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CFL Players’ Association ratifies new contract with CFL

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By Dan Ralph

The CFL Players’ Association ratified its new collective bargaining agreement with the CFL on Thursday night.

The CFLPA made the announcement via email. The players’ vote came hours after the two sides hammered out a seven-year tentative agreement.

The ratification came two days after CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie unveiled the league’s final offer to its players.

The deal must also be ratified by the CFL board of governors, but that’s not expected to be an issue. With the players accepting the agreement, the league’s exhibition season will open on time Friday night.

“We are pleased that players have now ratified a new collective bargaining agreement between the CFL and CFLPA,” Ambrosie said in a statement. “The CFL’s board of governors will conduct its ratification vote shortly.

“We look forward to a successful season — including pre-season games this weekend — and a long and productive partnership with our players.”

The CFLPA didn’t provide overall voting results. Players on six of the nine CFL teams had to accept the deal for it be ratified, with the required margin being at least 50 per cent plus one of ballots in favour.

On Monday, the players voted against a tentative deal that the union had recommended they accept. The CFLPA also recommended the ratification of Thursday’s tentative agreement.

According to sources, CFL teams will have seven Canadian starters and 21 in total on rosters this year. In 2023, that number increases to eight with one being a nationalized Canadian — an American who has spent either five years in the CFL or at least three with the same team.

Clubs will also be able to rotate two nationalized Canadians for up to 49 per cent of snaps. Teams can move to three nationalized Canadians in 2024 but the two franchises that play the most Canadians at the end of the season will receive additional second-round draft picks.

And the seven pure Canadian starters per game will remain intact throughout the term of deal, which can be reopened after five years when the CFL’s broadcast agreement with TSN expires.

The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity as neither the league nor union have provided specific details of the new agreement.

The sources also said the CFL will provide $1.225 million in a ratification pool for players. The salary cap this year will remain at $5.35 million and increase to $5.51 million in 2023. It will be $5.99 million in 2028.

Minimum salaries for global, national (Canadian) and American players will be consistent. The figure will increase from $65,000 to $70,000 next year and $75,000 in 2027.

The maximum housing allowance this year will be $2,300 monthly for six months. The CFL and CFLPA agree to an annual review to determine the maximum housing allowance number for the next season.

In return, the CFL receives extended labour peace and the opportunity of time to really rebuild its business. The league didn’t play in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic — reportedly losing between $60 and $80 million — and held a shortened 14-game campaign last year.

Last December, the league announced a partnership with Genius Sports, a data, technology and commercial company that connects sports, betting and media. In August 2021, the CFL signed a multi-year partnership with BetRegal to become its official online sports-gaming partner.

Last month, the single-game sports betting industry opened fully in Ontario.

But Canadian Justin Palardy, a former kicker who spent time with five CFL teams from 2010-15, took to social media to voice his displeasure with the deal.

“Like I said on another tweet, what’s the point of drafting more (Canadians) if we’re getting rid of Canadian starters?” he tweeted. “You may think it’s a terrific idea, doesn’t mean it makes sense.”

Defensive lineman/linebacker Shomari Williams, who went first overall in the 2010 CFL draft to Saskatchewan and played with four teams over six pro seasons (2010-15) also wasn’t impressed.

“I feel the CFLPA main objective for (Canadian) members is to NOT diminish the roles of (Canadian) players in the CFL,” he tweeted. “How do you bring this to your (Canadian) members after they voted no and have the confidence you will be re-elected?”

The two sides had been at odds regarding the Canadian ratio.

Last Wednesday, the CFL and CFLPA reached a tentative seven-year agreement, ending a four-day strike by seven of the league’s nine teams. At first glance, there seemed to be many positives for the players, including a revenue-sharing model, the ability to reopen the pact in five years once the CFL signed a new broadcast deal, and veteran players having the ability to negotiate partially guaranteed contracts.

But the agreement also called for CFL teams to increase the number of Canadian starters from seven to eight. The extra would’ve also been a nationalized Canadian.

In addition, three other nationalized Canadians could play up to 49 per cent of snaps. And the deal didn’t include a ratification bonus.

On Tuesday, Ambrosie unveiled an amended proposal that included a $1-million ratification pool and the abolition of the three nationalized Canadians playing 49 per cent of snaps. However, it also reduced the number of Canadian starters to seven, including one nationalized Canadian.

