Without further adieu, here is our top 10 sports highlights from the Chatham-Kent Sports Network in 2012:
10. Dresden Raceway’s Battle For Survival: The community of Dresden, and Chatham-Kent was set abuzz, early in 2012 when the Provincial government announced the end of the Slots at Racetracks program. After Windsor Raceway and Hiawatha were announced as the first casualties of the cuts, many speculated Dresden to be next. Locals continue to advocate, but until the 2013 season gets closer, the future of Dresden Raceway will be debated.
9. Revival for Red Devils and Maroons – After struggling in past seasons, two local Junior B clubs, the Wallaceburg Red Devils (lacrosse), and Chatham Maroons (hockey) both saw revivals in 2012. The Maroons ended last season in dead last, but were sitting atop the GOJHL Western Conference standings with a cushion as 2012 ended. The Red Devils put out a winning record in the regular season, and then upset the Spartans, and London in the playoffs before falling to Six Nations in the OLA semi-finals. This was the deepest the Red Devils had went in the playoffs in a decade.
8. We’ll Miss you Chipper – It was a sad day for the Chatham-Kent sporting community, as long time supporter, builder, and coach Chip Gordon passed away in March. Chip was a beloved member of the community of Wallaceburg, and as a New Year passes, Chip is not forgotten, nor will he ever be. Gordon was inducted into the Wallaceburg Sports Hall of Fame in 2006. We’ll miss you Chipper. Another organization, the Chatham-Kent Cyclones also had founder Craig Lumley pass away. The Chatham-Kent sports community lost two legends this year.
7. Fantuz-mania - He was the most sought after CFL free agent this offseason. His destination was discussed, analysed, and discussed again. Eventually, Chatham’s Andy Fantuz chose to sign with the Hamilton Tiger Cats over his long time team, the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Fantuz struggled for part of the season after recovering from a concussion, but ended with a respectable 971 yards for the Tiger Cats.
6. High Drama in High School – The Wallaceburg Tartans senior boys football team went undefeated for the second straight season winning Kent, SWOSSAA, and the Western Bowl. They weren’t the only high fliers in high school as the CKSS Golden Hawks senior boys won OFSAA volleyball gold. With the 2012 sporting year coming to a close however, high school sports were making news in another way. As the ongoing conflict between the Provincial government and teachers progressed, extracurriculars, including all high school sports, were cancelled near the close of 2012.
5. Pegg Shines – It isn’t too often we get to watch a local athlete excel on the world’s highest sporting stage. That however, is exactly what happened this summer as Rondeau’s Dominique Pegg became Canada’s most successful female gymnast at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, England. Pegg attended school in Blenheim, and competed with the Blenheim Golden Eagles before moving to Sarnia. Pegg and her team finished as the best ever in Canadian Olympic history, while she finished 17th individually, the fourth best performance in Canadian history.
4. Clements Fights on Biggest Stage – Dresden’s Chris Clements did Chatham-Kent proud making, and winning, his UFC debut. Clements defeated Keith Wisniewski at UFC 145 in Atlanta. Currently, Clements is sidelined after undergoing shoulder surgery. After big performances from other local fighters including Chad Laprise and Jesse Gross in 2012, Clements could find other locals joining him soon.
3. Sweet Season for Suisham – Can anyone say comeback? After struggling in 2011, Wallaceburg’s Shaun Suisham had an incredible comeback season. He was named the AFC Special Team’s Player of the Week, twice, was selected as an alternate for the NFL’s Pro Bowl, and successfully kicked more than 90% of his field goal attempts with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Could 2013 be an even bigger and better year for Suisham? We think so.
2. Griffith is Great – Wallaceburg’s Seth Griffith couldn’t have asked for more this year. He scored the OHL championship clinching goal for his London Knights, leading them to the Memorial Cup, participated in the Subway Super Series, was named an OHL second team all-star, and was drafted in the 5th round of the NHL priority draft by the Boston Bruins. In the last calendar year, Griffith also leads all OHL players in goals and points. Seth spent more time in our news this year than any other athlete, which is why he lands at number 2 on our list.
1. TSN Drools Over Clarke – It wouldn’t be right if a play TSN called the fifth best in the sporting world in 2012 didn’t make our Top 10, and here it is as number 1. Blenheim Blades forward Tyler Clarke scored an incredible goal in October against the Mooretown Flags which overnight became a YouTube sensation. Soon after, TSN picked up the goal featuring it on their show “The Quiz.” Later, the TSN crew came to Blenheim to film a segment at a Blades’ practice which was used for their annual Top 50 highlights of the year show. Clarke’s goal came in 5th on the list which included highlights from the Olympics, NHL, NBA, MLB, NFL, and more. Congrats to Tyler and the Blenheim Blades organization.
Honourable Mention – 1. Wallaceburg’s Deanna Kerkhof named Ontario Basketball Female Baller of the Year 2. Chatham’s Doug Melvin is inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. 3. NHL Lockout impacts Chatham’s Ryan Jones and Dresden’s TJ Brodie.