On a cool Monday night in September, Winston Abreu threw a strike that secured the American Association title for the Winnipeg Goldeyes. Most Winnipeggers probably woke up the next day with no idea that their hometown club had won the championship. Fewer still likely knew that it was their second in five years.
The Goldeyes took the championship series against the Wichita Wingnuts 3-2. The win was the third in club history, with the last win also against the Wingnuts back in 2012. Before that, their last championship was all the way back in 1994, the year the team was founded.
Winnipeg took game one, and shut out the Wingnuts 5-0 at home. Wichita stormed back and took the next two 9-2 and 7-5, putting the fish on the brink of a championship loss. But, the Goldeyes buckled down, and took the next two games in Wichita 5-4 and 11-4 to snatch the title away.
The past decade has been good to the Goldeyes, who have been dominating the American Association right under the nose of every Winnipegger. This ambivalence towards the city’s now second oldest professional sports franchise is understandable. Winnipeg for all intents and purposes is a hockey city, with the Bombers filling the void once the ice melts. However, while their attendance and popularity are far below the Jets, the Bombers, and even the Moose, the Goldeyes are potentially the most successful group when it comes to producing winning seasons.
In the 22 years the team has existed, the Goldeyes have been very consistent winners. As previously mentioned, the fish have won the American Association crown three times since 1994, but their division titles are the clearest evidence of regular season dominance. In 22 years, the team has won the division title nine times, meaning the club has been the top performer in the division for almost half its existence.
The team won its first division title in 1994 along with its first championship, following it up with two division title three-peats from 1997-1999 and 2001-2003. The eight-year gap between the 2003 and 2011 division championships represents the longest period where the Goldeyes weren’t successful.
Compare this to the Bombers, who haven’t won a championship since 1990, and have 10 total in over 80 years of play. Or the Jets 2.0 who have made little noise in the NHL outside of one playoff appearance, but an eventual sweep by the Anaheim Ducks. You can even go back to the original Jets, who won 3 Avco cup titles but no Stanley Cups in 24 years.
So while we patiently wait for the Jets to develop into a dynasty, and cross our fingers that the Bombers might bring back the Grey Cup, another Winnipeg-based franchise will be padding its trophy case. The dominance of the Winnipeg Goldeyes may in fact be this city’s best-kept sports secret.
The Goldeyes won’t remain hidden for long; the success of the Toronto Blue Jays has brought baseball back to the forefront of the Canadian sports consciousness.