ST. LOUIS – “It feels like Winnipeg.”
That’s how Mark Scheifele described chilly, snowy St. Louis over the NHL’s 2020 All-Star Weekend.
“Feels like home,” Scheifele smiled.
The Jets star was referring to the weather, but he could’ve just as easily been talking about the atmosphere. The mixing and meshing of hockey royalty in celebration of the game we love.
While the skies may have been grey — it’s no fluke the 2021 showcase is heading to Florida — inside Enterprise Center the personalities were colourful and the surprises were plentiful.
Little touches, like having Laila Anderson introduce the Blues’ stars and local celebrities Jenna Fischer and Jon Hamm serve as honourary coaches, went a long way.
“A well-done show. The NHL did a great job,” Jordan Binnington approved. “The boys are happy.”
Over the course of three days, we crammed our notebook with nuggets from some of the biggest names in the game (and applied earmuffs when Green Day performed, lest Billie Joe say something not so kid-friendly).
Here are 20 awesome things about the 2020 NHL All-Star Weekend.
1. The Oilers and Flames played nice (for now) — and got paid
Not only did Leon Draisaitl not get off the ice when he and Matthew Tkachuk shared a shift, but he accepted a Tkachuk feed and scored for the Pacific Division, who went on to win the $1 million.
“It was a nice play by him,” Draisaitl chuckled. “This is not the time to be grumpy about anything, or whatever it is. We’re a team, and everyone here, I think, had a great time. It was a lot of fun.”
Mark Giordano knows the feud will pick right back up Wednesday.
“I thought both sides handled themselves really well this weekend,” Giordano said. “I’m sure next week when we get back to the Battle of Alberta there’ll be that fire.”
2. Markstrom emphasizing his desire to re-sign in Vancouver (and raising his suit game)
Vancouver Canucks fans should be encouraged that one of the most coveted impending UFA goaltenders, Jacob Markstrom, sounds more than happy to stay put.
“I want to stay in Vancouver. I’m sure the people with the suits will figure it out with my agent. I just got to play hockey, and if I play good, I’m sure I get to stay,” says Markstrom, on target for a juicy bump from his current $4 million salary.
“It’s been tough. It’s never fun to be in a rebuild process, and as goalie it’s frustrating. You want to win hockey games, and it’s frustrating for you, for every guy on the team, for the coaches, for the fans and for the city. Now, we got a little flash and people are excited around town and at the rink. It’s super exciting. You definitely want to be part of something in a Canadian market and be a successful team.”
Markstrom didn’t start dreaming of dollar bills once he saw Sergei Bobrovsky’s $70-million UFA payday last summer.
“That’s a big goalie,” Markstrom says. “He’s done a lot for a long time and a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, so we shouldn’t get too excited.”
Marky’s suit is on another level pic.twitter.com/f1FDcYKAXV
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) January 25, 2020
3. Tocchet seeking Gallant’s blessing
Before Rick Tocchet accepted the NHL’s invitation to replace the fired Gerard Gallant behind the Pacific Division bench, he rang up his coaching comrade.
“I’m a big fan of Gerard Gallant’s, so I actually talked to him. I just wanted to get his blessing because I feel kind of bad about it. But I’m here to represent the Coyotes. With [Darcy] Kuemper getting hurt, I think somebody should represent,” Tocchet says.
“He made me feel comfortable. He’s an awesome guy, a terrific guy, and his big thing was it’s the nature of the beast and he’s gonna enjoy his grandkids. I just told him, ‘You’re not gonna be out of a job very long.’
“When a guy like Gallant goes down, it makes you think sometimes. I think your partnership with the general manager and the owner is huge, because sometimes things aren’t in your control.”
With Kuemper injured, Tocchet quite literally took one for the team by leaving sunny Scottsdale for drizzly St. Louis.
“I’m sick of planes. I didn’t feel like going anywhere,” Tocchet says. “Some guys went to Cabo. It’s only an hour-and-a-half [flight], and still that’s too long for me right now.”
