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Maple Leafs' Holl eager for chance to finish Masterton-worthy season –



TORONTO — It was the kind of breakthrough Justin Holl always believed he had in him. But even in the early stages of this Toronto Maple Leafs season there was very little to suggest he was about to become such an important figure in the organization.

Consider where the defenceman stood at training camp as a 27-year-old with 13 career NHL games on his resume.

Oh, and 71 healthy scratches the season prior.

Holl was just battling to stay off waivers in September, with the Leafs having brought in a number of depth options over the summer who had more big-league experience than he did: Ben Harpur, Kevin Gravel and Jordan Schmaltz, among them.

Even after making the opening night roster, he watched the first game from the press box. Holl played nine minutes two nights later in Columbus and was immediately scratched again.

Who could have predicted then he was about to take a spot on the team’s shutdown pairing and run with it? Did Holl even believe it possible himself?

“I didn’t have any doubt that I could play at this level, but you know there’s always uncertainty of whether you will. You know what I mean?” he said Tuesday. “There’s a difference between knowing that you can and knowing that you’re going to do it or that you will do it or that you’ll get the chance.

“I think in that sense there was some doubt.”

As we reflect on his 2019-20 season — which may or may not be over, depending on the coronavirus pandemic — it’s clear that Holl is worthy of serious consideration for the Bill Masterton Trophy.

That award recognizes the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey, and what better sums up his story than that?

There were times in 2018-19 where he felt like he was “grinding away for nothing” while going months between playing. He had become a dominant AHL defenceman but was only one rung above a practice player with the Leafs, squeezing just 11 games and 137 total minutes of ice time from a campaign where he was completely healthy.

A couple things broke his way this season. The Leafs dealt with more injuries, for starters, which helped get him in the lineup. The November coaching change from Mike Babcock to Sheldon Keefe didn’t hurt, either, since it reunited him with a man who had leaned heavily on him during their time with the Marlies.

“I was able to get my foot in the door a little bit as the season went on and started accumulating more responsibilities,” said Holl.

From early December onwards, he thrived while being tasked with facing the opposition’s best players. He and Jake Muzzin formed the Leafs’ most reliable pairing — generating 58 per cent of expected goals and 55 per cent of even-strength shot attempts together while
often starting shifts against dangerous attackers in their own end.

Holl logged more minutes than half the defencemen in the NHL — averaging 18:31 in his 68 appearances — and was rewarded with a $6-million, three-year extension hours before facing his hometown Minnesota Wild on New Year’s Eve.

“It just is a credit to his personality and his positivity and his passion for life and for the game and the type of teammate that he is that he just continued to work and made it easy to keep him around,” Keefe said that day.

Kyle Dubas pointed to Holl as one of the silver linings from an up-and-down Leafs season that saw Muzzin, Morgan Rielly, Cody Ceci and Travis Dermott all miss time to injury on the blue line.

“It was unfortunate in one regard in that we never got to see the group really all together,” Dubas said Monday, after signing KHL free agent Mikko Lehtonen. “On the positive side, it allowed for a player like Justin Holl to really flourish and get more opportunity.
That presented us with more certainty on one end of it.”

Given the renaissance his career’s gone through, it’s understandable why Holl is anxiously awaiting the chance to finish off his impressive season. He’s been waiting out COVID-19 back home in Minnesota and closely following updates provided by Dubas and the NHL Players’

The 28-year-old plans to drive back to Toronto as soon as there’s a concrete plan in place for when team facilities will reopen. He’ll then observe the government-mandated 14-day period of self-isolation before getting back on the ice.

“It seems like other sports are starting to kind of open up and set dates for a return so I hope that means we won’t be far behind,” said Holl. “In that sense, I’m optimistic and I’m ready to go at a moment’s notice.”

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MLBPA reaffirms pay stance, no deal close – TSN



NEW YORK — Baseball players reaffirmed their stance for full prorated pay, leaving a huge gap with teams that could scuttle plans to start the coronavirus-delayed season around the Fourth of July and may leave owners focusing on a schedule as short as 50 games.

