The decade kicked off with a goal. Not just any goal — a golden one.
“Sidney Crosby! The golden goal!”
The goal that gave Canada a hockey gold medal came at the tail end of a Winter Olympics for the ages, as Vancouver welcomed athletes from around the world to Canada to compete in 2010.
But little did we know those Olympics would kick off a decade of sports excellence, memories and warm fuzzy feelings. From hockey to baseball to tennis and more, the decade was filled with iconic moments that had Canadians on their feet (and also shedding a tear or two).
With recent icons like Bianca Andreescu and the 2019 Toronto Raptors top of mind, it might be easy to forget the memorable moments that came before. But there were plenty of times Canada’s athletes (and some honorary Canadians, here’s looking at you Jose Bautista) had us on our feet.
Let’s look back at 10 moments sports made us feel that big ol’ swell of maple leaf pride in the 2010s.
The whole decade: Tessa and Scott win medals and our hearts
We can’t talk about the 2010s in Canadian sport without talking about our favourite duo. With three gold medals and two silver medals collected over the three Olympics of the decade, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir made the sport of ice dance cool again.
Earlier this year, the two announced they were “stepping away” from figure skating, providing a symbolic bookend to a decade that started with them taking Olympic gold in Vancouver in 2010.
In Sochi in 2016, they wowed once again, skating to a silver medal in ice dance and a shared team figure skating silver medal.
But if there was a peak Tess and Scott moment of the 2010s, it had to be their free dance at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.
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Set to a sexy, dark version of the Police’s “Roxanne,” Scott and Tessa showed one more time why we love them so much.
But they were also icons off the ice, from drunk Scott cheering on the hockey team to their reality TV show to the constant wondering if they’re dating (they’re not, Scott just got engaged to someone else!).
We can mark the passage of the decade in these moments. Tessa in white, then pink, then black. The varying music tracks. Watching as they move from promising upstarts to industry veterans.
WATCH: Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir get a very Canadian welcome home. Story continues below.
How do you measure, measure the 2010s? Well, why not start with 525,600 moments of Scott and Tessa.
2010: Olympic gold comes home
Before 2010, Canada had hosted the Olympics twice in our history. First, the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, then the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.
But through both of those Games, we never won a gold medal on home soil. That changed in 2010 — on the second day of competition, when Alexandre Bilodeau won the men’s moguls skiing event. His would be the first of 14 gold medals won by Canada over the course of the Games — the most ever by a single country in a Winter Olympics.
The 2010 Olympics will be remembered for moments like Bilodeau’s. Moments like when Jon Montgomery won gold in the men’s skeleton event and paraded through the streets of Whistler, B.C. with a pitcher of beer.
WATCH: Olympic golden boy Jon Montgomery to host ‘Amazing Race Canada.’ Story continues below.
They will be remembered for Joannie Rochette skating to a bronze medal just days after the sudden death of her mother, Charles Hamlin winning two speed-skating golds within hours and the Canadian women’s hockey team celebrating with beer and cigars after downing the Americans 2-0.
February 2020 will mark a decade since Canada and the world turned to our west coast and came together. Be prepared for a lot more nostalgia to come.
2010: The Golden Goal
Yeah, Sidney Crosby’s game-winner gets its own entry, it’s that iconic. It was Feb. 28, 2010. The gold-medal game for men’s hockey at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
The game was tied 2-2 in overtime. Crosby called out “Iggy!” and took a pass from Jerome Iginla, tucking the puck into the net behind the goaltender.
The country went wild.
It’s one of those moments in history where almost every Canadian can tell you where they were — at a bar, in the rink, on the couch at home. Unlike many Olympics held around the world, we were all awake for this one, all watching with bated breath. For a single instant, we were all one, together.
Crosby cemented his status as a national hero, we won the gold medal in hockey on home soil, and for just that moment, everything seemed right in the world. There would be other gold medals and other goals, but nothing will ever quite capture the magic of Feb. 28, 2010.
2011: A moment of peace in the riot
A Canadian NHL team hasn’t won the Stanley Cup since 1993, a drought that continues to this day. We came close in 2011, though, when the Vancouver Canucks made it to Game 7 of the final against the Boston Bruins.
However, it wasn’t meant to be. On June 15, 2011, about 20 minutes before the game ended with a Boston victory, the rioting started in downtown Vancouver. Cars were set on fire. People climbed Porta Potties. Downtown Vancouver shut down as stores were looted and fans ran through the street.