4. This incredible Jon Hamm All-Star Game promo
(And seeing casual Hamm hanging out at rink in a beard and ballcap, just wanting to be where the hockey is.)
5. 80-year-old Red Berenson bending twine
At the ripe age of 80, legend Red Berenson stole the show at Thursday’s alumni game when he niftily redirected a Jeff Brown shot past Mike McKenna and lit the lamp.
“It’s not just about scoring goals, but it feels good to help the team,” the octogenarian told reporters post-victory. “And I think it makes the young guys feel inspired, too.
“Hockey is a lifetime sport, I’m here to say that.”
6. Duclair eager to sign up for the Senators’ rebuild
Ottawa has seen more than its share of star players on expiring contracts leave town.
Anthony Duclair, a pending RFA, doesn’t want to be one, saying “for sure” he’d like to re-sign long-term in Canada’s capital. Contract extension talks have yet to begin, though.
“I just want to focus and really end the season on a positive note like I did last year, and really make a statement to the management and the coaching staff that I want to be a big part of this rebuild,” Duclair, 24, says. “I’m still a young guy.
“When the change is gonna happen, when Ottawa’s gonna become a contender, I want to be part of that. So I’m working as hard as I can.”
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) January 25, 2020
7. Andersen’s special mask design concept
“The second Mitchy got voted in,” Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen came up with the idea of commissioning mask artist David Gunnarsson to create a specific bucket for the All-Star Game.
“He pumps them out quick,” Andersen says. “Over 100 a year. Impressive.”
A tribute to friends and fellow all-stars Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews, the mask features images of the three Toronto friends in celebration.
Andersen unveiled the design to Marner and Matthews Friday night.
“It stunned them a little bit,” says Andersen, who also debuted some slick new CN Tower pads.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) January 24, 2020
The goaltender has collected 10 to 15 masks from his career already and plans to one day display them all on a wall in his home.
“I’d rather keep it,” Andersen says. “Toronto’s been really good about letting me keep my masks.”
8. The world’s love/hate relationship with Kane
Marner’s favourite moment was hanging out on the Shooting Stars platform with Patrick Kane and talking shop. Quinn Hughes singled out Kane as the player he was most excited to meet. And Nathan MacKinnon gushed about how much loves watching and competing against one his all-time favourites.
While veterans like Alex Ovechkin and Marc-Andre Fleury chose rest instead, Kane happily showed up at his ninth all-star weekend… if only to get showered deliciously with boos from Chicago’s rival city. (Kane: “To be honest with you, sometimes you get booed, you kind of like it a little bit.”)
“I love talking to Patrick Kane. He is probably my No. 1,” Scheifele perks up. “Obviously you see what he does on the ice and the skill he has, but he’s just such a great person. Such a great hockey mind. Loves to talk hockey. He’s a guy that I definitely looked up to in my career and I’ve learned a lot from watching him play, and he’s definitely a guy I really enjoy talking to.
“You talk shop, about life, about their team, about your team, and then you talk about individual things. I watch a lot of Kaner. So I definitely remember a lot of plays he makes, whether it’s against us or in other games, and it’s just cool to talk about them.”
Move over, Pavel Datsyuk. Patrick Kane is now your favourite player’s favourite player.
9. Hertl not caring that Pastrnak won MVP
In a surprise choice that even caught the winner off-guard, David Pastrnak (four goals, six points) was crowned the tournament’s MVP despite the Atlantic losing the final.
Tomas Hertl scored five times, including the million-dollar winner, and would’ve been our selection.
“It’s not up to me; it’s up to the fans,” Hertl said, all smiles, zero cares. “Pasta was great, too. He scored a lot of goals. It’s all good. I’m happy just we won.”
What’s he going to do with his share of the winnings?
“Buy some nice watches, I don’t know.”
Then Hertl scooted over to Jenna Fischer to make sure he got a photo with The Office star and signed her son’s jersey.
