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Ayres donates goalie stick to Hockey Hall of Fame; understand EBUG concerns – TSN

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TORONTO — David Ayres went out for a casual game of pickup hockey last week.

Between work, coaching kids and suiting up as the Toronto Maple Leafs’ practice goalie, the 42-year-old Zamboni driver hadn’t been on the ice with friends in a few months.

Now a piece of equipment he used in that game of shinny — incredibly, improbably — resides in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Ayres, the emergency backup goalie who shot to stardom when he was pressed into service after the Carolina Hurricanes lost both their netminders to injury against the Leafs last Saturday, donated his game-used stick from that stunning 6-3 victory to the Hockey Hall of Fame on Friday.

“I didn’t expect all of this … that’s for sure,” Ayres said at a ceremony in Toronto. “I expected to go on the ice and play a couple of minutes and get off and maybe do one or two interviews.”

That’s not even close to what happened.

Ayres has shot to international stardom since becoming the oldest goalie in NHL history to win his regular-season debut, and the first emergency backup to register a victory.

The resident of Bowmanville, Ont., has been interviewed dozens of times, appeared on “Today” and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” in the United States, and was a guest of the Hurricanes along with his wife at their game Tuesday in Raleigh, N.C.

“You don’t realize how much adrenaline pulses through your veins when you’re doing stuff like this,” said Sarah Ayres, who became a Twitter sensation with a colourful post after David entered the game.

Her husband has met NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in New York, spoke on the phone with “Late Late Show” host James Corden and got a call from Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

“Haven’t really had a chance to have it all sink in,” said David Ayres, who like every emergency backup goalie is available to either team on a nightly basis. “But the reception from everybody and how positive of a story this has become is fantastic.”

Ayres, who underwent a kidney transplant in the mid-2000s, allowed goals on the Leafs’ first two shots, but stopped the next eight, including one at the buzzer that he snagged with his glove to put an exclamation mark on a moment the hockey world won’t soon forget.

“There’s so much excitement and then all of a sudden the crowd sees you,” he said of stepping on the ice last Saturday at Scotiabank Arena midway through the second period. “Your legs lock up and the nerves go crazy.”

Operations manager at the former Maple Leaf Gardens, now known as Mattamy Athletic Centre, Ayres has also heard the criticism that there’s no way a billion-dollar business like the NHL should be relying on an amateur in his 40s in the middle of a playoff race.

The issue has become polarizing. One side suggests two goalies getting injured in the same game is incredibly rare — although a similar situation popped up two years ago with the Chicago Blackhawks — while the other argues the integrity of the league could be in jeopardy.

An idea floated is ensuring a member of each team’s backroom staff can suit up in a pinch or that there’s an across-the-board standard for emergency backup goalies — known as an “EBUG” — but there’s likely no easy solution.

“I understand it just because of this situation,” said Ayres, who has practised with the Leafs’ organization for eight years. “I also know and I’ve talked to a bunch of the other emergency goalies and I know how much they’re on the ice with the team.

“I don’t think people understand the behind the scenes.”

Ayres, who is not employed by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, is in great shape for his age and enjoys giving starter Frederik Andersen and backup Jack Campbell a breather during some drills.

The netminder’s hockey resume, however, is extremely thin. His last competitive action before skating out under the bright lights came in Allan Cup Hockey — a high-level men’s league — back in 2014 when he went 0-8 with a .777 save percentage with Norwood.

What would Florida, battling Toronto for a playoff spot, or Carolina, in a post-season fight of its own, with millions of dollars on the line have thought if the Leafs shelled an EBUG they see on a regular basis and know personally?

It didn’t happen — Toronto was soundly embarrassed, not the NHL, in a game dominated by the Hurricanes — but the optics could have been disastrous.

The league’s general managers are set to meet in Florida next week, and the emergency backup goalie issue will be on the agenda.

