Watch live on television and online on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET as the Toronto Maple Leafs take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of their 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series on Hockey Night in Canada.
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CFL strike ends after league, players reach tentative agreement on new CBA – TSN
The first Canadian Football League strike in nearly 40 years ended Wednesday night, opening the door for the full resumption of training camps and the first on-time start to the regular season since 2019.
The CFL and the CFL Players’ Association reached a tentative seven-year deal on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) Wednesday, less than 96 hours after the strike began when talks broke off.
Monday’s preseason game in Saskatchewan between the Roughriders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers is being rescheduled – an announcement is expected on Thursday – but in terms of actual casualties because of this labour stoppage, that’s it.
The end result is a deal – which still has to be ratified by the league’s board of governors and CFLPA members – that produces measureable gains for the players in several areas including health and safety, revenue sharing, salary cap, and guaranteed contracts.
There are tangible measures to slow player turnover, which has long been a CFL problem ignored in collective bargaining.
The big question mark economically is how meaningful the revenue sharing formula will prove to be for the players, and whether they will truly be able to share in any league prosperity.
There is always much debate about the state of the business in Canadian football, but this deal suggests that not all is doom and gloom. Coming off two years in which the league suffered massive losses from a lost 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and significant ones off a reduced 14-game schedule in 2021, the CFL did not bargain like a league that was on its last legs.
It provided minimum annual increases to the salary cap that are double those prescribed in the last CBA. And the league signed a deal that provides far more than what’s been given in recent memory. All of which suggests there must be some optimism about what lies ahead, barely a year after the CFL parted ways with the idea of merging with the XFL.
So if there was so much ‘give’ from the owners side on this deal, what did they owners ‘get’ in return?
Essentially, besides the term of the deal, the league gained flexibility for its teams in how the league’s ratio of Canadians is applied. The CFL ratio is always the most hotly debated, misunderstood and controversial aspect of Canadian football – people tend to love it or hate it.
The league itself tends to love it … well, sort of.
There’s never been an intent to eliminate the league’s quota for 21 Canadian players on every roster, seven of whom have to be starters.
But reduce it? Sure, the league’s always been open to that and the players’ association has always opposed it.
The uncomfortable truth in all of this is reducing the ratio improves the quality of the game, and improving the quality of the game is something with which the league has become acutely concerned about of late. That’s not a knock on Canadians. It’s just a recognition that the numbers of players in the United States far, far, far outnumber those north of the border.
The sides came up with a solution that preserves the seven Canadian starters but provides for more flexibility for coaches to use American players than they would have been able to in the past. Specifically, veteran American players, those who’ve spent at least three years with their team or five in the league, will be allowed to play as Canadians in some circumstances.
That not only is going to put more of the best players on the field, it’s going to give additional value to American veterans, which slows roster turnover, another key issue this agreement effectively addresses.
Players have a strong incentive to re-sign with their teams, since that allows up to 50 per cent of the final years of their contracts to be guaranteed.
Overall, both the movement of players from team-to-team and out of the league should slow, which is a true win-win for players, fans and general managers.
It’s hard to imagine what the world of Canadian football will be like in 2029, when the new CBA expires.
No doubt much will have changed.
The league is marching into that future with a new collective bargaining agreement that addresses many longstanding issues in the CFL.
Who wins on the business side is hard to say, given all the uncertainties that lie ahead.
But right now all that matters to most is that collective bargaining has been put to bed and the CFL is finally ready to embark on a full season of football.
Tale of two Battles: Alberta, Florida hockey fans divided during playoffs – Sportsnet.ca
Hours before puck drop in the first playoff Battle of Alberta in 31 years, the mayor of the city located almost equal distance between Calgary and Edmonton was asked if Red Deer is an Oilers or Flames town.
“Without sounding too wishy-washy, it’s literally split down the middle,” Mayor Ken Johnston said over the phone on Wednesday.
“We did some very unscientific surveys this week phoning some of the jersey shops trying to get a feel for who’s buying jerseys. Even they were saying there’s a slight edge to the Oilers and then another store would say there’s a slight edge to the Flames. You talk to 10 citizens, you’re going to get four Flames, four Oilers, one Winnipeg Jet and one Vancouver (fan).”
While regional rivalries are one of the best parts of sports (and are showcased prominently in the regular season), it takes a bit of luck for that fun to carry over to the playoffs.
This year, we have a rarity in the NHL post-season. For the first time since the turn of the century, two second-round series feature in-state or in-province matchups: the Edmonton Oilers versus the Calgary Flames (the cities are about a three-hour drive apart) and the first-ever Sunshine state series between the Florida Panthers and the two-time reigning Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning (four hours between arenas).
