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Hall calls pause 'a variable' as possible free agent with Coyotes – NHL.com

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Taylor Hall said he’s happy to have hockey games to think about before he determines his NHL future as a possible free agent.

The 28-year old forward could have become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, but the pause in the NHL season due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus changed the usual timing of play and the offseason.

“It’s a variable for sure, but I think you look around the world and there’s people that are in much tougher spots than I am,” Hall told Sportsnet in remarks published Saturday. “And it’s completely out of my hands, so, whether I’m going to become a free agent or not, I think it’s nice that there’s hockey left to be played, and I can really just focus on that and then see what happens from there.”

The NHL announced its 24-team Return to Play Plan on May 26, and it included the Coyotes, who were four points out of a Stanley Cup Playoff position when the season was paused March 12.

Arizona (33-29-8), with a .529 points percentage, would play the Nashville Predators (35-26-8, .565) in a best-of-5 Qualifying Round series, with the winner advancing to the playoffs in the Western Conference. Dates and sites for those games have not been announced.

“I think everyone’s timeline’s been thrown off,” Hall said. “I just consider myself lucky that I play on one of the 24 teams that’s going to have a chance to play for the Stanley Cup … and we’ll see what happens from there.”

Hall played 35 games for Arizona after he was traded by the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 16. The seven-year contract with an average annual value of $6 million he signed with the Edmonton Oilers was set to expire June 30. Training camp to precede the restart will not begin before July 10.

“It’s been an interesting year,” Hall said from Toronto in an episode of “Hockey Central at Home.” “I spent three months in New Jersey, I spent around three months in Arizona, and I’ve been in quarantine for almost three months. So it’s been an interesting year.

“But certainly whenever anyone asks me about Arizona, I say the living was awesome, it’s a great place to play as a person. The arena is a little bit far (in Glendale), that’s maybe the only complaint that players would have, but we get treated well by the organization. I think everyone loves playing for our coaching staff and [it] really was a great experience. I wish we would have won more games, but overall it was awesome.”

Video: ARI@CGY: Hall wires home wrist shot from the circle

Hall scored 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) with Arizona, eventually landing on a line with wing Conor Garland.

“We started playing together 6-7 games into my stint in Arizona and I found that he is a great player to play with,” Hall said of the 24-year-old. “He plays with a lot of heart and a lot of passion and has a lot of skill. So, as a left winger, to have a guy on your right side like that was a lot of fun to play with.”

Hall was voted the Hart Trophy winner as NHL MVP after he helped the Devils reach the playoffs in 2017-18, his only postseason in 10 NHL seasons and New Jersey’s first berth since 2011-12.

The No. 1 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft by Edmonton, he scored 52 points (16 goals, 36 assists) in 65 games this season with New Jersey and Arizona, and has 563 points (218 goals, 345 assists) in 627 games with the Oilers, Devils and Coyotes.

Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said earlier this month he felt Arizona had a good chance to keep Hall.

“I’m not saying he is going to sign here, but I definitely think we’re a team he’s very interested in staying with,” Tocchet told the ESPN On Ice podcast.

“… You’re talking about a guy who, before this, was going to make a ton of money. With this whole pandemic, like he told me, he doesn’t want to go through another year trying to play on a one-year contract. He wants to get settled somewhere. So he’s got a lot of different options that he’s [got to] weigh.”

Tweet from @Sportsnet: 🏒 Hockey Central @ Home 🏒@ArizonaCoyotes star @hallsy09 joined @SNCaroline to talk about his team’s renewed playoff hopes with the NHL’s 24-team playoff format, his takeaways after watching #TheLastDance twice, and more! Full episode ������ https://t.co/DpZIm74l3I pic.twitter.com/FR8alTptdC

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Crosby releases statement as athletes continue to speak out – TSN

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Athletes and notable names from the world of sports are speaking up as protests continue following the death of George Floyd last this week in Minneapolis.


Crosby releases statement

Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby released a statement on social media through his foundation Wednesday, condemning racism and vowing to listen and educate himself to help make a difference.

“What happened to George Floyd cannot be ignored. Racism that exists today in all forms is not acceptable. While I am not able to relate to the discrimination that black and minority communities face daily, I will listen and educate myself on how I can help make a difference.

