Monday, 28 September 2020

Lightning conquer huge hump with Stanley Cup win

A Victor Hedman card.
The doubts about this generation of the Tampa Bay Lightning are gone forever.

The skeptics viewed them as the team with exceptional skill but one that lacked the will to win a championship. The Lightning had won 42 or more games in each of the past seven regular seasons.

They made the Stanley Cup final in 2015 and fell in that best-of-seven series 4-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks, who at that time captured their third Stanley Cup title in six years.

In 2018-19, Tampa Bay had a dream regular season posting a 62-16-4 record to finish first overall in the NHL for the first time in franchise history. Their 62 wins matched the regular season record put up by the Detroit Red Wings in 1995-96.

The regular season success translated into post-season disappoint for the Lightning as they were swept 4-0 in a best-of-seven first round series by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2019 NHL playoffs.

Returning the bulk of their roster, the Lightning entered the 2019-20 campaign and the 2020 NHL playoffs as arguably the team with the most to prove. They were the team skeptics could easily write off expecting another disappointment to happen.

In what proved to be season that no one could have written a script for, the Lightning came of age.

On Monday night in the hub city of Edmonton, the Lightning would not be denied. Skilled Lightning centre Brayden Point, an alumnus of the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors, scored his 14th goal of this post-season burying the rebound of his own shot on the power play to put his side up 1-0 on the Dallas Stars at the 12:23 mark of the first period.

A Brayden Point card.
The Lightning added a second tally in the second period and made that 2-0 score hold up as the final to take Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final at Rogers Place and win the series 4-2. It marked the second time the Lightning captured the Stanley Cup with their first win coming back in 2004 courtesy of Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Cory Stillman, Pavel Kubina, Nikolai Khabibulin, John Tortorella and crew.

Following the gut punch of the 2019 playoff loss to the Jackets, the Lightning were having a strong regular season in 2019-20 posting a 43-21-6 record to sit second overall in the NHL’s Eastern Conference.

At that point, world events caused everything to ground to a halt due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The NHL season was paused on March 12 as the entire sports world in North America came to a stop due to unprecedented shutdowns.

Still, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association worked to put together a plan to complete the 2019-20 campaign and award the Stanley Cup. An expanded 24-team post-season tournament would be played in a bubble format without fans in the cities of Edmonton and Toronto.

On July 10, NHL training camps opened for the clubs taking part in the post-season tournament, and the Lightning moved into the Toronto hub city on July 26. The post-season officially began on Aug. 1.

The Lightning were one of four teams in the Eastern Conference to have a bye past the qualifying round into a best-of-seven series in the round of 16. They played three round robin games to determine the top seeds in the Eastern Conference bracket taking two out of three of those contests.

In the round of 16, the Lightning once again met the Jackets and downed them 4-1. Tampa Bay proceeded to advance to a best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Boston Bruins, who fell in last year’s Stanley Cup final in seven games to the St. Louis Blues.

A Nikita Kucherov card.
The Lightning dropped the first game to the Bruins before rolling off four straight wins to take the series 4-1.

For the conference title series, all hub city action was condensed into Edmonton from that point onwards.

The up and coming New York Islanders were the foe in the Eastern Conference Championship series and the Lightning prevailed in that best-of-seven set 4-2.

That set up the showdown with the Stars, who had a solid 37-24-8 mark in the regular season.

The Stars took the first game of the series, but the Lightning roared back with three straight wins. Tampa Bay had a chance to win the Stanley Cup on Saturday, but Stars pulled out a thrilling 3-2 victory in double overtime to force Monday night’s Game 6.

The Lightning did everything they could to ensure a series decided Game 7 wouldn’t be required.

After Point gave the Lightning a 1-0 edge, they netted a key insurance goal in the second.

At the 7:01 mark of the second, the Lightning entered the Dallas after getting the puck off a centre ice zone turnover by the Stars. Lightning centre Blake Coleman converted a cross-ice pass from linemate Cedric Paquette to put Tampa Bay up 2-0.

The Lightning controlled play over the first 40 minutes holding a 21-8 edge in shots on goal.

Still, the Stars make a big push back in the third holding a 14-8 edge in shots on goal in the frame, and the Lightning showed their mental toughness in holding the fort defensively.

An Andrei Vasilevskiy card.
With about 4:35 remaining in the third, Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy made two quick stops in succession with the second coming from the stick of Stars skilled centre Tyler Seguin from point-blank range.

The unsung Vasilevskiy made 22 saves to pick up the shutout in goal.

At the other end, Stars netminder Anton Khudobin, an alumnus of the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades, deserved a better fate turning away 27 shots to take the setback for Dallas.

Following the game, injured Lightning captain Steven Stamkos dressed in his gear and raised the Stanley Cup. He appeared in one game in the post-season scoring a key goal in the Lightning’s 5-2 victory in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final.

Veteran offensive defenceman Victor Hedman showed he was one of the best in what he does in the NHL. He was named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the NHL playoffs.

The Swede had 10 goals, 12 assists and a plus-13 rating in the plus-minus department in 25 post-season games. Hedman picked up an assist on Point’s power-play goal on Monday.