And while there is far more of a hockey spotlight in Alberta, some Floridians are going to savour this moment, too.
“I’m torn. I’m on the east coast so I’m a Panthers guy, but I tell ya, both teams help my sales,” said Joe Webb, president of Duffy’s Sports Grill, which has 33 locations across Florida.
“We have more restaurants on the east coast than the west, so the longer the Panthers stay in it, the longer we’ll benefit from the sales.”
The perfect scenario, Webb chuckled, is “seven games and OT.”
In Red Deer, restaurant owners feel much the same way.
Tari Klein, general manager of the East 40th Pub, recalls how the bar used to use a piece of tape to separate Oilers and Flames fans during previous battles — all in good spirits.
This year, East 40th has specific shots for both teams: the Oil Spill (Blue Curacao and Pear Liqueur) and the Flame (Fireball and Baileys).
A lifelong Oilers fan, Klein didn’t have trouble picking a team to cheer for when the Flames faced Dallas in Game 7 last weekend for the right to meet Edmonton.
“I was rooting for the Flames, no doubt about it,” she said. “I’d rather see the (Oilers) play the Flames than play Dallas any day. It will be great.”
Brennen Wowk, owner of Bo’s Bar and Grill in Red Deer, was anticipating big business for the series. A wildly entertaining Game 1 — the Flames prevailed 9-6 Wednesday night — certainly set the tone.
“We had a lot of years where the Battle of Alberta kind of fizzled because one or the other was, for lack of a better word, kind of shitty,” he said. “Now that the teams are competitive again and obviously at a high level in the league, it gets a lot more intense and a lot more fun.”
The excitement, Mayor Johnston said, is “palpable” throughout the city and province.
In Florida, of course, hockey isn’t on the same pedestal — especially in the Miami area, where the Panthers had gone decades without being a legitimate contender (a beach in warm weather might have slightly more appeal than watching a bad hockey team).
The Miami Heat also are in the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals this year — and Webb said many of his bar locations, especially in the Miami area, would be dividing the TVs between basketball and hockey on game nights (the fact six Heat and Panthers games were scheduled for the same day this round, including Game 2 of both series on Thursday, has been a storyline in the Miami area).
Also, a healthy chunk of hockey fans in Florida grew up further north, so loyalties go in many different directions.
“Here’s the thing. They’re obviously smaller (hockey) markets, both of them,” said David Shepard, the president of the Junior Everblades hockey organization, located near the halfway mark of Miami and Tampa in Estero, Fla.
Shepard grew up in upstate New York.
“My kids grew up fans of hockey and enjoy hockey immensely, but none of them are either Panthers or Lightning fans. It’s one of those classic things where they follow the parents. My wife’s a Rangers fan and I’m a Bruins fan so the family is pretty much split down the middle,” said Shepard, whose family has made regular trips to Florida and Tampa games to support the Rangers or Bruins.
While hockey has certainly grown in the state (three members of the silver-medal winning U.S. under-18 team hail from Florida), it isn’t necessarily the big game in Florida. The manager of a sports bar in Cape Coral, Fla. (like Red Deer, almost equal distance between Tampa and Miami) acknowledged in an email that “we do not have a very large hockey base here, unfortunately.”
“I think everybody loves winners,” Webb said. “You’ve seen what’s gone on in Tampa with their team being pretty good the last several years. The Panthers have been pretty good (this season). Their draw has improved. I think this is only going to make it better. … Winning creates more fans.”
Win or lose, the Flames and Oilers won’t be lacking for fans — or competing with other sports for attention at this time of year.
For Red Deer and similar places throughout the province, the Oilers-Flames series can help in many ways.
“It’s been a very difficult time for hospitality, a very difficult time for restaurants, a very difficult time for any kind of social gathering,” Johnston said. “This is a perfect storm in a great way.”
Having lived in Calgary for 10 years, Johnston is a Flames fan.
Can Johnston wear Flames gear in public this week?
“I’ve weathered some more difficult political storms in my career. I think I’ll be OK,” laughed Johnston, who predicted an Oilers series victory before the Flames’ win on Wednesday.
“I think folks here are just so enthusiastic and anticipating a tremendous series.”
In Game 2, Blues need more than just Binnington’s best to solve the Avalanche – Sportsnet.ca
Identifying the issues was the easy part.
The real challenge for the St. Louis Blues is finding a way to try to correct them.
Despite being in a one-shot game that required overtime in a series opener that closed with a seeing-eye wrister from Colorado Avalanche defenceman Josh Manson, the Blues do not sound like a defeated or deflated bunch heading into Game 2 on Thursday at Ball Arena.
