TORONTO – After 25 years the Toronto Raptors and their fans were given the distinction of hosting a coveted Christmas Day game for the first time ever.
So then, what’s that like?
Well, other than a much more dolled-up production from the Raptors’ game operations crew, and playoff-level engaged crowd – though much more jovial and a lot less nervous than the springtime buzz – it’s a lot like any other regular-season game between two top-flight opponents.
Which is to say, the Raptors’ 118-102 drubbing at the hands of the Boston Celtics Wednesday afternoon was entertaining enough until it wasn’t because of its blowout nature and still, ultimately, just another regular-season game – if you’re looking at it purely from a basketball perspective that is.
The truth is, like the holiday itself, a Christmas game means so much more than just who won or lost, or anything at all to do with the game for that matter.
As such, it’s worth asking a different question: If it’s not about the basketball on a Christmas Day game, then what is it about?
The answer to this query is not so easily unearthed, but there were bits and pieces of a resolution seen throughout Wednesday’s matinee contest.
Most notably, with 4:49 left in the first quarter when Celtics backup centre Enes Kanter checked into the game for the first time to a mostly muted reply.
Likely because he was playing for the opposition, but the tepid applause for Kanter’s arrival into the game is a bit if a shame, for if more of the sold out Scotiabank Arena crowd knew what Kanter had been through to even step foot into the country for Canada’s first-ever Christmas Day NBA game, let alone onto the court, there maybe would’ve been a standing ovation that could’ve threatened to stop the game momentarily.
After all, Kanter didn’t even know he was going to be allowed into Canada until two days ago.
In a heartfelt op-ed he penned in the Globe & Mail on Monday, Kanter revealed that with help from the Canadian government, he would be able to enter the country and play on Christmas Day in Toronto.
A special moment as — because of comments Kanter has made criticizing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government’s treatment of its citizens — Kanter is a wanted man by his home country’s leader and has been threatened, bullied and even nearly kidnapped by pro-Erdogan agents when he’s left the United States, meaning he hasn’t been able to travel outside of the U.S. when his team goes abroad.
And up until Monday, Kanter’s status was still up in the air for this Christmas game.
“I didn’t know 100 per cent until the 23rd,” Kanter said before Wednesday’s game of when he knew would be able to play.
“The Celtics have been working on it since the beginning of the season,” he added. “As soon as we learned that we had a Christmas game in Toronto they just started working on it. I spoke to chief of staff for the ministry of immigration two days ago who actually said, ‘We all good.’ One of my friends reached out to [Canadian Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau’s office yesterday and they said, ‘We all good’ and told me not to worry about it and that everything’s gonna be smooth.”
Kanter hasn’t played an NBA game outside of the United States since Nov. 10, 2018 when he was a member of the New York Knicks – against the Raptors. It’s a time period that seems like years to him and, as such, to be able to play once again in Toronto on Christmas of all days meant so much more to him.
“It’s more than a game to me,” said Kanter. “It’s definitely a blessing to play on a Christmas Day, especially in Toronto, the defending champions. But it feels good to be out. It feels good to be free, it feels good to be enjoying this time with my teammates, for sure. It’s amazing.”
Later adding: “It’s not just about basketball, it’s something bigger than that. Now it’s like world leaders have got my back, now it’s like the government’s got my back. So take that Turkish government.”
This is what playing on Christmas is actually about for Kanter. Like he said, it’s so much more.
“I’m trying to use my story to tell other stories,” said Kanter. “I want to thank Canada because they are definitely like a model and taking Turkish refugees all over the world and that’s why it’s so important to give thanks to the Canadian government to Mr. Trudeau to support me, because it was really, really important.”
But you don’t have to have lived Kanter’s struggles to understand the importance and symbolism of what playing on Christmas Day means, either.
“It’s just special. To have an opportunity to have my kids see me play and to just enjoy the moment, it’s cool man,” said Kyle Lowry after the game of what it was like playing on Christmas. “It was something that took 14 years to get to, I got to it, unsuccessful, but it was a fun, great time.”
Lowry wasn’t playing for anything more than the Raptors and his family, but that doesn’t discredit the special feeling he had in regards to playing on Christmas — a time where seeing or being seen by loved ones just means that much more.
And this, to get back to the initial question at hand, is what a Christmas game is about.
