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Ed Willes' musings: NHL's return is all about dollars, not sense – The Province

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OPINION: The NHL has about $500 millions reasons to want to finish this season

Assuming we have the days right, this should be Monday, which means it’s time for the musings and meditations on the world of sports.

In a world yearning for some sign of normalcy, most hockey fans would take a look at the NHL’s plan to finish this season and say, “Great, where do I sign up?”

Four locales will host the four divisions — and it’s hard to see where Vancouver wouldn’t fit in the mix for the Pacific Division. A meaningful training camp starting in mid- to late May. The conclusion of the regular season followed by a Stanley Cup tournament.

It might be missing some things — like fans — but given what we’ve endured for the last six weeks, the resumption of play would be welcomed all over the hockey world.

The problem, of course, is when you start asking questions about how this is all going to work. Which is also the problem facing any plan to reopen society.

What happens, for example, the first time a player tests positive for the coronavirus? How can they adequately test all the players, coaches, trainers, equipment managers and staff for each team on a regular basis? How long will it take to receive the results of those tests? Will the players agree to being separated from their families for up to four months?

Each question, in turn, raises another series of questions. Those questions generate more questions. And for all that, here’s the big one. What would happen to the league if it restarted, then had to cancel again?

Look, the NHL is a US$5-billion business which is looking to mitigate its losses this season. That’s understandable. It’s also believed the league can generate about $500 million in revenues if it plays out this season, and that money might buy some time to start the 2020-21 season under more desirable circumstances.

But the calculation here is over the risk and the reward. And the risk to the NHL is gargantuan on so many levels.

There are smart people running the league. There are also greedy people running the league. It’s been clear for a couple of weeks now the NHL is pushing this plan to finish the season, and the only force that can stop it is the public health authority.

With so much at stake, they’d better get it right.

Thanks to the alert readers who pointed out the 1990 draft was held at B.C. Place and not, as reported here, at the Pacific Coliseum. Now for the sad part. I was at the frickin’ event.

As a public service in these trying times, here are five songs which are guaranteed to make you feel better.

1. Better Things, The Kinks

2. What Is Life, George Harrison

3. Rosalita, Bruce Springsteen

4. People Got To Be Free, The Rascals

5. Any cover of Pretty Flamingo but the Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, guys from Squeeze version is recommended.

Honourable mention: The Lions Sleeps Tonight by The Tokens, but you really need to sing it with your two-year-old granddaughter for maximum effect.


Chase Claypool of Abbotsford, who starred for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Friday during the second round of the NFL’s virtual draft.

Andy Lyons /

Getty Images Files

Granted there are more experts on the NFL draft than there are stars in the sky, but a couple of platforms opined the Pittsburgh Steelers might have reached to draft Abbotsford’s Chase Claypool 49th overall.

Maybe. But here are two thoughts.

1. I’m unfamiliar with a game where a 6-foot-4, 230-pound receiver who runs 4.4 in the 40 isn’t effective.

2. The Steelers have a pretty good track record in drafting receivers.

A couple of other takeaways from the NFL Draft.

— In previous drafts Roger Goodell set a high standard for awkwardness with the ritualistic hugging of first-round draft picks, but give the man credit. His attempts to jack up the virtual crowd for the virtual draft — “Let me hear you, Kansas City!!!!” — were even more cringeworthy.

— Don’t know if the best move was the Packers trading up to draft quarterback Jordan Love when their own quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, was crying for help. Do know it was the most dramatic.

— Can’t wait to see what Eagles coach Doug Peterson does with Jalen Hurts, the multi-dimensional quarterback from Oklahoma by way of Alabama.

— Or maybe I was just thinking about Jason Botchford, the ultimate Eagles fan, with that last one.

Find it hard to believe, but it’s been a year since we lost Botch and the sense of loss is still as fresh, still as real, as the day I heard he was gone.

I’m not going to pretend we were close, but I worked with the man for 13 years. Over that time I watched him grow into a force who reshaped the way the game is covered; a force whose influence on this market transcended the sports pages.

I didn’t always agree with his methods, but you couldn’t deny his impact or his connection with Canucks fans. He built something with those fans, a relationship unlike any I’ve seen between a writer and his audience. It was loud, profane, funny but mostly it was passionate, and that was reflected in the comments on Twitter over the weekend when #RIPBotch became a trending topic in Canada.

He touched so many people during his time here and they remembered over the weekend, remembered everything Botch gave them.

He might be gone. He’ll never be forgotten.

ewilles@postmedia.com

twitter.com/WillesOnSports


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NFL stars send passionate video message to league about racial inequality – CBC.ca

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Patrick Mahomes, Saquon Barkley and Michael Thomas are among more than a dozen NFL stars who united to send a passionate video message to the league about racial inequality.

The 70-second video was released on social media platforms Thursday night and includes Odell Beckham Jr., Deshaun Watson, Ezekiel Elliott, Jamal Adams, Stephon Gilmore and DeAndre Hopkins, among others.

Thomas, the New Orleans Saints wide receiver who has led the league in receptions the past two seasons, opens the video with the statement: “It’s been 10 days since George Floyd was brutally murdered.” The players then take turns asking the question, “What if I was George Floyd?”

The players then name several of the black men and women who have recently been killed, including Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Eric Garner.

“I AM George Floyd,” Hopkins says.

Adams follows with: “I AM Breonna Taylor.”

The video closes with the players insisting they “will not be silenced.” They also demand the NFL state that it condemns “racism and the systemic oppression of black people…. We, the National Football League, admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting…. We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter.”

‘We were wrong,’ says NFL commissioner  

Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league made mistakes in not listening to players, in a video on Friday denouncing racism in the United States amid widespread protests over police brutality against black people.

