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Oilers GM Ken Holland on Evander Kane: ‘I believe in second chances’

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Ken Holland isn’t closing the door on Evander Kane.

In fact, he might end up rolling out the red carpet.

The Edmonton Oilers general manager said Tuesday he’s spoken to the controversial winger’s agent after his contract was recently terminated by the San Jose Sharks.

Asked directly about Kane — now a free agent and able to sign with any team — during a media availability with reporters in Edmonton, Holland indicated he wouldn’t turn down any player in a similar situation before getting “an understanding of what’s going on.”

“I believe in second chances,” Holland said. “It’s hard to be perfect … we’re all people. We all make mistakes.

“Some make big mistakes, some make little mistakes, but it’s hard to be perfect.”

The Sharks placed Kane on unconditional waivers Saturday, stating the forward violated COVID-19 protocols while with the club’s American Hockey League affiliate. Kane went unclaimed over the subsequent 24-hour period, putting San Jose in position to terminate the remainder of the player’s contract.

A source granted anonymity told The Associated Press on Monday the NHL Players’ Association has filed a grievance against the Sharks, contending the team didn’t have sufficient grounds to make the move.

The contract termination will cost Kane, a top-6 winger with seven 20-goal seasons, roughly US$22.9 million of the seven-year, $49-million deal he signed in May 2018.

The Oilers started the 2021-22 campaign 16-5-0 and led the Western Conference on Dec. 1, but are just 2-9-2 since despite Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl sitting tied for the NHL’s scoring lead.

Edmonton, which owns the league’s second-worst points percentage at .231 during its current slide, have 11 players in coronavirus protocol and aren’t scheduled to play again until Saturday against the Ottawa Senators at Rogers Place.

Kane has registered 264 goals and 506 points in 769 regular-season games that’s also included stops with the Atlanta Thrashers, Winnipeg Jets and Buffalo Sabres. The 30-year-old has added six goals and seven assists in 29 playoff contests.

Holland, meanwhile, has known Kane’s agent, Dan Milstein, since his days as GM of the Detroit Red Wings when the latter represented Pavel Datsyuk.

“As a manager, it’s my responsibility to investigate every situation,” Holland said. “I have talked to Dan.”

The Sharks’ decision to terminate Kane’s contract ended a months-long saga in San Jose. He faced accusations of gambling on hockey and purposely losing games he bet on, as well as sexual and physical abuse from estranged wife, Anna, over the summer.

The NHL investigated and found no evidence to support those allegations, but did suspend Kane for 21 games for submitting a fake COVID-19 vaccination card. When the suspension was lifted at the end of November, the Sharks placed Kane on waivers and demoted him to the AHL when he went unclaimed.

“If somebody makes a decision or does something in their life, and they make a mistake, I think they have to try to learn from it and try to change,” Holland said.

“And then they should be entitled to a second opportunity once they do some of those things.”

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

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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

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Moose is Loose: Canada’s Mitch (Moose) Hooper reaches World’s Strongest Man final

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Not lacking for confidence, Canada’s Mitchell (Moose) Hooper made some bold predictions ahead of his first appearance at the World’s Strongest Man competition.

So far he’s been calling his shots.

In a recent YouTube video, the six-foot-three 315-pounder described his potential for the event and felt first- or second-place qualification results were realistic.

He backed up his talk this week at the Capitol Mall in Sacramento, Calif., by securing a berth in the weekend finals. Not bad for someone who entered the event as a relative unknown.

“I’m pretty in tune with what I’m capable of and what I’m not capable of,” Hooper said. “To put it simply, I knew that if I was one of the favourites I wouldn’t want me to be in that group.”

Strong showings in the loading race, deadlift ladder, car walk and log lift gave Hooper a healthy lead in his six-man group.

He only needed a single point in the wrecking ball hold Thursday to secure first place and one of two group berths in the two-day final starting Saturday.

“I was pretty spot on,” Hooper said of his predictions. “So yeah, I have a pretty good feel for what I can do.”

Hooper, 26, has a varied sporting background. He’s the director and founder of an exercise physiology business in Barrie, Ont., which helps people with injuries and chronic conditions.

Hooper played hockey as a youth, has run marathons and had varsity golf opportunities in the United States.

He played football at the University of Guelph and completed his undergraduate degree in human kinetics before becoming head strength and conditioning coach for the National Basketball League of Canada’s KW Titans.

“I have some family with chronic health conditions,” Hooper said. “I wanted to seek out something a little bit more meaningful. So I found exercise physiology.

“I looked up the No. 1 school in the world and that happened to be the University of Sydney. Off I went.”

Hooper completed his master’s degree in 2019 and “happened to stumble upon” strength sports while Down Under. He entered a few powerlifting competitions and got some attention by winning the Australia’s Strongest Man event.

A video of a Hooper deadlift in competition recently gained steam on social media and it wasn’t long before World’s Strongest Man organizers tracked him down and invited him into the 30-man field.

He hopes a top-three standing after Saturday’s competition would leave him in good shape for a Sunday showdown.

“I wouldn’t be surprised with first, I wouldn’t be surprised with seventh,” Hooper said. “I imagine I’ll land somewhere in between there.”

On a regular day, Hooper said he usually gets up at about six in the morning and eats five or six meals a day. He aims for about 2 1/2 hours of daily training.

“I try to hit 6,000 calories (daily) and about 330 grams of protein,” Hooper said.

“A couple of cartons of egg whites — one in the morning and one at night — that usually gets me covered,” he added.

Deadlift competition and the Flintstone barbell are among the events on tap Saturday ahead of the bus pull, Atlas stones and power stairs disciplines on Sunday.

This is the 45th edition of the World’s Strongest Man. Maxime Boudreault, a native of Kapuskasing, Ont., also advanced along with reigning champion Tom Stoltman of Britain and his brother, Luke Stoltman, the reigning European champion.

Hooper, meanwhile, is showing no signs of rookie jitters against such veteran competitors.

“It’s a psychological thing as much as it is a physical thing,” he said. “Consistency really trumps everything.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2022.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press

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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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