Recapping this year’s great sports events — despite the pandemic
The year is coming to an end, and it’s time to recap what happened in sports in 2020. This year has been filled with unforeseen situations, but luckily for sports fans, leagues around the world have begun to see a bit of a return to normal these past few months.
Here’s a look back at important moments that happened in sports this past year:
National Hockey League (NHL)
It’s been a unique year for the league, as the 2019–20 regular season had to be abruptly postponed, and then cancelled the remaining games in order to resume right away with a special playoff format.
We saw the Montreal Canadiens take advantage of the new format, qualifying for the 24th and last spot available for what was first a qualifying round to the playoffs. It was the first time since 2016–17 that the Habs qualified for the postseason.
The Stanley Cup was finally won on Sept. 28, 2020, with the Tampa Bay Lightning defeating the Dallas Stars in six games. It was the Lightning’s second Stanley Cup after also lifting the trophy in 2004. For the Stars, it was an impressive playoff run, surprising many fans and analysts. The team didn’t start the regular season on the right track, but turned things around in time and came close.
Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and Women’s Tennis Association (WTA)
It’s been a busy season for tennis organizers. Most ATP and WTA tournaments have been cancelled this season because of COVID-19, while others, except for tournaments in January and February, were postponed.
Despite that, we’ve still seen important achievements in 2020. In the ATP, third racket in the world Dominic Thiem won his first Grand Slam title last September when he won the US Open. On his way, he defeated Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev, both members of the top 10.
Later in September, we saw the Grand Slam tournament of Roland-Garros exceptionally being played in fall. Normally, Roland-Garros is competed from late May to early June, which made a huge difference for players since the tournament is played on clay, and the colder weather impacted the ball’s speed and rebounds on the surface. Of course, many players were not used to playing in such cold weather, meaning we saw some wearing jackets during their matches.
Tournament favorite Rafael Nadal won his 13th Roland-Garros this year, a record in professional tennis. He has joined Federer at the top of the list, tied with 20 Grand Slam titles each.
In the WTA, young sensation Iga Świątek surprised the tennis world by winning Roland-Garros, her first ever singles title. At just 19 years-old, she defeated Markéta Vondroušová (21st), Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep (2nd), and 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin (4th).
Major Baseball League (MLB)
The MLB season was shortened to 60 games, which forced the league to modify its postseason format. This year’s postseason allowed 16 teams to compete for the title. With a 32-28 record, the Toronto Blue Jays took the last spot in the American League and qualified for the wild-card series round. Despite their early elimination, it’s been great to see the Blue Jays qualify for the postseason.
It’s been hard for the MLB to organize its season with all the cities involved, but it ended pretty well. The Los Angeles Dodgers won their first championship since 1988, after coming really close in the past few years. They defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in six games.
What was interesting about this series was the difference between the two teams’ payroll. While the Dodgers had the second highest payroll in the MLB with $107.9 million, the Rays competed with the third lowest of all, a mere $28.3 million. It raised a lot of questions on parity in baseball, since we’re normally used to having high-payroll teams playing the World Series.
National Football League (NFL)
The NFL always seemed clear that they would maintain their season, and despite some COVID-19 cases in the league and postponed games, things have been going fairly well for the league, considering the circumstances.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have won their first 11 games of the season, the best season start in franchise history. After finishing 8-8 in 2019–20, the Steelers seem to be a totally different team so far this year.
Another team to watch are the defending Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs. The team is currently 11-1 after 12 games, and easily leads the AFC West division.
Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA)
All eyes were on defending champion Tiger Woods at the 84th edition of the Masters. The event, normally held in April, was rescheduled for Nov. 12 to 15.
It was finally the best golfer in the world, Dustin Johnson, who put on the green jacket as winner of the tournament.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)
We saw many great Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fights in the UFC this year, but one thing that stood out is surely Khabib Nurmagomedov’s last fight. The superstar remained perfect with a 29-0 record, defeating Justin Gaethje in his only fight of 2020.
After the fight, Nurmagomedov announced his retirement from the UFC, following his father’s death. Nurmagomedov is considered as one of, if not the best MMA fighters of all time.
Graphic by Rose-Marie Dion