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Oilers and Flames alumni recall Battle of Alberta from playoffs past – TSN

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Marty Gelinas saw the Battle of Alberta from both sides over a number of years but there’s one memory that stands out above the rest.

On April 14, 1991 during overtime of Game 6 of the Smythe Division Semifinals, Calgary Flames forward Theo Fleury picked off a Mark Messier pass in the neutral zone and beat Edmonton Oilers goalie Grant Fuhr to tie the series at 3-3.

Gelinas was just 20 and in his third season as a left-winger with the Oilers, in the last playoff series they played against the Flames, back in 1991. There were plenty of goals, fights, and penalties in that seven-game series, but the former first-round draft pick will never forget Fleury’s celebration after he scored in OT to end Game 6.

Fleury slid on his knees across centre ice at the old Northlands Coliseum in Edmonton, an iconic celebration that still makes highlights reels three decades later. For the home team Oilers that night, however, Fleury’s celebration was motivation for Game 7, which Edmonton won with an overtime goal of its own by Esa Tikkanen.

Gelinas, who now works in player development for the Flames, still remembers – 31 years later – the impact Fleury’s celebration had on his underdog Oilers team.

“I remember Theo Fleury coming in our building in Edmonton and he scored a goal in overtime and went the full length of his ice and got on his knees and celebrated,” Gelinas recalled. “You know, those things fuel up the opposite team and it fuelled us up. We went there to Calgary in Game 7…that goal [by Fleury] stuck with us.”

Gelinas, now 51, spent parts of five seasons with the Oilers (and was part of the return for Wayne Gretzky when No. 99 was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings on Aug. 9, 1988), and also scored several big goals for the Flames during their 2004 run to the Stanley Cup Final.

In the old Smythe Division, postseason Battles Of Alberta were not once-in-a-generation events, but almost an annual rite of spring. Between the 1982-83 and 1990-91 seasons, the two teams met in the playoffs five times, with the Oilers winning four of the meetings. 

“I think it was more or less the cities that were excited that the two teams were always facing off back then,” Joel Otto, who was a big rugged centre for those Flames teams, told TSN.

“Having bragging rights is a big thing out here in Alberta. Unfortunately Edmonton got the better of us more often than not, but they were some memorable series and we are all looking forward to this round. It’s been a long time coming.”

In those days, the Alberta rivals would play each other up to 16 times during the regular season – and that built-up animosity would carry over into the postseason. For the now 60-year-old Otto, the physicality of those rounds stands out.

“I do remember the ‘91 playoffs was very physical,” he said. “I kept saying after the fact that I’d never been hit that hard so many times. Edmonton had a pretty big defence. That was how the game was played.”

He isn’t alone.

“There was a lot of hate involved,” former Flames goalie Mike Vernon said. “I was fortunate enough to play in the ‘86 series and it was just mayhem. Even the trainers got into it, hopping over the glass to get a stick that was thrown in the crowd. There was a lot going on. It was probably a lot more physicality.”

“It was a jungle out there,” said Gelinas. 

While the games were raucous on the ice, the fans were cordial off it.

“The fans were very respectful,” Otto said. “They were awesome…the passion from the fans for the most part was the same, it’s just the stakes are higher during the playoffs.”

Vernon agreed, although he did have one intense experience involving Flames fans in Edmonton.

“One time, I made the mistake on an off-day of going to the golf course and hitting some balls on the range,” he said. “My own fans were like, ‘Shouldn’t you be practising? Shouldn’t you be doing this? Shouldn’t you be doing that?’ I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m out of here.’”

Vernon, now 59, also remembers the gamesmanship.

“The coaches don’t say much, they hide things, they say things that are off the wall, and you’re scratching your head,” he said. “It’s all about keeping your team focused in what their job is on the ice.”

Vernon, being from Calgary, felt the extra pressure of shining against the provincial rivals.

“There’s a lot of excitement about it but there’s also that pressure,” he said. “Grant Fuhr was the same way [growing up in Edmonton]. Patrick Roy played for the Montreal Canadiens and he grew up in Montreal. It adds a lot of pressure, there’s no doubt. That’s just part of the game. That’s what drives us a bit and maybe forces us to play better. Us three, we had longevity in the NHL. It also pushed us to be better players, I believe.”

Alumni from both teams will no doubt be watching as this second-round series unfolds starting Wednesday in Calgary, and a new chapter of the Battle Of Alberta is written. 