Point had 19 assists to go with his 14 goals for 33 points in 23 games to finish second in post-season scoring for the Lightning. Star right-winger Nikita Kucherov had an outstanding post-season topping Tampa Bay in scoring with seven goals and 27 assists for 34 points in 25 games.

Kucherov also picked up an assist on Point’s power-play goal that was the Stanley Cup winner.

A Steven Stamkos card.
The Stanley Cup title was a sweet moment for Lightning head coach Jon Cooper, who has been the team’s bench boss since becoming a mid-season replacement for the fired Guy Boucher with 16 games remaining in the 2012-13 campaign.

After the Lightning were swept in the first round of the 2019 NHL playoffs, there were questions about whether Cooper was the man for the job to lead Tampa Bay to a Stanley Cup title. On Monday night, it was mission accomplished for Cooper.

Going forward in these pandemic times, there is lots of uncertainty about the fate of a 2020-21season for the NHL.

It is uplifting to know the NHL successfully held a post-season tournament in 2020 in an expanded form. The players were also away from their families outside of some of the Lightning and Stars families making it to the Edmonton bubble for the Stanley Cup final.

As of right now on Monday night, it is only right to allow the Tampa Bay Lightning to celebrate their accomplishment of winning the Stanley Cup, because they have more than paid their dues to get to this point.

If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.

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Sunday, 27 September 2020

Random fun items that make you smile, maybe chuckle

The G.I. Joe season 1.1 DVD set.
Sometimes when life seems to be giving you lemons, you have to find the fun in random things.

In the half glass full department, life does seem present things that are entertaining and can perk up a smile on a daily basis. You just have to let yourself enjoy those random discoveries.

During the current days with the world engulfed in the grips of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it is always wise to find things that are fun and will perk you up on a daily basis.

For myself, one of random items that is fun for me is checking out the DVD set for the 1980s animated television series G.I. Joe season 1.1. It contains the first three five-part miniseries in The M.A.S.S. Device, The Revenge of Cobra and The Pyramid of Darkness.

It also includes seven additional episodes from the TV series.

In viewing that DVD set, you shake your head and chuckle at the fact Duke gets himself captured in The M.A.S.S. Device, The Revenge of Cobra and The Pyramid of Darkness miniseries.

Duke said in the first episode that his green sheet said he was, “A man of action.”

That was an inside joke giving a nod to the 12-inch tall G.I. Joe figure line from the 1960s and 1970s. You know, that was the era when G.I. Joe dated Barbie and Ken got kicked to the curb.

Anyways, that was a sidetrack and back to the G.I. Joe DVD set.

You think it is cool that an arrow from Scarlett’s crossbow can destroy a H.I.S.S. tank.

Actually, the three female characters on the G.I. Joe team at the time in Scarlett, Lady Jaye and Cover Girl kicked the most ass. The G.I. Joe team would likely be useless without them.

You also learn the wing of a G.I. Joe Skystriker can cut a H.I.S.S. tank in half. Crazy to think the H.I.S.S. tank is viewed as Cobra’s most durable vehicle.

Wild Bill is a better pilot than Ace.

G.I. Joe and Cobra also battle it out in exotic locals like “The Sea of Ice,” “The Palace of Doom” and the “Island of No Return.”

The two foes had to join forces once to defeat “The Worms of Death.”

In another episode, Roadblock rides a rocket along with the Crimson Twins, Tomax and Xamot.

The suspension of reality really gets so stretched in G.I. Joe that it would make James Bond blush. But, that is what makes G.I. Joe fun.

Anyways, here are seven other random fun things I’ve rediscovered or come across over the past 10 days. They are listed in no particular order.

Hope you find these things fun too.

Prince Albert Northern Bears Instagram is upbeat

The Prince Albert Northern Bears female AAA under-18 hockey team is filled with a lot of light-hearted posts.

They will let the players take over the account leading to lots unpredictability. Recent story video of four team members heading out to the golf course was particularly entertaining.

The Bears Instagram and other social media accounts are all worth following.

Lemieux with the Stanley Cup

A Mario Lemieux card from 1991.
I found this little gem the other week featuring all-time hockey great Mario Lemieux.

It is a Pro Set card from 1991, and it pictures Lemieux raising the Stanley Cup for the first time after his Pittsburgh Penguins downed the Minnesota North Stars in six games in the 1991 Stanley Cup final.

The back of the card notes Lemieux was the Conn Smythe Trophy winner after piling up 44 points in the playoffs. That is still the second most points ever compiled in one NHL post-season.

While the card talks about Lemieux’s Conn Smythe Trophy win, the picture of him raising the Stanley Cup for the first time is cool. This Pro Set card set was very over produced, so it should be easy to track this card down.

The cute Howe couple

Davis Howe, left, and Corey Howe in 2016.
I took this picture of Davis (Parkinson) Howe and Corey Howe in 2016.

At the time this photo was taken, the two weren’t married yet, but life was leading them in that direction. Corey is the grandson of “Mr. Hockey” Gordie Howe, who is one of hockey’s most revered icons.

