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Lightning cherishing every moment of opportunity for Cup Final redemption – Sportsnet.ca

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EDMONTON — What I’ll remember most was the pure guttural scream.

It echoed up through Rogers Place when the Tampa Bay Lightning gathered 48 of the 52 members of their travelling party on the ice with the Prince of Wales Trophy to take a photo here Thursday night.

You’d never know that a celebration could be so emotional in an empty building because, until three days ago with the Dallas Stars, this was completely unprecedented.

The Lightning left their hearts out there. This was a moment six years in the making, or more, for so many members of this organization. And it was clear that booking a trip to the Stanley Cup Final was no less rewarding under these circumstances than it would have been before any of us had ever heard of COVID-19.

“It is so hard to explain, because regardless if there’s fans in the building or not, the exuberance and relief, it’s unparalleled how you feel inside,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “When you look back at this — and it’s not over — but we’ve been in a hotel for 54 straight days. And when people said this might be one of the hardest Cups to win, it might be one of the hardest Cups ever to win. There’s two of us left standing, they’re going through the exact same thing we are.

“You want your fans there, but it’s not about the fans, it’s about the players and the effort and dedication and perseverance they’ve put into this. And they’re the ones that deserve this, because they’ve done all the work.”

For the Lightning, it was also about Steven Stamkos, even though the captain hasn’t played a game since late February. He’s been rehabbing an undisclosed injury inside the NHL bubble without playing a game and was called out to join Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Alex Killorn for the trophy presentation with deputy commissioner Bill Daly.

The pride on Stamkos’s face was unmistakable. He let Hedman and the others who played in the six-game series victory over the New York Islanders touch the trophy — at least until Hedman skated it over to him with instructions to carry it into the team’s dressing room.

“It was obviously a great feeling,” said Hedman. “Even though Stammer’s not playing, he’s still the leader of this team and he’s such a good influence on the room. During practices and morning skates. He’s still a big reason that he’s here where we are.

“I’m just so happy for the whole group obviously to once again — you know, a few of us went there in 2015. To go back in the Final with the Lightning again is an unreal experience.”

They had good reason to believe this would have happened sooner. It was a young team that lost the 2015 Stanley Cup Final to Chicago in six games.

Tampa has been the NHL’s top team in basically every measurable category since that happened but they’ve experienced nothing but heartbreak. A Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference Final in 2016 and 2018, and then a record-breaking 62-win season last year followed by a sweep at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Losing this would have been the ultimate gut punch.

The Lightning were the better team against New York, but there’s a price to be paid against the Islanders. Brayden Point was in and out of the series, Ondrej Palat took a shot off the foot during Thursday’s series-clinching 2-1 victory and Anthony Cirelli left for a time after an accidental knee-on-knee collision with Anders Lee.

It was Cirelli who finally froze the clock in overtime with his first goal and first point of the season.

The celebration was incredible. These guys understood on a fundamental level what this meant.

“You have to cherish these moments and try your best to take advantage of them,” said Cooper. “We’ve been knocking at the door and it can get frustrating. It can make the summers, time-wise they’re so short, but mentality-wise they’re long. You just have to believe in your process and you have to believe in what you’re doing and you have to have players that jump on board.

“In the end, it’s a player’s game.”

The players celebrated this one together. The Lightning brought every extra skater they have here on the ice for this Eastern Conference Championships photo. There was Mathieu Joseph and his wonderful hair, Braydon Coburn and his thick playoff beard, Stamkos and his ever-present smile.

“Definitely a special moment for that group and then to get the whole team involved,” said veteran defenceman Ryan McDonagh. “Great moment.”

Hedman is always the last player on the ice after a Tampa victory and had to wait out a four-question Killorn interview with NBC after they eliminated the Islanders. You could hear him banging his stick while Killorn spoke with Pierre McGuire inside this empty building.

He knew his teammates were celebrating without them but still wouldn’t skate off.

What a cool scene, all of it.

The Lightning will be back out here against the Dallas Stars in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night and they didn’t shy away from the fact they may have emptied a couple veins just to get the opportunity.

“As for gas in the tank, I guess we’ll see,” said Cooper. “This is unlike any other Stanley Cup Final where we’d get days rest. If you don’t go seven, you usually get days rest. We’re not here, but if you were going to tell me, ‘Hey Coop, you get to play in the Stanley Cup Final.

“You’re only going to get 45 hours to rest before the game but you’re going to get to play in it,’ I’m taking that all day.”

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Cam Newton: Starting Job In Danger If Poor Play Continues – RealGM.com

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Cam Newton admitted his job as quarterback of the New England Patriots will be in jeopardy if he struggles like he did against the San Francisco 49ers. 

“The first thing I said to myself coming home was, ‘You keep playing games like that, bro, and it’s going to be a permanent change,'” Newton said Monday morning on Boston sports radio WEEI.

“You don’t need to tell me that for me to understand that. I get it loud and clear.”

Bill Belichick said he’s “absolutely” sticking with Newton as his starter despite giving Jarrett Stidham some reps in the fourth quarter.

