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Canadian athletes cautioned on speaking out at Beijing Olympics – The Globe and Mail

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People walk near the Olympic Tower during an organized media tour in Beijing, on Jan. 22, 2021.

TINGSHU WANG/Reuters

Canada’s Olympic organizers will warn athletes to watch what they say in China next year, out of fear of a national security law in Hong Kong that has been used to arrest Beijing’s critics.

“There have been dissidents in Hong Kong who have been taken away and charged for saying things that have been contrary to the Communist Party of the Chinese government’s policies,” said David Shoemaker, chief executive officer of the Canadian Olympic Committee.

“So we will talk to our athletes about the implications of what they say and of the topics that they choose to speak about.”

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Athletes have the right to speak freely, Mr. Shoemaker said in an interview with The Globe and Mail, in which he expressed opposition to calls for a boycott of the Beijing Olympic Winter Games next February. Such an action is unlikely to affect Chinese policies toward Muslims or its incarceration of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, he said – and, he added, could even make things worse for the two detained Canadians.

By attending the Olympics, athletes can be part of “the most spectacular sporting event in the world that unites and inspires and amplifies diverse voices,” he said. In Beijing, they “can be part of a conversation.”

Canadian Olympic Committee board member rejects calls for boycott of Beijing Olympics

No cheering, no bars, less intimacy to ensure safe Olympics

But before they go, the Canadian Olympic Committee will also spend “a considerable amount of time” counselling Olympians on what “they might consider not commenting on, perhaps, at least until after the Games have taken place,” he said. “Because of the implications that that could have for them under things like the national security law.”

Mr. Shoemaker is the former CEO of the National Basketball Association in China, which became a target for Chinese reprisal after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey posted to Twitter in October, 2019, a single image that said: “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong.” His quick deletion of the tweet did not stop Chinese broadcasters from refusing to air NBA games, companies from cancelling NBA sponsorship or vendors from selling league merchandise. Chinese online giant Tencent did not resume streaming Rockets games until this January, following a 15-month blackout.

It was a vivid example of China’s willingness to mix sport and politics.

Since then, human-rights advocates and some parliamentarians have urged the Canadian Olympic Committee do the same, with calls for a boycott of the 2022 Games. Withdrawing would, they say, serve as a loud protest against a Chinese government that has overseen a dramatic erosion of civil liberties in Hong Kong, the mass incarceration of Uyghurs and other Muslim groups in the Xinjiang region, and the detention of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor in what has widely been seen as an act of political hostage-taking. Wednesday marked Mr. Kovrig’s third birthday behind bars.

But Mr. Shoemaker rejected the idea of a boycott, saying such actions unfairly punish athletes and don’t work.

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“I don’t think Canadians want the CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee to be the minister of foreign affairs for a day or two and pretending to be an expert in diplomacy,” Mr. Shoemaker said. A boycott would amount to “a politically inexpensive alternative to real and meaningful diplomacy – because you can call for a boycott and not have to frankly do anything else,” he said.

In China, meanwhile, “I worry, frankly, that not going would be perceived as a grand insult and would worsen the chance of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig being released any time soon.”

Additionally, he said, history suggests Olympic boycotts are ineffective. In 1980, Canada joined the United States and others in refusing to attend the Summer Olympics in Moscow in protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. But Soviet forces remained in Afghanistan for nearly a decade after those Games.

“I do not see any indication that the boycott had any impact on the Soviet behaviour in Afghanistan or the fall of the USSR,” although it’s possible it contributed to the Soviet decision not to invade Poland, said Serhii Plokhy, a Harvard historian who is author of The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union.

The family of Mr. Kovrig said it sees little value in discussing a Beijing Olympic boycott.

“My interest is in the earliest liberation of Michael,” said his father, Bennett Kovrig. “Any talk about an eventual boycott strikes me as irrelevant and misconceived. I have no reason to believe that such a threat would move China and be in Michael’s interest.”

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Olympics “promote peace and unity around the world. And I would want Canadian athletes who work very, very hard to be able to participate in that,” said Vina Nadjibulla, who is married to Mr. Kovrig and has been an advocate for his release, although the two are separated.

In Canada’s Uyghur community, however, some say attending the Beijing Olympics would amount to betraying what the country stands for.

“Athletes represent their country’s values. They are the symbol of pride of their nation,” said Rukiye Turdush, an activist who is president of the East Turkestan Information Center.

“Participating in the Olympics in a country where genocide is ongoing is not something that makes Canadians feel proud and inspired. Instead, it makes us feel shame.”