“I anticipate good hockey but very physical,” Vernon said. “I think that with the two-referee system, you can’t get away with anything on the ice. I think discipline is going to be a big key in this. Teams don’t want to be in the penalty box. Both teams have great power plays…I think both teams are going to play very cautiously from that standpoint so you’ll just see good hits. You’ll see great hockey. It’s a given.”

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Sea Dogs win Memorial Cup, defeating Bulldogs in the Final – Sportsnet.ca

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SAINT JOHN, N.B. — The Saint John Sea Dogs turned a devastating playoff loss into a Memorial Cup championship, thanks to renewed focus, 40 days of sweat and a university coach who pushed all the right buttons.

Considered a long shot at the beginning of the Canadian Hockey League championship due to a first-round loss in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs, the Memorial Cup host Sea Dogs downed the Hamilton Bulldogs 6-3 in Wednesday’s final.

Saint John scored twice in the first six minutes of both the first and second periods and rode the emotion of a sellout crowd to win the championship for the second time in its 17-year history.

It was another national title for Gardiner MacDougall, a seven-time University Cup champion with the University of New Brunswick, who replaced Gordie Dwyer as head coach on May 22 and was credited for the revamped enthusiasm within the team that went 47-17-1-3 in the regular season before a stunning playoff loss to the Rimouski Oceanic in May.

“It was just a complete team effort,” said MacDougall. “The players are most important. They really bought in and they were all so receptive. This is as hard as I have ever worked a team.”

Cam MacDonald had a goal and an assist for the champions, while Josh Lawrence, Peter Reynolds and William Dufour — the tournament’s most valuable player — had one of each. Captain Vincent Sevigny rounded out the scoring for Saint John. 

“It makes it more special because everyone thought we were the underdogs, not the Sea Dogs,” said Scott McCain, who’s owned the team since 2005. “You know what? We proved we deserved to be here. We were the best team in the round robin and we won this game decisively today.”

Anaheim Ducks prospect Mason McTavish, with two goals, and Jan Mysak answered for the Bulldogs, who advanced to the final with a 4-3 overtime over Shawinigan in Monday’s semifinal.

Saint John goaltender Nikolas Hurtubise, acquired by the Sea Dogs at the QMJHL trade deadline, posted his third victory of the tournament with 25 saves.

“We have worked so hard and I am so, so proud,” said Hurtubise. “We knew that we worked too hard in the past month to not win it. We earned it.”

Hamilton’s Marco Costantini stopped 21 of 26 shots in the loss.

The Sea Dogs also won the Memorial Cup in 2011. Their win on Wednesday marks the sixth time a QMJHL team has won the Memorial Cup in the last 10 tournaments.

The 2020 and 2021 Memorial Cup events were cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hamilton was making its second Memorial Cup appearance after advancing to the 2018 semifinals where they fell to the Regina Pats.

The Sea Dogs defeated the Bulldogs 5-3 in the opening game of the tournament and used the same script Wednesday, scoring early.

Sevigny accepted a feed from Toronto Maple Leafs prospect William Villeneuve and his blast hit the stick of Hamilton’s Arber Xhekaj and whipped past Costantini 2:35 into the game.

“It is amazing,” Sevigny said. “It was a lot of hard work and the work paid off. To have this is the best day of our lives.”

Just over three minutes later, Villeneuve made another slick move on the right side boards and hit MacDonald in the slot. He made no mistake when he wristed a quick shot to beat Costantini at the 5:47 mark.

McTavish picked up his fifth of the tournament when he redirected a Nathan Staios shot past Hurtubise at 7:45 to calm the crowd and give Hamilton a much needed injection of offence.

Bezeau — a forward from Rothesay, N.B., who started attending Sea Dogs games at age five — patiently held the puck on a rush down the right side before connecting on a wrist shot 4:41 into the second.

Dufour, who led the tournament with seven goals, ripped a feed from Ryan Francis 5:15 into the period to give the Sea Dogs a 4-1 lead.

Hamilton allowed several other golden chances but came within two goals when Mysak had a Gavin White shot glance off him and past Hurtubise with nine seconds left in the period.

Lawrence put the Sea Dogs on the brink of the title with a sharp shot to the top corner on a feed from Dufour on a power play 6:32 into the third.

McTavish added his second of the night with 4:57 left on the game clock.

Reynolds fired a puck into an empty to seal the win at 18:43.

