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The Kraken aims to reflect Seattle’s multicultural community

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The 2021 NHL expansion team Seattle Kraken employees, left to right: Kyle Boyd, Kendall Boyd-Tyson, Everett Fitzhugh, Zack Peggins and De’Aira Anderson – at the Kraken preview centre in Seattle, Feb. 18, 2021.

Jane Gershovich/The Globe and Mail

Everett Fitzhugh grew up in Detroit. Unlike other kids in his neighbourhood, he fell in love with hockey at a young age. “When I wheeled my net out, [other kids] looked at me like I had two heads,” he says.

Kyle Boyd’s father was the first Black team physician in the NHL. Kyle grew up wearing No. 12 – the same as Jarome Iginla. “The thing that stands out for me is that, as a player of colour, there were not many heroes to look up to,” he says.

When she was a senior in high school in Pennsylvania, De’Aira Anderson told a guidance counsellor that her dream was to work in communications for a pro hockey team. “We joke that I kind of manifested my job,” Anderson says.

All three have converged as co-workers with the Seattle Kraken – and it is not by accident. The NHL’s newest team has gone out of the way to fill its staff with employees who reflect the multicultural makeup of its community. In doing so, it stands out as the most diverse franchise in the league.

“We are building a little different organization, and it has led to a better culture, self-esteem and pride,” says Tod Leiweke, the club’s part-owner, president and chief executive officer. “This is about doing the right thing, and doing the right thing for the game we love. We are better for it, no question.”

When the Kraken begins play next season, Fitzhugh will be the NHL’s first Black full-time play-by-play announcer. Boyd was hired as youth and community development director, and his sister, Kendall Boyd-Tyson, was brought in as vice-president of strategy and analytics. Anderson is corporate communications manager and the lone Black woman serving in that capacity in the league.

Along with them, the Kraken hired Hewan Teshome as senior vice-president and general counsel, former state representative Eric Pettigrew as vice-president of government relations and outreach, Princess Lawrence as manager of investor relations and special projects, Zack Peggins as a social-media specialist, Lamont Buford as vice-president of game presentation and Flora Taylor to manage the executive office. All are Black.

“I don’t see it as an issue to beat our chest on, but I am proud of it and emotional about it,” Leiweke said. “I love the game so much, and I don’t think of diversity as a challenge.

“This is an incredible privilege, and with every privilege comes obligation, and with obligation comes doing things right. You might have to look a little harder, but candidates are out there.”

De’Aira Anderson, corporate communications manager for the Seattle Kraken, is the lone Black woman serving in that capacity in the National Hockey League.

Jane Gershovich/The Globe and Mail

Anderson was chosen for her position from a field of 550 applicants. “De’Aira’s hiring was interesting to me,” says Katie Townsend, the Kraken’s senior vice-president of marketing and communications. “There were a lot of people I knew and a lot who were recommended to me that I thought would be good at it.”

From the interview process on, she was everyone’s favourite.

Fitzhugh says he was in third grade in the late 1990s when he watched a game between the Edmonton Oilers and Detroit Red Wings on television. He remembers that Georges Laraque, Mike Grier and Sean Brown were all playing for the Oilers at the time. All are Black.

“Hockey was dominated by white men,” Fitzhugh says. “When I saw that, I knew I could have a place in the game. I knew I belonged.”

Fitzhugh attended Bowling Green University and did play-by-play for its men’s hockey team. He also worked for one season in the USHL, and for the Cincinnati Cyclones, the Buffalo Sabres’ affiliate in the ECHL.

After a story about him appeared in The Athletic, he was contacted by the Kraken, which was searching for the voice of its team.

“I never expected to hear from someone in the NHL,” Fitzhugh says. “I thought some of my Cyclone friends were playing a joke on me.”

They weren’t.

“It’s an honour and a dream to work for an NHL organization when you see the strides that have been made,” Fitzhugh says. “When I was hired, it was the best day of my life.”

Boyd was skating at a rink in the Seattle suburbs the year before last when he nearly bumped into Leiweke, who was also out for a public skate.