Yes, Lowry’s Raptors got bombed out in what ended up being a non-competitive game, but he got to fulfill a dream of playing on the day itself and had his two precocious, rambunctious boys with him for the special occasion.
That’s not bad at all.
And sure, Kanter, had a nice game, scoring 12 points – 10 alone coming in the first half – with 11 rebounds, but the message he Sharpie’d on his Nike sneakers is another part of what the day is really about: “Freedom.”
Christmas is supposed to be a time when we celebrate humanity. Having fun watching or even playing a basketball game is part of that, and more than anything, so is the ability to enjoy whatever you do to celebrate without fear.
That’s not just what a Christmas basketball game is about, that’s what Christmas is about, period.
How to Spot a Trustworthy Online Casino in Canada
Spotting a trustworthy online casino isn’t hard once you know what to look for, but until then, you better hold off on signing up or making a deposit. This quick guide on how to find a reputable online casino will cover five different factors you can evaluate to determine whether or not a casino is trustworthy. While you could just use a site like the trusted source WikiHow that lists the best online casinos Canada, it does help to be able to evaluate the trustworthiness of casinos on your own. Likewise, you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet. Casino review sites are a great resource, but it doesn’t hurt to also do a little digging of your own. Without further delay, here’s a quick and easy guide on how to spot a trustworthy online casino.
Checking for Proper Licensing and Regulation
One of the first things you should do when assessing the trustworthiness of the best online casinos Canada is to check for proper licensing and regulation. Reputable online casinos are licensed by recognized regulatory bodies such as the Malta Gaming Authority, the UK Gambling Commission, or the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority. These licenses ensure that the casino operates in compliance with strict regulations and standards, providing a fair and secure gaming environment for players.
Never play at a casino that does not have a license or whose license is unverifiable. The easiest way to verify a license is to head to the licensor’s website and cross-check their registry with the name of the casino you’re looking at. If a license does appear in the registry, always double-check the names and domain names associated with the license. Some scam sites use domains that look similar to real casinos and act as if they are operating under their license. When in doubt, head to the URL listed on the license you find in the registry to be sure that you’re at the right site.
Evaluating the Casino’s Security Measures
Examining the Casino’s Game Selection
Game selection is another important factor to consider when choosing from the best online casinos Canada. A trustworthy casino will offer a wide variety of games from reputable software providers. Look for popular titles from well-known developers such as Microgaming, NetEnt, and Playtech. Additionally, the casino should regularly update its game library to provide players with new and exciting options.
Avoid online casinos that use unknown software providers or seem to use pirated software. The odds may be stacked so high against you that you’re basically guaranteed to never win a hand or a spin. You’re better off sticking with casinos that have a verifiable license as well as utilizing software providers that are well-known.
Verifying the Casino’s Customer Support
Good customer support is essential for a positive online casino experience. A trustworthy casino will have a responsive and knowledgeable support team available to assist you with any queries or concerns. Look for casinos that offer multiple support channels, such as live chat, email, and telephone. Additionally, check for the casino’s operating hours to ensure that support is available when you need it. You should also try and give their customer support a test run. By simply asking their 24/7 Live Chat simple questions about the site, you can get a feel for their response time and overall knowledge. Sites with poor customer service will often take a long time to connect to an agent and be unable to answer even the simplest of queries.
Looking for Fair and Transparent Bonus Terms
Bonuses and promotions are a common feature of online casinos, but it’s important to carefully review the terms and conditions associated with these offers. A trustworthy casino will have fair and transparent bonus terms, clearly outlining the wagering requirements, maximum bet limits, and any other conditions that apply. Avoid casinos that have overly restrictive or confusing bonus terms, as this may indicate a lack of transparency.
In conclusion, when looking for a trustworthy online casino, it’s important to consider factors such as proper licensing and regulation, security measures, game selection, customer support, and bonus terms. By taking the time to evaluate these aspects, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable gaming experience. Remember to always gamble responsibly and set limits for yourself to avoid any potential issues.
Canadiens acquire Tanner Pearson, trade Casey DeSmith to Canucks
A third-round pick in 2025 also goes to Montreal in the deal completed Tuesday.
Pearson hasn’t played since suffering a broken hand last November during a game in Montreal.
Pearson, 31, had one goal and four assists in 14 games last season.
