By Bruce Penton
Despite the 26th consecutive year without a Canadian franchise winning the Stanley Cup, and despite the Canadian Football League going dark for the 2020 season — thanks a lot, coronavirus — the state of sports in Canada is pretty darn good.
Three Canadian men made the round of 16 at the U.S. Open tennis championship in New York, confirming the developmental efforts put forth by Tennis Canada are bearing fruit. Denis Shapovalov, Vasek Pospisil and Felix Auger-Aliassime were the Canucks making noise at the Flushing Meadows Tennis Centre, and they’re all young and on the verge of better things. Don’t forget, too, that Bianca Andreescu was the defending U.S. Open women’s champ and unable to defend her title due to injury. While the Open was in progress, Eugenie Bouchard of Montreal lost in the final of the Istanbul Cup, a World Tennis Association event.
In basketball, the entire country was on the Raptors bandwagon as they strived for two NBA titles in successive years. Their thrilling seven-game Eastern Conference semi-final series with Boston Celtics captivated Canadians, but they came up five points short.
Canadians on the PGA Tour are no longer viewed as oddities. At last count, there were seven Canadian regulars on the Tour. One of them, Mackenzie Hughes, qualified for the 2020 Tour Championship — the top 30 in the Fed-Ex Cup standings earn the right to play in this exclusive event — and wound up 14th, earning $620,000. Next year, the Canadian contingent on the Tour will be increased by one as Ontario’s Taylor Pendrith will have full status thanks to his great play on the developmental Korn Ferry Tour. And while Hughes, Adam Hadwin, Nick Taylor and Corey Conners all have PGA Tour victories to their credit, players such as David Hearn, Michael Gligic and Roger Sloan have full- or part-time Tour status, too. Brooke Henderson came within a whisker of winning the LPGA’s first major, the ANA Inspiration, but she lost in a playoff.
And then there’s Canada’s baseball sweethearts, the Blue Jays, who are young, filled with potential and on the verge of qualifying for this season’s playoffs, which have been expanded and modified beyond recognition due to COVID-19. Even without star slugger Bo Bichette for a good portion of the 2020 season, the Blue Jays (2020 home base: Buffalo) are a solid second in the A.L. East and are due to give Canadians some exciting playoff action. Slugger Teoscar Hernandez, take a bow. You, too, pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu. Will Buffalo get the parade if the Jays shock the world and win the World Series?
So while the overall situation in Canada is glum — thanks to the virus, the economy and uncertainty about the future — Canadian athletes and Canadian-based teams continue to provide entertainment and positivity to a nation in need of uplifting news.
• Patti Dawn Swansson, the River City Renegade, after Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe declared Sept. 6 to be Roughriders’ Day across the province and for everyone to wear green and white: “A melonhead needs urging to wear green and white like a priest needs a reminder to say prayers on Sunday.”
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