In keeping with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Next Gen theme for Monday’s holiday matinee versus the Carolina Hurricanes — and in keeping with my general Christmastime laziness — I tasked my nine-year-old son, Will Fox, to report on the game and give Dad a break.
I’m certain the next generation will uphold the proud Fox family tradition of barely passable sports reporting. Take it away, Willie! I’ll just transcribe your opinions and observations. (Just don’t read the comments, bud.)
TORONTO – Oooh, snacks.
[Fetches miniature bag of Munchies off pressbox stats table. Informed that Maple Leafs often flip pucks to kids during warm-ups.]
Saw it! Number 23, Dermott, gave a puck to someone.
I have a question: Every period, do they clean the ice?
I think Carolina is going to lose.
It was scary being this high up, but after 10 minutes you’re fine.
Thirty seconds in, Jason Spezza has made the lead for the Toronto Maple Leafs. That was quick.
The Leafs have five shots to zero – that’s a lot.
I’ve noticed the fans are cheering a lot. Now I get why everyone wants to be the home team – it makes a difference.
Great pass by John Tavares, and William Nylander’s goal was great, spectacular and awesome.
I also noticed that the puck is mostly in the Hurricanes’ zone.
Whoa, another goal: 3-0 Leafs. Is Mrazek better than Reimer?
[Notices a press-box veteran pilfer a Drumstick from the mini freezer before the end of the first period.]
Ice cream! I’m getting one. [Bolts. Returns 15 seconds later.]
Can you eat the nuts off this?
[Not happening. You like peanuts anyway.]
Nylander gave the puck away. Why did he wait so long to pass?
[Veteran reporter: “You should ask him that after the game.”]
Whoa, that was a good shot by Brock McGinn, 3-1.
Martin Necas scores on a backhanded, between-the-legs tip with 24 seconds left in first period. 3-2 Leafs.
Wow, that was a sweet goal. Hurricanes are doing way better.
I notice they hop over the bench when they change lines.
[Travis Dermott called for tripping minor early in the second period.]
That’s not a trip!
Freddy Andersen is doing spectacular.
All the passes are hard passes. Like, boom, boom, boom.
The Leafs’ best players keep shooting it high. I’m going to get popcorn.
[Leaves. Returns eight seconds later.]
Nice play by Nylander. Saves a goal from happening.
Carolina pours in three goals within 64 seconds and five unanswered altogether to jump ahead 5-3 in the second period.]
Comeback. Disappointing for the Leafs, but they were all good goals, though.
The Maple Leafs need to look where they’re going to pass, and they need to keep the puck in the Hurricanes’ zone. Carolina is doing a good job intercepting the Leafs’ passes.
[Game notes reveal Toronto has 14 giveaways to Carolina’s 11. Will spends the second intermission looking at retired banners in rafters.]
Number 7, Horton! Kinda like Tim Hortons.
[Third period begins.]
Auston Matthews scores. Well played. Nice pass by Hyman.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 23, 2019
I’m speechless. One more goal and they tie it.
Marner scores, Barrie scores, and Marner scores again off the draw. Three Maple Leafs goals in 59 seconds completes the comeback.
Incredible. I can’t describe it. I’m getting chills.
[Maple Leafs add an empty-netter to win 8-6.]
If the Canes kept Reimer in net, I wonder what the score would be.
[Post-game, Will fights off the scrum to secure a hard-hitting, one-on-one interview with Mitch Marner to get the inside scoop on his five-point effort.]
WILL FOX: How does it feel to win a crazy game like that?
MITCH MARNER: It’s fun. It got a little high scoring there at the end, but it’s fun for the players. I think it’s fun for the crowd. I’m sure the coaches don’t love it as much and the goalies don’t, but it’s a big win for us. We’re happy with it.
WF: What’s your favourite food?
MM: Ooh, that’s a good one. I’m a big fan of a cheat day. Any kind of burger, pizza, I also enjoy pasta a lot. Any of those three, I’m into.
WF: What’s the best Christmas gift you’ve ever gotten?
MM: Maybe when I was really young, a hockey stick. I used to always ask for hockey sticks on my birthdays and Christmases, especially the new ones. Usually when I got one of those, it was a pretty great Christmas.
WF: And what’s your greatest fear?
MM: Oh, wow. Sharks. I don’t like sharks. I’m scared to go into the ocean too deep. Especially when I’m tubing in the ocean, I think for sure there’s a shark in the ocean underneath me.
WF: Thank you.
Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s
The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.
Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.
Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.
Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.
He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.
Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.
Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.
“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.
“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”
Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.
