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Byfield Leads the Way in Dominant Win Over Switzerland – VOCM



Alex Newhook, Dawson Mercer and Team Canada are enjoying a rest day after a dominant 10-0 win over the Swiss last night.

Quinton Byfield led the way with two goals and four assists, elevating Canada to a 3-0 record.

Newfoundlanders Alex Newhook and Dawson Mercer didn’t score in the win, but Newhook picked up two assists.

Canada gets the day off today in preparation for their final game of the preliminary round against Finland at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow.

A win over Finland locks Canada into first place in Group A.

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Stanley Johnson turns the tides as Toronto’s defense recovers against the Miami Heat – Raptors Republic



The game, as so many Toronto Raptors games do this season, was drifting out of reach like a released helium balloon. The Raptors had allowed the Miami Heat to fight back into the game during the third quarter, as Toronto’s previous offensive fluidity froze stiff and solid. The Raptors couldn’t break inside the arc. They came to rely on difficult shots. Sometimes they went in, as Chris Boucher hit a triple, then OG Anunoby a late-clock, side-step one of his own. Norman Powell hit a one-legged 18-foot (!) floater.

Such heroics kept the Heat at bay. But if Toronto couldn’t find a way to score against Miami’s zone, then they weren’t going to win the game. When the fourth quarter started, Andre Iguodala and Kendrick Nunn began to heat up for Miami, and the game seemed eerily similar to the first Toronto-Miami game, one in which the Raptors led for much of the game before eventually sputtering before the finish line.

Then Stanley Johnson made his mark.

First he hit a moonwalk triple as he slid back to the right corner and received a pass from the driving Terence Davis. It had been the first instance of paint penetration in what felt like hours; the Raptors had endured yet another stretch of three-plus minutes scoring in the third quarter that allowed the Heat to tie the game at 61-apiece, making this their fourth game of the season with such an ignominious stretch. Yet Johnson’s triple put the Raptors ahead by 11. Even more than that, it was Toronto’s first shot out of a solid offensive possession in the half-court for some time.

Johnson didn’t stop there. A minute later he saw Chris Boucher cutting along the baseline and knifed a pass through the zone for the dunk. To my eyes, it was one of the only baskets Toronto scored all game off a cut. Johnson wasn’t all that impressed with himself and explained it to me in simple terms.

They’re looking at the people they’re guarding or looking at the ball,” explained Johnson. “So Chris makes a cut, two people looking at the ball, I can throw it right between them.”

“That’s what we’re supposed to be doing. It’s not really difficult to beat a 2-3 zone. I think all of us have played against it our whole lives, but we got to stick to the script and do what we are supposed to do.”

A minute after that, Johnson caught the ball in the middle of the zone. That position had been Toronto’s only chance at good offense against the Heat’s zone throughout the night, and Johnson took advantage. He took one dribble, sucking in the wing defender, and immediately pivoted to hit Anunoby for an open triple, one of the five he hit on the night. Johnson only finished with three points and three assist, but his contributions came at a key point in the game, only a few nights after Toronto folded in a similar situation.

Toronto put the game away as the stars did the last of the heavy lifting. Anunoby flew for a dunk (an alley-oop, in fact, assisted by Jonson); Siakam took a charge; VanVleet stole the ball for a pick-six layup. But it was Johnson who held the team up in the moment when it seemed they may flounder.

Of course, Johnson may have kept the Raptors afloat offensively for one brief stretch, but the team as a whole was a mirror image of itself defensively. Entering the game, Nick Nurse was as curt and forthright as he has ever been with media members.

Normally you can walk out of there and say at least we were putting an effort out there,” said Nurse. “It’s too bad because I think we played really hard for about six or seven straight games. We were building and building and building and building, and it kind of culminated with that defensive effort against Dallas. And then there was just nothing there the other night. It’s hard to explain. It just happens.

But it’s unacceptable.”