“People think they pulled me off the Zamboni, threw equipment on me and threw me out there and said, ‘Good luck.’ That wasn’t the case,” explained Ayres, who’s also dressed as an EBUG in the American Hockey League. “I understand where they’re coming from, but I’d love to see somebody else in the league get the same opportunity.”

Speaking of opportunity, he’s hoping to use his new-found fame, however long it lasts, to further organ donation awareness.

Ayres, who received that kidney transplant from his mother in his late 20s, asked the Hurricanes to give the proceeds of T-shirts with his name on the back to a Carolina foundation, while hospitals in places like Buffalo and Houston have reached out.

He’ll also be at the Saskatoon Blades’ game next Friday in support of the Western Hockey League team’s organ donation event.

“Just because you have a transplant, it doesn’t mean you need to give up,” said Ayres, who will be back as the emergency backup Saturday when the Leafs host the Vancouver Canucks. “Put in the hard work and keep going.”

The native of Whitby, Ont., had never been to the Hockey Hall of Fame’s current location — it has been across from Union Station in downtown Toronto since 1993 — before Friday.

He’ll be back with Sarah and their three kids, who Ayres adopted after the couple married, more frequently now that his name sits alongside the game’s greats.

“I’ve definitely got to come and visit,” he said. “Probably stick around and see a few things I’ve never seen.”

And look at one he knows pretty well.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2020.

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Novak Djokovic sponsor Lacoste to review Australian events 'as soon as possible' – National Post

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Lacoste, owned by Swiss group MF Brands, signed a multiyear deal with Djokovic as sponsor in 2017

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Leading Novak Djokovic sponsor Lacoste has said it plans to “review” the events that led to the tennis star’s deportation from Australia, highlighting the potential fallout for athletes who remain unvaccinated against COVID-19.

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“As soon as possible, we will be in touch with Novak Djokovic to review the events that have accompanied his presence in Australia,” Lacoste said on Monday.

Lacoste, owned by Swiss group MF Brands, signed a multiyear deal with Djokovic as sponsor in 2017. According to Forbes, the men’s world number one earns $30 million a year from sponsorship tie-ups.

The review comes after Djokovic, who has declined to be vaccinated against COVID-19, said he was “extremely disappointed” that the Australian courts had decided to uphold a government decision to cancel his visa. The ruling means he is unable to compete in this month’s Australian Open tournament.

Djokovic had entered Australia with a medical exemption from a vaccine requirement but had his initial visa cancelled. He had sought to stay in the country to compete for a record 21st grand slam title but his legal challenge was unsuccessful. He has now been deported and returned to Serbia.

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Djokovic’s opposition to mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations highlights the dilemma facing sports sponsors, which must weigh up their approach when athletes raise objections to widely recommended public health measures such as vaccination.

His participation in the French Open, the next grand slam on the tennis calendar, is also in doubt after Roxana Maracineanu, sports minister for France, said that spectators, staff and players would need to show proof of vaccination to enter sports stadiums and other public places. The tournament in Paris is due to start in May.

Other sponsors of Djokovic include carmaker Peugeot, luxury watch brand Hublot and Austrian lender Raiffeisen Bank International.

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Raiffeisen, which agreed a tie-up with Djokovic in April last year, said his “high reputation in central and eastern Europe” was its motivation for the multiyear deal and pointed to “his social commitment”.

But it added that the partnership had been agreed “long before the current reporting on Novak Djokovic and his COVID-19 vaccination status, or his participation in the Australian Open”.

Hublot previously told the Financial Times: “Novak Djokovic is his own person. We cannot comment on any of his personal decisions.”

Lacoste, founded by two tennis players in 1933, thanked the organizers of the Australian Open for “all their efforts to ensure that the tournament is held in good conditions for players, staff and spectators”.

Djokovic first voiced opposition to mandatory COVID-19 vaccination in 2020.