Davis and Corey are pictured in from of a Hockey Hall of Fame display containing items from Gordie’s historic hockey career. The picture opportunity was part of the lead up to the Saskatoon Blades home opener that season to honour Gordie Howe titled, “Thank You Mr. Hockey Day.”

Davis got a kick out of press release then Blades president Steve Hogle wrote up about her romance with Corey.

Davis chuckled, “Yep, I lured him here.”

Belichick’s “I don’t give a *&#!” look

We all know how much New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick “enjoys” dealing with the media, and this picture shows it.

This picture was taken from a press conference last Wednesday with Belichick, who has won six Super Bowl titles with the Patriots and is one of the NFL’s all-time leaders in career head coaching victories.

Belichick doesn’t care what anyone things of him, and he will wear what he wants to pressers. The likelihood his high he slept in his office the previous night.

Barbie takes up hockey, is Canadian?

Barbie is taking up playing hockey.
This was an interesting find.

A new collectors’ version of Barbie has come out with her taking on the career of being a hockey player. Of course, this is a promotion done with Tim Hortons.

You also can’t help but notice there is a maple leaf on Barbie’s jersey. Does that mean Barbie has her Canadian citizenship?

I haven’t seen Barbie depicted as a hockey player before, so this was fun to see.

Blaster’s band back together

Blaster, centre, back together with his crew.
Walmart has the reissued Blaster Transformers toy from 1985 on its store shelves.

I actually own one of the originals that came out way back in 1985. Blaster had four original tapes that came out of his chest. I was missing one of the four tapes named Eject, which I was able to purchase online.

After Eject arrived, I was able to get Blaster’s original band back together. Pictured, from left, is Ramhorn, Eject, Blaster, Rewind and Steeljaw.

The nostalgia in this picture is just too sweet.

Huskies football video is kick ass

This promotional video for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team is kick ass.

Huskie Athletics at the University of Saskatchewan did an incredible job of putting this together. On top of being fun, it gets you fired up for Huskies football.

It makes you wish there was a season this year. The pump up feeling of this video makes you excited for the time when the Huskies return.

If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.

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If you like what you see here, you might want to donate to the cause to keep independent media like this blog going. Should you choose to help out, feel free to click on the DONATE button in the upper right corner. Thank you for stopping in.

Saturday, 26 September 2020

Hilltops gain new appreciation for being together

Rylan Kleiter hauls in a pass at Hilltops practice.
Saskatoon Hilltops veteran safety Brant Morrow is pumped his studies at the University of Saskatchewan haven’t been his one life consuming thing.

For the last three weeks, Morrow has been able to head to Ron Atchison Field and practice with the Hilltops. The Hilltops have practiced every Tuesday through Thursday for the last three weeks and will continue to get together on those nights for the next three weeks.

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, CJFL cancelled its entire 2020 campaign back on Aug. 6. Had the Hilltops on been practising, Morrow’s life would have been consumed with online classes at the U of S.

“For me, I woke up at 7 a.m. this morning, and I studied all day,” said Morrow after a practice this week. “That can’t be too good for the mental health sitting in one spot.

Brant Morrow goes into coverage during a Hilltops practice.
“Getting out here and seeing your friends running around, it is activity and socializing. They are the two best things for your mental health. It is the best part of my day.”

The venerable Hilltops are the CJFL’s most storied program. In their modern history since the club was reformed in 1947, the Hilltops have won 22 CJFL titles which included winning three different league championship trophies in the Leader-Post Trophy, the Armadale Cup and the Canadian Bowl.

The Hilltops have won nine of the last 10 CJFL championships and the last six CJFL titles in a row.

Over that time, the moniker “Hilltop family” has reached new heights in describing how close everyone associated with the historic team is.

Rylan Kleiter makes a catch at Hilltops practice.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there was a big fear the “Hilltop family” wouldn’t be able to get together this year. The practices have allowed the players, coaches and staff to get an extra jump in their step.

“It has been a tonne of fun,” said legendary Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant, who is the all-time wins leader in Canadian amateur football in the post-secondary ranks. “It is good to get around my buddies, my coaches, the guys, we work so hard together.

“It is good to get around these young athletes. They’re excited. It was fun to see everyone compete.

“The juices were flying, so that was good.”

Over the first two weeks, the Hilltops veterans practised in their own sessions on Tuesdays and Thursday. The club’s newcomers hit the field in sessions on Wednesdays and Thursday.

Brant Morrow makes a read during a Hilltops practice.
This past week, everyone took part in the same sessions from Tuesday to Thursday.

With all the changes that have come due to the COVID-19 pandemic, veteran Hilltops receiver/kicker Rylan Kleiter said everyone with the club has developed a new appreciation just to be able to get together for practice.

“It is kind of a welcoming feeling knowing that everybody is here again,” said Kleiter, who has played four seasons with the team. “Honestly, I’m just excited to see everybody again.

“It has been awesome to have everyone out here even just as a mental release to get away from the hustle and bustle of life. Just getting the chance to see everybody out here again is a pretty sweet opportunity.”

Rylan Kleiter secures a catch last season for the Hilltops.
Of course, there are noticeable differences. Players are arriving at Ron Atchison fully dressed in all their equipment as the dressing rooms at the Hilltops clubhouse aren’t being used, which is a standard procedure at sports facilities during the pandemic.

