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Canada named its replacement Olympic men’s hockey team
Nearly five weeks after the NHL and its players backed out of the Beijing Winter Olympics, and just 15 days before the men’s tournament begins, Canada finally announced the roster that will try to improve on the country’s bronze-medal finish from the 2018 Games, which the NHL also skipped.
Stepping in to replace the likes of Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon are, well, mostly a lot of guys. Some, you might remember. Many, you’ve probably never heard of. Only two names really stand out:
Eric Staal: Seventeen of Canada’s 25 players have appeared in the NHL, and Staal is the most experienced and accomplished among them. The 37-year-old has played in nearly 1,300 regular-season games and notched more than 1,000 points, including 441 goals. Staal’s best season was his second in the league, 2005-06, when he had 45 goals and 100 points and then led the playoffs in scoring to help Carolina win an improbable Stanley Cup in that weird post-lockout year. Last season, Staal helped Montreal on its surprising run to the Cup final. He hasn’t played for anyone this season, beyond a brief conditioning stint with an American Hockey League team, but he stayed in shape while waiting for a call. Now he’s looking to add an Olympic gold medal without NHL superstar teammates after winning one with them in Vancouver in 2010.
Owen Power: The 6-foot-6 teenage defenceman is the most interesting player on the Canadian team. Picked first overall in last year’s NHL draft by Buffalo, Power opted to return to the University of Michigan for another season. At the world juniors in December, he became the first Canadian defenceman in the history of the tournament to score a hat trick. Unfortunately, he only got to play two games before the event was cancelled. Power also handled himself well against grown men at last year’s world championship, recording three assists in 10 games to help Canada win gold.
Other names that might ring a bell include forwards Daniel Winnik, David Desharnais, Adam Cracknell and Josh Ho-Sang; and defencemen Jason Demers and Maxim Noreau. The latter was Canada’s scoring co-leader at the 2018 Olympics.
The goalies are Devon Levi, Edward Pasquale and Matt Tomkins. They’re extremely light on NHL experience — just three games total, all by Pasquale. But the 20-year-old Levi, who plays for a U.S. university, did break Carey Price’s world juniors save percentage record a year ago.
Most guys on the roster earn their living in European pro leagues. Nine players are in the Russia-based KHL, while eight are in the Swiss, Swedish or German leagues. Five play in the AHL (North America’s top minor league) and three in the NCAA (American universities/colleges). See the complete roster and read more about it here. Get some more great tidbits on the team by watching the video below by CBC Sports’ Rob Pizzo.
The squad was picked under the direction of former NHL star Shane Doan, who stepped in as Canada’s general manager after the NHL bailed on the Olympics. The head coach is former Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins bench boss Claude Julien. Apropos of absolutely nothing, have you ever seen Julien with hair? He looks like everyone’s dad in the ’80s.
Canada’s first game is Feb. 10 at 8:10 a.m. ET vs. Germany, a surprising silver medallist in 2018. Canada’s other group-stage contests are Feb. 11 at 11:10 p.m. ET vs. the United States and Feb. 13 at 8:10 a.m. ET vs. China.
No one is eliminated right after the group stage, but these games are still important because the top team in each of the three groups, plus the best second-place team, advance directly to the quarter-finals. Everyone else must try to play their way into the quarters via a one-game playoff. The quarter-finals are on Feb. 15 and 16 in Canadian time zones. The semis are Feb. 17 and 18. The gold-medal game is Saturday, Feb. 19 at 11:10 p.m. ET.
The results of one of the most controversial and consequential Baseball Hall of Fame votes ever will be revealed tonight
It’s last call for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Curt Schilling, all of whom are appearing on the ballot for the 10th and final time. Bonds and Clemens are among the very best players of all time. Literally no one disputes that their careers are Hall-of-Fame calibre. Sosa isn’t quite on that level, but the guy hit 609 home runs — the ninth-most in MLB history. His numbers say he belongs too. The problem for Bonds, Clemens and Sosa is that they’ve all been credibly linked to steroid use, automatically disqualifying them in the eyes of some voters.
Schilling’s predicament is a bit different. He’s never been tied to performance-enhancing drugs and was one of the best pitchers of his era. But his numbers aren’t as overwhelming, giving voters enough cover to punish him for being one of the great blowhards in baseball history (that’s saying something) and now also a relentless social-media s—poster.
To get into the Hall, a player needs to be named on at least 75 per cent of the 400 or so ballots submitted by baseball writers. According to Ryan Thibodaux’s wonderful Hall of Fame tracker, Bonds is polling at around 78 per cent based on the ballots that have been publicly revealed. Clemens is at about 77. But only half of voters have put their ballots out there and, historically, Bonds and Clemens end up getting far less support from those who choose not to. So they’ll be on pins and needles leading up to the 6 p.m. ET announcement. Things aren’t looking so good for Schilling (61 per cent) and Sosa (24).
Also fascinating are the polling numbers for a pair of first-time-eligible superstars. Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz are both all-time greats who have been linked to steroids. Objectively, Rodriguez is greater — he hit 696 home runs while spending a big chunk of his career at shortstop, helping revolutionize the position in the process. Ortiz, though he delivered many more post-season heroics than Rodriguez, hit 541 dingers mostly as a DH. Not as impressive. But, subjectively, Big Papi is one of the most beloved players ever. A-Rod’s personality is, well, a bit lacking. I’ll let you guess which one of them is polling at 84 per cent and who’s at 39.
Denis Shapovalov went down swinging. The 14th-seeded Canadian’s first trip to the Australian Open quarter-finals ended with a hard-fought, five-set, four-hour loss today to Spaniard Rafael Nadal, who’s going for his record-breaking 21st Grand Slam men’s singles title. No shame in that, but Shapovalov did not accept the result quietly. Frustrated by the lengthy breaks and amount of time between points afforded to his much older opponent, Shapovalov lashed out at the chair umpire, saying “you guys are all corrupt.” He also aired his grievances to reporters in his post-match press conference. “I respect everything that Rafa has done, and I think he’s an unbelievable player,” Shapovalov said. “But there’s got to be some boundaries, some rules set.” Canada’s hopes now rest completely on Felix Auger-Aliassime. The No. 9 seed’s quarter-final opponent is world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, the highest-ranked player in the men’s tournament after Novak Djokovic was kicked out of the country. The match goes tonight at 3:30 a.m. ET. Read more about Shapovalov’s heated loss and watch highlights here.
A new NHL ironman will be crowned tonight. Philadelphia defenceman Keith Yandle tied Doug Jarvis’ all-time record last night by playing in his 964th consecutive game without missing one. He’ll break it tonight when the Flyers visit the Islanders. Jarvis’ streak ended 35 years ago. Yandle’s reign could be shorter-lived, as a slightly younger (and somewhat surprising) player is close behind him. Arizona’s Phil Kessel — not exactly the picture of elite physical fitness, at least at a glance — has played in 940 straight. Read what Jarvis thinks of his record being broken by Yandle here.
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