The U.S. State Department and a Canadian parliamentary subcommittee have accused China of committing genocide in Xinjiang.

Beijing’s actions in recent years “meet the test fully” for a boycott, said John Higginbotham, a retired Canadian diplomat who has advocated a Beijing boycott. “What more do we need? Public executions of the Michaels?”

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The Flames' warmup was a complete trainwreck – Yahoo Canada Sports

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Milan Lucic’s face says it all.

There’s warmup, warmies, warm-ups, and whatever the hell this is.

It’s been anything but smooth sailing the past couple weeks for the free-falling Flames, and it looks like we’ve officially reached the almost-comical stage of Calgary’s struggles as evident by the team’s absolutely ridiculous performance in their pre-game twirl on Monday.

Hoping to avoid getting pounded by the lowly Ottawa Senators for the second time in three games — which, spoiler, didn’t happen — the Flames hit the ice in body but never really in mind, as an absurd and unfortunate sequence of brain farts, errors and bad luck soiled the team’s warmup and set the tone for another embarrassing L.

First, we have defenceman Juuso Valimaki and goaltender David Rittich just unnecessarily bumping into each other and carrying on with their respective days. Then, the camera ever-so-subtly spots Milan Lucic taking a seat in the corner after catching a rut and bailing head-first into the boards.

Rasmus Andersson and Nikita Nesterov then brainlessly collided in the neutral zone, with both hitting the deck and landing in a pile of mildly scattered pucks, before a scary incident capped a nightmarish 12-minute stretch for Calgary with Johnny Gaudreau launching a careless backhander straight into the face of bucketless linemate Sean Monahan, who was shaken up and had to leave the ice.

The complete circus predictably carried over into the game as the Flames laid an egg straight from the get-go, losing 5-1 while producing a plethora of defensive blunders and getting chewed up in battles all over the ice.

The Flames, who have dropped six of their last eight contests, including a pair of brutal losses to the Sens and a 7-1 L to the Oilers, need to figure it out pretty, pretty soon.

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Hutchinson's performance, defensive effort lead Maple Leafs to another shutout vs. Oilers – Toronto Sun

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Morgan Rielly figuratively grabbed the mic late on Monday night.

“I just want to open it up with comments about our goalies,” the Maple Leafs defenceman said, before taking questions from media, after Toronto beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-0 at Rogers Place. “The last two (games) they have been outstanding. I don’t think they get enough credit.

“Soup and Hutchy have been outstanding for us all year, and two games in a row against a good team has been a huge boost.”

Who would argue?

Michael Hutchinson made 31 saves for his sixth shutout in the National Hockey League, two nights after Jack Campbell stopped all 30 Oilers shots in a 4-0 Leafs win.

The Leafs blanked the same team in back-to-back games for the 10th time in franchise history (including playoffs) and for the first time in the regular season since November 1954, when they shut out Detroit in consecutive games.

The two victories marked the first time since Jan. 31-Feb. 1, 2018, that the Leafs registered back-to-back shutouts.

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This time around, it was all the more impressive considering it came against Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the top two scorers in the NHL.

“We’re getting to the point where we’re proving that we’re a team that can defend well, and I think that’s a big part of our success as a team,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said.

“Given the injuries and the adversity we’ve faced, especially in these two games, it really calls upon the team to step up and and play a good team game and, in particular, defend.”

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The Leafs (17-4-2, 36 points) opened a six-point lead on the second-place Florida Panthers for first overall in the NHL and an eight-point lead on the Oilers for first in the North Division.

The Leafs again stuffed the Oilers without Auston Matthews, who missed his second game in a row with a wrist/hand injury, and without No. 1 goalie Frederik Andersen for a fourth consecutive game with a lower-body issue.

Both remain day-to-day, but it’s not clear whether either will play on Wednesday night when the Leafs and Oilers finish their three-game set.

“We’re just waiting for the strength to come back,” Keefe said of Matthews. “It is a little bit of a different situation he’s dealing with than what it was previously for him. That was just a nagging thing, this is a little bit of a different situation. But he is progressing.”

Campbell on Saturday aggravated the lower body injury that had kept him out since Jan. 24.

“You go through your practice sessions and he was feeling really good, but game conditions are a whole different beast and it didn’t respond,” Keefe said. “We’re taking it a day at a time.”

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Hutchinson improved to 3-1 with a .943 save percentage. Combined, Hutchinson and Campbell are 6-1-0.

The Leafs figured the Oilers were going to have some initial fire after getting nothing on Saturday night, and they were right.