“Together, we will find solutions through necessary dialogue and a collective effort.”


Weber, Gallagher from Canadiens speak out

Montreal Canadiens defenceman and captain Shea Weber and forward Brendan Gallagher both posted messages Wednesday speaking out against racial injustice.

Weber: “Sport is a unifying force. It brings people together. We now need to be unified in this fight and work together. I don’t have the solutions and can’t speak from experience or tell someone who has dealt with racism how they should feel. But we can all listen.”

Gallagher: “There’s a large group of people begging to be heard. We need to listen.”


Capitals’ Holtby, Wilson join the conversation

Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and  forward Tom Wilson both released statements condemning racial injustice on Wednesday.

Holtby’s statement was posted to Twitter with the message, “I couldn’t find the words to say. And still haven’t But I had to try. #BlackLivesMatter

Wilson said he is “committing to learn, to listen and to support going forward.”

Wilson also said he would be making contributions to the East of the River Mutual Aid Fund and the Fort Dupont Cannons Hockey Program, the oldest minority hockey program in the country.


Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan shares message

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan shared a message on the Jaguars website Wednesday, detailing his experiences as a Muslin-American and speaking out against racial injustice.

“No families should have to worry about their child losing their life just because of the color of their skin. Yet, they do. That should never happen in what should be, and I still believe is, the greatest nation on the planet.

“I know change is possible, and here’s one reason why: While I am often described as “self-made,” the truth is I benefitted tremendously from hundreds of good and generous people early on, from all walks of life, who supported me unconditionally and contributed mightily to my realization of the American Dream.

“My overarching goal, or mission, is to do my part to level the playing field so everyone has the same access and opportunity to achieve the American Dream, without fear or compromise.

“We must have the answer today, and we will work with players, staff and more to arrive at a timely response. Because this moment, while agonizingly similar in many ways, is unlike any other in our history for underserved people and communities in the United States. We cannot attack the virus of racism with indifference or periodic attention. We cannot expect an easy cure or give up when the quest becomes inconvenient or uncomfortable.”

Read the full message here.


Statement form Major League Baseball

Major League Baseball released the following statement on Wednesday with the caption, “We want to be better, we need to be better, and this is our promise to do the work.”

We offer our condolences to the families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and all the families that have lost loved ones due to senseless killing and injustice.

To be clear, our game has zero tolerance for racism and racial injustice.

The reality that the Black community lives in fear or anxiety over racial discrimination, prejudice or violence is unacceptable.

Addressing this issue requires action both within our sport and society. MLB is committed to engaging our communities to invoke change. We will take the necessary time, effort and collaboration to address symptoms of systemic racism, prejudice and injustice, but will be equally as focused on the root of the problem.

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Wes Unseld, Hall of Famer and former NBA MVP, dies at 74 – Sportsnet.ca

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WASHINGTON — Wes Unseld was an undersized NBA centre known more for his bruising picks, tenacious rebounding and perfectly placed outlet passes than any points he produced.

He thrived in his role as a workmanlike leader.

“I never played pretty,” Unseld said when elected to the Hall of Fame in 1988. “I wasn’t flashy. My contributions were in the things most people don’t notice. They weren’t in high scoring or dunking or behind-the-back passes.”

Unseld, who began his pro career as a rookie MVP, led Washington to its only NBA championship and was chosen one of the 50 greatest players in league history, died Tuesday after “lengthy health battles, most recently with pneumonia,” his family said in a statement released by the Wizards. He was 74.

He spent his entire 13-season playing career with the Bullets-Wizards franchise, then was its coach and general manager. The team was based in Baltimore when he was drafted; he and his wife, Connie, opened Unselds’ School in that city in 1978.

“Wes Unseld was one of the most consequential players of his era,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “His competitive drive and selfless approach made him a beloved teammate. … Wes also set the model of class, integrity and professionalism for the entire NBA family during stints as a player, coach and team executive with Washington and through his dedication to expanding educational opportunities for children.”

Unseld instantly made the team then known as the Baltimore Bullets into a winner after he was taken with the No. 2 overall pick — behind future teammate Elvin Hayes — in the 1968 draft.

