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Canada gets off on right foot in World Cup qualifying by sweeping Bahamas – Sportsnet.ca

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Mission accomplished — or at least Stage 1 of the mission.

The senior men’s national team will spread to the four corners of the globe having swept both games from the Bahamas and to get off on the right foot in qualifying for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup. Canada is 2-0 in Group C after following up their 42-point win over Bahamas on Sunday with a 113-77 win in the second game.

The next qualifying window is Feb. 24-28, so it will be nicer for all concerned to sit on a pair of strong wins for the next three months than the alternative.

Canada was a big favourite and played like it. Their plus-78 point differential could be helpful too in any tiebreaker scenarios.

It was tougher than Sunday’s game with the Bahamas pushing the pace and hurting Canada in transition and on the offensive glass. It was a 12-point game at half and an eight-point game early in the third quarter before Canada separated themselves with an 18-4 run that carried them home.

Kyle Wiltjer led Canada in scoring once again as he put up 25 points in 25 minutes, but he had help as Canada shot 17-of-34 from deep with seven different players counting at least one triple. Canada held Bahamas to just 40 per cent shooting in the second half.

Takeaways:

• There are some merits to the current qualifying format – the soccer-style windows format that spreads the competition over a couple of years compared to the old method where teams would gather for a two-week “Tournament of the Americas” to determine who advanced to the World Cup the following summer. The current version allows more players and coaches to be exposed to the national team program and it helps keep the international conversation going throughout the year, compared to loading it all into the summers.

But man, does it have flaws, and they impact Canada more than any other country as their pros have to travel from Europe and back for a pair of games. It’s no big deal for European teams to assemble during the qualifying windows. How tough was it for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s national team to travel to Bulgaria, or the Netherlands to huff it to Italy? Not that tough.

But how would you like to be Canada’s Anthony Bennett stuffing his 6-foot-8, 270-pound frame into a plane for a 14,230 km trip back to his club team in Jerusalem from Santo Domingo? Or 6-foot-9 Wiltjer buckling up to meet his Turkish team in Spain? Or Kenny Chery and Phil Scrubb sorting out their itinerary from the 13,000 km trip from the Dominican Republic to Saratov, Russia?

That’s why I never take for granted when Canadian athletes make the effort to play for the national team in these windows. It’s no small commitment.

• During the qualifying process for the 2019 World Cup, Canada used 35 different players over six different windows, spread over 15 months. The depth of your program is key. That’s why it was so impressive to see the way the likes of Aaron Best, Kassius Robertson and Bennett played coming off the bench for head coach Nate Bjorkgren.

Best has a G-League season under his belt and has played in some good leagues in Europe but is without a contract at the moment. You wouldn’t know it as Best followed up his 21-point outing Sunday with 10 points and three steals in his 20 minutes; Robertson is a “never leave him” type of deep threat who shot 6-of-13 from three while putting up 24 points over the two games and Bennett chipped in eight points, eight rebounds and a pair of assists Monday, playing easily and unselfishly off the bench.

Who knows if any of the trio will be part of the World Cup team in 2023, but Canada will need those kinds of contributions to get there.

• It’s hard to get easily accessible information on FIBA competition — or at least information that’s easily compiled — so I’m not sure exactly how many games Phil and Tommy Scrubb have played for Canada, but it’s a lot. And so often they deliver.

While Wiltjer has grabbed his share of his attention for his knack for scoring at better than a point per minute and Chery was excellent in both games, Phil Scrubb was quietly superb and brother Tom at his understated best on Monday. Phil followed up his 11 assists on Sunday with a “perfect” game as he made all five of his field-goal attempts including three triples and made a pair of free throws while adding three more assists. Tom had 10 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block in his 20 minutes.

The guys know how to play and Canada is lucky to have them.

• I was really impressed with Wiltjer’s passing, which is saying something given he scored 48 points in 45 minutes on 61 per cent shooting (including 60 per cent from three) over the two games.

He had only two assists Monday, but Bahamas ran doubles at him early and often, and he got off the ball with purpose and it unlocked the Canadian offence. Several times it wasn’t his pass that led to an assist, but his quick first look that scrambled the defence and led to an open shot or lane a pass or two later.

When someone as automatic as Wiltjer can be also such a willing passer, it makes life easier for all concerned.

• The Toronto Raptors and parent company MLSE’s commitment to Canada Basketball is no small thing. From lending facilities for training to helping with marketing efforts to chipping in with funding, Canada’s NBA team has been a significant partner for the national federation.

But it’s not just in money or goods-in-kind. Having Raptors head coach Nick Nurse as the national team coach is meaningful, both for his expertise and the resources he can leverage. And it’s no small thing either that Nurse and the club would be okay to have NBA assistants Bjorkgren and Nate Mitchell leave the Raptors for a week in the middle of the season to coach in the qualifying windows – a duty Bjorkgren and Mitchell will take up again in February.

And now? Back to their day jobs. They’ll be on a flight first thing Tuesday morning and head straight to Scotiabank Arena where the Raptors host Memphis on — fittingly — Canada Basketball night.

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Tennis-Van Uytvanck tests positive for COVID after Australian Open exit

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Belgian tennis player Alison Van Uytvanck said on Sunday she had tested positive for COVID-19 after playing at the Australian Open.

“My exit test in Melbourne to go back to Belgium came back positive,” she said on social media.

“I’m isolating and following all of the requirements.”

Van Uytvanck partnered Dane Clara Tauson to a three-set loss in the opening round of the women’s doubles on Thursday on Court 14 at Melbourne Park.

Tauson played Danielle Collins in the singles on Saturday. Collins is due to play a fourth round match on Monday against Elise Mertens.

Tennis Australia has yet to respond to questions about health protocols regarding Collins.

