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Auger-Aliassime loses bid for 1st ATP Tour title in Cologne final

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Canadian 0-3 in career vs. Germany’s Zverev, whose 17-month wait for title ends

Alexander Zverev ended his 17-month wait for a title by beating Montreal’s Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 6-3 to win the Cologne Indoors on Sunday.

Zverev has had a breakthrough year in Grand Slam tournaments with his first semifinal at the Australian Open in January and first final at the U.S. Open last month, when he lost to Dominic Thiem.

Zverev has said he thinks almost constantly about that final, and he credited it with raising his game in Cologne.

“I had a very tough final in New York and, the next final I played here, I wanted to come out and play my best tennis,” he said.

The German hadn’t played the final of any regular ATP Tour events until Sunday. Zverev’s previous title was at the clay-court Geneva Open in May 2019 and he is now 12-8 in career finals.

Zverev broke Auger-Aliassime’s serve in the first game of the match to establish early control. Zverev broke in the second at 3-2 and saved two break points in his next service game to hold off a fight-back from the Canadian.

Bond formed at practice sessions

Auger-Aliassime is still waiting for his first career title after losing six finals in two seasons, all of them in straight sets. All three of the finals that the 20-year-old Canadian has played this year have been on indoor hard courts.

Montreal’s Felix Auger-Aliassime defeats Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 in the semifinals of the Cologne Open. 1:12

Zverev said he and Auger-Aliassime had bonded while practising together in Monaco during the coronavirus pandemic, and he predicted a bright future for the Canadian.

“You’re going to be lifting a winner’s trophy very, very soon,” Zverev said.

The Cologne Indoors is the first of two new back-to-back tournaments the city is hosting after the ATP calendar was modified due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The second Cologne tournament was already holding qualification matches before Sunday’s final in the first tournament took place. It will feature Zverev, former top-ranked player Andy Murray and U.S. Open quarter-finalist Denis Shapovalov.


Source: cbc.ca

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CPL’s Forge tallies late to win CONCACAF League game in El Salvador

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Anthony Novak’s goal leads Hamilton side to win over CD Municipal Limeno

Substitute Anthony Novak’s 83rd-minute goal lifted 10-man Forge FC to a 2-1 victory over El Salvador’s CD Municipal Limeno in a Scotiabank CONCACAF League preliminary-round game Thursday.

Novak controlled a fine ball from Dominic Samuel that landed just inside the penalty box and hammered a shot past goalkeeper William Torres. The goal came after some a stretch of pressure from the Canadian side with Mo Babouli tormenting Limeno defenders.

Forge lost fullback Johnny Grant in the 64th minute for a second yellow card in a choppy second half that featured a lot of whistles from Honduran referee Selvin Brown.

Forge will stay in Central America, heading directly to Panama for a Nov. 3 round-of-16 date with Tauro FC.

The 22-team CONCACAF League competition is a feeder tournament, sending the winner and next five best-ranked clubs to the 2021 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League.

Thursday’s game marked the first action for Hamilton’s Forge since Sept. 19 when it defeated HFX Wanderers FC in the Island Games final. Municipal Limeno, meanwhile, is two games into its new season and played on the weekend.

The Hamilton side defeated Club Deportivo Municipal Limeño 2-1 in El Salvador on Friday. 1:00

Forge fielded the same starting 11 as in the Canadian Premier League final with the exception of Kadell Thomas coming in for suspended midfielder Kwame Awuah.

Forge had the better start but Limeno, making its CONCACAF League debut, came on as the first half wore on.

Forge’s David Choiniere opened the scoring in the 21st minute, the beneficiary of a marvellous Babouli pass. Choiniere’s run took him between the centre backs before sliding a left footed shot past an onrushing Torres.

Limeno tied it up in the 38th minute through Kevin Oviedo. The Forge defence converged on Harold Alas high in the penalty box and he laid the ball off to an open Oviedo, whose shot overpowered Triston Henry.

There were danger signs in the 15th minute after a giveaway by Forge defender Daniel Krutzen. But Edwin Sanchez couldn’t hit the target, seeming unsure whether to deliver a shot or cross.

