CLEVELAND — The spotlight for change is shining on the Cleveland Indians.
Now that the NFL’s Washington Redskins have retired their contentious nickname and logo after decades of objection and amid a nationwide movement calling for racial justice, the Indians appear to be the next major sports franchise that might assume a new identity.
Along with the Indians, who recently announced they are in the early stages of evaluating a name change for the first time in 105 years, the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Blackhawks and Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs are among those facing backlash along with the potential of sponsors pulling their financial support.
For some, the time has come for widespread changes to sports nicknames, mascots and symbols as the country reckons with its legacy of racism.
“I understand people aren’t willing to change or so quickly, or they’re hoping this moment is going to pass. It’s not,” said activist Frances Danger, who is Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole from Oklahoma. ”And now that we’ve gotten what we needed on the Redskins side, we’re going to start working on the rest of them. We’re not going to let up.”
On Monday, Washington announced it was dropping a nickname that had been in place since 1933 and had grown into an embarrassing scar for the NFL franchise. The team buckled under financial pressure from sponsors including FedEx, the shipping giant and naming rights holder to the teams’s stadium, as well as other groups.
Indians manager Terry Francona acknowledged having “mixed emotions” about the Redskins’ situation.
“I’m glad to see that they’re acting on it,” he said Monday night. “Also, I think that it was probably financially driven. … You can’t always do things when the timing is right, when it’s convenient. That’s kind of how I feel about this. I hope that our organization will lead as opposed to follow.”
While the debate over the Redskins’ nickname was waged for years, the drastic change came just two weeks after owner Dan Snyder, who once said he would never change the team’s moniker, said the franchise would undergo a “thorough review” before its next move.
Cleveland’s situation is different from Washington’s on several fronts.
First, the Indians are not feeling heat from any corporate sponsors. At least not publicly.
When the Redskins announced their review earlier this month, the Indians released a statement within hours of Washington’s that said, “we are committed to engaging our community and appropriate stakeholders to determine the best path forward with regard to our team name.”
The Indians didn’t promise to change their nickname. But it would be hard to imagine them going through a detailed evaluation and deciding to stick with a nickname that Native American groups have condemned for years as degrading and racist.
Cleveland showed a willingness to rebrand itself when it pulled the highly debated Chief Wahoo logo off its game jerseys and caps. While the red-faced, toothy caricature remains a presence on some team merchandise, its reduced status and removal from the diamond and signage around Progressive Field was applauded as a positive step.
Even if the Indians decide to drop the nickname, there are numerous other layers — trademark contracts, new logos, Major League Baseball’s approval — to work through before the change could take effect.
While the Indians seem open to a new identity, the Braves aren’t budging.
They have no plans to change their nickname, telling season-ticket holders in a letter last week that “we will always be the Atlanta Braves.” However, the team said it will review the team’s ”tomahawk chop“ chant — a tradition borrowed in the early 1990s from Florida State’s powerful football program.
The Blackhawks, too, have no plans for change, saying their name honours a Native American leader, Black Hawk of Illinois’ Sac & Fox Nation. The NHL team said it plans to work harder to raise awareness of Black Hawk and “the important contributions of all Native American people.”
“We’re trying to honour the logo and be respectful,” general manager Stan Bowman said. “There’s certainly a fine line between respect and disrespect, and I think we want to do an even better job. I think the most important thing is to be clear that we want to help educate. … I think we’ve done a good job, but we want to do a better job. And I think we’re committed to that as we go forward.”
Part of Atlanta’s insistence to keep a nickname the franchise brought from Milwaukee in 1966 is due to the the team’s “cultural working relationship” with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina and other tribal leaders it collaborates with regularly.
But as teams look to make changes, Danger and other activists will continue to push them to abandon any connection with Native Americans, who have been portrayed as mascots for generations.
“We’re being paraded around without a say in how we’re seen,” she said. “It’s a less bloody continuation of that, of us being a sideshow. It’s not hard to choose the right side of history, so I hope these teams will take that step with us, side by side, as we all work together to change the world.”
