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Joel Hofer turning Americans into Team Canada fans at World Juniors – TSN

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OSTRAV​A, Czech Republic — Ian Walsh is one of the few, the proud – one of just five Americans currently working as a full-time referee in the National Hockey League.
 
But Walsh will find himself in an unfamiliar position on Boxing Day when Team USA clashes with Team Canada to open up the 2020 World Junior Championship (12 p.m. ET on TSN 1/4/5).
 
“Tough to admit it, but I think this is the first time in my life I’m ever going to be rooting for Canada,” Walsh said, laughing.
 
That’s because Walsh and his family have developed a bond with Team Canada goaltender Joel Hofer, who billets with them in Portland during his season with the WHL’s Winterhawks.

Team Canada coach Dale Hunter did not name his starter for the tournament opener on Wednesday, leaving it up in the air between Hofer and Guelph’s Nico Daws.
 
“There’s going to be a lot of nerves for me. I’m sure for him, too,” Hofer said, smiling. “He pays attention to all of our games. I hope he’s on our side. It’s a really nice family. I’m really lucky to be there.”
 

Clarke Walsh (left) with Joel Hofer (right)
Clarke Walsh (left) with Joel Hofer (right). Photo courtesy of Ian Walsh

But it’s not luck that got Hofer, 19, to the Czech Republic as part of Team Canada’s triumvirate in goal. The Winnipeg native was not really on Team Canada’s radar last season when he finished 23rd in the WHL in save percentage, working through a mid-year trade between Swift Current and Portland.
 
His start to this season raised plenty of eyebrows, though. Hofer was twice named the WHL’s goaltender of the week, followed by goaltender of the month in November. He leads the Western League in wins (20) and goals against-average (1.81) and is second in save percentage (.937).
 
Then Hofer closed out the CHL Canada-Russia series in net for the WHL squad, planting the seed that pulling on a Team Canada sweater might be a real possibility. The St. Louis Blues’ fourth-round pick (107th overall) in 2018 had not represented Canada at any level prior to last week’s pre-tournament tune-up against the Swiss in Brno.
 
Hofer led Team Canada out of the tunnel to start the exhibition, where he posted a shutout in his half of the game, needing only to stop four shots.
 
Walsh said he didn’t talk about the World Juniors with Hofer, but could tell it was on his list of goals for the season.
 

Joel Hofer(left) with Clarke Waslh (far right) photo courtesy of Ian Walsh
Joel Hofer(left) with Clarke Walsh (far right). Photo courtesy of Ian Walsh

“He is such a mature kid. He is very focused,” Walsh said. “He knows what he wants and then works to go out and do it. He is quiet, but he is confident. He has a calm presence. I think his mentality and mental strength could really be a big asset for him in a tournament like this one.”
 
When he signed up to billet last summer, Walsh had no idea he would be taking in a player about to skate onto the world stage. He and his wife, Margo, talked it over and thought it would be a good idea to have another role model around for their 7-year-old son Clarke while Walsh is criss-crossing the continent to call games.
 
Walsh has learned two things about Hofer since he arrived in late August.
 
Even at home, Hofer is competitive – and he is respectful.
 
“It’s been great. He is a wonderful kid,” Walsh said. “He is not the type of kid to just eat dinner and run. He helps clean up, he sets the table. Then when dinner is over, we have an ongoing game of soccer every night.”
 
Walsh said the game of footy, which takes place just off the family kitchen, is Clarke’s equivalent of mini sticks in the house.
 
“It’s been awesome to see the bond between Clarke and him,” Walsh said. “The one thing though is that Joel is competitive and he likes to win. There are some games where he just takes it to Clarke. But he isn’t a father. I know that sometimes I have to let a few in for Clarke to win and feel good. Joel is still working on that.”
 

Clarke Waslh: Photo courtesy of Ian Waslh
Clarke Walsh.  Photo courtesy of Ian Walsh

Walsh said Hofer has just been “part of the family” for the last four months. When they go to dinner parties, Hofer tags along. Hofer is an avid golfer, so they took a trip to the nearby TopGolf one night with Clarke – even though Walsh isn’t much of a golfer.
 
When Walsh is home and the schedule allows, the two will go out for lunch in Portland. Hofer loves the big-city feel after parts of two seasons in Swift Current, the smallest WHL outpost.
 
“He doesn’t say a whole lot, but we have the hockey bond,” Walsh said. “We watch a lot of hockey, talk about hockey. He will show me clips of his games; I will show him clips of mine. I ask him for his opinion about different calls. We talk about goalie interference penalties.”
 
Hofer said spending time with Walsh has opened up his eyes to what it’s like to be a referee in the NHL.
 
“You definitely have a different perspective on it now,” Hofer said. “I love it. I always ask him questions: ‘Who is the nicest guy? Who is a pain in the ass?’ I like asking him questions.”
 
Walsh said he has discovered that his job as referee and Hofer’s job in net are similar.
 
