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Flames have plenty to think about after disappointing loss to Senators –



OTTAWA – A Tim Hortons’ promotion in the midst of a matinee affair at Canadian Tire Centre asked a father and his young son to match answers.

A no-win proposition for pops, as he was tested on his son’s favourite snack, superpower and Sens player.

After the duo missed the mark on two of three, the sad-faced youngster appeared unwilling to high-five dear old dad as the Jumbotron returned to action.

It mirrored the type of disappointment that was palpable later on in the Calgary Flames dressing room as Calgary somehow missed the free spot on their bingo card.

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Facing a rebuilding Senators club that had yet to win in 2020, the Flames had a chance to go into the week-long break winning seven of eight to secure top spot in the Pacific.

A fluky own-goal off Travis Hamonic’s stick credited to Brady Tkachuk seven minutes in was symbolic of how the bounces would go on this night.

Despite out-shooting the hosts 42-21, the Flames limped into the holiday with a 5-2 loss that underscored the team’s offensive woes this season.

Wrapping up a three-game eastern Canadian road trip that saw them lose to two of the league’s most vulnerable clubs, the Flames will have plenty of time to think about the tough road ahead.

“It’s absolutely dried up,” said Matthew Tkachuk of the offence on the road swing.

“We only had three goals in three games and two of them came in the last five minutes of a 4-0 game. I don’t really have an answer for ya there, otherwise we all would have changed it. I have no idea.

“We felt great about ourselves after the Toronto (2-1 shootout win), as we should have. If we get this one tonight we go into the break feeling really good about ourselves and try to gather some momentum for the last 32 games. But this didn’t allow us to feel that way tonight.”

The only feel-good moment Flames fans experienced came on the opening draw when Brady and Matthew lined up on the wing, marking their fourth NHL tête-a-tête.

With 40 friends and family members looking on from a pair of suites, the official immediately waved out Elias Lindholm and Artem Anisimov, summoning the brothers to do the honours.

“We got that out of the way last year and this year…we weren’t going to do it,” said Matthew, who lost bragging rights to his baby brother for the first time in four outings.

“Wes (McCauley) was great – he said, ‘if I’m reffing, you guys have got to do the opening draw – your mom will love it.’ He snapped that back on me pretty good and seemed to destroy the rest of our team tonight too.”

Matthew gave his younger brother a light cross-check to the back after the draw, for funsies.

Brady finished the evening with a goal and an assist in a game that saw the Flames down 1-0 after the first period in which they outshot Ottawa 15-3.

“It was kind of a crazy bounce, but we’ll take that,” said Brady of his goal, which saw his centring pass to Anthony Duclair bounce off Hamonic’s stick and over surprise starter David Rittich.

“It’s always nice scoring in front of a bunch of people.”

The Flames, who continue to languish near the bottom of the tables in terms of league scoring, continued to put plenty of shots and pressure on Sens goalie Marcus Hogberg in the second before Chris Tierney and Connor Brown made it 3-0. The shots at that point were 25-10 for the frustrated visitors.

“That’s the season – some games you deserve to be down and you’re up and you win ’em,” said Mark Giordano.

“And a night like tonight, I thought especially after the first, we deserved better. This trip, we were really having trouble scoring goals, obviously. I guess the only positive coming out of it is it’s nice to see Janks get his first of the year and hopefully that will get him going.”

Indeed, with the hosts up 4-0 late, Mark Jankowski converted a nifty backhand for his first of the season.

Noah Hanifin added another in the final two minutes, which did nothing to change the demeanour of a Flames bunch that missed a great opportunity to bolster their momentum.

“It’s a long (break) so you’re going to have lots of time to think about how we’re going to have to come back these last 32 games,” said Matthew.

“Last year we didn’t necessarily come back after this break and play our best hockey, and that kind of showed in the playoffs. We have to come back ready to go for this home stretch because there’s no room for error right now with where we are and where we want to be.”

