Thursday’s Insider Trading is awash with news:
After the NHL set up what Gary Bettman called a trial balloon over having the draft in June before a potential resumption of the season, the response hasn’t been all that positive, as reported by Pierre LeBrun. One team, one that doesn’t need to personally care about draft order, is on side, though:
Shanahan was one of many NHL people out speaking to some of these issues on Thursday. There were some players quoted discussing the overall concept of a resumption of play in what looked like a coordinated media blitz.
Frederik Andersen – who is still isolating with Auston Matthews – is open to any scenario that will see the NHL resume play as quickly as possible: “I think live sports will be a big part of bringing the world back to normal” – https://t.co/cz0vvRy7eT
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) April 23, 2020
The idea of resuming the season this summer is something anyone can sit down with a calendar and work out for themselves. I did that Thursday morning, and I didn’t start with the “pie in the sky” timing that Insider Trading reports some team and league sources are considering — a May 15 date (also reported by the New York Post). I started mine a whole month later with the idea that by June 14, players could converge on their “home sites” and beginning either an isolation period of two weeks, or a training camp combined with isolation depending on the rules in place at that time for sizes of gatherings and incoming travellers.
My plan had a full regular season using the NHL’s theorized four divisional locations. That would require a reset of the schedule of who plays whom, but the idea is to get everyone to 82 games played, not necessarily re-create the existing schedule. Of note, LeBrun says the NHL is currently considering 12 cities, and is actively vetting them to pick four locations from.
Once the regular season is done, the playoffs can happen in a revised format in the four locations and my guestimate, depending on format, was the Stanley Cup could be awarded sometime in early September. You can shorten this timeline by playing less regular season games, shorter playoff rounds, or having fewer days off.
The NHL’s concept — which is just that, and not a schedule they know they can pull off — sounds basically what I thought up. The 2020-2021 season would start close to on time, and there is enough days after the Cup is lifted in an empty arena to fit in all the free agency, player trades and RFA business needed.
If it can be done safely, there’s time to do it.
But then what happens?
The word out of Germany today was that the Bundesliga will resume in early May if they get the final go-ahead from the government, but they are preparing to play in empty stadiums for a long time, perhaps into next year. Part of their motivation to play, even if they have to have no ticket sales, is that they have clubs facing insolvency. For a TV event like German football or the NHL, there is a financial motive to play if it’s safe. For ticket-driven leagues, the picture is more bleak.
As Bob McKenzie outlines, the CHL is considering a host of options, and has planned to have the Memorial Cup next year in June to allow for the OHL, WHL and QMJHL to start late, possibly as late as January. There is no bankroll to keep those teams going without ticket sales, and it’s not like they can cut player salaries to save money. Even for leagues where some teams have owners with deep pockets (the Toronto Marlies of the AHL, for example) the league as a whole hasn’t got enough money behind it to successfully play to empty rinks long term.
Approximately half of the AHL teams are independently owned, or owned in a partnership with NHL affiliates. While NHL teams want their prospects to play, the only way the NHL could go on if tickets can’t be sold is if the NHL collectively pays for it. They might. They could do it simply because most of the players are getting paid on NHL contracts anyway, so they might as well, but what about the ECHL? The NHL doesn’t need them, and the affiliated teams are not owned by the NHL teams. Most ECHL teams run on a budget that could see them insolvent as soon as the seasons tickets for next year don’t go on sale in a few weeks.
The professional minor-league sports model in North America is about to face a huge test, and some teams and entire leagues might not make it out the other side. Even the NHL and the wealthiest teams can’t float along forever with no revenue, and not all NHL teams are floating now. A TV-only NHL is … well it’s like living on EI instead of your old salary. It beats the alternative, but it sure puts a crimp in your spending.
No one knows when the fans will return to sports stadiums. No one knows when the athletes will return to play to empty seats, but the NHL is trying very hard to be ready the second it becomes possible to try to resume the season. A lot of livelihoods depend on it, and a lot of lives depend on it being safe. What matters is that every member of the janitorial staff right up to Connor McDavid are all safe, paid and happy to do their jobs. If that can happen, then the show will go on on a date to be named later.
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)