WINNIPEG — Given the anticipation surrounding the monumental moment that was more than two weeks in the making, it was always going to be difficult for Pierre-Luc Dubois to live up to the hype as he suited up for the Winnipeg Jets for the first time.
But after shaking off the rust during the first period of his first game in nearly three weeks, Dubois got better as the game wore on and showcased the skill set that is sure to endear him to coaches, teammates and an entire fan base that is curious to get to know what the player acquired in the blockbuster deal for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic is made of.
One day after Roslovic supplied the game-winning goal in highlight-reel fashion for his hometown team and Laine found himself stapled to the bench for the final period and change of a 3-2 victory for the Columbus Blue Jackets over the Carolina Hurricanes, Dubois finally made his Jets’ debut.
Although he was held off the scoresheet in the Jets’ 3-2 loss to the Calgary Flames on Tuesday, Dubois did his part to make a positive first impression.
“You see it’s all there, right? The speed, the strength, the play-making ability, the reads. He’s going to be a great player for us,” said Jets forward Andrew Copp, who assisted on both of the goals from Nikolaj Ehlers. “Really looking forward to having him get comfortable. He’s fit in really well in the room so far. Obviously, he’s been sitting at home for two weeks, pretty much the worst possible thing to do to be ready to go.
“But he did a pretty good job. Definitely wasn’t out of place by any means out there. We’re looking forward to getting into a little bit of a rhythm here with some games every other day to see what he can bring, so we know what he is capable of.”
If you’re looking for smooth circumstances to jump into the lineup, you came to the wrong place.
Because of the quarantine rules, Dubois was off the ice entirely for two weeks, forced to try and stay in shape by working out in his living room with equipment dropped off after his arrival late on Jan. 23.
And because he was benched for the final two periods in his last game with the Blue Jackets on Jan. 21, Dubois had gone three weeks since completing a full contest.
That’s not an easy task at the best of times, let alone the pressurized environment created after Dubois was acquired for a pair of first-round picks, including one that carries the profile and popularity of Laine.
Limited to only five shifts and just over three minutes of ice time in the first period, Dubois eased into things and needed some time to find his way, which was to be expected under the circumstances.
But he found another gear in the second period and maintained a strong level of play in the third as he got into more of a rhythm.
“It’s the first game in 20-something days. The legs, the hands, the head, you’re trying to get everything back and I felt as the game went on, I was getting some things back,” said Dubois, who finished with 20 shifts for 13:10 of ice time. “But I can play a lot better than that. I’ve never been injured, so I’ve never missed a (long) period of time. Going from Game 4 to Game (12) was a big jump. Game 4 was still kind of pre-season. Game (12), you’re in the season.
“During seasons, there are always steps that you take. There’s a step mid-way through the season after a couple of games at Christmas, then the playoff race, then the playoffs. My goal is just to kind of skip that step of the pre-season games and get right to where we’re at right now.”
There were no shot attempts for Dubois in this game as he skated alongside Jets sniper Kyle Connor for the first time, but that didn’t mean the new centre wasn’t involved offensively.
Whether it was imposing his will by making a move to go wide or by driving hard to the net, Dubois started to stand out – in a good way.
“As the minutes kept going, I felt better and better,” said Dubois. “I felt like I was reading plays faster, I was reading positioning faster where in the first period or so, I thought it took me a little bit too long to read. So, I think (with) practice and video and games, slowly it’ll come back.”
Dubois was on the ice for one of the Flames’ even-strength goals, but that was the result of a bouncing puck and a failed box out in front of the net, neither of which had anything to do with his positioning or his responsibilities on the play.
The powerful stride of Dubois was clearly evident during those final 40 minutes of play and he made an impressive across-the-body pass to Connor at the offensive blue line that was simply mesmerizing.
“It’s been a long time since he’s played a game, but there were lots of good things. Strong movement to the net, physicality, some real nice hands,” said Maurice. “The exciting part is he’s going to just keep getting better and better because he’s a powerful man.
“It looks like there won’t be holes in his game. He defended well, battled hard, made smart plays, showed some real nice finesse picking a stick in the offensive zone to open up a chance. He’ll get more ice time as we get moving forward and he gets his sea legs.”
This was a mostly evenly-played affair, but the Flames were able to capitalize on a late high-sticking minor to Jets defenceman Nathan Beaulieu, with Elias Lindholm delivering the game-winning goal with 1:42 to go in regulation time.
Maurice wasn’t about to take the bait when asked about the penalty call in question.
It’s too early to start racking up fines or drawing the ire of the men in stripes.
“I’ve got no complaints. It wouldn’t matter if I did,” said Maurice, whose team dropped to 7-4-1 after playing the Flames for the fifth time this season. “It’s a disappointing way to end the game.”
Once Dubois gets an even better handle on the systems play and the tendencies of his linemates (Mason Appleton replaced Trevor Lewis at right wing during the second period), look out.
“It’s a fun system to be a part of,” said Dubois. “There are minor adjustments from what I’m used to, but the guys out there have been great and helping me with video and helping me on the bench and practices and stuff like that. You get more used to it as time goes on and scenarios go on more and more.”
