Three months ago it would have been a good bet that Eric Staal would be stretched out on his couch this week reliving Olympic memories rather than being at the Beijing Games making new ones.
Before a COVID-19 surge tore through National Hockey League dressing rooms in December, forcing the postponement of more than 100 games and an end to its Olympic participation, the Canada men’s team heading to the Games was a glittering galaxy of hockey stars like Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby.
But even without any current NHL players on the roster when Canada face off against Germany in their opener on Thursday, it will still feature the marquee name of the Olympic tournament in Staal, a 37-year-old Vancouver 2010 Games golden oldie.
“Well, we’ll see when the Games start,” Staal said laughing when asked about his headline status after Canada’s practice at the National Indoor Stadium on Sunday.
A 17-year NHL veteran with a Stanley Cup ring and Olympic gold medal, Staal found himself an unrestricted free agent this season and without a job.
With the NHL out of the Olympic business, for this year at least, Hockey Canada put out help wanted notices for Beijing. Staal applied and landed the job as Canada’s captain.
Having led his country at a world championships and being one of 23 players in the Triple Gold Club (winners of a Stanley Cup, Olympic and world title) Staal is certainly qualified for the position.
His statistics are worthy of Hall of Fame consideration (1,376 regular season and playoff games, 464 goals and 1,093 points) but it is his leadership and experience that may be Canada’s most valuable asset.
“I prepared hard the last couple of months just waiting for an opportunity and now this chance came about and I feel like this is the right place for me and where I need to be,” said Staal.
The Canada squad is an intriguing mix of experience and youth, with players like Staal at the tail-end of their careers and 19-year-old defenceman Owen Power, the number one overall pick of the 2021 NHL draft, at the very beginning.
There are NHL cast-offs playing in Europe and three players back from the bronze medal-winning team at the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics all adding to an interesting mix.
“Any team I’ve ever had success on had that balance,” said Staal. “Some guys that have that experience in those moments and we’ve some of that with those guys that were there in 2018 and they’re itching for more. Bronze was special but they want a gold medal.”
Staal has golden memories of his own but is looking to provide some for this three boys aged 12, 10 and seven.
With Canada grouped alongside North American rivals the United States, Olympic debutants China as well as 2018 silver medal winners Germany in the preliminary round, there should be a few memorable moments right from the opening faceoff.
“My kids were fired up for me to have this chance, they were really pushing me hard to make this happen,” he said. “They are right in the prime age to remember it so we’ve got to make sure there are some great memories.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating; Editing by Ken Ferris)
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Canada's Summer McIntosh, 15, wins 2nd gold medal at world aquatics – CBC Sports
Summer McIntosh of Kelowna, B.C., capped a sensational week of swimming on Saturday, becoming the first Canadian with two victories and four medals at a single world championship.
The 15-year-old lowered her junior record time to four minutes 32.04 seconds in the women’s 400-metre individual medley on Saturday in Budapest, Hungary. Earlier this week, she also set world junior marks in the 200 butterfly (gold) and 400 freelstyle (silver) while earning freestyle relay bronze in the 200.
‘”This is a dream come true,” McIntosh gushed to the crowd in the post swim on-deck interview. At 15 years 311 days, she is the second-youngest winner of the women’s 400 IM behind Tracy Caulkins of the United States, who was 15 years 224 days in her 1978 win in West Berlin.
McIntosh took the lead early in Saturday’s race and waged a battle with American Katie Grimes, who touched the wall in 4:32.67 for her second silver of these worlds after placing second in the 1,500. Teammate Emma Weyant, the 2020 Olympic silver medallist, earned bronze in 4:36.00.
“It’s really cool to race someone like Katie as she is around my age and she’s a really tough competitor,” said McIntosh, who clocked 4:34.86 on April 9 at Canadian trials. “So I’m looking forward to racing her and keep pushing myself.”
WATCH | McIntosh holds off American Katie Grimes for 4th world medal:
Katinka Hosszu of Hungary had her streak of consecutive world titles in the 400 medley halted at four as she finished fourth in 4:37.89. The 33-year-old has won the race five times in her last seven appearances at worlds and still holds the world record of 4:26.36 and 4:29.33 championship mark from 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Canada’s women wrapped up the competition with bronze in the 100 medley relay, matching their result from 2019 worlds.
