|Rylan Kleiter, right, gives out a big cheer after a clutch final shot.|
I never imagined 12 months ago 2020 would be a year most wish would go up in flames.
On December 31, 2019, I decided I wasn’t going to go out and celebrate New Year’s Eve, which was my annual norm. Instead, I planned to stay home because I wanted to be fresh to cover the Saskatchewan junior men’s curling championship tournament game to be played the next day at the Sutherland Curling Club.
Rylan Kleiter’s foursome, which contained lead Matthieu Taillon, second Joshua Mattern and third Trevor Johnson, was going for a fourth straight junior title in their home rink.
Kleiter is a good guy and had always been one of my favourites with the CJFL’s venerable Saskatoon Hilltops powerhouse squad, which had won the last six straight league titles. Kleiter is a receiver and kicker with the Hilltops.
Up to that point in time, I hadn’t seen him take part live in a curling game, and I that was on my list of things to do. I figured covering the game where he was going for a fourth straight provincial title was the ample to time to get that done.
|Kleiter rink supporters cheer their team’s a provincial title win.|
On January 1, 2020, Kleiter’s squad downed another Sutherland Curling Club foursome skipped by Daymond Bernath 7-6 in a classic game. With the two sides locked in a 6-6 tie, Kleiter made a draw to the four-foot with the hammer in the 10th end to win the game.
A huge amount of jubilation followed with the large contingent of supporters Kleiter’s team had at that contest. Bernath’s side had a large following too, and his side was congratulated for a strong effort.
The few times I have covered curling I have actually seen a number of dramatic finishes be it at a Continental Cup or a Canada Cup of Curling.
I chuckled that the first curling game I’ve worked in years ended up being a classic like the fourth straight provincial junior men’s championship win was for Kleiter’s team.
I told Kleiter after the game that the new year wasn’t yet 24 hours old and I already had something for my list of cool things I saw in 2020.
|Kleiter team supporters signal a four-peat as provincial champs.|
After that day, I thought 2020 was going to rock as a year.
Little did I know, I don’t think anyone in the world could have seen how 2020 was going to play out.
On January 1, 2020, most could not foresee that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was going to grip the world and there would be massive restrictions and shutdowns everywhere. It is safe to say most of the world’s population would like to see 2020 disappear and never come back again.
In 100 years from now, 2020 will be a year that will be studied in the history books to analyze how the people on Earth dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic. World leaders in the current day will be judged by historians in 100 years from now on the way they handled life unfolding in our current times.
For those that live in North America, it feels like 2020 can be divided into two parts.
|Jared Dmytriw made the U Sports all-rookie team in 2019-20.|
The second part went from March 11, 2020 and is still proceeding in the current day. March 11 marked the first day shutdowns and restrictions started to occur, and they have continued to this day in different forms.
When I look back at posts on my blog, it feels like anything that happened from January 1, 2020 to March 10, 2020 came from a different lifetime.
I look back at pictures I took on February 29, 2020 of a record 2,667 spectators packed into Merlis Belsher Place to watch the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team down the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds 3-1 in Game 2 of the Canada West Championship series, and I almost can’t believe that game happened this year.
That win allowed the Huskies to sweep the best-of-three series 2-0 to capture the Canada West title. When I look at the crowd pictures from that game, I keep thinking they are from an alternate universe.
I look at a hockey round up post I created on March 10, 2020, and there is no mention of the words “coronavirus” or “COVID-19.” I remember that as being the last day the world was playing out as it normally does.
|A crowd of 2,667 watched the Huskies win a Canada West title.|
On March 11, 2020, my post noting that Huskies goaltender Taran Kozun was named the U Sports player-of-the-year and U Sports goalie of the year didn’t mention the words “coronavirus” or “COVID-19.” That posted added that Kozun was a U Sports first team all-Canadian all-star and Huskies fifth-year right-winger Levi Cable took home the U Sports most sportsmanlike player award.
It also said Huskies centre Jared Dmytriw was named to the U Sports all-rookie team.
