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Lafreniere believes he did enough to be first pick of 2020 NHL Draft – NHL.com

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Alexis Lafreniere said he believes he did everything possible this season to convince NHL teams that he should be the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

Lafreniere’s season with Rimouski in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League ended Monday when the Canadian Hockey League announced the cancellation of the playoffs for the QMJHL, the Ontario Hockey League and the Western Hockey League, and the Memorial Cup, due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

The 6-foot-1, 196-pound left wing led the QMJHL with 112 points (35 goals, 77 assists) in 52 games, and led CHL players with an average of 2.15 points per game. He had 30 multipoint games, including seven points (one goal, six assists) against Quebec on Feb. 16. He’s No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting’s midterm list of North American skaters eligible for the 2020 draft.

“I tried to do my best to play as good as I could in every game I was in, and for sure there’s some really good players around the world, so you never know who’s going to go No. 1,” he said Wednesday. “But I tried my best to play as good as I could.”

Lafreniere said he’s been keeping busy at home, working out two hours a day and spending time with his family in St. Eustache, Quebec. He said no one in his family has experienced any symptoms of the virus.

“I didn’t have much time to spend with my family this year with everything going on and while living in the billet (home), but it’s good for us to spend time and talk,” he said. “We play a couple games, but we just talk, watch TV together, watch movies and share dinner together, just little things like this. It’s not fun right now with the coronavirus, but it’s easier for sure that I’m with them. I’m home and I can stay here until everything (is back to normal).”

The 18-year-old also dominated against older competition, with 10 points (four goals, six assists) in five games to help Canada win the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship. He missed two games during preliminary-round play with an injury to his left knee but returned for the medal round, had six points (three goals, three assists) in three games, and was named the tournament’s most valuable player. 

“The World Juniors was a really big moment for me,” Lafreniere said. “Growing up you dream about it and we didn’t get the result we wanted (at the 2019 WJC), so to come back this year and to be able to win that was a big moment in my career so far.”

Director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr said Lafreniere’s performance at the WJC left little doubt who the top player eligible for the 2020 draft was.

“While the top prospects of this draft class continue to distinguish themselves, Lafreniere has actually elevated his level of play to separate himself as the top prospect for the 2020 NHL Draft,” Marr said after the WJC. “Injuries are part of the game and, thankfully, this one was not as serious as it looked.

“The two outstanding qualities for him are his quickness and his poise. Every part of the game he’s composed, he’s smart about it, but he’s quick and he has speed so he can execute plays. He sees the ice, reads the play. Everything he does is at a high tempo.”

Rimouski (38-18-8) finished fourth in the QMJHL with 84 points.

“I think we had a great team this year and we believed that we could do something special; I had a lot of fun playing in Rimouski,” Lafreniere said. “It’s a little bit sad that the season came to an end quickly like this, but like I said, everyone has to stay healthy and that’s the important thing.”

Lafreniere said he isn’t concerned about the future or when the 2020 draft might take place.

“I really live it day by day and try to control what I can control, and the most important thing is that everyone stays healthy and we try to come back as soon as possible,” he said. “It’s still an honor to get drafted and by an NHL team, it’s really special for sure. We’re living day by day right now, so we’ll see what happens. 

“I’m staying at home and working as hard as I can, trying to gain some strength, so when it’s time to come back I’m going to be ready.”

Listen: New episode of NHL Draft Class

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Tokyo Olympics CEO hints Games could be in doubt even in 2021 – CBC.ca

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As the coronavirus spreads in Japan, the chief executive of the Tokyo Games said Friday he can’t guarantee the postponed Olympics will be staged next year — even with the long delay.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued an emergency declaration this week to battle the virus, putting the country under restrictions after it seemed it had avoided a significant outbreak.

“I don’t think anyone would be able to say if it is going to be possible to get it under control by next July or not,” Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto said, speaking through an interpreter at a news conference conducted remotely. “We’re certainly are not in a position to give you a clear answer.”

The Olympics were postponed last month with a new opening set for July 23, 2021, followed by the Paralympics on Aug. 24.

WATCH | Damian Warner on bright side of Olympic postponement: 

Olympic bronze medallist in decathlon Damian Warner didn’t dwell on disappointment, but instead chooses to focus on getting even better for a 2021 Olympics. 1:10

Abe has been criticized for being slow to act against the coronavirus. Opposition political leaders have suggested he downplayed the severity of the virus and have said it may have been tied to wanting to hold the Olympics this year.

“We have made the decision to postpone the Games by one year,” Muto said. “So this means that all we can do is work hard to prepare for the Games. We sincerely hope that come next year mankind will manage to overcome the coronavirus crisis.”

Muto was asked if there are alternative plans to holding the Games in 2021.

“Rather than think about alternatives plans, we should put in all of our effort,” he said. “Mankind should bring together all of its technology and wisdom to work hard so they can develop treatments, medicines and vaccines.”

