Six sports are represented among the finalists for the 69th annual awards presentation of the St. John’s male and female athletes of the year, and team of the year for 2019.
Amongst the finalists are winners of the 2018 male and female athlete of the year awards —hockey player Maggie Connors and paralympic hockey player Liam Hickey.
Hickey has been named the city’s athlete of the year the past three years. Connors is seeking her second straight St. John’s female athlete of the year honour.
Finalists for male athlete of the year are three hockey players: Tyler Boland, Hickey and Alex Newhook.
Up for female athlete of the year are Connors, artistic swimmer Catherine Barrett and road runner Kate Bazeley.
The Coors Light team of the year finalists are the Atlantic Rock Under-19 rugby squad, Galway Hitmen softballers, and the Newfoundland Black Horse ball hockey team.
The awards presentation will be a little different for 2019. Unlike a formal dinner and announcement at City Hall, the three winners will be announced Wednesday at Mile One Centre during a Newfoundland Growlers-Maine Mariners ECHL game.
That follows tradition of the original athlete of the year announcements. In the 1950s and early 60s, winners of the city’s top athletic prizes were announced during St. John’s Senior Hockey League games at old Memorial Stadium.
Next Wednesday, the 2019 winners will be announced followed by an on-ice red carpet ceremony.
Representatives from the Dunne and Davis families will be on hand to present the Tom “Dynamite” Dunne male athlete of the year award and the Margaret “Mag” Davis female athlete of the year award.
Here’s rundowns on the finalists:
FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Barrett was a member of the Canadian national artistic swimming team which won a gold medal in the FINA world championship in Korea, and the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.
The Pan Am Games showing qualified Canada for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Barrett trains at the Ontario Regional Training Centre in Toronto.
Bazeley, one of the province’s top distance runners for the past number of years, established a new provincial marathon record twice in 2019, bettering her own record from 2014.
She finished first at the Houston Marathon and fourth at the Canadian Marathon Championship (with times of 2:39:55 and 2:36:35, respectively).
Maggie Connors dressed for Canada's national women's development hockey team in a three-game exhibition series with the United States national development team in August in Lake Placid, N.Y.
In her first season of NCAA Division I hockey with the Princeton Tigers in 2018-19, Connors was second on the Tigers in scoring with a team-high 26 goals and 43 points. She was 10th in the NCAA in points per game (1.34), second in the U.S. in goals per game (0.81), first in the nation in power-play goals (10), fourth in the nation in game-winning goals (6), and third in the NCAA in points per game for a freshman (1.34).
Connors was a first-team All-Ivy League all-star and second-team All-ECAC Hockey all-star. In addition, she was named to the ECAC All-Rookie team.
MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Boland was a member of the University of New Brunswick Reds, which won the U Sport Canadian men’s university hockey championship last year with a 4-2 win over the University of Alberta in the national final
Boland was fourth in regular-season (19 goals, 19 assists and 38 points) and playoff (4-2-6 in five games) scoring last season in the Atlantic University Sport conference.
He was recently crowned scoring champ for not only the AUS, but all of Canadian university hockey, for the 2019-20 hockey season with 20 goals, 28 assists and 48 points for the powerhouse Reds, the No. 1-ranked team in the country at 26-4.
Hickey has been part of Team Canada’s para hockey team since 2016. Last year, he was part of the national team which won a silver medal at the 2019 IPC World Para Hockey Championship in the Czech Republic, after losing 3-2 to the United States in the gold-medal game. He led Canada with eight goals at the worlds.
Hickey and Team Canada also won silver at the 2018 world championship and 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in Korea.
In December, Canada had to settle for another second-place finish, this time at the 2019 Canadian Tire Para Hockey Cup at the Paradise Double Ice Complex, following a 2-1 loss to the U.S. in the tournament final.
Hickey was second in scoring on Canada in Paradise with two goals and four assists in five games.
Newhook, 19, a freshman at Boston College, closed out his Canadian junior career last season in the British Columbia Hockey League with the Victoria Grizzlies.
Newhook was the BCHL’s MVP and Brett Hull Trophy winner as the league’s scoring champ with 38 goals, 64 assists and 102 points in 53 games while captaining the Grizzlies.
On top of that, Newhook was also named the top forward in Canadian junior A hockey for 2018-19.
His junior career was capped off in June when the Colorado Avalanche made him the 16th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.
Despite his freshman status with Boston College, Newhook is one of the Eagles’ top scorers in U.S. NCAA hockey this season.
Internationally, Newhook starred for Canada last April at the world under-18 championship in Sweden where he was named one of Canada's top three players at the tournament. He had five goals and five assists in 10 games.
Canada dropped a 5-2 decision to the United States in the bronze-medal game.
TEAM OF THE YEAR
The St. John's-based Hitmen claimed Newfoundland's seventh Canadian senior men's fastpitch softball championship in eight years in Grande Prairie, Alta., last summer.
Overall, Galway was 10-1 in the tourney, with a .372 team batting average, while scoring 96 runs, or an average of almost nine per outing.
The Hitmen posted three straight wins on the final day of competition in Grande Prairie, including a 10-7 decision over the Sooke Loggers of British Columbia in the tournament final.
Both the defending champion Hitmen and Loggers had been undefeated in the round-robin portion of their schedules, but Galway lost 12-4 in its first game of Page playoffs Saturday to the Hill United Chiefs of Oshwekin, Ont., making its path to the final more difficult.
ATLANTIC ROCK UNDER-19 RUGBY
The St. John’s-based Atlantic U-19 squad played host to the Canadian championship in August and thumped the heavily-favoured Ontario Blues 21-5 on The Rock’s home turf, the Swilers Rugby Complex in St. John’s.
Of the 25 players on the Atlantic regional team, 18 are from St. John’s, including captain Michael McCarthy, and co-captain Campbell Clarke.
Under heavy rain, the Rock steamrolled Ontario early on, scoring a pair of first-half tries by McCarthy and Connor McKinney for a 14-0 lead, with Laurie Baldwin making good on the conversions.
Alex Hickman scored a try early in the second half with another convert by Baldwin to push the score to 21-0. Ontario managed to score a try late in the game to make it a 21-5 final.
NEWFOUNDLAND BLACK HORSE
The ball hockey team represented the province at the 2019 Canadian Ball Hockey Championship held at the Glacier in Mt. Pearl.
The team went 4-0 in round robin play before losing a close 2-1 game to New Tecumseth, Ont. Xtreme in the gold-medal game.