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As the NHL all-star weekend takes over Las Vegas, Team Canada takes the ice in Beijing without the country's biggest stars – The Globe and Mail



Canada’s assistant coach Jeremy Colliton speaks to his players during training on Sunday.ANNEGRET HILSE/Reuters

The NHL set up its little kiosk in Las Vegas over the weekend, hoping to do some market outreach.

The league’s biggest brainwave? Floating a podium into the middle of the fountain in front of the Bellagio hotel. On that stretch of water – possibly the single tackiest place on Planet Earth – they held a mini-skills competition. Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman Zach Werenski won it.

“I’ve been to Vegas a few times,” Werenski told reporters afterward, channelling Sally Field at the Oscars. “I feel like every time you come here, you walk by [the fountain]. You watch the fountains go off.”

You watch the fountains go off – he makes it sound so magical.

Zach Werenski of the Columbus Blue Jackets makes a shot on goal against Juuse Saros of the Nashville Predators during the game between the Metropolitan division and the Central division during the 2022 Honda NHL All-Star Game on Feb. 05, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Standing in a floodlit swamp, in front of a bunch of confused rubes from South Carolina and Sunderland, flipping pucks at a target.

Imagine Tom Brady or LeBron James being convinced to do this. Try harder. Try as hard as you can. Now stop before you pop a blood vessel.

What was this crowd of yokels thinking? It wasn’t, “I am standing in the presence of athletic greatness.” It was, “When did Cirque du Soleil get so boring?” But I presume that like all visitors to Vegas, they were sunburned and day drunk and happy to doing anything that’s free.

What a great hockey moment that must have been.

Around the same time, Team Canada was hitting the practice ice here in Beijing. They blew off their first couple of days in the city because of a) jet lag and b) the opening ceremony.

Now here they were in the practice rink jammed in behind Beijing’s second-best arena. Maybe 20, 25 people watched them take the ice, mostly to make sure they were all there and not telling COVID-19 fibs.

They weren’t wearing nameplates. Aside from a few known commodities, you couldn’t tell who was who.

Once again, the men’s representatives of the best hockey country in the world at the sport’s premier international competition are largely anonymous, even to their own people.

Without NHL stars, Canada’s men’s hockey team is an inscrutable mix of youngsters and veterans

Canada’s men’s hockey team trying to bond on and off ice

“I think it’s pretty sad,” said one of the few name brand players, Josh Ho-Sang. He was talking about all the NHLers who should be here and aren’t. “I feel really bad for those guys. … They may never get this chance again.”

Really? Do you think the NHL will ever be back?

“I hope so,” said Eric Staal, the only bona fide Canadian superstar (if this was 2008). “It’s great for the future of hockey. It needs to be a sport that’s played worldwide.”

Which is a nice way of saying that assembling a bunch of guys from the AHL and assorted European leagues isn’t accomplishing that goal.

Nobody here has as much to gain as Ho-Sang and Staal. Both probably believe that a good tournament gets them back to the bigs.

And even these guys think this is a bummer. Even they can see how badly the NHL screwed up this golden ticket. What does that tell you?

Every Winter Olympics starts off star-challenged. This one may be more barren of big names than any this century. Who’s the hot property up front? Who’s going to get people who think biathlon is running forward and backward to tune in? Eileen Gu, Chloe Kim, Jamaican bobsledders. That’s about it.

Canada’s hockey players should be filling that celebrity vacuum. If Crosby, MacKinnon and McDavid (neither first names nor nameplates required), that practice rink on Saturday would have been packed.

Instead, what you get is a bunch of volunteers lining up to take pictures with Owen Power. Not because they have any clue who he is. But because he is the biggest guy on the Canadian team, he’s standing still and he’s too nice to say no.

Team Canada should be filling the global sports content vacuum at the beginning and then again at the end. Forget about priceless. This would have been two weeks of unbuyable publicity.

I’m no marketing genius, but it seems to me that making that sort of splash in a country of 1.4 billion people who are just coming around on cold-weather sport might be a good idea.

The failure to see that obvious truth is so large, so pan-systemic, so bafflingly self-defeating, that it hasn’t provoked much controversy. One bad roster decision sets the NHL commentariat alight. A total, top-to-bottom failure to understand what is in the league’s best interests is apparently too complicated to discuss.

That’s how the NHL gets away with it (and other things). They wait a while, and then they fly everyone to Vegas instead. Problem successfully ignored.

On Sunday, Canada practised again. After the players had drifted off, team GM Shane Doan dropped by in his street clothes.

This must have seemed like a sexier job a couple of months ago, but you wouldn’t know that from hearing Doan talk about it.

He waxed on about the possibilities and what it means to wear the Maple Leaf. He analogized it to three similar sporting experiences – playing rugby for New Zealand, soccer for Brazil and cricket for India. Being part of teams that are not allowed to lose.

“That’s the best part of our tradition,” Doan said. “The expectation.”

Is it?

You know what Doan’s trying to say, but it’s getting harder to believe the underlying premise. If that expectation existed, the NHL’s best would be here.