Hilltops directors are on hand before practice to do temperature checks. There are frequent breaks to sanitize and get water.

The team runs through a lot of individual position drills before doing walk throughs of some of the offensive and defensive schemes the team runs.

Kleiter said arriving to practice already dressed in equipment brings back memories of playing minor football in the Kinsmen Football League.

“It is definitely different than what we are used to without the locker room camaraderie and all the other stuff outside of the football field,” said Kleiter, who is continuing to skill his high level curling team in men’s competition after winning four straight provincial junior titles. “We’re enjoying it just being out here.”

Brant Morrow celebrates a big play with the Hilltops in 2019.
Morrow said he misses the bonding time in dressing room.

“That is one of the best parts is the camaraderie in that locker room,” said Morrow, who has played three full seasons with the Hilltops. “I’m missing that a lot.

“Before practice, we get to talk a bit.”

Morrow enjoys getting locked in and focusing in on football, when he is on the field. He said you can tell the returning veterans have putting in good working during the off-season, because everyone looks in shape and are stronger and faster on the field.

When he sees the improvement in his teammates, Morrow wishes there could have been a season this year. Still, he all you can do is do the best with what has been dealt your way and prepare of 2021.

HC Tom Sargeant mans the Hilltops sidelines last season.

The Hilltops practices have helped perk up Morrow.

“It is good just getting back together with your friends and competing and getting better for next year,” said Morrow. “It takes your mind off of whatever is going on in your life.

“It is still our escape from life. We get come out here and have fun for a couple of hours and get better at football. Hopefully at some point, we can get some contact in this year.”

Sargeant said he believes the practices have helped the players, coaches and staffers on the mental health front, because it gets them all doing something they are used to doing. While Sargeant is normally upbeat and energetic, the sideline boss said the practice sessions have been a big help to him as well.

The Hilltops look forward to getting back to moments like this.
“I think it is huge, and that is one of the reasons we wanted to come together,” said Sargeant. “I think absence makes the heart grow fonder.

“It was really nice to see when we came together again just that spirit and that attitude and the care and love for each other. This has been good for everybody. We’re enjoying what it has brought us.

“It has just been a tonne of fun. It is good to get back on the old Hilltops field again. It makes me feel good.”

If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.

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If you like what you see here, you might want to donate to the cause to keep independent media like this blog going. Should you choose to help out, feel free to click on the DONATE button in the upper right corner. Thank you for stopping in.

Thursday, 24 September 2020

Sports, live event industry in uphill COVID-19 world battle

The Rush celebrate a goal in the NLL playoffs in 2018.
There are some business executives in Saskatoon who will likely be brought to tears when you mention the Junos.

The tears will continue to fall when you mention Saskatchewan Rush and Saskatoon Blades games knowing there were going to be playoff dates for both at the SaskTel Centre. The Blades could have potentially played their archrivals, the Prince Albert Raiders, in the WHL postseason which would have given those playoff home dates a huge attendance boost.

The business executives who would likely be shedding the tears are anyone who had a connection with the live event industry during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The live event industry has pretty much been hammered like the Death Star blowing up a planet in the fiction Star Wars movies.

As a result, there has been a campaign going where buildings used in the live event industry have been lighting themselves up in red lights to raise awareness of the plight of those that work the live event industry. It is a noble showing that should be applauded.

Just thinking about the Juno Awards themselves, business executives in Saskatoon have to envision the millions of dollars that were not spent in hotels, restaurants, transportation and people venturing out into retail spaces in “The Bridge City.”

When you think about 14,000 would have packed into the SaskTel Centre for the Junos on March 15 and most of those people were traveling in from out of town, you have a lot of outside money right there coming into the city.

Plus, you can’t forget the caterers and all those employed building the sets and various temporary structures that are used for an awards show like the Junos.

At the moment, the last two events held at the SaskTel Centre that drew big crowds were a Blades game on March 6 and a Rush game on March 7.

On March 6, 4,478 spectators turned out to see the Blades down the Regina Pats 2-1 in overtime and officially lock up a WHL playoff berth. On March 7, 11,632 spectators saw the Rush bomb the Vancouver Warriors 17-7.

Unfortunately, it could still be a lengthy stretch of time before gatherings like this happen again in Saskatchewan unless credible vaccine is produced for COVID-19.

In the reality of the current day, sports in Canada are actually a business, and that business relies on gate driven revenue.

In another reality, the sports world in Canada is largely perceived as a pastime. That comes from the fact that sports aren’t a big enough business in Canada.

The Blades and Portland Winterhawks go at it in 2019.
In the United States, US$5 billion was spent to build SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, Calif., to house the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Chargers. That is more money than the entire sports industry in Canada is worth.

From what I understand, the sports industry in Canada is likely worth 60 per cent of what it cost to build the new NFL stadium in Los Angeles.

We haven’t even got into the tens of billions of United States dollars the NFL, NBA, MLB, NASCAR Cup Series and NCAA football brings in on an annual basis.

There are a handful of fans in Canada that have argued sports are an essential service.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined how different the sports industry is in the United States compared to Canada. They aren’t even in the same realm, as the United States sports industry is way bigger than that of Canada.