Listen to the Ear-Splitting Home Radio Call of Brayden Point’s Fifth-Overtime Game-Winner – Sports Illustrated
There were no fans to head for the exits early when the Lightning and Blue Jackets played one of the longest games in NHL history Tuesday afternoon (and night).
Tampa Bay and Columbus played 90 minutes and 27 seconds of extra time, the fourth-longest game the league has ever seen. The game started at 3 p.m. ET and didn’t end until 9:23. It went on for so long that the Bruins-Hurricanes game previously scheduled for 8 p.m. had to be pushed back to the morning.
Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo made an NHL-record 85 saves but couldn’t stop Brayden Point’s wrister from the high slot more than halfway through the fifth overtime.
It was a dramatic goal and it produced some fantastic commentary from the guys calling the game on TV and radio.
Here’s how it sounded with Gord Miller on the call for NBCSN.
Rick Peckham handles the play-by-play duties for the Lightning on Fox Sports Sun and sounded like he was in disbelief when Point’s shot hit the back of the net.
Radio play-by-play man Dave Mishkin definitely believed what he saw, though. Mishkin, who handles the Bolts’ broadcasts on WFLA, nearly blew his mic out screaming, “Scores! Scores! Scores!”
Blue Jackets radio guy Bob McElligott, on the other hand, was absolutely crestfallen.
(I couldn’t find Fox Sports Columbus play-by-play announcer Jeff Rimer’s call of the goal, so please send it my way if you come across it.)
The game was the NHL’s longest in 20 years, 94 seconds shorter than a Flyers-Penguins conference semifinal game from May 4, 2000. The two longest games in league history were played in 1933 and 1936, more than two decades before the first goalie wore a mask full-time. So Point’s goal was a truly historic moment that we’ll be seeing for decades to come. With any luck, it’ll be Mishkin’s frantic call that lives on as the preferred historical record of Point’s goal. ESPN.com’s game recap page is already using the audio of Mishkin’s call over NBCSN’s video feed.
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The optimist’s guide to the Canadiens beating the Flyers – Habs Eyes on the Prize
The Montreal Canadiens have been down this road before: heavy underdogs against the top seed in the format they are in. The Canadiens have said they are fine being the underdog, and almost everyone who has spoken to the media since the matchup was set has been praising the Philadelphia Flyers.
If you listened to the last episode of Habsent Minded, you’ll know why I want to bring you back to the 2012-13 season. That year, a Canadiens team that missed the playoffs the season before hired a new coach who previously made a Stanley Cup final, and overcame a months-long break to win the division in a shortened season.
The 2019-20 Flyers missed the playoffs a year ago. They hired Alain Vigneault, who had been a Stanley Cup finalist before. They rose to the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, and that’s where they would have been if a months-long break due to COVID-19 had not necessitated a round robin for seeding. The Flyers swept their three games, and find themselves in a position to be the Eastern Conference’s top seed.
You know that the Canadiens, incidentally coached by one of Vigneault’s assistants, Michel Therrien, lost to the Ottawa Senators and never made it past the first round.
Now, I’m not comparing the two teams. Philadelphia does seem like a deeper team than even those Canadiens were, and Montreal had a long list of players playing injured or who were too hurt to play through the series. But that ascent from afterthought to favourite is not an easy rise.
These teams need to prove themselves. Having said that, it’s entirely possible that this talented Flyers team led by a veteran coach will easily dispatch the Canadiens. But the fact that the franchise hasn’t won a playoff series since 2012 means that there may be an opening to exploit. There isn’t the history of success that the other round-robin teams — or even the Pittsburgh Penguins — had. That doesn’t mean that it can’t happen. The Flyers are still the heavy favourites and should be expected to move on in the most likely scenario. However, we don’t know how they will react to being the favourite. After all, the Canadiens just won a post-season series last week against a team that finished three points behind the Flyers.
In 2017, Claude Julien had no answer for Vigneault’s New York Rangers. Some point to his inability to react to the Rangers’ forecheck (which just happens to be similar to the system he is using with the Flyers) as proof that Julien lost his ability to adapt.
