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Ng’s hiring as Marlins GM serves as historic, overdue baseball moment – Sportsnet.ca

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This past February, Sportsnet’s Hazel Mae sat down for an interview with Kim Ng — then MLB’s vice president of baseball operations — in advance of International Women’s Day. With nearly 30 years of service in MLB, both on the league side and at senior positions within the front offices of multiple franchises, it’s hard to imagine anyone better suited than Ng to speak to the realities and challenges of being a female executive in North American professional sports.

Ng had obvious aspirations of leading a baseball operations department. She’d interviewed for general manager openings with numerous clubs, finishing as a finalist time and again. With decades of experience as a decision maker within the front offices of multiple successful franchises, she was ridiculously over-qualified. And yet she was passed over for job after job.

Why was that? Why wouldn’t an MLB franchise want to benefit from Ng’s knowledge and expertise? Those questions are part of the reason why Mae asked Ng if baseball was ready for a female GM.

“They should be,” Ng said. “We see female world leaders, CEOs, secretaries of state. There’s no reason that there shouldn’t be a woman general manager.”

Finally, there is one. Friday, the Miami Marlins announced they’ve hired Ng as the club’s next GM. It’s a groundbreaking moment not only for baseball but for North American professional sports. Ng will be the first female GM of an MLB, NHL, NBA or NFL franchise. It will be a hard-earned bullet point atop an extensive and impressive resume.

Ng’s MLB career began more than three decades ago — years prior to the founding of the Marlins in 1993. She earned an internship position with the Chicago White Sox, who eventually hired her full time and promoted her up the ranks to assistant director of baseball operations, a role that saw her become the first woman to present a salary arbitration case.

In 1998, she became the youngest assistant GM in baseball when New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman added her to his front office. Three years later, she joined the Los Angeles Dodgers as a vice president and assistant GM, where she worked for a decade before leaving the club to join MLB as a senior vice president, the job she held until today.

Along the way, Ng was part of the front offices of eight postseason teams — three of them World Series winners. She was a candidate for a score of GM openings, including positions with the Dodgers, Seattle Mariners, New York Mets, San Diego Padres, Anaheim Angels, Baltimore Orioles, Arizona Diamondbacks, Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants. Every one of them passed.

That she was up for so many GM jobs speaks to her unquestionable qualifications to oversee an MLB front office. It speaks to the sport’s willingness to consider non-traditional candidates.

But it may also speak to a tokenism tendency on the part of organizations, which make it publicly known they’ve interviewed minority candidates even if they aren’t genuinely considering them for the position. And what it certainly speaks to is the much steeper hill women must climb compared to their male counterparts to attain one of those 30 jobs. How many men younger and less experienced than Ng have been chosen for GM positions after far fewer interviews?

The answer is a lot. Ng’s first interview for a GM opening was in 2005. Since then, MLB franchises have hired GMs who were just beginning their baseball careers in mail rooms and as scouts while Ng was negotiating free agent contracts and big-league trades. They’ve hired individuals who were working outside front offices as agents and at consulting firms while Ng was handling arbitration cases and building out player development departments both domestically and overseas.

Ng has long been considered a GM in waiting — a skilled executive whose ascension to the top of a club’s baseball operations department was inevitable. And it turns out it was. But it took longer than it ever should have. And longer than it ever would have if a male candidate with Ng’s talent and experience had existed over the last 15 years and interviewed as often as she has.

What it took, as Ng put it to Mae during their interview last winter, was “a bold, courageous, gender-blind owner.” She was right. But what she never could have predicted was that that owner would be the same all-star shortstop she won several World Series with when she was working for the Yankees.

That it’s Derek Jeter — the Hall of Famer was putting up 200-hit seasons for Ng 20 years ago — who finally helped her break through baseball’s glass ceiling is a fitting turn of fate. Since he took over as Marlins CEO in 2017, Jeter has been a strong advocate for members of minority communities within the game. He’s spoken out repeatedly against racial injustice. He’s mandated Spanish lessons for English-speakers in his front office. Jeter’s been a refreshing and needed progressive force within the halls of power in a game stubbornly beholden to tradition. He had a necessary role to play in this moment.

But that moment is still Ng’s. Next week, she’ll turn 52. That makes her the sixth-oldest GM in the sport behind Jerry Dipoto, Dayton Moore, Cashman, Mike Rizzo and Al Avila. What separated her from those individuals who have all helmed front offices for years — not to mention the 20-plus GMs younger than her — wasn’t qualification or acuity. It was opportunity.

