Through a variety of circumstances, Christine Sinclair finds herself in Florida these days. But as she weathers the COVID-19 lockdown, her heart remains in Canada.
And the global pandemic strikes close to home for the native of Burnaby, B.C. Her mother, who has multiple sclerosis, lives in a care facility in suburban Vancouver.
“There are no known cases where she is at, so that’s positive,” said Sinclair.
The Canada soccer captain is particularly grateful for all those on the frontline during the pandemic. But she knows that everyone can do their part.
“For a lot of people, that means actually doing something pretty simple – staying at home.” she said. “Even as difficult as that is at times. I know for me why I do it and my family does it is for people like my mom. Those are the vulnerable people in society right now.”
“It’s about saving lives,” she added.
The world’s leading international goal-scorer is showing her support and appreciation through the Canadian Olympic Committee’s “We Are All Team Canada” campaign.
“My family and I are thankful for the heroes who are risking it all to keep us safe. Now more than ever,” Sinclair tweeted alongside a photo of a homemade Maple Leaf sign and those of her two nieces.
“They’re all about art and helping out,” Sinclair said proudly. “They thought it was pretty special.”
Sinclair joins the likes of hockey icon Hayley Wickenheiser, basketball star Kia Nurse, former news anchor Peter Mansbridge, trampoline gymnast Rosie MacLennan and music’s Arkells in posting motivational messages to flatten the curve and show appreciation.
“It’s time for us to unite and work together even though we are apart,” the COC says in explaining the campaign. “It’s time for us to show our support for Canada and all those who are making sacrifices to make a difference.”
The COC calls Sinclair “the perfect ambassador for this campaign given her selfless nature and the enduring qualities she’s exhibited on the soccer field.”
The 36-year-old Sinclair ended up in Florida via Charlie, her Pomeranian dog which she had entrusted to a friend while on international duty with Canada.
After playing in the Tournoi de France March 4-10 in Calais, she flew back to Florida to reunite with Charlie and spend a few days in the sun before returning home to Portland, Ore., where she captains the NWSL Thorns.
Because France was a COVID-19 hot spot, she had to go into 14-day self-isolation upon landing in North America. Then the pandemic descended.
“I didn’t want to have to travel until I had to. I’m in a pretty good place here,” said Sinclair. “And you could just see that the NWSL (pre-season) training was going to stop and (the season) was going to get postponed.”
She hadn’t been home in Portland since December due to the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship in Texas and California and the tournament in France.
“So I’m in Florida,” she said. “Which isn’t a bad place to be, with the weather. It’s actually helped a lot … It’s definitely nice to be running in 35-degree (Celsius) weather.”
The Thorns were due to open the season last Saturday against Utah Royals FC with a game this weekend in Chicago against the Red Stars.
Adding to her record goals haul is on hold for the moment. Sinclair has 186 career goals, surpassing retired American striker Abby Wambach’s world record of 184 on Jan. 29 at the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament.
Having led Canada to back-to-back bronze medals at the Olympics, Sinclair still has her eye on Tokyo despite the games being pushed back to 2021. When news of the postponement came, her immediate thought was “OK, we’ve got another year to get better.”
“Because there’s some gaps in our team right now compared to the best teams in the world,” Sinclair said of her eighth-ranked squad. “It just gives us a chance to get better.”
She was quick to connect with her Canadian teammates via their chat group.
“Ideally we didn’t want to be preparing for the Olympics in apartments or trying to find random grass patches in cities. It just wasn’t ideal,” she said.
“Yes, I was very proud of the COC for kicking the sands as they did. And I’m also glad the Olympics actually got postponed because it’s the only thing that made sense.”
In the meantime, Sinclair is training in the Sunshine State until the NWSL gives the green light for the pre-season to start.
“It’s been a weird opportunity to probably get fitter,” she said. “I’m probably more of a runner now after the past six weeks, which isn’t the most fun but I’ve definitely put in the work.”
And three times a week she takes part in video workouts with the national team under the guidance of strength and conditioning coach Cesar Meylan.
“And then in terms of soccer I have been kicked off fields here in Tampa along with Tom Brady,” she said with a laugh, referencing the Tampa Bay star quarterback who was asked to leave a closed park while doing an off-season workout.
“But I have found a couple little grass patches that seem OK, so I’ve been able to take balls out and stuff like that. Just trying to make the most of it.”
While not working out, Sinclair has done some binge-watching – like everyone else.
“I am embarrassed to admit that I watched ‘Tiger King,“’ she said.
Sinclair also made her way through “Manhunt,” finishing the second season in one night.
That’s impressive, she was told. “That’s pathetic,” she replied with a laugh.
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.
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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“For us to come out and battle like we did and get the result that we did was huge. It was great to be able to celebrate with the boys on that win.”
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.”
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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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