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Four-time Brier champion Howard livid after not being told about ‘papered’ rocks prior to Saturday’s games – Toronto Sun

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Five teams were still in an epic battle for the Tim Hortons Brier title Saturday night, but it was a controversy that exploded earlier in the day that had everyone talking.

Glenn Howard, a four-time Canadian men’s curling champion, was furious after the Curling Canada ice technicians “papered” the rocks prior to Saturday’s action, but did not inform all of the teams.

Howard’s team, which has Wayne Middaugh at skip because Howard is recovering from injuries suffered in a snowmobiling accident, was planning to protest the result of its game against Team Canada’s Brad Gushue because they were unaware that the rocks had been “touched up,” a process that is designed to increase curl in the stones.

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Howard’s team ended losing Saturday night, as well, by a score of 7-4 to Calgary’s Kevin Koe and wound up missing the playoffs.

Koe’s win gave him first-place with a 10-2 record and a bye directly to Sunday night’s final. There he’ll face the winner of a semifinal between Matt Dunstone of Saskatchewan and Brendan Bottcher of Alberta, who both finished at 9-3.

Gushue, the defending champion who has won the Brier in three of the past four years, was eliminated after losing to Alberta, at 8-4, same record as Middaugh/Howard.

Curling Canada admitted in an e-mailed statement that there was a “communication breakdown that Curling Canada regrets” before Saturday’s games.

It said none of the teams were officially informed that the rocks had been touched up. However, it said two of the eight teams playing on the afternoon draw spoke with chief ice technician Greg Ewasko and were aware of the situation.

“I have no problem with papering the rocks at all,” Howard said. “The ice men are doing their due diligence to make the conditions the best for us. The fact that all the teams don’t know is still unacceptable to me. I can’t get my mind around the fact that some teams knew and some teams didn’t.

“It’s not the reason why we lost the game. This isn’t sour grapes because all this happened prior to the game. It just doesn’t sit well with me.”

Curling Canada said the rocks were treated with sandpaper on Friday night after some curlers reported there was less curl in the rocks in the later ends of games.

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Many of the teams on the ice Saturday said they talk to the ice maker before each game to see what might have changed and that’s how they learned about the rocks.

“You can always go ask the ice maker,” said four-time champion Kevin Koe, who was in first place with a 9-2 record heading into the final round-robin draw on Saturday night.. “We did and we knew. That being said, it’s not an issue out there. The ice is fantastic.

“Should they have papered them? That’s not up to me. We’re playing good and we don’t have an issue. Some people might say it’s because we’re winning but we didn’t have an issue with it.”

Saskatchewan skip Matt Dunstone, who improved to 8-3 with a 5-4 win over Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario, said the papered rocks come with the territory.

“Maybe the timing of it wasn’t necessarily the best but the whole game of curling is about making adjustments,” Dunstone said. “You’ve got to be able to do that. Whatever the rocks and everything throws at you. It’s just about making those adjustments.”

The Howard team, with 53-year-old Middaugh leading the way despite playing on a leg that was broken in 11 places five years ago and is held together by a 15-inch titanium rod, was right in the mix for the three-team playoffs heading into the final draw. They were sitting at 8-3, tied with Saskatchewan, Canada, and Alberta.

Saskatchewan second Kirk Muyres described Friday night’s draw as a “bloodbath,” as teams jockeyed for first place and a bye to the final and spots in the semifinal.

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Howard was so livid about the situation that he asked Curling Canada to allow his team to redo practice, including the last stone draw, which determined hammer and is used cumulatively to break ties in the standings.

“Some people may think it’s no big deal but the draw to the button is massive,” Howard said. “If we have hammer against Brad Gushue, it’s a whole different animal. He comes out and gets his deuce and we’re behind the eight-ball the whole time. And it’s cumulative as well. I just didn’t feel like we got a fair shake.”

Howard’s comments drew responses from many of the curlers in the event, including a strong defence of the ice-making crew from two-time Olympic gold medallist John Morris, the second on Koe’s team.

“There’s no one under more pressure in this entire event than the ice making crew and the head ice maker,” Morris said. “You might think the curlers are the ones who have all the heat on them. It’s the ice-making staff. They’re up at 5 a.m. every morning, they go to bed at midnight and they’re barely working on any sleep. They’re doing a fantastic job.

