Dear readers and sports fans: It is with a heavy heart that I must tell you that this will be the final chapter in the Benchwarmer Report at the Iron Warrior, as this is the final issue of my 4B term. Over the past five years, we’ve seen ups and downs across the sports world, following our favourite hometown teams and sports events. We watched the Jays turn from pretenders into contenders after a series of epic trades engineered by the best GM the team has ever seen. We watched the Raptors, Canada’s only NBA basketball team, turn Canadian basketball on its head—the ubiquitous “We the North!” has become a staple of a team now a shoe-in for the NBA playoffs. We watched Canada follow up a dominant performance in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games with yet another stellar outing at the Sochi 2014 games. The Pan Am Games came to Toronto in 2015, where our athletes again performed admirably on home soil. We covered the FIFA World (2014) and Euro (2016) Cups, witnessing Christiano Ronaldo and Portugal’s epic victory, albeit in a shootout.
Finally, we kept watch on all things hockey, widely considered our country’s favourite sport. We witnessed the first World Cup of Hockey since 2004, where Team Canada went on to win it all—but perhaps more interesting was Team North America, a group of 24 and under rising stars. We watched the IIHF World Juniors every year, through the good times and the and the bad. In 2015, McDavid and Company won the WJC on home ice in Toronto and Montreal in a breathtaking clash with Russia. After a dismal showing in Finland in 2016, the Canadians bounced back at home in 2017 making it to the final against the archrival United States, to whom they would lose the gold medal game in a shootout. All this, and not a mention of the NHL: The very origins of this column.
In 2013, the NHL adapted the official re-alignment, sending Winnipeg to the West and Detroit to the East. In the same season, the Leafs made it to the playoffs for the first time in decades, only to lose to the Boston Bruins in the last 4 minutes of game 7. We watched the Montreal Canadiens finally begin to close the gap in quality between Carey Price and the rest of the team. Brendan Shanahan took over the Leafs, tore down the team and forked over 50 million a year to bring Mike Babcock to Toronto, making him the highest paid coach in the NHL. Finally we are seeing the end result. As it stands, the Leafs sit third in the Atlantic division, three points ahead of Boston and five behind Ottawa. They’re better than they’ve been in years, not to mention more fun to watch, featuring the likes of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander. With 10 games left to play, the young Leafs are poised to gain valuable playoff experience this year.
The Leafs have been red-hot lately, pulling off decisive victories against Boston and New Jersey and grabbing a critical point against the powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks. William Nylander has lead the way with points in each of his last 10 games. They may be in some trouble though, as stellar goaltender Frederik Andersen sustained an upper body injury against Buffalo on Saturday and did not return. Andersen has been a critical piece of the Leafs’ resurgence and they will miss him if he’s out for a significant length of time. Fingers crossed that it is nothing serious.
Though the Leafs are not a Cup contender this year, their season has been nothing short of fantastic. Nobody expected them to be this good or exciting to watch, though they of course have added some great players. These Leafs are the beginning of a new era; they are the first real hockey team in Toronto in decades. Regardless of how far they make it his year, Shanahan and his crew have done a great job. These Leafs will only get better with experience. And who knows? Maybe the Leafs will win the Cup on his watch within the next ten years? How exciting would that be? We’ll have to keep watching to find out.
And with that, this is the Benchwarmer Report officially signing off. Farewell and thanks for reading. Wishing everyone the best of luck in their studies and beyond. Before I end this article, I would like to personally thank every Iron Warrior EIC since fall 2012 for their outstanding dedication to the paper and patience when these articles were late (which was almost always). I would also like to congratulate my fellow graduating IW authors, Meagan Cardno, Caitlin McLaren and Alex Lee (all former EICs!) on somehow always finding time for the paper amid the sea of work that is UW Engineering. Take a break and watch on, UW.