EDMONTON — Bob Nicholson and Ken Holland were driving in from Edmonton International Airport on Friday when they saw a symbol that brightened their collective mood.
Nicholson, the chairman of the Edmonton Oilers, and Holland, the team’s general manager, were returning from Denver where the Colorado Avalanche had taken a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 Western Conference Final.
As they approached the Walterdale Bridge leading into downtown they were greeted by the large orange “PLAY LA BAMBA BABY” sign that appeared two weeks ago. “La Bamba” is the song played after each Oilers victory at Rogers Place and was the favorite tune of Joey Moss, the longtime Oilers locker room attendant who died in 2020.
“Kenny and I started talking about the vibe in the city, the excitement, the anticipation, how it’s off the charts,” Nicholson said. “It’s going to be so great. It was already crazy during our win over the [Calgary Flames] in the Battle of Alberta in the last round, and this is going to be upped to another level.
“These fans have been waiting a long time for this. It’s going to be crazy.”
For the first time since 2006 the Oilers will host a conference final game when they meet the Avalanche in Game 3 at Rogers Place (8 p.m. ET; TNT, CBC, SN, TVAS) Saturday. It’s a 16-year drought that Edmonton players said will end with their rabid supporters being at their most vocal.
“We love playing at home,” forward Leon Draisaitl said. “We love playing in front of our crowd. I think we have the best fans in the League, and it’s going to be loud. It’s going to be exciting.
“So we have to make sure we use that to our advantage and make sure that it’s in our favor.”
The party won’t be limited to inside the arena, which opened in 2016. Thousands of fans will be outside at the fan area known as the Ice District, part of a $2.5 billion mixed-use project in the heart of Edmonton spearheaded by Oilers owner Daryl Katz.
“We still have a long way to go but this was Daryl’s vision, to inject life into the downtown area and bring people together,” Nicholson said.
It already has.
The area’s 50,000-square-foot public square has hosted more than 30,000 people to date from the beginning of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as part of the Ford Tailgate Party. Crowds at the event have swelled to more than 6,000 for home games, and 3,000 when the Oilers are on the road.
There will be a special addition this time around.
Workers spent part of Friday there constructing the set for the TNT panel, which will feature Wayne Gretzky. The 61-year-old, who is the NHL’s all-time leading scorer with 2,857 points (894 goals, 1,963 assists), spent his first nine seasons with the Oilers and helped Edmonton win the Stanley Cup four times. Saturday he’ll be sitting on a set across the street from the front doors of Rogers Place where a statue stands of Gretzky hoisting the Cup.
“I mean, you think of how stoked all those people will be, and then you add the presence of the Great One,” Nicholson said. “That will make it even more nuts.
“Who knows what people will come up with?”
How about a pizza named after Connor McDavid?
A couple of blocks west of the Ice District and Rogers Arena is Campio Brewing Co. One of the most popular items on the menu there is the Big MacDavid, a pizza named in honor of the Oilers captain that also pays tribute to McDonalds’ Big Mac by featuring seasoned ground chuck, cheddar cheese, diced onion, chopped pickles, iceberg lettuce, sesame seeds and “secret sauce.”
“I don’t know if Connor has ever eaten one officially but we’ve seen video clips from behind the scenes in the dressing room with a bunch of Campio pizza boxes,” chef William Griffiths said. “Maybe he already has.”
Griffiths said the Big MacDavid is one of the establishment’s more popular food items and will continue that way the further the Oilers go. He isn’t the only one with a vested interest in the team’s success.
For Nicholson, it’s the perfect storm. A home game. Saturday night. “Hockey Night in Canada.” The lone Canadian team in the NHL’s Final Four. And a community thirsting for a victory.
“We’re all part of it, the entire city is part of it,” Nicholson said. “It’s going to be a special night.”
Atlantic Notes: Raptors, Durant, Brogdon, Melton, Knicks – hoopsrumors.com
The potential price tag for acquiring Kevin Durant isn’t what should matter most to the Raptors, argues Scott Stinson of The National Post, who says that determining whether Durant would actually be motivated and invested in playing for Toronto should be the most important factor for the team’s lead decision-makers.
As Stinson writes, Durant’s motivation in asking for a trade out of Brooklyn remains a bit nebulous, especially since he just signed a four-year extension last August. That should concern vice chairman and president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri, because dealing for a superstar who might not be engaged or on the same page as the club could be disastrous, according to Stinson.
Drawing parallels between Ujiri’s trade for Kawhi Leonard in the 2018 offseason to the Durant sweepstakes now doesn’t make sense, per Stinson, because the situations aren’t similar.