With that noted, I have had the opportunity to work on a contract basis for a handful of companies that aren’t connected to the sports industry over the last six years. I’ve run into a lot of people that would laugh at the notion that sports in an essential service.

I have encountered my share of non-sports people who think sports people are crazy to be involved in sports.

In my estimate, I believe about 60 per cent of people in Canada have no connection to the sports world, and I suspect I am low balling that number. Governments see those types of things, and they are taken account when making decisions.

Fans pack Mosaic Stadium for a CFL game in August of 2019.
Governments are also tasked with the difficult job of protecting all people, and if they believe in the bigger picture it is better to not play, that is the way they will lean.

In listing to member of the Canada’s federal government over the last few days, it sounds like it will be a long time before the sports and live event are able to hold events like normal. Watching the broadcast news on Canadian mainstream networks in recent days has been more downright depressing than normal over the past six months.

There are constant hints of a second shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday it is too likely Canadian families won’t be able to gather for Thanksgiving, but we have a shot at Christmas.

Those words don’t inspire confidence in life changing to be more normal any time soon.

In Saskatchewan, we did get a small taste of how quickly COVID-19 can spread. The Saskatchewan Health Ministry linked 21 cases of COVID-19 to a recent large social gathering of 47 people at a Saskatoon home.

Under provincial rules, the limit for private gatherings is 30 people provided there is enough space to maintain a two-metre separation between individuals who are not in the same household.

On Sept. 17, a fine of $2,000 was issued to the organizer of that social gathering.

With all that noted, I believe Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Dr. Saqib Shahab, who is Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer, have been reasonable and outstanding in attempting to navigate a path through the pandemic.

Fans pack a U Sports hockey game at Merlis Belsher Place in Feb.
They have allowed some of the sports in the province to return with a cautious little by little approach. Minor baseball, softball and football along with auto racing have been able to hold games and events.

The sport of golf was able to crown provincial champions. Success on those fronts does great some optimism other sports might be able to come into the mix.

With the Saskatchewan provincial election set for Oct. 26, it is realistic to believe you won’t see games in minor hockey before that date just to ensure that doesn’t become an election issue over any potential COVID-19 outbreaks.

There does seem to be bigger fears around indoor events.

Still, leagues like the WHL that cross over multiple regions will have the toughest task in coming back. It will take a lot of work to get the governments and healthy authorities in four provinces and two states to agree on a return to play.

That actually feels like an extremely enormous task, especially when it doesn’t seem likely the border between Canada and the United States will be opened for non-essential for many more months.

U Sports and the CJFL also face that tough task along with a professional circuit like the National Lacrosse League. While the NHL is back, there is no guarantee that circuit will get going with a 2020-21 campaign.

The U of Saskatchewan Huskies return to play is uncertain.
In the Canadian sports world, there will be similar stories to the one that broke this week of the Edmonton Football Club of the CFL permanently letting go of equipment manager Dwayne Mandrusiak, who spent 49 years with the team. The news of Mandrusiak being let go wasn’t taken well in the Alberta capital.

It would be great if the sports world and the live event industry in Canada could return to normal right now.

Unfortunately, the realist can the road for the sports world and the live event industry in Canada will be a long hard one to recovery, and the countless good people that work in those setting should get as much sympathy as possible.

The future path for those people is likely more out of their control than any other walk of life in Canada at the moment.

Notre Dame football paused due to COVID-19, other notes

The iconic football institution known as the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish is not immune to the realities of the current COVID-19 pandemic world.

On Tuesday, the University of Notre Dame announced seven student athletes for the Fighting Irish football team tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday out of a total of 94 players that were tested. The school has paused all football related activities and the Fighting Irish’s game this coming Saturday against the Wake Forest University Deacon Demons at Truist Field in Charlotte, North Carolina, has been postponed.

On Wednesday, that contest was rescheduled for Dec. 12.

This past Saturday, the Fighting Irish bombed the University of South Florida Bulls 52-0 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana in an AAC regular season game in the top tier of NCAA football. That contest was played with limited in-person attendance.

Notre Dame at the moment won’t see action until Oct. 10, when they host the Florida State University Seminoles at Notre Dame Stadium.

Overall, Notre Dame said on Tuesday that 13 players were in isolation and 10 were in quarantine with last’s weeks testing results combined with those of this week.

On Wednesday, the Bulls paused football activities due to the positive test on the Fighting Irish team. The Bulls were to travel to Boca Raton, Florida, this coming Saturday for a regular season against Florida Atlantic University Owls of Conference USA, but that contest has been postponed.

As of Thursday, 21 NCAA top tier football games have been either postponed or cancelled.

The Fighting Irish have a national television contract that has seen all of their home games televised on NBC dating back to 1991. Notre Dame is the only school that has such a contract.