© 2022 The Financial Times Ltd

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Athletics Canada CEO David Bedford facing complaints over Twitter posts – CBC Sports

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The CEO of Athletics Canada is apologizing for a series of sexually suggestive Twitter exchanges made over a number of months and posted to his personal account.

Dave Bedford posted the tweets as replies to nearly a dozen different Twitter accounts. The tweets have since been deleted.

“It’s my personal account. It’s not like I was sending out photos or tweets myself,” Bedford told CBC Sports. “In this day and age with all we have been going through, I found some of these things funny so I commented. It’s apparent others didn’t feel the same way so I removed them.”

In his personal Twitter bio, Bedford identifies himself as the CEO of Athletics Canada and provides a link to the publicly funded organization’s website, which — as the national governing body of athletics — represents thousands of elite and amateur athletes across the country.

After receiving a number of internal complaints over the weekend, Athletics Canada’s board chair Helen Manning spoke to Bedford who then deleted the offensive tweets and locked his account.

Emergency board meeting

Athletics Canada will hold an emergency board meeting Monday night to decide next steps. Board chair Helen Manning said confidence in Bedford’s ongoing ability to lead will be a central point of discussion and didn’t rule out asking for Bedford’s resignation.

“There are certainly concerns that have been expressed by some of our membership,” Manning said. “Those types of comments are not something that is in keeping with the policy of how we see our people in the public domain.”

Manning said the organization has done a lot of work with Safe Sport, which aims to eliminate sexual harassment as well as physical and mental harassment among athletic organizations.

“We have spent a great deal of time and effort focused on trying to ensure the safest and most welcoming environment for our athletes and all of our members,” Manning said.

Audrey Giles, a professor at the University of Ottawa and a member of Athletics Canada’s Safe Sport Committee, said Bedford’s behaviour brings his judgment into question.

‘Raises questions’

“If he felt that that sort of public behaviour was acceptable, it raises questions about if he is the right person to be leading an organization through this era of safe sport,” Giles said. “I think it’s just like the hypocrisy of talking about having to hold coaches to a higher account, having to make spaces that are safe for athletes. Yet being somebody who engages in this, frankly, creepy online behaviour with women?

“I recognize that people can have a very diverse and exciting sexual lives. But when you are a leader of an organization, I think that the standards are higher.”

Bedford was hired by Athletics Canada in 2019 and has worked in a variety of leadership roles across Canadian sport, including the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.

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Soccer-Lewandowski and Putellas win FIFA Best awards

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Bayern Munich’s Polish striker Robert Lewandowski won the FIFA Best Men’s Player award for 2021 with Barcelona’s Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas winning the FIFA Best Women’s Player prize at Monday’s ceremony.

The prolific Lewandowski won the award for the second straight year after a season in which he beat Gerd Mueller’s 49-year old record of 40 goals in a single Bundesliga campaign.

“Robert is someone special. He is the greatest footballer in the history of our country. The best Polish ambassador and a role model for young people, not only those playing football,” said Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Facebook.

The 27-year-old Putellas was at the heart of the Barcelona women’s team which won the Spanish league and the UEFA Champions League.

Chelsea won both the awards for best coach, with Thomas Tuchel winning the men’s award and Emma Hayes named the best women’s coach.

Tuchel had guided Chelsea to the Champions League title after taking over the club in January while Hayes won the Women’s Super League, FA Cup and League Cup treble in England.

The West London club enjoyed further recognition with their Senegal international Edouard Mendy winning the Best Men’s Goalkeeper award.

Chile and Olympique Lyonnais’ Christiane Endler was named The Best Women’s Goalkeeper.

The Puskas Award for best goal of the year was won by Argentine Erik Lamela, now with Spanish club Sevilla, for his goal for Tottenham Hotspur against Arsenal.

The Denmark national team and their medical staff won the Fair Play award for their swift response after Christian Eriksen collapsed on the field during the Euro 2020 game with Finland.

(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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