When the Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Club & Sadness Factory plays another team, sometimes there will be a goal that is subject to the plague of video review. Video review, if you are new to the league, is a process by which a goal is looked at from nine angles, none of which are clear, and is either overturned because a player was offside three games earlier or sustained because the goalie interference rule is just a copy of that Salvador Dali painting with the melting clocks. And if said call happens to go in favour of the Leafs, some fan of the team injured by this decision will inevitably remark bitterly: “We’re never going to get a fair call out of Toronto. They have the league offices there.”
It is no use to point out that the Leafs were the only team to lose every single coach’s challenge last year, or that currently the Leafs are 28th in the NHL in power play opportunities despite being one of the league’s fastest teams. It does not do any good to observe that in the last three seasons only one player has been suspended one game for an offence against a Leaf player while the Leafs have taken four suspensions for doing things to other people. It doesn’t even help to suggest that if the league were shaving the dice in favour of Toronto that maybe the Leafs wouldn’t have spent the last fifty years suffering every imaginable misfortune except relocation, and even then at least relocation would have saved us from the fucking Bruins. The league offices are in Toronto, you see.
Now, there actually is a bias in the media in favour of the Leafs, which is that a lot of people are (foolishly, if you ask me) fans of this woebegone franchise and so they get talked about more than teams that do not have as many fans. I don’t know why it’s a huge shock that private media companies like Sportsnet (which shares ownership with the Leafs, for Christ’s sake) or TSN would report more on things that more people would like to hear about, but apparently it is, to judge by the angry “too many Leaf stories!” comments that one balding guy with Oakley shades puts in under every article. I also don’t know that it’s all that enviable to be talked about more when you realize the substance of this unending Leaf content mill is
- Is it time to trade Nylander?
- Is it time get an awful third-pair defenceman your uncle likes by trading Nylander?
- Is Auston Matthews’ mustache a mistake that’s hurting the team?*
- You know who the Leafs should trade? Nylander
*The answer is actually yes to this one.
But that aside, the league has shown a distinct unwillingness to benefit its largest franchise. Hell, even things like the salary cap, revenue sharing and so on clearly benefit other teams to the detriment of Toronto.
So I would like to say: it’s time for the league to start tipping the scales a little.
Let’s be honest, everyone will be mad at the Leafs anyway. Nobody likes rich kids and those fans, ugh, amirite? So let’s lean in a bit. Start tilting the calls here and there. Give the Leafs an extra powerplay once in a while. Actually give a suspension when Kyle Okposo tries to shatter Travis Dermott’s spinal column with a hit from behind. Call goalie interference anytime an opposing player breathes on Frederik Andersen (you don’t have to do this for Michael Hutchinson, we recognize there are limits and it’s not like that’s gonna save him.) You’ll help an enormous market get some key playoff games—but there’s an important benefit for the rest of the league.
Now that every movie in existence is a superhero movie, it’s worth noting what differentiates the good ones from the bad ones, besides the fact that all the ones with Superman in them suck. You know what made Black Panther cool? It had a really good villain. You know why Tom Hiddleston is in eighteen Marvel movies despite dying at the end of like nine of them? Because he’s a really good villain. It’s no fun if the heroes just triumph over some nameless goon.
Beating the Toronto Maple Leafs hasn’t even been that hard lately. Boston makes a big show of it and then inevitably crucifies them in Game 7. The rest of the time the Leafs tend to miss the playoffs. If the Big Bad Franchise is just a stooge tripping over his skate laces, where’s the fun in that? The story is David and Goliath, not David and Mr. Bean.
So the league should give the Leafs a leg up. Make them a real villain, with all sorts of unfair advantages. It would give fans a better reason to hate them than the fact they’re from a big city and boo, big cities bad. When a team upsets the Leafs despite having played three-quarters of a series short handed, isn’t that a way better achievement than winning just because the Leafs are playing Cody fucking Ceci twenty minutes a night? Of course, this process might also end in Toronto winning a few Cups here and there, which frankly I think is fine too. They don’t engrave asterisks on the trophy.
The alternative, of course, would be to note that NHL officiating isn’t intentionally biased any one way but that it favours even-out makeup calls regardless of what happens on the ice; that the league’s Department of Player Safety is run by a former brawler who literally has a clothing brand with “violent” in the name; that the NHL has added more and more review without making anyone happier about the actual goal calls; that dangerous hits are thrown constantly and that the league responds unevenly because it won’t accept that major changes to the game would be what was required to actually get rid of them.
And honestly dealing with all that stuff sounds super hard. So if we’re going to have a messy, trainwreck system, I vote we at least skew it in a fun way.
Start some pro-Leafs bias.
Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s
The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.
Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.
Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.
Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.
He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.
Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.
Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.
“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.
“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”
Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.
(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)
Be Like the King of the North Division and Develop Skills
It’s been a year unlike no other for Canadian hockey teams, with COVID-19 travel restrictions forcing the creation of a new NHL division made up entirely of Canadian teams. The previous generation of NHL hockey was known as the “Dead Puck Era” because referees tolerated slowing down the game with clutching and grabbing.
The leading scorers today score in jaw-dropping fashion and routinely pull off stickhandling dangles that were unimaginable until only recently. The Canadian team that will win the North Division will be the one with the most skill.
Here are the training aids that will help you develop your skills all year long.
Innovators like HockeyShot Canada make “passers” so that players can develop pinpoint accuracy and the soft hands necessary to cradle and control a pass when it lands on your stick. The high-quality rubber bands return the puck with the same force which passed it, so you can give yourself one-timers or work on accuracy.
Whether you’re on a two-on-one, sending a breakout pass from the defensive zone, or holding down the blue line on the power play, every positional player needs to pass accurately.
A player is lucky to get a few shots on net each game, and they can’t let them go to waste. Until recently, players needed to rent ice in the off-season to practice their shots in realistic game-like conditions.
Now, players can use shooting pads at their home that let pucks glide as they do on real ice. Shooting is perhaps the one skill that requires the most repetition because one inch can be the difference between going bar-down and clanking one wide off the post.
Practice your quick release and accuracy and develop an arsenal of shots, including wrist shots, slapshots, one-timers, and more. The more tools in your tool kit, the deadlier a sniper you’ll be.
Having the puck on your stick is a responsibility, and you don’t want to cough it up to the other team and waste a scoring chance or lose possession. The ability to stickhandle helps you bide time until a teammate is open, so you can pass them the puck and continue attacking.
If you’re on a breakaway, you may want to deke the goalie rather than shoot if your hands are silky enough. Develop stickhandling skills, and you’ll keep goalies and opponents guessing – being unpredictable helps make a sniper’s job easier.
Of course, you also need to handle the puck in your own zone without causing a turnover. Stickhandling is a crucial skill in all areas of the ice.
When the coach sends you over the board, you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way. Maybe you’ll get the puck in the slot or somewhere else, but when it’s playoffs, you always need to be ready. The Kings of the North Division have all of the above skills and more, and you can too if you practice all year.
Australia swim trials calendar shift to reap Tokyo rewards
Australia broke with tradition to hold its swimming trials just six weeks before the start of the 2020 Olympics and former world champion Giaan Rooney said the move could reap rich rewards in Tokyo after disappointments at London and Rio.
Australia has typically held its trials up to six months before an Olympics but that gap has been drastically cut this year with swimmers vying for Tokyo spots this week in Adelaide.
Rooney, who won individual world titles at Fukuoka and Montreal and a relay gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said Australia is gearing up for a much improved Games after its swimmers flopped at Rio and London.
“I think we needed to make it work,” she told Reuters. “The shift started about a year ago to bring the trials into line with the rest of the world and qualify five or six weeks before.
“In sport and swimming, six months is a long time,” Rooney added. “From a coaching perspective, it’s much better to know you have chosen the team in form.”
After winning five gold medals at Sydney 2000 and seven in Athens, the Australian team was rocked by accusations of disruptive behaviour by some of its top sprinters at the 2012 Olympics.
Australia won just one gold medal in the London pool and three in Rio five years ago.
Australia knew something had to be done if it was to close the gap on the powerful Americans and moving the trials is part of the strategy.
“I think it’s to make your swimmers more resilient to change,” Rooney said.
“In the USA they get to race every week regardless of illness or breakups and under all circumstances. Nothing rattles them.
“Australia doesn’t have that racing continuity. This is about making sure you are prepared for anything. I think our swimmers are more resilient than they have been in the past decade, COVID is part of this.”
Rooney said there might even be an “upside” for Australia with the Olympics postponed by a year due to the global health crisis, with the emergence of swimmers like teenager Kaylee McKeown, who broke the women’s 100m backstroke world record on Sunday.
“We are now talking about athletes who are not only going to make the Olympics but are medal chances,” Rooney said.
“We wouldn’t have been talking about her this time last year. She might not have been ready for a position on the team. She is now a legitimate gold medal chance in Tokyo once she gets there.”
For all her confidence about Australia’s performance in Tokyo, Rooney was wary of making predictions about a gold rush for her compatriots.
“I think this will be a more successful Olympics for us than Rio in the pool but individual goal medals will still be difficult to come by,” said the 38-year-old.
“The biggest challenge is to make the jump from minor medals to gold.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)