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Maple Leafs’ Dubas on winning with an asterisk



For the first time since the NHL paused its 2019-20 campaign, Kyle Dubas and the league’s 30 other general managers have some sense of clarity on what a return to play might look like, if not when it will come.

The league announced Tuesday that a 24-team playoff will commence whenever that return is deemed acceptable — the format pitting Dubas’ Toronto Maple Leafs against the Columbus Blue Jackets in a qualifying play-in round, after which they’ll face one of the East’s top four superpowers.

The Maple Leafs GM joined Tim & Sid Tuesday to reflect on how the league’s plans impact him and his club. Here are a few notable moments from the conversation:

On what he’s heard about players’ families being involved in the NHL’s hub cities:

While much about the league’s return-to-play plans have been set, key issues remain in flux — one in particular is whether players and team personnel will be allowed to have their families with them upon reporting to the hub cities, or whether they’ll be asked to be apart from their families for the months-long duration of the 24-team playoff. What’s the latest on that front?

Kyle Dubas: “It’s hard to say. We’ve all been with our families now for 76 days or 77 days or whatever it’s been, so I know thinking of not being with them, just speaking of my own case, it’s strange to think about. You’ve certainly grown accustomed to operating in a totally different way. So, I would say that with things changing so rapidly — think back to where we were three months ago — if you progress this a couple of months ahead, we have no idea where we’re going to be in terms of testing or vaccination or therapeutic applications that can help deal with the virus. My hope is that we’re at a place where, as things progress in the tournament, that families would be permitted.

“I know it’s been brought up and discussed from the players, and I know that the league and the [Players’ Association] are both certainly looking into solutions on it. And I know that in the end they’ll do the right thing, so we’ll see what comes up from that.

“But my hope would be, especially as things get deeper into the tournament and the moments become a little bit more special for the players and everything that they’ve worked towards, that at the very least the players are able to have some family members there, as select as that may be.”

On the challenge of the 24-team playoff, and whether its championship would be considered illegitimate:

Given the forced break from tradition in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, any champion who lifts the Stanley Cup in 2020 will do so having marched through a different path than the champions of the past, who won via a traditional regular season and post-season. So, would winning the Cup via the 24-team playoff mean winning with an asterisk?

Dubas: “For us, it means we have to win up to 19 games to win, which I think is a great challenge — and I think certainly ends any discussion of whether it’s a legitimate competition, when you have to win more games than you did previously. For a team like ours, I think that that increases the challenge. I only really think of our team in this context, but in my opinion, for us it’s probably what we need at this stage in our growth and in our development, because we know that the challenge is going to be massive and that the obstacle is much bigger in terms of having to win more and defeat more opponents, and it starts off with an extremely dangerous challenger right away.

“… I think people can say whatever they want, and it won’t make a lick of difference to us, and to our fans and certainly not to the staff and players. And I would guarantee that the other 23 teams that are going to be going into this competition will feel the same way, I think because of how difficult it’s going to be, with the lockdown at the end of the season, and then right into this competition after a training camp. I think the amount of how difficult this is going to be for the players and the coaching staffs and whole organizations, to be able to — in July and August, when the conditions are probably going to be much hotter and much more difficult — I think this is probably going to be one of the more difficult championships to win.

“And if people want to — whoever wins in it, whichever one of the 24 teams wins it — I think anybody that takes a shot that it’s illegitimate, especially when 85 per cent of the season or whatever the exact percentage of the season was already played, I think that’s, frankly, stupid. And that’s probably the best way I can put it.”

On the shortened regular season cutting short Auston Matthews‘ bid for the Rocket Richard Trophy:

While much of the regular season was in the books, the loss of the tail end of the campaign affected not only the playoff picture — with bubble teams not getting the chance to play into a post-season spot — but also the marquee league awards, with players missing out on the home stretch of games to add to their production. Dubas lamented how that latter point impacted one of Toronto’s brightest stars.

Dubas: “It was disappointing though, with Auston, not having a chance to really challenge for the Maple Leaf goal record held by Rick Vaive, and ending off one goal behind Ovechkin and Pastrnak [for the league goal-scoring lead] at 47. Auston had a great year for us and it would’ve been nice to see him continue to push down the stretch, especially as we had guys like Morgan [Rielly] and Jake Muzzin coming back from injury — I think that only would’ve aided that push for him to win the Rocket Richard Trophy, and it would’ve been a great accomplishment for him, and well-deserved.