“For any type of competitor, do you feel embarrassed? Yeah,” Newton said Monday in the radio interview. “I don’t feel offended by what was done. I don’t feel offended having this type of conversation. I’m a realist.

“I don’t fear my position stability more so than controlling the locker room. Performances like yesterday jeopardizes [that]. It’s like ‘Oh my God!’ Players talk and that’s what’s most important to me. Knowing you have your coaches’ belief [is good], but my belief is that I want to have the whole facility … It doesn’t start with no miraculous play. It’s a whole body of work that goes into performing on Sunday.”

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Rams dominate matchup of tough defences to prevail over Bears – TSN

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. — The Rams could tell Leonard Floyd was playing with an uncommon fury against his old team, and the rest of the Los Angeles defence followed his lead.

By the time the Rams were done with the Chicago Bears on Monday night, Floyd had two sacks and the game ball — and Los Angeles had a decisive, energizing victory over a fellow NFC contender.

Josh Reynolds and Gerald Everett caught touchdown passes from Jared Goff, and the Rams won a matchup of dominant defences, beating the Bears 24-10.

“We proved that we were the better defence today,” Floyd said after a six-tackle performance in his first game against Chicago since the Bears released him last off-season.

After his first sack, Floyd jumped up and went toward the Bears sideline, shouting and gesticulating at the team that let him go. Floyd already knows he landed in a good spot with the Rams (5-2), who remained unbeaten at brand-new SoFi Stadium and reasserted themselves in the conference hierarchy with a rebound performance one week after a rough loss at San Francisco

“I thought our defence was outstanding from start to finish,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “They did such a great job. Some key stops, some key turnovers. Offensively, we did enough to get that lead and then really just run out the clock on that game.”

Goff passed for 219 yards and Malcolm Brown rushed for a score for the Rams, but their defence did the hardest work.

Taylor Rapp made an end-zone interception on a pass deflection by Troy Hill while the Rams held Chicago (5-2) to 182 yards in the first three quarters and built a 24-3 lead.

Eddie Jackson returned a fumble 8 yards for Chicago’s only touchdown with 7:30 to play, but Los Angeles’ defence stayed in control, yielding 279 total yards and three points. The Rams have won twice in three defence-dominated games between these longtime rivals over the past three seasons.

“Obviously, stating the obvious, the offence, we’ve got to get this stuff figured out,” Chicago coach Matt Nagy said. “It’s not good enough, and to be outscored by your defence, obviously, is unacceptable, too. So that part is frustrating.”

Nick Foles passed for 261 yards for the Bears, who dropped out of the NFC North lead and fell to 3-1 on the road with their latest discouraging offensive performance. Chicago managed just 49 yards rushing and has 175 yards on the ground in the past four games.

Jackson insisted the defence won’t get discouraged by the offence’s struggles.

“It’s a team sport, and we know the type of players we have on offence,” Jackson said. “We’ll put ’em against any defence any day. You’re going to come up short in some games … but we’re going to continue to rally around one another and do our best.”

The Rams’ defence, now co-ordinated by former Bears outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley, sacked Foles four times and picked off two of his passes, including Jalen Ramsey‘s first interception of the season near midfield to clinch the victory with 3:13 to play.

Staley also was awarded a game ball by McVay after the latest in a strong line of performances by his defence.

“The defence, we’re playing aggressive, we’re playing physical, and we’re making all the right plays,” said linebacker Justin Hollins, who had a huge fourth-down sack in the red zone after Aaron Donald flushed Foles from the pocket in the fourth quarter. “Everybody is on one page. We’re just one tight unit right now.”

The Rams led 10-3 at halftime after holding the Bears to 126 yards. Reynolds made his 4-yard TD reception in the first quarter, but the Bears stopped two additional drives just outside field goal range to keep the deficit manageable.

The Rams went up 17-3 midway through the third quarter on a TD drive capped by Brown’s 1-yard run.

Chicago mounted its best drive immediately thereafter, but its 71-yard march ended when Hill deflected a pass intended for Darnell Mooney in the end zone and Rapp snagged it for an interception.

The Rams followed with a crisp 80-yard drive capped by a 12-yard TD catch-and-run by Everett, their big-play tight end.

Chicago showed life when Jackson returned Robert Woods‘ fumble on a jet sweep for the sixth defensive touchdown of his four-year career, but the Bears couldn’t ride any momentum.

PRIMO PUNTING

Even Rams punter Johnny Hekker dominated the Bears, pinning them inside their 10 with all five of his punts in a superb performance by the four-time Pro Bowler.

“Johnny is the best punter in the league, and he showed it tonight,” Goff said. “He really was a weapon for us.”

The Rams celebrated his big kicks as a team, and Hekker even got a chest bump from Donald, LA’s All-Pro defensive tackle.

“It’s just great to know that Aaron Donald knows my name sometimes,” Hekker said with a laugh.

