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GARRIOCH: Canadian division concept may be scrapped if all seven teams are moved south – Ottawa Sun

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The NHL and NHL Players’ Association are in negotiations for a 56-game schedule that’s tentatively scheduled to start on Jan. 13. Given this news, it looks like that date is going to be a long shot and it may be more realistic for the NHL to try to have a 48-game schedule that begins on Feb. 1.

Provincial health authorities are concerned with the rising cases of COVID-19 throughout the country and unless they’re on board the NHL’s seven teams won’t be allowed to play here.

Lisa MacLeod, an Ottawa area MPP who’s the Ontario minister of heritage, sport, tourism and culture, told reporters Thursday she’s held talks with the officials from the Senators and Leafs.

“In terms of (the NHL’s) direct proposal, I believe I’m going to be briefed on that in the next day or so,” said MacLeod, who added she’d also be speaking with Steven Guilbault, the minister of heritage in the federal government, in the next day or so.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault told reporters Wednesday he believes the issues can be worked out.

“I think the stakes are more on the side of what concessions the players will make on their salaries,” Legault said in his daily briefing. “As far as health standards are concerned, we managed to do it this summer (with all teams in secure zones in Edmonton and Toronto), so I think it will be possible to do it from mid-January.”

If the Leafs, Senators, Habs, Flames, Oilers, Jets and Canucks aren’t able to get clearance then the idea of an all-Canadian division will likely have to be scrapped

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Maple Leafs avoid disaster scenario with Jason Spezza clearing waivers – Yahoo Canada Sports

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The Canadian Press

Confident Buccaneers defence reverts to form at right time

TAMPA, Fla. — Tom Brady’s quest for a seventh Super Bowl ring continues, thanks to a young defence that’s regained its swagger when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers needed it most. The Bucs (13-5) advanced to the NFC championship game for the first time in 18 years, with Brady outplaying Drew Brees with plenty of assistance from a rejuvenated defence that forced four turnovers in a 30-20 divisional playoff victory over the New Orleans Saints. Brady threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third, finishing scoring drives of 3, 40 and 20 yards set up by takeaways by a unit many felt would be a liability in the third meeting of the season between the NFC South rivals. “They played incredible,” said Brady, who is headed to his 14th conference title game — first in the NFC. “This team has been doing that all year at different times,” the 43-year-old quarterback added. “The defence has picked us up, some weeks the offence has been a little bit better. Special teams has been so consistent. The way the defence played (Sunday), they were spectacular.” New Orleans had won five straight over Tampa Bay, including a pair of lopsided wins this season. While the Bucs led the NFL in run defence for the second straight year, a young secondary featuring three starters in their first or second seasons seemed to regress during a stretch in which Tampa Bay dropped three of four games in November. Despite going 4-0 over the final month of the regular season and beating Washington in the NFC wild-card round, questions persisted about the pass defence heading to New Orleans, where Devin White, Sean Murphy-Bunting and Mike Edwards had interceptions and rookie Antoine Winfield Jr., forced a fumble that White scooped up to position Brady to throw a tying TD pass in the third quarter. “We’ve been fighting adversity all year … battling the naysayers and those that say we can’t do things,” Murphy-Bunting said. “I know one thing,” White, a second-year linebacker who was the fifth overall pick in the 2019 draft, added. “We might be young, but we can get after it when we’ve got our minds set to it.” Brees was limited to 134 yards and one TD passing, while Saints star receiver Michael Thomas was held without a catch. NFL touchdown leader Alvin Kamara had 105 yards from scrimmage, but failed to get into the end zone. New Orleans scored early in the third quarter to take a 20-13 lead. Four possessions the rest of the way ended fumble, punt, interception and interception. Now, it’s on to Green Bay for a matchup against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. The Bucs will need another strong defensive performance. “It’s hard to get to this point,” Brady said. “There’s nothing guaranteed from this point forward, but we’ve got to go out there and we’re going to have to play our very best to beat one of the best teams in the league.” WHAT’S WORKING A huge part of advancing to the NFC championship game for the fourth time in franchise history was Brees turned the ball over and Brady didn’t after throwing five of his 12 interceptions against the Saints during the regular season. The Bucs have won six straight since their bye week in early December, and they’ve only turned the ball over twice during that stretch. WHAT NEEDS HELP Although Brady lauded the overall consistency of the special teams this season, New Orleans’ Deonte Harris returned a punt 54 yards to set up an early field goal. Minutes later, Harris had a 67-yarder for an apparent touchdown nullified by penalty. STOCK UP When it looked as if New Orleans might have an opportunity to take control of the game, Winfield — son of former NFL cornerback Antoine Winfield, Jr. — forced the third-quarter fumble that shifted momentum to Tampa Bay’s favour for good. “I can’t say enough about him,” coach Bruce Arians said. “To me, he’s the defensive rookie of the year.” STOCK DOWN A rare week when mistakes didn’t mar an otherwise impressive performance. INJURED Receiver Antonio Brown suffered a knee injury against the Saints. He had a MRI on Monday. KEY NUMBER One, as in one more road victory needed to become the first team to appear in a Super Bowl in its home stadium. This year’s NFL title game will be played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, on Feb. 7. NEXT STEPS A chilly date with the Packers in Green Bay, where the weather forecast is for temperatures in the mid-20s and snow. “You’ve just got to have some mental toughness, wear some warm clothes and be ready to go,” Brady said. “We’ll be prepared. The team that plays the best is going to win.” ___ More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL Fred Goodall, The Associated Press

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Dell to Devils after Maple Leafs lose goalie on waivers while Spezza clears – CBC.ca

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The Toronto Maple Leafs have lost goaltender Aaron Dell to the waiver wire.