Norman Powell said after the game that it constituted one of the two or three proper bouts of criticism Nurse gives per year. And, according to Powell, it was “definitely warranted.”

To the team’s credit, they responded to Nurse’s public prodding. Siakam played his best defensive game of the season. He played with effort and attention to detail, and with his physical gifts and incredible mind on the defensive end, he is able to stop almost any matchup. He switched freely from guards to bigs, and Toronto was all the better for it.

Siakam wasn’t alone. Aron Baynes played his best game of the season. He bullied Bam Adebayo on the defensive end and grabbed available rebounds with both hands. He finished with two blocks, six boards, and a made triple, as Toronto won his minutes by a solid five points. OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet returned to their brilliant defensive ways. In general, the team was itself again.

If you’re counting at home, Toronto now has two statement wins over good teams in the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat. Yes, ignore the fact that both teams were down approximately half the rotation. But the Raptors are rapidly becoming themselves again. And at 6-9 in the standings, the Raptors are only two games out of fifth place in the East.

The bad vibes that haunted Toronto’s early season may not be over, but it’s clear that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, if we aren’t already there. You can credit Stanley Johnson’s steady and timely play against the Heat as a key reason why the Raptors prevailed in this one, but so too has his solidification in the roster been a key reason why the Raptors may now be out of the tunnel.

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Hank Aaron, model of baseball consistency, made showing up for work a heroic gesture – The Globe and Mail



Atlanta Braves’ Hank Aaron eyes the flight of the ball after hitting his 715th career homer in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Atlanta on April 8, 1974.

The Associated Press

In the first of what would become a volume’s worth of hagiographical profiles written about him in Sports Illustrated, the scene is set with Hank Aaron arriving at spring training. It was 1956. Mr. Aaron was 22.

Mr. Aaron sauntered – the magazine’s word, not mine – up to the plate. He’d borrowed a bat from a teammate. He took no practice cuts. He stepped in and knocked the first three pitches out of the park.

Then he turned to no one in particular and said, “Ol’ Hank is ready.”

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No ballplayer in history was more ready for his moment than Henry Louis (Hank) Aaron. He didn’t just singlehandedly pulp the record books. He wasn’t just the best right-handed hitter in baseball history.

What made Mr. Aaron special was that he did those things while a good chunk of the paying public rooted against him, many in the ugliest terms imaginable. He turned the simple act of showing up for work each day into a heroic gesture.

Mr. Aaron’s family announced on Friday that he’d died. No cause of death was released. He was 86.

Just two weeks ago, reporters were on hand as he got the coronavirus vaccine. It was Mr. Aaron’s hope that seeing him get the shot would encourage other Black Americans to do likewise.

“I feel quite proud of myself for doing something like this,” Mr. Aaron told the Associated Press. “It’s just a small thing that can help zillions of people in this country.”

For the majority of his major-league career, the most remarkable thing about Mr. Aaron was how a player this good could be so unremarkable.

He wasn’t a preener or a showboat. He wasn’t a big, imposing man, or especially fast. When people talked about his superpower, it was his wrists. He had unusually large wrists, allowing him to throw the bat forward like a spinning airplane propeller.

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Like many others in his generation, Mr. Aaron came up poor in the Deep South. He taught himself to hit cross-handed – left hand over right. Because he couldn’t afford a bat or a ball, he honed his ability hitting bottle caps with whittled-down sticks.

Mr. Aaron began his pro career as a teenager in the Negro Leagues, five years after Jackie Robinson had broken Major League Baseball’s colour barrier.

He would later recall a team meal at a diner in Washington. After they’d finished, the waitstaff took their plates into the back and shattered them.

Atlanta Braves employees place flowers next to a portrait of Mr. Aaron outside Truist Park, in Atlanta on Jan. 22, 2021.

John Bazemore/The Associated Press

“If dogs had eaten off those plates, they’d have washed them,” Mr. Aaron said.

After a year, he signed with the Milwaukee (later Atlanta) Braves.

