Nelson’s sports community remained vibrant in victory as well as in defeat in 2018. Here’s our picks for the biggest sports stories of the year:
Nelson’s new multi-sport facility is a miracle of circumstance and hard work.
In January, School District 8 approved a plan by the Nelson Tennis Club to renovate four dilapidated courts behind L.V. Rogers. The club had only just come up with the idea two months prior, but the plan was too good for the district to pass up.
“It seemed like a pretty good win-win,” said district chair Lenora Trenaman at the time. “The community wins along with our students. It would be an upgrade to our facility and provide more opportunities in different areas of sports than one.”
The district backed the club financially, as did a grant from the Columbia Basin Trust, and construction (much of it volunteer-led) was soon underway on the $300,000 complex. Less than a year after it was conceived, the facility opened in September.
It’s difficult to overstate how rare it is for a community project of this scale to come together so quickly. The club has three more years of construction phases ahead of it, but if all the work ended today the new courts would still stand as a local achievement.
The former president of the Nelson Soccer Association (NSA) was the heart and soul of the city’s biggest sports organization.
Kerry Dyck spent nearly a decade coaching Nelson teams, serving on the board and leading as president while also continuing to play in adult leagues. The Nelson native and father of three was forced to step down in 2017 after being diagnosed with lung and brain cancer.
“No one’s done more work in Nelson Youth Soccer than Kerry Dyck,” said Chuck Bennett, who succeeded Dyck as president. “No one’s done more heavy lifting than Kerry. No one’s been more supportive of where this is going than Kerry.”
After Dyck passed away on Jan. 14, the NSA hosted a memorial tournament in October that funded a bursary in his name for L.V. Rogers students. Dyck’s legacy will also continue on as NSA plans for a new outdoor turf field, which he helped conceptualize.
Whitewater’s resident Olympian received national recognition at a ceremony in Nelson.
Bob Swan, who competed for Canada at the 1964 and 1968 Winter Games, was inducted into the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame in September.
As a member of Canada’s first national ski team, Swan was feted by many of his original teammates including Nancy Green Raine at an intimate event.
“How did I deserve that? There must be quite a few people who think I’m worthy,” he said. “I think of my results and think they weren’t that bad. I didn’t win a lot but it was close and I had a pretty good career.”
Now in his mid-70s, Swan can still be found trying to perfect his slalom at Whitewater.
B.C.’s bantam hockey community turned its eyes to Nelson in March.
The city hosted nine teams of 13- to 15-year-old boys competing in the B.C. Hockey Bantam Rep Tier 3 Championship, one of which was the Nelson Leafs.
Bantam hockey holds a special place in Nelson sports history. In 1969, an unheralded Nelson team shocked the province by winning the championship with a squad that featured future NHL players Danny Gare and Pat Price.
This year the Leafs nearly pulled off the same feat. The team went undefeated throughout the tournament but lost in the final to a team from Mission.
They may have settled for silver, but it was a gold-medal performance by the athletes and the Nelson Minor Hockey Association.
Prior to 2018, playoff runs were typically short-lived for the Nelson Leafs.
But last spring the Leafs finished the regular season by winning the Neil Murdoch Division for the first time in four years, then proceeded to roll through the post-season.
The Leafs opened the playoffs by holding off the Grand Forks Border Bruins in a seven-game grind, and followed that by dumping the Castlegar Rebels in five games to make their first conference final appearance in eight years.
The run ended against the Kimberley Dynamiters. Nelson took a 2-1 series lead but lost star goaltender Josh Williams to injury in Game 4. The Leafs had six players injured for Game 6, a double-OT thriller that eliminated the local team.
“At times we were down to just over two lines on that bench and the effort that they gave us was Herculean,” said head coach Mario DiBella after the loss. “It was over the top. As a coaching staff we just couldn’t be prouder of what they gave us.”