“So that’s the only one disappointing part of it for us, is that Auston doesn’t get a chance to go for the Maple Leaf single-season record nor the Rocket Richard, but I think in his case, we can expect him to be in that race for a long time in his career as a Maple Leaf.”


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Edited By Harry Miller

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Nashville SC withdrawn from MLS is Back Tournament: Here's how the groups and schedule change –



Major League Soccer announced an updated format and schedule for the MLS is Back Tournament on Thursday and that Nashville SC have been withdrawn from the competition.

Since arriving in Orlando, nine players on Nashville have had confirmed positive test results for COVID-19. The decision was made in the best interest of the health of all players and staff participating in the tournament, and in line with protocols created in conjunction with local and national health authorities and infectious disease experts, the league said.

“We have withdrawn Nashville SC from the MLS is Back Tournament. Due to the number of positive tests, the club has been unable to train since arriving in Orlando and would not be able to play matches,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “For every decision we make in our return to play, the wellbeing of our players, staff, officials and all participants is our top priority.”

As a result of the withdrawal of Dallas and Nashville, MLS has reconfigured the groups into six groups, each consisting of four teams, as well as an update to the qualification for the Knockout Stage presented by Audi.

Group Alignment

Chicago Fire FC have moved from Group A to Group B in the MLS is Back Tournament to join San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Chicago and Nashville will remain in the Eastern Conference for the rest of the 2020 regular season.

The new match schedule for Chicago Fire FC in Group B is as follows

  • July 14: Chicago Fire FC vs. Seattle Sounders, 9 am (ESPN, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN in Canada)
  • July 19: Chicago Fire FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 8 pm (FS1, TUDN in US; TSN in Canada)
  • July 23: Chicago Fire FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 9 am (ESPN, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN in Canada)

Additionally, the schedule for one other Group B match has been updated:

  • July 19: Seattle Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 10:30 p.m. (FS1, TUDN in US; TSN in Canada)

The revised Group A schedule has been created to replace those Group A matches which previously included Nashville SC and Chicago Fire FC:

  • July 14: Philadelphia Union vs. Inter Miami CF, 10:30 pm (TUDN in US; TSN in Canada)
  • July 14: New York City FC vs. Orlando City SC, 8 pm (TUDN in US; TSN in Canada)
  • July 20: Philadelphia Union vs. Orlando City SC, 8 pm (TUDN in US; TSN in Canada)
  • July 20 Inter Miami CF vs. New York City FC, 9 am (ESPN, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN in Canada)

Qualification for the Knockout Stage presented by Audi

After 16 consecutive days of group stage matches, the top two teams from each group along with the four best third-place finishers will move on to the knockout stage, which begins July 25.

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Dec. 1 tentative start date for next NHL season – TSN



December 1 is the tentative start date for the 2020-21 NHL season, according to TSN Senior Hockey Reporter Frank Seravalli.

Seravalli and TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie tweeted out a string of details and updates regarding the Collective Bargaining Agreement Memorandum of Understanding on Wednesday night.

Some of the new information included tentative dates for the off-season and next season.

The last possible date for this year’s Stanley Cup Final is Oct. 2 with free agency starting seven days after the championship is handed out.

Seravalli notes that the free agency interview period has been eliminated with the new CBA.

The tentative date for the 2020 NHL Draft is Oct. 6, but it must follow the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs and precede the free agency period.

Training camps are slated to open Nov. 17 for the 2020-21 season with opening night happening Dec. 1.

Here are some other tentative dates for the Return-to-Play tournament.

July 24: Travel to hubs
July 25: Exhibition games
July 30: Qualification round begins
Aug. 9: First round of playoffs begins
Aug. 23: Second round begins
Sept. 6: Conference Finals begin
Sept. 20: SCF begins
Oct. 2: Last poss. game of SCF

All dates are subject to change.

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Montoyo urges Blue Jays to be among teams pulled together by pandemic



TORONTO – Before the Toronto Blue Jays gathered for their training camp reboot, the team connected via Zoom and manager Charlie Montoyo ran through a list of things his players should expect once they were all together.

Under the circumstances, he told them, their preparations would obviously be far different than usual, with workouts tailored more to individual needs in order to get everyone into the best baseball shape possible. Communication with the coaching staff would be essential in ensuring they get extra groundballs, more throws in the outfield, a few more rips in the cage – whatever they felt was necessary.

