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Hamonic’s ordeal shows human aspect of Canucks’ COVID-19 pause –



VANCOUVER – There could be no more human aspect to the Vancouver Canucks’ entanglement with COVID-19, nor a more immediate reminder of priorities, than defenceman Travis Hamonic being added Thursday to the NHL’s COVID protocol list.

He joined winger Adam Gaudette and an unidentified member of the coaching staff on the team’s COVID list as the NHL announced the postponement of another three games for the Canucks, who were supposed to end a six-day schedule break Wednesday at Rogers Arena against the Calgary Flames.

Other Canucks players will continue to self-isolate and Vancouver will not practise again until at least next Tuesday and won’t play any sooner than next Thursday’s road game against the Flames, the NHL said in a press release.

These are minimum target dates. The Canucks could be shut down longer pending further daily testing for COVID-19 and its variants.

Gaudette was pulled from practice on Tuesday when his Monday test for the coronavirus came back positive 24 hours later. After an expedited round of tests on Wednesday, the league postponed the Canucks-Flames game shortly before puck drop that night.

The addition of Hamonic to the COVID protocol list should frighten any parent.

Playing for the Flames last season, the 30-year-old defenceman from St. Malo, Man., opted out of the summer Stanley Cup tournament after his daughter, Charlie, suffered a serious respiratory illness when she was eight months old.

He explained his decision not to play in this achingly-honest statement in July: “Like every parent, everything we do is to provide and protect our kids and try to take away any suffering they may endure. Last year, we spent the longest, scariest and hardest week of our lives by our daughter’s hospital bedside. We were unsure of what would come next. But with God’s strength, our little girl fought her respiratory virus and recovered during that long week. We were helpless and couldn’t do anything to help her except hold her little hands, kiss her head and pray. We saw what a respiratory virus can do to our healthy little girl. And it’s something no parent wants or should go through. Now, blessed with our second child, a baby boy, the risk of today’s COVID-19 pandemic is a very difficult one to weigh as parents.”

His daughter’s illness in January 2019 came a few months after Hamonic and his wife, Stephanie, partnered the Flames in a charity initiative called Charlie’s Children to provide items like cribs, strollers and car seats to low-income families expecting a baby.

Fearful of bringing COVID-19 into his family, Hamonic chose not to play for the Flames last summer.

He ended his statement with this: “I wish I could lace up my skates and be out there battling, blocking a shot, and helping the team win. But my family has and always will come first. Being my little kids’ dad every day is the most important job I have.”

Hamonic was just 10 years old when he lost his own father.

An unsigned free agent throughout the off-season, Hamonic joined the Canucks in January on a professional tryout and agreed to a one-year contract. And now he has tested positive for COVID-19.

The ordeal he is enduring – and the risk to his family – should provide pause and context to fans who are disappointed or, worse, angry that hockey games are being postponed.

Shortly before news broke Thursday about Hamonic and the Canucks’ schedule, Micaela Gaudette, Adam’s wife, decried on Twitter the abuse her husband has been taking on social media.

“A human being gets sick with a virus we don’t know much about and y’all are angry at him because you can’t watch a hockey game,” she tweeted.

She revealed her husband “isn’t in great shape” but she’s taking care of him.

Naturally, there are questions about the timing of tests and how close the Canucks came to playing a game Wednesday with Hamonic in the lineup.

The Montreal Canadiens, who emerged Tuesday from their own week-long COVID-19 shutdown that included confirmation from general manager Marc Bergevin that winger Joel Armia had contracted one of the highly-transmissible variants, have had same-day test returns all season.

The Canucks and other teams, including the Edmonton Oilers, have contracts with labs to provide test results within 24 hours.

On Wednesday, however, the Canucks worked with LifeLabs to get their tests expedited and the results returned before their game, which resulted in the postponement.

An NHL spokesman told Sportsnet that lab capacities and volume vary by city, but the Canucks have operated entirely with testing protocols and timeframes approved by the league.

