What will the sporting landscape look like in 2013?
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Will there be an NHL season?
We’ll know soon. The consensus seems to be if the NHL and its players do not reach a deal that would start a truncated season by mid-January, then the likelihood is the NHL cancels its second season in eight years.
Many think the two sides are closer to a deal than it would appear, yet these negotiations have lasted far longer than any hockey pundits would have predicted when the lockout began Sept. 16. Based on that, the chances for any kind of season look bleak.
Okay, who wins in hockey that matters?
Without the NHL, that would be junior hockey. The world junior championship, due to end in a few days, is shaping up as a Canada-Russia rematch in the final. Let’s wave the flag and say the Canadians win a very tight final.
For the Memorial Cup, it would be very difficult not to pick the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, the winners of 23 consecutive games heading into play Dec. 31. That is impressive in any hockey league but the Knights’ streak takes on an extra glow because six of those victories were secured when London was missing three players sent to the world junior tournament.
Who goes No. 1 in the NHL draft?
It will be Nathan MacKinnon, the next great hockey player out of Cole Harbour, N.S., and not Seth Jones, who will be picked second, the highest an African-American has been selected.
Do you see any prominent trends this year?
More people will prefer to stay at home to watch their sports than see them live at arenas and stadiums. You can’t blame them. The increase of big-screen televisions and the improved picture quality in the cozy confines of your home trumps the raucous behaviour and the expense of watching a game at a live venue. This shift could really spike if 3D television catches on in a big way.
Instant replay will continue its incremental advance. Eventually, that will set up some sort of precedent-setting confrontation between officials and a league but as the technology improves, it is difficult to see where officials will have any leverage to regain lost ground.
Mixed martial arts, chiefly the UFC, will continue to expand its fan base, attracting a younger demographic and more women, as it adds female combatants.
Which individuals will make headlines this year?
Health permitting, Sidney Crosby, the first great player from Cole Harbour, seems poised to return to his exalted status in the NHL. Crosby has taken a keen interest in the lockout negotiations and that may simply be a precursor to a greater ascension once on-ice play resumes.
You know NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will be at the centre of some sort of news. It’s doubtful he will step down, though. He’ll want to see this present fight through.
Mark Cohon, the CFL commissioner, is at something of a crossroads. The league is on solid footing, new stadiums will be opened or under construction this year and Ottawa is scheduled to return in 2014. There would seem to be little more Cohon can do, and he may opt to leave while all is well.
Let’s move to the rapid-fire round. Who wins the Super Bowl?
The San Francisco 49ers. Colin Kaepernick shows up the doubters in a big way.
The Grey Cup?
The Montreal Alouettes, as Anthony Calvillo turns back the clock, then realizes how much that has taken out of him and retires after the victory.
The World Series?
The Washington Nationals. Fans of the Montreal Expos, who can neither forgive nor forget, grit their teeth.
Not the rebuilt Blue Jays?
They will win the East Division of the American League but lose in the first round of the playoffs as their bullpen falters. Toronto’s rise will coincide with the decline of the aging New York Yankees.
Rory McIlroy. He’s the best golfer out there who hasn’t won it.
You haven’t said anything about curling.
It will be played.