Taking stock of stellar Sherwood sports

Brent Saik (right) hugs James McCormack as the World's Longest Hockey Game comes to a close at Saikers' Acres in Strathcona County on Monday, Feb. 19. Photo by David Bloom/Postmedia Network

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There are not many communities in the entire country that can boast of the kind of sporting success stories both at home and abroad that can be found on an annual basis in Sherwood Park and Strathcona County.

This year was no different, be it from athletic achievements to serving as a host community for unique events.

Here are five of my favourite moments from a very productive 2018 Sherwood sports scene.

1. Osmond awesome

Kaetlyn Osmond wowed the world on the international figure skating stage this year.

The 22-year-old, who moved to Sherwood Park from her native Newfoundland when she was 10, became the first Canadian woman to win gold at the world championships since Vancouver’s Karen Magnussen in 1973.

Osmond is the fourth Canadian woman to ever win a world title. Petra Burka took gold in 1965 and the legendary Barbara Ann Scott registered consecutive wins in 1947 and 1948.

“This feels unbelievable for me,” Osmond said. “Being world champion is something I never expected.

“Canada has such a strong history of competitors in all disciplines. Just that gold medal was always a fight for the ladies. Hopefully, now we’ll be able to be champions a lot more.”

The gold medal joined a bronze medal in women’s and a gold in the team event captured at this year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea. Osmond also had a team silver from the Olympics in Sochi, Russia four years previous.

“The reaction from home has been incredible. I have received so many messages of congratulations,” she said. “Seeing so many people excited reminds me that I have so much support in Canada.”

Osmond was one of six athletes with Sherwood Park ties to compete at the Olympics, which seem a zillion years ago now all the turmoil 2018 has wrought.

Also taking part were former Sherwood Park Crusaders goalie Shannon Szabados, adopted Alaskan men’s figure skater Keegan Messing, curler Scott Pfeifer, freestyle skier Mike Riddle and skeleton competitor Kevin Boyer.

2. Another Game over

The sixth edition of the World’s Longest Hockey Game wrapped up on Family Day at Brent Saik’s Strathcona County acreage, where he and 39 other cancer crusaders concluded their arduous 11-day journey of playing for 252 consecutive hours to once again set a new standard in the Guinness Book of World Records and raise as much money as possible for Alberta cancer research to benefit PROFYLE — precision oncology for young people —  a five-year study beginning next year involving about 500 young adults.

The event began three acreages ago in 2003 when Saik — the team optometrist for the Edmonton Oilers, Eskimos and Oil Kings — decided to invite in 39 friends and go for the record, which at that point was a comparatively easy 82 hours.

Saik was initially dedicating that event to his father’s memory, but his wife Susan was then diagnosed with what proved to be fatal non-Hodgkin lymphoma and the game became more of legacy than a lark.

Since that initial game, four more World’s Longest Hockey Games had been staged at increasingly bigger venues, with the previous edition going 250 hours of straight shinny over an 11-day period in February of 2015.

This year, they shattered the current record of 250 hours, three minutes and 21 seconds set by a group from Buffalo — mind you they did theirs indoors, a much easier feat than what the local players endure at Saikers Acres outdoors in the middle of winter in Canada.

Combined, the five previous Games raised more than $3.4 million.

Saik and Co. added approximately another million to that total during the 2018 longest game.

3. Silver broom

Sherwood Park curler Brendan Bottcher definitely made the most of his second shot at the Brier.

After having one of the worst records in Alberta men’s curling history when he went 3-8 to finish 10th at the 2017 Brier Canadian men’s curling championship in Newfoundland, Sherwood Park skip Bottcher and his team of Darren Moulding, Brad Thiessen and Karrick Martin came very close to stealing the show in their second straight Brier appearance this year in Regina.

