Handing out the hardware for 2012

It’s a cliché when you say it year after year, but as is often the case, the past 12 months in the sporting world were entertaining on the local, national, and international scenes.
Granted, there are the stories unfortunate to hear about, such as the continuing fallout of the Penn State sexual abuse scandal, the ongoing NHL lockout, and the current stoppage in high school sports here.
But for the most part, the past year has seen some amazing achievements on so many different levels, which are worth celebrating.
And for the second-straight year, we will be doing just that with the 2012 edition of the “Nosebleed Awards,” with all-winners getting replicas of the old Avco Cup trophy from the erstwhile WHA league.
•Play of the Year: Blake Griffin’s ferocious slam-dunk on Kendrick Perkins of the Oklahoma City Thunder during an NBA regular-season game last Jan. 30.
Granted, you probably could put a number of plays by the L.A. Clippers’ star in a year-end highlight reel, but the fact that he launched over the 6’10” Perkins with relative ease and threw the ball down on his head was quite astonishing.
•The Best Game That Took Place in Canada: The 2012 Memorial Cup final between the London Knights and Shawinigan Cataractes on May 27 .
Besides the fact the final game of the major hockey season in this country went to overtime, what put this contest over the top was the fact it was the underdog hosts from Shawinigan who were able to knock off all three league champs (the Edmonton Oil Kings, Saint John Sea Dogs, and the Knights) to capture their first-ever national title.
And from what my friend and fellow reporter Brad Coccimiglio told me, the reaction inside the Centre Bionest when Anton Zlobin scored the game-winning goal was among the loudest he had heard in any hockey rink.
•Game of the Year: The 2012 S.E.C. football title game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Georgia Bulldogs in Atlanta on Dec. 1.
While the long-term lasting appeal of this game won’t be known until the Crimson Tide take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the BCS National Championship on Jan. 7, this heavyweight tilt between two of the top teams in country was one of the finest that has taken place south of the border in quite some time.
•Canadian Sporting Moment of the Year: The Canadian women’s national soccer team wins the bronze medal over France by a score of 1-0 at the Summer Olympics in London on Aug. 9.
After the controversial and gut-wrenching loss to the United States in the semi-finals three days earlier, to see the ladies bounce back and earn a medal thanks to a dramatic injury time goal by Diana Matheson was truly wonderful to see.
And for someone who already is a huge soccer supporter, to see that many people in this country cheer the squad that normally don’t watch the beautiful game was something great to see.
•Sporting Moment of the Year: Sticking with the world of soccer, the event that stood out for me this year was the final day of the English Premier League season on May 13.
Needing just a win over the lowly Queen’s Park Rangers at home to win their first top-flight title in 44 years, Manchester City found themselves trailing 2-1 as their cross-town rivals Manchester United were headed for a 1-0 win over Sunderland that would give them their 20th league title.
In the final minutes of the game, however, Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero each scored to give Manchester City the championship—causing soccer supporters to go wild not just in England but all over the world.
•Canadian Athlete of the Year: In what is probably the biggest no-brainer for me, my pick for our country’s finest this year is Canadian national women’s soccer team striker Christine Sinclair.
Having been one of the best players in the world for a number of years now, the 29-year-old from Burnaby, B.C. became a household name with her hat-trick performance against the U.S. in the Olympic semi-finals, which helped her to become the first-ever soccer player to capture the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year earlier this month.
•Sports Personality of the Year: In a series where the drivers are accused of being more and more corporate by the day, 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champ Brad Keselowski stands out from everyone else.
Besides the fact that the 28-year-old from Michigan is extremely talented behind the wheel, Keselowski is someone who’s not afraid to let his true opinions be known in his interviews, whether it be in regards to drug testing in sports or the actions taken by his fellow drivers on the track.
While his title-winning season was a stunning surprise, it’s safe that Keselowski will be someone we’ll be hearing an awful lot of in the years to come.
•Local Sports Story of the Year: This was pretty hard one to choose from to be honest, as we had such events as the Fort Frances Lakers nearly winning the SIJHL championship and long-time competitors Mark Raveling and Mike Luhman finally taking home the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship after 16 years of trying.
In the end, however, what stood out the most for me in 2012 was the Cinderella story of the Muskie senior girls’ basketball team winning the NorWOSSA championship on Nov. 8 in Kenora with a 32-20 win over the Dryden Eagles.
Having finished the regular season at the bottom of the three-team loop with a 2-6 record, not many gave the black-and-gold a chance. But they went into the day with a nothing-to-lose attitude and came away with a pair of victories over Kenora and Dryden to capture the team’s first league title since 2009.
Although they ended up falling short of making it to the all-Ontarios, their fantastic showing is something that’s worth remembering for a long time to come.