Finally, she’s receiving it. Like Ng told Mae earlier this year, this moment has long been overdue. There was never a reason there shouldn’t have been a female GM. And there’s no reason for the next to be far behind.

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NHL players will likely have to pay for lost revenues, commissioner Bettman warns – CBC.ca

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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman warned players Wednesday they are likely going to have to pay one way or another to make up for the league’s projected lost revenue whenever the 2020-21 season gets underway.

Speaking on a Sports Business Journal panel, Bettman stressed the NHL is not attempting to reopen the collective bargaining agreement some five months after it was extended. Instead, he said, the fiscal realities amid the pandemic mean the 50-50 revenue-sharing split between owners and players will be affected for at least the near future.

And that means players will have to bear the brunt of any shortfall to owners.

The question then becomes, Bettman said, whether it’s in their best interest to pay the money back in the short-term — by deferring a higher percentage of their salaries as the NHL has raised in discussions — or face the potential of having the salary cap stay flat over the remainder of the six-year deal.

“If we have to pay out lots of cash, two-thirds of which is going to come back to us, that may cause some stress,” Bettman said. “And by the same token, if the players owe us more money than anybody imagined, the salary cap could well be flat or close to flat for the next five or six years, and players into the future will be repaying what we’re owed.”

When it comes to a flat cap, which would have the potential of restricting future pay increases for players, Bettman said: “[Players] have to ask themselves, ‘Does this make sense?'”

The NHL’s new CBA currently calls for players to defer 10 per cent of their salary for the upcoming season and it puts a cap on how much money will be kept in escrow over the length of the deal.

Without calling it a formal proposal, the league has raised the possibility of having players increase salary deferrals to 20 per cent or 26 per cent and increasing the escrow caps, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither side is publicly announcing details of negotiations.

The National Hockey League Players’ Association did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Players, agents unhappy with state of talks

Players and several agents have privately grumbled at the developments, and accused the league of attempting to renege on the deal reached in July that led to the resumption of play and the completion of last season.

Bettman refuted the criticism, calling it “unfortunate” and “inaccurate,” and said the agreement at the time was based on collective assumptions that are no longer applicable. The NHL now has to factor in a shortfall in gate revenue because fans aren’t expected to be allowed to attend games, at least initially.

Another issue is the likelihood of a one-time realignment due to cross-border travel restrictions, which will likely result in Canada’s seven teams competing in one division. U.S.-based teams might be required to play in hub cities, as opposed to their own arenas.

WATCH | I was in net for… The Easter Epic:

In episode 6 of our new series, Rob Pizzo speaks to former Washington Capitals goalie Bob Mason about the longest Game 7 in NHL history, and the Pat LaFontaine goal that finally ended it.  5:39

The league is also expected to play a shortened season, which could feature as few as 48 games, such as what happened in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign.

In an email to The Associated Press, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said “as of right now,” the NHL is still targeting Jan. 1 to start the season, before adding: “That is obviously subject to change.”

It’s becoming increasingly unlikely the NHL will meet that target date. Players have not yet been asked to travel to their home cities. When they do, they will be potentially required to spend up to two weeks in self-quarantine before teams can even be allowed to open training camp.

Another issue are local health regulations. The NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, for example, relocated to Arizona this week after Santa Clara County banned contact sports teams from holding games and practices for at least the next three weeks.

The San Jose Sharks are based in the same county.

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Calgary selected to host Brier, Scotties, other major bonspiels in hub-style format – CBC.ca

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Calgary is about to become a curling mecca.

Weeks after CBC Sports first reported the Alberta city had been selected to host a number of important bonspiels, Curling Canada made it official on Tuesday that the Scotties, the Brier, the men’s world championship and mixed doubles national championship will all be hosted at Canada Olympic Park.

There is no timeline at this point for when the events will take place.

There are also two Grand Slam of Curling events being planned for the Calgary curling bubble as well.

Curling Canada officials said they continue to have dialogue with all levels of government and health officials to come up with the safest protocol, using many of the lessons learned from the NHL and NBA bubbles.

WATCH | CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux, Colleen Jones discuss Calgary curling hub:

Devin Heroux is joined by six-time Scotties medallist Colleen Jones to discuss the announcement of the Calgary curling bubble. 5:34

Six-time Scotties winner Colleen Jones says with COVID-19 cases in Calgary rising, there are still concerns about how the event will happen.

