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Maple Leafs fan with cancer hopes to meet Auston Matthews

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TORONTO —
A 71-year-old devoted Toronto Maple Leafs fan who is dying of cancer said she was stunned to learn that her friends and family had begun a campaign that would hopefully see her meet her favourite player—Auston Matthews.

Donna Thomson was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in September 2019 and often spends weekdays with her younger sister and neighbours in Trenton, Ont. watching the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“There is no one better to watch hockey with,” said 33-year-old Grant Joseph Haire, a neighbour who started the campaign. “She has a bell that she keeps with her and every time the Leafs score she gets up and rings the bell.”

“She loves the Leafs more than anything.”

Haire moved to Trenton around the same time that Thomson’s sister did three years ago, and the families often get together to watch the games. He said that when Thomson was diagnosed with cancer, he wanted to try and unite her with her hero.

“I truly feel she deserves something really special and if I can help her have that, then I will do whatever it takes to make it happen,” he said. “She is such a happy and incredible person and even amidst all of things she stays her happy, positive and eccentric self.”

Haire said he has called the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Foundation and has explored a number of other avenues to try and make the connection, including turning to social media. In a post to Facebook on Dec. 30, he pleads with the public to “help make a New Years miracle come true for this beautiful woman.”

Attached to the post are two photographs of Thomson, who is wearing a Maple Leafs jersey, a fake mustache and is holding a large cowbell.

Thomson did not know that her friend had started the campaign. When she found out on Thursday, she said she was “stunned.”

“When they told me, my mouth fell open. He’s my hero, what can I say,” she told CTV News Toronto over the phone.

Thomson said that even if she does meet Matthews—of which she knows there is no guarantee—she doesn’t know what she would say.

“It would just be very exciting,” she said. “I would probably be tongue tied.”

Auston Matthews

When asked why Matthews was her favourite player, Thomson cited a number of reasons.

“I think he is very cute and I like the way he plays,” she said. “I think he is a fair player and I like that.”

Thomson stays with her sister most weeknights and the pair say they check to see if there is a hockey game on television before they make any other plans. Thomson said that she enjoys watching the games at home because she can see Matthews much closer on the big screen.

“She is funny, she’s like a commentator with the game,” her sister, Debbie Bergeron, said. “It’s just too funny the way she carries on.”

Haire said that Thomson does not want to know how much time she has left because “she says it will kill her personality.”

“We don’t know when she is going to go, we watch every game together.”

“We make sure not to miss any now.”

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NBA Considering Two-Week Midseason Break With All-Star Game Likely Canceled – RealGM.com

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The NBA is considering a two-week break at the midway point of the 20-21 season as there almost certainly won’t be an All-Star Weekend as scheduled in Indianapolis.

The NBA is proposing a 72-game regular season and a play-in tournament ahead of the playoffs.

The league played their All-Star Game during the lockout-shortened 11-12 season on February 26th, 2012.

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NBA Targeting Dec. 22 Start, 72-Game Schedule With Finals Over By Olympics – RealGM.com

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The NBA is targeting Tuesday, December 22nd for the start of the 20-21 season with a 72-game regular season that finishes before the 2021 Olympics begin on July 23rd. The league has started the season on a Tuesday in recent years with a doubleheader on TNT. Christmas Day falls on a Friday this year and would likely feature a full slate of games throughout the day on ABC, ESPN and TNT.

Beginning the 20-21 season around Christmas Day would allow the league to return to a semi-normal schedule while potentially allowing stars to play in the Olympics. 

“It may be too quick, but it also makes too much sense,” one high-ranking team official told The Athletic.

The NBA still prefers in-market play for the 20-21 season instead of a bubble or multiple bubbles.

There has been more support for a quicker than previously planned turnaround because it allows the league to return to its typical schedule and will generate more revenue. 

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Ravens acquire Yannick Ngakoue from Vikings – theScore

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The Baltimore Ravens acquired defensive end Yannick Ngakoue from the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional fifth-round pick, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Ngakoue’s tenure with the Vikings lasted just six games after the Jacksonville Jaguars dealt him to Minnesota this offseason for a 2021 second-round pick and a 2022 conditional fifth-round selection.

The star pass-rusher will fly to Baltimore in the next 24 hours to complete COVID-19 testing so he can join his new team next Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Schefter adds. The Ravens have a bye in the upcoming Week 7.

Ngakoue has been a target of general manager Eric DeCosta for a while now, as Baltimore attempted to acquire him multiple times in recent months. The defender grew up in Bowie, Maryland and went to Maryland college before the Jaguars made him their third-round pick in 2016.

“We are excited to add Yannick Ngakoue to our football team,” DeCosta said, according to Sirius XM’s Adam Caplan. “Yannick is someone who we are very familiar with going back to the draft process years ago. He is an exciting player and a dangerous pass-rusher who makes us better.”

Pass-rush depth was viewed as a major need for the Ravens despite ranking second league-wide with 22 sacks. Ngakoue should start opposite Matt Judon at outside linebacker, with Pernell McPhee, Tyus Bowser, and Jaylon Ferguson in the rotation.

The 25-year-old notched five sacks across six games with the Vikings. He’s accumulated at least eight quarterback takedowns every year since entering the NFL.

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