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China’s winter sports industry hopes Olympic Games yield white gold



China’s snow sports industry is pinning its hopes on people like Shi Haoping, 32, who takes to the slopes to de-stress from his job as head of an online education company.

“This is such a physical activity, it relieves the pressure for me,” Shi said while taking a break from snowboarding at Thaiwoo Ski Resort in Zhangjiakou, not far from where several Winter Olympics events will be held in February.

(To see a picture package of China’s ski resorts, please open in a web browser.)

Shi was seated with his wife, Ding Yaohui, who works for a video production company, and their Shiba Inu dog, who had made the three-hour drive with them from Beijing. Music from an X Games snowboarding event thumped in the background.

“First we learned skiing,” Shi said. “Then last year we took up snowboarding, because it looks more trendy and cool.”

China hopes hosting the Games will springboard the country towards becoming a winter sports destination and will help deliver on a target set by President Xi Jinping to get 300 million Chinese involved in winter sports, with an aim to build a 1 trillion yuan ($157 billion) industry.

The stakes are high, and not just for China, as the global snow sports industry looks to rising incomes in the world’s most populous nation to offset what industry data shows to be stagnating participation in traditional ski markets.

China wants to build a thriving winter sports ecosystem, from success on the slopes – some of its best Olympic medal hopes are in the freestyle ski and snowboard events – to world-class resorts and the manufacture of equipment to service them.

The country has more than 700 ski areas but the industry is highly fragmented and most are tiny. Only about 20 would be considered destination resorts, including Thaiwoo and the nearby Genting Resort Secret Garden, which will host the Olympic freestyle skiing and snowboarding competitions.

With snowfall scarce in many parts of China, including the winter sports hub of Zhangjiakou, the necessity of water for snowmaking limits intensive resort development.

Industry insiders say the longer-term challenge is to ensure the full experience is enjoyable – from the renting of gear to the quality and standards of teaching, and the après-ski social activities – so more beginners want to spend the time and money to become regulars.

Justin Downes, president of Axis Leisure and an adviser to the Games organisers, said the Chinese ski industry is unrecognisable from when he arrived in 2007.

Even so, he added, it takes years to build a ski culture and the infrastructure around Chinese ski areas, many in farming and mining areas, has yet to be developed.

“If you go to a ski resort in Switzerland or in Canada, you’re walking into a community of people that have been there for generations,” the Canadian said.


Skiing and the Games are transforming parts of Zhangjiakou’s once-impoverished Chongli district. Chongli was connected two years ago with Beijing by a high-speed train that takes less than an hour.

Before COVID-19 jolted the industry, skier visits in China doubled from 10.3 million in 2014, the year before Beijing was awarded the Games, to a peak of 20.9 million in 2019.

On a five-year average, China ranks eighth globally in skier visits, according to the 2021 International Report on Snow & Mountain Tourism by industry expert Laurent Vanat, with the United States, Austria and France making up the top three.

China’s government is all in. Last month, a ministry said it was “urgent” to promote production standards for equipment such as snow makers, snow grooming machines and all-terrain snow vehicles, an industry dominated by European and American manufacturers.

Chinese private equity firm Hillhouse Capital, whose founder Zhang Lei is an avid snowboarder, owns half of the Chinese business of Vermont-based Burton Snowboards, the industry pioneer.

Three years ago, Chinese athletic wear giant Anta Sports, a sponsor of the Beijing Games, led a group that paid 4.6 billion euros for Finland’s Amer Sports, whose portfolio includes venerable European ski equipment brands Atomic and Salomon, as well as high-end Canadian outerwear brand Arc’teryx.


On a recent early season day at Thaiwoo, which has a Western-style resort village with a brewpub and shops for global brands such as Bogner and Patagonia as well as Chinese snowboard maker Nobaday, the crowd was well-attired.

