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JONES: Edmonton Oilers' playoff atmosphere may very well be unmatched – Edmonton Sun

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Maybe Kane, Draisaitl, McDavid and their teammates all get an assist for helping Edmonton fans reach a new level. Or maybe reaching that level inspired the Oilers themselves to create their fabulous victory to take the Pacific Division final

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The hockey world goes into Game 4 Tuesday raving about the Edmonton Oilers’ inspired performance to win Game 3 over the stunned Calgary Flames, 4-1.

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The puck people around the planet are gushing about Evander Kane’s natural hat trick to bring nearly 800 hats on the ice, to make it 10 goals in 10 playoff games.

They’re delirious about Leon Draisaitl’s Stanley Cup record four assists in one period.

And most of all, they’re beyond gobsmacked about the world’s greatest hockey player, Connor McDavid, with his ninth multi-point game of this Stanley Cup season and taking it to an even higher performance level than he’s ever achieved before.

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But there’s another storyline involving taking it where it’s never been before heading into Game 4.

Who?

You!

Maybe Kane, Draisaitl, McDavid and their teammates all get an assist for helping Edmonton fans reach a new level. Or maybe reaching that level inspired the Oilers themselves to create their fabulous victory to take the Pacific Division final.

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But after their sensational second period of the already historic happening with the return to a Stanley Cup Battle of Alberta for the first time in 31 years, I found four people in the press box more than qualified to testify to the status of the astounding atmosphere in Rogers Place.

You’d have a hard time finding a person that has witnessed more Olympic and International Ice Hockey Federation world junior and world championship gold-medal games, not to mention his fair Stanley Cup playoff games he’s attended, than former Hockey Canada head and current Oilers president Bob Nicholson.

“I’ve been to a lot of gold-medal games and I’ve never seen anything like we have here for this hockey game
“It’s the ultimate thing I’ve seen. The ultimate!

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“I’m including the Vancouver 2010 Olympics when I say that. This crowd is more electric than even that one,” Nicholson said of the night Sidney Crosby scored the golden goal.

“This has been just unbelievable. Inside. Outside. We had over 7,000 people in the Ice District outdoors. And in here, Rogers Place has never been like this.

Oilers general manager Ken Holland, winner of three Stanley Cups with 25 consecutive years in the playoffs with the Detroit Red Wings figured he hadn’t heard many crowds to compare to the one he witnessed in Edmonton in 2006, when Fernando Pisani led the Oilers to upset the President Trophy-winning Wings in the first round.

“It’s incredible. It’s not just the people in the building. I live across the street in a condo and when I came out to go to the game, there were two or three blocks of people trying to get in to that outdoor area,” said Holland. “The other night, there were more than 15,000 people in here to watch our game from Calgary.

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“I was on the other side of it in 2006. These fans can will their team to a victory. You can feel the emotion, the passion. It’s just amazing.”

In 27 years of covering three or four rounds of playoffs a season for various agencies, often jumping from one series to another in the first two rounds, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun has experienced virtually every playoff atmosphere out there.

“It gave me chills right from the anthem to start with,” LeBrun said of anthem singer Robert Clark standing in a spotlight in the crowd and singing the first few lines of O Canada and the raising his microphone in the air for the 18,347 to sing it full volume the rest of the way.

“It goes to show you, I think, that this town knows it when it sees it — knows what the game should look like.

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“In all the years I’ve covered the NHL I’d put Edmonton and Montreal up there as the only two crowds — maybe Chicago was up there for a while — where you’re not a human being if you don’t have chills. Montreal and Edmonton have the best playoff atmospheres in the NHL.”

Of all the people in the building, including Edmonton product and international soccer superstar Alphonso Davies, home from Bayern Munich, sitting in the stands wearing an Oilers jersey, my favorite to testify was Steve Mayer.

Mayer decided to return to Edmonton to experience the scene after directing, producing and even set-designing the 81 Hub City bubble Stanley Cup playoff games held in Edmonton with no fans in the stands during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic two seasons ago.

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“This is what we all live for. To have this kind of a crowd, to have this energy … We tried the best we could never, ever duplicate what we’re experiencing tonight. This is amazing. The is unbelievable.”

“It’s cool for me to go from the last time I was in the building to now. I’ll never forget what we all did in Edmonton in the bubble for the rest of my life. And I’m not going to forget this either.