Leonard was coming off an injury that caused him to miss almost the entire 2017/18 season, was on an expiring contract, and the Raptors teams led by Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan had been given ample time to breakthrough in the East, but couldn’t get past LeBron James. The Raptors finished second in the East in the two years after Leonard left Toronto, so obviously the team remained competitive and didn’t mortgage its future to acquire him, Stinson writes.
Durant, on the other hand, has four years remaining on his deal, so obviously it will cost significantly more to land him, plus the current version of the Raptors is ascendant, with Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes, Gary Trent Jr., and Precious Achiuwa among the new additions who made significant contributions to a team that improved its win total from 27 to 48. Dealing away from an emerging core only for Durant to balk at the idea of staying could put Toronto in a hole that would be difficult to climb out of, says Stinson.
Here’s more from the Atlantic:
- Could a lesser role on the Celtics benefit Malcolm Brogdon from a health perspective? “The knock against him coming out of college is that he had terrible knees,” a rival general manager told Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com. “I mean, some of the examinations were really suspect in terms of how long his lower body would be able to take NBA pounding. So that’s why he ended up going in the second round, because he was damn near red-flagged. So the fact of the matter is he’s probably better off coming off the bench with limited minutes, trying to be impactful in 18 rather than trying to play 30 and always being injured. The question becomes how he’ll accept that.” Boston reportedly views Brogdon as a sixth man, and he said shortly after the deal was announced that he’s motivated to win a championship and is willing to sacrifice his individual stats for the betterment of the team.
- De’Anthony Melton believes he’s a “great fit” for the Sixers, writes Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer (subscriber link). “Once I saw the team, I’m like, ‘OK, that’s a great spot,’” Melton told The Inquirer by phone last week. “That’s a great fit for me. … I understand what this team needs. I understand what this team is trying to do. I’m ready for the task at hand. I’m ready for whatever’s to come.” Melton was acquired from the Grizzlies in exchange for the No. 23 pick (David Roddy) and Danny Green in a draft-day swap.
- Signing free agent guard Jalen Brunson was a solid move for the Knicks but they still look like a play-in team on paper, Ian O’Connor of The New York Post opines. According to O’Connor, while Brunson is a good player and the best point guard the Knicks will employ in years, neither he nor RJ Barrett or Julius Randle are capable of being the best — or second-best — players on a championship-caliber team, and unless something drastic changes, New York will begin 2022/23 as “just another barely relevant club.”
Ailing Nick Kyrgios prevails at Wimbledon, advancing to 3rd career Slam quarter-final – CBC Sports
Much quieter, much calmer than in his previous match, Nick Kyrgios overcame a troublesome right shoulder to deliver 35 aces and beat Brandon Nakashima 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-2 at Wimbledon on Monday to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final for the first time in 7 1/2 years.
The unseeded Kyrgios improved to 6-0 over his career in five-setters at the All England Club and collected his tour-leading 11th grass-court victory of the season.
“I need a glass of wine, for sure, tonight. For sure,” Kyrgios told the crowd during his on-court interview in London, after swapping out his rule-conforming white hat and shoes for red versions.
Playing before a nearly full house at Centre Court, the 27-year-old Australian only occasionally displayed his unusual repertoire of trick shots — a between-the-legs swing here, an underarm serve there — or the temper that earned fines of $10,000 US for spitting in the direction of a heckling spectator at the end of his first-round match and $4,000 for an audible obscenity during his tempestuous win against No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the third round.
Against Nakashima, an unseeded 20-year-old from California, Kyrgios repeatedly was visited during changeovers by a trainer, who massaged and manipulated his shoulder. There was a stretch where Kyrgios’ high-speed serves dipped from above 217 kilometres per hour to closer to 177, but he eventually seemed to get past that and was back to producing unreturnable offerings over and over.
That’s how to seal a victory 👏<a href=”https://twitter.com/NickKyrgios?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@NickKyrgios</a> has the Centre Court crowd on their feet<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Wimbledon?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Wimbledon</a> | <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/CentreCourt100?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#CentreCourt100</a> <a href=”https://t.co/l8VeZmTTvf”>pic.twitter.com/l8VeZmTTvf</a>
After Nakashima evened things by taking the fourth set with a break, then went up 1-0 in the fifth, Kyrgios surged to the finish. He earned five games in a row, before serving it out and closing this way from love-30: cross-court forehand passing winner; hanging in on an 11-stroke exchange until Nakashima missed a backhand; 216 km/h service winner; forehand volley winner.
