Welcome back to the 25 for 25 Series! G-Man is turning 25 on July 23rd and to celebrate, I am counting down each of the sporting years I have been alive for. Full rules on the 25 for 25 Main Page.
Stanley Cup Champion: Carolina Hurricanes (52-22-8, #2 Eastern Conference) – The first season after the 2004-05 lockout came with major rule changes throughout the league the most notable being the addition of the shootout in leau of a game finishing in a tie. The Hurricanes won their first cup in seven games over the Edmonton Oilers with Cam Ward winning the Conn Smythe trophy as a rookie. This season also marked the debuts of Sydney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin and the farewell of the Mighty Ducks nickname as the franchise dropped the “Mighty” going into the next season.
NBA Champion: Miami Heat (52-30, #2 Eastern Conference) — D-Wade and Pat Reily led the Heat to their first title and helped Shaq win this fourth (and final) ring. They were able to upend a great Detroit Pistons team in the Eastern Conference Finals and then took down the Mavericks in six games in the NBA Finals. Kobe Bryant played his 81-point game in the 2006 season, the second-most points scored by player in a single game. 2006 was also the first season of the Charlotte Bobcats franchise bringing the total number of teams in the association to 30. More notable was the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the Hornets’ season as they were forced to split time between New Orleans and Oklahoma City.
World Series Champion: St. Louis Cardinals (83-78, #3 National League) — The Cardinals took home the World Series over the Tigers in five games despite having the fifth-best record in the NL and the fewest regular season wins of a championship team in MLB History. Albert Pujols put together an MVP-calibur season but fell short to Ryan Howard and his 58 homers–a Phillies single-season record. Barry Bonds passed Babe Ruth for 2nd all-time on the home runs list despite his links to the Balco scandal. 2006 was notable as well for the debuts of plenty current-day All Stars including Jonathan Papelbon, Justin Verlander, Prince Fielder, Anibal Sanchez and Hanely Ramirez; Ramirez and Verlander would win the ROY Awards in the NL and AL, respectively.
Super Bowl Champion: Indianapolis Colts (12-4, #3 AFC) — The Colts blasted the Bears in a rainy Super Bowl XLI in Miami giving Peyton Manning his only Super Bowl ring so far. The game itself wasn’t anything incredibly memorable aside from Devin Hester running back the opening kick-off. Ladainian Tomlinson of the Chargers broke the record for number of touchdowns scored set by Shaun Alexander the previous season.
NCAA Football National Champion: Florida Gators
NCAA Men’s Basketball National Champion: Florida Gators (#3 Seed) – This tournament is notable for George Mason’s run as well as the dominance displayed by Joakim Noah and the Gators.
Masters Champion: Phil Mickelson (3rd Major)
US Open Champion: Geoff Ogilvy (1st Major)
British Open Champion: Tiger Woods (11th Major)
PGA Champion: Tiger Woods (12th Major)
2006 Winter Olympics in Turino, Italy
2006 was a tough to place. Looking back it’s fun to remember watching these events including Phil’s meltdown at Winged Foot in the US Open as well as the eerie coincidence that was both the BCS National Championship and the Super Bowl having the opening kickoff returned for a touchdown by the eventual losing team. On that note, Hester’s return is really all that’s notable from that Super Bowl. It was rainy, the game wasn’t particularly good, nor were the commercials and half time show (Prince). It seemed to be the theme for 2006, a lot of build-up in the regular season to a lackluster finish. The only exceptions are Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl and the NHL Playoffs of that year, I was glued to the TV after a year away from playoff hockey, especially after a weak Olympic Hockey Tournament–and Olympics in general.