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How MLSE decided who keeps their tickets with Leafs and Raptors crowds cut in half – Toronto Star

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Inside Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the sales department had already been thinking about what to do if crowd limits at the home of the Raptors and Leafs were to be restricted again, as the spread of the Omicron variant dominated the news cycle.

But there wasn’t much to be done proactively on Wednesday when, just hours after a final decision by the provincial government was made, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced venues that hold 1,000 or more people — such as Scotiabank Arena — would be capped at 50 per cent.

Tom McDonald, MLSE’s vice-president of ticketing and sales, knew getting information out to ticket holders was the priority, even if there wasn’t much to be had at that point.

“Everybody just wants to understand what it means for them and their purchases,” McDonald said. “That was first and foremost. We needed to get in front of it. We needed to buy some time and let our fans know that we were on it.”

So the company “basically asked for patience,” he said, telling fans they would find out more in 24 hours.

MLSE had planned for limits during the Raptors’ pre-season and the start of the basketball schedule in October, but the government cleared the way for full capacity by the Oct. 20 home opener against the Washington Wizards. Tickets were sold en masse from there, and the game changed.

“It’s a different animal after you’ve already sold to full capacity, to try and back out of that 100 per cent capacity,” McDonald said. “There hasn’t been too many teams that have done it. So we’re in uncharted waters, so to speak.”

MLSE ultimately decided to “prioritize and satisfy” season-ticket holders — about 85 per cent of total seats for Leafs games, roughly 70 per cent for the Raptors — when deciding who gets into the building at half-capacity, roughly 10,000.

The process involved more than 100 employees — in the hours between Ford’s announcement and Thursday afternoon — to deal with refunds, answer a flood of questions from the public and help notify those who can attend, starting with Saturday night’s Raptors-Warriors game. The next Leafs home date is Dec. 23 against the St. Louis Blues.

“All non-season seat tickets will be refunded, and tickets will be allocated among season seat members for upcoming games based on the new capacity limited,” MLSE said in Thursday’s statement.

Similar to the Raptors pre-season, when restrictions were also in place, season-ticket holders will be divided randomly into two groups and receive tickets to attend alternate games “between now and mid-January.”

“Members will be contacted again in January with allocations for the next phase of games based on current public health restrictions. All ticket holders will be notified of refund details in the coming days, with Raptors members being notified (Thursday) and Leafs members being notified by Tuesday, of allocation details.”

Credit-card refunds will take seven to 10 days, McDonald said.

McDonald called the compromise “fair and equitable” for ticket holders.

“Our members have made the commitment of buying every seat for every game and that’s a commitment we made to them. to give them access when we are able,” he said. “Obviously going through this process with reduced capacity, things have changed, but we made this decision to prioritize them given the history and the long-standing support that our members have and continue to give us.”

The process of trying to prepare for all eventualities in a shifting environment has been a challenge for the ticketing staff for more than 18 months.

“There has been and continues to be a ton of scenario planning … There’s a ton of work that happens. A lot of it ends up on the cutting room floor based on direction from health officials,” he said.

The game plan will be re-evaluated after the holidays. MLSE hopes no more refunds will be required, but there’s no telling what the situation will look like in January.

The Montreal Canadiens have already gone a step further on restrictions, announcing Thursday night’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Bell Centre would go ahead without fans in the stands. Quebec public health officials had requested that no fans attend the game because of the “spiralling rise of COVID-19 cases in the region.”

The Canadiens said they expect a return to limited crowds in early January.

A number of popular games on the Raptors schedule falls over the next few weeks. Danny Green will finally get his championship ring from the Raptors when the 76ers visit on Dec. 28, and Serge Ibaka plays his first game in Toronto since leaving as a free agent when the Clippers are in town on Dec. 31.

Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins are in town on Dec. 29, while Connor McDavid makes his only appearance in his hometown on Jan. 5.

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Bombers extend Most Outstanding Defensive Player Bighill – TSN

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Adam Bighill is staying in Winnipeg.

The Blue Bombers announced Thursday the reigning CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player has signed a one-year contract extension with the team. 

Bighill has spent the past three seasons with the Blue Bombers, helping the team back-to-back Grey Cups.

A veteran of nine CFL seasons, Bighill has played in 146 games in his CFL career and ranks eighth in league history all-time in total tackles.

The three-time CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player had 70 tackles and added two quarterback sacks, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries last season. He was named a CFL All-Star for the sixth time in his career.