10. Cassidy’s candour
I always appreciate Bruce Cassidy’s forthrightness. So when we asked the Bruins coach about the recent waiving of respected veteran David Backes, he was typically thoughtful.
Backes’s road to the waiver wire, Cassidy says, began last season in Philadelphia, when the coach had to tell Backes he’d be getting healthy scratched. Increasingly, they wanted a forward who could move around the lineup, contribute to special teams and slot in different positions. The Bruins saw Backes only as a right wing, and they also wanted their veterans to get pushed by kids in Providence hungry for a shot.
But there was a human element at play, too. Cassidy has a conscience.
“David, at the end, had a few concussions. I think as a coach it’s tough to tell a guy, ‘OK, we’re missing that gritty guy,’” Cassidy says. “You get to know a player and his young kids. So that was more on me. And at the end of the day, how did he take it? Probably not very well. I spoke to him a while ago. I haven’t since he’s on his break.”
Backes is assigned to Providence, but the Bruins have given him the bye week to decide if he’s willing to return to the AHL for the first time in 13 years. Cassidy wouldn’t rule out calling him up at a later date, but the 35-year-old is certainly staring at a crossroads.
11. MacKinnon going to school on Barzal
MacKinnon and Mathew Barzal both study from skills development specialist Darryl Belfry, and MacKinnon tries to incorporate elements of Barzal’s game into his own.
“Sometimes Darryl will send me a clip of some of the things Mat does. It’s pretty special,” MacKinnon says. “His first year he had like  points and took everyone by surprise. What an amazing player. I think he leads the league in like possession or something — the puck’s always on his stick.”
12. Seguin singling out a more deserving teammate
Tyler Seguin has 11 goals and realizes the all-star roster puzzle can leave some more worthy players on the outside. He made the case that born-and-bred St. Louisan Ben Bishop (.927 save percentage) should’ve been the one representing Dallas.
“He’s huge. He’s No. 1. He’s should be sitting in the seat — especially being from St. Louis. I wasn’t happy that he didn’t get invited. He could’ve been taken over me, especially. He’s our backbone,” Seguin says.
“He’s consistent, he’s confident, he’s got it all. A lot of times, he’s the one driving the bus and we’re just trying to get on.”
13. MacKinnon hilariously shouting out Tim Hortons
Here’s MacKinnon’s great answer to a question about guest-coaching 2019’s all-star Central Division squad alongside Paul Maurice:
“That was fun. Just had a coffee and hung out, stress-free. Tim Hortons — my sponsor. No big deal. Whatever.
“I think the Winnipeg guys were actually like minus-10 combined last year, so Paul and I weren’t too thrilled with that.”
Does MacKinnon’s Timmies endorsement deal come with free coffee and doughnuts for life?
“No,” he said. “It’s all good. I’ll pay my share.”
14. Learning that Hertl and Pastrnak battle for sandwiches all summer
San Jose’s Hertl let his personality fly this weekend, stealing the Saves Streak spotlight when he slipped on a Justin Bieber mask before his breakaway against Jordan Binnington.
Hertl loved having a couple fellow Czech around, David Rittich and David Pastrnak.
He told me that he and Pastrnak train together back home throughout the summer and throw games where each is a captain and they select the teams.
“We get some bets for lunches or something, so we’re kind of always competing against each other,” Hertl says.
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) January 25, 2020
15. Alex Letang stealing Kris Letang’s thunder
Turns out, no one wanted to speak with Kris Letang on the red carpet or at the podium. Not when they could interview his more unpredictable and enthusiastic seven-year-old son, Alex, who fluently fielded questions in French and English.
“I am really excited to see the hockey players and my dad. I’m most excited to see my dad play on the 3-on-3,” Alex dished. “Yeah. I’m already playing hockey, but I’m not in the NHL.”
16. The story behind Binnington’s “Pony” request
Jordan Binnington tapped his pal, Jordan Schmaltz, for a fun song to play while he participated in the Skills Contest. Naturally, Schmaltz suggested Ginuwine’s 1996 club banger, “Pony,” which the NHL discovered wasn’t literally about a pony.
