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Canucks’ quiet leader Sutter makes presence known in steadying performance

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VANCOUVER — When coach Travis Green said the Vancouver Canucks needed their top players to be better, he probably wasn’t thinking of Brandon Sutter. But he could have been.

During the Canucks’ alarming start to the National Hockey League season, when attention has understandably been focussed on Elias Pettersson’s inability to score, J.T. Miller’s problems at even strength and the overall chaos on defence caused by turnovers, Sutter and a couple of other players near the bottom of the lineup have quietly been among the team’s best.

Monday, he wasn’t so quiet.

At the start of a very important week for the Canucks, Sutter scored his first NHL hat trick in his 735th game. Fellow grinder Tyler Motte also scored as Vancouver built an early lead and won 7-1 against the Ottawa Senators to ease, for at least a couple of days, some of the tension on the West Coast.

With conjecture percolating about the future of general manager Jim Benning, it felt perfectly scripted that Sutter, one of Benning’s least popular acquisitions, should score a hat trick to steady the team and take some of the heat off the GM.

Sutter is a pro’s pro, a guy who leads by example. But he was oversold to the market when he was acquired by Benning in 2015, and has struggled to stay healthy and score for most of the five years since then.

Teammates, however, love him.

“You never know when you’re going to get one or if you’re going to get one,” Sutter, 30, said after scoring once in each period. “It only took me 13 years. I’m pretty excited. It was a good win for our team… a little bit of confidence for our team going forward.”

It was a game that generated a lot of positive vibes for the Canucks. Rookie defenceman Olli Juoelvi scored his first NHL goal, rookie forward Nils Hoglander impressively set up Tanner Pearson on another, and Thatcher Demko made 34 saves in easily the best performance by a Vancouver goalie so far.

“It was enough is enough for me,” Demko said, relieved to improve on his 0-3 record and .866 save percentage. “First three starts of the year and not getting a win, that’s tough. That’s not the guy I want to be. I want to be a guy that’s going to get wins when the team needs it.

“(It was) the goals that I was giving up at the times I was. That was something that I really wanted to focus on. Just timely saves, making sure that when they do get chances… that I can come up big and kind of give the team a chance to pull away.”

With his team up 2-0, Demko stopped Connor Brown on a breakaway late in the first period. In the second, his point-blank save on Artem Anisimov immediately preceded Sutter’s shorthanded snipe that made it 4-1. Demko made another strong save against Josh Norris at the end of the middle period, allowing his team to comfortably go into the third and pull away.

But he was still happier for Sutter than he was for himself.

“One of the reasons why you play the game is moments like that,” Demko said. “You know he’s been around the league 13 years now, and you’re not sure if you’re going to get one. Everyone’s just really excited for him, giving him some hugs after the game.”

Demko and Braden Holtby have largely had a free pass during the Canucks’ poor start because there were so many other, more serious, problems.

But on Monday, the team was much better in front of him – albeit against a weaker opponent – and Demko provided goaltending you can win with. The Canucks need a lot more if it.

They could use more of the perfect penalty killing they had against the Senators, more of the positional discipline and composure they displayed, too. Hey, if Pettersson and the first line can start dominating at even-strength the way they did last season, everything will be fine.

“Everyone just needs to simplify,” Sutter said. “I know it sounds a little bit cliche. But when you do the right things system-wise and play the right way as a team, that’s when your highly-skilled guys kind of find their game and take over. That’s where they create their offence.”

The Senators are the only team in the Canadian division universally regarded as worse than the Canucks, and this was only one win. The Canucks are still 3-5-0. But players seeking confidence have something to build on. It’s a start.

The Canucks and Senators play again Wednesday and Thursday at Rogers Arena.

Source: – Sportsnet.ca

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Mixed Martial Arts-Door is open for YouTube’s Paul brothers in MMA

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Logan and Jake Paul would make great Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters, Bellator president Scott Coker has said as he targets exhibition matches featuring the YouTube personalities such as the former’s boxing bout against Floyd Mayweather.