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Denis Shapovalov Australian Open third round Reilly Opelka – TSN

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Denis Shapovalov needed three hours and 23 minutes to take down Serbia’s Laslo Djere in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday, working through a handful of unforced errors and a fourth-set tiebreak.

It was a cakewalk compared to his second-round matchup.

The Richmond Hill, Ont., native went the distance with Kwon Soon-woo, needing five sets and nearly four and a half hours to dispatch of the 54th-ranked South Korean. Shapovalov lost back-to-back tiebreaks in the second and third sets but battled back to take the final two and avoid an early exit.

Watch his third-round matchup LIVE on TSN4, TSN.ca, the TSN App and TSN Direct at approximately 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT Thursday night.

“It was tough to bounce back every time. In the second set I had a set point on his serve and then the third set I had a couple of set points. I felt I was doing everything the right way, it just wasn’t going my way,” Shapovalov told TSN’s Mark Roe after the win.

“It’s definitely not easy but it’s the case sometimes. I’m just happy to be alive and have an opportunity to play in the third round. I’m pretty young so I’m sure I’ll be alright; I’ve had this before.”

Now it’s on to the third round for Shapovalov where he gets his toughest test of the tournament yet in No. 23 seed American Reilly Opelka.

Opelka has had a much easier road to Round 3, scoring straight-sets victories over Kevin Anderson in the first round and Dominik Koepfer in the second. Standing at 6-foot-11, the big-serving American isn’t much for rallies, combining for 41 aces in his first two matches in Melbourne.

“I think it’s more about recovery to be honest. I mean, Reilly’s game is pretty straightforward. He goes for his serves, he’s going for his ground strokes off the back as well so it’s going to be kind of like a guessing game a little bit on the returns and hopefully, I can take care of business on my serve and hopefully I’m getting good looks, but I’ve just got to stay patient against him,” Shapovalov said.

The 22-year-old comes into the year’s first Grand Slam with some momentum having won the men’s ATP Cup earlier this month in Sydney alongside Canadian teammates Felix Auger-Aliassime, Brayden Schnur and Steven Diez.

Fatigue from a recent bout of COVID-19 forced Shapovalov to sit out the start of the tournament but he said earlier this week he was back to feeling 100 per cent.

“Towards the end of the [ATP Cup] I got really comfortable, and the body felt good again, so that was a good sign. And, of course, leading up to this tournament I had little aches and pains, so I wasn’t practising too much but I’m really happy after the two matches that the body is feeling good and it’s definitely a good sign.”

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Sheldon Keefe calls Leafs 'soft and purposeless' after Rangers collapse – Yahoo Canada Sports

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Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe finally blew a gasket after his team squandered a 3-1 lead for the fourth time in its last five games. (Getty)

Tell me if you’ve heard this before: The Toronto Maple Leafs have a multi-goal lead but their opponents come back to win the game.

Wednesday’s tilt against the New York Rangers played out exactly like that, with the Leafs having a 3-1 lead at the first intermission, and the hometown Rags storming back to earn a 6-3 victory with five consecutive goals.

Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe called out his team’s effort during his post-game availability, specifically citing the defensive side of their performance.

“Today, I just thought we played soft, and we made poor decisions defensively,” Keefe said

“We couldn’t sort anything out. It was just far different. Each game has been different, so it’s hard to talk about patterns other than the obvious that we’ve been giving up leads. I just thought we got exposed today for being a team that was just soft, soft and purposeless, and just kind of playing the game and hoping it was going to work out.

“I didn’t think we had anybody that played well tonight. Coaches didn’t coach well tonight. So, today is a much different game than we’ve played in the others where we’ve given up leads and such. I just didn’t think we had nearly enough urgency or purpose.”

The Leafs were without two of their top four defenseman in Jake Muzzin (concussion) and Justin Holl (COVID protocol) in New York, but missing personnel is something that can be overcome. Keefe pondered if it was a larger-scale issue that keeps putting the Leafs in this position.

“We’ve had a lot of really good starts,” Keefe said. “Obviously it’s been the finish or the second half of games that haven’t gone well. …Maybe a fast start was working against us. We thought it would be easy the rest of the way. We paid for it.”

Toronto let three third-period leads get washed away by their opponents in the previous four games before Wednesday, making it more of a concerning trend than coincidental bad luck.

The Leafs will take another stab at trying to hold a multi-goal lead when they visit Islanders on Saturday.

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