Montoyo also dropped some knowledge on them, too.

“There are going to be two types of teams,” he recalled telling the group. “There are going to be the teams that work together. They’re going to follow the guidelines. They’re going to work as a group. They’re going to stay healthy. And that’s going to help them win more games. And then there are going to be the teams that are going to complain about everything, lose focus, get sick, not be healthy, and they’re not going to do very well. It’s going to be a long 60 games.”

The Blue Jays, the only team of the 30 in the majors completing a mandatory quarantine in a hotel attached to their home field, are intent on becoming the former, rather than the latter, which is crucial given their situation.

Separated from family and friends, sequestered within the Rogers Centre and Toronto Marriott City Centre footprint, mandated to not leave their rooms – even for a coffee – unless they’re headed to work, the mind can easily veer into the negative.

Total commitment, a prerequisite to success in the best of times, must be a foundational pillar to thrive in this pandemic-altered reality, when the extraordinary challenges of trying to avoid COVID-19 will, at times, make even the looming 60-game sprint feel like a marathon.

The Blue Jays have already experienced some of the risks inherent to the times, after a handful of players and staff contracted the coronavirus in Dunedin, Fla., late last month, and with 12 of the 58 players in their player pool still at the facility there after another positive test at intake.

Those hits helped reinforce the need for strict adherence to the health and safety protocols in place, ones all the more critical given how the Canadian government provided an exemption allowing the Blue Jays to train in Toronto now, while it considers whether to allow 30 regular-season home games in the city, as well.

“I remember it, for sure, it’s exactly right,” catcher Danny Jansen said of Montoyo’s message. “This season, with everything that’s going on, you’ve got to stay healthy. I mean, it’s a shame if you do test positive, then you’ve got to sit out for two weeks, or more. So really, the teams that are taking the precautions extra seriously, which you hope is everybody, is at the advantage.”

Another advantage, in Jansen’s eyes, is being away from the rampant spread of COVID-19 happening in so many spots across the United States. With far less virus circulating in the community, the chances of an infection are drastically reduced, and with everyone in their travel party testing negative twice, they can feel secure in their bubble as they get to work.

“We all pretty much agree that we have an advantage being in Canada,” said Jansen.

Their work at Rogers Centre is due to pick up Thursday night, when the club plays its first intrasquad game, a regular occurrence from then on in preparation for the July 24 opener at the Tampa Bay Rays.

Through the Blue Jays’ first three days in Toronto, they had side sessions, live batting practice and lots of the usual drill-work. As they transition to some game-action, not having to play an actual opponent will allow them to control flow and ensure everyone gets what they need out of the day.

“They can play every day and if they’re having a long inning, we can stop it and we can switch the inning,” said Montoyo. “That’s the good thing about having control of what you do. I see my guys playing every day and building up to play nine innings and really be in baseball shape.”

For Jansen, who has 2½ weeks to get ready for 2½ months of squatting for nine innings, that means getting as many reps as he can. On Wednesday, he caught five or six innings during live batting practice, took several at-bats and caught some bullpens “when I can.”

“You don’t want to go zero to 100 right away and you want to ease into it,” he explained, “but you kind of have to do it quick.”

That’s a fine line to walk, especially for pitchers, but really for anyone suddenly thrown into the daily grind from differing degrees of lockdown. Pulled hamstrings, strained obliques and sore elbows are among the types of soft-tissue ailments everyone must guard against.

“We’re all professionals. We all know what we need to do,” said Jansen. “We all have our own routines on, if this was the regular season now, what we’d be doing after and before games. Obviously, you’ve got to be aware of it, you’ve got to to take care of it early and it’s not a lot of time right now. But we’re pros, we know what we need to do to get our body right and keep it healthy. Got to do the best you can.”

Doing the best you can certainly sounds like mantra for the times.

Montoyo said the group of Blue Jays back in Florida are with coaches who are helping them run through workouts, keeping them at pace with the majority of the group based in Toronto. Asked if the team was at risk of being without some starters come opening day, he replied, “No, no, no.”

Their absence underlines the fragility of this entire venture for the Blue Jays, and for baseball as a whole. A single lapse in judgment can have far-reaching consequences, which is why on top of talent, and desire, and all the usual stuff teams need to win, a respect for the protocol is essential, too.

“That’s the message that I gave them,” said Montoyo, “and to tell you the truth, I love how our guys are happy to be here, and hungry to play this game.”


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