As we crawl and hobble our way towards 2017, desperately trying to rationalize the mediocre year we are leaving behind, it's easy to forget that not everything was ablaze and some things actually turned out alright.
2016 has received a lot of flak recently for totally obvious and valid reasons — it was a wild year. But like any wild year, we can find several memorable moments that really just jump out at us.
We decided to put together a totally objective, scientific, not-at-all-subjective list of the big sport moments that made us okay with this dumpster fire of a year.
Here, in no particular order, are our defining sport moments of 2016.
The defining moments of 2016
The Final 8, hosted in Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre back in March, was historic for several reasons. It was the first time that the basketball team had hosted the tournament since 1972. It also saw the largest crowds at a UBC basketball game — ever. The ’Birds really showed up, securing a fifth-place position at the end of the tournament. But the game that stood out for me and the campus community was their first game of the tournament against the first-seed team, the Ryerson University Rams.
I remember where I was as I watched the ’Birds battle the Rams — I was in the stands, live-tweeting and screaming my adoration for UBC forward David Wagner. The team's performance at the start of the game made me fall in love with the Thunderbirds all over again. Third-year Conor Morgan shook the arena with a statement dunk, and Phil Jalalpoor's impressive long-range shooting put the T-Birds well ahead of the Rams and kept the home crowd full and satisfied.
But this story doesn't end happily. UBC blew a 12 point lead in the second quarter (no, I will not crack any anti-Warriors jokes — I am better than that). My joy turned to ashes in my throat as I watched the Rams tie the ’Birds at 90, push the game into overtime and then overtake them to win 109-101. We were close, but no cigar.
Still, it was an incredible moment, and one that I am sure the UBC community will always remember. It showed that no matter what naysayers say, or how much haters hate, there is a living breathing sports scene here at UBC. I left that arena with soaked eyes, a heavy heart and hard hearing.
Despite the score, UBC won.
Editor's note: Don't let this distract you from the fact that the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead.
Sixth in the Six
Okay, so at what point does the mercy rule come into effect?
The women's field hockey team kept with tradition and took their sixth-straight national championship. The only other team that is as synonymous with constant winning and being the best is DJ Khaled and the We The Best Music Group. #BlessUp.
The team did not lose a single game throughout their entire season and has now won 18 national championships, tied with the women's swim team for the the most national titles out of all Thunderbirds teams.
“We’re obviously very excited to win and very humbled to win. I think it’s a goal that we commit to every single year,” said UBC head coach Robin D’Abreo, who has had every single one of his Thunderbird seasons end with a national title win.
Tell me, how can I get to a point where I have dominated every facet of a sport and still feel humble? This is the sporting equivalent of being married to Beyoncé and not constantly rapping or bragging about it. We get it Jay-Z — Beyoncé is pretty great.
Women's hockey winning streak
Rain drop. Drop top. Hoping that their winning streak won't stop stop.
The only thing that makes me happier than using a Migos/“Bad and Boojee” reference in an article is the joy I get from following the ’Birds' trail and seeing the destruction in their wake.
The UBC women's hockey team have won 14 straight games and have lost only one game — against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies — back in October. To put that in perspective, they have 12 regular season games left. They have already won a majority of their matches.
This is coming off one of their best seasons in their history. They took the Canada West title last year in three agonizing games against the University of Manitoba Bisons — one of the clutchest moments I've seen in hockey — and went on to win the silver medal at the U Sports national championships, making it to the finals for the first time in UBC history.
If any team deserves to head into the annals of history immortalized and remembered forever, it's this one. Let's hope they take the U Sport national championships in 2017.
Five players drafted from UBC football
The football team won the Vanier Cup in 2015. It was huge, okay — no one can take that away from me.
But the story doesn't end there. The Vanier Cup-winning team made history once again when five of its players were drafted into the CFL.
Linebackers Terrell Davis and Mitch Barnett, defensive lineman Boyd Richardson, defensive back Taylor Loffler and kicker Quinn van Gylswyk got their names called in the CFL entry draft back in May, and became professional football players.
Good job, guys.
The men's hockey team has had a really weird year. Their former head coach Tyler Kuntz left angrily in 2015 and Adam Shell took over the ropes. They then went on a brilliant run in the latter half of the year that made everyone hopeful for a bounceback.
But then everything went to hell. In traditional 2016 fuckery, the ’Birds were hit with several injuries to key players and had one of the worst implosions I have ever seen in my 20-something-year old life (which also includes The Warriors blowing a 3-1 lead). Adam Shell's subsequent departure left the team's future uncertain.
Yet we can and should ignore all of these mishaps, and focus on the positives (I said this was totally objective, right?). Look at the flowers, Lizzie. Look at the flowers.
The Winter Classic.
The event is a regular season game against the University of Lethbridge Proghorns, on steroids. With over 3,500 spectators in attendance, it is the confluence of student engagement and sports on campus — the love child of UBC Athletics, AMS Events and the Calendar. Even though UBC has historically gotten skewered by the Pronghorns, it remains one of the more defining moments of the year.
It's going to be back once again, so keep your eyes peeled. And hey, there's cheap booze, and you and your friends can argue about the right way to pronounce Wes Vannieuwenhuizen's name. Good luck.
Also, what is a Pronghorn?
