There are those who contend there is not a more difficult trophy to win in all of professional team sports than hockey’s Stanley Cup.
But now there may be a tougher one than being the survivor of the annual marathon involving four best-of-seven series, often featuring games going two and three overtime periods with off-the-charts physical combat.
That would be the NHL’s 2020 COVID Cup.
O.K., there wouldn’t be the exhausting travel of 2-2-1-1-1 playoff series this year with two hub cities featuring 12 teams each, playing host to all of the games.
But otherwise …
Think about the concept Connor McDavid and the ‘Return To Play’ committee put in front of the 31 NHL team player reps for conference-call voting that looks to be accepted.
There would be no further regular-season play to determine the 16 teams advancing to the playoffs, as previously proposed.
Instead, the playoffs would be expanded from 16 to 24 teams featuring eight proposed best-of-five play-in series to advance to the traditional bet-of-sevens.
For all six Canadian teams involved, that would require winning 19 playoff games instead of 16.
If this format is adopted for these playoffs to begin, there will be a huge focus on two play-in series, in particular.
Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Edmonton Oilers would be meeting one-percent-chance-to-make-the-playoff entities such as Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens and Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks, respectively.
Forget those actual series. Think of the build-up to get to them.
What we’re going to be dealing with here is the longest advance analysis to each of those series in Stanley Cup playoff history.
Normally, the match-ups aren’t set until the final weekend of regular-season play. But now, the fans and media will have maybe 45 days to analyze the living bleep out of it.
You have 14-day quarantine periods in many NHL cities for players arriving from other nations, a period of a week or so to begin four- or five-player groupings to begin skating again and three-week training camps.
The NHL is going to need to have these series going by July 23. That’s the day the opening ceremonies were scheduled for the Tokyo Olympics and this will be the primary replacement programming for Olympic Games TV rights holder NBC.
So, I guess the first thing you should know is these best-of-fives all look like toss ups.
The home team in the Edmonton-Chicago games won all three. The Blackhawks won 4-3 and 3-1 in Chicago and lost 5-3 in Edmonton. The Penguins won 4-1 and 3-2 and lost 4-1 to Montreal. The Maple Leafs split with the Blue Jackets, winning 4-1 and 8-6 and losing 6-3 and 4-3 in overtime, while the Canucks lost two of three against the Wild, winning 4-1 and losing 4-2 and 4-3 in OT. The Jets and Flames only met once all season, a 2-1 OT win for Winnipeg. Two other scheduled games were lost to the shutdown.
But, as I suggest, there’s plenty of time for all of that.
What fascinates me most right now is the hub-city concept, especially if Edmonton wins the bid.
You could make the case that without atmosphere and the intensity of fans and some of the conditions likely involved, maybe the COVID Cup might be the opposite of how I project it. Maybe it’ll just be one big friendly TV show.
First of all, the players are going to have to promise not to spit, scrum after whistles, provide face-washes – not to mention face-licking by Boston’s Brad Marchand – or hug each other and the like when they score goals.
Spitting Chicklets would almost certainly be prohibited.
Now all 12 teams might be living in the same five-star J.W. Marriott across the pedway from Rogers Place.
With two NHL hub cities and not including the Stanley Cup Final itself, each hub would play host to a minimum of 46 games and maximum of 68. The hope would be to do it in 60 days. So they’d be seeing a lot of each other.
Maybe you’d need referees to ride the elevators.
There’s talk the Oilers are getting creative in attempting to win the bid by securing a golf course, like maybe the nearby Royal Mayfair to provide tee times for teams on their off-days. On the first tee, the McDavid foursome. On deck, the Kane foursome?
There’s also talk of turning the newly created Ice District over to the players so they can sit outside on a perfect Alberta evening and watch the other games on big screen video boards and engage in other activities.
Hey, with only 50 active cases remaining in Edmonton, there’s no reason to lock the teams up and force them to sit in their rooms and play solitaire all day, especially if they sweep a series and have a week to wait before starting the next one.
You have to wonder what the new normal level of legendary Stanley Cup hatred would be?
On Twitter: @ByTerryJones
Masai Ujiri says the conversation about racism 'can no longer be avoided' – CBC.ca
Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri says conversations about racism can no longer be avoided in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the protests around the United States that have followed.
Ujiri, in a column that was published Sunday by the Globe and Mail, wrote about his reaction to seeing the video of Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, dying after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes, even after he stopped moving and pleading for air last Monday.
‘We have to stop that cycle’
Ujiri also referenced the recent death of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was shot while jogging in Georgia, and of Breonna Taylor, a young black woman who was fatally shot by police in her home in Kentucky.
“A death like this happens, and we rage about it, and the headlines recede, and the world moves on, and then a few weeks later something else happens and we’re outraged again and then we move on, again. We have to stop that cycle,” Ujiri said in the column.
The conversation can no longer be avoided because it is hard. <br><br>We have to have it. <br><br>Now.<br><br>A letter from Masai » <a href=”https://t.co/eddiniOeq9″>https://t.co/eddiniOeq9</a> <a href=”https://t.co/3ys3QJBLds”>pic.twitter.com/3ys3QJBLds</a>
“So many of you are asking: What can I do? There is a sense of helplessness, but that must not paralyze us,” he added. “Your voice matters, especially when you are a leader or influential figure, and especially if you are white. Leaders have to be bold enough to state the obvious and call out racism.”
“The conversation can no longer be avoided because it is hard. We have to have it. Now.”
This week thousands have protested Floyd’s death and repeated police killings of black men across the United States.