Hutchinson made a point-blank save on Dominik Kahun and then denied a streaking McDavid, who blew past Justin Holl with ease, before the Leafs had registered a shot on Oilers starter Mikko Koskinen.

McDavid led the Oilers with six shots on goal but was held without a point in consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 18-20, 2019.

“It’s nice to feel the puck early on,” Hutchinson said. “When McDavid came flying down on that one in the first period, it was a good wakeup call for me, seeing how fast he is right off the hop, and trying to be prepared for that for the rest of the game.

“We came on strong in the first period. In the second half of it, and we really controlled the play. We were able to score some key goals and go from there.”

The Leafs scored on their first two shots on Koskinen, as Zach Hyman scored on a backhand at 7:19 and William Nylander did the same at 10:20. Rielly, who assisted on Hyman’s goal, scored on a power play at 18:07 of the first when his point shot went off Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse.

Mike Smith replaced Koskinen to start the second, but the change didn’t have an impact on the home team.

Rielly’s two points gave him 17 in his past 17 games.

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Toronto was strong on the penalty-kill, going 4-for-4. The Leafs might not have been as air-tight as they were in their win on Saturday, but Hutchinson was sharp when required.

“To have these two results through the first two games of this trip is a positive sign for us,” Keefe said. “I didn’t like our game as much as I did the other night, yet our guys played hard. We defended our net very well.

“It felt like one of those nights, just the way (Hutchinson) was moving in the net, the saves he was making, it gave me the confidence that they were going to have to do a lot to score one. He was terrific. It was fun to watch him.”

tkoshan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/koshtorontosun

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Batherson scores two more as Senators beat Flames – TSN

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OTTAWA — Drake Batherson scored a pair of goals for the Ottawa Senators in a 5-1 win Monday over the visiting Calgary Flames.

With seven goals in his last six games, the 22-year-old Batherson matched the franchise record held by Jason Spezza for the longest goal streak.

“I don’t know. Everything I’m just shooting is going in,” Batherson said. “Boys are making some great plays for me. The second one was lucky tonight.”

Colin White, with an empty-net goal, Artem Anisimov and Evgenii Dadanov also scored for the Senators (8-15-1). Tim Stutzle had two assists in Ottawa’s fourth win in its last five games.

Matt Murray, who was pulled in Saturday’s 6-3 loss to the Flames, stopped 27-of-28 shots for the win including all 22 he faced in the first and third period.

“He was dialed in right from the get go,” Senators head coach D.J. Smith sad. “He was even better there in the third.

“He gave our team a chance to get our feet going and certainly was the best player on the ice for us.”

Milan Lucic scored for the Flames (10-11-2), while David Rittich made 31 saves in his fifth straight start.

After White’s empty-netter, Dadanov scored with Rittich back in net at 17:47 of the third.

“We didn’t sit back in the third,” Batherson said. “We kept it going so it was perfect.”

Ottawa capitalized on a pair of Calgary mistakes and outshot the visitors 22-6 in the second period to lead 3-1 heading into the third.

Rittich put a clearing attempt on the stick of Batherson at the face-off circle. The right-winger whipped the puck by the Calgary goaltender’s pad at 11:44 for his second of the game and first career multi-goal game.

Lucic had just pulled the Flames within a goal scoring on the power play at 10:20. He collected his own rebound and his shot that went off a Senators skate slid by Murray’s outstretched pad.

Batherson made it 2-0 at 8:26 with a high shot from the high slot.

Anisimov scored his first of the season at 6:22 off a Flames turnover in the neutral zone where Sam Bennett overskated a Lucic pass.

Stutzle dished to Anisimov, whose shot deflected off a stick and by Rittich.

“We shot ourselves in the foot an awful lot,” Flames head coach Geoff Ward said. “I thought our first period was good.”

The Flames outshot the Senators 12-7 in a scoreless first period in which both teams failed to convert a power-play chance.

Calgary’s pre-game warmup was adventurous. Defencemen Nikita Nesterov and Rasmus Andersson collided and went down near the blue-line.

A helmetless Sean Monahan took a puck to the face during warmup, but played in the game.

The Flames capped a 10-day, six-game road trip 2-3-1.

“We had an opportunity tonight to get off the road trip above .500 but we didn’t get it done,” Ward said.

“We’ve got to find the answers. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. We’ve got to come up with the solutions ourselves. As a team we’ve got to be more committed to playing the game the right way.”

The Sens start their own six-game road swing Tuesday facing the Montreal Canadiens before heading to Calgary for Thursday’s rematch with the Flames.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021.

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