“When it comes to papering the stones, I would say half of the major championships I’ve been in, including both Olympics, there’s been papering going on during the event. It’s something that goes on. It’s not like the ice makers come out and say ‘Hey guys, we papered the stones,’ but it’s something that usually is known to the teams. It’s not like they’re telling certain teams, that they like. These guys are doing a heck of job. We want to see curl out there. It’s what gives the fans fantastic games to watch.”

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Morris said curlers have to be able to deal with changing ice conditions and changing rocks in order to win at this level.

“I don’t know who said what but reading ice is a skill of the game and reading rocks is a skill of the game and it’s pretty vital,” Morris said. “You have to be able to adjust to perform and be one of the best teams. As curlers we try to find sometimes, something to blame, and I feel that I’ve heard it before and sometimes curlers aren’t accountable enough. I’m not naming any names but I don’t think we should be putting any blame on ice makers.”

Howard, 58, is the oldest player in the Brier. He has only thrown a couple rocks this week because of his injuries, but he’s been to 18 Briers and has never seen anything like this happen before.

“I know what happens when they do the rocks,” Howard said. “It changes everything. You prepare your practice differently because it’s so much different from what you just played on. Now you’re coldcocked.”

Alberta’s Bottcher, coming off an 8-3 win over Ontario’s John Epping, didn’t see things the same way as Howard.

“It’s pretty obvious,” he said about the papering of the rocks. “You throw one rock in practice and it’s pretty clear what’s happened.”

The controversy cast a bit of a pall on a championship weekend that has been incredible and promises to be exciting through Sunday’s final.

Five of the top curling teams in the world were in the hunt and everyone was relishing the opportunity.

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“It’s about as good as it gets,” Dunstone said. “Isn’t this amazing? Every matchup out there, every single draw, is a complete coin flip. It’s such a great thing for curling and to be a part of it, to be around seven other world-class teams, watching them do their thing, competing at 90%, what a treat it is to watch and to be a part of it. It’s a total treat to be a part of this.”

Howard was equally impressed but still miffed.

“To change the surface that drastically and have not all the teams know is just beyond unacceptable,” he said. “I don’t know what they can do but I want to make my point clear that we’re playing for a national championship and it’s beyond the realm of comprehension for me. I just can’t believe that we weren’t told.”

Twyman@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

STANDINGS

CHAMPIONSHIP POOL

y-Wild Card 2 (Koe) 10-2

x-Saskatchewan (Dunstone) 9-3

x-Alberta (Bottcher) 9-3

Canada (Gushue) 8-4

Wild Card 3 (Howard/Middaugh) 8-4

Ontario (Epping) 7-5

Northern Ontario (Jacobs) 7-5

Manitoba (Gunnlaugson) 6-6

y-advanced to final

x-advanced to semifinal

SATURDAY RESULTS

DRAW 21

Canada 6, Howard 3

Saskatchewan 5, Northern Ontario 4

Alberta 8, Ontario 3

Koe 12. Manitoba 4

DRAW 22

Saskatchewan 9, Manitoba 6

Alberta 8, Canada 2

Koe 7, Howard 4

Northern Ontario 9, Ontario 3

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Motor racing-Canadian Grand Prix cancelled for second year

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(Reuters) -The Canadian Grand Prix scheduled for June 13 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal has been cancelled for the second year in a row, CBC Radio reported on Thursday although Formula One said discussions remained ongoing.

With the spread of new COVID-19 variants and Canada battling to contain a third wave of the virus, Montreal public health authorities concluded that even if run behind closed doors without spectators the risks were too high, reported the CBC.

F1 officials, according to the CBC, wanted to bypass the mandatory 14-day quarantine for the hundreds of staff, crew members and drivers and rely on private medical staff and have the entire operation run in a bubble.

The race is scheduled to follow on immediately from Azerbaijan, whose grand prix is scheduled for June 6 in Baku and is due to go ahead after also being cancelled last year.

“We are continuing our discussions with the promoter in Canada and have no further comment,” an F1 spokesperson told Reuters.

