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A year unlike any other: 2023 sports in our desert highlighted by historic moments, memories made

Wow, what a year of sports.

Of course, it all starts with the Firebirds.

It's hard to overstate the success and positive impact of this team on our valley.

The Firebirds took flight in 2022 but they made their mark in 2023, playing an AHL-record 98 games and soaring all the way to the Calder Cup Finals.

Despite a heartbreaking defeat at home in overtime of Game 7, it was truly an incredible inaugural season, one our valley will remember forever. 

"Bringing hockey to the desert and bringing a team to Coachella Valley and Acrisure Arena, I don't think there could have been a better result in that regard," said Dan Bylsma.

"It was an incredible journey. I've never been supported the way I was this year. Hearing the 'Joey' chants every night makes me emotional. It was super special and I'm incredibly grateful for you guys so thank you very much," said Joey Daccord.

The Firebirds weren't the only team to play at Acrisure Arena this year.

Remember when Lebron and the Lakers faced off against KD and the Suns in NBA preseason?

Same with the Ducks in Coyotes in the NHL.

And then on Thanksgiving, two top college programs, Arizona and Michigan State clashed in the first-ever Acrisure Classic.

Outside the arena and back to chronological order, in January, we witnessed a repeat winner at the American Express. Spanish star Jon Rahm, who would go on to win the Masters in April and eventually join LIV golf here in December, won his second title in La Quinta.

"I always play good golf in California. I always did in college and I always have as a pro. I don't know what it is, it's just a good vibe," said Jon Rahm.

The good vibes and tournaments continued into March with new blood winning at the BNP and a brand-new golf event in Rancho Mirage.

"It's amazing to lift the trophy here to beat Daniil in the final. I've said before I have great memories here," said Alcaraz, men's singles champion.

"Yeah, it's an amazing atmosphere here and really beautiful so we enjoyed almost three weeks and I'm super happy," said Elena Rybakina, women's singles champion.

"David you went wire-to-wire to win this week, first ever champion in this tournament's history, where does this one rank for you?"

"It's very special. Great golf course, I've been watching this tournament for years and watching this golf course, so I was excited when they announced we'd be coming here for the Galleri Classic. I capitalized on a lot of my good shots and recovered from the bad ones and that's what you have to do to win golf tournaments," said Toms.

Last but not least, our local preps.

It was another year of countless hours covering high schools sports, highlighted in 2023 by championships at Palm Desert and our first-ever student-athlete of the year special.

Sports are supposed to be fun and that was the case here in 2023.

Thank you for letting us be a part of it. Can't wait to see what next year has in store.

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Blake Arthur

Sports Director Blake Arthur joined the KESQ/CBS Local 2 team in August of 2015. Learn more about Blake here.


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