Forge FC takes on HFX Wanderers FC in the championship match at The Island Games in Charlottetown, P.E.I. 2:12:44

At the other end, Thomas was a threat down the left flank.

Henry had to play sweeper in the 20th minute to take care of a through ball that split the defender. Limeno caught Forge napping with a quick free kick in the 28th minute, while Henry was organizing his defensive wall, but the shot was wide.

Forge cut open the Limeno defence again the 36th minute but Babouli’s shot went wide. Henry made a diving stop in the 42nd minute to deny Sanchez.

Forge came close in the 53rd minute but Krutzen’s header off a corner glanced off the crossbar. Henry was called into action at the other end in the 55th, parrying a header off a corner.

Limeno had difficulty taking advantage of the man-advantage and had trouble dealing with Babouli’s offensive trickery.

Tournament disrupted by virus

Originally slated to run from July to November, the CONCACAF League was postponed due to the global pandemic. The competition, which kicked off Tuesday, is scheduled to run through Jan. 28.

COVID-19 continues to dog the tournament, however.

Thursday’s match between Costa Rica’s LD Alajuelense and the Dominican’s Cibao FC was postponed pending further testing in the wake of ” inconsistencies which raise the possibility that (pre-game) CONCACAF protocols were not followed.”

Tuesday’s game between Haiti’s Arcahaie FC and Belize’s Verdes FC was postponed just hours before kickoff after four players and four staff members from Verdes FC tested positive.

There were also positive tests ahead of the preliminary-round match between El Salvador’s CD FAS and Nicaragua’s Managua FC, but not enough to change Tuesday’s kickoff.

Thursday’s game was played at an empty Estadio Cuscatlan, the national stadium in the El Salvador capital rather than at Limeno’s more modest home stadium in Santa Rosa de Lima, some 170 kilometres away.

Preliminary-round and round-of-16 matches are being played as single-game ties at the highest-ranked club’s stadium. All other rounds will be played as home and away ties.

The CPL champions were without defender Klaidi Cela, who tore knee ligaments in the CPL final, and forward Chris Nanco, who suffered a hamstring injury at the Island Games. Nanco could join the team in Panama.

Last year, Forge dispatched Guatemala’s Antigua GFC 2-1 on aggregate in the preliminary round before losing 4-2 on aggregate to Honduras’ Olimpia in the round of 16.


Source: cbc.ca

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Tiger Woods scuffles in Zozo Championship title defence with bogey-filled 1st round

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Munoz sole leader at 8-under; Hughes top Canadian 3 shots back

The scorecards of Sebastian Munoz and Tiger Woods were unusual for different reasons Thursday in the Zozo Championship at Sherwood. That was only good news for one of them.

Munoz twice holed out for eagle from a combined distance of 219 yards. He also had eight birdies. Throw in a wild tee shot for double bogey, three bogeys and only five pars and it added to an 8-under 64 and a one-shot lead.

“Not a normal round,” Munoz said.

That especially was the case for Woods. For the first time in his 1,277 rounds on the PGA Tour as a pro, he made bogey or worse on three par 5s in a single round. That led to a 4-over 76 — by two shots his worst score in 49 rounds at Sherwood Country — that left him 12 shots out of the lead and in no mood to talk.

Munoz, the Colombian who played his college golf at North Texas, finished off his bizarre round by saving par from a narrow section of the front bunker with a 15-foot putt on the 18th hole.

He was one shot ahead of Tyrrell Hatton, the hottest golfer this month, and Justin Thomas, who had a hot finish. Hatton won the European Tour flagship event at Wentworth, flew to Las Vegas for the CJ Cup and tied for third. Thomas shot 29 on the back nine at Sherwood. They each had a 65.

Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont., is the top Canadian after firing a 5-under 67. Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., shot a 69 while Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., had a 70. Adam Hadwin, from Abbotsford, B.C., opened with a 3-over 75.

Whether it was shocking to see Woods so far back on this course is a matter of perspective. He is a five-time winner at Sherwood, along with five runner-up finishes, against small fields in a holiday exhibition. He was playing only his third competitive round in the last seven weeks, and his first since missing the cut in the U.S. Open a month ago.

