In sports, the story of the comeback often goes hand in hand with the collapse. To choke away a lead, or failing to show up when it really matters is always a dramatic/shocking experience for fans to go through, and Canada isn’t short of big collapses in the last twenty years. From hockey and soccer, to teams departing and team identity crises, here are some the biggest collapse in Canadian sports in the past twenty years.
Blue Jays blow an 8-1 lead vs Seattle in the 2022 MLB Wildcard Round
This one needs no introduction, and probably still stings! In a do-or-die wildcard Game Two at home against the Seattle Mariners, the Blue Jays raced into an 8-1 lead with just four innings left. From there, it all fell apart.
A Mariners team that hadn’t been in the playoffs since 2001 then went on to tie the game with four runs in the sixth and eighth – the defining moment was a on field collision from Jays fielders George Springer and Bo Bichette that lead to a three run hit from Seattle which tied the game up, and ultimately brought about a sense of inevitable dread on Rodger’s Centre. Toronto never recovered, losing the game 10-9 and after just two games (both at home), their MLB 2022 Postseason was over. It’s one thing to lose, but to lose after being 8-1 up is a the type of collapse that a franchise in any sport would struggle to recover from, especially in a do or die game!
CWNT crash out of the 2011 World Cup
It’s hard to imagine the Canadian Woman’s National Team being on this list, for much of the 2010’s they were proudly flying the flag for Canada on the World soccer stage – something the mens team could only dream of. But in 2011, a talented team filled with legends in their prime like Christine Sinclair, Rhian Wilkinson and Diana Matheson had reached their shocking low point.
At the 2011 Germany World Cup, Canada was drawn against the host Germans, France, and Nigeria. While Germany was World Cup holders and amongst the tournament favourites, France had never gotten out of the group stage before, and Nigeria had only ever won two of their previous thirteen World Cup games, so Canada would’ve fancied their chances to make it to the next round. What indeed happened, however, was that the team lost 2-1 to Germany, 4-0 to France, and then 1-0 to Nigeria, crashing out in embarrassing fashion with no points and a goal difference of minus six! Canada we’re ranked as the worst performing team at the 2011 World Cup, an embarrassment that the CWNT has at least looked to have long put behind them since.
Leafs blow a 4-1 lead vs Boston in 2013
Yeah, you knew this was coming. The Leafs for the last ten years have been defined by their Game Seven capitulations, and it all stems back to this. It could’ve been so different, Toronto went 3-1 down in their series against Boston but fought back to force a Game Seven in TD Garden.
Around halfway through the third period, Toronto held a 4-1 lead and looked poised to win the series. Even when the Bruins made it 4-2, the Leafs still had command with less than a minute and a half on the clock, but then it all started to go wrong! The Bruins improbably fired back with goals from Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron, stunning the Maple Leafs and forcing overtime. With momentum behind them, Bergeron struck again in overtime to win the game and the series. Toronto had this game won! Yet they lost, while the players might be different now, the scars from this game still run deep to this day, and perhaps they always will until they vanquish their Game Seven demons.
Canucks blow a 3-1 lead vs Minnesota in 2003
Back in 2003, the Vancouver Canucks finished second in their division, nine points ahead of the Minnesota Wild and were riding high after an epic 4-3 series win over St Louis in which they overcame a 3-1 series deficit. Now all that was standing between them and a Western Conference final appearance was a Minnesota team that was only three seasons old and prior to their win over Colorado (in which they were also 3-1 down in the series) had never won a playoff game before. Vancouver had a very talented team with Markus Näslund winning the Ted Lindsay award, and they raced into a 3-1 lead, a place in the WCF looked inevitable.
Then it all flipped. Minnesota scored twelve goals in the next two games to force a Game Seven in Vancouver. No team had ever won two consecutive playoff series after being 3-1 down in both of them, and it looked like that would continue being the case going into the final period as Vancouver held a 2-1 lead. But the Wild stunned the Vancouver crowd scoring three unanswered goals to win 4-2, eliminating Vancouver. Vancouver had an excellent chance to go on a deep run, yet instead of closing it out, they were outscored 16-5 in the games they could’ve won the series, a stunning collapse.
Canada lose 8-1 away to Honduras in 2012
The task was simple, all Canada needed was a draw in San Pedro Sula against Honduras, and they would advance to the final CONCACAF World Cup qualifying round for the first time since 1996! Instead, they laid probably the biggest egg in Canadian soccer history. Canada impressed in the opening stages, but went quickly behind and never recovered, after just thirty-three minutes, they were 4-0 down and the World Cup dream was dead. But the nightmare was yet over.