More than 100 players, including the union’s executive board, held a two-hour digital meeting with officials of the Major League Baseball Players Association on Thursday, a day after the union’s offer was rejected by Major League Baseball.

“Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless players negotiate salary concessions,” union head Tony Clark said in a statement. “The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon. This threat came in response to an association proposal aimed at charting a path forward.”

“Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless players agree to further salary reductions,” Clark added.

Players originally were set to earn about $4 billion in 2020 salaries, exclusive of guaranteed money such as signing bonuses, termination pay and option buyouts. The union’s plan would cut that to around $2.8 billion and management to approximately $1.2 billion plus a $200 million bonus pool if the post-season is completed.

MLB last week proposed an 82-game season with an additional sliding scale of pay cuts that would leave a player at the $563,500 minimum with 47% of his original salary and top stars Mike Trout and Gerrit Cole at less than 22% of the $36 million they had been set to earn.

Players countered Sunday with a plan for a 114-game regular season with no pay cuts beyond the prorated salaries they agreed to on March 26. That would leave each player with about 70% of his original pay.

MLB rejected that Wednesday, when Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem wrote in a letter to union chief negotiator Bruce Meyer informing him “we do not have any reason to believe that a negotiated solution for an 82-game season is possible.”

“Nonetheless, the commissioner is committed to playing baseball in 2020,” Halem said in the letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press. “He has started discussions with ownership about staging a shorter season without fans.”

Management officials have said they are considering a slate of perhaps 50 games or fewer. There has not been a schedule averaging fewer than 82 games per team since 1879.

“The overwhelming consensus of the board is that players are ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions that could affect the health and safety of not just themselves, but their families as well,” Clark said in a statement. “The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.”

Baseball’s March 26 deal allows games if there are no government restrictions on playing in front of fans and no relevant travel limitations. The sides agreed to “discuss in good faith” the economic feasibility of playing in empty ballparks, which appears to be the likely option.

MLB says that without fans it would average a loss of $640,000 for each additional game played. The union disputes the teams’ financial figures.

Teams also worry about a second wave of the new coronavirus this fall and don’t want to play past October, fearing $787 million in broadcast revenue for the post-season could be lost. MLB proposed expanding the playoffs from 10 teams to 14, which would generate additional broadcast rights to sell, and players have offered to guarantee the larger playoffs for both 2020 and 2021.

While baseball has reverted to the economic bickering that led to eight work stoppages from 1972-95, the NBA announced plans Thursday to resume its regular season with 22 teams on July 31, the NHL is moving ahead with plans for an expanded Stanley Cup playoffs this summer and MLS is planning to have teams return with a tournament in July.

“In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, players want nothing more than to get back to work,” Clark said. “But we cannot do this alone.”


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NBA Board of Governors approves competitive format to restart 2019-20 season with 22 teams returning to play – NBA CA



4h ago


NEW YORK, June 4, 2020 – The NBA Board of Governors today approved a competitive format to restart the 2019-20 season with 22 teams returning to play and a tentative start date of Friday, July 31. The Board’s approval is the first formal step among many required to resume the season.

The NBA is working to finalize a comprehensive season restart plan with the National Basketball Players Association. The NBA and the NBPA are working with infectious disease specialists, public health experts and government officials to establish a rigorous program to prevent and mitigate the risk related to COVID-19, including a regular testing protocol and stringent safety practices. The season restart is also contingent on an agreement with The Walt Disney Company to use Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida, as a single site for a campus for all games, practices and housing for the remainder of the season.

Based on the competitive format that the NBA Board of Governors approved today, the 22 returning teams would be the 16 teams (eight per conference) in current playoff positions and the six teams that are currently six games or fewer behind the eighth seed in their respective conferences. Those two groups comprise teams with the NBA’s 22 best records.

“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “While the COVID-19 pandemic presents formidable challenges, we are hopeful of finishing the season in a safe and responsible manner based on strict protocols now being finalized with public health officials and medical experts. We also recognize that as we prepare to resume play, our society is reeling from recent tragedies of racial violence and injustice, and we will continue to work closely with our teams and players to use our collective resources and influence to address these issues in very real and concrete ways.”