Mr. Aaron was not a name-up-in-neon performer. He didn’t put up circus numbers. His calling card was consistency. He had no good years or bad years. He had Hank Aaron-type years, every year.

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How consistent was he? Mr. Aaron got most-valuable-player votes in 19 consecutive seasons.

How underrated was he? Despite setting the all-time career marks in runs batted in, extra-base hits and total bases, he was only named MVP once.

Because the Braves weren’t nearly as great as he was, Mr. Aaron didn’t bob to the surface of the American imagination until he was 37 years old. That’s when he began closing in on Babe Ruth’s all-time home-run record.

Mr. Aaron hit his 600th homer in April, 1971. He wouldn’t pass the Babe’s mark – 714 – for nearly three seasons.

During that time, Mr. Aaron became the most famous, the most discussed and the most resented athlete in America.

The racial abuse he faced was medieval. He had to hire an assistant to sort his correspondence – a few fan notes and a great mountain of hate mail.

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The bile of his often anonymous persecutors was so overflowing, they started sending death threats to his assistant as well, because she was Jewish.

Some of the threats were so detailed the FBI advised Mr. Aaron to hire a bodyguard. For security reasons, he couldn’t stay in the same hotels as his teammates. He spent some nights bunking alone in empty ballparks. His children required their own protective details.

Mr. Aaron never showed much interest in Mr. Ruth’s record while he was reeling it in, but he refused to be cowed for going to work every night.

“It wasn’t just playing against Babe Ruth,” teammate Dusty Baker said later. “He was playing against parts of America.”

He hit his 713th homer on the second-to-last day of the 1973 season. That extended the chase another six excruciating months. During that time, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote his obituary, just in case.

Mr. Aaron broke the record on April 8, 1974 – the fourth game of the season. He drove the second pitch of an at-bat just over the left-field fence into the bullpen.

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The man who surrendered the hit, Los Angeles Dodgers starter Al Downing, had a long and laurelled career. But in that moment, Mr. Downing realized he’d become the answer to an obscure piece of bar trivia.

“If you don’t want to give up home runs,” Mr. Downing shrugged. “Don’t pitch.”

Most baseball fans can recall from memory Mr. Aaron’s loping run around the bases. His parents met him at the plate. Only once he’d laid his eyes on them did he seem excited.

Les Motes and his two-year-old daughter Mahalia leave flowers near the spot where a ball hit for a home run by Mr. Aaron, clearing the wall to break Babe Ruth’s career home run record in 1974.

John Bazemore/The Associated Press

Interviewed a short while later, Mr. Aaron appeared to take little joy in his achievement. The best he could come up with was, “Thank God, it’s over.”

Mr. Aaron played two more years, but his career effectively ended that night. He’d dragged baseball – some of it unwillingly – from one era into the next.

In retirement, Mr. Aaron became one of the game’s wise men. A consensus became to form around him – that he was the professional’s idea of how a professional ballplayer ought to comport himself.

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He worked for years in the front office of the Atlanta Braves. He lent his name to charitable causes, especially those involving children. He owned an eponymous string of car dealerships.

Eventually, Barry Bonds – aided by more than bottle-cap practice – overtook Mr. Aaron’s career home-run mark of 755. This was in the teeth of the steroid era. Everyone knew what was going on, but no one could figure out what to do about it.

Mr. Aaron wasn’t there the night Mr. Bonds broke his record, but he did pre-tape a video tribute.

Mr. Aaron – a man who’d built his legend on the simple rule of showing up and doing a day’s work for a day’s pay – never bad-mouthed Mr. Bonds. He also never made much of a secret of what he thought of his approach to the game.

Long after he’d finished playing, Mr. Aaron kept the hate mail he’d received during the pursuit of Mr. Ruth’s mark. He would show it to startled friends, and occasionally sit with it alone in his attic.

“We have moved in the right direction, and there have been improvements, but we still have a long ways to go in this country,” Mr. Aaron told an interviewer in 2014. “The bigger difference is that back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts.”

Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, the quiet, unassuming slugger who broke Babe Ruth’s supposedly unbreakable record for most home runs in a career and battled racism in the process, died on Friday at age 86. Reuters

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Jets’ Cheveldayoff flips risk-averse script with bold Dubois-Laine trade –



WINNIPEG — This is the deal that could end up defining Kevin Cheveldayoff’s tenure as general manager of the Winnipeg Jets.

When you make a bold trade that ships out a popular player with the potential to win the Rocket Richard Trophy and toss in another former first round selection as part of the package, there is going to be some backlash from the passionate fan base.

That’s part of the job description and comes with the territory.

When it comes to the previous nine years that Cheveldayoff has been at the helm of the Jets, he was been viewed as one of the most conservative general managers in the NHL.

To say he’s been risk-averse would be putting it mildly.

That approach was by design, and it has mostly served the organization well when it comes to the building process.

But to this point, the Jets have won just two playoff series and the bulk of this core group is under contract for the next four seasons.

This isn’t a time to rebuild; the time to try and take the next step is right now.

Prior to Saturday morning, there had been just one blockbuster on Cheveldayoff’s resume and that deal with the Buffalo Sabres was mostly borne out of necessity (headlined by Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and Tyler Myers).

The move to acquire Pierre-Luc Dubois and a third-rounder from the Columbus Blue Jackets for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic eclipses that one immediately.

“To get a top centre in this environment is virtually unheard of, and that’s why the bidding was fast and furious,” Cheveldayoff said. “We wouldn’t have moved a Patrik Laine for anyone that didn’t fit that certain criteria of a top cenetreman or a top defenceman. When that opportunity presented itself, I felt it was necessary that we made that move.”

The departure of Laine caused a pair of teammates to be openly emotional after the deal became official.

“He cares a lot,” Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers said. “This is obviously the tough side of the business. He’s a guy that I’ve had a really good relationship with since my second year, since his first year. We were roommates together on the first road trip. We’ve been brothers since Day 1, so this is not very fun but like I said before, it’s part of the business. It’s the way it goes.”

Jets captain Blake Wheeler was reflective and that’s not a surprise. He’s got some experience in what Laine is going through, dating back to his time being dealt by the Boston Bruins to the Atlanta Thrashers in 2011.

Wheeler knows first-hand what going to a place with increased opportunity can mean for someone’s career. He has also watched Laine put in work and begin to grow into the dominant player he’s always been projected to be.

Now Laine’s talent — which is closer to a finished product — will be on display for a team other than the Jets.

“A young man who almost won the goal-scoring title. We connected on a lot of big goals,” Wheeler said. “We tried to give him the puck on the power play every chance we got. He’s a guy that’s very powerful and he’s starting to tap into that a little bit. So, I’ll have nothing but good memories of the time spent on the ice with Patty, and some of the steps we were able to take as a team and an organization, they all included his time here. I’ll be cheering for him, there’s no doubt, no doubt about that.

“I won’t lie. It’s kind of sad. Just rewind four years ago and the excitement when we drafted (Laine) and the steps our organization has taken and he’s a big part of that. It’s disappointing to be having this conversation. It’s the nature of pro sports and for our organization, we move forward.”

Usage has often been at the heart of the discussion when it comes to Laine.

With a top unit of Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor and Wheeler entrenched ahead of him on the depth chart, Laine has been used mostly on the second line – though he spent the bulk of last season on the top group when Wheeler moved down to play centre after the head injury to Bryan Little.

Laine was the focal point of the Jets’ power play, but his game had grown to a point where he wanted more responsibility and ice time.

Barring a change in philosophy, that wasn’t going to happen with the Jets. If it eventually did, Laine would have viewed it as a gesture that was too little, too late.

This trade includes risk for both teams, there is little doubt about that.

What this ultimately boils down to is that Laine’s time with the Jets was going to be over next off-season and there was no long-term extension on the horizon.