The rust was evident, and a few bad breaks didn’t help his cause. He pushed his tee shot on the par-5 11th to the right, normally not a big deal except the ball stopped rolling in the dirt between two trees about 18 inches apart. Woods couldn’t believe it when he got to his ball and wasted no time inverting a sand wedge to hit out left-handed.

That didn’t make it back to the fairway, and the rough is thicker than he ever saw it in the 12 previous times playing Sherwood in December. The course recently over-seeded with rye and the grass is thick, as it was at Shadow Creek. He laid up from there and made bogey.

On the par-5 13th, he sent his tee shot again to the right, partially blocked by a tree. He tried to gouge out a mid-iron and it didn’t make it to the second section of fairway. Another vicious swing from thick grass advanced it only 130 yards to a bunker some 50 yards to the hole. The sand shot didn’t quite reach the green. His putt from 55 feet didn’t reach the hole He made double bogey.

And then on the par-5 16th, a tee shot down the right side took a wild bounce to the right, and a marshal carefully going down the bank toward the creek was not a good sign. He took a penalty drop, laid up and sent wedge just over the green, forcing him to get up-and-down for bogey.

The one smile came on an 85-foot putt for birdie on the 14th. Smiles were rare on this day.

Touchdown for Munoz

Munoz smiled in disbelief. His round began with a three-putt bogey from 7 feet. He followed with four birdies on the next five holes — he missed a 7-foot birdie putt on the par-5 fifth — and then he hammered a 9-iron from 168 yards that faded gently toward the hole and rolled in for an eagle.

“Once you see the guy throw up the touchdown sign, it’s good,” Munoz said of a volunteer behind the green.

His other eagle looked like it might be a bogey. He hit 3-wood that crashed into a tree near the 16th green, and Munoz was waiting for it to splash down in the creek. Instead, it went backward into the fairway, 51 yards from the hole.

“My caddie was like, ‘Be aggressive. You already took a risk on shot No. 2, so might as well just keep going.’ All right, sure,” he said. “So I throw it up there and find the hole. It was pretty sweet.”

Roughly half the 78-man field shot in the 60s on a pleasant day in the Conejo Valley. Woods wasn’t the only one who didn’t take advantage. Rory McIlroy had two double bogeys sandwiched around two birdies at the end of his round of 73. Phil Mickelson, a winner last week on the 50-and-older circuit, needed four birdies on his last eight holes to shoot 72.


Source: cbc.ca

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Canadian receiver Jana removed name from jersey to honour enslaved labourers

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Vancouver native made decision after visiting memorial at University of Virginia

Canadian receiver Terrell Jana’s last name doesn’t appear on the back of his Virginia Cavaliers football jersey.

And for good reason.

The senior from Vancouver made that decision after visiting the memorial to enslaved labourers at the University of Virginia. There, Jana noticed those listed had no last names.

“The last name carries so much, it carries tradition, culture, family,” the kinesiology major said during a videoconference this week. “I feel a lot of pride in my last name and who it represents.

“Thinking of having your last name taken away from you, it just broke my heart. Seeing these names and knowing forever that their own story couldn’t be told, those ties they have were broken, it was hard to look at, hard to think about.

“My thing is when I go out there, no name was a way to pay tribute and homage to them. UVA, the symbol of Virginia [when] you think about it, Thomas Jefferson is the history of UVA. No matter what, who I am, people see who it represents. I represent Thomas Jefferson on [front of Cavaliers jersey]. On the back, I represent those people who’ve been forgotten.”

Jana’s decision carries a lot of weight. The six-foot-one, 200-pound receiver is a team captain and the squad’s second-leading receiver with 22 catches for 243 yards and a touchdown for the Cavaliers (1-3), who face No. 11 Miami (4-1) on Saturday.

Jana had five catches for 55 yards and a TD in Virginia’s 41-23 road loss to top-ranked Clemson on Oct. 3. The following week, he registered nine receptions for 111 yards in a 38-21 defeat to North Carolina State.