The season restart would begin with eight “seeding games” for each returning team and include the possibility of a play-in tournament for the eighth and final playoff seed in each conference depending on combined records across regular-season games and seeding games. Once the 16-team playoff field is set, the NBA Playoffs would proceed in a traditional conference-based format with four rounds and best-of-seven series in each round. The NBA Finals would end no later than Oct. 12. (See below for the list of returning teams and additional details.)

If, as tentatively scheduled, the season resumes on July 31, then the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery would be rescheduled for Aug. 25, the 2020 NBA Draft would be held on Oct. 15 and the 2020-21 NBA regular season would likely begin on Dec. 1, 2020.

The 14 NBA Lottery teams would be the eight teams that do not participate in the restart and the six teams that participate in the restart but do not qualify for the playoffs. These teams would be seeded in the lottery and assigned odds based on their records through games of March 11. The 16 playoff teams would draft in inverse order of their combined records across regular-season games and seeding games.

NBA Season Restart: Competitive Format Plan

The 22 returning teams for the season restart would be the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards from the Eastern Conference and the Los Angeles Lakers, LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns from the Western Conference.

Each returning team would play eight seeding games, as selected from its remaining regular-season matchups. At the conclusion of the seeding games, the seven teams in each conference with the best combined records across regular-season games and seeding games would qualify for the playoffs.

If the team with the eighth-best combined record in its conference is more than four games ahead of the team with the ninth-best combined record in the same conference, then the team with the eighth-best record would earn the eighth playoff seed.

If the team with the eighth-best combined record in its conference (Team A) is four games or fewer ahead of the team with the ninth-best combined record in the same conference (Team B), then Teams A and B would compete in a play-in tournament to determine the eighth playoff seed. To earn the eighth playoff seed, Team A would need to defeat Team B once and Team B would need to defeat Team A two games in a row.

The 2019-20 season would conclude with a traditional playoff format with best-of-seven series in the first round, conference semifinals, conference finals and the NBA Finals.

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Hockey Canada lifts ban on sanctioned activities, lets members decide on return –



Hockey Canada has lifted its ban on sanctioned activities and is allowing the country’s 13 member organizations to individually determine when it’s safe to return to action.

The move is a first step toward resuming play after Hockey Canada cancelled all activities under its banner March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hockey Canada said in a statement the best approach for a resumption plan was for each member to work with regional public health authorities to determine the appropriate steps to return in areas that fall under their jurisdiction.

The sport’s national body said it expects the timing for a return to the ice will differ among its members. Certain regions of the country are further along with plans to reopen and roll back restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Hockey Canada’s 13 members are: BC Hockey, Hockey Alberta, Saskatchewan Hockey Association, Hockey Manitoba, Hockey Northwestern Ontario, Ontario Hockey Federation, Hockey Eastern Ontario, Hockey Quebec, Hockey New Brunswick, Hockey PEI, Hockey Nova Scotia, Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador, and Hockey North.

Melody Davidson leaves Hockey Canada

Decorated women’s hockey coach Melody Davidson has joined Own The Podium as a summer-sport adviser.

She coached the Canadian women’s hockey team to Olympic gold in both 2006 and 2010.

Davidson switched to a managerial role overseeing Canada to another gold medal in 2014 and a silver in 2018.

She then remained with Hockey Canada as women’s head scout while mentoring former player Gina Kingsbury to take over as director of national women’s teams.

Davidson coached Canada in four world championships and won gold twice.

Melody Davidson took the Canadian women to gold medals at the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

The 57-year-old from Oyen, Alta., also served as the International Ice Hockey Federation’s lead coaching mentor to improve the international women’s game following the 2010 Winter Olympics.

She’s been involved in women’s hockey for a quarter-century starting with the 1995 Canada Games, when she stood behind Alberta’s bench.

Davidson was named to the Canadian Women and Sport’s most influential women’s list five straight years from 2007 to 2011.

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