The league only allowed the instrumental version. Binnington tested the tune out in his car, and of course it still bangs 24 years later.
“I thought it was a good choice, but, you know, everyone is so sensitive these days, I don’t know what you can put out there. But it’s all in good fun. You’ve got to keep it light,” Binnington shrugs. “I was taking a look in the stands. I was hoping people would be feeling it a bit more.”
17. The awkwardness of Team Canada and Team USA sharing one dressing room
Hamilton, Ont., native Sarah Nurse laughed at the post-game atmosphere in the women’s room following Canada’s 3-on-3 triumph over the U.S.
“It was a little strange after the game,” Nurse says. “We wanted to celebrate a little bit, and we were looking across the room and we see the Americans. Sorry guyssssss….”
All the all-stars watched the women’s game, and afterward Marner argued for more support of female hockey.
“I think a lot of those players can play in this league. They got a lot of skill. You saw it out there. I mean, the plays some of them made and the moves they were making, it was impressive to see,” said Marner, who thinks it would be great to see the NHL form a WNHL.
“A lot of those players are great players and to see them not in a league right now is disappointing. I really hope they get a league back up and running.”
Because Andersen has a younger sister, Amalie, playing for the University of Maine, he too feels strongly about the situation.
“I don’t know what the right answer is,” Andersen says, “but of course I want to see a women’s side in the game for young girls to dream of playing in. I know firsthand with my sister. She goes to college. And after that, I don’t know what really is the future. I think it’s just important we keep trying to grow it and hopefully down the road they can have something to strive for besides playing college.”
18. Alumni galore!
Hats off to organizers for incorporating Blues legends Brett Hull, Bernie Federko, Wayne Gretzky, Keith Tkachuk, Chris Pronger and Al MacInnis into the festivities, adding a spice of history to the mix.
Gretzky joined pal Tocchet behind the Pacific bench for the game, Hull co-coached the Central with Craig Berube, and MacInnis clapping a slapshot in jeans with a wood stick to warm up the Hardest Shot was a fantastic touch.
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) January 25, 2020
“I asked him if I could use his wood stick and see if I could do it, too,” Shea Weber says. “It was a special night. I think a lot of those old Blues, it was cool, I watched a lot of those guys growing up, played against a couple of them.”
19. The Blues’ blatant Kansas City Chiefs support
Ryan O’Reilly hilariously warmed-up for the Skills Competition while wearing a Chiefs football helmet, and Binnington arrived wearing a Patrick Mahomes jersey.
“Patty Mahomes threw out a tweet at me last year in the playoff run, and it was pretty cool,” Binnington says. “I have so much respect for a guy performing at an elite level at such a young age with such a veteran mindset. You’ve got to respect a guy, and I’m looking forward to the game coming up.”
When the Rams move on, St. Louis must too.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 25, 2020
20. Pastrnak’s apology for not winning the Shooting Stars contest
“Bad preparation by me. I never practised that. Should’ve built a 30-feet high [platform] and practised that before All-Star,” Pasta said. “Unfortunately, I was a bad pro and didn’t do it. That way I can’t deserve a win.”
Jones scores four TDs as Packers bounce back to beat Lions – TSN
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Jones caught three of Aaron Rodgers’ four touchdown passes and rushed for a fourth score, and the Green Bay Packers had a welcome return to normal after an embarrassing opening-week loss, beating the Detroit Lions 35-17 on Monday night.
Green Bay (1-1) won its ninth straight home opener. The Packers, who got thumped 38-3 by the New Orleans Saints in Week 1, looked more like the team that went 13-3 in each of coach Matt LaFleur’s first two seasons.
Rodgers went 22 of 27 for 255 yards and surpassed John Elway for 10th all-time in passing yards with 51,633. Rodgers has followed up each of the Packers’ last five regular-season losses by throwing four touchdown passes and no interceptions in his next game.