Not only did Ambrosie say it was the CFL’s final offer, but it was good until midnight ET on Thursday, given the league’s exhibition schedule was slated to begin Friday night with two games. Ambrosie added if the players rejected the offer and opted to go back on strike, they’d be served notice to vacate their respective training-camp facilities.

It marked the second time Ambrosie had gone public with a final contract offer to the CFLPA. On May 14, he posted a letter to fans on the league’s website detailing the league’s proposal to players hours before the former CBA was set to expire.

The next day, players on seven CFL teams opted against reporting to training camp and went on strike. The Edmonton Elks and Calgary Stampeders both opened camp as schedule because they weren’t in a legal strike position, as per provincial labour laws, at the time.

It marked just the second work stoppage in league history and first since 1974.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.

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McTavish puts up six points, Canada crushes Slovakia 11-1 at world juniors

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EDMONTON — Mason McTavish didn’t have to pull on the Maple Leaf and play in an unusual summer world junior hockey championship.

The 19-year-old forward will head back to the Anaheim Ducks next month, the NHL team where he put up a goal and two assists in nine appearances last season. Skipping an August tournament to focus on preparing for training camp likely wouldn’t raise eyebrows.

But McTavish has been clear — he loves playing hockey and he loves representing Canada

The dedication paid off Thursday as the captain put up four goals and two assists, powering his team to an 11-1 victory over Slovakia.

“I don’t think anyone’s surprised by his hockey and what he brings to the ice. But what really impresses me is his attitude,” said Canada’s head coach Dave Cameron.

“He has no ego. He probably had every reason not to come to this tournament, just because of the timing of it. And he’s fully engaged in it. And his performance tonight was outstanding.”

McTavish made his way into the history books Thursday, tying a Canadian record for most goals in a world juniors game.

Other players who have accomplished the feat include Mario Lemieux (1984), Brayden Schenn (2011) and Maxime Comtois (2019).

“It’s pretty cool for sure. A special moment,” McTavish said. “Obviously, credit to my teammates. They were looking for me all game, it felt like.”

McTavish plays a special game, said teammate Brennan Othmann.

“He’s fun to play with,” he said. “He’s an elite goal scorer, as you could see tonight. No matter what team he faces, he always finds the back of the net somehow.”

Nine Canadians had multi-point performances in the win, including McTavish, Joshua Roy (one goal, three assists), Othmann (one goal, two assists), Olen Zellwegger (one goal, one assist), Connor Bedard (one goal, one assist), Logan Stankoven (one goal, one assist), Will Cuylle (one goal, one assist), Lukas Cormier (two assists) and William Dufour (two assists).

Zack Ostapchuk also scored for Canada (2-0-0), who were coming off a tournament-opening 5-2 win over Latvia on Wednesday.

“We’re deep from our first line to our fourth line,” Othmann said. “It doesn’t matter who’s in or who’s out, everyone’s contributing in some way.”

Matej Kaslik put away the lone goal for Slovakia (0-0-2) midway through the second period.

Making his first start of the tournament, Canada’s Dylan Garand registered 22 saves.

Tomas Bolo stopped 33 of 44 shots for Slovakia, who dropped a 5-4 decision to Czechia (1-0-1) on Tuesday.

There were just 21 seconds left on the game clock when Ostapchuk buried a shot. He picked up a loose puck at the side of the net and slid it around the front, in past Bolo to seal the score at 11-1.

Roy bumped Canada’s lead to 10-1 at the 15:07 mark. Dufour’s shot hit Bolo’s pad and Roy picked up the rebound at the top of the crease, firing it in over the netminder as he fell to the ice.

McTavish barely celebrated after finding space between Bolo and the post for his fourth goal of the night 3:44 into the third.

“I’m not the biggest celebrator, unless it’s a game-seven OT winner or something like that,” he said. “I don’t really tend to get too excited.”

McTavish completed his hat trick with 35 seconds left in the middle frame.

Bedard took a hit in the neutral zone and sent a puck up the ice to give his teammates a two-man breakaway. Roy put a crisp pass on McTavish’s tape and he fired a shot past Bolo to give the Canadians an 8-1 lead.

About a dozen hats floated to the ice.