Canadian talent in NCAA football

But Jana, 20, isn’t the only Canadian receiver excelling in the NCAA ranks. John Metchie III (sophomore with Alabama) and Josh Palmer (senior at Tennessee) as well as Jared Wayne of Peterborough, Ont., (sophomore, Pittsburgh) have all made headlines this season while Ajou Ajou, a six-foot-three, 215-pound native of Brooks, Alta., has garnered playing time as a true freshman with top-ranked Clemson.

And then there’s Chase Claypool, the native of Abbotsford, B.C., who’s enjoying a stellar rookie season with the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers (5-0).

“It’s definitely cool seeing all the success happening,” Jana said. “It’s something we all strive to be but the respect for Canadian ball hasn’t really been there.

“I think constantly we’re building that resume for Canadian players. The better we do now the bigger the chance is for the players who come after us.”

Powered by protest, more Black athletes are speaking out against racism, but using their platform has limits. 1:46

Jana said he and Claypool have a history as basketball teammates growing up in B.C. The two were football opponents in 2019 when Notre Dame downed Virginia 35-20 at South Bend, Ind., and Jana said he sent Claypool a congratulatory text after being drafted by Pittsburgh in this year’s NFL draft.

“I haven’t talked to him since then, I’m sure his phone [gets] blown up every time [Claypool does something in NFL], but I’m definitely supporting him from afar,” Jana said. “Being six-foot-five, almost six foot six, and having his speed and those capabilities . . . [Claypool] is rare when it comes to any athlete, let alone just Canadian athletes.

“But definitely just seeing that the process and ability to go from Canada to the NFL is there. At the end of the day it’s football . . . [regardless] of who’s throwing it or who we’re going against if we can catch the ball we can do that.”

Jana is coming off a 2019 season that saw him make 11 starts and record 74 catches for 886 yards and three TDs. CFL scouts have certainly taken notice as Jana was the top receiver in the league’s fall scouting bureau at No. 3, just ahead of Palmer.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released a video saying the league made a mistake when it didn’t listen to players fighting for racial equality. However, questions remain about whether the league will lift its ban on players taking a knee. 4:38

The CFL scouting bureau lists the top-20 prospects for the league’s annual draft three times each year (fall, winter and spring). Jana is receptive to playing pro football either in the U.S. or Canada next year.

“Professional is always the goal,” he said. “Getting paid actual money to do it would be nice.

“I still want to compete and see how far I can take it. Obviously it would be pretty cool to play back home in B.C., of course, the NFL is always a dream. Playing professionally is kind of the next step that I’m looking forward to.”

However, another option could be remaining at Virginia in 2021. The NCAA has given fall sport student-athletes an additional year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I try to separate myself from the whole next-step thing and just try to live in the moment and be with my team right now,” Jana said. “I’ve seen players in the past once that opportunity is there, they kind of check out from the team and that’s something I never want to do, especially being a captain.

“When it comes to next year, it all depends on how the season goes and how everything kind of turns out. If I do end up wanting to come back, then it’s good the opportunity is there.”


Source: cbc.ca

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Canucks’ Bo Horvat using adversity of 1st year as captain to improve as leader

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‘I think I’ve had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at me,’ says 25-year-old

It’s been a “heck of a year” for Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat.

When he was handed the jersey with a C stitched over the heart just over a year ago, Horvat had no idea he’d soon be leading the Canucks through a season unlike any other, all while balancing his own growing family.

“What a first year to be captain. I think I’ve had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at me this year, just with everything going on and obviously the whole pandemic and Black Lives Matter,” Horvat said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

The 25-year-old centre saw a lot of change in his personal life, too, as his wife, Holly, welcomed their first child, Gunnar, at the end of June.

“It’s been a crazy year and definitely one I’ll never forget,” Horvat said. “And I think it’s just going to make me a better person, a stronger leader.”

Even with some unusual circumstances, the Canucks had a strong season. The team was 37-27-6, good for third in the Pacific Division, when the NHL paused play due to COVID-19 in March.

Vancouver picked up steam in the Edmonton bubble, dispatching the Minnesota Wild in qualifying action, then beating the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in the first round. The Canucks were eventually ousted from post-season play after a seven-game battle with the Vegas Golden Knights.

The experience left everyone on the squad wanting more, Horvat said.