The lasting image from the riot though, will forever be a photograph by Getty Images’ Richard Lam, which showed a couple kissing in the middle of the riot.
The subject of the photo, Alexandra Thomas from Coquitlam, B.C., had been knocked down by police. Her Australian boyfriend, Scott Jones was comforting her.
“My first thought was there are two people hurt on the ground and I’m going to shoot tomorrow’s picture. I thought it might be police brutality, so I got the policeman in the picture,” Lam recalled to the Province in 2016. “I quickly zoomed in on their legs to make sure it was in focus and that’s all I saw.”
Lam’s hasty shot would go on to become one of the most famous photos of all time. It was praised around the world, and just this week was named as one of CNN’s top 100 photos of the decade.
“To have part of your life ingrained in the history of the country—of hockey in Canada—is pretty cool,” Thomas, who now lives in Australia, told Maclean’s in 2016. “You never expect it, and it’s not something you can predict or plan, but it’s definitely a moment we won’t forget.”
2012 (and 2016!): Seeing double bronze for women’s soccer
Canadian women’s soccer team captain Christine Sinclair deserves to be talked about in any conversation about sports in the 2010s.
The team took two Olympic bronze medals in 2012 and 2016. But the shining moment for the team actually came during a loss — the 2012 semi-final game against the eventual gold medal champion United States. With star players like Abby Wambauch and Hope Solo, everyone expected the Americans to crush.
But the game was a tight affair, with then-burgeoning U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe (ever heard of her?) netting two goals and another off a hand-ball penalty. But Sinclair managed to top that stellar performance with one of her own, scoring three (THREE!) goals.
WATCH: Tracks that inspire Canada’s Women’s soccer team. Story continues below.
The loss was heartbreaking, considering controversial officiating, Sinclair’s masterclass in the sport and how close the Canadians came to winning.
A last-minute goal from Alex Morgan kept the Canadians out of the gold medal game, but the performance in London vaulted the women’s national team to beloved status. Over the 2010s, they followed it up with another bronze medal in Rio in 2016, hosting the World Cup in 2015 and placing in the top 16 of the 2019 World Cup.
With a near non-existent men’s soccer team, the women have held the Canadian flag with pride at international competitions throughout the decade. The whole time, Sinclair has led them with grace, drive and excellence.
Looking ahead to 2020, she and the team will have another shot at Olympic glory in Japan. Sinclair, who turns 37 next year, likely won’t be on the field much longer. But when she does leave the sport, she’ll leave behind more than a decade of inspiring a nation.
There are a lot of little girls out there in soccer because of Christine Sinclair.
2015:The bat flip heard ’round the world
Canada isn’t usually thought of as a baseball country. Since the Montreal Expos left to become the Washington Nationals in Washington, D.C. in 2004, only the Toronto Blue Jays have held down the diamond in the north.
But in 2015, the country rallied behind the Jays. It was the first year the team had made the playoffs since winning the World Series in 1993. They had lovable players, a maple leaf on their jersey and the potential to go all the way.
But the result — a deep playoff run with an eventual conference championship loss to the Kansas City Royals — isn’t what will be remembered about the 2015 year.
It’s the bat flip.
You probably can remember where you were when Jose Bautista smashed a monster home run to clinch the Blue Jays’ ticket to the ALCS. I was at the Den, the student bar at the University of Calgary, unable to look away. I was late to my anthropology midterm that night because I couldn’t get through the celebrating crowd.
The flip itself is etched into our public consciousness. The roar of the crowd, Bautista’s nonchalant stare, the way the bat arched through the air as if frozen in time.
Bautista’s bat flip has been immortalized on shirts, ugly Christmas sweaters and more. It is, frankly, a Heritage Moment.
Thank you Joey Bats. We are not worthy.
2016: Penny Oleksiak swims into history
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, one competitor won four medals, set an Olympic record and five Canadian records — and she was only 16.
In Rio, Penny Oleksiak swam right into the history books with two bronze medals, a silver and a gold. She personally won the same number of medals as the entire Canadian team did over the past two summer Olympics. It was the most medals won by a single Canadian at a Summer Olympics ever — and it was also the first major international meet Oleksiak ever swam in.
