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After tough run with Sabres, Staal looking forward to fresh start in Montreal – TSN

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MONTREAL — Eric Staal says he got goosebumps as he drove toward the Canadian border to start the next chapter of his NHL career.

With the foundering Buffalo Sabres safely in his rear-view mirror, Staal says he’s looking forward to starting fresh with the storied Montreal Canadiens once his week-long quarantine is up.

“Hey, I’m at the second half of my career, and I get an opportunity to play for the Habs,” Staal said Sunday in a video conference with reporters. “You gotta love it.”

Staal admits he wasn’t loving it in Buffalo before the Canadiens plucked him from the disastrous situation in the Queen City on Friday by acquiring him from the Sabres for a couple of draft picks.

The Sabres had traded for Staal from Minnesota in September after the six-time all star’s solid 2019-20 season with the Wild that saw him put up 47 points in 66 games. Buffalo general manager Kevyn Adams was a teammate of Staal’s during his heyday with Carolina, and Staal had also played with Buffalo forward Jeff Skinner on the Hurricanes.

But a fit in Buffalo didn’t materialize for Staal. The Sabres were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic earlier in the season, missing two weeks of action. That was followed by injuries to key players and a losing streak that increased to 17 games after a defeat to the Boston Bruins on Saturday.

All this while his family remained in Minnesota.

“There were so many hurdles, there were so many things that just didn’t line up the way that we had in mind or had envisioned,” Staal said. “The reality is we started OK, we had an up-and-down first two weeks or so, then we got hit with COVID, and it went through our room like wildfire and it wasn’t great. And two weeks of guys battling that — and a couple of guys battling it pretty hard — it was difficult.

“After that, we never found any footing. Then injuries started to mount and in that division, where you’re playing teams that don’t beat themselves, it’s difficult. And we just didn’t have enough in the locker room to be able to counteract that and manage that properly.”

As much as the 36-year-old native of Thunder Bay, Ont., is looking forward to a needed change of scenery, it might not have happened had the federal government not approved cutting the mandatory two-week quarantine for those entering Canada in half for U.S.-based NHL players acquired by Canadian teams at the trade deadline.

The seven Canadian teams were originally on Staal’s 10-team no-trade list, but he waived the clause when the policy change was made.

The change became official on Friday.

“That was definitely a factor,” Staal said. “I just felt like 14 days of waiting is a long time, especially if your going to get traded in the middle of a season. To sit there and wait 14 days, and then come back out and then try to get in the lineup, that’s too long.

“A week is doable. I think for me, at the age I am, it’s a chance to recover the body and use this as an advantage, and now I’m excited to be able to join this group.”

Staal joins a Canadiens team he has had success against in the past, particularly in the first round of the 2005-06 playoffs while with Carolina. The Habs were up 2-0 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal, but Staal scored the overtime winner in Game 3 and the Hurricanes won the series in six games en route to winning their only Stanley Cup.

“It feels a little bit surreal. I’ve played in this building many times, had some really fun games and competitive games,” Staal said.

“It’s amazing how fast those years go by,” he added. “It doesn’t feel that long ago that I was in here the first round of the playoffs that year and potted in the OT winner to kind of get the ball rolling for our group.”

Staal said he likes the pace at which the Canadiens play, and their mix of youthful energy and veteran experience. He said he’s ready to take any role with the Habs, but made it known he plans to get on the ice as much as possible.

“I’m a competitor,” he said. “I want to play 25 minutes every game.”

Montreal (14-8-9, fourth in North Division) is scheduled to return to action Tuesday at Ottawa. It will be the Canadiens’ first game since having four games postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 28, 2021.

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UEFA threaten to ban breakaway clubs from all competitions

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By Simon Evans

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – European soccer‘s governing body UEFA has warned clubs linked to a breakaway Super League that they face being banned from domestic and international competitions if they set up a rival to the Champions League.

In a joint statement https://www.uefa.com/insideuefa/mediaservices/mediareleases/news/0268-12121411400e-7897186e699a-1000–statement-by-uefa-english-fa-rfef-figc-premier-league-laliga-le with Spanish, English and Italian leagues and federations, UEFA said it will consider “all measures”, including the courts and bans from domestic leagues, in opposition to plans for a breakaway competition.