“You come off such a high, you’re one win away from going to the conference finals,” he said. “We feel like we have more to prove and I feel like we can get better next year. I can speak for everybody on our team in saying that we want to get back at it and prove ourselves again.”

When, exactly, the Canucks will have another chance to chase a title remains to be seen. The NHL has set January 1 as the target for starting next season, but plans are far from confirmed.

As captain and Vancouver’s representative in the NHL Players’ Association, Horvat has fielded many questions from teammates who want to know what’s going on.

“There’s so much uncertainty,” he said. “I’m answering questions all the time and trying to give them my best answers. It’s been a lot, but it’s just going to make me a better leader in the long run.”

In episode 1 of our new series, Rob Pizzo speaks to Corey Hirsch who was in net for Team Canada at the 1994 Olympics when a young Peter Forsberg made a move famous. 4:49

Uncertainty is something Horvat, like many others, has had to get used to as the world copes with COVID-19.

It’s made being a new parent a little tougher, he said. Horvat and his wife want to share all of the special firsts with friends and family, but have to put the health and safety of their son above all else.

“You want to be so careful. Everything you do you think about your kid. He comes first,” Horvat said.

One potential upside of the uncertain hockey season is that the family may get to be around loved ones come the end of December.

“We might be home around the holidays which might be nice for a change. You know, have Gunnar’s first Christmas here at home with all our family, which might be nice to do,” Horvat said. “But again, all the uncertainty of it is challenging. The not knowing is the thing that bothers us the most. So hopefully we get things figured out.”

Emphasis on mental health

Horvat knows he isn’t alone in finding the unpredictable nature of the current situation challenging. To help others struggling during the pandemic, he’s teamed up with Imperial Oil for the “Fuel What Matters” campaign.

The oil company is donating $5 for every download of its Speedpass+ app to mental-health groups across the country, up to $140,000.

“Mental health is just as important as physical health,” Horvat said, adding that talking has been getting him and his family through the pandemic.

“I think talking about it and sharing it and telling people that `You’re not alone through this’ is the biggest thing.”

Slowly, more and more athletes have begun to speak out about their own mental health, including Horvat’s Canucks teammate Tyler Motte, who has publicly discussed living with anxiety and depression.

Horvat said it’s good to see more people in the hockey world talking about their experiences.

“Opening up is not a bad thing at all. If anything, it shows a lot of courage,” he said.

“I think it’s helping out a lot of players and helping other people come out and share what they have to say. And I think that’s huge, not only for the game, but for other people in general who see that they’re not alone. People are going through the same things all around the world and all around the hockey community.”


Source: cbc.ca

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Montreal makeover has Canadiens coach Claude Julien energized for season

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Team added forwards Anderson, Toffoli, d-man Edmundson, goalie Allen in off-season

Claude Julien glanced down at some notes towards the end of his nearly hour-long video conference call with reporters Thursday.

The Montreal Canadiens head coach was promptly asked — tongue firmly planted in cheek — if what was in front of him included the team’s roster, and if so, if he felt like sharing his line combinations and defence pairings.

“It’ll change tomorrow,” Julien, without revealing anything, shot back with a grin.

After a busy off-season loaded with significant moves, he wasn’t joking.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Julien said. “A lot of different things we had looked at to improve our team has been taken care of.”

Montreal’s makeover via trade and free agency included the addition of bruising winger Josh Anderson, sniper Tyler Toffoli, defenceman Joel Edmundson and backup goalie Jake Allen.

Those pieces join a stable of veterans led by star netminder Carey Price, captain and rugged blue-liner Shea Weber, and the emotional, tone-setting Brendan Gallagher up front.

At the other end of the spectrum, there’s youngsters like centres Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who both fully introduced themselves to the rest of the NHL with standout performances during the league’s summer restart, and incoming Russian defenceman Alexander Romanov.

Securing a capable No. 2 option behind Price to lighten the future Hall of Famer’s workload was crucial in Julien’s eyes, but so was adding more skill, size and muscle on the back end and up front with Edmundson and Anderson, and scoring prowess in Toffoli, a former 30-goal man.

“I really like everything [general manager Marc Bergevin] has done,” Julien added. “He’s given us an opportunity to be real competitive.”

