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CFL eyes September return, changes Grey Cup format – CBC.ca

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The Canadian Football League is moving away from its traditional Grey Cup Festival format, while it also hopes to return in September in order to salvage a season ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement sent to season ticket holders across the country on Wednesday afternoon, the league announced Regina would no longer be hosting the 2020 Grey Cup game. Should a shortened season take place, the championship game will be hosted by the team that qualifies for the Grey Cup game and has the best regular-season record.

“This gives all nine CFL teams a shot at hosting the Grey Cup in this unprecedented year,” commissioner Randy Ambrosie said.

The league is also considering moving the Grey Cup — usually played in November — into December as it explores every option to play as many games as possible this season.

It also means Regina has now been awarded the 2022 Grey Cup game, while Hamilton will host the title game in 2021.

“The plan for the Grey Cup in 2021 remains unchanged. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats will host for the first time in 25 years,” Ambrosie said.

“To our amazing fans in Saskatchewan, we look forward to once again celebrating your passion for the CFL with a Grey Cup game and Festival just a little down the road.”

This all comes against a backdrop of the league asking the federal government for up to $150 million in financial aid —  $30 million has been asked for immediate assistance and $120 million has been requested should the league not have a season at all.

WATCH | League is ‘very much in jeopardy,’ CFL commissioner tells Parliament:

Testifying before the House of Commons standing committee on finance on Thursday, CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie stated the league could need up to $150 million from the federal government if their season is wiped out due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 4:47

Eyeing a September start

As for whether or not a season will actually occur, that remains a big question mark at this point, but Ambrosie said should a shortened season take place, it’ll begin in September at the earliest.

“There are several reasons, including the continuing restrictions on assemblies, travel and border crossings. Notably, several provinces and municipalities have already decided to prohibit until Sept. 1, all sporting events featuring large gatherings,” Ambrosie said in a release.

While there is cautious optimism, the CFL is putting player and public safety above anything else.

“We know there is a great deal of interest in whether we might play with or without fans or with social distancing rules in place,” Ambrosie said.

“We are examining all possibilities with both public safety and financial viability in mind. It’s just too soon to speculate on what a return to play in September might look like.”

The league is making it very clear in its statement that, while it eyes a September return, one other ominous scenario remains.

“A cancelled season is also possible. Again, it’s too soon to make a sure call at this point,” Ambrosie said.

WATCH | How to physical distance in tricky situations:

Physical distancing has radically changed how we socialize. But there’s still some scenarios where it’s difficult to limit our physical contact with others. Here’s how to best navigate them. 3:23

Touchdown Atlantic cancelled

One of the marquee events of the season has been cancelled. The Toronto Argonauts and the Saskatchewan Roughriders were set to play a regular season game scheduled in Halifax on July 25.

But on Wednesday, the CFL said the pandemic and uncertainty that exists has forced the game to be cancelled. 

“The only thing deeper than our regret is our resolve to return to Atlantic Canada. It pains us that this pandemic is preventing us from showing our friends in Nova Scotia, in person, just how saddened we are by the senseless tragedy they have been forced to bear and how much we admire their strength,” Ambrosie said.

The league will be reaching out to fans directly who purchased tickets. The game was a sellout.

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Sinclair to lead Canadian women’s team in her fourth Olympics

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Christine Sinclair, the all-time international goal-scoring record holder, was named to her fourth Olympic squad on Wednesday and will headline a Canadian roster at the Tokyo Games that features a mix of veterans and youth.

Led by Sinclair, whose 186 goals for her country are the most by a female or male soccer player worldwide, Canada won medals at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and was the only nation to make the podium in both competitions.

“I am looking forward to doing whatever I can to help take this team back to the podium and make history again,” said Canadian captain Sinclair. “Our team is in a good spot, we are excited, we are hungry and we are ready to go.”

The 18-player roster features 12 members of the squad that competed at the 2016 Rio Games while a quintet including Vanessa Gilles, Jayde Riviere, Julia Grosso, Adriana Leon, and Evelyne Viens will be making their Olympic debuts.

Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan travelled to Rio in 2016 as an alternate.

Canada will kick off their Tokyo 2020 journey when they face Japan on July 21 and continue Group E play against Chile on July 24 and Britain on July 27.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)

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Which of the Canadians Picked in the 2021 NFL Draft Will Thrive This Season?

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It was a good NFL Draft for Canadian players in 2021.

Some four stars from north of the border were selected by NFL franchises in the free agency pick ‘em, and that is tied as the highest number of Canadians drafted in the 85-year history of the event.

Of course, the hope is that these young talents are more than just filler and roster depth, but can any of the quartet make the breakthrough into the big time?

Here’s a look at which of the NFL’s newest Canadian additions can shine in 2021/22.

Jevon Holland

The defensive back was the number 36 pick in the Draft by the Miami Dolphins, who beat off a number of rivals in the hunt for the Coquitlam native.

A versatile defender, Holland is a former Jim Thorpe Award semi-finalist thanks to his exploits in the NCAA back in 2019 with the University of Oregon.

He sat out the 2020 campaign, but representatives from dozens of NFL teams were in town to watch Holland go through his paces at the Oregon Pro Day.

The 21-year-old is following in the footsteps of his father Robert, who turned out for the Detroit Lions, and he is expected to force his way into the starting line-up at the Dolphins. And, who knows, maybe Holland could go all the way in his first season, with Miami priced at +2500 in the Super Bowl 2022 American football odds.

Benjamin St-Juste

When you’re six foot three, 205 pounds and still able to run 40 yards in 4.51 seconds, it goes without saying that you have the physical credentials to succeed in the NFL.

Benjamin St-Juste is the man that can, and he will bolster the roster at a Washington Football Team that will be looking to improve upon their playoff showing in 2020.

The 23-year-old may only have been a third-round pick, but he comes with a burgeoning reputation thanks to a successful time at the University of Minnesota. An All-Big Ten special mention in 2019, more than 50 NFL recruitment personnel attended the college’s pro day – largely to catch a glimpse of St-Juste going through his paces.

Both Brian Gutekunst and Jon Robinson made the trip but, in the end, it was Washington who snapped up the powerhouse from the Draft.

Chuba Hubbard

The third Canadian to be drafted in 2021 was Chuba Hubbard, who became the first Canadian running back to be selected from the Draft in 25 years.

It’s the Carolina Panthers who have taken a chance on the 22-year-old and with his credentials, you can see why. Hubbard finished eighth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 2019 after a stellar campaign – he served up 2,094 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, an NCAA best. He was named the Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

While running backs are not the hottest of properties in the Draft, Hubbard provably has the talent to cross into the end zone with regularity – the Panthers might just have got their hands on an unheralded gem here.

With these three Canadians taking the step up to the NFL, the future of the sport north of the border looks in safe hands.

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Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s

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Andy Murray‘s grasscourt return was cut short in brutal fashion at Queen’s Club as Italian top seed Matteo Berrettini dished out a 6-3 6-3 defeat to the former world number one on Thursday.

The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.

Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.

Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.

Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.

He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.

Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.

“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.

“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”

Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.

(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)

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