The New Year is an exciting time for most sports fans. In the NFL, the wild card teams have finished battling it out for a spot in the divisional round, for basketball fans, the NBA season is nearing its midpoint and March Madness is just around the corner, while the NHL is getting ready to head into the All-Star break. All the while baseball fans patiently await the season. There’s certainly lots to look forward to for all sports fans, but what if your favourite team didn’t make the playoffs? Or you’re still patiently sitting through your favourite sport’s off-season? Or maybe you just want to find something new to occupy your time. No matter what the case, this year has plenty of weird, alternative and underrated athletic competitions to keep you entertained.
International Bobsleigh Federation World Cup & The FIL Luge World Cup
Canadians generally tune in to bobsleigh once every four years at the winter Olympics. We vaguely know about that one Jamaican team because we watched Cool Runnings once, and we heard about the Nigerian women’s team raising money for their sled on Kickstarter sometime last year. Most of the time though, bobsleigh remains off our radar, which is a shame because what’s not to love about a sport that involves people hurling themselves down an ice slide as fast as humanly possible. From bobsleigh, to skeleton, to luge (which is basically a frozen water-slide), there’s something wild for everyone to watch. The IBSF and FIL hold this event every winter from December into early February and CBC covers the entire competition.
CWHL All-Star Game
Okay, so hockey’s not exactly an underrated sport, but it’s no secret that the women’s game doesn’t always get the love it deserves. Every year, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League puts together a roster of the absolute best players in the league to participate in an All-Star game. Players include Olympians, national team members, and some of the best women playing the game today. Hilary Knight, Natalie Spooner, Brigette Lacquette, Mary-Philip Poulin, and Sarah Nurse, being some of the top players. This year the CWHL has partnered with the Toronto Maple Leafs organization to bring the game to the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, with tickets still available (and under thirty dollars), and the game being broadcast on Sportsnet, there’s really no reason to miss this game.
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series
Rugby Sevens is the perfect sport for anyone who doesn’t have the attention span to sit through a full rugby game. Teams are made up of seven players, and the game is played in seven-minute halves. Both men’s and women’s tournaments start on Jan. 26 and will be available to watch on CBC. The tournament will be world wide, with games played in Hamilton, Sydney, Las Vegas, London, Paris and pretty much every other trendy city you can think of. With each match taking less time out of your day than an episode of Friends would, there’s really nothing to lose.
World Junior Figure Skating Championship
With the World Juniors of hockey over, the country is left in search of a new group of teenagers to place unreasonably high expectations on, and hey, look, these ones are on ice too! The World Junior Figure Skating Championship is a tournament for figure skaters between the ages of 13 and 19. These young skaters will be getting one of their first tastes of international competition, providing the perfect opportunity to look out for the next generation of Canadian figure skaters. The highlight of the Championship will definitely be the gala on March 10, a non-competitive showcase where participants are free to show off their artistry in short programs.
This is definitely the strangest sport on the list, a competition that’s equal parts terrifying and mesmerizing, and exactly what it sounds like. Held in Russia every year, tank biathlon is a military sport that tests the abilities of soldiers and military personnel from several different countries across the world. It’s similar to regular biathlon in that participants are required to shoot at targets during the race, it’s different from regular biathlon in that, well, they’re in a tank. Russia has taken gold since the inception of the tournament in 2015, but China and Kazakhstan are never far behind. This competition takes place every summer and is typically available for streaming on YouTube.
So this year, change it up a little bit, find something new to watch in the offseason. Many of these competitions suffer from a lack of attention that the four major North American Sports tend to dominate. They might be harder to find, they might not have the most established fan base, but they’re a whole lot of fun and certainly worth looking into.