By Rob Ficiur
Less than a month ago we closed our 2014 calendars and began a new year. The starting of a new year always has predictions for the next twelve months. News and sports stations look at the highlights of the previous year. In all of this, there are events, large and small, that no one could have every predicted would happen – probably because they have never happened before.
Here are sporting events that no one could have predicted would happen in 2014.
1. Mumps Sweeps the NHL
In the three months of the NHL season approximately two dozen players have missed games because of the mumps. All Stars Sidney Crosby and Corey Perry made the mumps a big story – because it affected their team’s line up. Right around Christmas every injury that came up was followed by a new question “Is it the mumps?”
Now three weeks into the new year the number of mumps cases seems to have subsided, but reporters still speculate if some has the mumps or another injury.
Nearly one hundred years ago a world-wide influenza epidemic affected the NHL playoffs. As World War I ended in late 1918 the soldiers coming home accidentally carried the Spanish Flu around the world. This influenza pandemic killed more people than the war – between 20 and 40 million. In amongst all of that suffering the 1919 Stanley Cup final was cancelled because of the influenza death of one player and the infection of almost the entire team.
2. LA Kings Record Setting Stanley Cup Run – Unpredictable after Unpredictable
On their way to their second Stanley Cup in three years the LA Kings set three Unpredictable records:
a) LA became only the fourth team in hisotry to come back after being down 3-0 in a series.
While this is not a record, the Kings were the first team in the modern era to win the Stanley Cup after making the comeback.
b) Kings were the first team to win three Game 7’s in a row. All of these victories were on the road (so much for home ice advantage).
c) Comeback Kids one more way. They became the first team to make a two goal comeback for three consecutive playoff games. Winning Games 1 and 2 of the final in overtime meant the Kings were ahead a total of zero minutes in the first two games and won them both.
3. Toronto Raptors: Second Most wins in the NBA
As 2013 wound down the Toronto Raptors were playing well with an 8-3 record since a big trade on December 8. The team had had a .368 winning percentage before the trade, and the season was a write off. After a big trade or a coaching change teams improve for a short period of time and then go back to the way they were playing.
The 2013-2014 Raptors season went from write off to Atlantic Division title (and the team’s second best season ever.) In the 2014 calendar year the Raptors had the 2nd most wins (58) in the NBA in 2014 (spanning two seasons). How? The December 8 trade of all-star Rudy Gay brought the team three solid bench players. Normally the team that gets the best player wins a trade – but the Raptors got solid depth. For the rest of last season the three bench players acquired in the trade led the Raptors bench in minutes played.
As the 2014 calendar year came to an end, the Raptors were ranked second in overall league standings. No one could have predicted such a turnaround.
Possible Idea for 2015 Unpredictable: those Raptors who were so good when we had our 2014 calendars out – have a dismal 2-5 record in the new year.
4. Calgary Stampeders John Cornish lead the CFL in rushing for the third straight year. This was unpredictable because in 2014 Cornish played in only half of the team’s eighteen games. Even missing half the season Cornish’s 1082 yards rushing was well ahead of the second place 930 yards.
5. Sports’ Reaction to Domestic Violence
Ray Rice – formerly of the Baltimore Ravens – changed sports more than anyone else in 2014. When Rice punched his wife in full view of the elevator camera sports changed. The video evidence made fans irate when Rice was given a two game suspension. Under public pressure Rice missed the rest of the year. When Adrian Peterson was charged with domestic violence in beating his son, fans demanded justice. Petersen received an indefinite suspension, which cost him the rest of the season.
By October, when LA Kings defenseman Slava Voynov was arrested (not charged, not convicted) for beating his wife, he was suspended indefinitely. Athletes in the future need to be aware that they will face immediate suspension for any domestic violence.
A year from now my sports column will be called “No One Could Have Predicted this for 2015.” There is no sense speculating what those items will be – because (like the 2014 Unpredictables) we there was no way to predict these things would happen.