Sherwood Park skip Brendan Bottcher made it all the way to the final in his second Brier appearance this year.Ed Kaiser/Postmedia Network

Bottcher and Co. reversed their fortunes and went 8-3 in the round robin and made it all the way to the championship game, where they would ultimately fall 6-4 to defending champion Brad Gushue in the Brier final.

“That’s just how it works in sports,” Bottcher said. “There were 16 teams there and 15 of them were going to be unhappy at the end of the week. It was tough to get that close and lose it, just because you never know how many more chances you are going to have. You never know how many more Briers you are going to get back to, let alone playoff games in Briers. Hopefully I will get a chance to get back there. I think the trajectory we are on is super promising. We are a young team. Brad (Gushue) didn’t win his first Brier until his 13th appearance. It shows the depth of curlers in Canada. A lot of the teams we beat, for us to have success against them was pretty eye-opening for us.”

To top off his year, Bottcher was featured on HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver in a segment poking fun at the politeness of Canadians by displaying “arguments” while curling at the Brier.

4. Football feats

Four Sherwood Park football teams managed to win titles this season, including two divisional championships for senior high school football teams in games played at Commonwealth Stadium.

After a winless season the year before, the ABJ Scots came away with the Metro League’s Division 2 Miles Conference championship.Photo Supplied

The Archbishop Jordan Scots won the Metro Edmonton League’s Division 2 Miles Conference championship game, 27-12 over rival St. Albert.

“We went into the game very business-like, although we knew how big a deal it would be to be playing in Commonwealth, so we gave the kids an opportunity to gawk around a bit and take in the moment before they got focused on the game,” said Scots head coach Frank Yuzyk. . “We reminded them that the field was still 110 yards long by 65 wide and it didn’t matter what the barn looked like. They really bought into that. This is a huge win for the ABJ Scots program. We are playing in the division we belong in and to bring this championship home, we all have a great appreciation for the moment and what this means to the football club.”

Meanwhile, the Ardrossan Bisons, the smallest school with a football team in the entire Metro Edmonton League, absolutely dominated in Division 3 Gilfillan Conference play this season, going 5-0 in league play while outscoring opponents 217-34. and then winning the league title with a 31-2 victory over Sturgeon in the final.

“I was just so happy for the kids, because they worked so hard,” said Bisons head coach Paul Schwartz. “You are happy that they get that opportunity to win a championship, something that not a lot of kids ever get to do. Especially in that stadium. It has been a while since we have won a league championship, I think not since 2010 or 2011. It’s great that we were able to add to our proud legacy at our school. There were a few kids that had the best games of their entire high school careers. What a great time for them to have those kind of games. I am just so happy for these kids and so proud of them.”

Also winning at the high school level were the Salisbury Sabres junior football team, which defended its Tier 1 title from the year previous.

At the Bantam level, the Sherwood Park Northstars won a Tier 4 championship in a year where they often had to play with as few as 16-20 players, defeating the St. Albert Fury 48-12 in the final.

““It wasn’t our best game, but it was still a win in a championship game,” Stars head coach Dylan Wright said. “It was the last game we played this year and we got ourselves a championship. We have a lot to be proud of this year, especially with how few players we had. It was almost the norm for us with injuries and what have you to have fewer than 20. To win a championship in any tier, that’s got to be viewed as a huge success. When you have so few bodies to work with, you really need everybody to be on board and on the same page, and we got that from this group, week-in and week-out.”

5. Cru change

This story is still in progress.

In the midst of their 40th year of play in Sherwood Park since moving the team to town from Edmonton, the Sherwood Park Crusaders are writing one heck of a story with their most successful season in decades.

Heading into the holiday break, the Crusaders had posted an impressive record of 27-6-2, which kept them two points up on the Bonnyville Pontiacs for first place in the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s North Division.

Not only that, but they are currently ranked eighth in the entire national for their level.

With a talented squad and what appears to be a ton of depth, if they keep on going like they have, the Cru could very well top this list next year.

sjones@postmedia.com

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