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Boosted by NHL experience, captain Barrett Hayton brings underrated toughness to Team Canada – TSN

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During his three seasons with Sault Ste. Marie in the OHL, Barrett Hayton never lost to London winning all nine games he played against Dale Hunter and the Knights. That perfect record was a point of discussion during Team Canada’s summer camp at the World Junior Showcase.

“He was on me a bit about that,” Hayton said with a smile. “He actually brought it up. I don’t have that in me to throw that out there. He just brought it up and it was a funny, little joke.”

Hayton scored four goals and added three assists in two games against London last season.

“I said, ‘Take it easy on us,'” Hunter recalled with a laugh. “It’s a good thing he didn’t come back.”

Instead, Hayton made the Arizona Coyotes. Canada has five returning players at the World Juniors, but only Hayton has NHL experience on his resume.

“It makes a big difference,” said Hunter. “He’s one of those kids who absorbs so he’s watching everything and he’s here and he’s working his tail off and he’s ready to go. On and off the ice he’s a character kid and everybody looks up to him.”

In a team meeting before Wednesday’s practice, Hunter officially named Hayton captain of Team Canada with Flint centre Ty Dellandrea, Grand Rapids centre Joe Veleno and Spokane defenceman Ty Smith serving as alternates.

“Just incredibly honoured,” said Hayton, who wore the ‘C’ with the Greyhounds last season. “This is the tournament you grew up watching and you idolized the guys who played here so to be able to lead this team and lead the group we have is a special feeling. Having that responsibility is something I love and have a lot of pride in.”

The 19-year-old from Peterborough, Ont. possesses the blend of skill and grittiness that Hunter hopes will become the identity of this year’s Team Canada.

“He’s hard to play against,” noted Dellandrea. “He has that skill and poise with the puck, but what is underrated is how hard he works and how aggressive he is too. So, a lot of people think of him as a skill guy, always playing with the puck, but he’s tough and aggressive and I think that’s underrated about him.”

The NHL experience also carries a lot of weight inside the dressing room.

“His presence,” said Dellandrea when asked what stands out, “the way he carries himself, everybody listens to him.”

Hayton scored a goal and recorded three assists in 14 games with the Coyotes before being loaned to Hockey Canada for the World Juniors. Those months spent in the NHL accelerated his development.

“It’s the best league in the world,” Hayton said as his eyes lit up. “It’s an incredible league. The biggest thing for me was just the guys I was surrounded with. There’s so many tremendous leaders, it’s a great group there, there’s a lot of older guy and some young guys and they’ve all been incredible for me in learning how to carry yourself, learning how to take care of yourself, learning how to play on the ice, it’s really everything. It’s a whole package of learning.”

Hayton looks to use NHL experience to elevate his game at World Juniors

Barrett Hayton was quite excited when he received the news that the Arizona Coyotes would release him so he could represent Canada at the World Juniors and spend another year with the Maple Leaf on his chest.

Hunter didn’t name a starting goalie on Wednesday, but whoever gets the call – Guelph’s Nico Daws or Portland’s Joel Hofer – will be playing for Canada at an international tournament for the first time.

Does the lack of experience matter?

“It’s a big setting, very intimidating, I guess you could say, but I’m just here to stop pucks,” Daws said. “I don’t think it really matters too much aside from the bigger ice. No matter what jersey you’re wearing you’re still doing the same thing.”

Daws has done that thing very well this season posting a .939 save percentage in the OHL and carrying that into Canada’s camp where he has a .942 save percentage in his four appearances.

As for intimidating settings, Daws has some experience with that thanks to the Barrie Colts, who visited Guelph on Dec. 6 and seemed determined to get under his skin.  

“I wasn’t expecting it,” Daws said. “They just came into the game and they were hitting me. I got hammered behind the net when I was playing the puck, they were yelling at me and trying to get in my head. I was told before the game even started that the first shot was going to go in. It didn’t really work out too well for them.”

Daws stopped all 39 shots he faced and was the first star in a 4-0 Storm win.

“It didn’t really faze me,” he said. “You know, obviously, a little bit more motivation so it probably helped me.”

Emotions will likely run hot on Boxing Day as Canada and the United States renew their rivalry and that’s fine by Daws.