“I think everyone looks at goalies. They could not be a factor all game, but one goal and that’s all anyone wants to talk about. There is a similar singular pressure there,” Walsh said. “Just as he probably wishes he could have a shot back, it’s the same with referees and a blown call.”
 
Walsh will be feeling that same pressure watching his favourite tournament all the way back in Portland – or whatever NHL city he is in. The Philadelphia native has put his allegiance aside, at least for two weeks, and Santa might have even brought Clarke some Team Canada swag.
 
“I never thought I’d see the day,” Walsh said, laughing. “I told Joel to go over there and get a medal. I just didn’t say which colour.”
 
Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli

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Tennis legend Serena Williams to retire after U.S. Open in September – CBC Sports

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Serena Williams’ appearance at the National Bank Open in Toronto will be the final one of her career.

The tennis legend said earlier Tuesday she is planning to retire from tennis sometime following the U.S. Open, which begins later this month.

Williams, who won her opening match at the National Bank Open on Monday, made the announcement in an essay released by Vogue magazine.

“I’m turning 41 this month, and something’s got to give,” Williams wrote in an essay released Tuesday by Vogue magazine.

She said she wasn’t sure she’d be able to look at the magazine when the issue hit newstands, “knowing that this is it, the end of a story that started in Compton, California, with a little Black girl who just wanted to play tennis.”

Williams, one of the greatest and most accomplished athletes in the history of her — or any other — sport, said she does not like the word retirement and prefers to think of this stage of her life as “evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.”

Williams is playing this week in Toronto, at a hard-court tournament that leads into the U.S. Open, the year’s last Grand Slam event, which begins in New York on Aug. 29.

WATCH | Williams advances to 2nd round:

Serena Williams advances to the 2nd round of the National Bank Open

1 day ago

Duration 0:33

Serena Williams defeated Nuria Parrizas-Diaz in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, her first singles win since the 2021 French Open.

The American has won more Grand Slam singles titles in the professional era than any other woman or man. Only one player, Margaret Court, collected more, 24, although she won a portion of hers in the amateur era.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that record. Obviously I do. But day to day, I’m really not thinking about her. If I’m in a Grand Slam final, then yes, I am thinking about that record,” Williams said. “Maybe I thought about it too much, and that didn’t help. The way I see it, I should have had 30-plus Grand Slams.”

I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family. I don’t think it’s fair.— American tennis player Serena Williams

But, Williams went on to write, “These days, if I have to choose between building my tennis resume and building my family, I choose the latter.”

Off tour for a year

She and her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, have a daughter, Olympia, who turns 5 on Sept. 1.

“Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family. I don’t think it’s fair,” said Williams, who was pregnant when she won the 2017 Australian Open for her last Grand Slam trophy. “If I were a guy, I wouldn’t be writing this because I’d be out there playing and winning while my wife was doing the physical labour of expanding our family.”

Williams was off the tour for about a year after getting injured during her first-round match at Wimbledon in 2021. She returned to singles competition at the All England Club this June and lost in the first round.

After that defeat, Williams was asked whether she would compete again.

“That’s a question I can’t answer,” she said at the time. “I don’t know. … Who knows? Who knows where I’ll pop up?”

Williams hints in the essay that the U.S. Open will be her last tournament but does not say so explicitly.

“I’m not looking for some ceremonial, final on-court moment,” Williams wrote. “I’m terrible at goodbyes, the world’s worst.”

Plans to celebrate in Toronto

The announcement has already set off plans to celebrate Williams, along with ticket sales having skyrocketed according to tournament director Karl Hale.

“Tremendously (impacts everything with the tournament). Ticket sales have gone through the roof, we’ll be sold out by (6 p.m.) today, which doesn’t happen on a Wednesday, typically,” he said. “The media requests have been significant to say the least, everybody wants to see Serena and talk to her. Even the players in the players lounge, everybody’s talking about Serena.”

“Tomorrow night, we’ll celebrate her for sure.”

The American has won more Grand Slam singles titles in the professional era than any other woman or man. Only one player, Margaret Court, collected more, 24, although she won a portion of hers in the amateur era.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that record. Obviously I do. But day to day, I’m really not thinking about her. If I’m in a Grand Slam final, then yes, I am thinking about that record,” Williams said. “Maybe I thought about it too much, and that didn’t help. The way I see it, I should have had 30-plus Grand Slams.”

But, Williams went on to write, “These days, if I have to choose between building my tennis resume and building my family, I choose the latter.”

She and her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, have a daughter, Olympia, who turns 5 on Sept. 1.

News saddening to younger players

Despite Williams’ announcement being considered imminent, for younger players like American Coco Gauff, the news is still saddening.

“A little bit sad because I’ve always wanted to play her so I’m hoping my draw in Cincinnati or the U.S. Open or even here, can work out so we could play each other because that’s one of my goals,” the 18-year-old said.

Her legacy has been one to behold and one that Gauff believes may be untouchable.

