It was a phenomenal year of athletic achievement for Calgarians and the city’s sports scene in 2023.
Whether it was soccer, basketball, baseball, hockey or other sports, the Stampede City had lots to cheer about. Some of the city’s teams and individual stars made headlines internationally, while others flew under the radar.
Here is a look at 10 performances that captured our attention in 2023 and inspired Calgary-area sports fans:
1. CONQUERING CAVALRY: The Calgary Cavalry Football Club captured the Canadian Premier League Shield as regular-season champions in September. It was the second such title for the franchise – which plays out of ATCO Field at Spruce Meadows – and it qualified the Cavalry for competition for the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup, a tournament featuring the top clubs from North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
Related Link: https://cavalryfc.canpl.ca/concacaf
2. SURGING SUCCESS: In their first season in the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL), the Calgary Surge left it all on the court and made an immediate impression on the city’s sporting scene. The squad went 12-8 during the regular season in the Western Conference and when the playoffs rolled around the Surge made it all the way to the championship finals, ultimately losing to the Scarborough Shooting Stars. During their 10 regular-season home games at WinSport, the Surge had sellout crowds at four of the matchups. They’ll have an opportunity to build on that home court advantage when they open the 2024 season at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
3. BASEBALL BEAUTIES: Calgary-area baseball boosters were treated to two championship teams in 2023. The University of Calgary Dinos claimed their first Canadian College Baseball Conference (CCBC) World Series title in May and the Okotoks Dawgs captured the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) championship with a series triumph over the Medicine Hat Mavericks in August. The Dawgs victory completed back-to-back title wins for the team and secured a seventh franchise championship.
4. PUCK PROWESS: March was a great month for local hockey. The University of Calgary Dinos men’s team won the Canada West title, their first since 1996, with a 2-1 triumph over the University of Alberta Golden Bears. The women’s Mount Royal Cougars followed that up with a national championship by scoring a 4-3 victory over the Concordia Stingers. It was the first women’s hockey championship for the program.
5. LEAPING LOUTITT: Ski jumper Alexandria Loutitt rose to new heights in 2023. The Calgarian won world junior championship gold in Whistler, British Columbia and she became the first Canadian to win a FIS Ski Jumping World Cup event. Loutitt also holds the record for the longest jump in Canadian history. Look up, way up, to see what’s next for the 19-year-old ski jumping star.
6. GOLDEN GOALIE: The Las Vegas Golden Knights hoisted the Stanley Cup for the first time in the team’s history in June after they defeated the Florida Panthers in five games. The Knights would not have been able to capture hockey’s holy grail without the efforts in the crease of Adin Hill. Born in Comox, British Columbia, the netminder played his minor and junior hockey in Calgary with the Bisons, Rangers, Buffaloes and Canucks. After playing only 27 regular-season games in net for Las Vegas, Hill was trusted to keep pucks out in the NHL playoffs. He went 11-4 in the postseason, with a 2.17 goals-against average (GAA) and a .932 save percentage.
7. CALGARY CREASE KEEPER: Hill was just one of a number of great goaltenders to represent the city in impressive fashion in 2023. Dustin Wolf of the Calgary Wranglers collected several major American Hockey League (AHL) honours for his 2022-23 season, including the Les Cunningham Award (league MVP), the President’s Award (player excellence), the Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Award (lowest GAA) and his second consecutive Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award as the AHL’s best goalie. Wolf is now trying to make a name for himself in the NHL with the Calgary Flames.
8. LACROSSE LEADER: Christian Del Bianco was another stellar stopper. The netminder with the Calgary Roughnecks was named the National Lacross League’s 2022-23 Most Valuable Payer in May, becoming the second goalie to ever win that honour in the NLL. Del Bianco set a record for minutes played and went 13-5 for the Roughnecks on the season. He was also named a First-Team All-League goaltender.
9. DONNYBROOK DRAGON: Steve “The Dragon” Claggett continues to step in the ring and collect wins … and belts. The Calgarian currently holds the North American Boxing Federation (NABF) junior welterweight belt, and he picked up the World Boxing Organization (WBO) International title with a 10-round victory over Miguel Madueno in November. With his 37th career victory, the 34-year-old appears to be closing in on a top 10 world ranking.
10. PAN AM PERFORMERS: Canada did very well at the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, racking up 164 medals to finish in third behind the United States and Brazil. Calgary-area athletes helped boost that medal count in several sports, including rowing, swimming, diving, rugby, cycling and other events.