Officer Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Ujiri said “police have a tough job. But … they are supposed to protect all of us.
“I didn’t see any peace or protection when that officer had his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck. I saw indifference,” Ujiri wrote. “The ‘order’ in ‘law and order’ should not mean the deadly suppression of people of colour; it should mean preserving a society so we can all feel free and safe, to live in peace with each other.”
Kyle Dubas, the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, tweeted Ujiri’s column.
Raptors call for change
“As an organization and a community, we come from all over the world. We are diverse. We speak different languages. But our shared humanity unites us,” the Toronto Raptors said in a released statement Saturday night.
Statement From The Toronto Raptors: <a href=”https://t.co/almbXwi005″>pic.twitter.com/almbXwi005</a>
“When we see racism and violence committed against someone because of the colour of their skin, we should, and do, feel outrage. We cannot accept this. While we grieve for those we have lost, we know grieving is not enough. We must honour their memory by acknowledging these ills exist, confronting them, and coming together to create a better society. It is far past time.”
Michael Jordan weighs in
Basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, who is also the principal owner of the Charlotte Hornets, also released a statement on Sunday.
Statement from Michael Jordan: <a href=”https://t.co/lWkZOf1Tmr”>pic.twitter.com/lWkZOf1Tmr</a>
“I am deeply saddened, truly pained and plain angry. I see and feel everyone’s pain, outrage and frustration. I stand with those who are calling out the ingrained racism and violence toward people of colour in our country. We have had enough.
I don’t have the answers, but our collective voices show strength and the inability to be divided by others. We must listen to each other, show compassion and empathy and never turn our backs on senseless brutality. We need to continue peaceful expressions against injustice and demand accountability. Our unified voice needs to put pressure on our leaders to change our laws, or else we need to use our vote to create systemic change. Every one of us needs to be part of the solution, and we work together to ensure justice for all.
My heart goes out to the family of George Floyd and to the countless others whose lives have been brutally and senselessly taken through the acts of racism and injustice.”
Steve Nash: ‘This is a white problem’
Fellow Basketball Hall of Famer and recent Canadian Sports Hall of Fame inductee Steve Nash also weighed in on Sunday.
This is a white problem. How are WE Caucasian people going to create equality? Listen. Read. Walk in others shoes. Organize. Sacrifice. Change. Support. VOTE! These are the MINIMUM of REPARATIONS.
The Victoria B.C. native tweeted “This is a white problem. How are WE Caucasian people going to create equality? Listen. Read. Walk in others shoes. Organize. Sacrifice. Change. Support. VOTE! These are the MINIMUM of REPARATIONS.”
Michael Jordan releases statement in wake of U.S. protests – Sportsnet.ca
Michael Jordan released a statement on Sunday regarding the death of George Floyd and ensuing protests, saying “I stand with those who are calling out the ingrained racism and violence toward people of colour” in the United States.
Jordan’s full statement reads as follows:
“I am deeply saddened, truly pained and plain angry. I see and feel everyone’s pain, outrage and frustration. I stand with those who are calling out the ingrained racism and violence toward people of color in our country. We have had enough.
I don’t have the answers, but our collective voices show strength, and the inability to be divided by others. We must listen to each other, show compassion and empathy and never turn our backs on senseless brutality. We need to continue peaceful expressions against injustice and demand accountability. Our unified voice needs to put pressure on our leaders to change our laws, or else we need to use our vote to create systemic change. Every one of us needs to be part of the solution, and we must work together to ensure justice for all.
My heart goes out to the family of George Floyd and to the countless others whose lives have been brutally and senselessly taken through acts of racism and injustice.”
There have been protests of all sizes across the U.S. in the wake of Floyd’s death on May 25 in Minneapolis. Since then, countless current and former athletes and teams have spoken out against racial injustice.
See the powerful images of Celtics star Jaylen Brown leading a peaceful protest – For The Win
Boston Celtics star Jaylen Brown provided another reminder of how athletes have the power to elevate and inspire beyond sports on Saturday.
He drove 15 hours from Boston to Atlanta — a city that’s just 20 minutes from where he grew up in Marietta, Georgia — to lead a peaceful protest over racial injustice and the death of George Floyd.
During the march, which also included Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon, rapper Lil Yachty (both Georgia natives), Brown walked with a sign that read: “I can’t breathe.” Both Floyd and Eric Garner, another victim of police brutality, uttered the words before they died.
Brown, the NBA Players Association vice president, addressed the marchers on a megaphone.
“This is a peaceful protest. Being a celebrity, being an NBA player, don’t exclude me from no conversations at all. First and foremost, I’m a black man and I’m a member of this community,” Brown said. “We’re raising awareness for some of the injustices that we’ve been seeing. It’s not OK.
“As a young person, you’ve got to listen to our perspective. Our voices need to be heard. I’m 23 years old. I don’t know all of the answers. But I feel how everybody else is feeling, for sure. No question.”
Many pro athletes have been outspoken on social media since the death of George Floyd. Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been paying for legal fees for protestors in Minneapolis. Brown’s decision to lead and march in a protest speaks to his commitment. He organized and mobilized, and should inspire others to do the same.
The images of him in that protest are truly powerful.
Three of the Atlanta protest’s participants were arrested, and Brown seems to have identified those protestors in order to help them post bail. He was frustrated on social media that these protestors got “wrongfully arrested” at a protest where there was no violence.
We’ve seen various levels of engagement from coaches and athletes in the aftermath of Floyd’s death. An important conversation is finally starting. Brown, though, opted to take direct action and lead others to physically take a stand against police brutality and racism. It’s inspiring work.
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