On that day, the COVID-19 pandemic was in the back of my mind as the NBA had paused its season that night. Word started to circulate that sports cancellations were going to come in hot and heavy.
On March 12, I wrote a post that the Huskies had been upset in the U Sports national championship tournament in Halifax, N.S., falling 3-2 to the University of Western Ontario Mustangs in a quarter-final match.
|The Huskies celebrate their Canada West title win.|
That post added the Saskatoon Contact had fallen 5-3 to the Moose Jaw Warriors in the last meaningful hockey game at Merlis Belsher Place, which was Game 3 of an SMAAAHL semifinal series. The Warriors swept the best-of-five series 3-0, but the rest of the national midget AAA playoffs were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That marked the first time the words “coronavirus” and “COVID-19” were used in this blog. They have been contained in almost every post since that time.
Also on that day, the WHL season was officially paused, and I cancelled my hotel reservations for my trip to Medicine Hat, as the Tigers home game on March 14, 2020 wasn’t going to happen. Ridley currently sits with 3,998 games called as the play-by-play voice of the Tigers.
From March 11, 2020 to March 13, 2020, the entire sports world in North America was shut down. I still can’t believe how fast that all happened.
|Members of the Contacts at Merlis on March 12, 2020.|
Originally, my March 14, 2020 trip to Medicine Hat marked what was supposed to be an unusually packed social calendar for myself linked with weddings and one-of-a-kind celebrations that never happened.
I did take part in a drive by wedding celebration for Huskies men’s hockey team alumnus Garrett Thiessen and bride Danielle Empey. They actually got married at the same spot my parents got married at outside of the fact my parents were married at the original version of Mayfair United Church, and Garrett and Danielle were married at the modern version of that same facility.
I had thought about writing a “Top 10 cool things I saw in 2020” post to try and give a positive spin to what was a forgettable year for the world.
I decided against that hokey idea thinking it would be disingenuous to what happened this year.
|Garrett Thiessen, right, and Danielle Empey, centre, got married.|
The next time I go to that centre I might have to spend two weeks there, because I know the emotions of those passings will hit me in a different way when I am there.
There have been a couple of passings in the sports community here in Saskatoon due to suicide too.
With that noted, the danger of the COVID-19 pandemic is real. Early on, I know I wrote things in posts that didn’t age well. Back then, I didn’t grasp how easily this virus can spread.
I just had a family member get over this virus and have had three or four people I know deal with testing positive for COVID-19.
I had been doing updates of statistics from Worldometer, which is really accurate, relating to deaths from COVID-19 and other factors on a periodic basis. This one will be the last one for this year.
According to Worldometer at the time this post went live 1,824,384 people have died so far this year in the world due to the coronavirus even with varying restrictions that have been imposed around the world.
|Downtown Saskatoon sits empty on March 22, 2020.|
The skeptics of the COVID-19 pandemic always want to know the deaths from cancer it seems. Worldometer said 8,229,960 people have died of cancer this year.
I should add from various world statistical sites I have check out that the deaths this year by HIV/AIDS appear to be at a high for the past 10 years.
While vaccines are rolling out for COVID-19 around the world, there will likely still be many bumps in the road and a lengthy haul before this is over, even though it appears there is an end in sight.
I’ve only covered two live hockey games since March 12, 2020.
|An oxygen producing complex next to Merlis pictured in May 2020.|
The pandemic had made me a little more jaded when it comes to dealing with people in general. I view a few more people in the general population as always being out to satisfy their selfish needs, or they basically are trying to be their best versions of Professional Football Hall of Fame diva receiver Terrell Owens.
Like life has been since March 11, 2020, you just try to adjust to whatever life throws your way the best you can. I have gotten into old pastimes I didn’t have time for before like playing Madden football or watching old animation episodes of G.I. Joe, Robotech and Transformers from the 1980s.
I have also learned a new appreciation for having quite weekends at home on Friday and Saturday nights.
|Facemasks became regular clothing in 2020.|
I look forward to the day I can see you all in person again without restrictions.
Until that day comes, I hope you all have a Happy New Year and are able to stay healthy and safe.
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