“For a lot of people this is great news,” Jones said. “The other side of the coin, though, is with COVID cases rising across the country there’s a lot of trepidation about how the provincial championships will go. 

“Provincial associations are all meeting right now as we speak. There’s surveys going out asking curlers how this should look.”

In an email to CBC Sports, the Department of Canadian Heritage said it has received a request from Curling Canada to hold an international event in Canada — that would be the men’s world curling championship.

“An authorization will only be granted if plans offer robust protocols to mitigate the risk of importation and spread of COVID-19 in Canada,” the email said.

“An authorization would be conditional on ongoing support from provincial and local public health authorities and the provincial government, as well as a risk mitigation measures plan, developed and implemented by Curling Canada and assessed by the Public Health Agency of Canada.”

The curling extravaganza will most likely begin with the crown jewel of women’s curling, the Scotties. All of the events will be played without fans at The Markin MacPhail Centre at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park.

Colleen Jones, seen in action at the 2013 Scotties, says with COVID-19 cases rising across the country there’s some trepidation about how provincial championships will unfold. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

While there are still many details to work through regarding player and coach safety, Alberta’s Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women, Leela Sharon Aheer, said it’s a positive thing for the province.

“This series of championship curling events is a fantastic opportunity for Alberta to once again show the world that our ability to host major hub city sporting events is second to none,” she said.

“We look forward to delivering an exciting and memorable curling experience for all players, participants and fans.”

The Scotties was originally going to be held in Thunder Bay, Ont., but the pandemic quashed those plans. Pre-event tickets had been sold out. However, Thunder Bay has been awarded the 2022 Scotties.

The Brier was going to be played in Kelowna but is now also set to take place in the Calgary bubble. It marks the first time the Scotties and the Brier are being played in the same city in the same season.

‘I trust Curling Canada’

Defending Brier champion Brad Gushue is thrilled Curling Canada found a way to safely get curlers back to the pebbled ice.

“Every player I’ve talked to has wanted this to happen and [is] excited it’s going to happen,” Gushue said. “I’ve heard some players are a little hesitant but they are few and far between.

“I trust Curling Canada enough to do this in a safe manner. Our team is on board.”

Gushue says his team has had a number of conversations about what life in the Calgary bubble might look like, including potentially being away from family for nearly two months.

“That’s a hard one to swallow. To be honest though, it’s something we’ve discussed at length with our families,” Gushue said.

“There might be some teams that don’t do it. It’s hard not to do when you love the sport and you want to compete.”

Gushue is hoping to defend his Brier title and earn a spot back to the men’s world championship, having not been able to wear the maple leaf at last year’s championship in Scotland because of the pandemic.

WATCH | Gushue disappointed by cancellation of curling world championship:

In an Instagram Live with our curling aficionado Devin Heroux, Brier 2020 champion Brad Gushue said he was ‘disappointed but not surprised’ about the cancellation of the curling world championships. 1:34

“Missing a world championship is not the end of the world but when you’re a competitive curler it tears at you a little bit,” he said.

“It weighed on me. There were moments throughout the summer when people would bring up the worlds and I thought this just sucks that I’m not going to get there.”

Gushue is also planning on playing in the mixed doubles national championship and two Grand Slam events that will also be housed in the Calgary bubble.

Preparing for lack of fans

The grind of six to seven consecutive weeks of curling is something Gushue is already preparing for, including not having any fans inside the arena to motivate him.

“I feed off the crowd,” he said. “To not have them around is going to be a challenge for me. I’m working with our sports psychologist on how to handle that. I don’t know how it’s going to affect me.”

Gushue says his Newfoundland and Labrador team have only played in two competitions this season — by far the least amount of time they’ve been on the ice during a season in their careers.

And they haven’t even been a complete team.

Brad Gushue, left, seen discussing a shot with Geoff Walker in 2018, says coronavirus restrictions in different provinces can make the logistics of practice difficult. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Geoff Walker is in Alberta with his wife, Laura, and their newborn baby. Walker opted to stay in the province as he didn’t want to leave and quarantine for two weeks before being able to play with Team Gushue.

“I still haven’t seen Geoff in person since the night we won the Brier,” Gushue said. “How do we get together to practise and play?”

Provincial restrictions make playdowns a puzzle

That’s a common question many of the top curling teams in the country are asking these days as most of the foursomes have at least one player living out of the province — restrictions in each jurisdiction of the country differ, making it increasingly challenging for curlers to get together on the ice.

That brings up the issue of provincial playdowns.