UEFA said it had learnt that clubs from those countries “may be planning to announce their creation of a closed, so-called Super League”.

“If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we….(and) also FIFA and all our member associations – will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever,” UEFA said.

“We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way,” the statement added.

In January, FIFA had said that a breakaway league would not be recognised and that “any club or player involved in such a competition would as a consequence not be allowed to participate in any competition organised by FIFA or their respective confederation” – meaning players would be banned from the World Cup.

Sunday’s UEFA statement said: “The clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams.

“We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this. We call on all lovers of football, supporters and politicians, to join us in fighting against such a project if it were to be announced. This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough.”

 

(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond and Christian Radnedge)

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Netherlands and Poland seal narrow Billie Jean King Cup playoff wins

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(Reuters) – The Netherlands and Poland both needed deciding doubles wins to battle through their Billie Jean King Cup playoffs on Saturday but Britain, Italy and Canada all enjoyed easier passages.

In Den Bosch, the Dutch were without world number 11 Kiki Bertens for the second day because of injury and found themselves trailing China 2-1 after Wang Xiyu beat Lesley Kerkhove in Saturday’s opening singles.

But Aranxta Rus beat Wang Xinyu to level the tie and then teamed up with Demi Schuurs to defeat Zhang Shuai and Zu Yifan to send the hosts through.

It was equally tight in Poland where the hosts were pushed to the brink by Brazil.

Brazil’s Carolina Meligeni Alves took the tie into a deciding doubles with a win over Katarzyna Kawa but the Poles prevailed 3-2 as Kawa and Magdalena Frech came back from a set down to beat Meligeni Alves and Luisa Stefani.

Kazakhstan also won a deciding rubber to see off Argentina.

Britain led 2-0 overnight against Mexico in London but Marcela Zacarias beat Heather Watson to keep alive the tie.

Katie Boulter proved too strong for Giuliana Olmos though to clinch the tie for the hosts.

Italy beat Romania 3-1 while Canada‘s teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez sealed her country’s path as she gave her side an unassailable 3-0 lead over Serbia thanks to a three-set win over Nina Stojanovic.

Ukraine eased past Japan 4-0 while Anastasija Sevastova secured Latvia’s 3-1 victory over India.

The eight winners move forward to next year’s qualifying round where they will hope to reach the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup Finals.

The old Fed Cup was re-branded last year and named after the American great and 12-times Grand Slam singles champion who won the inaugural tournament nearly 60 years ago.

This year’s 12-team Finals were postponed because of the pandemic and a new date has yet to be finalised.

 

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Clare Fallon)

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Motor racing-Canadian Grand Prix cancelled for second year

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(Reuters) -The Canadian Grand Prix scheduled for June 13 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal has been cancelled for the second year in a row, CBC Radio reported on Thursday although Formula One said discussions remained ongoing.

With the spread of new COVID-19 variants and Canada battling to contain a third wave of the virus, Montreal public health authorities concluded that even if run behind closed doors without spectators the risks were too high, reported the CBC.

F1 officials, according to the CBC, wanted to bypass the mandatory 14-day quarantine for the hundreds of staff, crew members and drivers and rely on private medical staff and have the entire operation run in a bubble.

The race is scheduled to follow on immediately from Azerbaijan, whose grand prix is scheduled for June 6 in Baku and is due to go ahead after also being cancelled last year.

“We are continuing our discussions with the promoter in Canada and have no further comment,” an F1 spokesperson told Reuters.

The Autosport website quoted a spokesperson for the Canadian promoter as saying the radio report referred to “a document of recommendations from public health.

“We as an organisation have not had confirmation from our public health officials and won’t comment until we get an official confirmation.”

Canada, with some of the world’s toughest travel rules, obliges its citizens and residents arriving from abroad to self-isolate for 14 days.

International arrivals are required to quarantine for up to three days in a hotel.

One of Canada‘s biggest sporting events, it would mark the second consecutive year the grand prix has been removed from the F1 schedule due to the spread of COVID-19.

Media reports have suggested Turkey is on standby to be slotted in as Canada‘s replacement.

The Istanbul circuit is logistically convenient for freight coming from Baku and was brought in last year also at short notice to bolster a calendar ravaged by the pandemic.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto/Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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