“The message to the boys was they’re a champion of champions,” said Hamilton coach Jay McKee. “What made the difference is (Saint John) capitalized on their big chances.”

Saint John earned the bye to the final with two wins and an overtime loss to the Western Hockey League’s Edmonton Oil Kings in preliminary action.

The Bulldogs won the Ontario Hockey League championship to advance to the Memorial Cup but dropped their first two games of the preliminary round to set up a series of do-or-die contests, starting with a 4-2 victory against the Oil Kings.

In a thrilling semifinal on Monday, Mysak scored 10:08 into overtime to lift Hamilton past the Shawinigan Cataractes 4-3.

Despite Wednesday’s loss, the Bulldogs earned their OHL championship and are proud of the run at the Memorial Cup, said Staios, the CHL’s defenceman of the year. 

“It took two months of war to get to it,” he said. “We beat every championship team here. We beat the WHL, we beat the QMJHL, so (it) stings but you know, we’re proud of ourselves. We’re going to keep our heads high.”

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Just the beginning? Why Canada’s soccer stars could be better yet in 2026

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When the hosting of the 2026 soccer World Cup was awarded to a tri-nation bid of the USA, Canada and Mexico, there was no shortage of eyebrows raised at one of those names. Given that a qualifying place is automatically bestowed upon a host nation, there were plenty of people ready to argue that Canada’s spot in the tournament presented a risk of becoming a farce. Granted, the fact that this year’s version of the four-yearly classic is being hosted in Qatar softened that line of attack, but the general feeling was that while the USA and Mexico could justify their place, the same was not true of their co-host.

It was with a mixture of relief and cheerful vindication, then, that the Maple Leafs topped CONCACAF qualifying for the 2022 competition and will therefore be in Qatar not only as qualifiers on merit but as an intriguing dark horse to progress beyond the pool stage. As for 2026, their place as hosts is not just reinforced as a deserved spot, but may be a springboard for a team that has a chance to become a big fish in the CONCACAF pond. This 2022 Canadian side is good – but there are reasons to think it could be better next time.

 

The talent isn’t just good: it’s young, too

Perhaps the most recognisable name in the present Canadian national team is Alphonso Davies. Aged 21, he has made a place in the Bayern Munich side his own, and already has a Champions League winner’s medal. And let’s reiterate: he’s only 21. Few would argue with the statement that Davies is one of the best left-backs in Europe, and he has time on his side to get better. By the time his country kicks off in its first World Cup finals game on home soil, he’ll still be just 25, which is still a few years short of the prime age for a player in his position.

In attack, the strike partnership of Cyle Larin (27) and Jonathan David (22) is also youthful, and that’s without mentioning Tajon Buchanan, who’s completed his first season with Club Brugge and is considered to be a contender for a move to a bigger European club, possibly off the back of this year’s tournament. It’s no exaggeration to say that any one of those four would walk into the USMNT right now – and have the potential to get local fans seeking out a list of the best legal betting sites in Ontario to back them for glory in the short and medium term.

 

There are more prospects waiting to make an impact

Let’s not get carried away by saying there are names in the frame who are better than the four mentioned above – the thing about potential is that it doesn’t always come to fruition. However, it’s fair to say that the production line that gave us Davies, Buchanan and co. hasn’t been resting on its laurels. Hot on their heels is Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, a right-sided attacker who featured heavily for Toronto FC early this season before requiring surgery that kept him out for a while. He’s just 18, and has already been selected for national squads – but it is possible that this year’s big tournament might be too early for him.

Ralph Priso, a defensive midfielder from the same club, and Liam Millar, who has enjoyed a very decent season at Swiss club Basel, are also seen as solid prospects who could add to the riches Canada will have at its disposal in 2026. At 19 and 22 respectively, they could yet make an impact this year.

 

2022 will bestow experience

Last, but by no means least, the fact that Canada will be in Qatar this winter has benefits beyond simply being there. Playing in matches of this level of prestige is an invaluable experience that players can call on in the future. Facing Belgium, Croatia and Morocco, they’ll already be playing against better opposition than they’ve beaten to qualify. Even if they make it no further than the first round, it will improve them as players to be at a World Cup. With their qualification for 2026 already ensured, they can focus on building from that.

A lot can happen in four years. Maybe in 2026, we’ll be looking at the national team and wondering why they haven’t kicked on. Nothing is certain. However, given the excellent development we’ve already seen John Herdman achieve with this team, there are more reasons to be optimistic than pessimistic.