I’m not talking about bargaining their way to the Olympics. I’m talking about climbing into the wheel well of a China-bound jetliner if that’s what it took.

Instead, the heirs to that special hockey tradition got a look at what a hassle Beijing was going to be and said, “Pass.”

Would Brazil’s best soccer players or India’s best cricketers take a powder on a World Cup because going might cost them a few bucks? Because someone at their day job told them they had to stay back and work out all the hours they’d missed in December and January?

No, they would not. Every single one of them would go to the World Cup if it was being staged in Hell. No league could deny them. If one tried, it would spark insurrection.

But here’s the NHL and its players with their thinking caps on, trying to figure out how a couple of weeks in the global spotlight might affect the Leafs’ ability to make cap space for a back-up goalie. This is the important work of hockey. Let guys who have nothing better to do handle the little things, like the Olympics. Canadian hockey’s tradition still carries an expectation, but it’s changed. Now it’s an expectation that we can lord over the sport whenever we feel like it, but only if it’s convenient.

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Makar gets love from Orr after winning 2022 Norris, Conn Smythe Trophies –



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Canuck icons Henrik, Daniel Sedin, Sens star Alfredsson lead 2022 Hockey Hall of Fame class – CBC Sports



Henrik and Daniel Sedin entered the NHL together.

The superstar twins then tormented a generation of opponents with the Vancouver Canucks throughout dominant careers that included mesmerizing displays of skill, individual accolades and unprecedented team success.

It’s only fitting the talented brothers will walk into the Hockey Hall of Fame side-by-side.

The Sedins headline the class of 2022 elected Monday, one with a decidedly West Coast and Swedish feel that includes former Canucks teammate Roberto Luongo, fellow countryman and former Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, Finnish women’s player Riikka Sallinen and builder Herb Carnegie.

“It’s not what you think about when you when you play the game,” said Henrik Sedin, who along with his brother and Luongo were in their first years of hall eligibility. “We’ve always just put our head down and tried to put in our work.

“What we were most proud of is that we got the most out of our talent.”

“Truly an amazing feeling,” Luongo added on a media conference call. “It feels surreal.”

WATCH | Daniel and Henrik Sedin have numbers retired in Vancouver:

Daniel and Henrik Sedin have numbers retired in Vancouver

2 years ago

Duration 1:42

The Swedish superstars were honoured on Wednesday in an hour-long pregame ceremony.

Alfredsson, who’s has been eligible since 2017, thought he might have to wait at least another year until the phone rang at his home in Sweden.

“It’s such a privilege to be able to play this sport for a living,” he said. “Something I would have played for fun for my whole life without a question.”

“I’m probably the second-best Daniel out of this group,” joked Daniel Sedin, who along with his brother will be 42 when the induction ceremony takes place in November.

“Couldn’t be more honoured.”

Henrik Sedin — selected No. 3 overall at the 1999 draft, one spot behind Daniel — is Vancouver’s all-time leader in assists (830), points (1,070), games played (1,330) and power-play points (369).

The centre won the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP and the Art Ross Trophy as its leading scorer in 2009-10. He added 23 goals and 78 points in 105 playoff games, including the Canucks’ run to the 2011 Stanley Cup final.

If Henrik was the passer on what was one of hockey’s most dangerous lines, Daniel Sedin was the trigger man.

His 393 goals are first in team history, and the winger sits second in assists (648), points (1,041), games played (1,306) and power-play points (367).

Daniel Sedin won the Ted Lindsay Award as the league MVP as voted by NHL Players’ Association members in 2010-11 to go along with the Art Ross Trophy. He added 71 points in 102 playoff games.

“Just watching them work with each other on the ice and literally knowing where they are without even seeing each other was something that always blew my mind,” Luongo said of the Sedins. “They’re great teammates. Everybody loved them, great people.

“Not so great card players, but that’s for another day.”

The hall’s 2020 edition was finally inducted last November after a delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic after officials decided against naming a class of 2021.

The 18-member selection committee met in-person this year for the first time since 2019.

Luongo’s storied career began with Islanders

Luongo started his career with the New York Islanders and wrapped up with the Florida Panthers.

His best moments, however, were on the West Coast.

When he retired, Luongo ranked third in NHL history with 489 wins, a number that’s since been surpassed by Marc-Andre Fleury.

The 43-year-old sits second behind Martin Brodeur in three goaltending categories — games played (1,044), shots against (30,924) and saves (28,409).

Luongo twice won 40 games with the Canucks, including an eye-popping 47 victories in 2006-07, and made at least 70 appearances in four straight seasons.

“He was the difference for us to get the next level,” Henrik Sedin said. “If you’re talking about a winner, he’s the guy.

“Never took a day off.”

A finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top netminder on three occasions, Luongo sat behind only Sidney Crosby in Hart Trophy voting following his 47-win campaign.

The Montreal native won two Olympic gold medals, leading Canada to the top of the podium in Vancouver in 2010 before backing up Carey Price in Sochi four years later.

