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Jason Spezza hopes to play on with Toronto Maple Leafs – TSN

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Jason Spezza can’t say whether the 17th season of his National Hockey League career will resume amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Maple Leafs forward is certain he’s not ready to hang up his skates.

“I’m in it for as long as I can be so I can win a Stanley Cup,” Spezza told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. “It’s something that I dreamt of as a kid, and I would love nothing more to do it here in Toronto. I definitely feel like I have game left, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than [playing here] another year. So I do hope that it works out. I feel like we’re building things with this club, and I want to be a part of it.”

Spezza, 36, signed a one-year, $700,000 contract with his hometown Leafs as a free agent on July 1, making him an UFA again this coming summer.

Even with the added downtime, Spezza insists an impending negotiation is “not where my focus is right now,” and has kept his sights trained on a strong comeback to the season, should it continue. 

“The way I’ve approached [the pause] is we should be in better physical shape, in terms of off-ice strength,” he said. “You try to approach it like summer training, where you’re just worried about building a strength base. [But since] there’s nobody on the ice, the biggest challenge will be getting your game up to speed. And I think that’ll take a few weeks of skating. But the reality is, it’s our job to keep ourselves fit. So if that [return] period isn’t as long as maybe is ideal, [we still have to be] ready to play.”

This isn’t the first time since Spezza joined the Leafs that he’s had to adjust his expectations about how the season would play out. While he had pictured himself suiting up for Toronto’s home opener in October, with friends and family in attendance, former head coach Mike Babcock made him a healthy scratch instead, claiming Spezza hadn’t sufficiently mastered the penalty kill. 

It was a controversial decision, especially when Spezza was playing two nights later without having worked on the kill any further at practice. But the drama didn’t derail Spezza’s perennially positive attitude about playing for the Leafs or accepting what would be asked from him going forward.

“It was obviously not the start that I envisioned,” he said, “but I just tried to have the mentality that I was just going to stay in the fight. Hockey is a game where…things happen, and your role can shift in a day. I didn’t really give myself much of an option. I didn’t really want to feel sorry for myself, because that leads you to the end. I was just trying to really stay in the fight and give myself an opportunity to play well when I did get in.”

Spezza wound up being a healthy scratch in 12 games before the pause, but he still produced 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in those 58 appearances, just two points shy of his total through 76 games for the Dallas Stars in 2018-19.

But Spezza’s greatest impact for the Leafs may be in his role as mentor. Toronto is still a team defined by emerging talents like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, and Spezza tried to offer his younger teammates guidance and support in navigating the season’s rough spots. So far, he’s liked the results. 

“I think we have a much more mature locker room at this point in time than we did at the start of the season,” Spezza said. “I think there’s a lot more ownership of what’s going on in the room. I think our young stars are able to have conversations with each other, with other guys on the team, that maybe they weren’t comfortable having early on in the season. So as much as it sucks to go through [difficulties] as a team, and have to struggle and answer questions and build and get yourself out of losing streaks, I think, in the long run, it’s something that we needed. It’s not a straight line to the top for anyone.”

While he’s kept up regularly with teammates during the pause, Spezza is likely more anxious than any of them to get back playing games, and finish what the group started. He may be the Leafs’ elder statesman, but Spezza’s enthusiasm for the sport is hard to match.

“Hockey’s not work to me. I enjoy the challenge,” Spezza said. “You go through different phases of your career, there’s different challenges, and I love the day-to-day grind. The passion, I think, is what’s allowed me to play this long, and [I just want] the chance to win a Stanley Cup.”

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Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley says Donald Trump doesn't have 'a moral bone in his body' – The Globe and Mail

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In this Nov. 13, 2019, file photo, Toronto FC MLS soccer player Michael Bradley speaks to the media during an end of season availability in Toronto.

Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley pulled no punches Thursday, lamenting the “zero leadership” south of the border as the U.S. is ravaged by racial unrest.

The long-time U.S. skipper took square aim at President Donald Trump.

“We have a President who is completely empty. There isn’t a moral bone in his body,” Bradley told a news conference call.

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“There’s no leadership. There’s no leadership from the President, there’s no leadership from the Republican senators who have sat back and been totally complicit in everything he’s done for the last three and a half years.”

Bradley urged his fellow Americans to speak with their ballot in November, saying it was “impossible to overstate” the importance of the coming election.

“I just hope that people are able to go to the polls in November and think about more than just what is good for them, more than what is good for their own status, their own business, their own tax return. I hope that people can go to the polls and understand that in so many ways, the future of our country and the future of our democracy is at stake.

“We need as many people as possible to understand that at a real level, to think about what four more years with Trump as president, what that would mean, how terrible that would be for so many people.”

Referencing racial inequality and social injustice, Bradley added: “If we want any chance to start to fix those things, then Trump can’t be president, it’s as simple as that.”