But with that comes heightened expectations for a team handed a lifeline as the 24th of 24 entrants included in the resumption of the league’s pandemic-delayed 2019-20 campaign.

The injury-hit Canadiens were playing out the string when the schedule was halted because of COVID-19 in March, but showed what that version of the group could do when healthy by upsetting the Pittsburgh Penguins in the August qualifiers before forcing the Philadelphia Flyers to six games in a gritty, sometimes-nasty first-round series.

Instead of simply hoping to qualify for the post-season, the bar has been raised significantly.

“I expect us to make the playoffs, no doubt about it,” Julien said. “We’ve made our team that much better that we should expect to make the playoffs.

“Now if by mid-season, I’ve lost half my team to injuries, I guess those things change. But other than that, we should definitely be a competitive team that should be able to make the playoffs.”

In episode 1 of our new series, Rob Pizzo speaks to Corey Hirsch who was in net for Team Canada at the 1994 Olympics when a young Peter Forsberg made a move famous. 4:49

The 60-year-old Julien, who was rushed to hospital in Toronto following Game 1 against the Flyers and subsequently had a stent inserted into one of his coronary arteries, is feeling good and looking forward to figuring out where all the puzzle pieces fit on a roster that all of sudden has plenty depth.

“It’s going to be hard honestly, even for us as a coaching staff, to say this is line No. 1, this is line No. 2, this is line No. 3,” he said. “At the end of the day, it will be whoever’s producing. Whoever’s playing the best will be your best line on that specific night.”

One forward no longer in the mix is Max Domi, who was dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Anderson. After the deal, Domi suggested there was a breakdown in communication as he was demoted to Montreal’s fourth line in the post-season.

Julien said Thursday his door is always open, but it’s also impossible to please every player all the time. The coach added the emergence of Suzuki and Kotkaniemi meant that Domi — the team’s leading scorer with 72 points in 2018-19 before slipping to 44 last season — became a trade candidate to address other needs.

“It’s not so much that it didn’t work out,” Julien said. “Max became, I guess, a little bit expendable because we had those guys do so well. At the same time we’re able to get a big player that we really needed on the wing in Josh Anderson in exchange for him, so Max was such a good player we were able to get a good player in return. That’s just hockey.

“Nothing to do with personal [issues] or anything else more than trying to improve our team.”

Julien, who coached the tough, physical Boston Bruins to a Stanley Cup victory in 2011 before making the final again in 2013, said Montreal’s overall improvements give him options he didn’t have previously.

“That’s the beauty of it,” Julien said. “I like the fact that I can move guys around. And it’s not like one line is going to get better and the other one’s going to get weaker. If I make a change, probably all lines will have an opportunity to get better.”

But by getting better as a team and setting a minimum requirement for success, the temperature in a hockey-mad market where he’s on his second tour behind the bench is certain to rise dramatically.

“Pressure is what you make of it,” Julien said. “I don’t look at it as pressure, but as an opportunity. We should be good enough to make the playoffs.

“And we should thrive on the opportunity.”


Source: cbc.ca

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NHL postpones Winter Classic, all-star weekend until 2022

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League still targeting January for start of upcoming season

The NHL has announced that its Winter Classic and all-star weekend will not be held in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Winter Classic featuring the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues was scheduled for Jan. 1 at Target Field in Minneapolis.

The Florida Panthers were to host the all-star weekend at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., Jan. 29-30.

The NHL said the announcement does not impact the planned Jan. 1 start date for the upcoming NHL season.

“Because of the uncertainty as to when we will be able to welcome our fans back to our games, we felt that the prudent decision at this time was to postpone these celebrations until 2022 when our fans should be able to enjoy and celebrate these tentpole events in-person, as they were always intended,” NHL senior executive vice-president and chief content officer Steve Mayer said. “We are also considering several new and creative events that will allow our fans to engage with our games and teams during this upcoming season.”

The NHL had zero cases in the bubble during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but what’s next for the league? Andi Petrillo speaks with NHL analyst Dave Poulin. 6:03

 


Source: cbc.ca

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Jake Virtanen signs 2-year deal with hometown Canucks, avoids arbitration

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Senators, Connor Brown agree to new 3-year contract

The Vancouver Canucks have signed a new deal with right-winger Jake Virtanen.