Van Uytvanck was eliminated in the second round of the singles by China’s Wang Qiang on Wednesday.

“I have very mild symptoms and looking forward to being back stronger,” said the Belgian.

It was the third confirmed positive case of a player testing positive for the virus at the year’s opening Grand Slam.

Australian Bernard Tomic tested positive after his defeat in the qualifying stage and Frenchman Ugo Humbert said after his first-round loss that he too had tested positive.

Organisers have described their COVID-19 protocols as being “really successful” despite some top players saying there was a lack of testing at the Melbourne Park event.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; additional reporting by Courtney Walsh and Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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Canucks add goalie Spencer Martin, two assistant coaches to COVID protocol – Sportsnet.ca

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VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Canucks are down two more goalies due to COVID-19.

Head coach Bruce Boudreau says Spencer Martin has been placed in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol and Arturs Silovs of the American Hockey League’s Abbotsford Canucks has tested positive for the virus.

Martin made his debut for Vancouver on Friday, backstopping the Canucks (18-18-4) to a 2-1 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers, the NHL’s top scoring team.

Star netminder Thatcher Demko and backup Jaroslav Halak are already in protocol, so Michael DiPietro is the lone goalie available to start Sunday when the Canucks host the St. Louis Blues.

Rylan Toth of the University of B.C. Thunderbirds will act as the emergency backup goalie.

Assistant coaches Scott Walker and Kyle Gustafson have also been added to the protocol, joining Canucks forwards Bo Horvat, Conor Garland and J.T. Miller.

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Canada's Jacob Panetta suspended by ECHL, cut from team for apparent racist gesture – CBC Sports

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Warning: Content may distress some readers

The ECHL acted swiftly on Sunday, suspending defenceman Jacob Panetta indefinitely pending a hearing, for an apparent racial gesture toward opponent and fellow Canadian Jordan Subban of South Carolina Stingrays during Saturday night’s game.

Jacksonville Icemen later released Panetta, a 26-year-old from Belleville, Ont., who was in his second season with the team.

“To be clear, our core values as an ownership group include … zero tolerance for racism or any other forms of hate against any group,” Icemen chief executive officer Andy Kaufmann said in a statement. “We apologize to anyone who was offended and look forward to beginning the process of healing together as one.”

Video of the incident 23 seconds into overtime in the Florida city shows Panetta appearing to raise his arms toward his side while looking at Subban, also a defenceman and a Toronto native.

According to the Florida-Times Union newspaper in Jacksonville, the game report indicates the officiating crew assessed two game misconduct penalties to Panetta for continuing an altercation and for “inciting,” under ECHL Rule 75.5, which applies to “obscene gestures on the ice or anywhere in the rink before, during or after the game.”

After the game, Subban accused Panetta of making a monkey gesture.

His older brother P.K. Subban, an NHL defenceman with New Jersey Devils, took to Twitter to react to the incident at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.

“We all know what’s ok and what’s not,” the elder Subban wrote. “Even your own teammates wanted to see you get your clock cleaned. This happens a lot and it never gets exposed in the lower leagues. One thing that I love about this is Jordan’s teammates standing in there and showing support. Love that.”

Subban, pictured being held back by an official during Saturday’s skirmish, responded to Panetta’s apparent racial gesture on Twitter, saying ‘[Panetta] was too much of a coward to fight me.’ (Submitted by Andrew Fielder/AndrewFielderPhotography.com)

Jordan Subban, also 26, further shared some thoughts on social media.

“More like [Panetta] was too much of a coward to fight me and as soon as I began to turn my back he started making monkey gestures at me so I punched him in the face multiple times and he turtled like the coward he is,” Subban 
wrote on his Twitter account.

‘Suspend that kid for life’

“When is this ever gonna end … suspend that kid for life,” retired NHL player Georges Laraque, an inspirational figure in the effort to rid hockey of racism, wrote on Twitter Sunday before speaking with CBC News Network.

WATCH | Laraque says the ECHL is under pressure to mete out appropriate punishment:

Canadian hockey player cut from team after apparent racist gesture on ice

2 hours ago

Duration 7:19

The ECHL indefinitely suspended Canadian hockey defenceman Jacob Panetta, pending a hearing, for an apparent racist gesture toward fellow Canadian player Jordan Subban. Retired NHL player Georges Laraque shares his reaction and how the incident could affect racialized kids playing the sport. 7:19

Jacksonville currently has no Black players on its active roster after goalie Charles Williams was summoned to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League earlier this month.

Last September, American defenceman Jalen Smereck was the target of a racist taunt during a Ukrainian Hockey League game last September when an opponent mimed peeling a banana and eating it. Smereck, who is Black, later reached a “mutual agreement” with HC Donbass to terminate his contract, according to the team.

Smereck also shared his thoughts of Saturday’s occurrence on social media.

On Friday, the AHL barred San Jose Barracuda forward Krystof Hrabik for 30 games following a racial gesture toward another player earlier this month.

Earlier in the week, Boston Bruins retired the No. 22 jersey of 86-year-old Fredericton native Willie O’Ree, the first Black player to appear in an NHL game well known for trying to combat racism that still exists in the league.

The ECHL, formerly called the East Coast Hockey League, is a mid-level professional loop comprising 25 American teams and two in Canada — the St. John’s-based Newfoundland Growlers and Trois-Rivières Lions in Quebec.

The longest suspension in Icemen history is 16 games, according to the Times-Union. It was handed to Emerson Clark in January 2020 for physical abuse of an on-ice official.

The Icemen said the organization is co-operating with the ECHL’s review of the incident.

“As an organization, our fans, partners, and sponsors know our core values and we intend to make comments and decisions after completion of league review,” the team said in a statement.

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