“We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest,” said Goodell. “We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter.”

The NFL has been locked in an ongoing debate with players over kneeling protests during the national anthem before the start of games, a practice popularized by quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016 to protest racial injustice and police brutality.

WATCH | NFL Commissioner admits league mistake for not listening to players: 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says the league was wrong for not listening to players fighting for racial equality and encourages them to peacefully protest. 0:49

Kaepernick filed a grievance against the league in 2017, claiming collusion as no teams signed him after he parted ways with the San Francisco 49ers. The NFL and Kaepernick settled in 2019.

“Protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff,” said Goodell. “I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve.”

The NFL sent the video out just hours after U.S. President Donald Trump renewed his call for an end to kneeling protests during the national anthem.

Jaguars lead march against racial injustice

The Jacksonville Jaguars protested against inequality and police brutality on Friday, marching from their stadium to the steps of the sheriff’s department.

“Today, we say, ‘No more,'” wide receiver Chris Conley said. “Today, we see a nation that can’t await change, a city that won’t sit still or be quiet.”

The march included Joshua Dobbs, Brandon Linder and Josh Lambo of the Jaguars along with family members. Coach Doug Marrone, general manager Dave Caldwell and assistant coach Terry Robiskie also walked in what the team called an attempt to “raise awareness for racial injustices against the black community,” with many wearing “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts.

The Jaguars started their march at 9:04 a.m. local time to signify the local 904 area code.

The protest came two days after owner Shad Khan spoke against racism in a letter on the team website. He promised then the franchise would work toward a “timely response.” Former Jaguars receiver Ernest Wilford, now an officer at the department, joined them on the steps at the sheriff’s office.

Conley spoke at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. He said he cried when he saw the video of the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was jogging when killed Feb. 23 in Georgia.

Marrone said the Jaguars are working on actions they believe can make a difference. He also challenged the white community to step back, listen and learn.

“Let’s not make the same mistakes we’ve made,” Marrone said. “We need to stand together white and black to make this movement work.”

With the NFL allowing only coaches to return to their offices Friday and players still working remotely because of the pandemic, several Jaguars could not take part in the march.

The team posted videos from a handful of players, including quarterback Gardner Minshew, linebacker Joe Schobert and defensive end Aaron Lynch. Schobert encouraged people to register to vote.

The Jaguars’ protest is the latest involving professional athletes since the killing of Floyd in Minneapolis.

Two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry marched in a protest Wednesday along with his wife and four teammates from the Golden State Warriors, including Klay Thompson. Shaq Thompson, and four other Carolina Panthers walked in a protest march Monday in Charlotte, with Thompson helping lead the way.

Broncos plan Saturday march in Denver

On Saturday, several Denver Broncos and coaches plan to march to the Colorado capitol, the site of daily demonstrations. Safety Kareem Jackson organized the gathering after saying Tuesday that players need to do more than tweet and talk because they all see what’s going on.

“I think it’s huge for us to be heard,” Jackson said Tuesday on a video call, “and it’s huge for us to be out in the community so everyone can see us and know that we stand behind them.”

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Saints’ Drew Brees responds to Trump: It was ‘never’ about the flag – Sportsnet.ca

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A day after he apologized for his comments about NFLers engaging in peaceful protest, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is defending his newfound stance to the president of the United States.

Earlier on Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump criticized Brees for walking back his statements about kneeling during the national anthem.

“I am a big fan of Drew Brees. I think he’s truly one of the greatest quarterbacks, but he should not have taken back his original stance on honouring our magnificent American Flag. OLD GLORY is to be revered, cherished, and flown high… We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag — NO KNEELING!” Trump tweeted.

Brees — who faced backlash from teammates, other athletes and fans for saying he “will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States” — acknowledged in an Instagram post Friday night that he has learned the protests initiated by Colin Kaepernick in the NFL and taken up by other players was never about the stars and stripes.

“Through my ongoing conversations with friends, teammates, and leaders in the black community, I realize this is not an issue about the American flag. It has never been. We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities. We did this back in 2017, and regretfully I brought it back with my comments this week,” Brees wrote.

“We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial and prison reform. We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history! If not now, then when? We as a white community need to listen and learn from the pain and suffering of our black communities. We must acknowledge the problems, identify the solutions, and then put this into action. The black community cannot do it alone. This will require all of us.”

View this post on Instagram

To @realdonaldtrump Through my ongoing conversations with friends, teammates, and leaders in the black community, I realize this is not an issue about the American flag. It has never been. We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities. We did this back in 2017, and regretfully I brought it back with my comments this week. We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform. We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history! If not now, then when? We as a white community need to listen and learn from the pain and suffering of our black communities. We must acknowledge the problems, identify the solutions, and then put this into action. The black community cannot do it alone. This will require all of us.

A post shared by Drew Brees (@drewbrees) on Jun 5, 2020 at 7:10pm PDT

Issues of police brutality and systemic racism have returned to the forefront of discussions around the NFL in light of the widespread protests over the recent death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

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Trump: Brees 'should not have taken back his original stance' on flag – theScore

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United States President Donald Trump weighed in Friday on the controversy sparked by Drew Brees‘ comments about players potentially kneeling during the national anthem.

The New Orleans Saints quarterback said on Wednesday he would “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag” by protesting during the anthem. Brees’ statement drew the ire of players across the league, including several of his teammates, who reiterated that the protests are against police brutality and racial injustice, not the American flag.

Following the backlash, Brees apologized twice on Thursday.

The president tweeted Friday that Brees “should not have taken back his original stance.”

Trump was vehemently against players kneeling during the national anthem when protests took place in the NFL back in 2016.

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