It scarcely needs mentioning that 2020 was a hard time for everybody, and aspects of life that we all took for granted were suddenly swiped away. The devastation that the year brought to the sporting world is just one example of this. Canada entered 2020 expecting a good year for sports: after all, the 2020 Olympic Games were scheduled to be held in Tokyo, offering Canada’s top sportspersons to compete with the rest of the world, while many events were lined up to be held within Canada’s own borders.
But then the virus began spreading across the world; and worries, anxieties and doubts began spreading with it. Although many people tried to remain focused on the positive, the rise of the global pandemic during the first quarter of 2020 made it clear enough that the year would be an unusual one, and the sporting world would be one of the casualties.
One of the first signs that things were changing in 2020 back in March, during the early stages of the pandemic. On the 23rd of that month, Canada (alongside Britain and Australia) announced that it would be pulling out of the Olympic Games unless the event was delayed for a year. The postponement of the Olympics was the event that sent the most shockwaves through the world of sports, but it was far from the only disruption.
March saw further events being either brought to abrupt ends or cancelled outright. Casualties include the FIS Cross-Country world Cup (the two final events of which were scheduled to take place in Quebec City and Canmore), the National Basketball League of Canada, the Montreal-based Wold Figure Skating Championships, the Canadian Football League and Hockey Canada.
So, by the end of March it would have been clear to all that 2020 was going to be an unusual year for sports and cricket in particular. Fans and competitors alike had long grown used to the idea that the games would occur year after year with no changes to the basic ethos, an assumption that may be true in some cases — this guide about what to bet on in cricket will remain applicable wherever the game is played, for example — but was nonetheless shaken by the mass cancelations of 2020. And those cancelations continued throughout the year as seen with the Global T20 Canada cricket tournament – the betting companies did already have their odds and fans their predictions in place when the cancelation was announced.
In June U Sports, the national governing body of university sports which had already cut short its ice hockey championships, announced the cancellation of all national championships for the fall semester: cross-country, field hockey, rugby and soccer were all affected, as was football, leading to the Vanier Cup being cancelled for the first time in its history.
The body later announced the cancellation of winter events. At around the same time Ontario University Athletics, Canada West and Atlantic University Sport declared similar cancellations. Skating was still another sport to be disrupted. The International Skating World Cup, which was to be held partly in Canada, was cancelled; the 2020 Skate Canada International turned out to be still another casualty of the pandemic.
Some events still went ahead, of course, and sports fans were treated to such unforgettable moments as Teoscar Hernandez of the Toronto Blue Jays winning the Silver slugger award, or soccer stars Alphonso Davies and Kadeisha Buchanan winning the Men’s and Women’s Champions Leagues respectively. But even high spots like these often brought with them grim reminders of the surrounding turmoil. The empty stadiums, with no audience members to roar and cheer their approval of each victory, lent a wildly different atmosphere to each event. Make no mistake, sports were different in 2020, for Canada and for the rest of the world.
As we enter 2021, some are cautiously optimistic. The pandemic is still with us, but so are vaccines that carry the promise of tackling or at least lessening the spread of COVID-19. The world of Canadian sports remains uncertain, but there is a chance that some of the events absent from 2020 will make triumphant returns during 2021.
Feature image: Montreal Canadiens and the NHL playing 2020-21 season with no fans.