INJURY REPORT

Bears: WR Allen Robinson was evaluated for a concussion after he left the game late in the fourth quarter. He led the Bears with 70 yards receiving. … C Cody Whitehair injured his calf in the second half.

Rams: Rookie S Terrell Burgess was taken off the field on a cart in the fourth quarter with an air cast around his left leg. He has an ankle injury. … TE Tyler Higbee was inactive with a hand injury, missing his second game since 2016. Johnny Mundt had a career-high 47 yards receiving in his absence, including a career-best 34-yard catch in the second quarter.

UP NEXT

Bears: Host New Orleans on Sunday.

Rams: Visit Miami on Sunday as the opponent in Tua Tagovailoa‘s debut start.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Naylor: David Braley symbolized the past 30 years of the CFL – TSN

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How to sum up David Braley’s meaning to the Canadian Football League?

Braley, the Ontario-based businessman and former Senator who passed away Monday at the age of 79, was at various times the owner of three teams in a nine-team league, including the Toronto Argonauts in whom he held a secret ownership position at the same time he owned the BC Lions.

He served as the CFL’s chairman of the board and took on the commissioner’s role in 2003 after he led the charge to oust Michael Lysko in 2002.

And until recently, when poor health interfered with his ability to participate in the business of the CFL, he was a powerful presence among league governors, so much so that every commissioner had to be aware of where Braley stood on key issues and be prepared to deal with being on the opposite side.

It became a common refrain among people within the league that there would be no Canadian Football League without Braley. And yet, he was both loved and loathed by those within it. Some considered him the league’s biggest benefactor, while others considered him a ruthless profiteer.

Braley grew up in Hamilton, Ont., rooting for the Tiger-Cats. He had played football in high school and at McMaster University, and was a Tiger-Cat season ticket holder before, during and after his ownership of the team, which went from 1989 until he sold the team in 1992 over his opposition to the CFL’s plan to expand to the U.S.

He re-entered the CFL officially as the savior of the Lions in late 1996, one of three CFL franchises insolvent by the end of that season. Braley claimed a federal cabinet minister had warned him that the CBC would bail as a TV partner if the league couldn’t field a Vancouver franchise the next season, so he stepped up.

When the Toronto Argonauts went bankrupt in 2003 under the ownership of Sherwood Schwartz, Braley was front and centre in the search for new owners, trying to broker a deal with Toronto businessmen David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski.

The pair balked at the losses they’d be inheriting with the Argonauts. So Braley offered to be their partner, an arrangement that was known only by then-commissioner Tom Wright and select others before it was revealed in a 2009 Globe and Mail story.

The league subsequently passed bylaws requiring internal disclosure of all financial arrangements between teams. Braley eventually took over full ownership of the Argos in 2010, then sold the team to Bell and Larry Tanenbaum in 2016.

In its darkest hours, the CFL could always count on Braley, or so it seemed. He was there when the Lions and Argos needed new ownership, but also at various times over the past three decades when teams found themselves short on cash.

It’s believed he loaned money to every team in the CFL at least once, except for the Edmonton Eskimos. That includes to the Tiger-Cats during the years after he sold them to a non-profit group when he would continue to quietly write cheques to help the team make payroll. Braley’s name may not have been on the franchise, but he remained its primary financial backer.

That kind of financial influence in such a small league granted him enormous power, and Braley was never shy about trying to wield his influence over the direction of the league.

He also appeared to be rewarded with a disproportionate number of occasions to host the Grey Cup, which, in most circumstances, is a surefire money-maker. The Braley-owned Lions or Argos hosted the game five times over a 10-year period from 2005 to 2014.

Braley had created his wealth from scratch, taking a loan to purchase an industrial distributing company from a former neighbour, then shifting its focus into becoming a global auto parts manufacturing giant.

He was a well-known for his frugality as his wealth, a pattern demonstrated when he purchased the Tiger-Cats from an ailing Harold Ballard for $500,000, financed with proceeds from the team’s five-year sponsorship agreement with Player’s Tobacco.

That frugality was legendary in the CFL. Despite his wealth, Braley was known to be reluctant to spend on what he considered unnecessary frills for his teams and the league.

His views on the business of the CFL were rooted in traditional approaches to marketing and selling tickets, and he privately railed against the league putting every game on television, favouring blackouts because he believed it would mean better business at the turnstiles.

He had waxed about selling the Lions for at least a decade, engaging with different groups of potential owners but always deciding either the timing or the group itself and what it was willing to pay for the team wasn’t right.

That seemed to do the franchise no favours as he continued to hang on as both his own health and that of his franchise was slipping.

Though the belief in Vancouver is that any Lions business turnaround has to start with new ownership, Braley’s ownership has been viewed as a safety net for the franchise during the pandemic, given his willingness to financially stabilize the franchise.

He was believed to be among the owners who were willing to play a shortened 2020 season, even without government support.

Braley in so many ways symbolized the past 30 years of the CFL: rooted in tradition, dependent on philanthropy and run by a powerful few.

There will never be another like him.

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