“It’s something I’ve watched my whole life,” the Burlington, Ont. native said. “It’s one of those things, you always have it out for the States and it would be cool to be a part of one of those games.”

Daws on performance against Finland: ‘I felt really good, really confident’

Goalie Nico Daws was perfect in his last tune-up game before the tournament begins on December 26th, stopping every shot he faced in the 30 minutes he played. The decision on who starts in net for Canada has not been finalized yet, but Daws likes his mindset right now, feeling really good and confident.

Unlike last year when Canada throttled Denmark 14-0 in a breezy opener, this year’s first tournament encou​nter is full of intrigue. The United States has won a medal in four straight World Juniors and, like Canada, has five returning players.

“Playing each other I think grabs both teams’ attention right away,” said Team USA coach Scott Sandelin.

“There’s no putting your foot in the water,” said USA centre Shane Pinto. “You got to go full in and it’s going to be a tough one.”

The battle will happen on the ice and between the ears. Discipline is key and trash talk is expected.

“The boys are really hyped up,” said Veleno. “Going to be a lot of chirping and some physicality going on. It’s going to be a real good game to watch and real fun game to be a part of. We like playing in those types of games, it’s kind of the Canadian way a little bit so we’re excited.”

How does Veleno rate his chirping skills?

“Not very good,” he said with a laugh. “I just like being a part of it, hearing the other guys chirp cracks me up a little bit, but I’m not really that type of person. I don’t really talk too much on the ice.”

So, who will lead Canada’s verbal barrage?

“I got to say (Aidan) Dudas is the best one,” Veleno said. “You can speak to him and he’ll probably tell you the same thing. He’s just a tenacious little guy, who likes to stir the pot.”

Ferraro shares which line has impressed him the most so far

After getting a glimpse at what this team has to offer, Ray Ferraro believes that the most impressive line so far is the line that stayed together for both their pre-competition games. Liam Foudy, Ty Dellandrea, and Aidan Dudas are an aggressive and ‘in your face’ line that seems to have earned the trust of head coach Dale Hunter.

When the United States finalized their roster on Monday night, Canadian defenceman​ Jacob Bernard-Docker sent a congratulatory text to Pinto, a fellow Ottawa Senators prospect and his teammate at the University of North Dakota. But there will be no more communication between the pair until after Thursday’s game.

“We aren’t really going to talk right now,” Pinto said.

Bernard-Docker and Pinto did speak about the World Juniors back at school, but they didn’t get too deep into it, because neither guy felt they had a spot secure. Fast forward to Christmas and Bernard-Docker is skating on Canada’s shutdown pair with Kevin Bahl while Pinto is skating with Nick Robertson and Oliver Wahlstrom, a top-six unit on Team USA.

“He’s just so poised with the puck,” Pinto said of Bernard-Docker. “He’s very mature in his game. He’s very good defensively.”

“He’s a two-way guy,” noted Bernard-Docker of Pinto, “big, has a great shot and has great vision as well.”

The mutual admiration will be put on hold as of 1 pm ET on Boxing Day.

“I know his tactics up at the point,” said Pinto, “but I don’t know if he knows mine so hopefully he kind of gets surprised by that. We’ll see.”

“I know everything he’s going to do,” Bernard-Docker said with a chuckle. “He thinks he has stuff up his sleeves, but I’m pretty sure I know his moves.”

Pinto isn’t about the slow up on the forecheck just because he’s playing against a teammate.

“I’m going to hit him,” Pinto vowed. “USA versus Canada, it’s going to be intense so, yeah, I’m going to hit him.”

Team Canada Ice Chips: A year after being final cut, Bernard-Docker full of confidence

Last year, Jacob Bernard-Docker was the last defenceman cut at Canada’s selection camp. That moment, still fresh in his mind, motivated the Senators prospect, who started this season strong at the University of North Dakota. Bernard-Docker will be a scratch tonight as Canada’s hopefuls take on the U Sports all-stars, which is a good sign for his World Junior chances.