Logan Paul went the distance, surviving eight rounds against unbeaten (50-0) five-division world boxing champion Mayweather in an exhibition on Sunday at Miami’s Hard Rock stadium.

USA Today reported the fight brought in one million pay per view buys with $50 million generated from sales in the United States.

It was only the second fight of Paul’s career, while his brother Jake has fought in three professional boxing matches, beating former MMA fighter Ben Askren in April.

Critics have labelled the bouts a sideshow due to the lack of sporting credibility of the duo, who made their names as social media personalities and have millions of subscribers on YouTube.

However, Coker told Reuters the brothers have impressive physiques and the door is open for them to move into MMA.

“I met with Logan Paul about two years ago and I’ve spoken to Jake Paul’s manager and Jake on a zoom call recently… The one thing I said was hey, if you want to do MMA we would love to promote you guys,” the 58-year-old said in a Zoom interview.

“These guys are young, athletic, strong and you saw the fight on Sunday night these guys they came and did their work.

“Mayweather couldn’t finish him and I know he tried, I heard he wanted to knock this kid out so bad,” he added.

“When I heard both had high school wrestling backgrounds in Ohio, which is a prominent wrestling state in the U.S., it really made me interested in pursuing them in some super fights in Mixed Martial Arts – and that door is continually open.”

HEADLINE FIGHT

Bellator, owned by Viacom, is gearing up for a busy month of events, starting with Bellator 260 on Friday with the headline fight between reigning welterweight world champion Douglas Lima and the undefeated Yaroslav Amosov.

However, super fights and exhibitions are where Coker is targeting a younger audience.

“My 14-year-old niece, I told her I was going to the Logan Paul fight and she thought that was the greatest thing,” he said.

“She asked me who he was fighting and I said Floyd Mayweather and she said ‘who’s that?’ – I thought wow, she doesn’t know boxing, she doesn’t know MMA, she’s just a 14-year-old girl on the internet doing what they do.”

As the sporting world gears up for the delayed Tokyo Olympics starting in July, Coker believes MMA will feature in future Games.

“When you think about mixed martial arts, what you’re talking about is boxing, wrestling, judo, taekwondo, karate – those are all Olympic sports,” he said.

“Why wouldn’t mixed martial arts eventually get into the Olympics because six out of the seven disciplines MMA is known to use really is already there.

“There’d be a lot of details to work out but to me I think it will happen, it’s just a matter of time.”

 

(Reporting by Christian Radnedge,; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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Montreal will host the 2024 world figure skating championships

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Montreal will host the 2024 world figure skating championships, the International Skating Union (ISU) said on Wednesday, after the 2020 event Canada was to host was cancelled due to COVID-19.

The championships will return to Montreal from March 18-24, marking the 11th time Canada has staged the event.

“Skate Canada has a proven track record of holding successful ISU events and we are looking forward to bringing the world’s best skaters to the fantastic Canadian city of Montreal,” said Debra Armstrong, CEO of Skate Canada, in a statement.

 

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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Andreescu splits with coach Bruneau after French Open exit

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World number seven Bianca Andreescu on Tuesday announced she has split with longtime coach Sylvain Bruneau, a week after falling in the first round of the French Open.

The pair had worked together for four years as Andreescu made her breakthrough with three titles in 2019, including the U.S. Open.

“It is with a heavy heart that I would like to inform my fans that my long time coach, mentor and friend, Sylvain and I, have mutually decided to end our incredible coaching relationship,” Canadian Andreescu wrote on Twitter

“Our friendship will live forever … I am very grateful for everything we accomplished together and all of our great memories.

“Sylvain was more than a coach… he is family.”

Andreescu, 20, returned to action at this year’s Australian Open, having missed 15 months due to a knee injury.

A positive COVID-19 test subsequently ruled Andreescu out of both Madrid and Rome before an abdominal injury forced her to pull out of Strasbourg at the quarter-final stage.

Her most recent appearance at Roland Garros ended with a 6-7(1) 7-6(2) 9-7 defeat by Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek.

 

(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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