When Vancouver players arrived Thursday morning for their daily COVID-19 tests, a drive-through test site had been set up in the underground parkade so that players would not physically enter the arena. Ordinarily, daily testing occurs in a restricted area on the Level-100 concourse.

The Canucks planned to continue expedited testing through Friday.

It is not known which coach is in COVID-19 protocol, but several members of the staff were self-isolating at a nearby hotel in order to avoid contact with their families.

All NHL teams have a contact-tracing officer who works to identify anyone within the organization requiring quarantine due to contact with someone who is COVID-positive. Vancouver Coastal Health, the government authority with jurisdiction over the Canucks, conducts its own contact-tracing investigation on all known cases.

It’s possible news for the Canucks could get worse.

As it stands, the team that had the worst NHL schedule in Canada at the start of this shortened season will now also have one of the worst ones to end it when its final 19 games are further compressed due to this week’s outbreak.

But these are only hockey games. Remember that.

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Oilers Rookie Notebook: Dylan Holloway’s wrist injury a tough blow –



EDMONTON — The first blow came even before Edmonton Oilers rookie camp had opened, with prized prospect Dylan Holloway going under the knife Tuesday to repair a broken scaphoid bone in his left wrist.

What made it even more disappointing was, after busting the bone in the NCAA playoffs with the University of Wisconsin, Holloway had surgery after Wisconsin’s season ended in late March in Chicago that was designed to have him ready to play hockey this fall. But that surgery failed.

Holloway, Edmonton’s first-round pick in 2020 (14th overall) lunched with Holland during a Calgary world junior camp in August, and the Oilers GM didn’t like what he heard.

“He was telling me that he couldn’t shoot, couldn’t take draws. He was getting frustrated,” Holland said. “We were five to six months down the road … and there was very little healing going on. Probably about 30 per cent. The decision was made: nothing was really happening, and we’d need to start the process all over again.”

Holloway is only 19, but can play in the American Hockey League. He was likely destined for Bakersfield this year, which is definitely where he will be assigned when he heals up sometime around the new year.


No Room At The Inn

The Oilers roster is pretty much set with veterans, with precious few (if any) spots for a youngster to worm his way into the NHL.

But two left shot defencemen who may have the best shot — along with left winger Tyler Benson — are both in town and ready to begin their North American transition in earnest. Dmitri Samorukov and Philip Broberg are at the Rookie Camp prep’ing for main camp, where it isn’t a total reach that one might be able to stick around.

“They’re both going to be in North America,” said Holland, who had good news when doctors cleared Samorukov for full contact after a January shoulder injury suffered in Moscow. “He was playing very well in the KHL, but hasn’t played hockey since January. Two years of pro — one in Bakersfield, one in (the KHL) — and I’m also excited to see where Broberg is at, like everybody else.

“Do they force their way onto the Edmonton Oilers roster? Or do they have to go down to the American League and continue their development into NHL defencemen? That’s what we’re trying to find out, but they are both here (in North America) to stay.”

Samorukov, 22, played a season in Bakersfield then went home to CSKA Moscow last year, the club where he was raised as a player. Broberg, 20, spent two developmental seasons in Sweden’s top league with Skelleftea, while limping through the 2021 World Junior here in Edmonton.

“I had a knee injury and a shoulder injury at the World Juniors. It was difficult,” said the defenceman, who played through the pain. “It is an honour to play for your country, especially at the World Juniors.”

Broberg said he was about “80 percent” when he returned to Skelleftea, and by season’s end, his minutes were down. Samorukov injured his shoulder in a January battle drill during practice and lost the back half of his KHL season, but says the last two seasons have him ready to challenge for a spot on an NHL blue line.

“When I first came to the AHL two years ago, it was really good for me. Learning how to be a pro player,” he said. “Then, the season in the KHL, I established myself as a pro player. Now, we’re trying to knock in the door. To do our best.”