Even with a storied history that is hard to match anywhere else in the sports world, the Fighting Irish couldn’t prevent their season from experiencing disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Last Sunday, TSN’s John Lu announced on Twitter he had been battling COVID-19 since being diagnosed on Sept. 6. Traderumours.com did a story listing the majority of Lu’s tweets regarding his COVID-19 diagnosis, and it can be round right here.
  • On Tuesday, the 2021 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships slated for May 1 to 9, 2021 have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • On Tuesday, organizers of the prestigious Mac’s AAA Hockey Tournament announced this year’s event has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mac’s takes place annually from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 in Calgary.
  • On Tuesday, the NCAA announced Division I athletes who normally play sports in the fall will get to compete for a championship in spring of 2021. The fall sports that get to play in the spring of 2021 include men’s and women’s cross-country running, men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey, women’s volleyball, men’s water polo and the Football Championship Subdivision. The Football Championship Subdivision is the second highest tier of NCAA football.
  • On Wednesday, U Sports’ Canada West Conference announced football receiver Don Blair as the first inductee for the Canada West Hall of Fame’s class of 2020-21. Blair played for the University of Calgary Dinos from 1992 to 1995 and helped them win the Vanier Cup as U Sports champions in 1995. In 1995, Blair had 1,112 yards receiving and caught 15 touchdown passes in the Dinos eight regular season games. Both totals are still Canada West Conference regular season records. Blair played eight seasons in the CFL from 1996 to 2003 with the Edmonton Football Club, the British Columbia Lions and the Calgary Stampeders. He was a member of the Lions Grey Cup championship team in 2000. Before joining the Dinos, Blair played one season in 1991 with the Regina Rams, when they were still members of the CJFL.
  • On Thursday, the Pac-12 Conference voted to hold an abbreviated fall football season beginning on Nov. 6. The conference had voted last month to not play due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All teams are slated to play six regular season games, and they are all slated to finish the season playing on a championship weekend. The Pac-12 plays in the top tier of NCAA football.
  • On Thursday, the Mountain West Conference announced it will play an abbreviated football season beginning on Oct. 24. The intent is hoped each team will play eight games. The decision is subject to approval from state, county and local officials. Back on August 10, the Mountain West Conference had indefinitely postponed all fall sports. The Mountain West Conference plays out of the top tier of NCAA football.
  • On Thursday, the Regina Community Basketball League announced its fall programming had been cancelled due to time constraints created by difficulties in renting facilities.
  • On Thursday, the Regina High School Athletic Association announced there will be no games played between schools this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This decision effects the sports of cross-country running, football, soccer and volleyball. All RHSAA schools will be allowed to coordinate extra-curricular athletics, practices or intramurals within their own respective institutions.
  • On Thursday, Rod Pedersen, who hosts The Rod Pedersen Show naturally, dropped a truth bomb. For some it will sting, but it is the truth. Check out the tweet below.

If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.

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Monday, 21 September 2020

Momentum can change quickly in Stanley Cup final

Stars, Lightning all even at 1-1

A Nikita Kucherov card.
Old “Mo” seems to really fickle so far in the Stanley Cup final.

In the NHL’s best-of-seven championship series between the Dallas Stars and the Tampa Bay Lightning being played at Rogers Place in the bubble city of Edmonton, momentum seems to enjoy jumping from side to side in the first two games of the set.

The series is tied 1-1 after the Stars took Game 1 by a 4-1 final on Saturday and the Lightning rebounded with a 3-2 victory in Game 2 on Monday.

Game 3 of the series is set for Wednesday (6 p.m. Saskatchewan time, CBC and NBCSN).

The Stars 4-1 triumph in Game 1 was a solid one, but it appeared Tampa Bay might be able to rally in the third. Entering the third period trailing 3-1, the Lightning had a 22-2 edge in shots on goal in the frame as they pressed to get back in that game.

Stars centre Jason Dickinson sealed that contest with an empty-net goal with 78 seconds remaining in the third.

In Game 2 on Monday, both teams played a quiet opening 10 minutes before the Lightning exploded for three goals to take a 3-0 lead into the first intermission.

A John Klingberg card.
At the 11:23 mark of the first, elite Lightning right-winger Nikita Kucherov set up standout centre Brayden Point, who quickly wired home a power-play goal to go up 1-0.

After that tally, Kucherov proceeded to set up left-winger Ondrej Palat on a backdoor feed, and Palat potted his team’s second power-play goal of the contest to give the Lightning a 2-0 edge at the 14:22 mark of the opening frame.

Lightning skilled offensive-defenceman Victor Hedman also had assists on both of those first two goals.

Just 54 seconds later, solid defender Kevin Shattenkirk slid home the Lightning’s third goal from the point through a screen to increase Tampa Bay’s advantage to 3-0.

On top of holding a 3-0 lead, the Lightning held a 14-6 edge in shots on goal after 20 minutes, and it looked like they were going to roll like an unstoppable freight train.

Despite Tampa Bay’s great start, Dallas controlled the second period holding an 18-5 edge in shots on goal.

At the 14:43 mark of the second, the Stars gained some traction, when centre Joe Pavelski tipped home a point shot from defenceman John Klingberg for a power-play goal to cut the Tampa Bay lead to 3-1.

An Ondrej Palat card.
At the 5:27 mark of the third, Klingberg pinched into the Lightning zone and fed a backdoor feed to centre Mattias Janmark, who tapped the puck into the Tampa Bay goal to cut the Lightning lead to 3-2.