It was McTavish’s backhanded flick from the top of the crease 15:16 into the second that gave Canada a 7-1 cushion.

Just 36 seconds earlier, Slovakia finally beat Garand after a battle down low.

Kaslik got the puck and unleashed a shot that hit the goalie’s pad and the crossbar on its way into the net.

A three-man breakaway set up McTavish’s first goal of the night 6:25 into the second. Donovan Sebrango sent him a lead pass and, handling the puck, Team Canada’s captain skated in, sending a rocket soaring past Bolo stick side to boost the lead to 6-0.

The second period was just over a minute old when Stankoven put away Canada’s fifth goal of the night on a five-on-three.

Kent Johnson sent a shot into Bolo’s pad and Stankoven, stationed at the side of the net, popped a shot in before the goalie could get back into position.

Canada was 1 for 4 on the power play and Slovakia went 0 for 3.

After a slow start in Wednesday’s 5-2 win over Latvia, Canada was a force in the first period Thursday.

The host nation took a 4-0 advantage into the first intermission after Zellweger scored with 43 seconds left in the opening frame.

The defenceman got a shot off from the hash marks and the puck appeared to tick off another player in front of the net before pinging in off the post.

Slovakia challenged the play for being offside but a video review determined Zellweger’s goal was good.

A scuttled Slovakian clearing attempt set up Canada’s third strike of the night.

Bolo tried to send the puck out from deep in his own end but Cuylle picked it up at the blue line and sent it to Othmann in the faceoff circle The New York Rangers prospect sailed a shot in past the goalie 15:57 into the game.

Cuylle gave Canada a 2-0 lead less than three minutes earlier.

Ridly Greig stepped out of the penalty box and chipped a pass up the boards to Cuylle, who skated in alone on a breakaway and put a quick blast through Bolo’s pads.

Slovakia had a breakaway of its own earlier in the first, but Garand read the play perfectly and the shot thudded off of his pads to keep Canada up 1-0.

For the second game in a row, Bedard opened the scoring for the Canadians.

The 17-year-old Regina Pats centre dished the puck to McTavish, who sliced it back across the slot. Bedard capped the give-and-go by ripping a blistering shot past Bolo from the bottom of the faceoff circle 6:16 into the first period.

The early game Thursday saw Finland (2-0-0) battle Czechia (1-0-1) to a 4-3 shootout win.

“During the game, we got better and better. And that’s the most important thing,” said Finland’s head coach Antti Pennanen.

Czechia and Canada will both be off Friday before going head-to-head on Saturday.

The Czechs know they’ll need to elevate their game for the matchup, said forward Jiri Kulich.

“We just want to keep our game,” he said. “It’s a big challenge, of course, and a big game. So we’re just going to do our best.”

In the final game of the day, the reigning champion Americans (2-0-0) took a convincing 7-1 win over Switzerland (0-2-0).

Friday will see Austria (0-1-0) face Sweden (1-0-0) and Slovakia take on Latvia (0-2-0).

NOTES: McTavish leads the tournament in scoring with eight points (four goals, four assists). … The preliminary round continues through Monday, with the quarterfinals set for Wednesday. The semifinals are scheduled for Aug. 19 and the medal games will be played on Aug. 20. … The 2022 tournament is being held in August after the original iteration was called off on Dec. 29 after just four days as rising COVID-19 cases among players and officials forced games to be forfeited.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 11, 2022.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

 

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Olympic curling champion Eve Muirhead retires

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LONDON (AP) — Olympic curling champion Eve Muirhead is retiring from the sport.

The 32-year-old Muirhead secured Britain’s only gold medal at this year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing, having also won bronze in Sochi in 2014.

“After 15 years of international curling and 21 international titles I have made the hardest decision of my life to hang up my curling shoes and retire,” Muirhead said in a post on social media on Thursday. “Throughout my career and like most athletes, I have experienced both the highest of the highs, (becoming an Olympic champion) and the lowest of lows and at times the future seemed very distant. It’s been an emotional journey, but a journey that I am incredibly proud of.”

Muirhead also teamed up with Bobby Lammie to win the mixed doubles world championship in April.

“Eve Muirhead will go down in history not only as one of the greatest-ever British curlers, but as one of the greatest sportswomen this country has produced,” British Curling performance director Nigel Holl said.

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