“It’s a really, truly humbling experience,” Luongo said before adding of the Sedins: “And the best part of the whole thing is that I get to go in with two of my favourite teammates of all time and two of the greatest people I know.”

Alfredsson scored 444 goals in 18 seasons

Alfredsson put up 444 goals, 713 assists and 1,157 points during his 18 NHL seasons.

The face of the Senators for a generation in the nation’s capital won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year in 1996, and added 100 points in 124 playoff contests.

“We looked up to the way he plays hockey and what kind of person he is,” Henrik Sedin said.

Alfredsson, who won Olympic gold with the Sedins in 2006 and led Ottawa to the 2007 Cup final, thanked Senators fans for helping him get over the hall hump, including a social media campaign this spring that included boosts from the organization and former teammates.

“Really special with the support I’ve had from Ottawa throughout my career from the beginning until this day,” said the 49-year-old, who owns the franchise record for goals, assists and points. “They’ve been a real big supporter of mine and trying to help me get into the Hall of Fame.

“They’re behind me all the way … it goes both ways.”

Sallinen played 16 seasons with the Finnish women’s national team, winning Olympic bronze in both 1998 and 2018.

She added a silver at the 2019 world championships to go along with six third-place finishes. In all, the 48-year-old scored 63 goals and added 59 assists in 81 games for her country.

Hall of Fame selection committee chair Mike Gartner, who was inducted in 2012, said on the media call that Sallinen had yet to be informed of the honour, but quipped she should pick up the phone and dial in if she was listening.

Carnegie, who died in March 2012 at age 92, has often been mentioned as the best Black hockey player to never play in the NHL.

Following a long career in senior hockey where he faced racism that kept him from achieving his ultimate dream, Carnegie founded Future Aces, one of Canada’s first hockey schools, in 1955.

He was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2001, the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 2014, and was also named to the Order of Ontario and the Order of Canada.

“This is so important to so many people out there who believed in my father,” said Herb Carnegie’s daughter, Bernice. “Whether he was golfing or whether he was in business or whether he was working with thousands upon thousands of young people, it always came back to hockey and how his how he learned so much from the game.

“I am so proud.”

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Report: Nets’ Kyrie Irving opting into $37M player option for 2022-23 season –



NEW YORK — Kyrie Irving has decided to exercise his $36.9 million option for the coming season and will remain under contract with the Brooklyn Nets, two people with knowledge of his decision said Monday.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because the Nets had not confirmed the decision publicly.

The Athletic first reported Irving’s decision. “Normal people keep the world going, but those who dare to be different lead us into tomorrow. I’ve made my decision to opt in. See you in the fall,” the outlet quoted Irving as saying.

On Twitter, Irving posted a separate statement: “I know who I am,” was the message there.

For now, that still means a member of the Nets.

The seven-time All-Star averaged 27.4 points and 5.8 assists this past season for the Nets, with whom he has spent the last three seasons. He’s about to enter the final season in a four-year, $137 million deal with Brooklyn.

Irving had until Wednesday to inform the Nets of his opt-in decision. It closes one element of the ongoing saga regarding Irving’s future, which has been one of the biggest storylines as the league prepares for the start of free agency later this week.

He appeared in only 29 regular-season games this past season, largely because of his decision to not be vaccinated against COVID-19. That made him ineligible to play in most of Brooklyn’s home games, until getting an exemption to New York City’s mandate in the spring.

The Nets entered this past season thinking they would have a core of Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden. It didn’t work out anywhere near as planned; Irving wasn’t with the team for the majority of the season, Harden ended up getting traded to Philadelphia, the Nets needed to survive the play-in tournament just to make the playoffs and wound up getting swept in the first round by eventual Eastern Conference champion Boston.

Back in March, Irving was asked if he was planning to return to Brooklyn for next season. He gave no indication otherwise.

“I love it here,” Irving said at the time. “Once that summertime hits, I know that we’ll have some conversations. But there’s no way I can leave my man 7 anywhere.”

Summertime hit. The conversations apparently didn’t go as first planned.

And “my man 7” — that meant Durant, who wears jersey No. 7 for the Nets — may have been seeing his point guard departing, a move that certainly could have led to Durant pondering his own future in Brooklyn.

But with Irving presumably back, and with Ben Simmons — who didn’t play at all this season and was acquired by the Nets in the Harden trade — set to team up alongside Irving and Durant this coming season, Brooklyn could quickly return to contender status.

Irving could have made this all go away over the weekend, or at least turned the full boil down closer to simmer, when asked by Complex News at the BET Awards if he still wants to play for the Nets. He declined to answer. He wasn’t rude about it, did it with a smile, but didn’t provide so much as a hint.

A tiny one came Monday when the clip was posted to Instagram and Irving was among those to comment.

“When I smile like that, it means there’s more to the story,” Irving wrote Monday, several hours before his opt-in decision was revealed. “I’ll have my time to address things.”

NBA free agency opens Thursday at 6 p.m. ET.

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