It’s evident that Dubois is going to do everything in his power to try and make up for lost time in this compressed season.
Despite being only 22, he’s been around long enough to know that heaping additional expectations on himself to produce immediately is going to do more harm than good.
He’s focusing on embracing the opportunity presented by the trade that created headlines all across the hockey world, with Tuesday marking the beginning of this new chapter.
With a pair of games on tap against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday and Saturday, you can bet Dubois’ comfort level is going to be on the rise by the time the Jets hit the road for a four-game trip next week.
Friends and family mourn Walter Gretzky at funeral in Brantford – Toronto Star
The world’s most renowned hockey dad, remembered for having a “love for life” and being important to the “culture of Canada” by his legendary hockey son, was laid to rest on Saturday.
Walter Gretzky’s funeral took place at St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Brantford, Ont., but was significantly scaled back from anywhere near the scope and grandeur fitting the mark he left, with capacity limited to 30 per cent due to pandemic protocols.
“I don’t think I met a prouder Canadian than my dad,” Wayne Gretzky said of his father. Dozens of community members, including throngs of youngsters donning hockey uniforms, gathered outside the church, located near the home where Gretzky raised his family.
Wayne told the sombre gathering of family and friends that his father, who suffered a brain aneurysm in the early 1990s and had a decade-long battle with Parkinson’s disease, had sustained a bad hip injury a few weeks ago.
Gretzky clung to life for 21 days, with his family sitting with him, similar to how he fought after numerous other debilitating health complications over the years. He died March 4. He was 82.
“We thought weeks ago that the end was here,” Wayne told the mourners. “He had a love for life and he didn’t want to leave.”
Wayne called his late father a remarkable man who had a “heart of gold.” He said the world would be better off if there were many more people like him.
“It’s been a tough time,” Wayne said.
He thanked the community for leaving food and sandwiches as the family waited for the worst.
Wayne told a fond story about how his father missed the birth of one of his sons, Brent, so that the two of them could attend a tournament in Whitby.
When bothered by family and friends about missing the birth of his boy, an irritated Gretzky responded, “Yes, but we got the trophy,” Wayne recounted.
“Every grandchild loved him,” Wayne said describing Walter’s close relationship to his grandchildren. “They understand how important he was, not only to our family but to the culture of Canada.”
Gretzky was remembered as a man of faith who cherished family, hockey and church. The gathering also heard how he treated everyone equally and was willing to volunteer his time and raise money for charities.
“Walter was great with kids, our kids, and all those kids he coached in minor league over the years, and those kids who came up to him for an autograph,” said Tim Dobbin, the former parish priest at St. Mark’s who presided over the funeral.
Wayne tweeted the news of his father’s death on behalf of the family late Thursday:
“He bravely battled Parkinson’s and other health issues these last few years but he never let it get him down … He was truly the Great One and the proudest Canadian we know. We love you Dad.”
Walter Gretzky rose from humble beginnings to become the patriarch of this country’s most legendary hockey family.
Wayne honed his skills in a backyard rink that Walter built for his children and neighbourhood kids. It was dubbed “Wally Coliseum.” That’s where he taught his sons the basics of the game.
Walter was born on the family farm in Canning, Ont., in 1938, where his mom made “good, old country Polish food,” including perogies that were “second to none,” he wrote in his autobiography, “On Family, Hockey and Healing.” His father, from Russia, specialized in making wine.
Walter went to work for Bell Canada as a technician after finishing school, and is reported to have lost hearing in one ear after an on-the-job injury. He stayed with the company until 1991, when he retired after 34 years.
Wayne had barely learned to walk when Walter had him out on his backyard patch of ice, teaching him to skate.
His eldest son became a child phenomenon at hockey, annually scoring hundreds of goals and skating rings around older, stronger kids.
Walter also coached two other sons. Keith Gretzky is assistant general manager of the Oilers. Brent Gretzky played 13 games in the NHL, all with Tampa Bay, and played a season in the Maple Leafs system when the top farm team was in St. John’s, N.L.
Friends recalled that Walter was also an astute coach of other boys in the Brantford minor hockey system, including former Boston Bruins tough guy Stan Jonathan.
In 2007, he was named to the Order of Canada, recognized for his contributions to minor hockey and support for numerous charities and non-profits, including the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
In 2010, he carried the Olympic torch hours before the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Winter Games.
That same year, an elementary school in Brantford was named in his honour.
Walter Gretzky’s wife, Phyllis, died in 2005. He leaves behind daughter Kim and sons Wayne, Keith, Glen and Brent.
With files from Star staff
Large hits three-run homer, Jays beat Phillies – TSN
DUNEDIN — Cullen Large belted a three-run home run to lead the Toronto Blue Jays past the Philadelphia Phillies 7-1 in exhibition baseball action Saturday.
Large’s blast anchored a five-run inning for Toronto, which finished with 10 hits in a contest that was halted in the seventh.
Kirby Snead (1-0) took the win, allowing no hits and no runs over a 1 1/3 innings. He had a strikeout while issuing two walks.
