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From hockey to hoops: A look at 10 of the biggest sports stories from 2017


The NHL decided to skip out on the Pyeongchang Olympics, a pair of Toronto franchises won titles and the Blue Jays lost beloved former pitcher Roy Halladay when his private plane crashed.

Here are 10 of the biggest sports stories The Canadian Press reported on in 2017:

 

NHL SKIPS PYEONGCHANG OLYMPICS

After months of speculation, the NHL officially announced in April that it won't participate in the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

It's the first time since 1994 that NHLers won't attend the Olympics. The decision was met with disappointment from players around the league.

Canada's roster for the upcoming Games will be composed mostly of ex-NHL players that are currently playing in Europe.

 

PENGUINS DEFEND STANLEY CUP

Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins defied a recent NHL trend by winning the Stanley Cup for a second straight year.

Pittsburgh defeated the Nashville Predators in six games to win the title. Crosby, the Penguins' captain from Cole Harbour, N.S., also earned his second-straight Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

The repeat is more impressive given the level of parity in the current NHL. The last team to win two Cups in a row was the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998.

Pittsburgh's win also extended Canada's Stanley Cup drought to 24 years. The 1992-93 Montreal Canadiens are the last team from north of the border to hoist the iconic trophy.

 

ROY HALLADAY DIES AT 40

Roy Halladay, who spent 12 seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, died on Nov. 7 at the age of 40 when his private plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico.

His death was a shock to Canadians that witnessed him win a Cy Young Award with the Blue Jays in 2003 and another as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010. Halladay was with Toronto from 1998 to 2009 before being dealt to Philadelphia, where he played from 2010-13.

He was a three-time 20-game winner and pitched both a perfect game for the Phillies (2010) and a no-hitter in the National League Division Series later that year.

 

RACHEL HOMAN DOMINATES WOMEN'S CURLING

Ottawa's Rachel Homan produced one of the most successful calendar years in curling history in 2017.

The 28-year-old skip earned a berth in February's Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea with a victory at the Roar of the Rings. She also captures the Tournament of Hearts national title and the world championship.

It's the first time that Homan will represent Canada at the Olympics. The national title was her third and the worlds win was her first.

The Canadian squad won every game at the worlds — Homan's third attempt at world championship glory — and erased the country's nine-year title drought.

 

TORONTO FC WINS FIRST MLS CUP

Toronto FC started the Major League Soccer season looking for redemption after losing in penalty kicks to the Seattle Sounders in the 2016 MLS Cup at BMO Field.

They accomplished just that and more, defeating Seattle 2-0 in a rematch on home field to win the first MLS championship in franchise history.

Toronto (20-5-9) was also the best team during the regular season and set a record with 69 points — the most ever in MLS history. Along with the MLS Cup, they accomplished a treble by capturing the Supporters' Shield as best MLS regular-season team and a Voyageurs Cup as Canadian champions.

Led by captain Michael Bradley and forwards Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore, the Reds set franchise records for wins (20), goals scored (74), fewest goals allowed (37), shutouts (13), home wins (13), home points (42), road wins (7) and road points (27).

 

ARGOS TURN FRANCHISE AROUND

The Toronto Argonauts fired general manager Jim Barker following a 5-13 season in 2016 and had head coach Scott Milanovich resign.

Expectations were low entering 2017, but with new personnel such as GM Jim Popp and head coach Marc Trestman, Toronto turned things around drastically.

Quarterback Ricky Ray was mostly healthy this season and led the Argos to a 9-9 regular-season record and East Division title.

Toronto went on to capture the 17th Grey Cup in franchise history with a 27-24 upset win over the Calgary Stampeders at Ottawa's TD Place.

 

DENIS SHAPOVALOV'S BREAKOUT SEASON

Denis Shapovalov started this year as the 234th ranked player on the ATP World Tour. He finished 2017 ranked No. 51.

The 18-year-old burst onto the tennis scene in 2017 — highlighted by a trip to the semifinals at the Rogers Cup in Montreal.

Shapovalov beat world No. 1 Rafael Nadal at the Rogers Cup before falling to Alexander Zverev in the semis. He's the youngest player to ever to reach an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semifinal.

The Richmond Hill, Ont., native used that momentum to reach the fourth round at the U.S. Open — his best finish at a senior Grand Slam.

 

R.J. BARRETT LEADS CANADA TO NEW HOOPS HEIGHTS

R.J. Barrett turned heads this year as Canada's next top basketball star.

The 17-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., earned MVP honours over the summer while leading Canada to gold at the FIBA under-19 World Cup in Cairo. It was the first time Canadians of any gender or age group won a world basketball title. And Barrett did it all as one of the tournament's youngest players.

Canada didn't back its way into the title either. They decisively beat the United States in the semifinals before cruising past Italy in the final.

The tournament success prompted Barrett to rethink his future and reclassify for college a year earlier. He announced his intentions to play for Duke next year. 

Barrett could become the third Canadian to go No. 1 overall in 2019 after Anthony Bennett (2013) and Andrew Wiggins ('14).

 

BROOKE HENDERSON CAPS ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL YEAR

Brooke Henderson built off an impressive rookie season to earn two more LPGA Tour wins this year.

The Smiths Falls, Ont., native won both the McKayson New Zealand Women's Open in September and the Meijer LPGA Classic in June to reach five career wins.

Another highlight on the season for the 20-year-old was rallying back at the CP Women's Open in Ottawa to finish tied for 12th, firing a course record 63 in the process.

Henderson, 20, earned more than US$1.5 million and finished sixth on the money list. She's currently No. 13 on the world rankings.

 

CANADA SHUT OUT AT WORLD TRACK CHAMPIONSHIPS

Canada entered the world track and field championships in London with a ton of hype after a steady build up of solid performances in the two previous years.

But a slew of injuries and illnesses left the Canadians off the podium and empty-handed for the first time in 16 years.

Sprinter Andre De Grasse pulled out two nights before London with a torn hamstring. He was pegged to win three medals. Olympic and world champion high jumper Derek Drouin withdrew with an Achilles injury and then a stomach bug swept through the Canadian team hotel which forced nine Canadian athletes and staff into quarantine.

Canada had won six medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

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Follow @RyanBMcKenna on Twitter

Ryan McKenna, The Canadian Press

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