“He was flying around the rink and I made a point to catch up to him,” Leiweke says.

Leiweke chatted him up, handed over a business card and invited him for a coffee at – of course – a Starbucks.

“It’s not me you want to hire,” Boyd said then. “It’s my sister.”

A couple of weeks later, all three met for coffee and Leiweke was impressed.

“My immediate reaction was, ‘Wow!’” he says.

Kendall has a master’s degree from the Yale School of Management and a bachelor’s in industrial engineering from Georgia Tech. Her brother has a bachelor’s degree in history from Dartmouth and a master’s in education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Their dad, Joel Boyd, is the physician for the NHL’s Wild. In 1998, he became the first Black physician for the U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team at the Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. That was the first year NHL players participated.

When the Seattle Kraken begin play next season, Everett Fitzhugh will be the NHL’s first Black full-time play-by-play announcer

Jane Gershovich/Jane Gershovich/The Globe and Mail

Kendall played one year of organized hockey as she grew up, and was the captain of a club team at Yale. Kyle played minor hockey in his youth and also played for a club team at Dartmouth.

“I was genuinely aware at a young age that it was rare to find people like me in this game,” he says. “I would look at the other major sports and yearn for that same culture. Usually, I was the only Black player on the team.

“The reality is that for those that do play, it won’t be in a critical mass. When that is the case, you feel different from everyone else.”

To reach the most diverse group of people possible, Kyle says the Kraken is building its practice facility in the densest part of Seattle in an area where there are no other rinks.

“It wouldn’t be of benefit to have a building with three sheets of ice in the suburbs,” he says. “It is important that we go to places where we can interface with the community, with neighbourhoods, schools and Boys and Girls Clubs.

“We want to get balls and sticks out to those groups and then think about the pathways for them to get to our facilities. We are in an exciting and amazing space to grow our own programs.”

Leiweke has a long history in pro sports. He is the former CEO of the Seattle Seahawks, was the president of the expansion Minnesota Wild, served as the acting president of the Portland Trail Blazers, was the CEO and minority owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the chief operating officer of the NFL. His older brother Tim used to run Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

“Seattle is a little different from other places,” he says. “You go back 100 years and it was kind of the last stop on the road. People here are definitely pioneers at heart.

“I understand the fans’ sensibility and the social conscience here.”

Source: – The Globe and Mail

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Ashleigh Barty, Aryna Sabalenka to meet in Madrid final – WTA roundup

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Top-seeded Ashleigh Barty and fifth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka traversed through their semifinal matches on Thursday to advance to the championship match of the Mutua Madrid Open.

Barty recorded six aces while dispatching Spanish wildcard Paula Badosa 6-4, 6-3, while Sabalenka notched a 6-2, 6-3 triumph over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia.

Saturday’s clash will mark the second time in less than two weeks that Barty and Sabalenka will meet in a final. The Australian rallied for a 3-6, 6-0, 6-3 win over Sabalenka to win in Stuttgart on April 25.

Sabalenka, who had 21 winners against 11 unforced errors in Thursday’s semis, is ready to take another swing at Barty.

“Physically I have to be ready for this match,” said Sabalenka, who is from Belarus. “She’s No.1, she’s great. I played her in Stuttgart. It’s not an easy game. I will do everything I can to prepare myself as good as I can. Just looking forward for this battle.”

Barty holds a 4-3 edge in career matches against Sabalenka.

Barty played her semifinal match prior to knowing there would be another tussle with Sabalenka.

But she was pleased with her performance and the victory was her 16th straight on clay surfaces.

“I’ve learned a lot more about it, without a doubt,” Barty said of clay. “I promise you, I’m still counting down to the grass court season. It’s one of my favorite times of the year. I think the memories and the learnings now that we’re getting from the red clay has been really cool, to be able to challenge myself in different ways.”

Thursday’s victory also was important to Barty because she was upset by Bodosa 6-4, 6-3 last month in the quarterfinals of the Volvo Car Open at Charleston, S.C.