They also sound like a realistic one, knowing there’s clearly another level they’ll need to reach in order to even the best-of-seven series before it shifts to Missouri against an Avalanche club that outshot (54-25) and out-chanced (43-13, including 18-5 of the high-danger variety according to Natural Stat Trick) them handily.
“I liked our goaltending, that’s about it,” Blues forward Brayden Schenn told reporters on Wednesday. “From a team perspective, we’ve got to be a whole lot better. The skaters out there know that we’ve got to be a whole lot better in front of him. We know he’s capable of it and we’re going to need good goaltending throughout the series.”
Blues goalie Jordan Binnington was the story of Game 1, even in a losing cause, with some folks believing he was channelling his inner 2019 — which ended with him raising the Stanley Cup over his head after a Game 7 victory over the Boston Bruins.
But the truth is that while Binnington was excellent during that run, he wasn’t asked to face the volume or quality of shots that came his way on Tuesday night often, if at all.
With 51 saves, Binnington did his part to keep his team in the game, despite an onslaught that included 13 shots on goal in just over eight minutes of action in overtime (compared to zero for the Blues).
Binnington was mostly calm and composed in net, tracking the puck well and squaring up many rebounds, but his athletic ability was also on display — especially on a sprawling glove save on Erik Johnson.
The performance was even more impressive when you consider Binnington lost his starting job to Ville Husso this season and didn’t appear in the first three games of the opening-round matchup with the Minnesota Wild before coming out of the bullpen.
“This is where you want to be, out there competing,” Binnington told reporters. “We know we’re going to have to chip away all series long. We’re going to have to respond in Game 2.
“Every game is different, right? That’s the fun part about it. Just kind of adapting and seeing what’s coming at you. You’ve got to be prepared for what is coming at you.”
Nor did he have reason to be, since MacKinnon led all players with eight shots on goal and 12 shot attempts and Makar had four shots on goal and eight shot attempts.
The scoring chances were there, even though Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly (who scored a goal for a fifth consecutive game) was able to help contain two of those key play drivers, relatively speaking of course.
“They were on for the one goal (by Valeri Nichushkin that tied the game) and I thought they played great,” Bednar told reporters after Tuesday’s game. “They were dangerous, they defended hard and they did everything right. When you’re talking about your stars needing to drive the bus, it’s not just getting on the scoresheet every night. They’re playing against a really good line and sometimes a wash is good enough. You’re not going to win that matchup every night because you’re playing against the other team’s best players.
“But I thought they were good. They played the right way, they spent a lot of time in the offensive zone. They couldn’t get the puck to go (in), so they didn’t get on the sheet, but everyone on our team is watching those guys and how they play and how they compete, with the detail to their game. When it’s good, everyone else follows.”
Blues head coach Craig Berube is considering going to a more traditional lineup that features 12 forwards and six defencemen after going with 11 forwards and 7 D-men for the past four games.
However, Berube isn’t planning to overhaul the game plan.
It was abundantly clear that he’ll be looking for much better execution, specifically when you consider the decisive edge the Avalanche had during the second period and overtime.
“There are always adjustments and things that we can do…but it boils down to wanting to make a play and using your feet a little bit more and just a little bit more composure,” Berube told reporters. “You’ve got to bump guys, you’ve got to have contact on them. Otherwise, they’re going to skate right through you. That’s the way they play. They don’t rest, they just go.
“It’s not running around and running out of position, it’s just contact when it’s there. If you don’t compete, you’re not going to give yourself a chance. I don’t care who you are. And we weren’t competitive enough.”
The Avalanche were going for much of the night, coming at the Blues in waves, showcasing that speed and explosiveness that left St. Louis on its heels for wide stretches.
Berube explained that part of that can be remedied by playing a bit more of an aggressive style, not by sitting back and feeding the transition game.
“If you don’t play in the offensive zone against them, you don’t possess pucks and you don’t make them defend, you’re going to be in your own end like we were (Tuesday) night,” said Berube. “We have to play more as a team. We were too spread out and we weren’t connected. When we are connected and we’re playing as a team, we’re a pretty damn good team. We’ve shown that. We’re a hard offensive team. We forecheck hard, we possess pucks in the offensive zone and we compete on them. That’s what makes us a good team and that’s what I see we need to do.”
You can be sure that one of the adjustments the Blues will attempt to employ is to complete more tape-to-tape passes rather than just dumping the puck into the neutral zone to try and stem the tide.
“We chucked too many pucks away and flipped too many pucks out. And then you kind of let them keep on coming at you,” said Schenn. “One way to defend is to make better puck plays. Then you have the puck more and you make them defend. I don’t think we did enough of that, not at all. We know we’ve got to be a whole lot better with the puck. They come fast at you, they don’t give you much time and space. But that means the players out there have to support one another and that gives you an option to make a play.”
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