The team announced Thursday that the 24-year-old from Abbotsford, B.C., has agreed to a two-year contract worth $5.1 million US.

The move means the restricted free agent avoids the arbitration hearing scheduled for Oct. 28.

Virtanen registered a career-high 36 points (18 goals, 18 assists) for the Canucks last season, and posted another three (two goals, one assist) in 16 post-season appearances.

Originally drafted sixth overall by Vancouver in 2014, Virtanen has played five seasons for his hometown team.

Canucks general manager Jim Benning said in a release that six-foot-one, 226-pound forward has made progress in his two-way game, and uses his size and speed to create chances on offence.

Senators, Brown agree to 3-year contract

The Ottawa Senators have avoided arbitration with Connor Brown by signing the forward to a three-year, $10.8-million US contract.

The Senators and Brown were scheduled to have an arbitration hearing Thursday.

Brown had 16 goals and 27 assists over 71 games for the Senators last season. His 27 assists and 43 points were career highs.

The 26-year-old from Toronto was selected by the Maple Leafs in the sixth round, 156th overall, at the 2012 NHL draft.

He was acquired by Ottawa along with defenceman Nikita Zaitsev in a July 1, 2019 trade that sent defencemen Cody Ceci and Ben Harpur to Toronto.

Brown has 142 points (59 goals, 83 assists) and 68 penalty minutes over 324 career NHL games with Toronto and Ottawa.

“We’re very happy to have Connor back under contract,” Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said in a release. “He brings a veteran presence to our lineup and is a player who can play in different situations.

“He’s durable, has a strong work ethic with great practice habits and is regarded as a leader by his teammates.”


Source: cbc.ca

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Pandemic tests Canada’s ability to be powerhouse at Beijing Olympics

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Bobsled pilot Justin Kripps hoping to gain momentum ahead of 2022 Winter Games

What bobsled pilot Justin Kripps wants out of the upcoming sliding season is momentum. What that looks like will be dictated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I feel like there’s there’s a couple different ways we can get it, but we have to get it from somewhere,” said the Olympic champion from Summerland, B.C.

“The theme I’m trying to take, and I think a lot of people are, is being flexible and ready for anything at a moment’s notice.”

The pandemic is testing Canada’s ability to remain a winter-sport powerhouse at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.

Canada has been a top-five country in every Winter Olympics medal table since 1998, and top three in Paralympic Games gold medals since 2010.

The third season in a Winter Games quadrennial is a big one.

It’s a year in which athletes can qualify to compete in the Games via World Cup and world championship results.

The last world championship and final full World Cup season before a Games indicates which athletes are tracking for Olympic and Paralympic podiums, and what needs to be done to be among them.

The Canadian bobsleigh quartet raced to a combined time of 2:11.12 to claim their third gold medal of the season at the IBSF World Cup event in St.Moritz, Switzerland.  2:22

“This is a very critical year,” Freestyle Canada chief executive officer Peter Judge said.

Access to quality training and competition in the midst of travel and gathering restrictions, mandatory quarantines, delays and cancellations of international events is uncertain and complicated.

“Every single situation right now is quite complex,” Canadian Olympic Committee chief sport officer Eric Myles said.

International federations in snow and ice sport are based in Europe, which is where the majority of competition has retreated to during the pandemic.

Most North American stops came off international calendars. Canada lost home-country advantage across sports such as speedskating, luge, alpine skiing, ski cross and figure skating.

Freestyle skiing, snowboarding, figure skating, speed skating and sliding sports accounted for 26 of Canada’s 29 medals in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018.

The majority of Canada’s figure skating team hasn’t competed since early February.

The world championships in Montreal were cancelled in March as was this month’s Skate Canada Grand Prix in Ottawa.

“It’s incredibly challenging for athletes to train and to remain motivated with so many question marks,” said pairs skater Kirsten Moore-Towers from St. Catharines, Ont.

“In the grand scheme of things, it’s such a small part of what the world is dealing with, but for us it’s been our whole lives for a long time.”

