We made it through another year of sports fandom in the City of Champions. We’ve had our ups (another Pirates postseason berth), our downs (Pitt missing the NCAA basketball tournament), our bumps (Penguins losing in the first round of the playoffs) and our bruises (Ben Roethlisberger injuries).
But you know what? This city prides itself on overcoming adversity and building toward the future.
That’s why, in lieu of the usual end-of-year list, the Post-Gazette sports department is embracing that optimism and looking ahead to the year to come. There’s plenty to look forward to in the Pittsburgh sporting world in the next 366 days (leap year!), but we’ll stick with 10. The list:
Jamie Dixon (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)
No. 10: Selection Sunday (March 13)
Will Pitt coach Jamie Dixon be on the hot seat if the Panthers fail to make the NCAA basketball tournament again? Will Pittsburgh’s own darling coaches Archie (Dayton) and Sean (Arizona) Miller be dancing yet again? Or better yet, will Andy Toole guide Robert Morris back to the tourney -- and maybe pull an upset this time? Whatever the storylines, it’s sure to be another March full of madness.
T-shirt promoting boxing on the Clemente Bridge (Post-Gazette)
Tom Brady hoists the Lombardi Trophy after the Patriots won Super Bowl XLIX last season (Brian Snyder/Reuters)
No. 7: Super Bowl 50 (Feb. 7)
As Gene Collier wrote in Monday’s Post-Gazette, it’s looking more and more like the Steelers won’t be in the playoffs, much less playing for the Vince Lombardi Trophy this year in Santa Clara, Calif., but that doesn’t mean the big game isn’t worth watching. Will Cam Newton and the Panthers (14-1 right now) finish a strong season as NFL champions? Will Coldplay provide enough halftime entertainment or will it be a snooze? Tune in Feb. 7 for all that Super Bowl 50 (they ditched the Roman Numerals this season) has to offer.
The Olympic rings are illuminated with pyrotechnics as they are raised above the stadium during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)
Clairton celebrates its 2015 WPIAL football championship. The Bears are slated to remain in Class A in 2016, but they could play up a classification or two in order to increase competition. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)
No. 5: Six WPIAL championships
This one will take some getting used to. The PIAA voted to expand to six classifications (from four) in football, boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball in November, meaning there will be six WPIAL football championships. A few other sports also have expanded classifications for next year. This raises the question of where and when the football championships will be played. Will they be split between two days? Will all of the games still be played at Heinz Field? One potential alternate site if Heinz Field is out of the question for all six games is Highmark Stadium at Station Square. Another one that would add plenty of intrigue and fanfare? PNC Park.
Starling Marte celebrates a walk-off home run against the Reds in October. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)
Sidney Crosby raises the world hockey championships trophy in May after Canada defeated Russia for the title. (Jonathan Nackstrand/Getty Images)
No. 3: World Cup of Hockey (Sept. 17-Oct. 1)
Pittsburgh lost a bid to play host to the 2018 junior hockey world championships earlier this month, but it got a nice consolation prize less than two weeks later when it was announced Consol Energy Center will be the site of two 2016 World Cup of Hockey exhibition games Sept. 14. The second game of the day? Sidney Crosby and Canada against Evgeni Malkin and Russia. The teams competing in the two-week tournament from Sept. 17 through Oct. 1 are Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden, USA, Team Europe and Team North America. Team North America will consist of players from the United States and Canada who will be age 23 or younger as of Oct. 1 -- and the same goes for Team Europe.
Pitt and Penn State, which last played a football game in 2000 in Three Rivers Stadium, will play each other each year from 2016 through 2019. (Post-Gazette)
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