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Returning Serena Williams ousted at Wimbledon after shocking 1st round loss – CBC Sports

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Serena Williams began — and ended — her comeback at Wimbledon after 364 days out of singles competition looking very much like someone who hadn’t competed in just that long. She missed shots, shook her head, rolled her eyes.

In between, there were moments where Williams played very much like someone whose strokes and will have carried her to 23 Grand Slam titles. She hit blistering serves and strokes, celebrated with arms aloft.

Returning to the site of her last singles match, which she had to stop after less than a set because of an injury on June 29, 2021, and seven of her major championships, the 40-year-old Williams came within two points of victory. But she could not finish the job against an opponent making her Wimbledon debut and bowed out with a 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 (10-7) loss to 115th-ranked Harmony Tan of France.

“It’s definitely better than last year,” Williams said. “That’s a start.”

Asked whether this might have been her last match, Williams replied: “That’s a question I can’t answer. I don’t know. … Who knows? Who knows where I’ll pop up?”

With her older sister, Venus, jumping out of a guest box seat at Centre Court to celebrate the best points, Serena Williams was oh-so-close to pulling out a topsy-turvy match that lasted 3 hours, 11 minutes and was contested with the retractable roof shut for the last two sets.

‘When I saw the draw, I was really scared’

“For my first Wimbledon, it’s: Wow. Just wow,” said the 24-year-old Tan, who recalled watching Williams on TV as a youngster.

“When I saw the draw, I was really scared,” Tan said with a laugh, “because it’s Serena Williams. She’s a legend. I was like, `Oh, my God, how can I play?”‘

This is one indication of how things were at the get-go: Of Tan’s first 11 points, only one came via a winner she produced. Others came via errors by Williams, either forced or unforced.

While Williams — who wore two pieces of black tape on her right cheek; the reason was not immediately clear — recovered from dropping the opening two games to lead 4-2, she reversed course again and allowed Tan to quickly climb back into that set with her mix of spins and slices.

When Tan pulled even at 4-all by striking a down-the-line backhand winner, she celebrated with a yell; that shot was so good that even Williams felt compelled to applaud.

Tan came into the day with a 2-6 career record at all Grand Slam tournaments. Clearly enjoying herself — and the setting, the moment, the way it all was going — she broke to lead 6-5 with the help of a cross-court forehand winner, looked at her guest box, raised a fist and waved her arms to ask for more noise from a crowd that was loudly backing Williams.

Soon enough, a forehand passing winner gave Tan that set. At that point, it seemed reasonable to ask: Could Tan pull off by far the biggest victory of her career? Might Williams exit a major in the first round for only the third time in 80 appearances (the previous were a loss at the 2012 French Open and that mid-match retirement at Wimbledon last year)?

The latter is what happened, of course, although Williams certainly played spectacularly in the second set. She won a monumental game to lead 2-0, breaking after 30 points and 12 deuces across almost 20 minutes when Tan shanked a forehand into the chair umpire’s stand.

In a blink, then, it was 5-0 and sure seemed as if Williams was on her way.

Her serves picked up pace and became more accurate, too: After winning just 57% of her first-serve points in the first set, she claimed 80% in the second. Her other strokes were better-calibrated: After making 22 unforced errors in the first set, she made 13 in the second.

In the third set, Williams was two points from advancing while serving for the match at 5-4 but couldn’t get closer.

Williams has spent more than 300 weeks ranked No. 1 but currently is 1,204th on account off all of that time off and thus needed a wild-card invitation from the All England Club to enter the bracket.

“If you’re playing week in, week out, or even every three weeks, every four weeks, there’s a little bit more match toughness,” she said. “But with that being said, I felt like I played pretty OK on some of `em. Not all of ’em. Maybe some key ones I definitely could have played better. You’ve got to think if I were playing matches, I wouldn’t miss some of those points.”

Still, Tan was a point from victory at 6-5, and Williams erased that with a forehand winner — beginning a seven-point run that not only sent the match to a tiebreaker but put her ahead 4-0 in it.

Yet Tan would not go gently. She grabbed five points in a row for a 5-4 lead in the new final-set tiebreaker format adopted this year by all four tennis majors: first to 10 points, win by two.

At crunch time, when Williams has excelled so often on so many big stages, she faltered. Tan came through.

Next for Tan is a second-round match Thursday against No. 32 seed Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain. Sorribes Tormo advanced by defeating American qualifier Christina McHale 6-2, 6-1.

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