Sure, the Jets had two more years of team control, but holding onto him was simply delaying the inevitable departure.

The end was near and the availability of Dubois simply sped up the process.

As for Roslovic, he had also grown tired of waiting for an enhanced role – though he must bear some responsibility as several of his peers moved past him on the depth chart.

No franchise whose foundation begins as a draft-and-development team wants to ship two recent first-rounders out in any deal.

To a certain degree, it’s an attack on the fundamental values the Jets pride themselves on.

Since the return of the Jets 2.0 edition in 2011, the number of first-round picks that have been moved out via trade or waived includes Bogosian (2008), Evander Kane (2009), Alex Burmistrov (2010), Jacob Trouba (2012), Roslovic (2015) and Laine (2016).

The circumstances surrounding all of those players were different, but in each case, ice time or role was definitely part of the equation.

There is always going to be some turnover and roster churn — that’s the nature of the business.

Not all first-liners grow into stars. Some become depth players and others don’t pan out at all.

There are a finite number of spots available on either the top two lines or the top defence pairing — multiple players are always going to believe they aren’t playing enough or being paid enough.

However, the exit of first-rounders is a trend the Jets can’t afford to have continue — especially when attracting premier free agents is a challenge and many players still have the Jets featured prominently on no-trade clauses.

It should also be noted that the number of first-rounders to commit to long-term deals includes Scheifele (2011), Josh Morrissey (2013), Nikolaj Ehlers (2014) and Kyle Connor (2015).

So, it’s an exaggeration to say that nobody is happy here and everyone wants out.

There is no guarantee this trade is going to work out for Cheveldayoff and company — but this isn’t Teemu Selanne for Chad Kilger and Oleg Tverdovsky, either.

Based on his development, Laine might not be far away from winning his first of multiple Rocket Richard trophies. He’s a budding superstar with personality to match his ability.

Roslovic has the talent to grow into a 20-goal scorer, but it’s up to him to find another level and increase his consistency.

The Jets can’t worry about what is going to come next for Laine and Roslovic, though you can be sure the fan base — and the court of public opinion — will be keeping score.

Is there a benefit to shipping those players to an Eastern Conference team that usually only makes one trip per season to Winnipeg?

Perhaps, but that wasn’t a driving force toward pushing the deal through.

The only thing that matters to the Jets is what Dubois does for his new team — and most importantly, whether he can be convinced to stick around.

Given their experience level and upside, Scheifele and Dubois form a dynamic one-two punch that will anchor the top two lines.

No, the final shift Dubois took as a member of the Blue Jackets wasn’t pretty, and the video evidence was available for all to see.

In talking to various people in many hockey circles this weekend, that snapshot doesn’t change the perception of the type of individual the Jets are bringing in.

Dubois won’t be judged on that action alone, but on his body of work — and that includes plenty of impeccable references.

“I don’t know what went on there. I know you get the camera on him and you decide what you see,” Maurice said. “None of us were a part of what went on there. You have no idea what went on in the background, so I’d be very careful with my character assassinations before I get to meet the man.

“He’ll walk in here, he’ll present himself, we’ll accept him with open arms as we always do with new players and we’ll judge him by how he becomes a Winnipeg Jet.”

In the short term, the Jets gain some salary cap flexibility and an additional year of team control when you compare Dubois (pending UFA in 2024) and Laine (pending UFA in 2023).

That’s helpful for the time being, but the quickest way for this trade to be deemed a success is if Dubois signs an extension (though that window doesn’t open up until July 28) and blossoms into a star.

With this move, the Jets won’t need to pursue a trade to add centre depth like they’ve gone out and done in each of the past three seasons.

By strengthening themselves down the middle, the Jets have taken an important — and necessary — step to widening their collective window of contention.

It came at a significant cost, but this blockbuster was a risk worth taking for the Jets.

That’s why Cheveldayoff came out of character and pulled the trigger.

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