WATCH | Flashback to Andre De Grasse’s 2016 showdown with Usain Bolt: 

Watch highlights of Andre De Grasse and Usain Bolt battling it out and building a bromance at the Rio 2016 Olympics. 0:43

Japan has reported about 5,000 cases and 100 deaths. The country has the world’s oldest population, and COVID-19 can be especially serious for the elderly.

Muto was asked several times about the added costs of postponing, which has been estimated by Japanese media at between $2 billion and $6 billion US. He said it was too soon to know the price tag and who would pay.

He also acknowledged that Tokyo Olympic organizers had taken out insurance.

“Tokyo 2020 has taken out several insurance policies,” he said. “But whether the postponement of the Games qualifies as an event that is covered is not clear yet.”

WATCH | Simone Biles cried after learning of Olympic postponement: 

The four-time Olympic champion broke her silence on the year-long postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, appearing on NBC’s ‘Today’ show on Wednesday morning. 0:33

He was also asked about the Olympic flame, which was taken off public display this week in Fukushima prefecture. Muto had an away-from-the-microphone talk with a spokesperson before talking about the flame.

“After the Olympic torch relay was cancelled, the Olympic flame was put under the management of Tokyo 2020,” Muto said. “Obviously in the future there is a possibility it might be put on display somewhere. However, for now it is under the management of Tokyo 2020 and I’m not going to make any further comment on the issue.”

There are suggestions the International Olympic Committee is thinking of taking the flame on a world tour, hoping to use it as a symbol of the battle against the virus. However, any tour would be impossible until travel restrictions are lifted.

Taking the flame away from Japan could also upset the hosts.

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Report: MLB considering divisional realignment for 2020 season – Sportsnet.ca

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In anticipation of an abbreviated 2020 season, one of many proposals MLB is reportedly considering is a major realignment that would eliminate the traditional American and National Leagues, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.

“The plan would have all 30 teams returning to their spring training sites in Florida and Arizona,” Nightengale writes, “playing regular-season games only in those two states and without fans in an effort to reduce travel and minimize risks in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The divisions would be realigned based on the geography of their spring training homes.”

The clubs would first be allowed three weeks of training, adds Nightengale, including exhibition games, before opening a regular season in divisions that could look like so:

GRAPEFRUIT LEAGUE

NORTH: New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates.

SOUTH: Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles.

EAST: Washington Nationals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, Miami Marlins.

CACTUS LEAGUE

NORTHEAST: Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Oakland Athletics.

WEST: Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels.

NORTHWEST: Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals.

The most significant change for the Blue Jays would be to a move out of the AL East, along with the Yankees, to play against their Grapefruit league opponents, which could mean an easier path to the playoffs for Toronto.

Nightengale elaborated on how the post-season format could potentially look under such a format.

“Baseball, even with the realignment, could still play 12 games apiece against their new divisional opponents and six games apiece against the other teams in the state. … The DH would likely be universally implemented as well. There could still be division winners and wild-card winners, perhaps adding two more wild-card teams to each league, or a postseason tournament with all 30 teams,” he wrote.

“The winner of the Cactus League in Arizona would play the winner of the Grapefruit League in Florida for the World Series championship, utilizing the domed stadiums in late November.”

No official decision has yet been made on when the league will return, or what exactly that return will look like.

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Joe Rogan gushes for ‘psychotic’ Dana White following UFC 249 cancelation — ‘He’s a real man’ – MMA Mania

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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White was not going to let a silly little thing like a global pandemic stop him from staging mixed martial arts (MMA) events, even if it meant taking his promotion to west coast tribal grounds or remote tropical islands to bypass local and federal quarantines.

So was he a hero … or an idiot?

That depends on who you ask. For longtime color commentator Joe Rogan, still on the fence about attending when word came in that UFC 249 was canceled, White is a “real man” who deserves praise for his dogged persistence in trying to make the “Ferguson vs. Gaethje” pay-per-view (PPV) event a reality.

“He’s a psychotic driving force for the most exciting organization in the world and I don’t think the organization gets where it is without Dana White,” Rogan said on his official podcast. “I think you have to have a crazy person at the wheel. You have a guy who doesn’t give a fuck. He’s a real man. He doesn’t give a fuck, he’ll talk shit, he’ll insult people, he’ll go back with you.”

White helped convince casino magnates Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta to purchase UFC back in 2001 for a paltry $2 million — which they later sold for $4 billion — and no question his drive and longterm vision helped shape the future of combat sports. The promotion would be nothing without the fighters, obviously, and White had a couple of big breaks along the way, but his contributions to MMA cannot be overstated.

“Imagine being the president of the UFC,” Rogan continued. “Imagine having all these fights that you have to make and having all this pressure on you, and you’re also a famous guy like Dana is. Imagine being that guy. Fuck that job. President of the UFC is second only to President of the United States. Bro, he’s under ridiculous amounts of pressure.”

White is also on the hook for the $750 million check from ESPN and parent company Disney, which requires 42 live events in 2020 to cash. Expect a very busy fight schedule once the promotion gets up and running later this year, though we’re at the mercy of coronavirus as far as that timeline is concerned.

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