Fast Action, And Fair So Far
All over the world, one of the first political acts after coronavirus declared itself was to shut down all sports events. Now, with the same coronavirus persisting, and in some cases expanding, its dismal influence, many of the same elected individuals are rushing to open those events as widely and as often as possible.
It’s obvious that presidents, commissioners and other leaders in the athletic world are doing their best to keep up with this mad charge to activity that features millionaires on local, national and international television. The majority agrees it is neither wise nor important to wait for fans to fill the seats before starting or replacing seasons in all major-league sports.
North America’s four most-watched pro sports – soon to be recognized as five, including soccer — have already declared preferred, possible or potential starting dates: officials in every case are ensuring that large or small COVID-19 outbreaks could force further adjustments and, of course, ultimate elimination of their entire project.
At this moment, baseball is dealing with the sad fact that many teams are dealing with fierce emergencies. A lot of programs have been shut down and there have been stated suspicions that some facilities will not be suitable for the 30 home games designated in a stormy agreement finally set by players and owners last week.
Like everyone else, the Toronto Blue Jays have standard concerns about staff and players contracting the virus, but finding a place for home games may turn out to be more urgent. Permission has been granted to train in Toronto for the scheduled 60-game season but some cautious souls still suggest it is more likely that the young Jays will be required to nest this season in nearby Buffalo or distant Dunedin, Fla. American infection numbers indicate the problem of bringing players across the border into Canada could become politically and medically improbable by the scheduled July 22 season opener.
Here in Alberta, the saga of the Blue Jays, as well as the fascinating basketball Raptors who will be competing by the end of July, fades in a dull colour by comparison with the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers who open their official training camps on Monday.
A Stanley Cup playoff run could extend to as many as 33 games for survivors in the best-of-seven final, which will be staged entirely at spectacular Rogers Place. Only because of Alberta’s relative success in tamping down the coronavirus did the NHL finally designate Edmonton as a “hub city” after making it obvious from the beginning of all this talk that Las Vegas and Toronto (the other hub) were the favoured communities.
Almost from Day 1 after the NHL declared it would somehow present the 2020 Stanley Cup to a legitimate playoff champion, commissioner Gary Bettman insisted that safety was the “biggest issue and most serious concern” for all. Granting that some insiders were less than thrilled at the decision to involve so many teams in a one-series-loss-and-you’re-out scenario, he still believes the proper move was to involve teams that had not been officially eliminated when the season wrapped up on March 16.
“The competitive balance in our league is so extraordinary,” he said, “that we had to make sure it was for all to get a chance to win.”
Admittedly, the plan took effect in a massive hurry. Now, there is league-wide concern that one of the eight outsiders admitted to the playoffs might somehow win the Cup and wind up with a high draft choice – perhaps Number One. If that case, weaker teams who lose out can be expected to yell: “Not fair.!”
RCMP in Alberta say man dead after he called 911 and told police he wanted shootout
CALLING LAKE, Alta. — RCMP in Alberta say a man is dead after he’d called them multiple times, telling them he wanted a gunfight with police.
Police say officers in Athabasca, Alta. received multiple 911 calls from a 51-year-old man who asked police to come to his home in nearby Calling Lake.
They say during those calls he made comments that he wanted to engage RCMP members in a shootout.
Police allege the man exited the residence multiple times before ultimately confronting RCMP members on the street.
They say that confrontation led to an RCMP member discharging a service firearm.
The man was pronounced dead at the scene, and no other injuries were reported.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, the province’s police oversight agency, says it has been directed to investigate the officer-involved shooting and will provide more details later.
RCMP, meanwhile, say they will continue to investigate the actions of the man and the events leading up to the confrontation.
The Canadian Press
Dallas beats Tampa Bay 4-1 to take opening game of Stanley Cup final
EDMONTON — The Dallas Stars, on goals from Joel Hanley, Jamie Oleksiak, Joel Kiviranta, and Jason Dickinson, beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 Saturday in the opening game of the NHL Stanley Cup final.
Dallas goalie Anton Khudobin stopped 35 shots for his 13th win of the post-season in front of no spectators at Rogers Place.
Yanni Gourde replied for the Lightning. Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 16-of-19 shots as his playoff record falls to 14-6.
Game 2 goes Monday night.
Dallas had not played since finishing off the Vegas Golden Knights Monday night, while Tampa Bay wrapped up its series with the New York Islanders Thursday. The last two games of that series went into overtime.
Dallas took the first lead of the game less than six minutes in when Kiviranta smacked Lightning forward Brayden Point into the boards deep in Tampa’s end.
Tampa defenceman Zach Bogosian flew over to hit Kiviranta in retaliation, allowing Star forward Roope Hintz to gobble up the loose puck, swoop around untouched behind the net and feed Hanley in front for a shot blocker-side high past Vasilevskiy.
Tampa Bay then got a break on a bounce to tie the game before the period was out. Blake Coleman blasted a low slapshot from the point that Khudobin deflected with his pad right to Gourde’s skate, then to Hintz’s skate and into the back of the net.
Gourde has six goals in the post-season.
Dallas grabbed the lead back with less than eight minutes to go in the second period. Oleksiak took an Alexander Radulov pass, walked in untouched in the slot and fired a wrist shot. Vasilevskiy stopped it, but Oleksiak got his own rebound and zipped it under the crossbar and in.
Then Kiviranta, in the dying seconds of the second frame, got a similar bounce. Racing in at high speed his first shot was blocked by Mikhail Sergachev, but the puck caromed right back to Kiviranta, who shot again for his fifth goal of the post-season.
Tampa Bay put the Stars on their heels in the third period, dominating play in the Dallas end of the rink, but Khudobin turned aside 22 shots in the final 20 minutes to preserve the win.
Dickinson added an empty-netter with just over a minute to go for the final goal of the game.
Khudobin’s win pens another chapter in the storybook playoff performance by this journeyman backup goalie from Kazakhstan who got his chance to start in this post-season after Dallas starter Ben Bishop was injured.
Khudobin, Kiviranta, and Hanley are making the most of the next-man-up credo of the playoffs.
Kiviranta joined the lineup for an injured Andrew Cogliano in Game 7 of round 2, scoring a hat trick, including the overtime winner, to knock out the Colorado Avalanche out of the playoffs.
He then scored a late goal in the final game against Vegas to tie the score, allowing Dallas to go on and win in overtime and bounce the Golden Knights out of the bubble.
The 24-year-old Finn was signed as an undrafted free agent by Dallas in the spring of 2019 and was playing Saturday in just his 20th NHL game.
Hanley, an undrafted free-agent signee from Keswick, Ont., is playing in his seventh consecutive playoff game, replacing an injured Taylor Fedun in the lineup after Fedun replaced an injured Stephen Johns.
Oleksiak has five goals in the playoffs.
The Lightning are now 0-3 in Stanley Cup final opening games.
This is the final round of the so-called bubble playoffs. All post-season games have been played in front of no fans in Edmonton and Toronto, with players isolating between games to prevent contracting the coronavirus.
For the first period Saturday the players squared off literally in the shadow of the Stanley Cup. As there are no fans, the silver mug was placed on a draped stand on a platform erected above the players’ benches. Stanley had the best seat in the house.
Both franchises are seeking their second Cup. Dallas won in 1999 and Tampa Bay in 2004.
The Bolts are the first of the 10 NHL franchises that began play in the 1990s or later to reach the final three times. The Lightning lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 19, 2020.
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
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