The Autosport website quoted a spokesperson for the Canadian promoter as saying the radio report referred to “a document of recommendations from public health.

“We as an organisation have not had confirmation from our public health officials and won’t comment until we get an official confirmation.”

Canada, with some of the world’s toughest travel rules, obliges its citizens and residents arriving from abroad to self-isolate for 14 days.

International arrivals are required to quarantine for up to three days in a hotel.

One of Canada‘s biggest sporting events, it would mark the second consecutive year the grand prix has been removed from the F1 schedule due to the spread of COVID-19.

Media reports have suggested Turkey is on standby to be slotted in as Canada‘s replacement.

The Istanbul circuit is logistically convenient for freight coming from Baku and was brought in last year also at short notice to bolster a calendar ravaged by the pandemic.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto/Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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Boston Bruins Add Offense With Solid Taylor Hall Trade – Boston Hockey Now

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The Boston Bruins clearly understood they had serious deficiencies on their NHL roster this season and credit them for going and doing something about it.

The B’s finished off their Sunday night fireworks ahead of the NHL trade deadline by sending a second round pick and Anders Bjork to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for top-6 winger Taylor Hall and bottom-6 forward Curtis Lazar. TSN’s Darren Dreger, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and ESPN’s John Buccigross were the first to report about the completed deal between the Bruins and Buffalo Sabres in the hours following the B’s getting stomped by the Washington Capitals, 8-1, at TD Garden.

The Buffalo Sabres retained half of the $8 million salary that Hall signed for prior to the start of the 2021 hockey season.

The 29-year-old Hall is having a terrible season in Buffalo with just two goals and 19 points in 37 games along with a minus-21 rating after he chose to sign a one-year deal with the Sabres during the offseason. But he brings legitimate offensive talent as a former No. 1 overall pick and Hart Trophy winner to a Boston Bruins team that’s ranked in the bottom third of the NHL offensively all season.

The Bruins were one of the suitors for Hall prior to him choosing the Sabres months ago, and now they get him for a deep discount while keeping their own first round picks after making their deadline deals.

Holding onto their own first round pick was a priority for Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney after spending first rounders at the deadline in two of the last three deadlines in trades for damaged goods Rick Nash and Ondrej Kase.

The 26-year-old Lazar has five goals and 11 points in 33 games as a bottom-6 forward for the Sabres this season and is signed for $800,000 for next season. It seemed clear that something was going on with the 24-year-old Anders Bjork over the last couple of weeks as he was a healthy scratch for five straight games, including Sunday night against Washington, and heads to Buffalo hoping to further develop a game built on speed and skill level that hasn’t translated into offense as of yet.

Hall should fit right into the top-6 with the Bruins as a skilled winger for playmaking center David Krejci, but it remains to be seen how he’s going to fit as another left winger on a team with Nick Ritchie and Jake DeBrusk.

Either Ritchie or DeBrusk is going to have to play the off wing with a Krejci/Hall combo, but that’s a problem that Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy will gladly figure out after being forced to piece together lineups all season due to injuries and offensive inconsistency. With the acquisition of Hall, Lazar and left-handed defenseman Mike Reilly on Sunday night, it would appear the Boston Bruins are largely done with deals ahead of Monday’s NHL trade deadline.

Interestingly enough, the Boston Bruins are set to play the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night at TD Garden.

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Drouin must return to mentality that’s led to success this season – Sportsnet.ca

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It was something Dominique Ducharme said after his Montreal Canadiens played an abysmal game against the Ottawa Senators last week, something that only truly resonated after they lost 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday — a game that emboldened the struggle Jonathan Drouin’s currently enduring.

“Ninety per cent of the mistakes we made were mental, and the rest of it was above our shoulders.” the coach said after the 6-3 loss to Ottawa last Saturday, somewhat channelling New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra with this bit of wit and wisdom.

It was hard not to think of those words watching Drouin play the way he did on Wednesday. For much of this season, the talented left winger has played a primary role in Montreal’s success. He’s led them with 19 assists, been tenacious on the forecheck, physically engaged all over the ice, cerebral as always in his execution and, as he’s said on several occasions, relatively unconcerned by whether or not his name has been featured on the scoresheet.