With many provinces imposing strict rules around gatherings, curling associations are trying to formulate plans that would allow them to safely and fairly select provincial and territorial representatives to attend both national championships.

The announcement of this Calgary curling bubble comes a year out from the Roar of the Rings Olympic qualifiers scheduled for Saskatoon next November into December.

This is a crucial quadrennial for Canadian curling after both the men’s and women’s teams failed to reach the podium for the first time at the 2018 Olympics.

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Tampa Bay just the latest stop on Nick Nurse's worldwide coaching journey – CBC.ca

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When Nick Nurse coached Derby of the British Basketball League back in the early 1990s, the team could only afford to book the Moorways Centre practice hall two nights a week.

Nurse and his team would arrive for a 7 p.m. start just as the badminton players on the floor before them were taking their last swings and removing the nets.

Nurse is used to adjusting to different set-ups, making a dozen career stops in the U.S. and abroad before finally settling into his first NBA job in Toronto.

On Monday, Nurse and the Raptors moved into their temporary home away from home in Tampa, Fla., another push pin on Nurse’s basketball travel map.

“Just another stop along the coaching journey for me. Just another place to live, another city, another thing going on,” Nurse said on a Zoom call on Wednesday.

WATCH | Nurse’s expectations remain high despite relocation:

The Raptors are playing their home games in Florida after the federal government denied the team’s request to play in Toronto. Head coach Nick Nurse says he’d prefer to be back in Canada but won’t make any excuses and expects the team to play at a high-level. 1:52

Due to Canada’s travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Raptors are playing their “home” games at Amalie Arena, normally home to the NHL’s Lightning, and are setting up a practice facility in a downtown hotel.

Nurse conjured memories of Derby when asked about the worst place he’s ever practised.

“There’s been some other good doozies in there,” he laughed. “I always say just get me to a practice floor and to the games and we’ll be happy.”

Emphasizing the positive

It’s key, Nurse said, that the players and staff fully buy in to their temporary Tampa home, rather than dwell on the fact they’re not playing out of Scotiabank Arena.

“You guys know I’m not shy about telling you guys how much I love being in Toronto, it’s our city and it’s our team and our organization — there’s a lot of unsettling feelings about having to leave, to be honest. It’s not easy, right?” Nurse said.

“I can only say this: I know I’d rather be in Toronto, but I’m not. And now I’m going to make the best of it here . . . we’re going to do our best to focus in on just becoming the best basketball team we can become. And we do that by starting with accepting, here’s where we are. Put a smile on our face, get out on the right side of the bed, positive attitude and go to work.”

The uncommon cloud hanging over this season is the threat of the global pandemic, which has wreaked havoc with pro leagues, particularly the NFL. NBA teams are currently limited to individual sessions with one coach and one player per basket. Players and coaches are being tested daily, and teams can begin holding group workouts on Sunday, just five days before the pre-season tips off.

The league’s health and safety protocols mandate it could take as long as 12 days for a player to return to action after a positive test. While there were no positive tests in the NBA’s “bubble” at Walt Disney World near Orlando, there was also no travel involved, and movement was limited.

‘Things are gonna happen’

It’s “critically important” that players follow the rules, Nurse said.

“The responsibility falls on each of us individually, to make sure we’re following all the protocols. I hope that everybody has their own health and safety and the health and safety of their family first and foremost as they’re moving around their day,” he said. “It does place an extra layer of importance or priority that’s different than a normal season, but we’re certainly not in a normal season or in normal times, so we’re all going to have to be very vigilant on this aspect.”

Two unnamed Golden State Warriors players recently tested positive for COVID-19. Raptors guard Norman Powell said, with the difficulty controlling players’ environments, there’s bound to be more.

WATCH | Raptors GM Webster embracing team’s temporary home:

Bobby Webster discusses how the Raptors chose Tampa as their temporary home. 2:03

The NFL has been ravaged by COVID-19, with dozens of players testing positive, forcing schedule adjustments

“I think those things are gonna happen throughout the season. You’ve just got to handle them as they come just like football players got some positive tests,” Powell said. “You’ve got to have protocols and regulations in order to stop the spread and make sure those players are safe and are quarantined and can get over those symptoms and be back healthy and get back to playing as fast as possible.”

Florida has been a coronavirus hotbed for months, and Tuesday surpassed one million cases.

The Raptors open their three-game preseason schedule with two games in Charlotte, Dec. 12 and 14. They face Miami in their first “home” game on Dec. 18. The season tips off Dec. 22.

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