Pat Hickey: Looking ahead to what should be a packed sporting year

The Canadians are showing glimpses of what they will be, the Als have stable ownership and the Paris Olympics should bring plenty of excitement.

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With the dawn of a new year, it’s time to dust off the crystal ball and see what 2024 has in store for us.

The Canadiens opened the year with a win in Dallas, allowing them to complete the tough seven-game Christmas road trip with a .500 record.

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That’s not enough to lift Montreal to a playoff berth this season, but the trip offered glimpses of what’s possible in the future. For the third year in a row, the Canadiens have been ravaged by injuries, but the third-youngest team in the NHL has shown resilience and growth that will serve the team well in the future.

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The Canadiens have struggled offensively, but would be better off if Kirby Dach, Rafael Harvey-Pinard and Alex Newhook were healthy. The defense is so deep that some young people find themselves repressed. The expected departure of shot-blocking machine David Savard at the trade deadline will alleviate overcrowding, but the Canadiens may have to make room next season for Lane Hutson and possibly 2023 first-round pick David Reinbacher.

Hutson, who played for the U.S. when it beat Sweden in Friday’s gold medal game at the world junior championship, has to prove he can handle bigger players at the NHL level, but he could be the quarterback of power field that the Canadiens have been missing since Marc Bergevin turned his back on Andrei Markov.

Women take a step forward: The best players in women’s hockey finally have a league of their own with the launch of the Professional Women’s Hockey League.

The initial response has been encouraging, with sold-out crowds in Toronto and Ottawa. The Montreal team, led by superstar Marie-Philip Poulin, won its first game in Ottawa and has two more road games before playing its home opener against Boston on Jan. 13 at Verdun Auditorium.

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My daughter and granddaughter have season tickets in Toronto, but the league’s long-term success depends on finding a broader audience, meaning men, who appreciate the skills of women’s soccer.

Is it time to do the math? Will this be the year we finally get a resolution to the Hockey Canada scandal? While the NHL has suspended Shane Pinto 41 games for violating the league’s gaming policy, there are likely current NHL players who are guilty of sexual assault.

Hockey Canada used player registration fees to pay a sizable settlement after a woman alleged she was assaulted by players, including some members of Canada’s junior national team, following a Hockey Canada event in June 2018.

The investigation has become a game of pass the buck involving Hockey Canada, the NHL and London, Ont., police, with no one taking responsibility.

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The other types: The Alouettes upset Toronto and Winnipeg en route to winning the Gray Cup. We can’t predict another win, but the team has some stability under the ownership of Pierre Karl Péladeau. He differs from the previous owners because he is a Quebecer and a billionaire.

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Péladeau’s political stance is one of the reasons he was frustrated in bringing an NHL franchise to Quebec City, but his experience with the Alouettes has been nothing but positive.

Péladeau had two reasons to celebrate last year, because he also owns Quebec Remparts, which won the Memorial Cup.

The outlook is not looking good for Montreal’s MLS franchise. Less than two months before the start of the season, it was finally reported that CF Montréal had found its next head coach, with the Athletic reporting on Thursday that the team was finalizing a deal with Laurent Courtois.

This is often a difficult position to fill because it does not come with job security. Hernán Losada, fired at the end of last season, was the team’s 11th coach in 15 years.

Most of the coaches have been fired, but Wilfried Nancy left of his own volition in 2022 after growing tired of overbearing owner Joey Saputo. He moved to the Columbus Crew and won an MLS championship last year.

Next stop Paris: This is an Olympic year, which means we pay attention to sports and athletes we usually ignore.

The exception, when the best athletes in the world meet in Paris, is basketball.

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Canada is ranked No. 1 in women’s 3×3 basketball and the Canadian men will be represented in the traditional five-player game for the first time since 2000 and have a chance to claim their first medal since silver in 1936.

Canada beat the United States to take the bronze medal at the FIBA ​​World Cup and features a loaded NBA lineup headlined by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is a candidate for NBA Most Valuable Player honors. Montrealer Luguentz Dort brings his defensive talents to the mix and there’s a chance another Montrealer, Bennedict Mathurin, could be added to the roster.

Canada won four gold medals at last year’s world track and field championships and decathletes Pierce LePage and Damian Warner, shot putter Sarah Mitton, hammer throwers Ethan Katzberg and Camryn Rogers, 800-meter runner Marco Arop and sprinter Andre DeGrasse will all be medal contenders in Paris.

World record holder Summer McIntosh, Maggie Mac Neil and Kylie Masse will take a dip in the pool.

And Brandie Wilkerson and Melissa Humana-Paredes will be among the favorites in women’s beach volleyball.

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