Toronto used six pitchers in the game. The Blue Jays, who’ve won two straight, face the Detroit Tigers on Sunday.
Toronto also claimed right-hander Joel Payamps off waivers from the Boston Red Sox while designating right-hander Jacob Waguespack for assignment.
Toronto claimed Payamps from Boston on Feb. 11 but the Red Sox claimed him back 11 days later. The six-foot-two, 225-pound pitcher has made four career major-league appearances, allowing three earned runs over seven innings.
Payamps was originally signed by the Colorado Rockies in 2010 and has compiled a 41-43 record and 4.15 earned-run average in 145 minor-league games.,
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021.
Full transcript: Wayne Gretzky eulogizes his late father Walter – CTV News
Wayne Gretzky paid tribute to his late father Walter on Saturday in a heartfelt eulogy during the Gretzky patriarch’s funeral in Brantford, Ont. Below is a complete transcript of the eulogy, as transcribed by CTVNews.ca, edited for length and clarity.
Wayne Gretzky: Obviously, with the pandemic that we’ve had, it’s been horrible for everyone throughout the world, Canada, North America. I really want to tell everyone that my dad and my sister and our family were so conscious of it and that COVID had nothing to do with the passing of my father. Unfortunately, a few weeks ago, he sustained a bad hip injury and, as I said earlier, we thought weeks ago that the end was here. He has a tremendous amount of faith. Faith like I’ve never seen, but he had a love for life and he didn’t want to leave. And we were 21 days sitting with him, and just enjoying life and we got a chance, an opportunity to tell stories.
Our grandchildren have… seen my dad after his brain aneurysm, and we were telling them all you’re thankful that you didn’t know him before his brain aneurysm because he was a lot tougher. So it’s been a tough time. I want to thank everyone in the community who dropped off food, who dropped off sandwiches, they knew we were all there for 21 days. My sister was a champ, she was beside him, each and every minute of the day. The grandkids were wonderful. My dad and mom, I know are so proud. So I thought I would tell a couple stories.
I spent the last four nights talking with my wife Janet, thinking what I was going to say and, like I usually do, I try to just kind of wing it and speak from my heart. So years ago, as everyone knows, my dad was such a huge sports fan and hockey guy, and we were playing in a hockey tournament outside of Toronto, and my dad was so proud of the fact we’re going to play against better teams than little towns in this area. On a Friday night, we were going to the tournament and my mom said, ‘No. Walter, we’re going to have this baby this weekend.’ And he said, ‘That’s OK, you can wait till we get back.’
So, Brent was born on the Saturday. We went to this tournament in Whitby, Ontario. We played against good teams like Burlington, Oshawa, Hamilton, Toronto Marlies, Nationals. We won the tournament, we got in the car and we weren’t sure if the car to get us back from Oshawa to Brantford. So we finally got back, and the next day, mom came home with Brent, people were coming by — families, friends, sisters — congratulations on the baby, and every single person would say to my dad, ‘Walter, I can’t believe you missed the birth of your son.’ So our next door neighbour Mary Rosetto came over and she was the last person to come over. She said, ‘Walter, I can’t believe you missed the birth of Brent,’ and when she walked out the door he was so mad, he stood up and grabbed the trophy and he goes, ‘Yes, but we got the trophy.’
So, as time goes on, he was so nice to all the grandchildren. Every grandchild loved him, close to each and every one of them. They understood how important he was not only to our family but to the culture of Canada. He came here, his family as an immigrant. They came here because he wanted a better life. I don’t think I’ve ever met a prouder Canadian than my dad. And all my five children are American, born in United States, and I always tell them you should be as proud of the United States as your grandfather is of Canada, because that’s how much he loves the country.
I always tell my kids there’s nothing better in life than family. My dad would come every year to our summer house. My sons Ty, Trevor, Tristan they had a hockey school and dad would come out, he’d go to the rink, sign autographs like he always does. We were playing golf one day, and he’s picking up golf balls. And I’m like, ‘We have all these golf balls, what are these golf balls for?’
And finally the next day, Ty, Trevor, and Tristan, my friend Mike and Tom, they’re in the fairway, they’re in the rough, they’re grabbing all these balls. And I finally grab them, I said, ‘You guys got to stop grabbing golf balls.’ And they’re like, ‘What do you mean? Your dad wants them for the kids.’ I said, I know he wants them for the kids, but I got to sign them for the kids.’ So I take my dad to the airport at 5 a.m., sure enough we get to the airport and there’s two big bags, and my brother Glen he runs out of the car, he’s going to get a cup of coffee, and my dad goes, ‘You’ll sign these for the kids, right?’ I’m like, ‘Oh my god.’ So there I was signing for hours, but that’s how he was.
He was a remarkable man who loved life, love family. We’d be a way better world if there was so many more people like my dad. Very special. We’re all hurting, this is a tough time. I’m so proud of the fact that so many people have reached out and given him such great tributes because he deserves it. He has a heart of gold and just wonderful. Thank you.
Friends and family mourn Walter Gretzky at funeral in Brantford – Toronto Star
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