Sometimes at the rink, or on the field, or at the ballpark, the game ends in a tie. Sometimes it ends as a forgettable blowout. And sometimes it ends up being the greatest game of all time.
There’s a good game going on almost every night, somewhere in Nanaimo. The News Bulletin compiled a list of the 10 best sporting contests played in the city during the last 10 years. On the list are some of the best games ever, and here’s something else to keep in mind: these are some of the best games ever – so far.
Nanaimo Clippers 4 Powell River Kings 3Frank Crane Arena, March 13 and 16, 2004
It was the Game 7 that was so good, it couldn’t be contained to just one day.
The Nanaimo Clippers thought they had won their first-round playoff series against the Powell River Kings on a dramatic penalty-shot goal by Tyson Mulock with 80 seconds left in the third period. As it turned out, the drama had barely begun.
The Kings protested the referee’s decision to award Mulock’s penalty shot, and the B.C. Hockey League made a bizarre decision that the final 80 seconds of the game be replayed.
So the Clips and Kings took the ice again three nights after Game 7 to play Game 7, again, or at least the last 80 seconds. Some 3,000 people filled Frank Crane, even though they knew there was a chance they would see less than a minute and a half of hockey. There was no ice clean after the pre-game skate, in an effort to re-create late-third-period ice conditions, and the replay started with a faceoff in the attacking zone, with the Clippers on a power play, the score tied 3-3.
The Shipmen had practised offensive-zone faceoffs and power play a lot the day before, said Michael Olson, team captain at the time, but they didn’t capitalize. A few seconds after the power play expired, however, in overtime, the Clips caught a break. Olson was going off for a line change when he found himself open for a pass. He went in on a breakaway and scored, 54 seconds into OT.
If the Clippers and their fans were happy about winning Game 7 the first time, well, that was nothing compared to winning it a second time.
“It was absolutely chaotic,” Olson said. “Emotions were obviously very, very high.”
It ended up being the catalyst for further playoff success that year, he said. Being forced to win Game 7 twice gave the Clips an us-against-the-world mentality.
And they kept winning, capturing their first BCHL championship in 26 years, a championship that wouldn’t have been possible if they hadn’t won one of the Nanaimo’s best games of all time.
“It became that much greater of a story, and a time, and a piece in Clippers history and in hockey history, too…” Olson said. “Hockey presents cool things and neat scenarios all the time.”
V.I. Raiders 27 Edmonton Wildcats 26Caledonia Park, Nov. 11, 2006
Considering how many wins the V.I. Raiders have racked up at Caledonia Park, one might think choosing the best one would be difficult. It isn’t.
The junior football team’s first-ever championship came in what must have been the greatest game in Canadian Bowl history.
What made the outcome so special was that it seemed so unlikely. Trailing 26-24 with two and a half minutes left, backup quarterback Cody Heintz entered the game and immediately threw an interception. Big, tough offensive lineman Bronson Nichol sat on a bench, head in his hands, crying over a loss.
That’s when the sun came out, finally, and a VIA rail car whistled its support as it rattled past the park.
The Raiders’ defence forced a two-and-out and gave its offence one last chance. The team gained some ground, but not enough, and faced a third-and-15, well out of field-goal range. With one last chance, Heintz hit receiver Andrew Smith for a 33-yard gain.
From tears to cheers, in one play. What had been so improbable had become possible. With two seconds left, kicker Scott Dixon ran onto the field for a 14-yard field goal.
“It was a mess, it was a happy mess. Helmets were flying everywhere,” said Juan Vandermerwe, Raiders defensive back, after the game. “I don’t think we could have imagined the amount of emotion that was going to come through when that ball went through the uprights.”
Malaspina Mariners 81 Langara Falcons 80Malaspina University-College gym, Feb. 25, 2005
Todd Warnick, former coach of the Malaspina Mariners men’s basketball team, keeps the video clip on his Facebook page and he still watches it from time to time, seven years later.
Because MalU’s 81-80 win over the Langara Falcons that night was one of those you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it games.
The M’s went into the last weekend of the regular season needing to win both their games to make the B.C. Colleges’ Athletic Association playoffs. Up against Langara the first night, it wasn’t looking good – the Mariners trailed all game and were down 79-75 with 10 seconds left.
That’s when star player Jason Hubbs refused to lose. First he made a three-pointer from just a couple steps past half-court. The M’s quickly fouled the Falcons, who made one of two free throws.
An ensuing inbounds pass went to Hubbs. He blazed down the court, pulled up, again, from way back of the three-point line, and let fly.
“The ball’s still in the air when the buzzer goes, and the place exploded,” said Warnick.
That win, he said, was the “tipping point” for the Mariners that year. They won the next day to clinch a playoff berth and overachieved in the post-season, winning a national bronze medal.
What Hubbs and his M’s managed to do that night was textbook basketball, in a way – make a shot, foul, make a shot – but to see it executed like that, with those stakes, and that style, is something that happens only in the greatest games of all time.