A decade later, he was the MVP of the 1978 NBA Finals as the Bullets beat the Seattle SuperSonics in a seven-game series best known for Washington coach Dick Motta’s proclamation: “The opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings.”

Listed at 6-foot-7 and 245 pounds, Unseld used power and savvy to outplay bigger opponents. He also brought his pro team something it never had experienced — and hasn’t, really, since he stopped playing: true sustained success.

As a rookie, he averaged 13.8 points and 18.2 rebounds, while the team went 57-25, a 21-win improvement over the previous season and the franchise’s first winning record. Unseld (1969) and Wilt Chamberlain (1960) are the only two players to win NBA Rookie of the Year and MVP honours in the same season.

The Bullets made the playoffs 12 consecutive times, reaching four NBA Finals. Unseld was an All-Star in his first four seasons and again in 1975.

“I know that night in and night out, the guy I play against will have more physical ability,” Unseld once said, “but I feel like if I go out against a guy and play him 40 or 48 minutes a game or whatever, toe to toe, head to head, he is going to get tired or beat up or bored for two or three minutes. That will be enough to make sure he doesn’t win the game for his team.”

He was remembered Tuesday as “the gentlest of giants” by former Bullets player Rex Chapman, who was coached by Unseld in the 1990s, and as “a Legend and a Leader” by Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, whose father, Stan, was a teammate of Unseld’s on the Bullets in the 1970s. Love’s middle name is Wesley in Unseld’s honour.

“Those of us who were fortunate enough to spend time with Wes knew him as a generous and thoughtful man whose strong will was matched only by his passion and drive for uplifting others,” Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard said. “His physical prowess, undeniable talent and on-court demeanour may have struck fear in opponents throughout the NBA, but he will be remembered best as a mentor, leader and friend.”

Wesley Sissel Unseld was born March 14, 1946, in Louisville, Kentucky. He won two state championships in high school, then averaged 20.6 points and 18.9 rebounds over four years at the University of Louisville.

In the NBA, Unseld averaged 10.8 points and 14 rebounds for his career and is still Washington’s career leader in total boards. He was No. 1 in assists, too, until John Wall overtook him in 2016.

“His scowl could be intimidating but really he was a kind, thoughtful and protective comrade,” said Phil Chenier, a teammate of Unseld’s for Washington’s 1978 title. “Wes is the epitome of a great teammate, team leader and friend.”

Aching knees forced Unseld to stop playing in 1981, but he remained with a franchise that retired his No. 41 jersey.

Unseld was Washington’s head coach from 1987-94, going 202-345 with one playoff appearance. He also had a seven-year stint as GM from 1996-03, with one other post-season trip.

After the club’s then-owner, Abe Pollin, died in 2009, Unseld said: “I have no doubt that he kept me longer in positions than he should have — and longer than I wanted him to. He was loyal.”

Unseld took a leave of absence from the Wizards for health reasons in 2003, ending 35 years of continuous service to the franchise, and had both knees replaced.

In addition to Connie, Unseld is survived by his daughter Kim, son Wes Unseld Jr., and two grandchildren. Kim is a teacher at Unselds’ School; Wes Jr. is an assistant coach with the Denver Nuggets.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

“We all admired Wes as the pillar of this franchise for so long,” Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said, “but it was his work off the court that will truly leave an impactful legacy and live on through the many people he touched and influenced throughout his life of basketball and beyond.”

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As NHL stars share their outrage, hockey’s own backyard still needs work – Toronto Sun

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Jonathan Toews has never been pulled over by a police officer because of the colour of his skin. He’s never been called the ‘N’ word.

As the Chicago Blackhawks captain wrote on Instagram on Monday: “I can’t pretend for a second I know what it feels like to walk in a black man’s shoes.”

Neither can Blake Wheeler, John Tavares, Alex Ovechkin, nor any of the white hockey players who have spoken out in the past few days about the racial injustices still plaguing our society. That’s fine. This isn’t about whether a white person can relate to the type of ugly experiences that their black teammates have had to endure.

For the most part, they can’t.