(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)
Be Like the King of the North Division and Develop Skills
It’s been a year unlike no other for Canadian hockey teams, with COVID-19 travel restrictions forcing the creation of a new NHL division made up entirely of Canadian teams. The previous generation of NHL hockey was known as the “Dead Puck Era” because referees tolerated slowing down the game with clutching and grabbing.
The leading scorers today score in jaw-dropping fashion and routinely pull off stickhandling dangles that were unimaginable until only recently. The Canadian team that will win the North Division will be the one with the most skill.
Here are the training aids that will help you develop your skills all year long.
Innovators like HockeyShot Canada make “passers” so that players can develop pinpoint accuracy and the soft hands necessary to cradle and control a pass when it lands on your stick. The high-quality rubber bands return the puck with the same force which passed it, so you can give yourself one-timers or work on accuracy.
Whether you’re on a two-on-one, sending a breakout pass from the defensive zone, or holding down the blue line on the power play, every positional player needs to pass accurately.
A player is lucky to get a few shots on net each game, and they can’t let them go to waste. Until recently, players needed to rent ice in the off-season to practice their shots in realistic game-like conditions.
Now, players can use shooting pads at their home that let pucks glide as they do on real ice. Shooting is perhaps the one skill that requires the most repetition because one inch can be the difference between going bar-down and clanking one wide off the post.
Practice your quick release and accuracy and develop an arsenal of shots, including wrist shots, slapshots, one-timers, and more. The more tools in your tool kit, the deadlier a sniper you’ll be.
Having the puck on your stick is a responsibility, and you don’t want to cough it up to the other team and waste a scoring chance or lose possession. The ability to stickhandle helps you bide time until a teammate is open, so you can pass them the puck and continue attacking.
If you’re on a breakaway, you may want to deke the goalie rather than shoot if your hands are silky enough. Develop stickhandling skills, and you’ll keep goalies and opponents guessing – being unpredictable helps make a sniper’s job easier.
Of course, you also need to handle the puck in your own zone without causing a turnover. Stickhandling is a crucial skill in all areas of the ice.
When the coach sends you over the board, you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way. Maybe you’ll get the puck in the slot or somewhere else, but when it’s playoffs, you always need to be ready. The Kings of the North Division have all of the above skills and more, and you can too if you practice all year.
Australia swim trials calendar shift to reap Tokyo rewards
Australia broke with tradition to hold its swimming trials just six weeks before the start of the 2020 Olympics and former world champion Giaan Rooney said the move could reap rich rewards in Tokyo after disappointments at London and Rio.
Australia has typically held its trials up to six months before an Olympics but that gap has been drastically cut this year with swimmers vying for Tokyo spots this week in Adelaide.
Rooney, who won individual world titles at Fukuoka and Montreal and a relay gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said Australia is gearing up for a much improved Games after its swimmers flopped at Rio and London.
“I think we needed to make it work,” she told Reuters. “The shift started about a year ago to bring the trials into line with the rest of the world and qualify five or six weeks before.
“In sport and swimming, six months is a long time,” Rooney added. “From a coaching perspective, it’s much better to know you have chosen the team in form.”
After winning five gold medals at Sydney 2000 and seven in Athens, the Australian team was rocked by accusations of disruptive behaviour by some of its top sprinters at the 2012 Olympics.
Australia won just one gold medal in the London pool and three in Rio five years ago.
Australia knew something had to be done if it was to close the gap on the powerful Americans and moving the trials is part of the strategy.
“I think it’s to make your swimmers more resilient to change,” Rooney said.
“In the USA they get to race every week regardless of illness or breakups and under all circumstances. Nothing rattles them.
“Australia doesn’t have that racing continuity. This is about making sure you are prepared for anything. I think our swimmers are more resilient than they have been in the past decade, COVID is part of this.”
Rooney said there might even be an “upside” for Australia with the Olympics postponed by a year due to the global health crisis, with the emergence of swimmers like teenager Kaylee McKeown, who broke the women’s 100m backstroke world record on Sunday.
“We are now talking about athletes who are not only going to make the Olympics but are medal chances,” Rooney said.
“We wouldn’t have been talking about her this time last year. She might not have been ready for a position on the team. She is now a legitimate gold medal chance in Tokyo once she gets there.”
For all her confidence about Australia’s performance in Tokyo, Rooney was wary of making predictions about a gold rush for her compatriots.
“I think this will be a more successful Olympics for us than Rio in the pool but individual goal medals will still be difficult to come by,” said the 38-year-old.
“The biggest challenge is to make the jump from minor medals to gold.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)