leighton Carruthers becomes the first Nova Scotian off the board when the Saint John Sea Dogs take him third overall. Bridgewater's Luke Woodworth (11th overall, Drummondville Voltigeurs) also goes in the first round and the Mooseheads take two forwards - Markus Vidicek (14th) and Jordan Dumais (18th) - in the opening round. The Cape Breton Eagles use their first-rounder (17th overall) to select the draft's first goalie, Nicolas Ruccia.

June 6

Yarmouth's Ryan Graves caps a remarkable season with the Colorado Avalanche when he is announced as the team's nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. The 25-year-old defenceman broke out with 26 points and led the NHL with a plus-40 rating in his first full season in the league.

June 8

Longtime Saint Mary's hockey coach Trevor Stienburg surprises many when he steps down after 23 seasons. Citing burnout and changing family priorities, the popular former NHL player leaves as the winningest hockey coach in school history.

Halifax's Ellie Black performs on the balance beam. She was Nova Scotia's female athlete of the year. (CONTRIBUTED/Scott Grant)
Halifax's Ellie Black performs on the balance beam. She was Nova Scotia's female athlete of the year. (CONTRIBUTED/Scott Grant)

June 28

Dartmouth's Andrew Todd and Halifax's Ellie Black are named Nova Scotia's athletes of the year. Todd is a world-class rower and Black is Canada's best female gymnast.

Paddlers Andrew Billard (Hammonds Plains) and Julia Lilley Osende (Dartmouth) are the junior athletes of the year and Fall River's David Kikuchi (gymnastics) wins coach of the year.

Colorado Avalanche centre Nathan MacKinnon tries to control the puck during a 2019-20 NHL game against the St. Louis Blues. (USA Today)
Colorado Avalanche centre Nathan MacKinnon tries to control the puck during a 2019-20 NHL game against the St. Louis Blues. (USA Today)

July 21

Cole Harbour's Nathan MacKinnon is named one of the three finalists for the Hart Trophy for the NHL's most valuable player. He would eventually finish second in the voting to Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers. Draisaitl also edges MacKinnon for the Ted Lindsay Award, which is the MVP prize as voted by the players.

North Preston's Daneesha Provo is surrounded by family as she signs her contract to play professional basketball for Eisvögel USC Freiburg in Germany. (CONTRIBUTED)
North Preston's Daneesha Provo is surrounded by family as she signs her contract to play professional basketball for Eisvögel USC Freiburg in Germany. (CONTRIBUTED)

August 8

North Preston's Daneesha Provo signs a contract to play basketball professionally for Eisvögel USC Freiburg in Germany. The 24-year-old guard wrapped up her five-year NCAA career with the University of Utah in the spring.

August 19

Halifax Hurricanes player Mike Poole is rushed to hospital after falling from a second-storey apartment in New Jersey. He suffered life-threatening injuries after landing on a parked car but is making a successful recovery.

August 30

Against challenging odds, the Halifax Mooseheads open training camp in preparation for a unique QMJHL season. Players from outside Atlantic Canada are required to quarantine for two weeks before joining their teammates and no fans are permitted at practices or pre-season games. Following a virus-free month around the league, the regular season opens on October 2nd. The first interruption comes in Quebec five days later and others follow in the province's red zone, as well as in Atlantic Canada, before the Q opts to hit pause on the season for a December-long holiday break. Plans are being ironed out to reopen in early or mid-January.

HFX Wanderers FC defender Peter Schaale heads the ball during a Sept. 14 CPL game against Pacific FC in Charlottetown. (CONTRIBUTED/CPL)
HFX Wanderers FC defender Peter Schaale heads the ball during a Sept. 14 CPL game against Pacific FC in Charlottetown. (CONTRIBUTED/CPL)

September 19

After entering a strict bubble for the Island Games in Charlottetown in mid-August, HFX Wanderers FC make it all the way to the Canadian Premier League final. They wind up losing 2-0 to Forge FC but it is a huge turnaround from their inaugural season when they finished in last place. The event was also a huge success from a league standpoint after COVID-19 put the entire season in jeopardy in the spring. The Wanderers' Akeem Garcia finishes the tournament as the top scorer with six goals in 10 games.

Dallas Stars head coach Rick Bowness reacts to a call during a Sept. 26 Stanley Cup final game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. (POSTMEDIA)
Dallas Stars head coach Rick Bowness reacts to a call during a Sept. 26 Stanley Cup final game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. (POSTMEDIA)

September 28

After taking over as the Dallas Stars' interim head coach in December, Rick Bowness takes the team to within two wins of the Stanley Cup. The Stars fall 2-0 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 to end the championship series. The Stars remove the interim tag from Bowness's job description one month later.

October 6

Like the QMJHL, the NHL is forced to hold its draft online. Halifax's Justin Barron is selected in the first round (25th overall) by the Colorado Avalanche and Mooseheads teammate Elliot Desnoyers goes to the Philadelphia Flyers in the fifth round. Beaver Bank's Ryan Francis also hears his name called in the fifth round by the Calgary Flames, three rounds after Cape Breton Eagles teammate Egor Sokolov is taken by the Ottawa Senators.

Custio Clayton earned a a majority draw against Sergey Lipinets of Kazakhstan in a 12-round International Boxing Federation interim welterweight title bout at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut. (CONTRIBUTED)
Custio Clayton earned a a majority draw against Sergey Lipinets of Kazakhstan in a 12-round International Boxing Federation interim welterweight title bout at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut. (CONTRIBUTED)

October 24

North Preston's Custio Clayton has to settle for a majority draw against Sergey Lipinets of Kazakhstan in a 12-round International Boxing Federation interim welterweight title bout at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. The 33-year-old expresses disbelief about the outcome after landing 247 punches to Lipinets's 175.

November 18

Bedford's Nate Darling isn't selected in the NBA draft but signs with the Charlotte Hornets just a few hours later. The six-foot-five guard agrees to terms on a two-way contract with the Hornets, which gives him a realistic chance at becoming the first-ever Nova Scotian to play in the NBA, perhaps as soon as this season.

November 26

The Wanderers' Stephen Hart is named CPL coach of the year after the team's impressive turnaround and runner-up finish for the league title. The success convinces Hart to bring back a sizeable chunk of his roster for 2021.

December 11

Barron caps a memorable year by making the Canadian world junior team. His three goals in four intrasquad games clinches his spot on the 25-man roster.

Halifax Mooseheads defenceman Justin Barron takes a shot during warmup for a QMJHL game at the Scotiabank Centre. (TIM KROCHAK/Chronicle Herald)
Halifax Mooseheads defenceman Justin Barron takes a shot during warmup for a QMJHL game at the Scotiabank Centre. (TIM KROCHAK/Chronicle Herald)
Did this story inform or enhance your perspective on this subject?
1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

Recent Stories