“You have to learn from every game, every match you play against an opponent,” Barty said. “I definitely learned a lot from the match we played in Charleston. There was a small adjustment. I think just learning from some of her patterns, tendencies that came through and showed through in that match in Charleston.

“I think I was just able to control the court a little bit better.”

L’Open 35 de Saint-Malo

Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus upset fourth-seeded Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia to advance to the quarterfinals at Saint-Malo, France.

Second-seeded Rebecca Peterson of Sweden also moved on with a 4-6, 6-4, 4-0 win over Russia’s Anna Kalinskaya, who retired in the third set.

Russia’s Varvara Gracheva beat Bulgaria’s Viktoriya Tomova when the latter retired. Gracheva won the first set 6-4 and the second was tied at 5-5.

–Field Level Media

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Baseball lifts San Diego’s spirits. Can it revive a pandemic-stricken U.S. economy?

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By Daniel Trotta, Howard Schneider and Chris Canipe

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) – It was Saturday night in downtown San Diego, and J Street near the Petco Park baseball stadium was bustling.

Fans of the hometown Padres, many decked out in team gear, packed the bars and restaurants with more waiting in line and happy to do so after a year of pandemic lockdown.

“It’s definitely a feel-good time,” said lawyer Chris Schon, 33, as he waited for a table outside Bub’s at the Ballpark, a sports bar.

However festive the scene, it nonetheless highlights some of the limits emerging in the U.S. economic recovery.

The Padres have been “selling out” most every game since Major League Baseball’s reopening a month ago, but in the age of coronavirus that means hitting an attendance cap of around 15,000, or roughly a third of capacity. Elsewhere in the league, results are lagging.

The surrounding restaurants, dependent on summertime ballpark crowds, remain limited to 50% capacity in California for at least another month. Owners expect depressed revenue through 2021 and worry that even as restrictions are lifted people will hesitate to join standing-room-only crowds.

“Back in the good old days, we were four or five deep at the bar, slinging beers…. Are people going to get turned off by that?” wondered Brant Crenshaw, a partner in the Social Tap bar and restaurant where big-screen TVs and picture window views of the ballpark are a draw.

His opening day revenue this year? Around $15,000 versus $30,000 to $40,000 in prior years.

‘NOT BACK TO WHERE WE WERE’

The start of a full baseball season with 162 games on tap was a milestone in the U.S. reopening. The 2020 season, shortened to 60 games and played in empty stadiums, gave way to the fanfare of Opening Day 2021 and dreams of playoff games packed with cheering crowds come October.

Restrictions are being eased as coronavirus vaccinations proceed and daily infections and deaths ebb.

Among the largest U.S. states, Texas and Florida have dropped all COVID-related limits, New York is allowing restaurants to reopen at full capacity on May 19, and California plans to lift most remaining restrictions on June 15.

However, data including national travel statistics as well as stadium-by-stadium baseball attendance https://tmsnrt.rs/3nOh7Wa compiled by Reuters suggests people remain hesitant, putting a potential brake on how quickly some parts of the economy will improve.

The 29 U.S.-based MLB stadiums are selling an average of just under 74.8% of the limited numbers of seats each team has made available. That compares with an average paid attendance of 67.6% at fully open stadiums before the pandemic. While higher now, it’s not break-down-the-doors higher at a time when households have record levels of cash saved over the past year.

The 30-team MLB’s one non-U.S. club, the Toronto Blue Jays, are playing at a minor league stadium in Florida because of travel restrictions between Canada and the United States.

More broadly, air travel has climbed back to only around 60% of pre-pandemic levels. An April Conference Board survey found 43% of respondents planned a vacation within the next six months, up from around 30% during the pandemic but well off the 55% or more before the health crisis.

Consumers spent heavily on goods during much of the pandemic, but services account for two-thirds of the economy so a fulsome recovery needs spending on everything from healthcare to baseball games to find its way back.