But they still have a voice. As white hockey players, it’s a particularly loud voice. And now they are using it to ask some hard questions.

“We have to be as involved in this as black athletes. It can’t just be their fight,” Wheeler said in a conference call on Tuesday. “And I want to be real clear, here: I look in the mirror about this before I look out at everyone else. I wish that it didn’t take me this long to get behind it in a meaningful way. But I guess what you can do is try to be better going forward.”

If there’s some good that has come out of the mass protests that have been staged across American cities ever since George Floyd died under the knee of a Minneapolis policeman more than a week ago, it’s that more and more people of power are using their platforms to shed light on an issue that’s been kept in the dark for far too long.

When the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup in 2018, Devante Smith-Pelly told me that he would not attend the ceremonial act of visiting the White House because “the things that (Donald Trump) spews are straight-up racist and sexist.”

Those comments made headlines, but with all due respect to Smith-Pelly, who is now playing in Russia after spending 395 games in the NHL, the message would have had a bigger impact had Ovechkin delivered it.

That is how real change occurs. It’s not enough for a fringe player to speak out. If you really want to get people’s attention, you need the stars of the game, such as Toews and Wheeler — who previously might have been worried about saying anything too inflammatory because they didn’t want to risk endorsement dollars — to use their influence and stand beside those who are afflicted.

“The value of that is immeasurable to us. And it’s so impactful,” said retired NHL goalie Kevin Weekes, who is an analyst for the NHL Network. “Unfortunately, it takes other people who aren’t impacted to give credibility to what’s happened. It’s empowering to see Jonathan Toews and Blake Wheeler and so many guys behind the scenes who don’t have a horse in the race speak up. I celebrate those guys.”

Weekes, who grew up in Scarborough, Ont., and spent most of his pro career in the U.S., added that this is not strictly an American problem.

Sure, the issues regarding race and discrimination might be worse in the U.S. than in Canada. But let’s not pretend that black hockey players are welcomed with open arms north of the border.

Weekes had a banana thrown at him during a 2002 playoff game in Montreal. The same things happened to Wayne Simmonds during a pre-season game in London, Ont. While playing for the Windsor Spitfires, Akim Aliu was the target of racial discrimination disguised as rookie hazing.

It happens. It happens more frequently than we’d probably like to admit.

“I know people in Canada say it’s not happening here, but that could not be further from the truth,” said Weekes. “I got ‘driving while black’ more at home than anywhere. More than in Carolina, more than in Florida, more than anywhere in the U.S.”

We’d like to believe that times are changing, that what Weekes went through as a pro is less than what Willie O’Ree endured when he was the first black player in the NHL, and that the league today is more welcoming and more inclusive than it was 10, 20 or 30 years ago.

And yet, it was in April when New York Rangers prospect K’Andre Miller held an online Q&A with fans that was quickly overrun with someone typing the N-word over and over again.

Earlier in the year, Bill Peters was forced to resign as the head coach of the Calgary Flames after Aliu revealed that his former coach had uttered racial epithets in his direction when both were in the minors.

The problem hasn’t gone away. It just keeps getting swept under the carpet and re-appearing somewhere else.

“I said this when the Bill Peters story came out: This is going to happen again in six months. What are we going to do about it?” said retired NHL forward Anthony Stewart, who is an analyst for Sportsnet. “It’s unfortunate to see the county being burned, but lost in the message is that they kneeled and they had a silent protest and nothing happened. Let’s actually make a difference now.”

To the NHL’s credit, it has been working hard to try and make the league as inclusive as possible. Kim Davis was hired a couple of years ago to spearhead social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs. And in December, commissioner Gary Bettman unveiled a multi-pointed ‘zero tolerance’ appropriate conduct.

As of Tuesday, almost every team had issued some form of statement expressing support for peaceful protest.

Weekes, in particular, has received text messages and phone calls from players, general managers and agents telling him that he is not alone and asking him how they can help make the league a better and safer place.

It’s a start, he said.

“I love our sport,” said Weekes. “I’m proud of the sport itself and the values that the sport teaches. I love hockey. But we have a lot of work ahead of us.”

mtraikos@postmedia.com

twitter.com/Michael_Traikos

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