Stephen Hart’s side would concede ANOTHER FOUR GOAL in the second half, and although Ian Hume got them on the scoresheet, it did nothing to mask the result. Canada had talented players; but the likes of Atiba Hutchinson, David Edgar, Julian de Guzmán and Simeon Jackson just couldn’t get it done on the day, after Canada lost their biggest game in nearly twenty years by a score 8-1!
The Road To Olympic Gold – FC13 Podcast
Ottawa post 2017 Conference Final
One goal. That’s how close Ottawa came to reaching the 2017 Stanley Cup final, they gave it their all against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a game series, but ultimately a goal from Chris Kunitz in double overtime was enough to separate the times. But there’s always next year right….right?
In the following season, Ottawa drove off a cliff at a record speed! The team that finished second in the Atlantic in 2016/17 finished with he second worst record in the league just a season later. Everything that could’ve went wrong, went wrong for this team – and the team itself would soon become unrecognisable. Key franchise players Kyle Turris, Mike Hoffman, Erik Karlsson and Mark Stone all moved on by 2018 and from 2018-2021, the team would finish no higher than second last in their division. Things are finally looking up in Ottawa, and after the dramatic post 2017 collapse, that’ll be a relief to all Sens fans.
The Leafs in series clinching games, 2018-2022
While not all of those are as bad as each other, it’s just too entrenched into the Leafs at this point to not separate these. Boston 2018, Boston 2019, Columbus 2020, Montreal 2021 and Tampa Bay 2022, five consecutive seasons of losing series deciding games. It seems almost statistically impossible for the Leafs to not win at least one of those games.
When you dig even deeper, it’s more than just Game Seven (or Game Five as was the case in 2020). Toronto had the chance to wrap up the series early in 2019, 2021 and 2022 bht couldn’t get it done. The worst of these defeats has to be 2021, Toronto eased to a North Division title in 2021 and held a 3-1 series lead over a Montreal side that stumbled into the playoffs. But the Leafs went onto lose three consecutive games. The worse part in all this is that Leafs have a very talented team, arguably their most talented side since their last Stanley Cup winning team! If they can win a series, it is very easy to imagine them going on a very deep run, but that’s just it – they need to get over their demons ain’t the first round. Has to happen eventually….doesn’t it?
Riders have 13 men on the field vs Montreal in the 2009 Grey Cup
This one probably still hurts in Saskatchewan. The 2007-2013 era was a golden age in Rider football. The team made as many Grey Cups in an eight year span (four) as they had made from 1972-2007 – while they had the success of two titles, there fans know that they should have three. The Roughriders lined up in the 2009 Grey Cup against the Montreal Alouettes and got off to a great start! The Roughriders led at halftime 17-3, and with just one quarter left, they were winning the Grey Cup by a score of 20-10. The Riders then added a TD to make the lead 27-11 with ten minutes left, surely there was no stopping them now!
But then it all went wrong. First Montreal responded with a touchdown, and then Roughriders QB Darian Durant threw an interception to Als defensive back Jerald Brown. This gave Montreal the momentum they needed to go on another touchdown drive, making the score 25-27 (Montreal missed a potential game tying 2 Point conversion). Saskatchewan would give Montreal the ball back with just seconds left on the clock but there was enough time for Anthony Calvillo to lead Montreal into field goal range. Damon Duval stepped up from 43 yards out and missed the kick, but immediately flags came out. The Saskatchewan Roughriders we’re penalised for having 13 men on the field, giving Montreal a second chance from ten yards closer – he made no mistake. Not only did Saskatchewan blow a fifteen point lead, they cost themselves a win on the final play, with no one to blame but themselves. This collpase still stings an entire province.
Montreal lose the Expos
This is a different type of collapse, and probably the worst kind of collapse. The Expos had been playing MLB baseball in Montreal since 1969, but by 2004 the writing was on the wall. At the turn of the millennium, things we’re looking dire for Montreal as poor on the field play, an insufficient stadium and financial instability was all starting to become too much for a team that as recently as 1994 – had a legitimate shot at the World Series. The team survived contraction in 2002, but the writing was on the wall.
The team was actually competitive in it’s last few seasons, they were in playoff contention in 2002 and 2002 but couldn’t push through to the post season at a time where extra playoff revenue was desperately needed. Things were so bad, that the Expos, owned by MLB at this point where made to play some of their home games in Puerto Rico in 2003 and 2004. After being competitive in 2002 and 2004, Montreal finished dead last in their division in 2004 – losing their last game at home 9-1, and their last ever game 8-1. The saddest part about Montreal’s collapse is that it was an off field collapse. If things were more financially secure and the stadium wasn’t what it was, perhaps the Expos would still be here today. However, in 2005 they moved to Washington D.C, becoming the Washington Nationals.
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