There were times in 2018 when sports in Vancouver felt like one long goodbye.
The city bid adieu to some fixtures of the local sports scene — namely longtime Canucks Daniel and Henrik Sedin and B.C. Lions coach Wally Buono.
Then there was Alphonso Davies. Fans felt they had just hello to the young Canadian soccer phenom when he said goodbye to the Vancouver Whitecaps after signing a record deal with one of the biggest soccer clubs in the world.
Then there was the fact that Vancouver kissed a chance at hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup goodbye.
Sedins enjoy ‘perfect ending’ to their career
On April 3, Daniel and Henrik Sedin quietly announced they would retire at the end of the 2017-18 season. The announcement came with just three games left in the season, giving Canucks fans precious little time to savour the twins’ final days in the NHL.
The Sedins’ final home game at Rogers Arena quickly became the hottest ticket in town.
The future Hall of Famers did not disappoint their fans.
Daniel scored two goals, including the game-winner in overtime, with his brother Henrik assisting on both goals to give the Canucks a 4-3 win over the Arizona Coyotes.
Daniel snapped the game-winner past Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper at the 2:33 mark of overtime on a set-up from Henrik.
“It was the perfect ending,” Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom said after the game. “In some ways I’m not surprised…that’s usually what they do.”
Another familiar face left the Canucks, but not in a storybook fashion.
In the summer, Trevor Linden stepped down from his role as team president.
Linden had served as the team’s president of hockey operations for four years.
Following the announcement, Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini said via Twitter that “a rebuild is a long, slow, gradual process. Everybody needs to be united behind the same vision and pulling in the same direction.”
Farewell to Wally World
The B.C. Lions bid farewell to longtime coach Wally Buono, who retired from football after 46 years in the CFL as a player, coach, general manager and vice-president.
Buono’s time in B.C. ended on a down note, with the Lions’ season ending with a 48-8 playoff loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Following the loss, Buono gave an emotion press conference.
Tears welled in Buono’s eyes as he contemplated what it’s meant to be part of the CFL for nearly half a century. The 68-year-old, who was seldom at a loss for words, took time to compose himself before answering.
“Why me?” the B.C. Lions‘ longtime coach and vice-president of football operations said simply, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand.
“I’ve been blessed guys. God has been good to me. I keep asking him ‘Why me?’ And I still don’t know why.”
One person who paid close attention to Buono’s career was actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
In August, he told his 112 million Instagram followers about his brief stint in the Canadian Football League (CFL) and thanked Buono for inspiring him to greater success.
Whitecaps hope to address locker room ‘divide’
The lone bright spot for the Vancouver Whitecaps this season was the play of Alphonso Davies, the teenager who has quickly become the face of soccer in Canada.
Davies, who turned 18 in November, is now with Bayern Munich thanks to a record-breaking US$22-million transfer deal that will see him play for the German powerhouse through 2023.
Other Whitecaps players seem willing to leave the team on less amicable terms.
“I want to leave, I’m not going to change my mind,” captain Kendall Waston said in a remarkable post-season press conference that saw several players speak candidly about divisions within the club.
Waston was upset about the departure of manager Carl Robinson, saying he understood that the move was a business decision, but he “doesn’t like two-faced people.”
He declined to comment on who, specifically, he was referring to.
“If I don’t trust, I better walk away,” Waston said.
Midfielder Russell Teibert spoke of a “divide” in the locker room and goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic said there were “cliques” within the team.
Team president Bob Lenarduzzi said issues in the locker room caused problems on the field.
“We have a culture problem. There’s no doubt about it,” he said.
The Whitecaps hope new coach Marc Dos Santos will address the issues around the team and he has already made some roster moves.
Hope for the future
For all the departures in Vancouver, there is a glimmer of hope.
Canucks fans got to welcome Elias Pettersson, who has become the frontrunner to become the NHL’s 2018-2019 rookie of the year.
With all the change in the city’s sports landscape, the dynamic has given Canucks fans hope that long-term success may not be too far away.
— With files from Squire Barnes and The Canadian Press
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