The 32-year-old Bradley has run through the gamut of emotions while watching the violence and unrest unfold in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis while three police officers restrained him — one with his knee on Floyd’s neck.

“I’m angry, I’m horrified, I’m sad and I’m determined to do anything and everything I can to try to be a part of the fix,” he said. “Because it has to end. And we all have to be part of that fix.”

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He acknowledged that while he has much to learn on the issues, politicians, policy-makers and businesses have to be held accountable.

Bradley has criticized Trump before. In January, 2017, he said he was “sad and embarrassed” by Trump’s travel ban aimed at citizens of predominantly Muslim countries.

The TFC captain, while happy to see the MLS labour impasse over, noted there had been “some real difficult moments along the way.” That included a threat of a lockout from the league.

Such tactics “did not sit well with the players,” he said.

He also said there had been a frustrating absence of dialogue right from the beginning of talks, which he acknowledged played out against an unprecedented global threat.

“This, at a certain point for me, was about what’s right and what’s wrong in the middle of the pandemic. And the way to treat people and the way that you look after people. I kept coming back to that idea. That we have all put so much into growing the game in North America, at all levels — ownership, league office, executives coaches, players, fans.

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“Everybody is important to what we’re trying to do. To try to dismiss any of the entities that I just named would be short-sighted and disrespectful because the game is about everybody.”

He said he would have loved to have seen everyone get on the same page early on and find a way “to cut through the [bull].”

“To just say, ‘This is where we are right now. Nobody has a playbook. Nobody has any answers, but how are we going to come out better and stronger from all of this?’ … I think conversations would have carried so much more weight and I think we would have been able to avoid so much of the way certain things played out.”

Bradley underwent ankle surgery in January to repair an injury suffered in the MLS Cup final loss in Seattle on Nov 10. His rehab over, he was part of a small group training session Thursday.

“I’m doing well,” he said. “I’m continuing to make progress. … At this point, physically, I feel really good. My ankle feels really good. And now it’s just about training. Getting back into real training in a way that now prepares me for games.”

Still, he said injuries are an issue in the league’s return to play given the time that has passed since the league suspended play March 12.

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“That is a big concern,” he said. “And it’s not a big concern only amongst players. I know that has been a real topic amongst coaches and sports science staff and medical staff.”

While teams will do everything possible to get the players ready, a compressed schedule at the Florida tournament that awaits teams won’t help injury fears, he said.

“That certainly is a big question. Maybe the biggest question when you get past the initial health and safety stuff of COVID, among players and coaches and technical staff,” he said.

“How are we going to give ourselves the best chance to win, but also do it in a way where guys are at their highest level both technically and physically.”

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MLBPA rejects league’s demand for additional salary concessions – Sportsnet.ca

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NEW YORK — Baseball players reaffirmed their stance for full prorated pay, leaving a huge gap with teams that could scuttle plans to start the coronavirus-delayed season around the Fourth of July and may leave owners focusing on a schedule as short as 50 games.

More than 100 players, including the union’s executive board, held a two-hour digital meeting with officials of the Major League Baseball Players Association on Thursday, a day after the union’s offer was rejected by Major League Baseball.

“Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless players negotiate salary concessions,” union head Tony Clark said in a statement. “The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon. This threat came in response to an association proposal aimed at charting a path forward.”

“Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless players agree to further salary reductions,” Clark added.

Players originally were set to earn about $4 billion in 2020 salaries, exclusive of guaranteed money such as signing bonuses, termination pay and option buyouts. The union’s plan would cut that to around $2.8 billion and management to approximately $1.2 billion-plus a $200 million bonus pool if the post-season is completed.

MLB last week proposed an 82-game season with an additional sliding scale of pay cuts that would leave a player at the $563,500 minimum with 47% of his original salary and top stars Mike Trout and Gerrit Cole at less than 22% of the $36 million they had been set to earn.

Players countered Sunday with a plan for a 114-game regular season with no pay cuts beyond the prorated salaries they agreed to on March 26. That would leave each player with about 70 per cent of his original pay.

MLB rejected that Wednesday, when Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem wrote in a letter to union chief negotiator Bruce Meyer informing him “we do not have any reason to believe that a negotiated solution for an 82-game season is possible.”

“Nonetheless, the commissioner is committed to playing baseball in 2020,” Halem said in the letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press. “He has started discussions with ownership about staging a shorter season without fans.”

Management officials have said they are considering a slate of perhaps 50 games or fewer. There has not been a schedule averaging fewer than 82 games per team since 1879.

“The overwhelming consensus of the board is that players are ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions that could affect the health and safety of not just themselves, but their families as well,” Clark said in a statement. “The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.”