Jones became the first Packers running back to catch three touchdown passes in a game since Andy Uram against the Chicago Cardinals in 1942. He had 17 carries for 67 yards and six catches for 48 yards.
Detroit’s Jared Goff completed 13 of his first 14 passes but struggled the rest of the way as the Lions (0-2) blew a 17-14 halftime lead. Goff finished 26 of 36 for 246 yards. He connected on touchdown passes to Quintez Cephus and T.J. Hockenson but also threw an interception and lost a fumble.
Green Bay scored touchdowns on its first three second-half possessions to seize control.
The Packers faced third-and-12 on their opening series of the second half when Rodgers threw a 50-yard completion to Davante Adams, who ended the night with eight catches for 121 yards.
Lions rookie cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu injured his thigh on the play, further weakening a secondary that already lost cornerback Jeff Okudah to a ruptured Achilles tendon in Detroit’s season-opening loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Green Bay dominated the rest of the way.
Rodgers capped that drive with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Robert Tonyan. Detroit’s next series ended when Goff threw an incompletion on fourth-and-1 from the Green Bay 25.
Rodgers threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jones to extend the Packers’ lead to 28-17.
Green Bay’s Krys Barnes recovered Goff’s fumble at the Detroit 23 on the Lions’ next snap. Jones scored on a 1-yard run and that was that.
Lions: WR Tyrell Williams missed the game with a concussion. … Melifonwu did not return after the thigh injury.
Packers: TE Josiah Deguara was out with a concussion.
ST. BROWN VS. ST. BROWN
The Packers activated wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown from the practice squad, giving him the chance to play against his younger brother. The Lions selected receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown out of Southern California in the fourth round of this year’s draft. Amon-Ra had the better stat line with three receptions for 18 yards, while Equanimeous had one catch for no gain.
PACKERS’ LINE CHANGE
Green Bay’s Lucas Patrick, who started at left guard against New Orleans, was active after getting out of concussion protocol. But he wasn’t on the field for the opening series.
Jon Runyan Jr. was at left guard instead in the 2020 sixth-round pick’s first career start. Runyan’s father was an All-Pro tackle who went on to represent New Jersey in Congress from 2011-15.
The Packers wore a helmet decal to honor Ted Thompson, who worked as the team’s general manager from 2005-17 and died Jan. 20 at the age of 68. The Packers also honored Thompson during a halftime ceremony.
Lions: Host Baltimore (1-1) on Sunday. The Ravens are coming off a Sunday night victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Packers: At San Francisco (2-0) on Sunday night. This will be the fourth time in the last three seasons the Packers have played at San Francisco. They won 34-17 last season. Two years ago, the Packers lost 37-8 to the 49ers in the regular season and 37-20 in the NFC championship game.
Josh Donaldson swapping jerseys with Vlad Guerrero a Blue Jays moment that won’t be forgotten – Toronto Star
It was a moment Blue Jays fans won’t soon forget, and one they will hope eventually represents a passing of the torch from one American League most valuable player to another.
Josh Donaldson, Toronto’s 2015 MVP now with the Minnesota Twins, signing and exchanging jerseys with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who is vying for his first MVP nod this season, following a three-game series between the two teams.
The pair set up the jersey exchange on Saturday and it caused quite a stir of emotion a day later, the end of an already emotional weekend with Donaldson’s return and the Jays back in a wild-card spot.
There they were — the man who last led the Jays’ World Series hopes and the man fans hope can take Toronto one step further by clinching the top prize.
“He just told me after, ‘Stay focused and keep working hard until the end,’” Guerrero Jr. said post-game of his interaction with Donaldson.
Donaldson, 35, is no stranger to hearing fans at Rogers Centre shout “MVP, MVP” during an at-bat. This time around he received a standing ovation during his first plate appearance of the series but the kinds of cheers he once received were now directed at the 22-year-old Guerrero.
The veteran was all for it. When asked on Saturday if he thought Guerrero deserved to join him and 1987 winner George Bell as Blue Jays MVPs, Donaldson’s answer was clear.
