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Athanasiou and Ennis get Oilers baptism alongside Connor McDavid – Edmonton Sun

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ANAHEIM — Edmonton Oilers coach Dave Tippett welcomed Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Ennis to the neighbourhood by putting them on either side of Connor McDavid against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday.

“House-warming gift,” joked Tippett.

Obviously they’re not coming to the Oilers to be accomplices — Athanasiou from Detroit for two second-round picks and Sam Gagner; Ennis acquired from Ottawa for a fifth-round draft choice.

They’re coming in to be large parts of the puzzle, judging by the company Tippett wants them keeping in their first game.

Athanasiou, or Double-A as everybody calls him, even Tippett because it’s easier to say and spell, can flat out fly. It just so happens that his dad is a pilot for Air Canada, which fits the narrative. It’s also a good story that Ennis grew up in Edmonton, an unabashed Oilers fan.

“Yeah, I had a lot of jerseys. I’d always have one on, playing hockey in the basement,” said Ennis, who was Kailer Yamamoto before there was Kailer Yamamoto, a small guy showing the world size didn’t matter — a first-round draft pick at maybe 160 pounds.

Ennis, a staple at Perry Pearn’s summer 3-on-3 pro camp, is the first Oiler to ever wear 63. He got 63 when he started in the NHL with Buffalo Sabres in 2009 and it’s followed him around, along with his gear.

Athanasiou, who comes from a family of four kids with a stay-at-home mom and his cockpit dad, had number 72 in Detroit and could have had it with the Oilers but is now 28, a number that hasn’t been that illustrious, only Craig Muni and Ryan Jones wearing it for more than three years, with a whole lot of Roman Oksiuta, Lance Nethery, Ken Solheim and Patrick Thoresen in there.

“I think the mascot’s wearing it (72) and i didn’t want to get him a Rolex (to switch),” joked Athanasiou. “Twenty-eight is my mum’s birthday and my brother.”

He’s a long way from that number in goals this year (10) but he did have 30 last season. If he’s a 25-goal scorer with gusts to 30 down the road as an Oiler, they’ll be dancing. Especially Holland.

“Great guy, cares for his players. I was really excited to see him again (after the trade),” said Athanasiou, who was drafted in Detroit on Holland’s watch.

They gave up two second-round draft picks for the 25-year-old, figuring this struggling season is an outlier. Not just the 10 goals but his minus-45 rating. He’s not that bad.

“Lots of empty-net goals and pucks not going in at the other end,” said Athanasiou.

They’re intrigued by how fast he skates, like everybody. He’s not McDavid fast but he’s close, and having them on the same line could be exhilarating. He’s probably in the top three along with Detroit’s Dylan Larkin, but there’s only one McDavid. He bows to his warp speed.

“Fortunately I watched a lot of Oilers games (TV) this year. He’s a fun guy to watch,” said Athanasiou, who is from outside Toronto. “I think you just have to stick to your game plan, and try to open up as much ice as you can. With my speed I’ll be able to open up a bit of extra ice — give him time and space to do his thing.”

Certainly, Athanasiou doesn’t come to work in gum boots.

“It takes work, too — you can’t just rely on it,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time working on that fast twitch. It’s everyday work, but it’s definitely one of my strengths.”

The Ennis story is well-worn, of course. Growing up with Jared Spurgeon in the west part of Edmonton, friends from before elementary school, both cut from their Bantam AAA team. Both written off as too small until they weren’t with Ennis’s Oilers debut his 605th NHL game.

Thrilled to wear an Oiler jersey as a 30-year-old man, not a 12-year-old.

“Just like any other kid in Edmonton. In that sense it’s a bit of a dream come true. A lot of kids in Edmonton, just like myself, grow up wanting to play for the Oilers. Doug Weight was my favourite but there was a lot of conversation over dinner about Wayne Gretzky, too. Best player of all-time,” said Ennis, who scored his first-ever goal in Edmonton Dec. 4 when Ottawa was at Rogers Place.

Playing with McDavid right away is obviously a little different than, say, breaking in with Gaetan Haas—no disrespect to the Swiss centre. But, he looks around and also sees Leon Draisaitl.

“Two of the best players on the planet and I get to play with Connor (right away),” said Ennis.

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Rafael Nadal announces he will not be playing at the Canadian Open

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Montreal, Canada- 22 Grand Slam champion, Rafael Nadal, has announced that he will not be playing at the Canadian Open which kicks off this weekend.

Nadal cited that the reason to abandon the Canadian Open was a result of an abundance of caution regarding injury concerns.

“From the vacation days and my subsequent return to training, everything has gone well these weeks. Four days ago, I also started training my serve and yesterday, after training, I had a little discomfort that was still there today.

We have decided not to travel to Montreal and continue with the training sessions without forcing ourselves. I sincerely thank the tournament director, Eugene, and his entire team for the understanding and support they have always shown me, and today was no exception.

I hope to play again in Montreal, a tournament that I love and that I have won five times in front of an audience that has always welcomed me with great affection. I have no choice but to be prudent at this point and think about health,” said the Spaniard.

Last month, Nadal was forced to withdraw from his Wimbledon semifinal against Nick Kyrgios due to an abdominal injury.

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic has also withdrawn from the Canadian Open as his status as unvaccinated against COVID-19 means he cannot enter the country.

Djokovic is also unlikely to play at the US Open after organizers said they would respect the American government rules over travel for unvaccinated players as the United States (US) requires non-citizens to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter.

“Per the Grand Slam Rule Book, all eligible players are automatically entered into the men’s and women’s singles main draw fields based on ranking 42 days prior to the first Monday of the event.

