An article about former Nanaimo Clippers star Sheldon Rempal signing with the Vancouver Canucks organization was the News Bulletin’s most-clicked sports story in 2021. (News Bulletin file photo)

An article about former Nanaimo Clippers star Sheldon Rempal signing with the Vancouver Canucks organization was the News Bulletin’s most-clicked sports story in 2021. (News Bulletin file photo)

Nanaimo News Bulletin’s top 10 most-read sports stories of 2021

Fans rooting for former Clippers star Sheldon Rempal, who joined the Vancouver Canucks organization

1. Former Nanaimo Clippers star signs with Vancouver Canucks organization, July 28

It’s been five years since he played in Nanaimo, but hockey fans here clearly remember him fondly.

An article about former Nanaimo Clippers star Sheldon Rempal signing with the Vancouver Canucks organization was the News Bulletin’s most-read sports story in 2021.

The Canucks announced during the summer the signing of seven players to two-way contracts, including Rempal. He agreed to a one-year deal and has been a key player with the AHL’s Abbotsford Canucks this season, second in team scoring at press time.

He played three seasons in the B.C. Hockey League, most notably 2015-16, when he scored 59 goals in 56 games.

2. Two-year-old Nanaimo bike rider already attracting cycle sponsors, May 11

Kashius Weme’s precocious abilities on two wheels, not to mention a TikTok account with 170,000-plus followers, earned him attention and even sponsorships.

Weme’s mother, Kimeesha See, says her son seemed to be into bikes before he could even walk. He started by taking his run bike everywhere, and it wasn’t long before he was confident enough on it that it was time for a pedal bike.

“And he just took off,” See said.

3. Nanaimo Clippers for sale as owner says hockey won’t be back to normal any time soon, Feb. 28

BCHL hockey has changed from what it used to be, and the Nanaimo Clippers owner decided he couldn’t wait any longer.

Wes Mussio announced that the Clippers junior A hockey club was for sale, posting the news on Facebook and mentioning a lack of support from the provincial government for the BCHL and its franchises.

“Seventy-five per cent of our business comes from gate receipts. We don’t have TV contracts, we have a limited amount of sponsorship business in a small city…” Mussio said. “So it comes down to the fans and if you don’t have fans in the building, you’re losing a lot of money.”

4. New movie tells true story of Nanaimo mountain bike racer’s life and legacy, Nov. 4

Long Live Chainsaw, a full-length documentary film about Nanaimo mountain bike racer Steve Smith, premiered at the Port Theatre.

Smith, the overall World Cup champion in downhill mountain bike racing in 2013, died in a motorbike crash in 2016.

According to a press release from Anthill Films, Long Live Chainsaw details Smith’s “meteoric rise … untimely death and long-lasting legacy.”

5. Grandparents cheer from Nanaimo as granddaughter wins Canada’s first rowing medal of Olympics, July 29

An athlete who used to see how fast she could paddle around Nanaimo’s Shack Islands rowed all the way to an Olympic podium.

Caileigh Filmer of Victoria, along with teammate Hillary Janssens of Surrey, won bronze in women’s pairs rowing at the Summer Games in Tokyo.

It was a proud moment for the grandparents to watch on TV from Nanaimo as Filmer received her medal.

“I was crying with her. I was really touched with how she said she missed her family,” Ruth Matson said.

6. Nanaimo teen who played golf 130 straight days during pandemic wins B.C. championship, Aug. 25

Matthew Wilson, a 15-year-old Wellington Secondary student, won B.C. Golf’s juvenile boys’ championship in Pitt Meadows.

Wilson told B.C. Golf that the result was “shocking” for him, as he was shooting rounds of 100 as a junior before the pandemic afforded him more time to focus on his golf game at his home course, Nanaimo Golf Club.

“I started playing every single day and I just got so much better,” said Wilson. “It has been a long journey. I played 130 days in row this year. Every day after school.”

7. Nanaimo gymnast wins provincial title, another makes nationals, May 21

Tihanna Wright of Nanaimo Gymnastics School is all-around provincial champion, and her teammate Makayla White qualified for Canadian championships.

Nanaimo Gymnastics School said in an e-mail to the News Bulletin that routines were filmed and sent to judges, and after results were posted, “we just did our own award ceremonies at our gym.”

8. VIU Mariners baseball team signs first woman in league history, Feb. 21

Vancouver Island University’s baseball club announced the signing of Alli Schroder, a right-handed pitcher from Fruitvale, B.C., for 2021-22. According to Baseball Canada, Schroder is the first woman to join a CCBC program.

“I’ve always played against big guys … you kind of just have to find your own advantages and know yourself, know how you play,” Schroder said. “I’m excited to see the competition and I’ll just have to find my place there.”

As for her place in league history, Schroder is willing to embrace the role of an advocate for women in men’s sports. Girls who play baseball sometimes switch to softball when they reach college, but Schroder said there are pathways to keep playing baseball and maybe she can “blaze a trail.”

9. Nanaimo man among world’s fittest after podium finish at CrossFit Games, Aug. 6

Patrick Vellner of CrossFit Nanaimo finished second at the CrossFit Games, a fitness sport competition that comes with the title “fittest on Earth.”

“It’s not the most successful it could possibly be, but it’s still a very, very big accomplishment and it’s a huge success, that’s for sure,” said Vellner.

Most of the 15 events consisted of a series of exercises; for example, the first event was a 1.6-kilometre swim followed by a 4.8km paddle, and the final event was a 600-metre row, 90 pull-ups and then 33 metres of lunges with a 185-pound barbell.

As if the workouts aren’t challenging enough, athletes receive only limited information beforehand.

10. Snuneymuxw artist creates alternate logo for Nanaimo’s new NightOwls baseball team, March 17

The Nanaimo NightOwls, a West Coast League expansion baseball team, introduced a new alternate logo featuring a Coast Salish design. The logo was created by Snuneymuxw artist Noel Brown and will appear on home jerseys and on team merchandise.

The NightOwls say the alternate logo is meant to honour the area’s “rich and proud First Nations history” and the grey owl symbolizes a messenger with a nasty streak. Chief Mike Wyse said Brown’s skills as an artist bring “great pride” to the Snuneymuxw First Nation.

“This team, playing in our traditional territory, will be a team we can all cheer for as a community, celebrating that we can all come together. There is a lot of excitement about the NightOwls with our Snuneymuxw people,” Wyse said.

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2021 Year in Review