“When are things going to get back to normal? When people don’t worry about the virus anymore,” said Tim Duy, chief U.S. economist at SGH Macro Advisors and an economics professor at the University of Oregon. “If you are still not willing to go to a ballgame, if you cannot get more than 60% travel, we are not back to where we were.”

‘APOCALYPSE’ GIVES WAY TO ‘ELECTRIC’

Near Petco Park, but for the few face masks in the crowd, things appeared much as they did before the pandemic. Firefighters played Wiffle ball outside their station. A jazz band played around the corner.

If last year’s emptied downtown “was the apocalypse,” said Cory Whitmore, 44, a cyber security engineer who wore his “Friar Faithful” jersey to Basic Bar/Pizza, the Saturday scene had now turned “electric.”

Erik Tesmer, Basic’s general manager and part owner, said the baseball season pulls in roughly 70% of the business at his industrial brick building, previously home to a horse carriage repair shop and a surfboard company.

Revenue plummeted to 25% of normal in 2020, and the restaurant survived only thanks to two Paycheck Protection Program loans from the federal government. Basic was able to keep about 15 employees on payroll, down from 50, Tesmer said.

Baseball may be back, and for long-suffering Padres fans there is even hope the team’s off-season spending on players will mean wins – and sellouts – as stadium attendance limits are likely raised through the summer.

But Tesmer notes the gaps still in San Diego’s larger ecosystem. Comic-Con, a summertime comic book and entertainment convention, was canceled last year and again in 2021, as was a music festival set to move downtown. Basic will be lucky to generate 50% of typical revenue this year, Tesmer said.

His best hope, he said, is for a winning Padres season.

“With a good season … we could be packed wall to wall and everybody is in a good mood and ready to get back to normal,” he said. “It certainly would help us if there are playoff games.”

 

(Daniel Trotta reported from San Diego; Howard Schneider reported from Washington; Chris Canipe reported from Kansas City, Missouri; Editing by Dan Burns and Howard Goller)

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Advantages of Live Casino Games

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Casino Games

Seeing as the Internet has taken the world by storm, playing a mega role in day to day human life, more betting businesses are taking advantage of the numerous opportunities that the online gambling scene presents them. Today, any huge casino that you can think of has some form of online presence. As a matter of fact, playing Live casino with real money on the go has become so easy, as gaming websites are being developed to be highly mobile friendly!

The Good Side of Online Casinos

As mentioned before, live casinos are seemingly blowing up, given the tons of opportunities that are available online. Ever since live casino games were introduced online, gaming enthusiasts have had a reason to smile. The convenience that online gaming brings, alongside the same thrill gotten from a physical casino location is just out of this world.

Let us highlight just some of the pros of live casino gaming now, explained in the live casino guide prepared by industry experts from CanadaCasinoHub.com.

Get to enjoy games in real time with Live Dealers!

This one tops the list of online casino games pros. The fact that you can enjoy your favorite table game with a real dealer in real time is just mind blowing! With this special feature, you get to witness state of the art gambling in a super authentic setting, giving off the land based casino version vibes. Players can follow through the Dealer’s actions closely and observe the gaming action as it unfolds. In addition to this, the dealers in leading live casino brands are all well trained professionals, leaving players rest assured of proper, safe and fair gaming.

Indulge in your favorite Live Casino Games from anywhere and at any Time!

Playing on the go has never been so easy. Never has it ever been so effortless and easy to access fun gaming, with the best thing being the fact that you need not travel for miles on end to be able to do this. Not only do you get to cut on all those travel expenses, but you also get the chance to enjoy high quality gaming just as if you were in an actual brick and mortar location.

Top notch quality technology

Nearly all leading live casinos will integrate high quality gaming technology and systems, offering players a smooth wagering process. Thanks to the live streaming feature, gamers can observe all action to detail as it happens from the beginning of the game to the end of it. This high level tech also comes with high level kind of protection to user information, adding on to the peace of mind.

 Live Chat

Thanks to cutting edge technology, bettors can interact with other game participants and the dealer as well. This not only makes the game more enjoyable and real, but the personal connection established takes things to a whole new level.

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