The US Open does not have a vaccination mandate in place for players, but it will respect the US government’s position regarding travel into the country for unvaccinated non-US citizens,” read a statement from the US Open which is set to take place in New York from the 29th of August to the 11th of September, 2022.

Nevertheless, Novak Djokovic will be joining Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray to play for Team Europe in the Laver Cup.

The event, which pits six European players against six from Team World over three days, will take place in London between 23 and 25 September 2022.

“It’s the only (event) where you play in a team with guys you are normally competing against. To be joining Rafa, Roger and Andy, three of my biggest all-time rivals, it’s going to be a truly unique moment in the history of our sport,” said Djokovic.

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Canada beats Sweden to claim gold in Hlinka Gretzky Cup – Sportsnet.ca

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RED DEER, Alta. — Canada scored early and often and also stayed out of the penalty box en route to a 4-1 victory over Sweden in the gold-medal final of the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

Tanner Howe, Ethan Gauthier, Calum Ritchie and Brayden Yager scored for the Canadians, who held period leads of 2-1 and 3-1 at the Peavey Mart Centrium on Saturday. Riley Heidt also chipped in with two assists for the champions.

Hugo Pettersson scored for Sweden, who were outshot 36-26. Each team received eight minutes in penalties.

Canada had beaten Sweden 3-0 on Aug. 3.

“Three weeks ago, we put this roster together and I felt right away this was a tight group,” said head coach Stephane Julien. “It’s not easy when you have this much talent, but everyone accepted their role and I’m so happy for them.”

The win is Canada’s first gold medal since 2018, the last time this tournament was held in Canada.

“I’m so happy for this group,” added Julien. “They haven’t had it easy in their careers the last two years with the pandemic, but now they have this, a gold medal and something they are going to remember for the rest of their career.”

Canada advanced to the final with a 4-1 win over Finland, while Sweden defeated Czechia 6-2. Finland beat Czechia 3-1 in Saturday’s bronze-medal final.

The Hlinka Gretzky Cup will shift to Europe in 2023, returning to Breclav and Piestany, Czechia for the first time since 2021. 

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Hockey Canada’s board chair Michael Brind’Amour steps down

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CALGARY — The chair of Hockey Canada’s board of directors has resigned.

Michael Brind’Amour has stepped down effective immediately, Hockey Canada said Saturday in a statement.

The organization is under intense scrutiny for its handling of sexual assault allegations against members of previous men’s junior teams.

“I have listened carefully and intently to the comments of Canadians about the culture of our sport and our organization, and about our actions and leadership,” Brind’Amour said in the statement. “I understand that the actions we have taken in recent weeks are part of the solution.

“My final term ends in November 2022, and I know that there is no need to wait for a new era. Immediate action is essential to address the important challenges facing our organization and our sport, which our Action Plan works to accomplish.

“I would not be able to see this renewal through.”

Brind’Amour was elected board chair in 2018.

The federal government froze Hockey Canada’s funding after it was revealed the organization had quietly settled a lawsuit with a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by members of the 2018 men’s junior team at Hockey Canada gala in London, Ont., that year.

Since then, Hockey Canada has said members of the 2003 junior team are under investigation for alleged sexual assault in Nova Scotia.

Canada’s sports minister Pascale St-Onge is withholding funds until she’s satisfied Hockey Canada meets her conditions, which were a financial audit of the organization, producing the recommendations of a third-party law firm review and an action plan for change, as well as signing onto the office of the new sports integrity commissioner.

Sheldon Kennedy, a former NHL player and victim rights advocate, was among those calling for Hockey Canada leadership to step down.

Brind’Amour is the first to do so.

“We’re starting to see cracks in the fortress, and that’s how the light gets in,” St-Onge said Saturday in Niagara Falls, Ont., where she met with provincial and territorial sports leaders on the eve of the Canada Games.

“Canadians have sent a clear message to Hockey Canada that real leadership change is needed and this is at all levels within the organization.

“I agree also with Michael Brind’Amour’s statement today . . . that there is no need to wait for a new era and immediate action is essential.

“I still believe, as many do, that more diversity is needed to address the culture of silence and toxic masculinity within the organization and the sport.”

Brind’Amour’s resignation also follows Hockey Canada’s appointment Thursday of former Canadian Supreme Court judge Thomas Cromwell to review the governance of the country’s governing body of hockey.

The review is expected to provide interim recommendations before Hockey Canada’s annual general meeting in November.

Brind’Amour said he leaves confident that Cromwell taking on that work “will help us make the changes that are needed. I am confident the recommendations will guide the organization into a future of desired change.”

Also, Canada’s 13 provincial hockey federations requested earlier this week an “extraordinary meeting” with the embattled national body.

Led by Hockey Quebec, the 10 provincial and three territorial associations want more information on the handling of the sexual assault allegations.

Hockey Canada had maintained a fund drawing on minor hockey membership fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual abuse claims.

The organization has stated it will no longer use its “national equity fund” to settle sexual assault claims.

The provincial and territorial hockey associations have threatened to withhold payment without answers.

“It’s not my job to speak on behalf of the Ontario Hockey Federation,” Ontario minister of tourism, culture and sport Neil Lumsden said at Saturday’s news conference.

“But it is as (St-Onge) said, it is our jobs to eliminate unacceptable behaviour of any kind in sport. Our job, and as we’ve spent a lot of time talking about, is to find ways to do that and to do it in the right way.”

Hockey Canada’s board of directors will meet in the coming days to determine next steps following Brind’Amour’s resignation, and appoint an interim chair, the organization said in its statement.

The next board election is scheduled for November’s annual general meeting.

“The board needs to reassess whether the people that are on the directors board are the right people to implement that change,” St-Onge said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 6, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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