“I’ve had other players since hit big shots and hit game-winning shots,” Warnick said. “But nothing comes close to that.”
Nanaimo Timbermen 14 Surrey Stickmen 13Civic Arena, May 20, 2006
Really, the junior A Nanaimo Timbermen had no reason to believe they could win – they’d never won, before that night.
But they found belief, they found just enough goals and they found a way to win a lacrosse game for the first time in franchise history.
“We knew it was the last year at the Civic, so we knew we had to turn a new leaf and get something going,” remembered Jon Diplock, the game hero.
It almost didn’t happen that night – the team needed a goal from Diplock with 32 seconds left just to force overtime.
Then in overtime, Nanaimo quickly fell behind 13-11, and they were still trailing 13-12 with a minute left. Kyle Bazansky’s power-play goal with 32 seconds left in OT tied things up and had the crowd chanting “Na-nai-mo, Na-nai-mo” as the teams lined up for the faceoff. Teammates hastened to get the ball on Diplock’s stick, and seven seconds later, he had his seventh goal of the game.
“It was something special,” he said. “I remember scoring and jumping on the glass and pretty much the whole team came after me. Even though the game wasn’t over, there was probably 15 guys on the floor.”
Of course, the T-men hung on for the win, to the delight of minor lacrosse players, who high-fived one another in the stands.
“To this day I still hear people talking about that game,” Diplock said. “So it’s pretty cool.”
VIU Mariners 3 Mount Royal Cougars 1Vancouver Island University gym, March 10, 2012
This one might not have been as close as the other games on the list, but it’s every bit as unforgettable.
What made this volleyball match so special was the outcome – national championship gold for the home team right on campus at Vancouver Island University. Making the victory even sweeter was that it came against a Royals team that had defeated the M’s in the previous winter’s controversial national final.
And there was some drama in the rematch – the visitors took the first set before the home team took over to win 23-25, 25-18, 25-19, 26-24.
“Unbelievable,” said Tamara Rosenlund, VIU player, that night. “I couldn’t ask for anything better than this, ever.”
Nanaimo Clippers 2 Vernon Vipers 1Frank Crane Arena, April 9, 2007
A huge overtime goal by the captain was vital to the Nanaimo Clippers’ championship run in 2004, and that was the case again with the 2007 championship team.
After the Clippers had taken Game 1 of the B.C. Hockey League final against the Vernon Vipers, Game 2 was pivotal in the series. Of course, the game went to overtime, and then to double overtime.
Taylor Langford wasn’t Nanaimo’s top scorer that year, but no one wanted to win more than he did on that night. The coach must have seen something in his captain’s play – Langford and his linemates stayed out for three consecutive offensive-zone faceoffs leading up to the winning goal. Langford did it all himself on the play, taking the puck right into the blue paint and scoring on his team’s 20th shot of overtime.
“It really did come down to desire,” said Mike Garman, Clippers goalie, after the game.
V.I. Raiders 33 Okanagan Sun 27Caledonia Park, Oct. 14, 2007
The Raiders trailed the Sun into the fourth quarter before surging ahead. Still, the game was close enough that the home team needed a game-saving interception from Aaron Gillcash on his own five-yard line with 20 seconds left.
“This is how a championship game should be,” said Hadi Abassi, team owner, as he paced the sideline during the final minutes.
Nanaimo District Islanders 18 John Barsby Bulldogs 12NDSS field, Nov. 2, 2007
For a decade, the Barsby Bulldogs have beaten the NDSS Islanders every time the varsity football teams have played. Every time except once – and that’s what helped to make the 2007 Kocher Classic the most classic to date.
The teams alternated touchdowns, with NDSS scoring the game-winning TD with five minutes left and holding on. ND’s Eric Mattes had two touchdowns and teammate Dan Baxter made 17 tackles.
“It was a real hyped-up atmosphere,” said Steve Koehler, Islanders co-coach at the time. “It was ecstatic – the parents, the fans, the kids were excited. It was a lot of hoopla going around.”
Dover Bay Dolphins 53 Spectrum Thunder 52NDSS gym, Feb. 21, 2003
The Dover Bay Dolphins senior girls’ basketball team earned a berth in provincials thanks to a game-winning three-pointer from Steph Chow with nine seconds left. Her go-ahead shot created such a roar in the gym that Dover players didn’t hear the referee’s whistle calling a Spectrum timeout. The Thunder had a chance to go back ahead but missed, as Chow then hauled down the rebound.
“Everyone was cheering so loud I couldn’t even hear the final buzzer,” she said afterward.
Nanaimo Pirates 4 Triple Play Hornets 3Serauxmen Stadium, Aug. 31, 2003
The Nanaimo Pirates defeated a team from Washington state in the final of the second annual Bruce MacFarlane Memorial Baseball Tournament.
The game went to extra innings before Shane Ludvigson doubled off the wall to start the eighth, and Grant Vickers followed up with a game-winning RBI.
“It was nice to get that hit in the game for Bruce,” Ludvigson said afterward.