“The crowd is special. First of all, the understanding of hockey here and this rivalry … I have goose bumps watching this game. This is so, so special.And I don’t know if these fans here realize just how cool this is. They’re taking it to a whole other level. This is awesome. I love it.”

E-mail: tjones@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @byterryjones

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Late fumble costs Tiger-Cats in Elks win on Canada Day – TSN

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HAMILTON — Tre Ford was in his happy place Friday in Hamilton.

The Edmonton Elks quarterback got a win in his first career CFL start 30 minutes down the Queen Elizabeth Highway from his hometown of Niagara Falls, Ont.

The Elks came from behind to beat the Tiger-Cats 29-25 in front of 20,233 at Tim Hortons Field.

“To come back to Hamilton and have all my family watching me get that first start and that first win has been fantastic,” Ford said.

Among Ford’s supporters were his wife, parents, sister, sister-in-law and mother-in-law, his high school football coach from A.N. Myer Secondary, his University of Waterloo head coach Chris Bertoia, eight of his former university teammates and more friends.

Ford was shaky at times as the Elks trailed by 13 points early in the second half.

But the 2021 winner of the Hec Crighton Trophy winner that goes to the most outstanding Canadian university football player threw a game-tying touchdown pass to Kenny Lawler early in the fourth quarter.

The winning play for the Elks (1-3) arrived with 1:38 remaining when defensive back Scott Hutter tackled Hamilton quarterback Dane Evans and knocked the ball loose.

Jalen Collins recovered for a 14-yard touchdown.

“I saw him tackle him and thought, ‘please punch the ball out,” Collins said. “All we needed was an opportunity to close the game out. We were fighting all night. It was ugly.”

The winless Tiger-Cats opened a season with four straight losses for the first time since 2017 when they started 0-8.

“I want to apologize to all the guys. I put both home losses on me,” Evans said. “I just have to take care of it, and we win the game.”

Evans was 20-for-31 in passing for 197 yards and a touchdown throw. He was intercepted twice.

Ford’s numbers didn’t sparkle, although he did rush for 61 yards on six carries. The 24-year-old competed 15 of 26 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted once.

Edmonton’s defence helped out with interceptions by Sheldon Brady and Matthew Thomas, as well as the pivotal late-game recovered fumble by Collins.

“A big shout out to the defence,” Ford said. “They won us that game. They made what, three or four turnovers? They did super well.

“I have room for improvement. I’m not going to complain because we did win. But I’m going to hit the film room to see what I can critique and where I can get better.”

Hamilton went after the rookie with various blitzes in the first half.
“My legs are going to open things up for my arm,” Ford said.

Ford credited teammate and quarterback Nick Arbuckle, who started in Edmonton’s three losses this season, for advising him during the game on defensive reads.

“He’s been like that since day one, even though we’re competitors for the position,” Ford said.

He admitted to early jitters as Hamilton led 16-6 after the first quarter and 19-9 at halftime.

“I always get nervous for the first play of every game,” Ford said. “I think it’s a good thing because it means I care and that I want to win.”

Evans hit Steven Dunbar for a 21-yard strike, and Lawrence Woods returned a kickoff of 72 yards for Hamilton’s first-half touchdowns.

Edmonton’s Kai Locksley scored on a one-yard plunge.

Elks kicker Sergio Castillo made two of his three field-goal attempts, while Hamilton counterpart Michael Domagala nailed his three and gave the Ticats at lead with a 33-yarder with 3:10 remaining in the game

“We’re not good enough right now,” Hamilton head coach Orlondo Steinauer said. “We’re not executing at the level which needs to happen. We’re just not making those plays we need to make.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 1, 2022.

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Raptors sign forward Otto Porter Jr. to 2-year deal: reports – CBC.ca

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The Toronto Raptors have signed forward Otto Porter Jr., who was a key member of the Golden State Warriors’ NBA championship team.

The two-year deal was first reported by Yahoo Sports, and confirmed to The Canadian Press by a source close to negotiations.

The 29-year-old Porter averaged 8.2 points per game this past season. He’s a tenacious defender and solid long-range shooter, with a career average of 39.8 per cent from behind the arc.

Porter was selected third overall by Washington in the 2013 draft, and played the first six seasons of his career there before being traded to Chicago in 2019. Orlando then acquired him at the 2021 trade deadline, and he signed with the Warriors in the 2021 off-season.