Kripps, women’s pilot Christine de Bruin and their crews were informed just recently they’ll depart in November for the first World Cup in Latvia, following next week’s training camp in Whistler, B.C.

“I’d rather have a last-minute decision made when we have more information than to shut down the whole first half of the season without having the information,” Kripps said.

“I’d rather just make it work and try to get some races going.”

The skeleton and luge teams are skipping the first part of the season, however and will remain in Canada until December.

All World Cup speedskating for the rest of 2020 was cancelled, so the Canadians are home until 2021.

The International Skating Union is considering European hubs or “bubbles” to complete the season in 2021.

Complicated by international travel

For those travelling to compete, the questions are endless: when to go, how to retain fitness during a mandatory 14-day quarantine if they return to Canada mid-season, should they stay in Europe until the spring of 2021, what happens if they or someone on their team gets sick and will a surge in infections wipe out their seasons entirely?

“We have a race schedule. Whether those races are actually going to run or not is I guess the number one question,” said Olympic cross-country skier Dahria Beatty of Whitehorse.

“My goal right now just based on the climate is to go over, race well the start of the season, allow myself to stay until March and then come home and do a 14-day quarantine,” Beatty explained.

“If I had to come back mid-season to do some races in Canada to re-qualify, that 14-day quarantine really, especially in an endurance sport, is terrible.”

While Beatty trains in Canmore, Alta., in hopes of a season, other Canadians are already in Europe.

The national alpine ski team raced in the season-opening World Cup in Soelden, Austria, this past weekend.

Legacy venues provide advantage during pandemic

When it comes to places for athletes to train at home, Canada has the advantage of legacy venues from the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Whistler and Vancouver and the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.

They are Plan ‘B’ if athletes are grounded for part or all of the upcoming season.

The bobsled and skeleton teams are practising starts at Canada Olympic Park’s ice house in Calgary this week before heading to Whistler.

The slopestyle course and halfpipe at COP were built post-1988 and have hosted multiple World Cup events.

Snowboard Canada and Freestyle Canada are working with WinSport to make COP a full-time training base for the national teams if needed.

“If all hell breaks loose this winter, even if we can’t go anywhere and even if we can’t get to events, we’ve got world-class training facilities,” Judge said.

The federations are also pitching for COP to be an international competition “bubble” for World Cup snowboard and freestyle in March.

Paralympic biathlon champion Mark Arendz of Charlottetown says the Canmore Nordic Centre, which is another 1988 venue, offers the training he needs to stay competitive if racing is curtailed by the virus.

“If everything goes really sideways, we’d have the ability to train and focus on our training and get stronger here,” Arendz said.

Limited options

Calgary’s ’88 legacy is fraying, however.

The “fastest ice in the world” is no longer in the Olympic Oval because of a mechanical issue. The national long-track speedskating team isn’t expected back on the ice there before January.

“What was happening was affecting our ability to make ice,” Oval director Peter McCrory said.

“The reason why it’s taking so long is we are wholly dependent on an external organization to fix the issue for us.”

Also, the national short-track team’s training facility in Montreal shut down because of rising COVID-19 infections in Quebec.

“It’s very scary that both of our teams are off ice right now,” Speed Skating Canada chief executive officer Susan Auch said. “That’s a problem for sure.

“It’s another disruption in an already difficult six to eight months.”

The search is on for a site to house both teams, which is roughly 80 people, with the covered oval in Fort St. John, B.C., a possible option.

Calgary’s sliding track at COP closed over a year ago, awaiting money for a $25-million renovation.

Sliders no longer walk across the parking lot from the ice house to the track, but must travel to Whistler’s track.

Having both tracks operational in a pandemic would put Canada ahead of the game for Beijing, according to Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton’s high-performance director.

“We would have been so far ahead of the rest of the world in sliding,” Chris Le Bihan said. “We would have such a big competitive advantage with the two tracks.”

Kripps’s mantra in a potentially chaotic season comes from his teammate Ben Coakwell.

“He was saying we have to stay ready, so we don’t have to get ready,” Kripps said. “You can’t let yourself fall behind.”


Source: cbc.ca

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