Ottawa's top 10 sports figures of 2013
Who were the most successful, newsworthy, controversial people of the year?
From Canadian championships to a team that hasn't played a single game, breakout stars to startling breakups, here are the men and women who made news in 2013.
10. Phil Scrubb, Warren Ward and Olivier Hanlan, CIS/NCAA basketball
Carleton’s Scrubb repeated as Canadian university basketball’s Most Outstanding Player and was invited to Canada’s national men’s basketball camp.
Ward capped off his Gee-Gees career by leading them to their best-ever finish at the national championship tournament (third) then turned the heads of NBA scouts in the summer before signing to play in Germany.
Gatineau native Hanlan won conference freshman of the year honours with the NCAA’s Boston College Eagles, an honour previously won by Michael Jordan, Chris Bosh and Chris Paul.
9. Travis Konecny, forward for the Ottawa 67’s
Travis Konecny became the new face of the Ottawa 67s when he was taken first overall in this spring’s draft, a chance for renewal after the franchise’s worst-ever season. The London, Ont.-area native is the team's top point-getter, among the Ontario Hockey League’s rookie scoring leaders and will be front and centre when the 67’s return to the Ottawa Civic Centre in the fall.
8. Steve Sumarah, head coach of the Carleton Ravens football team
Sumarah brought a championship pedigree to the reborn Carleton Ravens football team from his years with the Saint Mary’s Huskies of the AUS. He was the most identifiable member of this very young team during their formative months and during a winless season where he preached, and received, improvements every game.
7. Marcel Desjardins and Rick Campbell, general manager and head coach of the Ottawa RedBlacks
Two more football architects working towards a much-anticipated return are next on the list. Desjardins was named general manager of Ottawa’s CFL team in January and proceeded to start building the team from scratch, with the biggest single-day haul coming during December’s expansion draft.
Campbell coached the Calgary Stampeders’ defence during their league-best 14-4 season but became more widely-known in local sports circles when he was named RedBlacks head coach this month.
Both are mostly appearing at news conferences and on the airwaves, but they’ll play a bigger part in 2014 when the RedBlacks hit the field.
6. Brad Fritsch, golfer
Manotick’s Fritsch became the first Ottawa native to qualify for the PGA tour in 2012, then battled through the ups (a ninth-place finish at the Farmers Insurance Open in January where he came close to chasing down Tiger Woods) and the downs (having to pull out of the Canadian Open in July with back issues) of his rookie season. Fritsch took it down to the wire but was able to pull out a second-place finish in a September tournament to keep his top-level tour card for another year.
5. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, forward for the Ottawa Senators
The 21-year-old Gatineau native wore many labels in 2013: Former QMJHL star with the Gatineau Olympiques turned work-in-progress with the Binghampton Senators, little-heralded minor league call-up for the injury-ravaged NHL team, playoff hero who scored a hat trick in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series against Montreal and subject of the most vigorous cheers directed at a Senators player not named Daniel Alfredsson (more on him later).
4. Rachel Homan, Alison Kreviazuk, Emma Miskew and Lisa Weagle, Ottawa Curling Club rink
The Homan-led team beat four-time Scotties Tournament of Hearts champion Jennifer Jones in February for their (and their city’s) first Canadian women’s curling title. The young team went on to win bronze at the World Championships, made it to the semifinals of Olympic qualifiers earlier this month and have plenty of time to add to their trophy case as all four members are in their 20s.
3. Erik Karlsson, defenceman for the Ottawa Senators
While Kanye West and Eminem spent the latter part of 2013 boasting about being gods of hip-hop, Ottawa’s high-flying blueliner told reporters he’s tired of being talked about “like I’m some (bleeping) god or something” during an up-and-down year.
Coming off a Norris Trophy win as the league’s best defenceman in 2011-12, Karlsson got off to an even better start to the lockout-shortened 2013 season before being felled by a skate to the Achilles tendon courtesy Matt Cooke of the Penguins, joining an Ottawa injured list that also included Jason Spezza, Craig Anderson and Jared Cowen.
Fans have been harder on EK65 as the team tries to raise its level of play this season, but as of press time he still leads all NHL defencemen in scoring and has nearly three times as many points as the next highest-scoring Senators blueliner.
2. Eugene Melnyk, owner of the Ottawa Senators
Ottawa’s owner raised eyebrows throughout the year, first by launching a widely-mocked forensic investigation into whether or not Matt Cooke intentionally cut Erik Karlsson’s Achilles tendon (results are still pending) then by threatening legal action against the city for shutting him out of the bidding process for a potential new casino, saying he needed the revenue to offset millions of dollars in losses every year.
Fans have fingered Melnyk’s unwillingness to spend more money on the team as a reason Daniel Alfredsson signed with Detroit and part of why the team has sputtered in the first half of the 2013-14 season.
1. Daniel Alfredsson, forward for the Detroit Red Wings
July 5, noon ET. An increasing sense of dread had been descending on Canada’s cloudy capital as it slowly sunk in that no, Ottawa’s long-time captain re-signing with the Senators wasn’t a given and he was heading southwest to join the Detroit Red Wings.
Senators fans have been left to mull over his legacy and face the weird task of cheering against Alfie, even briefly booing him during his return to Ottawa on Dec. 1.
The loss of number 11 has been filled on the scoresheet by Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur, but the affect of the void in the locker room and city will continue play out in the months and years to come.