By Lethbridge Herald on December 29, 2023.
By Justin Seward
2023 saw many highlights throughout the Lethbridge sports scene and here are the top stories captured during the year.
Canes make controversial hire
The Lethbridge Hurricanes replaced Brent Kisio with Bill Peters before the start of training camp in late August.
The hire didn’t come without its controversy considering this was Peters first job in North America. since 2019 after he resigned from the Calgary Flames due to committing an act of anti-black racism that involved Akim Aliu in the 2009-2010 season.
“Well you know, one of the things that was evident to me right away was Peter (Anholt) (and) the care for the players,” said Peters.
“Everything is about the players. He mentioned it in the press conference. One of the first questions, you know, before this ever fully got to the finish line was I asked how many guys they carried and he said 22, and it was a beautiful thing to here as a coach because now the reality is you’re going to get everybody to play.”
Kisio resigns from Canes
After eight seasons with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Brent Kisio resigned as the winningest coach of the hockey club to pursue a pro opportunity with the Henderson Silver Knights in August.
“Yeah, it happened quick,” said Kisio.
“Obviously, we’re pretty close to camp and I was getting excited for the season here, and getting ready for it ,and just got a phone call from Henderson. You know an opportunity opened up there to go there and coach in Vegas, and be a part of the Henderson Silver Knights. And to get an organization like that, and to be a part of a team that just won the (Stanley) Cup, it’s exciting.”
Kisio wins gold
Hurricanes head coach Brent Kisio won the gold medal as a part of Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Halifax and Moncton in January.
Canada won a thriller in overtime 3-2 against Czechia.
“Well, it was quite the experience,” said Kisio.
“It was an honour to coach for Team Canada and obviously the way we ended up winning, it was pretty darn exciting. And a lot of emotions, and the place was rocking and you know a lot of credit to Halifax and Moncton for the tournament they put on and how much fun it was.”
Kisio had a front row seat to watching then projected first overall pick Connor Bedard.
U13AA Hurricanes win provincial title
The U13AA Hurricanes hockey team went undefeated on route to winning a provincial banner in the spring.
Well the obvious reaction (is) it feels really good,” said head coach Greg Cowie.
“I’m very happy for all the athletes on our team, first and foremost. It’s something pretty special So it’s a pretty huge accomplishment for these kids. It’s a very hard road to get there and I’m really happy for all the kids or all the athletes that they were able to do this. It was really interesting to watch them, and watch their reactions when they won ,and to see the happiness in their faces and to really understand that they achieved something that a lot of people never get the opportunity to.”
West Wind gymnasts crowned provincial champion
For the first time since 2009, the West Wind Gymnastics Club had a provincial champion.
Young Amalia Yavitu was crowned a provincial champion in the all-around category in May.
She won the Level 5 all around provincials after receiving the best score in the vault, bars, beam and floor.
“I was really excited and I had a lot of fun doing it,” said Yavitu.
Yavitu thought the competition was tough.
“I think they judged pretty hard,” she said.
De Alejandro throws no-hitter
Lethbridge Bulls pitcher Javier De Alejandro threw the first no-hitter, complete game for the team since 1999 in a July game against Brooks.
He only threw 105 pitches and struck out eight batters in nine innings.
“Pitch count for me was working, getting ahead in counts, you know, getting ahead of guys as much as possible,” he said.
Bulldogs win back to back
The Winston Churchill Bulldogs senior boys rugby team won their second consecutive Tier 2 rugby provincial banner in June.
Winston Churchill defeated Calgary’s Rundle College 43-7 in the final.
The Bulldogs knocked off Frank Maddox High School and Banff on route to the final.
“Yeah, it was good,” said Bulldogs head coach Jonathan Dick.
“ I mean the guys showed up to play and had some good games up there in Calgary this weekend and great to be repeat champions. I mean last year was a pretty easy road and this year was a little bit tougher. We had to play a few games to get the championship ,and the boys played hard and they focused in on the weekend and all the hard work throughout the course of the long season kind of paid off.”
Dragon boaters medal at worlds
The Dragonboat Association of Southern Alberta contingent in the senior and junior divisions medalled at the World Dragon Boat Racing Championships in Thailand.
Mia Chalmet, Liberty Fuentes, Ella Veilleux, Sierra Smith, Linda Gilbert and Romina Senneker all podiumed at the event for Team Canada.
“The experience was enlightening to say the least,” said Chalmet.
“I’ve never competed at the international level before. So that in itself was way different than anything I have experienced before. Actually, I’ve only competed in two kind (s) of festivals, one being the Lethbridge festival, just our local one, in June. And then the next one was the international competition in Pattaya. But just like representing my country and having that honour has been really great in general.”
Double gold for Nicol
Swimmer Rachel Nicol won double gold with Team Canada at the Pan Am Games in Chile in October.
Nicol won gold with the women’s 4x100m medley relay team and again in the 100-metre breaststroke.
“It was great, “said Nicol.
“I didn’t really allow myself to think too much going into this meet about expectations and where I might place and times I might go. I went in more thinking about soaking in the experience and like I’m further along in my career and so I probably won’t have very many, if any more kind of chances like that to experience those kinds of game settings.”
She was surprised with where she finished in her races.
“I didn’t really give too much thought about placing, because it depends a lot of the time who comes to the meet, and how people are swimming and it was in October, which is a bit of an awkward time of the year to race really at your best,” said Nicol.