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McDavid declined surgery to play this season for Oilers

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ST. LOUISConnor McDavid said he was able to play in the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game because he chose to not have knee surgery nine months ago.

“I feel real good,” the Edmonton Oilers center said Friday. “I don’t think I would be sitting here at the All-Star Game if I wasn’t. … I feel good on the ice and feel happy to be playing.”

McDavid, who is captain of the Pacific Division for the 3-on-3 tournament held at Enterprise Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS), was told surgery would have caused him to miss the entire 2019-20 NHL season.

“Obviously I was a 22-year-old kid at the time, and you never want to miss a season,” he said. “You never want to go through a surgery — I’m not going to call it risky — but there were a lot of questions. It’s not like it’s an ACL where doctors can almost do that in their sleep. It’s a PCL. Only a few doctors have done that and it’s not like it’s been mastered.”

McDavid injured his left knee slamming into the goal post during the Oilers season finale against the Calgary Flames on April 6. The damage included multiple tears in the knee and a broken tibia.

He turned to those he was closest to for advice, a small group that included his family and his fitness trainer, former NHL forward Gary Roberts. Working with Dr. Mark Lindsay and a team of physiotherapists, McDavid focused on a rehab program with the goal of being back for the start of the season.

“There were days when it didn’t feel that good going through that process,” McDavid said. “You’re like, ‘Uh, I wonder what the MRI is going to look like? Should we go back and do the surgery and start over?’ But it just kept progressing and progressing and ultimately we didn’t have to go through the surgery route.”

McDavid leads the NHL with 76 points (27 goals, 49 assists), one point ahead of linemate Leon Draisaitl. Edmonton, which has not made the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2017, its only appearance since 2006, is tied for second in the Pacific Division, one point behind the Vancouver Canucks.

“We’re having some success,” he said. “Just to be on the ice and be a part of it, it’s fun.”

McDavid’s recovery story became public during a promo for the documentary “Connor McDavid: Whatever It Takes,” which aired in full on Sportsnet after the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills presented by New Amsterdam Vodka on Friday.

“The main focus was to get healthy,” he said. “Didn’t want any more pressure, the media, any more questions. … It was actually really nice just to focus on myself and not have to answer any questions and the pressure of all the media.

“Different way to go about it. I understand that rubbed some media the wrong way. It’s not like we were trying to hide anything. And ultimately we didn’t know all the answers to all the questions. It was a process that was always progressing, always moving.”

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Penny Oleksiak back to lead Canada in Tokyo pool

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Penny Oleksiak, the first Canadian to win four medals at a Summer Olympics, will lead a Canadian swimming team eager to build on their efforts in Rio de Janeiro at next month’s Tokyo Games.

Swimming Canada unveiled a 26-member squad (16 women, 10 men) on Thursday that is a mix of experience and youth that officials hope is capable of improving on the six medals won in Rio, the country’s best haul in the pool since the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

“I think the mix of veteran leaders and new faces is awesome,” said Kylie Masse, a bronze medallist in the 100 metres backstroke in Rio and one of 10 returning Olympians. “That’s kind of how sport works, there are always older and younger athletes, and it’s a great dynamic to have.”

Leading the charge at the 2016 Rio Games was Oleksiak, who became Canada’s youngest Olympic champion winning gold in the 100m freestyle as a 16-year-old, while also grabbing silver in the 100m butterfly and two relay bronze.

The stage is set for a new star to emerge in Tokyo in 14-year-old Summer McIntosh, who edged Oleksiak in the 200m freestyle at the trials and breezed to victory in the 800m free.

At the other end of the experience and age spectrum is 37-year-old Brent Hayden, who came out of retirement to earn a spot on his fourth Olympic team, becoming the oldest Canadian Olympic swimmer in history.

Bronze medallist in the 100m freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics, Hayden clinched his spot with a win in the 50m freestyle at the Canadian trials that wrapped up on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)

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Sinclair to lead Canadian women’s team in her fourth Olympics

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Christine Sinclair, the all-time international goal-scoring record holder, was named to her fourth Olympic squad on Wednesday and will headline a Canadian roster at the Tokyo Games that features a mix of veterans and youth.

Led by Sinclair, whose 186 goals for her country are the most by a female or male soccer player worldwide, Canada won medals at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and was the only nation to make the podium in both competitions.

“I am looking forward to doing whatever I can to help take this team back to the podium and make history again,” said Canadian captain Sinclair. “Our team is in a good spot, we are excited, we are hungry and we are ready to go.”

The 18-player roster features 12 members of the squad that competed at the 2016 Rio Games while a quintet including Vanessa Gilles, Jayde Riviere, Julia Grosso, Adriana Leon, and Evelyne Viens will be making their Olympic debuts.

Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan travelled to Rio in 2016 as an alternate.

Canada will kick off their Tokyo 2020 journey when they face Japan on July 21 and continue Group E play against Chile on July 24 and Britain on July 27.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)

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Which of the Canadians Picked in the 2021 NFL Draft Will Thrive This Season?

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It was a good NFL Draft for Canadian players in 2021.

Some four stars from north of the border were selected by NFL franchises in the free agency pick ‘em, and that is tied as the highest number of Canadians drafted in the 85-year history of the event.

Of course, the hope is that these young talents are more than just filler and roster depth, but can any of the quartet make the breakthrough into the big time?

Here’s a look at which of the NFL’s newest Canadian additions can shine in 2021/22.

Jevon Holland

The defensive back was the number 36 pick in the Draft by the Miami Dolphins, who beat off a number of rivals in the hunt for the Coquitlam native.

A versatile defender, Holland is a former Jim Thorpe Award semi-finalist thanks to his exploits in the NCAA back in 2019 with the University of Oregon.

He sat out the 2020 campaign, but representatives from dozens of NFL teams were in town to watch Holland go through his paces at the Oregon Pro Day.

The 21-year-old is following in the footsteps of his father Robert, who turned out for the Detroit Lions, and he is expected to force his way into the starting line-up at the Dolphins. And, who knows, maybe Holland could go all the way in his first season, with Miami priced at +2500 in the Super Bowl 2022 American football odds.

Benjamin St-Juste

When you’re six foot three, 205 pounds and still able to run 40 yards in 4.51 seconds, it goes without saying that you have the physical credentials to succeed in the NFL.

Benjamin St-Juste is the man that can, and he will bolster the roster at a Washington Football Team that will be looking to improve upon their playoff showing in 2020.

The 23-year-old may only have been a third-round pick, but he comes with a burgeoning reputation thanks to a successful time at the University of Minnesota. An All-Big Ten special mention in 2019, more than 50 NFL recruitment personnel attended the college’s pro day – largely to catch a glimpse of St-Juste going through his paces.

Both Brian Gutekunst and Jon Robinson made the trip but, in the end, it was Washington who snapped up the powerhouse from the Draft.

Chuba Hubbard

The third Canadian to be drafted in 2021 was Chuba Hubbard, who became the first Canadian running back to be selected from the Draft in 25 years.

It’s the Carolina Panthers who have taken a chance on the 22-year-old and with his credentials, you can see why. Hubbard finished eighth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 2019 after a stellar campaign – he served up 2,094 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, an NCAA best. He was named the Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

While running backs are not the hottest of properties in the Draft, Hubbard provably has the talent to cross into the end zone with regularity – the Panthers might just have got their hands on an unheralded gem here.

With these three Canadians taking the step up to the NFL, the future of the sport north of the border looks in safe hands.

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