I take you back to last New Year's Eve, when I wrote the following in this space about the year that was: "Goodbye, and good riddance. Don't let the door hit you on the way out."
Whoopsie. Turns out, that approach was probably a mistake. It only appears to have made 2021 even more angry, more vengeful, more unpredictable than 2020. My bad. Sorry about that, folks. Swing and a big ol' miss.
As a result, I'm going to try a slightly different approach this time around. No negativity today, no poking of the proverbial bear. Nothing but sunshine and rainbows and positivity that is in no way dripping in sarcasm. Hey, 2022. You're looking good! Have you lost weight?
With that little matter out of the way, let's dust off the crystal ball and look ahead to what will hopefully be a much better spin around the globe for all of humanity. Given my profession, I'm going to use my powers of peering into the future to focus squarely on the sports world, and offer up some bold predictions — I'd like to think they're more like spoilers — about what the next 365 days have in store.
Remember: You heard it here first. Unless I'm wrong. Then forget I said anything.
-- The Winnipeg Jets will scratch and claw their way back into a playoff spot. No, it's not going to be easy. But they are only three points out of the final Western Conference wildcard spot, with a whopping 52 regular-season games left to play. It says here this team is too deep and too talented to be denied. An added obstacle now standing in their way is a bizarre schedule which has seen them inactive since Dec. 19, and without a scheduled home game now until Jan. 15 at the earliest. They're going to need to become road warriors for a while here. I say they do it.
-- More positives a real negative: This is one I truly hope I miss the mark on, but I just don't see how teams that have mainly dodged the pandemic bullet so far — the Jets, with four confirmed cases so far this season would be in that category — don't ultimately take a big hit at some point in the near future, the way we've already seen with teams like Calgary where nearly every single player, coach and staff member was sidelined at the same time. As a result, brace for more disruptions.
-- The Colorado Avalanche capture the Stanley Cup: This actually isn't a new vision, but one I first shared with readers back when the season began in October. At the time, I had them downing the New York Islanders. But I failed to appreciate the impact of playing the first 13 games in enemy territory, followed by an unexpected COVID-19 outbreak, would have on the the two-time defending Eastern Conference finalists. The Islanders are toast. Instead, give me the Florida Panthers as the runner-up.
-- The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will (mostly) keep the band together: I don't envy the jobs of Kyle Walters, Wade Miller and Mike O'Shea right now. The price of winning back-to-back Grey Cups means a roster of pending free agents deserving of big pay raises. But there's only so much pie to go around, and it's possible a few beloved players could ultimately go hungry. Still, I expect the beasts of the CFL to feast, with the majority doing what they can to keep a dynasty-in-the-making mostly intact. However, on that front...
-- Third time will be the charm for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats: After coming up short in 2019, and again in 2021, look for these championship bridesmaids to finally walk down the aisle and win it all next November in Regina. The old saying "what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger" comes to mind for Orlondo Steinauer's crew, who ultimately find a way to snap the CFL's longest championship drought.
-- Rod Black becomes the new voice of the Bombers: To be clear, I have zero inside knowledge of this. But someone has to replace the legendary Bob Irving, who hung up his microphone last month. Why not Black, a Winnipegger who was calling three-down games for TSN up until his sudden departure this past fall. It makes plenty of sense.
-- Randy Ambrosie doubles back to see what The Rock might be cooking, but three downs remain: Look, there's no question the CFL needs a makeover, especially if it wants to stay afloat in major markets such as Toronto and Vancouver and start drawing younger eyeballs to the product. But copying the NFL by going to four downs isn't the answer. Still, I expect we may see some changes explored, and I wouldn't rule out chatter about a potential merger with The XFL, led by Dwayne Johnson, to heat up once again.
-- Jennifer Jones and her crew win another Olympic gold medal: After conquering Sochi in 2014, I see history repeating itself in Beijing. In fact, the biggest obstacle might not be any of her opponents on the pebble, but the global pandemic which could potentially wreak havoc on the Winter Games set to begin Feb. 4. As long as they proceed as planned, count on seeing Jones on top of the podium once again.
-- The Winnipeg Ice capture the Memorial Cup: The No. 1 ranked team in the entire Canadian Hockey League look like a juggernaut, with an incredible 25-5-2 record to sit on top of the Western Hockey League. With the likes of Matthew Savoie, Conor Geekie and Carson Lambos leading the way, good luck to everyone who crosses their paths.
-- The Winnipeg Goldeyes return to the post-season: It's been a rough couple years for the Fish, spending the entire 2020 season on the road, and playing only half their scheduled home games in 2021 in the friendly confines of Shaw Park. A return to normalcy next summer and Rick Forney's ability to unearth independent baseball talent and bring them north of the border should be the cure for what ails the American Association squad.
-- The Toronto Blue Jays win the World Series: Hey, a long-suffering fan can dare to dream, right? But with an elite young core led by the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, veteran sluggers such as George Springer, Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. a starting pitching staff that includes Jose Berrios, Alex Manoah, Kevin Gausman and Hyun-Jin Ryu, a rapidly improving bullpen and plenty of money still to spend, it truly feels like the time is now. Of course, there's the little matter of the ongoing MLB lockout that has to be be resolved first. But assuming we play ball in 2022, Canada's team wins it all.
Now if you'll all join me in gently, kindly walking 2021 to the door, wishing it well as it heads out and insisting this was all just an unfortunate misunderstanding, I'm confident that better things are in store and we can, in fact, have nice things in 2022.
Happy New Year, folks.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.