The New Jersey Devils claimed Dell a day after the Maple Leafs put the goaltender on waivers, along with veteran forward Jason Spezza.

The 31-year-old Dell signed a one-year, $800,000 US contract with Toronto in October.

He played in 33 games with the San Jose Sharks in 2019-20, posting a 12-15-3 record.

The native of Airdrie, Alta., had a 48-34-12 record with a 2.76 goals-against average, a .908 save percentage and five shutouts over four seasons with the Sharks.

Spezza cleared waivers and can be assigned to Toronto’s taxi squad.

The Devils have been looking to add goaltending depth behind Mackenzie Blackwood after veteran Corey Crawford retired unexpectedly before the season. New Jersey claimed netminder Eric Comrie from Winnipeg last week.

Meanwhile, Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe says rookie forward Nick Robertson will miss around four weeks with an injury sustained during his NHL debut.

The 19-year-old Robertson was hit into the boards awkwardly by Ottawa’s Drake Batherson in the first period of Toronto’s 3-2 win over the Senators on Saturday.

Keefe told reporters Monday that results of Robertson’s MRI were “better than expected” and that he considers missing around a month to be “good news.”

Robertson was selected by Toronto in the second round, 53rd overall, at the 2019 NHL draft.

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'No special treatment': Australia rebuffs tennis stars' quarantine complaints – CTV News

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MELBOURNE —
Dozens of tennis stars stuck in hotel quarantine ahead of the Australian Open were told Monday they would get no “special treatment” to leave their rooms to train, despite complaints from some players.

Australian health authorities rejected demands for tough isolation rules to be eased, as players resorted to hitting balls off windows, walls and upturned beds in the hope of being ready for the year’s first Grand Slam.

The Australian Open is due to make a delayed start in Melbourne on February 8, but its troubled build-up hit further problems after positive coronavirus cases were detected on three of the 17 charter flights that carried players and staff.

The 72 players on the three planes have been deemed close contacts of the four COVID-19 cases and barred from leaving their hotel rooms for 14 days, as largely virus-free Australia tries to prevent community transmission.

Health authorities said they discovered two more cases linked to the tournament on Monday, bringing the total for the Australian Open cluster to six.

Several players have taken to social media to complain about conditions.

World number one Novak Djokovic — who arrived on a virus-free flight and is being allowed to train in a bio-secure bubble — reportedly sent a list of demands to tournament organizers that included allowing players to move to private homes with tennis courts.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews smashed back that request, saying authorities would not bend strict health rules any further for the players.

“There’s no special treatment here. Because the virus doesn’t treat you specially, so neither do we,” he said.

The arrangements have sparked a backlash in Australia, with some social media users questioning why more than 1,000 players and staff were flown in for the sporting event, when tens of thousands of Australians remain stranded overseas.

The country closed its international border in March and has since limited the number of its own citizens who can return each week.

Meanwhile the majority of players are allowed out to train for five hours a day, unlike other returned travellers who are confined to their hotel rooms for the full 14 days.

Andrews said all players knew about Australia’s strict quarantine rules ahead of their flights.

“The notion that there’s been any change, the notion that people weren’t briefed, I think that argument really has no integrity whatsoever,” he said.

Some pointed out that the host city of Melbourne had endured a gruelling four-month lockdown last year after a virus outbreak.

“Our health safety is more important to us than your feelings of privilege and entitlement,” one Twitter user wrote.

“Most of us here in Melbourne do not want tennis players here potentially reintroducing the virus and causing us to go back to harsh restrictions,” another added.

French player Alize Cornet issued an apology to Australians on Twitter after earlier deleting a tweet that called the quarantine “insane”.

“Your reaction to this tactless comment made me realize what you’ve been through last year & how much you suffered,” she wrote.

“I guess I feel a bit anxious about all this & I better have shut my mouth.”

Staff are dressed in protective gear at a Melbourne hotel housing tennis players

Tennis Australia has begun delivering exercise equipment to the isolated players who are concerned about the risk of injury when they finally hit the courts for a week of lead-in tournaments to start in Melbourne from January 31.

New Zealand player Artem Sitak said he could hear tennis balls hitting the walls “everywhere” in his hotel as players embraced “creative” forms of exercise.

The doubles player told public broadcaster ABC the situation was “not ideal” but he was “staying positive and hoping for the best”.

“I’m trying to do as much as I can — all the stretching, all the exercising and anything I can possibly do — and hoping for the physios when they come out to do some magic here,” he said.

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