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Here's what you need to understand right now from the world of sports:
Junior hockey is on thin ice
Tough as the pandemic hit the NHL, it's been even rougher on junior hockey. At least the pros were able to return from their shutdown to finish a complete Stanley Cup playoff competition. Many of Canada's leading juniors still haven't strike the ice given that the CHL and the three local leagues under its umbrella chose March 12 to pause their seasons and later cancelled their playoffs and the Memorial Cup championship competition.
Seven months later on, the Ontario Hockey League and the Western Hockey League still have not returned. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has, however it's not going so excellent. And there are concerns about junior hockey's premier occasion, the world junior championship, which is now less than 2 months away.
Here's an appearance at where things stand with the 3 CHL leagues and the world juniors:
The 2020-21 season opened on Oct. 2 but quickly hit the rocks. A total of 26 members of the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada and the Sherbrooke Phoenix checked favorable for the coronavirus after playing each other twice that weekend, forcing both groups to halt operations. And with 6 groups situated in areas the provincial federal government stated "red zones," where sports are restricted, the QMJHL chose Oct. 12 to suspend play in both its Quebec-based divisions up until a minimum of today. Then, last week, the Drummondville Voltigeurs shut down after seven people on the group checked positive.
The QMJHL likewise has a six-team Maritimes Division that has kept playing (with fans in the structure), though the Moncton Wildcats invested 2 weeks on hold since of government restrictions in their location (they've given that gone back to action). Quebec teams are back on the official schedulebeginning Friday night, though it's unclear whether those games will in fact happen. The 12 Quebec groups are each getting $1 million from the provincial federal government to help them make it through this season.
The most recent strategy is to start the season on Jan. 8 and have each group play as much as 50 video games (below the typical 68), all within their existing division. The East includes 7 teams based in either Manitoba or Saskatchewan, the five-team Central is based all in Alberta, the five-team West is all in B.C., and the five U.S. Division clubs remain in the states of Washington and Oregon.
That's a great deal of ground, run by a lot of various federal governments. And the WHL's strategy depends on getting the approval of authorities in all those locations. Same for the league's desire to have arenas at half capacity, though the season will be played whether fans are enabled or not.
The 20-team league wishes to get going in December, however it hasn't even released a specific target date nor developed a schedule framework like the WHL has. One problem is that coronavirus cases have actually surged in certain parts of Ontario. Another is that the OHL seems to be handling a less-flexible government. The Ontario minister who oversees sports, Lisa MacLeod, said bodychecking would need to be restricted for the league to return.
Like the WHL, the OHL likewise has to handle the headaches of having groups on the other side of the (still-closed) U.S. border. Unlike in the WHL, those groups do not have their own department. The two Michigan-based groups play in the West, and the Erie (Pennsylvania) Otters are in the Midwest. An all-American division could be produced, however with just three teams?
With apologies to the Memorial Cup, this is the most popular occasion in junior hockey. And, regardless of all the stuff we just went over, it's still arranged to proceed in its conventional Christmastime slot.
Originally, the competition was going to happen in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta. Organizers decided to copy the NHL's bubble plan (area and all) by moving the whole thing to Edmonton. Games will be played in the Oilers' arena (likely without fans) and gamers from all over the world will be sequestered in a restricted area around it. That's a lot of moving parts, but organizers feel they can pull it off.
The tournament opens on Christmas Day (a day earlier than normal) and goes through Jan. 5. Keep in mind, the WHL will not begin until a minimum of Jan. 8 and the OHL season is still really much up in the air. So most of Canada's players might be seeing their first significant action of the season when the defending champs play their first preliminary-round video game on Boxing Day vs. Germany. On the brilliant side, with the NHL season likely on hold till the new year, there's a possibility Canada's lineup might include No. 1 general draft pick Alexis Lafrenière, who was the MVP of in 2015's competition, and No. 3 choice Quinton Byfield.
Learn more about the Canadian junior hockey leagues' plans (and hopes) for the season in this piece by Jim Morris.
The fastest male in the world is banned from the Tokyo Olympics.Ruling 100-metre world champ and Olympic gold-medal favourite Christian Coleman of the United States was struck with a two-year suspension today for breaching doping-test guidelines. In 2019, the year he won the world title, Coleman missed 3 tests within a period of 12 months by stopping working to be where he stated he 'd be when testers appeared. That's grounds for a two-year restriction under track and field rules. Coleman was almost suspended prior to the 2019 worlds for the same reason. He got off on a technicality when his very first violation was backdated, and went on to beat protecting 100m champ Justin Gatlin and Canadian Andre De Grasse, who took bronze. Coleman can appeal today's ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Presuming the decision is upheld, and thinking about Gatlin turns 39 in February, De Grasse might become the preferred to win 100m gold in Tokyo next summertime. Check out more about Coleman's ban here.
The Dodgers can end their championship drought tonight.Thirty-two years is a very long time in between titles. Especially when you're one of your sport's marquee franchises, with among the highest payrolls every year, and you've won your division 8 years in a row. The Dodgers are one triumph away from their seventh World Series title and can win it this evening in Game 6 vs. Tampa Bay. The pitching match favours the Rays, however. They're going with 2018 Cy Young winner Blake Snell vs. L.A. novice Tony Gonsolin. The latter has a 9.39 ERA in the post-season and worked only four outs in Game 2 before paving the way to a string of reducers. Gonsolin could play a similar "opener" role tonight, specifically if he gets in trouble early.
And finally ...
Edmonton sports fans are mourning the loss of an one-of-a-kind character. A beloved regional figure who gained a measure of nationwide popularity for his association with the '80s Oilers dynasty, Joey Moss worked as a dressing-room attendant for Edmonton's NHL and CFL teams for decades. Moss, who was born with Down syndrome, struck up a lifelong friendship with Wayne Gretzky when the hockey superstar was dating his sibling. Gretzky presented him to the Oilers throughout the 1984-85 season and Moss endeared himself to the group and its fans with his positive attitude, sense of humour and work principles. Gretzky stated in a statement the other day that Moss was "the spirit of our team" and former Oilers captain Andrew Ference called Moss "a legend of all legends within the city." Moss was 57. Find out more about him and what he indicated to Edmonton sports here.
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