The Raptors have been busy since free agency opened at 6 p.m. ET on Thursday, signing Canadian forward Chris Boucher to a three-year deal, and signing veteran forward Thaddeus Young to a multi-year contract extension.

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Blue Jays’ bats assist bullpen, carry the day in comfortable win over Rays – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO – The Blue Jays may have discovered the solution to their bullpen issues: score nine runs a game.

Sustainable? Maybe not, but the Blue Jays are hitting at their best right now, with an MLB-leading 170 runs scored in June to go along with 50 home runs last month. Wearing their red jerseys in front of a sellout Canada Day crowd of 44,445 Friday, some of that offensive output carried into July with a festive 9-2 win over the visiting Tampa Bay Rays.

“It was so special,” said starter Jose Berrios. “I’ve heard a lot about this day, but being here and pitching today was very emotional. I know a lot of Canadians enjoy it and want to be at the ballpark on a day like today.”

“It was amazing, to say the least,” added Cavan Biggio, who reached base four times Friday. “In 2020 and 2021 we definitely missed this place. Now we’re finally back and we’re experiencing that energy that we’ve all been looking forward to on a nightly basis.”

A Lourdes Gurriel Jr. home run put the finishing touch on this one, but the Blue Jays also hit six doubles, five of which came off Rays starter Corey Kluber in a five-run third inning. A three-run sixth created necessary breathing room for the Blue Jays, who were able to rest most of their high-leverage relievers on a day Berrios was not at his sharpest.

With three hits, including his fifth home run of the season, Gurriel Jr. helped drive the Blue Jays’ offence. But don’t overlook Biggio, who walked twice while also hitting two doubles on a day his season on-base percentage climbed to .385.

“Today was great,” Biggio said. “Just hit after hit. A good pitcher, a good experienced guy on the mound, but we had a plan and we were able to execute it.”

Even before a pitch was thrown, Blue Jays fans had plenty to cheer about Friday. The recently retired Russell Martin was honoured with a memorable video narrated by former teammate Jose Bautista and personal messages from the likes of former Jays manager John Gibbons and fellow Canadian Joey Votto.

As the video tributes played in centre field, most Blue Jays players watched from the dugout. The fans also responded warmly to Martin, who later threw out the ceremonial first pitch to another athletic catcher who wears No. 55: Gabriel Moreno.

“Unbelievable career,” Biggio said of Martin. “What stands out to me the most is he played 14 years in the majors and made the playoffs 10 times. That’s what this game’s all about: it’s about winning.”

As for Berrios, he was effective enough, allowing two runs on eight hits over the course of five innings. He worked in and out of trouble, though, stranding nine runners, including both of the batters he walked.

While his fastball averaged 93.6 m.p.h., the Rays weren’t often fooled by the right-hander, who generated eight swinging strikes on 98 total pitches. Still, the Blue Jays will take that from Berrios, especially considering he had allowed 14 earned runs over the course of his previous two starts.

“He’s better than what he did today,” Montoyo said. “He was missing by a little bit and that made him throw even more pitches and work harder …  at the end of the day, he did the job.”

But realistically, the Blue Jays would have been in a tough spot without so much help from their offence. Adam Cimber was presumed unavailable after pitching three days in a row, and David Phelps was likely off limits given that he’d just pitched in four of five. This was not an ideal day for the Blue Jays to try preserving a one- or two-run lead.

Thanks to their lineup, they didn’t have to. With the exception of one inning from Trent Thornton, the Blue Jays were able to avoid their high-leverage relievers, putting them in a relatively strong position entering Saturday’s double-header. 

“If our pitching gives us a chance, our offence is going to go and that’s exactly what happened,” Montoyo said. “We should be better tomorrow because of that.”

Sergio Romo made his Blue Jays debut with a clean inning seventh inning that featured two strikeouts and Max Castillo pitched the final two innings without incident as Toronto improved to 44-33 on the season while increasing their lead over the Rays to 3.5 games.

All told, this was pretty close to how the Blue Jays would have drawn it up. And end of the day, they’re in Toronto again, playing at home on Canada Day for the first time since 2019. In case any doubt remained as to the day’s significance, an impromptu rendition of O Canada broke out in the stands as the Blue Jays closed out the win. Soon after the fans finished singing, the players completed their 9-2 win.

“The energy and pride that this country embodies was definitely on full display,” Biggio said.

Or, as Montoyo put it: “You could tell the happiness about it.”

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