“I’ve played a lot of tennis in the last month and a half. I’m just proud of the way I steadied the ship,” Kyrgios said. “Honestly that’s what I was thinking about: I’ve never lost a five-set match here. … I was like, ‘I’ve been here before. I’ve done it before.”‘
Garin wins in comeback fashion
This will be Kyrgios’ third appearance in a major quarter-final. The others came as a teenager at Wimbledon in 2014 — when he surprised then-No. 1 Rafael Nadal along the way — and at the Australian Open in 2015.
“I stepped out here against one of the greatest of all time and beat Nadal,” Kyrgios said. “So, these are all things I have in the back of my mind.”
TFW you come back from two sets down and save two match points to get to the Wimbledon QFs.<a href=”https://twitter.com/Garin_Cris?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Garin_Cris</a> | 🎥: <a href=”https://twitter.com/Wimbledon?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Wimbledon</a> | <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/wimbledon?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#wimbledon</a> <a href=”https://t.co/OXsu2A9JY8″>pic.twitter.com/OXsu2A9JY8</a>
Kyrgios next faces unseeded Cristian Garin, a 26-year-old from Chile who authored the fortnight’s first comeback from two sets down, saving two match points and turning things around to defeat No. 19 seed Alex de Minaur 2-6, 5-7, 7-6 (3), 6-4, 7-6 (10-6) after more than 4 1/2 hours.
Garin, who is ranked 43rd, reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final in his 15th major appearance.
Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski and Australian partner John Peers were eliminated in the mixed-doubles quarterfinals at Wimbledon on Monday, ending Canada’s involvement in the professional draws at the grass-court Grand Slam.
Peers and Dabrowski, seeded fourth in the tournament, combined for 13 aces but converted just one of their three break point chances. Pavic and Mizra broke their opponents twice on three opportunities.
Pavic is a former partner of Dabrowski. They won the Australian Open in 2018 and reached the French Open final in 2018 and 2019.
Dabrowski and Mexican partner Giuliana Olmos were eliminated from the women’s doubles event on Sunday with a 6-4, 6-3 loss to Americans Danielle Collinas and Desirae Krawczyk.
The Canadians in the singles main draws — Denis Shapovalov, Bianca Andreescu, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Rebecca Marino — were eliminated over the first two rounds at the All England Club.
Several Canadians are still playing in the junior draws at Wimbledon.
Nadal converts 4th match point to seal win
Everything went smoothly for Rafael Nadal against Botic van de Zandschulp until it came time to close out their fourth-round match at Wimbledon.
Serving for the win at 5-3 in the third set, Nadal was broken for the second time in the match and he then failed to convert three straight match points when leading 6-3 in the ensuing tiebreaker.
That was the end of the Dutchman’s resistance, though, as Nadal converted his fourth match point for a 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (6) win on Centre Court.
The Spaniard is playing his first grass-court tournament since 2019, when he lost to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon semifinals. He is looking for his third Wimbledon title and has a chance at a calendar-year Grand Slam after winning the Australian Open and French Open to take his career tally to a record 22 major titles.
He will next face 11th-seeded Taylor Fritz, the only American man left in the draw. The 24-year-old has yet to drop a set and will be making his major quarter-final debut after defeating qualifier Jason Kubler 6-3, 6-1, 6-4.
2019 champ Halep moves on
Simona Halep is living up to her status as the only former Grand Slam champion left in this year’s women’s draw.
The Romanian beat fourth-seeded Paula Badosa 6-1, 6-2 on Centre Court to return to the Wimbledon quarter-finals and extend her winning streak at the All England Club to 11 matches.
The 16th-seeded Halep won the title in 2019 but missed last year’s edition with an injury, while the 2020 tournament was cancelled because of the pandemic. This was, however, Halep’s first win over a top-five ranked player on grass.
The former No. 1, who also won the French Open in 2018, has yet to drop a set in this year’s tournament and consistently got the better of Badosa in the baseline rallies. She finished with only nine unforced errors and saved the only break point she faced.
Badosa’s loss means No. 3 Ons Jabeur is the only top-10 seed left in the women’s tournament.
Halep will meet No. 20 Amanda Anisimova, a 20-year-old American who beat Harmony Tan of France 6-2, 6-3. Anisimova had eliminated French Open runner-up Coco Gauff last week; Tan eliminated 23-time major champion Williams in the first round.
The other quarter-final on their side of the field will be 17th-seeded Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan against Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia. Rybakina made it to the Wimbledon quarter-finals for the first time with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Petra Martic, while Tomljanovic is there for the second straight year after beating Alize Cornet 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Cornet ended No. 1 Iga Swiatek’s 37-match winning streak on Saturday.
“I didn’t really think I could do it,” said Tomljanovic, who lost to eventual champion Ash Barty in last year’s quarter-finals. “After some tough moments this year, I thought: Am I ever going to get a chance again? I can’t believe a year later, I’m in the same position.”