Remember, Samorukov first came over as a 17-year-old to play three junior seasons for the Guelph Storm. He had 45 points in 59 games in his 19-year-old season and then nicely quarterbacked the Russian powerplay at the World Juniors in Vancouver-Victoria. But the 197-pounmder has settled on a less offensive game as a pro.

“Of course when you come from junior you have a lot of points. You think you might be something special,” he smiled. “Then you realize you have some guys who can really get points. (You learn) what kind of game you have to play. I know who I am right now.”

Samorukov was part of the ask by Arizona when they were peddling goalie Darcy Kuemper, a package considered too rich by Holland. Now, we’ll begin to get a closer look at the 2017 third-rounder, who moves a nice puck and stands six-foot-three.

“This rookie camp offers him a good chance to get up and running,” said Bakersfield head coach Jay Woodcroft, “so he’s feeling confident heading into main camp next week.”

Tyler’s Time?

Is this finally the year that Tyler Benson cracks the Oilers roster? It had better be — he is waiver eligible now, at age 23 years of age with four pro seasons under his belt.

With left wingers Zach Hyman, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Warren Foegele in town, it’s pretty clear that Benson will have to make the club as a fourth-line left-winger and try to move up from there. He’s in against Devin Shore and Brendan Perlini for that 4-LW spot, as a former candidate for exceptional status as a junior now finds himself in a utility role if he wants to get his NHL career off the ground.

“We came up with a plan to develop different areas of his game (in Bakersfield last season),” Woodcroft said. “For example, his board work. Introducing him to the penalty kill. Something he had minimal experience on, but something we felt provided a line of sight or a pathway to … make our parent club.

“Tyler was a point-per-game player last year and played on what I felt was the most dominant line in the Pacific Division of the AHL. He made plays,” his coach said. “The opportunity before him is obvious. He feels like he’s in top shape, mentally ready to go, and he’s excited about that opportunity.”

Edmonton’s recent first-round pick (22nd overall) Xavier Bourgault hit the gym hard this summer, putting on 10 lbs. He comes to camp at six feet tall and 172 pounds, so he has a ways to go.

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Blue Jays optimistic Jose Berrios won’t miss next start after abdominal scare –



Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Jose Berrios is doing much better after leaving Tuesday’s game with an abdominal injury, manager Charlie Montoyo said Wednesday.

After the Blue Jays’ 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, the team reported that Berrios left the game due to abdominal tightness on his left side and received post-game treatment.

Berrios threw seven innings of one run ball Tuesday, striking out six and allowing only four hits.

“He’s doing fine,” Montoyo said. “He’s doing a lot better than we thought, which is great news. Actually, you might get to see him playing catch in a little bit to see how he’s doing. He did all the tests. Everything looks good.”

The right-handed pitcher who the Blue Jays acquired at the trade deadline is 11-8 on the season, with a 3.43 ERA in 173.1 innings pitched.

The Blue Jays wrap up their series with the Rays on Wednesday at 3:07 p.m. ET/ 12:07 p.m. PT on Sportsnet and SN Now.

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France to open Billie Jean King Cup defence against Canada



Reigning champions France will kick off this year’s Billie Jean King Cup Finals in Prague against Canada on Nov. 1, with the final scheduled for Nov. 6, the International Tennis Federation said on Wednesday.

Formerly called the Fed Cup, the women’s team competition featuring 12 nations was originally scheduled to be held in Budapest in April last year before being postponed twice due to the pandemic.

France triumphed in the 2019 edition when a team featuring Kristina Mladenovic, Caroline Garcia and Pauline Parmentier defeated Australia.

This year, Belgium, the 2001 winners, will face 2017 runners-up Belarus on the opening day, while eleven-times winners Czech Republic will play on Nov. 1 and Nov. 4.

The competing nations will each play two group-stage ties to determine the winners of the four three-team groups, who will then progress to the semi-finals. Each tie will consist of two singles matches and a doubles match.

Germany, Spain, Slovakia, Australia, the U.S., Russia and Switzerland will be the other nations competing.


(Reporting by Anuron Kumar Mitra in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)

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