Esports lit up on campus
If something needs to die this year and stay dead — more than Harambe memes — it should be anti-eSports slander. Much discussion came last year about whether or not eSports was a real sport, and whether or not it had a place at UBC. The eSports Association had looked to gain more recognition at the start of this year. The progress of the club since then has put any doubts to rest and legitimized their struggle.
“There [are] already some universities that are recognizing eSports and they’re even giving eSports scholarships,” said Jason Dong, a fourth-year statistics student and eSports player in a Ubyssey interview earlier in the year. “eSports is a developing scene — it would be really cool to see if UBC could support it.”
In April, their League of Legends team defeated Robert Morris University in the uLoL Campus series grand finals, and won $180,000 in scholarship money for the second time in a row. The team had taken their throne once again as North America's best team.
Since then, the club has opened up a new lounge in the Nest with the support of the AMS, and also dismantled their cross-town rivals at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in a Yahoo eSports exhibition series. If any of this isn't a case for a new recognized status for teams like the eSports clubs, I don't know what is.
Your move, UBC.
The Rio 2016 Olympics
The summer of 2016 will stand out to many of us because of the Rio Olympics. Specifically, it was because UBC sent a record number of athletes to the games.
“This is a record-setting contingent — the largest delegation of any Canadian university,” President Santa Ono said back in July. “I daresay, maybe one of the largest delegations in the world. I’m incredibly proud.”
In addition to that, the T-Birds really brought the heat. First-year swimmer Emily Overholt was the first student to win a medal at Rio, earning bronze in the women's 4x200m freestyle relay. Racewalker Evan Dunfee was an Olympic bronze medalist for a few hours. Yuri Kisil held his own in the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay, where he swam against Michael Phelps and Australian swimmer Kyle Chalmers, who won the gold in the 100m freestyle.
All in all, it was a great summer for the Thunderbirds.
Thunderbirds get drafted to MLB
Yet another batch of students were drafted into a professional league, this time from the UBC baseball team. Pitcher Curtis Taylor was drafted to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the fourth round — the second-highest selection in UBC history. Two other Thunderbirds — Alex Webb and Bruce Yari — were drafted that same day to the Cincinnati Reds.
This came after the baseball team's “bittersweet” successes in the 2016 season. They made it into the opening round and defeated Olivet Nazarene University, but then fell to the top-ranked Georgia Gwinnett College Grizzlies and Lindsey Wilson College Blue Raiders. Still, the team accomplished much despite the odds, and definitely stood out this year.
“With Chris [Pritchett] being a first-time head coach, there’s definitely some unexpected obstacle that he had to overcome, but I thought the coaching staff did a great job preparing us for the season and preparing us for playoffs,” said Yari, in an interview with The Ubyssey back in May.
Matt Hewitt's call up to the Vancouver Canucks
On the morning of October 19, Matt Hewitt — goaltender for the UBC men's hockey team — received a life-changing notice from head coach Sven Butenschon. He had been called up as an emergency back-up in a one-day contract with the Canucks. Ryan Miller, the regular Canucks goalie, was out on injury and there was no time to fly in another goalie to back up Jacob Markstrom.
For a day, he was Vancouver and UBC's very own golden child. Before the game against the St. Louis Blues, he prepped for the game with the rest of the team, received high fives and fist bumps from fans, and even got chirped by some of the other players.
“It's a little bit different walking into a rink when there are a bunch of cameras looking at you, but I came here and tried to act professional,” said Hewitt in an interview with The Ubyssey. “Words can't describe it. It's a dream come true.”
Although he didn't actually get on the ice, he did have lots of stories to tell. He did an AMA a week later and some of the responses are gold.
His parting words: “If they ever need me back, they know where to find me — 1-0 so far!”
The varsity teams really showed up this year
Let's be real — 2016 was a shitty year for sports and the Thunderbirds were lamentable most of the time.
I mean, that statement is totally true if you ignore all the great things that the ’Birds have done from January to December.
Let's run through.
The UBC women’s and men’s rowing teams claimed first and second respectively in the Western Canadian University Rowing Championships at Burnaby Lake. The team then went on to the Canadian University Rowing Championships in Niagara, which they also dominated— the men's team won gold and the women's team were only three points away from the champion, the University of Western Ontario.
The cross country program was also on a roll. The women's team snagged their fourth title in five years, while the men's team finished in third place.
“It speaks volume not to a single person, but the depth of that [cross country] program,” said UBC head coach Laurier Primeau.
Other teams went really far in their respective leagues. UBC men's rugby won their third-straight World Cup championship. The swim teams took the Canada West title. Women's soccer claimed the silver medal in the U Sport national championship game against Laval, while men's soccer finished fifth. Football ended their season with a close 46-43 loss in the Hardy Cup final. Women's rugby won the Canadian University Sevens tournament.
Bottom line — the ’Birds are putting out such a solid reputation that I trust them and even Metro Boomin can trust them too.
What the fresh hell is this?
The sheer audacity of Jalalpoor on this half-court buzzer is stunning.
His entrances should upset me, and yet here we are.
She is one of the solid dependable cornerstones of the women's basketball and she is also just a bundle of joy. Watch her be humble after a 37 point game. Look at her.
I mean. Look. At. Her.
Logan Carver and Conaire Kehoe
One day in the future, my son Logan Conaire Olaniyan will look up at me and ask about the moment that changed my life forever, and I will call back to the moment I first saw this video. I'm being completely serious.
Leaving this without comment.
This touchdown made my year.