Lines at Wednesday’s practice:

Lafrenière-Veleno-Foote
Byfield-Hayton-Cozens
Foudy-Dellandrea-Dudas
McMichael-Thomas-Lavoie-Merc​er

McIssac-Smith
Bahl-Bernard-Docker
Byram-Addison
Drysdale

Daws
Hofer
Rodrigue

Power play units at Wednesday’s practice:

Addison
Lafrenière – Veleno – Hayton
Cozens

Smith
Byram – Lavoie – Foote
Byfield

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The absurdity of medal ceremony mask-wearing at the Tokyo Olympics – Yahoo Canada Sports

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TOKYO — The International Olympic Committee on Sunday reminded athletes to keep wearing masks, especially at the one time when mask-wearing is completely unnecessary.

Dozens of athletes have now stepped up onto podiums here at the Olympics. They’ve draped medals around their necks, and listened to national anthems, with nobody within six feet of them. And in perhaps the proudest moment of their lives, with emotions washing over their faces, their families, forced to watch from home, haven’t been able to see those faces, because they’re covered by masks.

And when pictures circulated of a few swimmers posing on podiums with masks off?

A reporter asked IOC spokesman Mark Adams whether there’d been a relaxation of COVID-19 rules that require mask-wearing during medal ceremonies. “There is no relaxation,” Adams responded. “We would urge and ask everyone to obey the rules.”

But at the Tokyo Aquatics Center on Sunday, Olympic officials made a mockery of those rules. A non-story became a story because pictures circulated of swimmers arm in arm with masks off. But multiple athletes said after their competitions that they’d been directed to remove their masks for photos.

American swimmers Chase Kalisz (right) and Jay Litherland both had to wear masks on the podium ... at least for some of it. (Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Network)

American swimmers Chase Kalisz (right) and Jay Litherland both had to wear masks on the podium … at least for some of it. (Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Network)

“Someone in the front was holding a sign that said, ‘Don’t wear a mask,’” said gold medal-winning American swimmer Chase Kalisz. “So, um, I can’t speak for what the proper protocol was, but he had a sign that said ‘mask off’ and ‘mask on.’”

Hours later, silver medal-winning Canadian diver Melissa Citrini-Beaulieu confirmed: “At one point they said to take off masks for a picture.”

And then, after the medal ceremonies, swimmers and divers alike paraded around the pool deck, stopping for more pictures, arm in arm with their fellow medalists, masks sometimes on, sometimes off. They hugged coaches. One German diver put her mask on the ground, then in a pocket.

There are all sorts of protocol violations here. On the first night of competition, U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe took her mask off for an interview with a dozen reporters in the post-match mixed zone. On Sunday, Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui lined up for an impromptu video interview against a wall outside the Aquatics Center after his improbable gold medal. Reporters surround him. A Tunisian Olympic committee official literally pulled Hafnaoui’s mask off, so cameras could see his beautiful face.

Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui speaks to reporters after winning gold ... without his mask on. (Henry Bushnell/Yahoo Sports)Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui speaks to reporters after winning gold ... without his mask on. (Henry Bushnell/Yahoo Sports)

Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui speaks to reporters after winning gold … without his mask on. (Henry Bushnell/Yahoo Sports)

Protocols are enforced inconsistently. And yet, at the most prominent moment of virtually zero danger, with swimmers who’ll soon hug maskless separated by several feet, and with nobody in their immediate line of breath, the IOC and Tokyo organizers have decided that they must wear masks. At most of more than a dozen medal ceremonies tracked by Yahoo Sports thus far, including those in archery, judo, taekwondo and fencing, athletes have been masked up.

There is an argument that doing so models proper behavior, and perhaps that’s what Adams, the IOC spokesman, meant when he said that mask-wearing “sends a strong message.” But there is an obvious counterargument, that behavior modeling must be reasonable, or else the world will see it for what it is: all for show. Hygiene theater is prevalent at these Olympics. Medal ceremony mask-wearing is just another version.

Yahoo Sports’ Jack Baer contributed reporting.

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Vancouver Canucks place Jake Virtanen on waivers for purpose of buying out contract – ESPN

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The Vancouver Canucks placed Jake Virtanen on unconditional waivers Sunday for the purpose of buying out the final year of his contract.

Canucks general manager Jim Benning confirmed the decision in an announcement on the team’s official Twitter account.