Right-winger Alexander Radulov had assists on both Stars goals.

Tampa Bay appeared to go ahead 4-2 near the midway point of the third on a goal by defenceman Mikhail Sergachev. The goal was disallowed after Dallas challenged that the play was offside via video review and the video review confirmed the play was indeed offside.

While the Lightning held a 12-5 edge in shots on goal in the third, the Stars chances to get the game to overtime.

With a minute remaining in the third, Stars veteran left-winger Jamie Benn was stopped from point-blank range in front of the Tampa Bay goal by Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy.

The Stars also had an offensive zone faceoff with 3.8 seconds remaining in the third, but Klingberg fanned on one final shot, which was ultimately blocked by a Lightning skater.

Vasilevskiy made 27 stops to pick up the win in goal for the Lightning. Anton Khudobin turned away 28 shots to take the setback in goal for the Stars.

An Alexander Radulov card.
Game 2 was a great one and the goalies on either side couldn’t be faulted for any of the five goals that were scored in the contest. All five goals were really good goals.

With the way the momentum has swung, credit has to go to Stars head coach Rick Bowness and Lightning head coach Jon Cooper for the adjustments they’ve made on the fly.

Wednesday’s upcoming Game 3 might be a big swing game. 

The team that falls in that contest will face more pressure than usual to win in Game 4 on Friday, because Game 5 follows up quickly one day later.

If either team falls behind 3-1 in the series, it might be hard to recover and win Game 5 with no off day between that contest and Game 4.

So far, the Stars and Lightning are giving a series that is well worth tuning for. 

Expect the momentum swings to continue as the Stanley Cup final goes on.

Massive outpouring for Ashe showed he was well loved

Dylan Ashe. (Photo courtesy Della Ashe)
The clichΓ© that the good guys leave this world too early unfortunately played out this past weekend.

Early Sunday morning, 18-year-old Melfort Mustangs junior A team defenceman Dylan Ashe died in a single vehicle rollover on Highway 35 northeast of White Fox, Sask. Ashe was driving one of his family’s cars as his beloved 1984 Chevy truck parked for some repairs.

For anyone who has links to Saskatchewan’s hockey community, you knew that the news of Ashe’s passing was going to hit a lot of people hard. He was really well loved in Saskatchewan’s hockey community and in the hockey community of Lethbridge, Alta., as he was a prospects of the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes.

Della Ashe, Dylan’s mom, broke the news of her son’s passing on a Facebook post on Sunday afternoon. Dylan had been driving out the lake country for a quick visit before returning home. He was planning to travel to Melfort on Tuesday to rejoin the Mustangs.

Since the creation of Della’s post, support and condolences messages have poured in for the family that is based out of Warman, Sask.

Numerous media outlets in Saskatchewan have produced tribute stories for Dylan Ashe.

Ashe played for the Sask Valley Vipers under-15 AA team in 2016-17 before splitting time in 2017-18 with his hometown Warman Wildcats under-18 AA team and the Tisdale Trojans under-18 AAA club.

He played for the Trojans for the entire 2018-19 campaign outside of a one-game call up with the Mustangs for an SJHL regular season contest. Ashe helped the Trojans win a bronze medal at the Telus Cup.

Ashe, who stood 6-foot-1 and weighed 185 pounds, was never selected in the WHL Bantam Draft, but he still signed a WHL Standard Player Agreement with the Hurricanes on April 10, 2019. He had a strong showing in training camp with the Hurricanes prior to the 2019-20 campaign before joining the Mustangs.

With the Mustangs last season, Ashe had two goals and four assists in 46 regular season games.

On the ice, Ashe was known as a tough stay at home defensive defenceman. He was also a quiet but upbeat great character guy. He could walk into a room, flash his smile and the positive energy would go up.

The Trojans, Mustangs and Hurricanes have all passed on messages of condolence.

Della and her husband, Mike, have received numerous messages about how great of a person Dylan was.

Dylan cared a lot for his family, and he enjoyed hanging out with older sister Jordan, who was a tough as nails defensive defender with the Prince Albert Northern Bears female under-18 AAA hockey team from 2013 to 2018.

Dylan Ashe just graduated from high school this past June. He got to parade in his 1984 Chevy truck through the Wyant Group Raceway with Warman High School grad class. The track hosted the unique graduation ceremony as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic restrictions placed limits on regular graduation activities.

Ashe spent countless hours working on and refurbishing his 1984 Chevy truck.

His passing at age 18 and about two-and-a-half months since his high school graduation is a reminder of how life can be unfair. He should have been able to live out a rich array of experiences.

Over the next handful of years, he seemed ready to live out a few more of his hockey dreams.

Still, he was able to make a lot of people care about him for the years that he was here. The outpouring of emotions and messages since his passing is proof of that.

A GoFundMe campaign that was started on Sunday to help the Ashe family with funeral expenses has raised over triple its initial goal by late Monday night.

Dylan Ashe lived life on his own terms, and it was a well lived one.

If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com. If you would like to donate to the GoFundMe campaign to help the Ashe family with funeral expenses, you can do so by clicking right here.

