January 01, 2016 - 9:30 AM
The year in Canadian sports was loaded with the usual surprises, heartbreak and stellar performances. Here's a look at 10 big stories from the last year.
Baseball fever finally returned to Toronto in 2015 as the Blue Jays made the playoffs for the first time in 22 years.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos helped build a powerful lineup and then landed several big names at the trade deadline to help Toronto win the East Division title.
Led by American League most valuable player Josh Donaldson and a strong supporting cast, the Blue Jays came within two victories of the World Series.
Anthopoulos dropped a stunner a few days after his team was eliminated, announcing that he would not be signing a new contract with the Jays.
PRICE IS RIGHT
It seems like the only trophy Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price didn't win this year was the Stanley Cup.
The veteran netminder won the Vezina Trophy as top netminder and the Hart Trophy as league MVP. Price also took the Ted Lindsay Award as most outstanding player as voted by the players and shared the William Jennings Trophy for the lowest team goals-against total.
Price led the NHL in wins (44), goals-against average (1.96) and save percentage (.933) in the 2014-15 season. The native of Anahim Lake, B.C., became the first goalie to top all three categories since Ed Belfour in 1990-91.
His success didn't carry over into the playoffs as Montreal fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Connor McDavid started the year with a bang. He finished it on the shelf.
McDavid led Canada to gold at the world junior hockey championship in Toronto before completing a remarkable 120-point season with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League.
The 18-year-old forward from Newmarket, Ont., was selected first overall by the Edmonton Oilers at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and was averaging nearly a point a game until he broke his collarbone on Nov. 3.
There is no firm timeline for his return, but McDavid is expected to miss most of the season.
At the start of the season, Brooke Henderson wanted to show she belonged on the LPGA Tour despite needing sponsor's exemptions or qualification results to enter most tournaments.
A statement win at the Cambia Portland Classic in August left no doubt she was ready for the top level.
The former top-ranked amateur — still a month away from her 18th birthday at the time — won the tournament by eight shots and was granted immediate LPGA membership after the victory.
Henderson, from Smiths Falls, Ont., also became the first Canadian winner on the LPGA Tour since Lorie Kane in 2001.
ANDRE THE GIANT
Sprinter Andre De Grasse offered a teaser at the Pan Am Games. He really showed what he could do at the world championships.
De Grasse, from Markham, Ont., won double gold in Toronto and raced to bronze a few weeks later in Beijing against one of the strongest 100-metre fields ever assembled.
Making those accomplishments even more impressive is that De Grasse just turned 21 and is in his third year of running track.
He also swept the 100 and 200-metre finals at the NCAA championships earlier in the season.
SEASON TO FORGET
Eugenie Bouchard couldn't seem to shake a season-long slump. When she started to show signs of progress, a concussion derailed her campaign.
Bouchard, from Westmount, Que., broke through in 2014 and appeared to be on her way to tennis stardom. However, first-round exits quickly became the norm in 2015 and Bouchard's frustration grew while her confidence waned.
The 21-year-old looked like she was turning the corner at the U.S. Open but she fell and hit her head on a locker-room floor, essentially ending her season.
The former world No. 5 plummeted to No. 48 in the world rankings and her once-promising future now rests on shaky ground.
It's hard to overstate the impact star guard Steve Nash has had on the game of basketball in his home country.
Not only did he win two NBA most valuable player awards over his 19-year career, he served as a mentor and role model for the many young Canadian stars now in the league.
The eight-time all-star led a dominant up-tempo offence in his prime years with the Phoenix Suns. Injuries slowed him down late in his career and he formally retired last March.
Nash, who grew up in Victoria, will remain involved in the sport as general manager of the senior men's Canadian team.
GAMES, SET, MATCH
It was tough to predict whether the Pan Am Games would catch on in Toronto, a city that has longed for the more glamorous Summer Olympics in the past.
A strong domestic lineup helped give the event a boost. The city quickly got on board and the rest of the country also paid attention.
Sprinter Andre De Grasse, gymnast Ellie Black and basketball player Kia Nurse emerged as stars as Canada finished second overall with 217 medals.
The Parapan Am Games were also a success as Canada was second with 168 medals.
The hype surrounding Andrew Wiggins was off the charts when he entered the NBA last year as an 18-year-old forward. He quickly showed that he was the real deal.
Wiggins was one of the few bright lights on a weak Minnesota Timberwolves team, starting all 82 games last season while averaging 16.9 points and 4.6 rebounds.
He was rewarded for his strong campaign by winning the league's rookie of the year award.
Wiggins became the first Canadian player to win the honour.
It was a strong year for soccer in Canada despite some early eliminations.
Canada's three Major League Soccer franchises all made strides as Vancouver secured the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, Montreal took the No. 3 spot in the East while Toronto FC held the No. 6 position.
The Whitecaps skipped the knockout round of the playoffs but fell to Portland in the conference semifinals. The Impact, meanwhile, dumped Toronto in the knockout round before falling to Columbus.
The Women's World Cup was played in Canada for the first time with six cities handling hosting duties. Canada lost to England in the quarter-finals and the United States defeated Japan 5-2 in the final.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016