But it seemed clear, after watching Drouin dump a breakaway into Jack Campbell’s chest with one of 32 shots the Maple Leafs goaltender turned aside to set a franchise record with his 10th consecutive win, he had diverted from that. And that affected the way he played the rest of the game.

It was Drouin’s fifth in a row without a point, his 18th without a goal, and he’d have to be a robot not to be suffering the mental wear of not seeing the puck go in more than twice since the season started, the torment of seeing only three per cent of his shots hit the back of the net through 36 games after 10 per cent of them resulted in goals through the first 348 games of his career.

“It is weighing on me where, when I have a chance and miss the goal, I might be trying to score too much,” Drouin said. “It’s something I obviously think about — every player would — and I’ve just gotta put it past me and just keep shooting pucks.”

Ideally, the 26-year-old wouldn’t be thinking about any of this. These are thoughts that weigh a player down and right now the Canadiens are in tough without Brendan Gallagher for the rest of the season and Drouin needs to be light and free to help account for that loss. And in order for him to do that, he needs to focus on what he does best.

Because the reality is that even though Drouin can score more, scoring isn’t what he needs to do in order to be at his best and really help this team.

“When his feet are moving and he’s making plays, Drou’s a pass-first guy,” explained Jake Allen, who made 29 saves in Carey Price’s absence. “When his feet are moving, his head’s always in it. When his feet are moving, he’s controlling the play, controlling the puck. He’s a guy who really can control the play for a whole line. You want the puck on that guy’s stick and let the other guys do the dirty work and he’ll find them.”

But when Drouin’s feet aren’t moving, there just isn’t enough of that other stuff happening.

When Drouin’s feet weren’t moving, he lost a battle for the puck in the offensive zone and allowed the NHL’s leading goal scorer to start the rush that resulted in the winning play of Wednesday’s game.

Auston Matthews to Mitch Marner, back to Matthews, off Allen and slammed into Montreal’s net by Zach Hyman with 9:39 remaining in the third period, with Drouin watching from just inside his own blue line.

“You give a 3-on-2 to the Matthews line and it’s the kind of play they’re going to make you pay on,” said Ducharme.

Was Drouin still thinking about that shot he didn’t bury in the second period?

It’s understandable if he was, but those are the kind of thoughts he needs to shake right now.

“He wants to do well, and I’m sure it’s getting a little bit in his head,” said Ducharme. “I think the best remedy for him is to be scoring that goal or making that big play, and I think he’s going to be energized by that and less thinking, more acting.

“It is a fine line. Those kind of thoughts is not something that you want to happen. But when you receive that puck and you see the opening and stuff, (the slump) comes back to (your mind). That’s why the mental part of the game is something that’s very tricky. It’s not his will to be thinking that way. Every player who’s going through a time like that will have that thought and scoring that goal will take him to a different level. At those kind of times you need to make it even simpler and being even more inside going at the net and finding a garbage (goal) right there and you put it in and sometimes you go on a little run. It might be that kind of goal that he needs to get that monkey off his back.”

It’s the kind of goal Corey Perry scored twice to give the Canadiens a chance in this game.

But Drouin isn’t Perry, who rightly pointed out after the game he’s made a career of scoring goals that way. And even if Drouin can borrow from what Perry does next time he has a chance like the one Brett Kulak set him up with for that breakaway, there are other ways he can positively impact the game.

You can appreciate that Drouin said he’s putting pressure on himself to score more and help make up for the goals the team will be missing with Gallagher sidelined, but that might not get him to where he needs to be mentally to contribute as much as he already has this season.

What would, though, is a sharp turn towards the mentality he described just days ago. The one that’s enabled him to be a much more consistent player this season than he has in seasons past.

“When I was younger, I’d stay on one game or stay on one play for too long and wouldn’t be able to let it go for a bit or a couple of days,” Drouin said. “But I think for me now it’s can I look at myself in the mirror after a game and did I give my good effort? Was I a part of this game? Was I doing something right in a lot of areas?

“That’s what I do now. I think points are there, goals are there, assists are there, but it’s just about playing that real game and playing to help your team win.”

Drouin’s done a lot of that this season and has a chance to get right back to it when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Bell Centre Thursday.

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