Let’s put that series into perspective. The break between the regular season and the post-season in 2019-20 was longer than the amount of time Julien was in charge of the Canadiens before that series against the Rangers.
The Flyers are a better team than the Penguins, and may not be beaten the same way. However, Montreal proved that they have depth of their own, and beat Pittsburgh without any goals from their four top scorers.
The Canadiens will have to rely on players who helped them get through the Penguins, namely Artturi Lehkonen, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Nick Suzuki, Shea Weber, Jeff Petry and, of course, Carey Price. They all provided big goals or saves at the right time.
You don’t win a series without players stepping up, and there are many options for breakout performances against the Flyers. Whether the Canadiens get them again will likely decide how long their stay in the playoffs will be.
Multiple records fall in Lightning’s unforgettable OT win vs. Blue Jackets – Sportsnet.ca
It was a game that won’t soon be forgotten.
More than six hours after the puck first dropped, the Tampa Bay Lightning emerged victorious over Columbus Blue Jackets with a 3-2 win in five overtimes. Before Brayden Point‘s winner ended this game, multiple records were broken and players on both sides pushed themselves beyond any limit they previously had reached before.
Here is a summary of the history that was made Tuesday
Old fashioned shootout
Even without Steven Stamkos in the lineup, the Lightning fired a ton of rubber at Joonas Korpisalo in the Blue Jackets net. So much so that the 26-year-old set a new NHL record for saves in a playoff game with 85, blowing Kelly Hrudey’s mark of 73 in the 1987 Easter Epic out of the water.
In the other net, Andrei Vasilevskiy set a new Lightning record with 61 saves, breaking the previous mark set by Nikolai Khabibulin when he made 60 saves in a three-overtime win over the Capitals in 2003.
In total, the two teams combined for a record 151 shots, which smashed the previous record of 132 that occurred twice before in the Easter Epic and in the Canucks’ four-overtime win over the Stars in 2007.
The Lightning’s 88 shots were the most by one team in a game since shots began being tracked in the 1959-60 season. For comparison, the New York Rangers tallied 88 shots in their three-game sweep at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes in the qualifying round.
Point and Victor Hedman led the way with nine shots on goal each. Cam Atkinson, who was hauled down on a controversial non-call shortly before the game-winner was scored, was the only player on either team that didn’t register a shot on goal.
No shortage of ice time
Individual ice time only began being tracked in 1997-98, but Seth Jones set an NHL record by skating 65:06 Tuesday. Hall of Famer Sergei Zubov was the previous record holder after he skated 63:51 for the Dallas Stars in a five-overtime loss to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003. Jones’ teammate, Zach Werenski, wasn’t that far behind him with 61:14 of ice time.
“I feel fine,” Jones said after his historic night. “Lots of minutes, obviously, but I thought I stayed with it and obviously I tried to stay hydrated through the whole thing.”
In total, 23 players skated over 40 minutes in the game, while six of those (Jones, Werenski, Hedman, David Savard, Nick Foligno and Ryan McDonagh) skated over 50. Blue Jackets forward Eric Robinson skated a game-low 17:49, but did get two shifts in the final overtime.
The game finished after 150:27 of game time — 90:27 of which was in overtime — making it the fourth-longest game in NHL history and the second-longest since the league expanded in 1967. The three longer games were: The Detroit Red Wings’ 1-0 win over the Montreal Maroons in 1936 after 116:30 of overtime; the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 1-0 win over the Boston Bruins in 1933 after 104:46 of overtime; and the Philadelphia Flyers’ 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2001 after 92:01 of overtime.
In all, only five games have ever gone to at least five overtimes.
Both teams set new records for the longest game in franchise history. The Lightning’s previous mark was a 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils in 2003 that lasted 111:12. The Blue Jackets’ longest game before Tuesday came in 2018, when the club lost 2-1 to the Washington Capitals after 89 minutes.
After a day of assumed rest, Game 2 of this series goes Thursday at 3 p.m. ET/ noon PT on Sportsnet.
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