The moment after I hit “publish” on my overly flowery tome describing the events surrounding Christine Sinclair’s final game on Dec. 5, I was finally free.
Christmas holidays beckoned, promising weeks of dashing through the snow, laughing all the way, in merry spirits.
2023 had been a long, gruelling slog, from Whitecaps training camp in January, through a spring and summer with no weekends off, to a final evening waiting vainly to speak with Canada’s most famous female athlete after the curtain came down on her illustrious career.
And so I submerged into a month-long hiatus from sports, and dashing through malls on Christmas shopping took the place of dashing through snow. There were no sports displayed on my early Christmas present — a 75-inch mini-LED TV — as it was co-opted by the children watching Loud House and Bluesy, non-stop, on repeat. No NFL, no NBA, no watching Liverpool ascend to the top of the Premier League.
There were also no tropical vacations — I’m a journalist, remember? There are Walmart greeters with bigger paycheques.
And so, after a month of shuttling a toy elf from one shelf to another, always in some new nativity scene escalating in grandeur and complexity, and enjoying as much turkey and slow-cooked brisket as my elastic waistbands could handle, I rose to periscope depth the day before I was set to return to active duty.
What did I find as I poked my head back into the sports world? The Whitecaps were a week away(!) from starting their preseason, and had just signed midfielder Damir Kreilach — calling him a club legend with Real Salt Lake is selling him short — just days before the new year.
The B.C. Lions were seeing the Buffalo Bills sniff around CFL sacks leader and Most Outstanding Defensive Player Mathieu Betts, the third NFL workout for the record-setting D-lineman since the season ended.
And then there were the Vancouver Canucks. When I tuned out that first week of December, the ‘Nucks had been gamely punching above their historical weight class, with the sixth-best record in the league, and sat third in the Pacific Division. I tuned back in to a Christmas miracle on Tuesday morning. The Canucks — yes, the Canucks — leading the Western Conference, sitting third overall in the league, with an unmatched goal differential and pacing the NHL in goals.
I felt more confused than Yuutarou Katori — surely this wasn’t real life? The cynic in me surely expected the Canucks’ bubble to pop faster than the Swifties’ background checks on Travis Kelce, but these flying skates show no signs of returning to earth anytime soon. Brock Boeser is still in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy, with J.T. Miller, the Art Ross, and Quinn Hughes, the Norris. The belief and expectation of victory, absent from both the locker room and local fan base since the days of dominating the then-Northwest Division, has asserted itself once again. Heck, they have even managed to lure Wayne Gretzky out of retirement.
So this leads me to the first resolution of the New Year: Don’t doubt the Vancouver Canucks.
Here are the rest of what I’ve pledged to maintain in 2024 …
COVER THE BC LIONS
The CFL has been battered by attendance and perception issues for, well, decades now. Nevertheless, it’s persisted. It has outlasted spring leagues and X leagues — twice — and remains as stubbornly dogged as a Trump presidential campaign. And this year, the Grey Cup is in Vancouver, which will be the first one I will be able to cover on the ground as a writer, since my company won’t have to foot the bill for travel.
COVER THE WHITECAPS
The Caps are entering their 13th Major League Soccer season. Last season, they finished sixth in the West, but were in the hunt for a top-three finish down to the final few games. The were an entertaining team to watch, as the fewest average fans in their MLS history showed up to see could attest, and won their second-straight Canadian Championship.
Sure, they have never actually won a playoff series in history, barring their 2017 knockout round win over the San Jose Earthquakes, but they’ve evolved into a competitive side capable of giving any team trouble on any given day.
NOT TO GET COCKY AROUND MY FATHER-IN-LAW
My FIL, Monty, is about as cheerful and quick-smiling a man as you’ll find. Always upbeat, positive and sunny … which confounds me, since he’s a life-long Arsenal fan. They were fivepoints clear at the top of the Premier League table on Dec. 6, but are now five points behind Liverpool in fourth place. Their long-suffering fanbase clings to the memory of their 2004 league title like a worn-out teddy bear from their youth, especially after last year when they set the record for the most days atop of the top-flight table without winning the whole shebang (248).
Now, of course, the Premiership isn’t decided in January, and any schadenfreude I have is securely tucked away, especially after the Gunners’ cautionary tale from last year.
You never walk alone as a Liverpool fan, but there seem to be a lot more boots joining the march this year.
ENDEAVOUR TO GET PUBLISHED IN SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
That one’s easy. I just have to ask ChatGPT to write it. AI is alright, amirite? It’s not like it would suggest there are no countries in Africa that start with K, or something completely ludicrously inaccurate.
DON’T GO CLICK-HUNTING
It’s never been part of my modus operandi as a writer, to produce click-bait listicles or incendiary hot-takes meant to artificially provoke engagement just for the sake of it. But, in the media landscape we live in, which is less stable than Joe Biden walking down stairs, it’s an analytic that can’t be ignored.
I will do my best to bring to you, dear reader, the best, most pertinent and interesting content from our local teams, without the need to resort to insidious and salacious SEO techniques. #Canucks #Canucks #Canucks #StanleyCup #StanleyCupParadeRoute #FlyingSkateJersey.
JJ Adams is not a robot (honestly) but a writer with the Vancouver Sun and Province. You can find him on Bluesky at @jjadams or email [email protected].