Winter 2018 to-watch list
By Dan Khavkin, Sports Editor
With winter break just days away, most of us will be catching up on our sleep schedules. But the plethora of sport events will have millions of eyes glued to the television screen over the next few weeks and are sure to keep at least some of us from getting our sleep schedules back on track.
Here are some marquee games and events that fall during winter break that you won’t want to miss!
Locally, the annual Macs Midget AAA hockey tournament at Max Bell arena is taking place from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. This hockey tournament is a springboard for elite midget players, aged 15 to 18. Many NHL alumni have taken part in the famed tournament.
There are often teams from around the world such as, under-21 international teams, who take part in the world renowned tournament right here in Calgary.
The Calgary Hitmen have a handful of home games you can attend to during the break if you want to catch some great junior hockey action leading into the IIHF World Juniors.
Keep an eye out for these Hitmen games:
Dec. 14: Kelowna Rockets
Dec. 16: Lethbridge Hurricanes
Dec. 30: Vancouver Giants
Jan. 1: Victoria Royals
The NBA is famed for its holiday entertainment with a ton of marquee games that take place as the snow starts to pile up.
Golden State Warriors vs. Milwaukee Bucks on Dec. 7 and Dec. 17 are two of many bangers to take place. Basketball fans around the globe can see this being a potential finals meeting four months from now, with stars such as Giannis Antetokounmpo clashing with Stephen Curry and his villainous crew.
A more promising and exciting potential finals preview between the Raptors and Warriors will take place for the second time this season on Dec. 12. The first meeting was an absolute classic, despite Curry being sidelined in the 131-128 loss in overtime to Toronto. The second matchup should be just as exciting.
The two squads will give Toronto a run for their money in the top three of the East are set to battle in the playoffs on Dec. 21 as the Bucks visit Kyrie Irving and his Boston Celtics.
The San Antonio Spurs are set to pay a visit to state rival the Houston Rockets on Dec. 22 in a playoff rematch.
Right before the holidays officially kick in, the high flying Raptors take on potential contenders in a newly stockpiled Philadelphia 76ers squad: Jimmy Butler, Joel Embid and Ben Simmons, who will be looking to slow down momentum in their pursuit of the first place spot on Dec. 22.
This is just the appetizer for what’s to come on Christmas Day. The NBA perfectly executed holiday game days makes basketball fans’ mouths water, but it’s something that not a lot of pro leagues do.
LeBron James and his L.A. Lakers pay a visit to the defending champions Golden State, while reigning MVP James Harden will battle it out with 2017 MVP Mr. “nuclear athleticism” himself, Russ Westbrook.
Philly and Boston clash in a battle of the titans out east while historic rivals Milwaukee Bucks and the New York Knicks will clash at Madison Square Garden. And finally, Damian Lillard and his Portland Trail Blazers pay a visit to up-and-coming star Donovan Mitchell and his Utah Jazz.
Many young and seasoned hockey fans take life to the outdoor hockey rinks during their time away from work and school.
On top of the traditional World Juniors starting Boxing Day, the NHL has a ton of sweet matchups to look forward to.
Rivalries such as the Leafs vs. Bruins take place on Dec. 8 in a rematch of last year’s playoffs, the Battle of Alberta happens the next night with the Flames vs. Oilers on Dec. 9, east coast adversaries in the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens clash on the ice Dec. 15.
Divisional rivals, the Vancouver Canucks and the Calgary Flames will look to stall the chase of the other in the Pacific Division on Dec. 29. Original six rivals, the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens look to settle historic beef on Dec. 17 while Crosby vs. Ovehkin takes place on Dec. 19.
Other top gun games include:
Dec. 11 and Dec. 14: Hawks vs. Jets
Dec. 13: Leafs vs. Lightning
Dec. 16: Lightning vs. Jets
Dec. 20: Flames vs. Lightning
Jan. 5: Lightning vs. Sharks
The NFL is beginning the final stretch of the season, which includes plenty of must-see and season changing games.
In week 14 the loaded St. Louis Rams will take on the emerging Chicago Bears. The loaded NFC East will have all four teams play on the weekend with rivals Philadelphia Eagles taking on the Dallas Cowboys while the Giants take on the Redskins. NFC North leaders New Orleans Saints will take on divisional rival Tampa Bay who gave the Saints one of their two losses. A battle of the quarterbacks will take place with Matt Ryan and his Atlanta Falcons taking on Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers who just fired their coach.
Week 15 is an arguably more compelling week with the Eagles and Rams facing off. Drew Brees’ Saints visit NFC South rival Carolina Panthers, a rematch of the AFC Championship between the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers. NFC North historic rivals Packers and Bears face one another one more time while the electrifying L.A. Chargers take on potential MVP Patrick Mahomes and the division leading Kansas City Chiefs.
Week 16 will see another battle of the quarterbacks with Big Ben Roethlisberger and his Steelers paying a visit to Drew Brees and the Saints. NFC South rivals Falcons and Panthers meet on Dec. 23. Playoff rankings might be settled between NFC North rivals the Detroit Lions and the Minnesota Vikings.
Week 17, the most compelling, is one big rivalry week that will feature: AFC North’s Bengals vs. Steelers, NFC South’s Panthers vs. Saints and Falcons vs. Buccneers, NFC East’s Eagles vs. Redskins and Cowboys vs. Giants and finally NFC North’s Bears vs. Vikings.
The Wild Card playoff games take place on Jan. 5 to 6.
The UEFA Champions League/Europa League draw takes place on Dec. 17. In England, the Premier League mirrors the NBA with the many holiday-themed fixtures that are set to take place.
Second place Chelsea visit the undefeated, first placed Man. City on Dec. 8.
One of the most historic rivals in club soccer Man. United vs. Liverpool takes place on Dec. 16.
Everton vs. Tottenham on Dec. 23 will be a fight between two solid squads looking to make up ground in the chase for the final four spots in the Premier League while highflying Liverpool and Arsenal meet on Dec. 29. Finally, Man. City takes on third-placed Liverpool on Jan. 3.
One mega fight is set to take place at the grandest stage of them all, Madison Square Garden as Saul Alvarez takes on Rocky Fielding for the WBA Super Middleweight Belt on Dec. 15.