“I think the legacy she’s left on the world just through her tennis career is something that I don’t think any other player could touch. I think the legacy she’ll continue to leave throughout her life is something that can inspire many more generations,” she said.

When asked about her impact on her being young Black tennis player, Gauff made sure to point out it wasn’t just Williams who made an impact, it was also her dad Richard Williams.

“I grew up watching her. That’s the reason why I played tennis. Tennis being a predominantly white sport, it definitely helped a lot because I saw somebody look like me dominating the game and it made me believe that I could dominate too.

“Mr. Williams and all that he’s done for both (Venus and Serena) of them, inspired my dad to continue to coach me and help me even though he didn’t (have much) tennis experience. He was like, ‘if Mr. Williams could do it, then I can.’ It’s not so much just what Serena and Venus have left, it’s also the whole Williams family in general.”

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Kevin Durant Didn't Previously Express Wish For Nets To Fire Steve Nash, Sean Marks – RealGM.com

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Kevin Durant met with Joe Tsai recently in London and it was revealed he expressed a lack of faith in the direction of the Brooklyn Nets. Durant reportedly issued an ultimatum that he is not interested in continuing with the Nets if Steve Nash remains as head coach and Sean Marks continues running the front office.

“The timing of it is also unusual,” said Brian Windhorst on Tuesday. “While star players have gotten coaches fired for decades and will get them fired for decades, he didn’t express this, as far as I’m aware to the Nets at the end of the season. And he didn’t express this to the Nets when he made his trade demand. So doing it now is a maneuver. A maneuver that I don’t think worked. 

“Because as I talk to teams out there, they don’t think his increased his trade value, they think this hurt his trade value.”

Windhorst also noted that Tsai statement of support for Nash and Marks also includes a sentence the league paid strong attention to stating “We will make decisions in the best interest of the Brooklyn Nets.”

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Thousands of tickets still available for world junior hockey tournament in Edmonton – CBC Sports

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Odd summer timing and an ongoing sexual assault scandal at Hockey Canada could be the reason thousands of tickets to the world junior championship are still available on the eve of the tournament, says an Edmonton professor.

Prof. Dan Mason, who teaches in the faculty of kinesiology, sport, and recreation at the University of Alberta, said when Canada hosts, there are usually so many fans who want to see the home team take the ice that they are willing to buy Hockey Canada’s packaged games that include teams that are not Canadian.

“So Latvia vs. Slovakia, for example, those games will be sold out as well because in order to get the tickets to watch Canada play, you have to buy a package that includes some of the other games,” he said on Friday.

“The fact that there are still Team Canada tickets available, that tells you the demand is much lower than it usually is for this kind of event.”

WATCH l World junior tournament to go ahead amidst Hockey Canada controversy:

World junior hockey tournament to go ahead amidst Hockey Canada controversy

7 hours ago

Duration 2:07

Ticket sales for the World Junior Hockey Championships in Edmonton are below expectations as the tournament kicks of this week in the shadow of an ongoing sexual assault scandal at Hockey Canada.

The tournament runs from Aug. 9-20 at Rogers Place in Edmonton.

The initial 2022 championship in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta., was called off Dec. 29 after just four days because of rising COVID-19 cases among players and officials, which forced game forfeitures.

The 10-country tournament will be minus Russia, barred from participating by the International Ice Hockey Federation because of that country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Holiday tradition

Around 1,500 tickets are still available for purchase on Ticketmaster to the first game between Czech Republic and Slovakia on Tuesday. About 1,300 tickets are available for the next day when Canada takes on Latvia. About 1,500 seats for the final game are also available with hundreds of other tickets to watch the 11-day tournament.

This time of year, you probably already had plans to go to the lake … or do something summer-related.— Edmonton professor Dan Mason on poor ticket sales for an August world juniors

Mason said the timing of the games could be why interest is so low. The tournament typically runs over the Christmas holidays.

“Over the past 30 years or so, TSN has built the world juniors into this holiday event that people partake in,” he said.

“I watch it with my family over the [Christmas] break though so it’s kind of become part of our holiday tradition.

“This time of year, you probably already had plans to go to the lake, go to the mountains or do something summer-related. I don’t think we’re willing to give up those plans to watch hockey.”

Many people could also be waiting for a former judge on the Supreme Court of Canada to begin independently reviewing Hockey Canada’s governance amid calls for a change of leadership.

The review comes after members of the 2018 world junior team were accused of a group sexual assault after a gala event, and after Hockey Canada reached a settlement.

“I think there’s people who weren’t sure if they would go or not, and maybe deciding not to go because of that,” Mason said.

The CEO of Explore Edmonton, which promotes tourism in the Alberta capital, said in an email the marketing organization paused its promotion of the games in response to the allegations.

“As the host city for the upcoming tournament, we continue to have discussions with Hockey Canada officials about their plans to address the need for change,” said Traci Bednard.

Mason said inflation and less disposable income could be other factors working against the tournament.

“Canada may be more focused on that player development piece than trying to sort of make money off of a tournament being held in the summer,” he said.

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