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It was not all gloom and doom in 2020


2020 was a year like no other.
That sentiment has already been stated many times and with good reason, with the deadly coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the planet.
Looking back in the world of local sports, the year began with everything going ahead as scheduled.
The Dauphin Kings were on their way to a seventh place finish in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, posting a 31-24-3-2 record and a earning a date with the Portage Terriers in the league’s quarterfinals.
After dropping the first two games of the best-of-seven series in Portage, the Kings returned home to score an exciting 1-0 double overtime victory in game three, Mar. 10, thanks to the OT heroics of league MVP Grady Hobbs, who scored 2:25 into the second extra frame.
Levi Mitchell was stellar in goal, making 43 saves as the Kings got back into the series.
No one knew at the time, but that would turn out to be the last game of the season.
Two days later, the game between the Winkler Flyers and Virden Oil Capitals was postponed and the next day, the Canadian Junior Hockey League, in conjunction with its 10 member leagues and Hockey Canada, cancelled the remainder of the season.
The MJHL was the first junior A league in Canada to return to the ice, opening the season, Oct. 9, with a shortened schedule.
To accommodate the shortened season, a new team, the Winnipeg Freeze, was added, giving the league 12 teams for the first time since the 2002-03 season.
This allowed the league to put teams into three separate divisions, with the schedule focused on interdivisional play.
Things ran smoothly for about three weeks, but by the end of the month, games were being postponed and the league eventually shut down, with the last game being played, Nov. 7.
Now the MJHL is making plans to restart the season in the new year. Just when that will be, though, has yet to be determined.
When the season does resume, the Kings will look to improve upon their 3-3-0-0 record, which has them in third place in the Northwest Division.
2020 marked the 10th anniversary of Dauphin’s last MJHL championship and ANAVET Cup title. That was also the year the Kings finished second in the nation as they hosted the RBC Cup at Credit Union Place.
The Manitoba AAA U18 Hockey League’s Parkland Rangers ended up missing the playoffs after posting a 16-30-2-0 record.
But things were looking up for the Rangers when the league began play in mid-October. Parkland opened the season with six straight wins and topped the league with a 6-1 record when things shut down.
Minor baseball was able to get underway for a short, six-week season. Teams were able to travel to other communities for games, as well as hosting out-of-town teams. But there were no tournaments held anywhere in the Parkland.
After the Manitoba Soccer Association released its Return to Play guidelines, the Dauphin Soccer Association (DSA) decided the phase 1 regulations were too restrictive, so the spring soccer season was cancelled.
DSA planned to hold a fall season, but that fell through when the provincial government put the Parkland Health Region in the Orange classification of the Pandemic Response System.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom, though as the golf industry flourished over the course of the warm-weather months.
Local courses were allowed to open for the season as long as they followed public health protocols.
With all the restrictions surrounding the pandemic, courses saw increased memberships and green fees as people took advantage of the chance to get out of the house for some fresh air and exercise.
And, although the number of tournaments was reduced, there was still plenty of opportunities for golfers to satisfy their competitive nature.
And there was plenty of good that happened in local sports.
The year began with Dauphin hosting the 2020 TELUS Junior Men’s and Women’s Provincials.
Dauphin’s Lawson Yates was part of Brett Walter’s championship team on the men’s side, earning a berth to nationals, while Mackenzie Zacharias of Altona won her second straight provincial title.
Dauphin’s Lane Prokopowich, who played lead on Serena Gray-Withers team which lost to Zacharias in the final, won the Susan Galbraith Sportsmanship Award as voted on by the players.
If there is such a thing as beginners luck, Dauphin’s Taylor Armstrong had it in spades.
Just 2-1/2 months after she started training, Armstrong set a provincial lifting record in her weight class at the fifth annual Brickhouse Power Challenge in Winnipeg.
Her success did not end there. In October, Armstrong won the provincial crown in her weight class.
The Parkland Gators Swim Club won 21 medals at the junior provincials, with Jade Toews winning seven of those medals, including three gold.
Winnipeg Blue Bomber fans had their chance to get up close and personal with the Grey Cup and meet Bomber linebacker Adam Bighill as part of the Manitoba Grey Cup Tour, presented by Princess Auto.
Bighill and the Grey Cup were on hand at Credit Union Place along with Bomber mascots Buzz and Boomer.
Two Dauphin Clippers high school teams had success before the pandemic shut things down in the spring.
The hockey team reached the final of the Westman High School Hockey League and were set to face the Killarney Raiders in the best-of-three final, but the series was cancelled because of the pandemic.
The senior boys basketball team had a successful season, winning five tournaments and was set to enter the provincial championship as the second seed, before the tournament was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Gilbert Plains product Riese Gaber had a successful career with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League.
Gaber led the league with 34 goals last season and he became Dubuque’s alltime leading goal scorer since the team rejoined the league in 2010, netting 56 in two seasons. He was subsequently named the league’s Player of the Year and Forward of the Year.
It didn’t end there for Gaber, who began his collegiate career with a hot stick, scoring seven goals and nine points in 10 games with the University of Notre Dame Fighting Hawks.
After participating in three sports (hockey, soccer and futsal), Marley Quesnel was named Assiniboine Community College’s Female Athlete of the Year.
Sami Love was named MVP of ACC’s women’s volleyball team, while Braden Campbell was MVP of the men’s volleyball team.
After six years on Curl Manitoba’s board of directors, Dauphin’s Ray Baker was elected president of the sport’s provincial body.
Baker served as vice-president last year and before that he was chair of the board’s development committee.
Tammy Mahon-Sliworsky of Meadow Portage is one of 23 inductees for the Canada West Hall of Fame’s class of 2020-21 after a stellar volleyball career with the University of Manitoba Bisons.
The 2020 Manitoba Summer Games powered by Manitoba Hydro were officially cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The games were originally scheduled to be held in Dauphin in August, but when the pandemic became widespread, the event was rescheduled to July 2021.
Dauphin will now host the games in 2024.

Doug Zywina