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Kadri maintains composure to will Avalanche past Blues amid intolerable situation –



Nazem Kadri didn’t appreciate what Craig Berube had to say about his reputation, so he did something to enhance it.

And for good reason, Kadri didn’t appreciate some of the repulsive, hateful and unacceptable racist remarks that came his way in the hours after his collision with Jordan Binnington.

But instead of coming unglued or being distracted by something no person should ever have to go through, the Colorado Avalanche centre came up with a game for the ages and essentially willed his team to victory in a pivotal game in this Central Division final with the St. Louis Blues.

Not only did Kadri notch his first career Stanley Cup playoff hat trick, but he chipped in an assist for good measure and was the best player on the ice as the Avalanche secured a 6-3 victory and took a commanding 3-1 in this best-of-seven series, which shifts back to Denver on Wednesday night.

As much as he impacted the game, that Kadri was able to keep his composure on the ice and afterward when he stepped to the podium to speak with reporters about the incident speaks volumes about his ability to deal with what could have easily been an intolerable situation.

Not many people could be expected to stay calm under these conditions, yet there was Kadri, speaking openly about trying to use the negative energy as fuel.

“I wanted to come out and really put a mark on this game, especially after what happened. I tried to do that as best as possible,” said Kadri. “Sometimes you’ve got to be patient and you’ve got to wait. I was able to strike early in the second period and was able to get the mojo going, in terms of individually and as a team, so it felt amazing. Especially to do it on the road, it was pure.

“I guess I needed some fuel. I was pretty upset for the last couple of days, but it is what it is. We got the win and that’s what we wanted.”

Kadri let it be known how much he appreciated the support of his teammates and others who have reached out, even if they couldn’t possibly have a clue about what it’s like to receive hateful messages and then simply brush them off, play in this pressure cooker and not merely survive but thrive.

He made a point of saying he knew these messages – as extreme as they were – didn’t represent the entire Blues fan base.

“I know that they’re booing me and what-not, but that’s what being a fan is. As a home team and a home player, you want the fans on your side and heckling the other team, as long as it’s within the guidelines,” said Kadri. “I’ve got no issues with that and I know what was said isn’t a reflection on every single fan in St. Louis. I understand that and I want to make that clear. But for those that wasted their time sending messages like that, I feel sorry for them.”

On Sunday afternoon, the Avalanche let it be known that the St. Louis police department got involved after Kadri received threats.

“I guess someone had contacted them about some hateful messages and I was able to read those messages and they were very extreme,” said Kadri. “So, you know, I just tried to shake it off. They did a good job of assuring me and making me feel safe. I just had to worry about coming (to the rink) and showing up.”

What about the contents of those messages?

“Racial. Threatening,” said Kadri. “All of that good stuff.”

Kadri also knew that there were probably going to be a few members of the Blues who took a run or a swing at him, perhaps be on the receiving end of a cross-check or two.

All of those things came to fruition, but Kadri didn’t shy away and retreat to the shadows.

He absorbed each and every one of those blows, including a cross-check from Pavel Bucnevich and another cross-check and several punches to the face from David Perron as they fell to the ice together during one heated post-whistle exchange.

Instead of retaliating, Kadri picked himself up off the ice and skated to the bench. When his turn came to jump back over the boards, he delivered his second goal of the game.

While the one-timer came seven seconds after those minor penalties expired, it proved to be the eventual game-winner.

“I mean, I figured someone was going to have something to say, but that’s just stupid penalties that we cashed in on and it hurt them,” said Kadri. “If you lose your cool, we’ll make you pay.”

Amid the celebration, Kadri also had the awareness to avoid a potential elbow from Perron, who appeared to be on the lookout for some revenge.

When Kadri beat Blues goalie Ville Husso with a shot just before the midway point of the third period, he conceded that it felt “amazing” and you could understand why.

For all of the compartmentalizing he had to do, Berube’s comment about his reputation being a factor in the collision with Blues defenceman Calle Rosen and Binnington, who is lost for at least the remainder of the series with a knee injury, bothered and also motivated Kadri.

“I don’t know. You know, starting with their head coach probably. He made some comments that I wasn’t a fan of,” said Kadri. “I guess he’s never heard of bulletin-board material. I don’t know what that was about. But like I said, there were a lot of people saying a lot of things. I’ve got to tune it out. I’ll step up when I have to.”

After the Blues said all of the right things about turning the page and not seeking retribution leading up to Game 4, their actions suggest otherwise and it’s one of the reasons they find themselves on the brink of elimination.

Kadri wasn’t about to be bullied on or off the ice and thanks to his courageous performance, the Avalanche are one win away from advancing to the Western Conference final.

“For humanity, is this a perfect example of good defeating evil in a way,” Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar told reporters. “With what happened, Naz has a job to do and to be able to stay focused and to be able to perform like that under the circumstances, I thought, showed a lot of character and a lot of resolve and he’s an awesome guy and tough kid and he elevated his game at the best time to kind of show everyone what he’s made of.

“It’s not about ego. It’s not about settling scores, as tough as that would have been for him. It’s about winning. you have to make sacrifices and you have to … in order to win hockey games, you have to do it. And it’s no different than any other situation where a guy gets a lick on you. We’re not settling scores. It’s about winning the hockey game. And I think that’s what makes the biggest statement, you go out and you win the game and you suck it up and do what you got to do to help everyone else in the room get what they want, which is a win. And no one wants it more than Naz.”

Kadri is up to five goals and 10 points in eight games and has been a dominant force so far in the series, picking up some of the offensive slack at a time several of his teammates still have another level to each.

But that’s what good teams do, they pull together and pick each other up, especially when times are tough, either for an individual or the team as a whole.

“I think we always have each other’s backs, but when stuff like that happens Naz knew that, you know, we are with him and the organization was with him,” said Avalanche defenceman Erik Johnson, who scored the equalizer after the Blues got on the board first for the fourth time in this series. “It was awesome. I felt so good for him. Imagine being in his situation, it can’t be a fun thing. No, no human being should actually receive that type of treatment, especially with a hockey game. It’s just insane. And that being said, I think he liked being the villain and he certainly stepped up for us.

“You’re not going to be fueled more to try and win a game just because of that, we have enough fuel. But that being said, I think it definitely helped motivate Naz a little bit and I mean, how could you script it any better for him?”

The only way the script could have been better is if Kadri didn’t have to deal with any of the messages and threats at all.

But being a beacon of light under difficult circumstances is part of the example Kadri set by handling the situation with such grace.

“It’s a good message, I think. People need to be aware that this still happens and it’s hurtful. It’s hurtful,” said Kadri. “I know a lot of people don’t have to deal with that and they might not understand what it feels like, but people are trying (to understand). Which I appreciate.

“At the end of the day, I’m a good hockey player and I just try to provide for my team and try to put all of that aside. I just worry about some people – and maybe some kids – that aren’t as mentally tough as I am and have to kind of go through that scrutiny and that criticism. So I want to do the best that I can to help.”

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



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 –



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 –



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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