Sports » Features

The Year in Sports

2004 was a big year in Canadian sports for so many reasons, both good and bad.


On the bright side, the first Canadian team in 10 years made it to the Stanley Cup final, with Calgary eventually going down to a team of Canadians, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

On the not-so-bright side, this was followed by the first hockey lockout in 10 years as the NHL contract process stalled and the owners dug in.

On the bright side, the CFL enjoyed a national resurgence with greater overall attendance and higher television ratings. Now there’s talk of an eastern expansion (in Canada this time), with teams considered for Quebec City, Moncton and possibly Halifax.

On the not-so-bright side, the Montreal Expos closed up shop at the end of last season, and are probably headed to Washington D.C. – a deal in limbo if the city can’t or won’t pay for a whole new stadium. The Toronto Blue Jays continued to hemorrhage money, while Rogers Communications bought the SkyDome for $25 million, despite the original $600 million price tag fielded by taxpayers. The billion dollar Big ‘O’ in Montreal, one year away from being paid off, will also be decommissioned and may actually be torn down, thus ending the era of big Canadian stadiums.

While pro sports have had their issues, amateur sports have also been on a roller coaster of their own.

The Canadian Freestyle Ski Team earned two World Cup titles and close to 25 medals to win the overall Nations Cup. The Canadian Alpine Ski Team and Canadian Snowboard Federation also made strides, aided by new funding made possible, in part, by Vancouver’s successful bid to host the 2010 Winter Games.

On the not-so-bright side, Canada limped through its worst summer Olympic performance in decades, earning just 12 medals. The silver lining to this story is a significant increase in government sports funding, from $90 million to $120 million, with athlete allowances increasing to $20,000 from $13,200 a year. Will it come in time to help Canada to its goal of being number one in the medal count in 2010? Only time will tell, but the signs are encouraging.

Whistler plays an important role in Canadian sports. We’re a home to some of the top snow sports athletes in the country, and a venue for alpine and Nordic events in 2010. In the years leading up to the Games, Whistler is going to be hosting more and more high profile events like the FIS Snowboard World Championships that take place next month. Other national sports organizations, like Ski Jumping Canada, will likely relocate to this area to be closer to the Olympic venues.

The young athletes taking part in events like the annual Whistler Loppet, the Sprite Park Rider Series and the Sierra Wireless Whistler Cup could very well be tomorrow’s Olympic heroes – just one of the reasons 2004 was such a great year for sports in Whistler.