It’s been a big year for sports in the Bridge City. In fact, 2016 was one of the most successful years ever for Saskatoon teams and athletes in terms of the number of championships won.
But the last 12 months didn’t come without a few bumps in the road.
With the year rapidly coming to a close it’s time to take a look back at the top five Saskatoon sports stories in 2016.
After years of failed attempts, the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) is finally moving forward on a new multi-sport arena complex to replace the 87-year-old Rutherford Rink, home to the Huskies hockey teams.
The project was made possible thanks to an unprecedented $12.5-million donation from U of S alumnus Merlis Belsher, whose name will grace the new facility.
The complex will also include a dedicated practice facility for the Huskies basketball teams, featuring two NBA-size courts, and new locker rooms for the Huskies soccer teams. The Saskatoon Minor Hockey Association will also make regular use of the new ice surfaces.
Construction is expected to begin some time in 2017.
The most successful junior football team in national history continued its historic run of dominance, beating the B.C. conference-champion Westshore Rebels 37-25 to win their 19th Canadian Bowl championship and sixth in the last seven years.
Quarterback Jared Andreychuk capped his junior career with a fourth national title after winning MVP honours in the Prairie Football Conference.
The victory marked the Hilltops’ third three-peat in club history. They will try for a record fourth straight championship in 2017.
After winning the Canada West title, the Huskies then claimed the Bronze Baby trophy with an 85-71 win over the Ryerson Rams in the national final, following a number of close calls in recent years.
Three-time All-Canadian Dalyce Emmerson and 2016 Canada West MVP Laura Dally led the way, and head coach Lisa Thomaidis was finally rewarded with her first national title after 17 years at the helm of the Huskies program.
But it wasn’t all good news for Dogs’ coaches in 2016.
At a hastily arranged press conference just prior to Christmas, the winningest coach in Canadian university history choked back tears as he announced he would be stepping down.
The news prompted questions about whether Towriss had full say in the decision, and eyebrows were raised further a week later when university president Peter Stoicheff issued a public apology to Towriss for how the news was announced.
Huskies fans may never know the full story behind Towriss’s departure, but one thing is certain: his replacement will have some big shoes to fill.
Twelve months ago nobody in Saskatoon could have predicted that the biggest sports story of the year would involve professional lacrosse, but the sport arrived on the scene in a big way.
The Edmonton Rush relocated to the Bridge City and became the Saskatchewan Rush, proceeding to win the hearts of the local fan base at a breakneck pace.
By the midway point in the season the Rush were playing to sellout crowds of more than 15,000 fans, whose support was rewarded when the team captured its second straight NLL Champions Cup title with a thrilling last-second win over the Buffalo Bandits at SaskTel Centre.
Now getting set to kick off their second season in Saskatchewan, the Rush are looking to become just the second team in NLL history to win three straight championships.
Those are just a few of the memorable moments in Saskatoon sports over the past year. It appears 2017 has a hard act to follow.