Virtanen was placed on leave on May 1 after being accused in a lawsuit of sexually assaulting a women four years earlier. The organization said at the time that it “does not accept sexual misconduct of any kind and the claims as reported are being treated very seriously.”

The suit, filed in British Columbia, alleges Virtanen took the woman to a hotel in West Vancouver in September 2017 and assaulted her as she repeatedly said no and pleaded with him to stop.

The Canucks said at the time they had “engaged external expertise” to assist in an independent investigation. The NHL said then it would not comment until the investigation was complete.

The Canucks are on the hook for paying a third of Virtanen’s remaining $3 million base salary, while freeing up $2.5 million in cap space.

Virtanen, 24, had five goals in 38 games last season, a year after scoring a career-high 18 goals in 69 games. Overall, Vancouver’s 2014 first-round draft pick has 55 goals and 100 points in 317 games.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Felix Auger-Aliassime first-round upset Tokyo Olympics – TSN

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TOKYO — It was far from the performance Felix Auger-Aliassime was hoping for in his Olympic debut.

Playing on centre court of Tokyo’s Ariake Tennis Park on Sunday, Auger-Aliassime was eliminated in just under two hours by a player ranked 190th in the world who was not even scheduled to compete.

Australian Max Purcell, replacing the injured Andy Murray, upset the 15th-ranked Canadian in straight sets 6-4, 7-6 (2) in the first round.

The 20-year-old Auger-Aliassime never got into any kind of rhythm, except for a three-game winning streak that saw him go from down 1-3 to up 4-3 in the second set.

The Montrealer’s performance otherwise did not live up to expectations.

“It’s difficult to explain,” said the ninth-seeded Auger-Aliassime a few minutes after the loss. “You have to give credit to Max for playing such a good match. Even if he’s more of a doubles player, he’s dangerous, he serves well.

“Despite everything, I still had chances to do better in this match. I had a very bad service game in the first set, which cost me. After that, I did not find ways to get back into the match. A little in the second set, but it was not enough.”

Purcell broke the Canadian to take a 4-3 lead in the first set and won all four points in the next game to go up 5-3.

“I played with confidence,” said Purcell. “I just had two great tournaments in singles. I won a Challenger just last week.

“I need to make the most every time I get in. I went out there thinking I could win, and I think I had just as much to lose as Felix in my mind.”

The Australian earned another break early in the second set to take a 3-1 lead. Auger-Aliassime then strung together his best tennis of the encounter, winning three games in a row to give renewed hope to his team gathered around the court.

But it was short-lived. The two players exchanged serves until the tiebreaker, where Auger-Aliassime fell flat.

“You always have to try to find solutions, to adapt,” said the Canadian. “It’s difficult, we don’t always play our best tennis. That was the case today.

“My first service game has been good. There was no reason (to struggle today). In training (Saturday), I served well. (Sunday,) I didn’t have a lot of good first serves, I couldn’t find the right pace.

“In the second set I started to serve better, but it was almost too late. He had gained confidence, he was leading the game and I was going through it. I tried to find solutions, but it didn’t work out.”

Auger-Aliassime was supposed to face Murray, but the two-time defending Olympic champion withdrew a few hours before his clash with the Quebecer.

Murray, 104th in the world, suffered a quadriceps injury in his right leg. He is still lined up to play the doubles portion of the tournament with teammate Joe Salisbury.

“It’s not easy for anybody, adjusting at the last second,” said Frank Dancevic, Auger-Aliassime’s coach. “You think you’re going to play one guy and somebody else comes, a different game style than Andy. So it was just a little bit of mental adjustment.”

Auger-Aliassime now turns his attention to mixed doubles, which kicks off later this week, with teammate Gabriela Dabrowski of Ottawa.

“It doesn’t change that much for me. Whether I play against Andy or Max, I had to play a good game” said Auger-Aliassime. “I would have had to find solutions.

“It for sure hurts. Coming here, I had the possibility of having a better tournament. Leaving so early is a bit unexpected and I am very disappointed. I have to accept it and I will try to bounce back in the mixed doubles.”

Purcell will next face Germany’s Dominik Koepfer, who downed Argentina’s Facundo Bagnis 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 25, 2021.

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