Winner: Josh Brown, Waterloo Region Record

Josh Brown’s entry shows quite clearly he’s learned that winning sports entries usually have very little to do with the game being played.

His keen eye for what will draw a reader to a story is on full display in his entry based on coverage of the Kitchener Rangers junior hockey team.

What hockey fan doesn’t want the backstory to the often unexplainable nicknames teammates hang on one another? And his discovery of the three-decade marriage of a former player and coach to his high school sweetheart offered a romantic rink-side seat to the challenges facing hockey couples. Knowledge of his beat was highlighted in his piece looking at the intricacies of recruiting a foreign-born player to Canadian junior hockey.

This is a well-rounded entry from a reporter who understands how to cover a sports beat.

Runner-up: Steve Milton, The Hamilton Spectator

Steve Milton’s obvious love – and knowledge – of football, particularly the Canadian variety, provides readers insight, emotion and humour as he tackled three very different stories.

His tightly written piece on the first game for the Churchill Bulldogs after the senseless killing of a student there was emotive without being maudlin and subtly made the point about football and its role in the larger community.

The anniversary of the death of Tiger Cat Tom Pate was a sensitive piece that reminded us of the long lasting after-effects of a tragic passing told through the sad story of Pate’s brother and family.

And Milton’s depth of knowledge – and unapologetic support – of the Canadian Football League provided smiles throughout as he argued the merits of the Grey Cup game over the larger than life Super Bowl south of the border.

Milton knows the game, and how to write entertainingly about it.

Runner-up: Jon Wells, The Hamilton Spectator

Sending the ‘city reporter’ to cover sporting events has often resulted in gritted teeth from those regulars seated in the press box.

But Jon Wells’ entry again reminds us why a fresh set of eyes can always find a different and more interesting way to tell a story.

His clever observations of both the golfers and the gallery at the Canadian Open in Hamilton were well written and breezy, providing the reader with a sense of being there by the time they finished.

A robotics competition could have been a boring weekend assignment, but Wells’ approach rightfully argued the STEMley Cup Championship should perhaps be given the same status as any other high school final.

A good old-fashioned pep rally held to send the Tiger Cats off to the Grey Cup gave Wells the perfect opportunity to explain, through those taking part, the legacy and very deep roots the team has in the community. It was a very ‘Hamilton’ piece.

ONA 2019 Sports Writing: Winner and Runners-up