“It should happen,” Donaldson said. “He’s put up (an) astronomical season from the offensive side and he’s contributing on the defensive side. The guy’s got a 1.000 OPS at 22 years old, being a huge contributor.”
Guerrero’s stiffest competition in the race for AL MVP is Los Angeles Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani, who many believe is a lock for the award as his team’s staff ace and most productive hitter — he is doing something that has never before been seen in Major League Baseball. But Guerrero, who is vying for the Triple Crown as the league leader in home runs, batting average and runs batted in, is mounting a late season challenge for the award as Ohtani navigates some late season troubles.
The Angels star’s numbers at the plate have dipped in the second half of the season and there has been talk of him being shut down from pitching in the final portion of the season because of arm soreness. And then there’s the age-old question: can a player be the most valuable if his team is not headed to the playoffs? Guerrero and the Jays could very well be; Ohtani and the Angels are not in post-season contention.
To Donaldson, there are holes in the argument for Ohtani: he didn’t start every fifth day, the recent injury could cause him to miss most of September on the mound and, as a designated hitter, he doesn’t impact both sides of the game. Guerrero, on the other hand, strikes fear in opposing lineups unlike any other player this season, Donaldson said.
And if the Jays make the playoffs, Donaldson said, that should tip the scales in Guerrero’s favour.
“If you take Vlad out of that lineup, this isn’t the same team,” Donaldson said. “Not that this isn’t a good lineup, because it is. But what Vlad’s doing is … he’s that security blanket for the rest of that lineup (with) what he’s producing. He takes pressure off of everybody else.”
Hearing that kind of praise from Donaldson, who spent the weekend at the ballpark happily reuniting with familiar faces he knew from his four years in Toronto and touting Guerrero’s MVP worthiness to anyone who would listen, left Guerrero nearly speechless but maybe not surprised. Guerrero, who was signed by the Jays the same year Donaldson won the MVP in 2015, said Donaldson has long been supportive of his career.
“Coming from Josh, it’s unbelievable what he said. Especially coming from someone that already won the MVP,” Guerrero said. “Since I was in the minors when he was here, he was always giving me advice, especially in spring training. When I was playing third, helping me out, taking ground balls with him. He’s always been great to me and I really appreciate his comments.”
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Patriots owner Robert Kraft shocked a gay flag football team by showing up to support it – Yahoo Canada Sports
Imagine coming off the field from your neighborhood flag football game, dripping in weekend-warrior sweat, and there stands the owner of the New England Patriots.
Naturally, you might be curious why Robert Kraft — a man said to have a net worth north of $8 billion — is, you know, there. Just hanging out.
Was Kraft watching a relative or close friend play? Did he happen to be nearby and just wander over? Did his driver get lost?
No, it turns out that Kraft was simply there to support a Massachusetts gay flag football team.
There was no press release. No attention drawing needed. Just your average billionaire NFL franchise owner supporting a gay flag football team and a great local charity.
As one of the flag football team members, Alex Reimer of Outsports.com, noted in his blog about the event, Kraft just swung by to watch the action — one day before the Patriots took on the New York Jets on the road.
What’s the big deal, you ask? Well, it’s a sign that Kraft doesn’t just support the group — FLAG Flag Football Boston — with financial backing. He also comes to watch them play. That’s a personal touch money can’t buy.
There also was a charitable component to the weekend. The flag football team helped raise donations of 25,000 items for Hope & Comfort, a local charity that helps with hygiene insecurity for needy youths and families in the area. The Patriots helped support the cause, and the owner was on hand for it.
Kudos to Kraft, who has been a big supporter of the LGBTQ community for years (even before it was popular to do so) and who appears to go above and beyond mere check writing and ribbon cutting.
This is the kind of outreach we’d love to see more of in the NFL community, and Kraft’s above-and-beyond effort shows that even the world’s wealthiest people can donate something that carries even more value than donations.
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