Toronto, ON- If this were any other year, Thanksgiving is a chance to look back on all we are grateful for in the previous year, have a chance to relax (or study, your choice) with reading week kicking off, to get to eat an absolutely absurd amount of food, and in U SPORTS the true sign that the hockey season (and soon to follow the basketball and volleyball seasons) has kicked off.
Unfortunately, we are not in a normal year, we are in 2020.. We still gather around tables to fill our stomachs albeit in smaller numbers than we are used to, and Fall Reading week 2020 is upon us to give us a break from the confusion that is online school.
A U SPORTS season though remains to be determined. This is why, whilst we wait for a resolution and we reflect on our own lives today, I want to focus on doing some of that. Taking some time to reflect and give thanks to some of my favourite things in U SPORTS.
The athletes who whether for one game or four full years have created incredible moments in U SPORTS
With 56 schools in U SPORTS, there have been several athletes that have signed that recruitment letter. I know I am thankful for each and every one of them. Without these athletes, we would not get to the game-winning goals and the buzzer beating shots that create some of the wildest memories but also we would miss people showing personal growth too. Whether a figure skater for Toronto finally nailing that triple axel or a UBC swimmer reaching a personal best time or anything in between we have gotten to see memorable performances that truly show how incredibly talented U SPORTS athletes are.
The opportunities that U SPORTS has provided so many students in media
They are the ones you see on their phones and computers operating team’s social media accounts, they are shooting video, taking photos, or if they are like me, producing team web broadcasts. Across the country U SPORTS has provided access and opportunity for so many university students who are studying in media or want to grow their experience to work in the field (maybe even one day for a U SPORTS team full-time). Personally, I am thankful for the opportunities Ryerson Athletics and the Rams have given me the past 3+ years and overall I am grateful that such an opportunity is available for students when they are still in school.
The amazing rivalries in U SPORTS that have been built
It may not feel like it at first to a big city Toronto guy like myself but I know that inter-school rivalries create some of the most exciting moments in all of U SPORTS. It doesn’t matter if we talk about the large games that draw thousands of students like the Panda Game between Ottawa and Carleton or the Crowchild Classic between Calgary and Mount Royal, or the smaller regular season battles game by game. The differences and niches in U SPORTS rivalries between schools and communities truly make for some of the most entertaining and enjoyable moments each season.
The teams that shock the country
Speaking of entertaining and enjoyable, it happens every year. Each year there is at least one school that comes completely out of nowhere to win a title. I honestly love it, Bishops did it with an 8-8 season to win the RSEQ MBB title last year. You could take it even further though, U of Ottawa Women’s Soccer, 12-0-2 on the season they ended with the OUA Bronze but ended up winning the inaugural FISU World Cup for football, literally the WORLD Cup. It could just be me but I believe that counts as shocking. I am truly thankful that we get to see these amazing stories each year with athletes truly getting incredible opportunities.
The fact that U SPORTS is becoming a pipeline for Canadian talent to reach professional Canadian leagues
You don’t have to look very far for this one. The Canadian Elite Basketball League’s bedrock is made up of U SPORTS alumni with the 2020 CEBL draft being made entirely of U SPORTS athletes. If you move from the hardwood to the soccer pitch the Canadian Premier League is the same with former U SPORTS soccer stars littered across the starting 11 of CPL teams from coast to coast. These are two Canadian leagues showcasing Canadian talent with U SPORTS athletes being given the chance to show their abilities to an even wider audience
The fact that U SPORTS will one day come back and 49 Sports will have the opportunity to tell more Canadian stories
This is what I keep telling myself! Truly though, to use the old saying, “This too shall pass”. I know that one day U SPORTS will return, athletes will take the ice, the pitch, the court or wherever and compete for championships for themselves, their schools and even their country. I am thankful that I know that will happen again and that being at 49 means having the opportunity to tell more of these truly Canadian stories.
So those are some of the things that I am thankful for in this strange time. Is there anything you else you think that we should be thankful for? U SPORTS related or not. Otherwise, if you are still reading at this point I hope you are safe and well so that one day in the future we can again celebrate the best of U SPORTS together.
Cover Photo: University of New Brunswick