Rick Zamperin: From the World Juniors to the Grey Cup, predicting 2019 in sports
With every new year comes a turning of the page to new beginnings, a fresh start, and perhaps new traditions.
It’s not only a time to look back at everything that has happened over the last 12 months, it’s also the perfect time to look ahead and try to envision all the things that may happen.
With that in mind, let’s take a spin around the world of sports and fantasize about some of the wild stories that just might materialize in 2019. It’s time for some bold predictions, and I’m not holding anything back.
We begin in Vancouver/Victoria, where Canada is trying to repeat as gold medal winners at the World Junior Hockey Championship.
The Canadians will beat Finland in their quarterfinal matchup Wednesday night, but will lose in the semifinals against Sweden. But they won’t become the first Canadian team to fail to medal at home, because Canada will get their revenge over Russia in the bronze medal game, while the U.S. will beat the Swedes for gold.
Staying on the ice, Hamilton Bulldogs General Manager Steve Staios sees something in his team and picks up some pieces for another playoff run, but Hamilton will fall well short of a second consecutive OHL Championship. By the fall, however, Bulldogs captain MacKenzie Entwhistle will be skating in the NHL with the rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks.
The Toronto Maple Leafs will bring in two Brinks trucks to pay star forwards Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Matthews will earn $13 million (most of it in signing bonuses) per season, and Marner will cash in at $11 million per.
The Leafs will knock off the Buffalo Sabres in the most exciting first round series of the NHL playoffs before Toronto bows out in round 2 against eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay.
From the ice to hoops. The Toronto Raptors will finally make it to their first NBA Finals, thanks to incredible playoff performances from Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry. It would be cruel if Toronto somehow faced LeBron James and the L.A. Lakers in the Finals, but it will be the Golden State Warriors who find their stride and become the first three-peat NBA champion since the Lakers did it from 2000 to 2002.
The NFL playoffs will be just as wild and unpredictable as the regular season. A matchup between top seeds New Orleans and Kansas City will be fun to watch, but only one of those teams will make it to the Super Bowl.
The Saints, meanwhile, will win their second championship in a shootout against the Los Angeles Chargers, and New Orleans running back Alvin Kamara will be the MVP.
North of the border, the Orlondo Steinauer-led Hamilton Tiger-Cats will play an exciting brand of football on both sides of the ball and lead the team to a 10-8 regular season record — and its first Grey Cup appearance — since 2014. Unfortunately, Hamilton’s long championship drought (they haven’t won since 1999) will continue at the expense of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who will win their first Grey Cup since 1990.
Baseball’s two biggest free agents, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, both break the bank with contracts north of $30 million per season. Harper joins the Los Angeles Dodgers and Machado signs with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Sadly for both, neither team makes it to the World Series in 2019. The Houston Astros beat the Chicago Cubs to win their second MLB title in three years.
Sorry, Blue Jays fans. Toronto is on the ground floor of their rebuild and will finish in fourth place again in the A.L. East.
New Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo explains his managerial style
What may the biggest story of the year will unfold on April 14, when Tiger Woods wins The Masters in a playoff over Jordan Spieth. It will be the 43-year-old golf legend’s fifth green jacket, his first major championship since the 2008 U.S. Open and will bring him within three of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championship victories.
My crystal ball also shows that it will be Tiger’s last.
Whether or not any of these bold predictions come true, I’m sure that 2019 will be jam packed with broken records, fascinating performances and compelling stories.
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.