Welcome to the final day of the decade.
The zeros were hardly a zero in the wide world of sports.
The new millennia brought out at times the best and the worst of athletes.
The following is my list of the Top 10 sports stories from 2000-2009.
1) Performance enhancing drugs
No issue dominated the decade like athletes juicing. It became about so much more than just steroids as substances like amphetamines, and human growth hormones became part of an everyday lexicon. PEDs tore down home run kings, future hall of fame pitchers, and track and field legends. Drug testing was also expanded and increased in all sports including golf and race car driving.
2) 2004-05 NHL lockout
Hockey hasn’t been the same since. The NHL endured arguably its darkest hour and not only survived it but is as strong as it has been as a sport since the early 90s and is as well off financially as it has ever been. The league also took care of a lot of house keeping in ushering in new rules, a salary cap and effectively broke the union, formerly one of sports most united.
3) Canada Gold 2002
It seems like a life time ago, but the hockey gold medal game at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games was as close as this generation will get to the 1972 Summit Series. It is difficult to remember now but you have to remember that 2002 marked 50 years since Canada’s last hockey gold medal at the Olympics and were only a few years removed from a summit to figure out why the game was broke in this country after a run of international disappointments.
4) Tiger’s prowl
No athlete dominated his sport like Tiger this decade, his crowning moment coming in the 2008 US Open when he defeated Rocco Mediate in an 18-hole playoff on one leg. The numbers are staggering over the last 10 years — 69 victories, 12 major titles — and apparently more women than he knew what to do with.
5) Armstrong Livestrong
Coming off of advanced testicular cancer, just completing the Tour de France would be enough to cement a legacy to be proud of. But no, Lance Armstrong not only won the one of the world’s most grueling physical tests, he did so seven consecutive times (1999-2005). He was the face of cycling. Even more impressive, is he has taken more drug tests than any other athlete and has never failed.
6) 2008 Olympics
While there were five Olympics during this decade, few were able to capture the imagination of the world like the 2008 Beijing Games.
Going beyond the mystique of the host country, a human missile named Usain Bolt was launched and American Michael Phelps showed the pool could be a gold mine.
7) UFC’s rise to power
Dana White’s little engine that could, roared from the fringes of the sporting world to main stream. The UFC has left former power house boxing in a bloody mess as it scrambles to catch up. MMA has gone from it’s most recognizable name in the ‘90s being a WWE superstar — Ken Shamrock — to guys like Randy ‘The Natural’ Couture, George ‘Rush’ St. Pierre, and Chuck ‘Iceman’ Liddell being household names.
8) Vick arrested for dog fighting
This was a gut-check moment for many, not just the NFL. It caused people to reexamine how they viewed athletes, their position as role models, and the justice system. The NFL has since cracked down hard on its players for run ins with the law — a move that was itself decades too late. And of course Vick has resumed making his millions playing football after serving 23 months for the torture and killing of dogs in his Band Newz Kennel dog fighting ring.
9) NHL superstars, the new generation
With The Great One’s career winding down through the mid-to-late 90s, the quest for the Next One didn’t end until the two headed monster named Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin burst on to the scene, leading a new crop of NHL stars that has replaced an aging generation of Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic and Jeremy Roenick.
10) World Juniors 5 in a row
In the next week this may become six in a row, but Team Canada’s run at the World Junior Hockey Championships has been an impressive one with no real end in sight — winning it all in some years that should have been rebuilding years. With last year’s gold medal they tied the previous record for consecutive championships also set by Canada from 1993-97.