(WDBJ7) From coaching changes to hockey's return to Roanoke, 2016 was pretty eventful in the local sports world.
Coach Justin Fuente and Coach Bronco Mendenhall arrived at their new schools in Blacksburg and Charlottesville in the spring with similar goals. Fuente's job proved to be a bit easier as the Hokies won 9 games, grabbed an ACC Coastal Division crown, and played Clemson for the ACC Championship in early December, extending the school's bowl streak to a whopping 24 straight seasons. The Hokies will also face Arkansas in the Belk Bowl. It was quite the start for Fuente who became just the second head football coach at Tech in nearly three decades.
There hasn't been that kind of continuity at UVA lately. Mendenhall is the school's third head coach since George Welsh left in 2000. Needless to say, his inaugural season with the Cavaliers didn't go as planned. Virginia finished with a record of 2-10: missing a postseason bowl game for the fifth consecutive year.
"Maybe the most learning that might have taken place in my football career has happened this season," Mendenhall said.
Weather was a big story mid-summer as heavy rains and flooding cancelled the 7th Greenbrier Classic in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. More than 20 people died across the state as a result of the flooding. The PGA Tour and several of its touring professionals donated to the relief effort and massive cleanup project, and the New Orleans Saints chipped in to help as well during their training camp at the resort late in the summer. The PGA Tour event is scheduled to return in July of 2017.
On the track, Jimmie Johnson made history this past year. Johnson won the Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville in late October. It was his ninth win at the track all time, but more importantly, it propelled him to his record tying seventh NASCAR Cup Series title, matching the late Dale Earnhardt, and the King, Richard Petty.
"I didn't know what the outcome would be but I was very content and peaceful with whatever with whatever was coming my way and then it ended up being the greatest thing in the world so it's just wild," Johnson said.
Hockey is back in Roanoke for the first time in a decade. The Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs made their Berglund Center debut on Oct. 22. The Southern Professional Hockey League expansion team, under President Bob McGinn and local ownership, has gotten off to a solid start at the ticket office, even if there have been some growing pains on the ice. Coach Sam Ftorek and the Dawgs close out 2016 with two home games this weekend, and there are 15 more scheduled home contests in the new year.