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If you like what you see here, you might want to donate to the cause to keep independent media like this blog going. Should you choose to help out, feel free to click on the DONATE button in the upper right corner. Thank you for stopping in.

Saturday, 19 September 2020

Dale is the real deal, deserves spot with Hilltops

Emmarae Dale practises with the Hilltops on Thursday.
The praise and attention has continued to pour in since the Saskatoon Hilltops announced linebacker Emmarae Dale has joined the storied and historic CJFL club, and all the accolades are deserved.

The Hilltops announced Tuesday morning Dale has officially been added to their roster. Since that time, the social media posts the club put out about the announcement have gone viral.

At the time this post went live, the Hilltops post on Dale’s announcement on Facebook has drawn 944 reactions and has been shared 726 times. The Twitter post has been retweeted 504 times and like over 1,700 times.

The Instagram post has been liked over 1,100 times.

The subsequent posts others have created about Dale being added to the Hilltops roster have attracted countless likes and shares. The Western Woman’s Canadian Football League powerhouse Saskatoon Valkyries, who Dale played for from 2016 to 2019, have seen their congratulatory Facebook post draw 266 reactions and be shared 167 times.

Emmarae Dale is the first female to make the Hilltops roster.
Since Tuesday morning’s announcement, Dale has been on seemingly a barnstorming tour doing media interviews across Western Canada.

One thing that shouldn’t be lost amongst all the media attention is Dale deserves this opportunity.

The Hilltops have won 22 CJFL championships in their history and the last six CJFL titles in a row. This isn’t an organization that needs to do a publicity stunt like this.

Legendary Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant, who is the all-time leader in amateur post-secondary wins in Canada, and defensive coordinator Jeff Yausie aren’t the type of people who will put players on the team as a novelty.

They put players on the team they believe will be able to play and contribute in games. 

Emmarae Dale has done a tonne of media interviews this week.
In bringing on board the first female players the Hilltops have ever had on their roster and the first female player to be in the CJFL, both Sargeant and Yausie are aware enough that they will not put someone in a position where they will fail or not be able to handle things.

Dale is a very mature young woman at the age of 22. She is an elite athlete with special gifts in the speed, power and strength departments.

On top of her natural athletic abilities, Dale is an experienced football player. She hit the field for four seasons as a middle linebacker with the Saskatoon Valkyries from 2016 to 2019 helping them win WWCFL titles in 2016 and 2019.

Yausie was the Valkyries head coach in Dale’s first year with the team and defensive coordinator in Dale’s second year with that squad. As a result, Yausie has a strong idea of what Dale can do as a player.

Emmarae Dale (#45) makes a tackle for the Valkyries in 2016.
Dale was voted the Valkyries most outstanding defensive player in 2017 and 2019.

She has been a dominate player in the WWCFL since stepping on the field as a rookie. Dale is a fireplug standing at 5-foot-6, and she can flat out fly to the ball.

She has a natural instinct to know where the ball is going on the football field, and her ability to read plays is second to none.

Even with the handful of workouts she has had with the Hilltops veterans, Dale has shown the ability to understand and breakdown plays, when the Hilltops have done non-contact offense versus defence sets.

Dale’s football knowledge is aided by the fact two of her older brothers in Anthony and Donovan played for the Hilltops in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Anthony played on the offensive line, while Donovan suited up on the defensive line.

Emmarae Dale (#45) makes a hit in 2019 for the Valkyries.
Besides the exploits in football, Emmarae Dale has been a member of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s track and field team in the U Sports ranks for the past four seasons. Specializing in throws, Dale has helped the Huskies win the Canada West women’s team title in each of the past three seasons.

That adds to showing the well-roundedness of her athletic ability.

On top of her athletic abilities, Dale has other intangibles that make her a good fit for the Hilltops. She has worked out at Ignite Athletics for a number of years, and most of the Hilltops players do their off-season training there.

She already knows a large number of players on the team, and they have seen firsthand how hard she works to get herself in the best shape possible. A respect tangible already exists.

Emmarae Dale (#45) tracks down a QB in 2019.
Dale is also one of the best and most modest and humble first rate persons you will find anywhere.

She approaches life in a mature and good confident way and is very well spoken. Those traits have shown through in the various media interviews she has done over the past week.

Dale has the make up to handle the spotlight and the extra attention that will come her way in the right way.

The best part is the news of her making the Hilltops roster has been warmly received seemingly everywhere. Over social media, you will still find a couple of crank negative comments, which you have to expect will surface in today’s world, but those types of comments have been few and far between.

Thanks to the CJFL ruling that players who were supposed to be 22-years-old this year will be able to play at age 23 next year, Dale will have one season to enjoy her time as member of the Hilltops assuming the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic stops throwing wrenches into how the world operates.

Emmarae Dale and the Valkyries enjoy their 2019 WWCFL title win.
Even with just being on the Hilltops roster, Dale has already accomplished something really special. It is an accomplishment she has earned and deserves.


If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.

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If you like what you see here, you might want to donate to the cause to keep independent media like this blog going. Should you choose to help out, feel free to click on the DONATE button in the upper right corner. Thank you for stopping in.