Argos miss tying convert as Bombers escape with win – TSN
TORONTO — Although Boris Bede missed a routine convert that would have tied the game and forced overtime, his Toronto Argonauts teammates blamed themselves for their heartbreaking loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
“A whole lot more points were missed than just on missed kicks,” Argonauts quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson said Monday night after his team slipped to 1-2 in the standings.
With 25 seconds left in regulation, Bede missed a convert attempt that would have tied the game as the Argos fell to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 23-22 at BMO Field.
But the Argos pivot pointed to his two interceptions and some other turnovers that led to 17 of Winnipeg’s 23 points.
“It drives us crazy,” Bethel-Thompson said. “It’s been three weeks now and we haven’t seen the real Argos.”
The unbeaten Blue Bombers are the first team in the CFL to reach four wins this season.
“We did enough,” Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea said. “That’s what matters.”
Bethel-Thompson overcame a disastrous first half for the Argos to throw for 314 yards. He completed 27 of 37 passing attempts and had two interceptions.
Argos running back Andrew Harris was playing in his first game against the team he helped win consecutive Grey Cups in 2019 and 2021. He was Toronto’s leading rusher with 111 yards on 22 carries.
“When it mattered, we came together,” Harris said. “That’s the best team in the league, unfortunately we lost, but we got some positives once we started playing.”
Winnipeg’s defence opened the scoring on Toronto’s first possession after the game.
While deep in their own territory, Bethel-Thompson’s intended pass to Brandon Banks was picked off by Winnipeg’s Winston Rose for a 46-yard touchdown interception return. Kicker Marc Liegghio converted the extra point that gave Winnipeg a 7-0 lead.
Bethel-Thompson was picked off for a second time in the opening quarter after a bobbled snap led to a rushed throw. That set Winnipeg up with short field position. On the ensuing possession, Winnipeg pivot Zach Collaros connected with Drew Wolitarsky on a 15-yard touchdown pass. Liegghio’s convert put the Bombers up 14-0.
Toronto’s pivot managed just 18 yards of offence in the first quarter.
Winnipeg opened the second quarter with a 15-yard field goal that put the Bombers up 17-0.
Toronto appeared set to get their first points of the game after moving the ball down to Winnipeg’s 29-yard line. They found themselves in a third-and-one situation and decided to go for it but turned the ball over on downs. Toronto head coach Ryan Dinwiddie challenged the spot of the ball after his team’s failed attempt but the spot was upheld by the CFL’s command centre.
The Argos recorded their first points of the game late in the first half. Bede connected on a 52-yard field goal that cut Winnipeg’s lead to 17-3.
Collaros was effective for Winnipeg in the opening half, completing 15 of 17 passes for 132 yards and one touchdown. He also had an interception, but it came in a desperate attempt to add points as time was winding down.
Toronto got off to a much better start in the second half and had a bit of luck to go with it. Bethel-Thompson’s pass in the end zone appeared set to be his third interception of the game. The ball went right to the hands of defensive back Demerio Houston. But Banks managed to strip the ball from Houston’s hands while in the end zone for Toronto’s first touchdown of the game. Bede’s convert trimmed Winnipeg’s lead to 17-10 in the third quarter.
Late in the third, Toronto was on the Winnipeg 10-yard line with a chance to tie the game, but Bethel-Thompson’s completed pass to Banks was fumbled. Malcolm Thompson picked up the ball and lateralled the ball to Nick Taylor who ran the ball up to midfield.
Liegghio connected on a 20-yard field goal on the ensuing possession and put Winnipeg up 20-10 in the fourth quarter.
After the change of possession, tensions began to rise on the Argos sidelines. Banks and offensive lineman Trevon Tate had to be separated by teammates. Toronto general manager Pinball Clemons, who wasn’t on the sidelines to start the game, went down to the field to play peacemaker. Clemons returned to his seat after issues on the sidelines appeared to be under control.
“I’ve got to sit down and talk to those guys, we’ve got to get more disciplined and grow up and be men and find ways to fight through the frustration,” Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie said. “We can’t act like that. It looks like Junior College.”
Bede hit his second field goal of the game on Toronto’s next possession to cut Winnipeg’s lead to 20-13. Later in the fourth, Bede connected on a 39-yard field goal to bring Toronto to within four points, 20-16.
Liegghio responded with another field goal to put Winnipeg ahead 23-16 with 1:38 to go in regulation time.
On the ensuing possession for Toronto, Bethel-Thompson engineered one of his better drives of the game. He found Markeith Ambles for a four-yard TD pass to cut Winnipeg’s lead to 23-22, but Bede missed on the point-after attempt to spoil the comeback.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 4, 2022
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