Canada fell in love with the girl with the giant smile. And while rumours circulated that she’d be a shoo-in as flag-bearer, she didn’t believe it. Oleksiak flew home, went to Canada’s Wonderland and adopted a cat named Rio — normal 16-year-old things.
Then she got the call to fly back to Rio and carry Canada’s flag for the closing ceremony.
The teenager went on to be named Canada’s athlete of the year for 2016 and garnered the admiration of Canadians across the country, including Drake.
She jumped back into the public eye this year after being spotted with fellow beloved sports icon (and member of this list!) Bianca Andreescu at a Toronto Raptors game. Because what’s better than one iconic Canadian sports hero, but two?
Oleksiak hopes to have a sequel to her 2016 success at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan. See you in Tokyo!
2018: Sticks out for Humboldt
Some of the most uniting, heart-wrenching sports moments take place off the ice. That was the case in 2018, following the tragic bus crash that killed 16 players and personnel from the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team and left 13 more injured.
Outpourings of support came from across the country and around the world to remember the fallen players and team personnel. Moments of silence were held at games around the world, and tributes poured in following the crash and on its one-year anniversary this past year.
One simple way people honoured the victims in the days following the accident was through images of hockey sticks outside their front doors with the hashtags #PutYourStickOut and #SticksOutForHumboldt.
The trend was popularized after TSN hockey broadcaster Brian Munz shared an image sent from a friend.
“Leaving it out on the porch tonight,” the text said. “The boys might need it… wherever they are.”
The move quickly caught on, with thousands of people sharing images of sticks left out for the fallen team.
Tributes even poured in from the United States and around the world.
Over $15 million was raised to support the survivors and families following the crash.
By now we know how the story ends. The Toronto Raptors are NBA champions after a season that captured the hearts and minds of the country.
But every story has a beginning. And like Crosby’s golden goal or Bautista’s bat flip, one moment from that run will be etched in the history books forever — the four bounce buzzer-beater.
As time expired, Kawhi Leonard stepped back into the corner, leaping and launching the ball into the air. He fell to the ground in a crouch, the team surrounding him as it ping off the rim once, twice, three times and one final time before falling in.
It was a shot replicated in animation, dozens of different angles and languages and even LEGO.
The Raptors would go on to beat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Final, winning their first championship — and the first NBA championship for a Canadian team — ever. Then there was a parade, featuring plenty of champagne and of course the champagne papi himself, Drake.
Over the course of their run, we fell in love with the players from “Spicy P” Pascal Siakam to “Boardman” Leonard to longtime beloved Raptor Kyle Lowry. “Superfan” Nav Bhatia, who’s followed the team for decades, captured hearts around the world with his enthusiasm and love of the sport and Toronto (and he even got his own championship ring). He also built bridges with a Milwaukee fan who sent out a racist tweet in a story that showed the very best of our inclusive country.
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Whether the Raptors win again or not, 2019 will always be remembered as the year the championship came north.
And it all goes back to that iconic shot.
2019: Bianca Andreescu dominates tennis and the world
Canada’s had its fair share of tennis icons, from Eugenie Bouchard to Milos Raonic. But in 2019, Canadian tennis hit the zeitgeist with the rise of Bianca Andreescu.
Andreescu started the year ranked outside of the top 100 players worldwide. But as the months passed by, so did Andreescu’s breeze through the rankings. She was the youngest person to win the coveted Indian Wells tournament since Serena Williams did in 1999.
Andreescu posted a 44-4 record on the year going into her hometown Rogers Cup final, where she faced off against arguably the greatest player in the history of the sport in Williams. Williams was forced to retire due to back spasms, resulting in Andreescu taking the victory. In a touching moment, Andreescu went up to Williams on the bench and hugged her, telling the veteran how much she admires her.
A few weeks later, Williams and Andreescu had a rematch at the U.S. Open Final, where Andreescu won again, handily beating the veteran to become the first Canadian ever to win the tournament.
WATCH: Bianca Andreescu is queen of the north. Story continues below.
Along the way, she captured our hearts and garnered praise from icons including Drake, Wayne Gretzky, Billie Jean King and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Her impossibly cool mom and dog Coco were named as icons as well (and for good reason, those sunglasses!)
Andreescu was named as the Canadian athlete of the year for 2019 after her stellar performance, and for all intents and purposes, Andreescu is the face of Canadian sports heading into 2020.
She’s not stopping anytime soon — the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are right around the corner.
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