Unlike in the United States and Europe, where skiers are predominant, China’s snow sports market skews towards boarders like Anthony Zhang, 31, who works in finance and was decked out in 15,000 yuan worth of gear including a baby-blue snowsuit and pink snowboard for his first time on genuine slopes.

“It’s very expensive. It’s not just equipment – it’s a big expense to hire a trainer. I take classes in an indoor simulator in Beijing, and each class costs several hundred yuan,” he said.

The expense is not a deterrent, however.

“I have money,” Zhang said, laughing.

$1 = 6.37 Chinese yuan renminbi)


(Reporting by Tony Munroe; Editing by Karishma Singh and Gerry Doyle)

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Jets’ Pionk suspended two games for kneeing Maple Leafs’ Sandin –



Winnipeg Jets defenceman Neal Pionk has been suspended two games for kneeing Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Rasmus Sandin.

The NHL’s department of player safety made the announcement after having a hearing with Pionk on Monday.

The incident occurred with 14:15 remaining in the third period Sunday when Winnipeg hosted Toronto. As Sandin received a pass in the Jets’ zone and proceeded to take a shot on net, Pionk attempted to line up a body check, but misjudged Sandin’s position, causing him to extend his leg and create knee-on-knee contact with the Maple Leafs defenceman.

“We acknowledge Pionk’s argument that this is an attempted full-body check, but this play cannot be classified as merely a collision between two players, where one or both move reflexively or defensively at the last moment to avoid contact,” said the department of player safety in a video explaining the punishment.

“If he wants to deliver this hit, the onus is on Pionk to take an angle of approach that ensures he’s in good position to make a legal, full-body check. Instead, having taken an angle which has him lined up outside of Sandin’s path, Pionk turns his right leg and extends his knee, jutting it forward to avoid missing the check entirely. This results in forceful, dangerous and direct knee-on-knee contact.”

Watch the full video breakdown here:

Sandin was helped off the ice and appeared as though he could not put weight on his right leg after the play. Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said he had no update on Sandin’s condition on Sunday night.

Pionk, who has never been suspended or fined before this event, will forfeit $58,750 in salary.

Just two minutes after the incident, Maple Leafs forward Jason Spezza retaliated with a knee of his own — targetting Pionk and catching him near the head as he slid on the ice to make a play.

Spezza is at risk of also receiving a suspension and will have a hearing with the department of player safety via Zoom on Tuesday afternoon.

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Derby winner Medina Spirit collapses, dies in California – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit collapsed and died after a workout Monday at Santa Anita.

The 3-year-old colt trained by Bob Baffert had just completed five furlongs in his second workout since finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic a month ago at Del Mar, according to Craig Robertson, Baffert’s attorney.

Santa Anita spokesman Mike Willman also confirmed the colt’s death.

The colt will undergo a full necropsy, which is required by the California Horse Racing Board.

Medina Spirit tested positive after the May 1 Derby for betamethasone, a legal medication that is not allowed on race day. It was Baffert’s record seventh win in the Derby.

Last Friday, Robertson released a statement saying that tests done by a New York lab have “definitely confirmed” Medina Spirit tested positive for the steroid — not through an injection but due to an ointment used to treat a skin rash.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has been investigating the case, and has yet to hold a hearing that could possibly disqualify Medina Spirit.

In the $6 million BC Classic, Medina Spirit couldn’t muster the necessary late kick to threaten winner Knicks Go.

“I’m very proud of him. He ran a great race,” Baffert said last month. “To me, he’s the best 3-year-old. He showed it today. That’s what racing is all about, proving it on the racetrack. And he proved it today that he’s the real deal.”

Baffert was allowed to enter horses in the season-ending world championships, but the event’s money-leading trainer had to meet certain conditions, including stricter out-of-competition testing of his horses and greater security at his barn. He agreed to the extra scrutiny and was required to pay for it out of his own pocket.

Medina Spirit had five wins in 10 career starts and earnings of $3,545,200, according to Equibase. The colt was owned by Amr Zedan, who competes as Zedan Racing Stables.

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