In 590 career games with the Canucks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings, Pearson has 133 goals and 139 assists for 272 points.
The Kings picked the Barrie Colts product in the first round (30th overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft.
Pearson is in the final year of a three-year contract with a cap hit of $3.25 million.
DeSmith, 32, has been with the Pittsburgh Penguins since 2017-18. He was acquired by the Canadians in a three-team deal also involving the San Jose Sharks last month.
DeSmith was 15-16-4 with a 3.17 goals-against average and .905 save percentage last season.
In 134 career games, the undrafted DeSmith is 58-44-15 with a 2.81 GAA and .912 save percentage.
DeSmith is on the final year of a two-year deal with a cap hit of $1.8 million.
Blue Jackets GM, president admit fault in Babcock debacle, reveal more red flags
Days after Mike Babcock was accused of inappropriate workplace conduct by podcast host Paul Bissonette — with the retired NHL player claiming Babcock was forcing players to airplay personal photos on television in his office — Columbus Blue Jackets management addressed the debacle in a tense press conference at Nationwide Arena.
“It’s on us. It’s on me…. Sometimes you flat-out make a mistake. We made a mistake,” said Blue Jackets president of hockey ops John Davidson, per Associated Press reporter Stephen Whyno.
“Maybe they were right,” Davidson said of people who were critical of Mike Babcock’s hiring in the first place.
Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen, meanwhile. said he apologized to Blue Jackets players this morning for hiring the embattled head coach.
“I believe that Mike Babcock deserved another opportunity to coach,” Kekalainen said. “Obviously that was a mistake and that responsibility’s mine.”
Still, even with the talk of accountability, Kekalainen detailed what should’ve been a red flag: Babcock apparently pulled the same phone stunt he was accused of pulling with his players on the 57-year-old executive.
GM Jarmo Kekalainen said Mike Babcock did the phone thing with him as well. “Personally I had no problem with it but I can see how it might put someone in an uncomfortable situation.”
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) September 18, 2023
But while Kekalainen stated he doesn’t believe there was any ill intent behind Babcock’s actions, he admitted that some of his players were not comfortable with his methods and that was concerning.
Blue Jackets majority owner John H. McConnell announced in a team-issued statement Monday morning that he does not anticipate further changes to the team’s leadership, erasing speculation that one or both of Kekalainen and Davidson would end up on the chopping block alongside Babcock.
“Additional disruptions would be detrimental to our players and coaches as they prepare for the opening of training camp in two days,” McConnell’s statement read.
To say this story escalated rapidly would be the understatement of the century. Initially, it seemed like it would die quickly after both Babcock and captain Boone Jenner released statements through the team on Wednesday morning refuting the Spittin’ Chiclets host’s version of events.
Both Columbus’ captain and the now-former coach described their encounter as nothing more than a way of sharing snippets of one another’s life in an effort to build a working relationship. During an appearance on the 32 Thoughts Podcast on the same day as Jenner and Babcock condemned Bissonette’s comments, Blue Jackets star winger Johnny Gaudreau gave a similar account to Jenner when asked about his photo-exchange meet-and-greet with Babcock.
But the story didn’t end there, obviously, with Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reporting things changed on Wednesday night when the NHLPA received information that some of the younger Blue Jackets players were uncomfortable with their interactions with Babcock.
Friedman later reported that the information gathered on Wednesday night prompted NHLPA executive director Marty Walsh and assistant executive director Ron Hainsey to begin an investigation before flying out to Columbus and leading what was described as an “intense” meeting.
On Friday, Walsh and Hainsey relayed their findings during a joint meeting with the NHL and NHLPA. Saturday was arguably the quietest day of the scandal in the public eye, according to ESPN’s Greg Wyshinski, because that’s the day Columbus and Babcock started plotting his exit.
By Sunday, the Blue Jackets announced that Babcock had resigned and Pascal Vincent would be taking over as the team’s head coach.
Vincent, 51, had served as the Blue Jackets’ associate coach since the 2021-22 season. Before joining Columbus, Vincent spent 10 seasons with the Winnipeg Jets organization, serving as an NHL assistant for the first half of his tenure before pivoting to head coach of the organization’s AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose. Vincent was named AHL Coach Of The Year for the 2017-18 season.
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