Baseball’s March 26 deal allows games if there are no government restrictions on playing in front of fans and no relevant travel limitations. The sides agreed to “discuss in good faith” the economic feasibility of playing in empty ballparks, which appears to be the likely option.

MLB says that without fans it would average a loss of $640,000 for each additional game played. The union disputes the teams’ financial figures.

Teams also worry about a second wave of the new coronavirus this fall and don’t want to play past October, fearing $787 million in broadcast revenue for the post-season could be lost. MLB proposed expanding the playoffs from 10 teams to 14, which would generate additional broadcast rights to sell, and players have offered to guarantee the larger playoffs for both 2020 and 2021.

While baseball has reverted to the economic bickering that led to eight work stoppages from 1972-95, the NBA announced plans Thursday to resume its regular season with 22 teams on July 31, the NHL is moving ahead with plans for an expanded Stanley Cup playoffs this summer and MLS is planning to have teams return with a tournament in July.

“In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, players want nothing more than to get back to work,” Clark said. “But we cannot do this alone.”

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TFC's Bradley on Trump: We have a president who is completely empty – TSN

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Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley pulled no punches Thursday, lamenting the “zero leadership” south of the border as the U.S. is ravaged by racial unrest.

The longtime U.S. skipper took square aim at president Donald Trump.

“We have a president who is completely empty. There isn’t a moral bone in his body,” Bradley told a media conference call.

“There’s no leadership. There’s no leadership from the president, there’s no leadership from the Republican senators who have sat back and been totally complicit in everything he’s done for the last 3 1/2 years.”

Bradley urged his fellow Americans to speak with their ballot in November, saying it was “impossible to overstate” the importance of the coming election.

“I just hope that people are able to go to the polls in November and think about more than just what is good for them, more than what is good for their own status, their own business, their own tax return. I hope that people can go to the polls and understand that in so many ways, the future of our country and the future of our democracy is at stake.

“We need as many people as possible to understand that at a real level, to think about what four more years with Trump as president, what that would mean, how terrible that would be for so many people.”

Referencing racial inequality and social injustice, Bradley added: “If we want any chance to start to fix those things, then Trump can’t be president, it’s as simple as that.”

The 32-year-old Bradley has run through the gamut of emotions while watching the violence and unrest unfold in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis while three police officers restrained him — one with his knee on Floyd’s neck.

“I’m angry, I’m horrified, I’m sad and I’m determined to do anything and everything I can to try to be a part of the fix,” he said. “Because it has to end. And we all have to be part of that fix.”

He acknowledged that while he has much to learn on the issues, politicians, policy-makers and businesses have to be held accountable.

“My man Mike is a as real as they come. Nothing but the truth here,” teammate Joze Altidore tweeted.

Bradley has criticized Trump before. In January 2017, he said he was “sad and embarrassed” by Trump’s travel ban aimed at citizens of predominantly Muslim countries.

The TFC captain, while happy to see the MLS labour impasse over, noted there had been “some real difficult moments along the way.” That included a threat of a lockout from the league.

Such tactics “did not sit well with the players,” he said.

He also said there had been a frustrating absence of dialogue right from the beginning of talks, which he acknowledged played out against an unprecedented global threat.

“This, at a certain point for me, was about what’s right and what’s wrong in the middle of the pandemic. And the way to treat people and the way that you look after people. I kept coming back to that idea. That we have all put so much into growing the game in North America, at all levels — ownership, league office, executives coaches, players, fans.

“Everybody is important to what we’re trying to do. To try to dismiss any of the entities that I just named would be short-sighted and disrespectful because the game is about everybody.”

He said he would have loved to have seen everyone get on the same page early on and find a way “to cut through the (bull).”

“To just say ‘This is where we are right now. Nobody has a playbook. Nobody has any answers but how are we going to come out better and stronger from all of this? … I think conversations would have carried so much more weight and I think we would have been able to avoid so much of the way certain things played out.”

Bradley underwent ankle surgery in January to repair an injury suffered in the MLS Cup final loss in Seattle on Nov 10. His rehab over, he was part of a small group training session Thursday.

“I’m doing well,” he said. “I’m continuing to make progress … At this point physically I feel really good. My ankle feels really good. And now it’s just about training. Getting back into real training in a way that now prepares me for games.”

Still, he said injuries are an issue in the league’s return to play given the time that has passed since the league suspended play March 12.

“That is a big concern,” he said. “And it’s not a big concern only amongst players. I know that has been a real topic amongst coaches and sports science staff and medical staff.”

While teams will do everything possible to get the players ready, a compressed schedule at the Florida tournament that awaits teams won’t help injury fears, he said.

“That certainly is a big question. Maybe the biggest question when you get past the initial health and safety stuff of COVID, among players and coaches and technical staff,” he said.

“How are we going to give ourselves the best chance to win, but also do it in a way where guys are at their highest level both technically and physically”

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