BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — 2020 was a year unlike any other for everyone, here at 7 Eyewitness News we’re looking back at the biggest moments of the year as 2020 comes to an end.
These are the 7 biggest moments in sports in Western New York in 2020 as selected by the 7 Eyewitness Sports staff.
The Buffalo Bills clinched the AFC East division title for the first time since 1995 with a 48-19 win over the Denver Broncos. Buffalo will now host at least one playoff game at Bills Stadium in January, something that hasn't happened since 1996.
Following the division-clinching win in Denver, hundreds of fans gathered at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport to celebrate and welcome the Bills home.
The Buffalo Bills traded for Stefon Diggs on March 16, a move that signaled the team was all-in on the 2020 season. The addition of Diggs gave the Bills a true No. 1 wide receiver and it gave Josh Allen the most dangerous weapon he's had as the Bills starting QB.
Diggs proved to the Bills he was worth trading for. Through 15 games of the 2020 season he set the Buffalo Bills franchise record for catches in a single season (passing Eric Moulds) and surpassed his own previous record for receiving yards and catches in a season.
Following the Bills win over the Broncos that secured the team’s first AFC East division title since 1995 hundreds of fans gathered at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport to welcome the team home and Diggs tweeted “The best fans ever... that’s love".
The best fans ever... that’s love ❤️ 💙— DIGGS (@stefondiggs) December 20, 2020
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the travel restrictions put in place by the Canadian government the Toronto Blue Jays needed a place to call home for the 2020 season and that home became Buffalo. After weeks of rumors, hopes and speculation, the Toronto Blue Jays organization made it official on July 24: the team would play the majority of its home games at Sahlen Field for the 2020 season.
"We are extremely grateful to have a home in Buffalo this season, thanks to the openness, creativity, and partnership of the Buffalo Bisons, Major League Baseball, and Blue Jays staff, who have worked tirelessly to prepare us for games at Sahlen Field," said Toronto Blue Jays President and CEO Mark Shapiro.
Blue Jays To Stage Majority Of 2020 Home Games In Buffalo. pic.twitter.com/BxlV7cgieJ— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) July 24, 2020
The Blue Jays got right to work with several stadium upgrades to transform Sahlen Field to meet Major League Baseball standards. The Blue Jays finished the season with 32-28 record, with a 17-9 record in games played at Sahlen Field. They were eliminated from the playoffs by the Tampa Bay Rays.
On March 12 the NHL announced its season would pause due to COVID-19 with a goal to resume play at a later date. On May 26 NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the league’s plan to use a 24-team playoff format to determine the 2020 Stanley Cup Champions.
Despite eight extra teams making the postseason, the Sabres found themselves on the outside looking in. This marked the Sabres ninth-straight season failing to qualify for the playoffs, the longest active drought in the NHL.
On the Saturday after Thanksgiving UB running back Jaret Patterson proved to the world that he wasn’t done eating. Patterson had a record-breaking day against Ken State at UB Stadium, putting up numbers in one game that many players would be happy with for a whole season. Patterson rushed for 409 yards, the most ever in a single game in UB and MAC history. He also rushed for eight touchdowns, tying the FBS record for rushing touchdowns in a game.
Patterson had an outstanding season, he was named Mid-American Conference offensive player of the year and was announced as a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation's top running back.
In her first season with the UB women's basketball team Dyaisha Fair excelled. She finished the season ranked 4th in the nation in scoring, 3rd in final points, 20th in steals per game, and 21st in total steals. She also finished in the top 10 in nine different UB stat categories for single-season records.
Fair was named to two preseason watch lists entering her sophomore season. She was named to the Nancy Lieberman Award watch list which honors the nation's top point guard in Division-I and the Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year Award watch list which recognizes the nation’s best mid-major player. Fair received high praise from head coach Felisha Legette-Jack, “I truly believe she is one of the best players I've coached at any level."
The honors continue to roll in for @DyaishaFair as she has been named to the Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year Award Watch List!— UB Women's Hoops (@UBwomenshoops) November 11, 2020
STORY: https://t.co/yRLFb81GpU#UBhornsUP | #ncaaW | @herhoopstats pic.twitter.com/JH2k2U7YON
Western New York high school sports impacted by COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic began its impact on high school sports in March and it has continued into December.
In March high schools had to cut short the 2019-20 winter sports season after the COVID-19 pandemic canceled regional and state championships. The spring sports season was canceled altogether shortly after.
In August Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced lower-risk, school-sponsored sports in all regions could begin to practice and play beginning September 21. Even with the return to practice and play, specific guidance was put in place that the schools had to follow, and all regional and state championships were canceled. Some school districts decided not to have a fall sports season.
In September fall sports considered high risk were officially postponed to the spring with a practice start date of March 1, 2021.
As we near the end of the year high school sports remain in limbo and the situation continues to evolve. In December it was announced that all winter state championships were canceled, and all high-risk sports were postponed until authorization is provided by state officials. In Section VI low and moderate risk sports were postponed until January 18.
7 Eyewitness News looks back on 20207 moments that defined 2020 in WNY 7 most inspiring Buffalo Strong stories 7 biggest moments in WNY sports 7 most impactful weather events
*Below you'll find two bonus "biggest moments in sports in Western New York in 2020" as selected by the 7 Eyewitness Sports staff*
Louisville forward Jordan Nwora became the first Western New York native since 2010 to be selected in the NBA Draft when he went in the 2nd round, 45th overall, to the Milwaukee Bucks. Nwora had a stellar junior season at Louisville, finishing 2nd in the ACC in scoring [558 points], 3rd in three-pointers made , and 5th in field goals .
Before his time in college at Louisville, Nwora was a star at The Park School in Snyder averaging more than 21 points, three rebounds and one steal a game. He went on to play his senior season at Vermont Academy.
The Sabres wore royal blue jerseys from their start in 1970 until the 1995-96 season before switching to the famous white, black and red 'goathead' jerseys. Since 2006, when the Sabres dropped the white/black/red color scheme the team has worn navy blue and yellow uniforms.
For years fans clamored for a return to royal blue and the team finally gave them what they wanted. Returning to its roots the team unveiled their new royal blue jerseys in August with a “reverse retro” alternate jersey unveiled in November.