Kylie Masse, Rachel Nicol, Maggie Mac Neil and anchor Penny Oleksiak stopped the clock in 3:55.01, behind the Americans (3:53.78) and Australia (3:54.25). It was Nicol’s first world medal while Oleksiak broke a tie with Masse with her ninth career medal at the event, all in the relay.
“‘It’s obvious at this point I wouldn’t be here without the team, so it feels weird to claim that title on my own,” Oleksiak told Swimming Canada of her success. ”I feel really lucky to be part of Team Canada.”
WATCH | Oleksiak sets Canadian record for most medals at aquatics worlds:
Three years ago, Sydney Pickrem, Masse, Mac Neil and Oleksiak posted a time of 3:53.58 in Gwangju, South Korea.
Saturday’s relay bronze was the national record-extending 11th medal — three gold, four silver, four bronze — for Canada at these worlds after it surpassed the mark of eight at a single world championships from 2019 on Friday.
McIntosh only led Grimes by 9-100ths of a second through 50 metres but was 62-100ths ahead midway through the backstroke leg and under world-record pace through 200 metres, in front by 1.33 seconds.
WATCH | McIntosh captures gold in 400m IM:
3 top-10 finishes in Olympic debut
Hosszu gained ground in the breaststroke and moved into third spot at the 250-metre mark, with McIntosh holding a 2.15-second advantage over Grimes. But Weyant overtook Hosszu for bronze position through 300 metres and stayed there while Grimes closed to within 98-100ths of McIntosh with 50 metres remaining.
“It’s surreal” <br><br>Summer McIntosh continues the legacy of her mom, Jill, in the 200m butterfly at <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/FINABudapest2022?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#FINABudapest2022</a> <a href=”https://t.co/V56I5WGqAn”>https://t.co/V56I5WGqAn</a> <a href=”https://t.co/U3meUDIMkE”>pic.twitter.com/U3meUDIMkE</a>
Last summer, a 14-year-old McIntosh was the youngest member of the Canadian Olympic team in Tokyo but certainly didn’t show her age on the world’s grandest athletic stage.
WATCH | McIntosh swims to world silver in 400m freestyle:
She placed fourth in the 400 free, at that point lowering the Canadian record twice. She was ninth in the 200 free and 11th in the 800 free, setting a national age group record. McIntosh was also part of the 200 relay squad that finished fourth in national record time, while her opening-leg swim broke the Canadian age group record.
At national trials two months ago in Victoria, McIntosh turned heads by winning four events and swimming the 400 free in the third-fastest time this year.
WATCH | McIntosh wins world 200m butterfly semifinal in junior record time:
In the women’s medley relay, the Americans were favoured for gold while the Swedish foursome of Hanna Rosvall, Sophie Hansson, Louise Hansson and Sarah Sjoestroem were the fastest in qualifying in 3:56.77.
Masse, who fell short of the 200 backstroke podium on Friday in her bid for a third medal in Hungary, got the Canadians off to a quick start with the second-fastest reaction time at 0.54 and led Regan Smith of the U.S. for top spot through 50 metres and by 1-100th at the end of the leg.
Nichol took over in backstroke and fell off the pace, trailing the Americans 1.27 seconds. Mac Neil fell behind by 1.51 halfway through the butterfly and by 1.40 when anchor Penny Oleksiak entered the pool for the free.
Trademark finishing kick
Canada’s most decorated Olympian ever was unable to close the gap in the first half of her leg but managed to draw closer near the wall and finished 1.23 seconds off the winning time.
WATCH | Canada reaches podium in women’s medley relay:
Masse, who won gold in the 50 backstroke and silver in the 100 earlier this week, is tied for second with Ryan Cochrane with eight career medals.
“It’s always special to be part of a relay team,” said Masse, based at HPC-Ontario. “It’s nice to be doing it more than just yourself and that always pushes me.”
The American quartet of Lilly King, Torri Huske, Claire Curzan and Smith proved too strong for the rest of the field.
“We take a lot of pride in that relay and really wanted to put in a good time and get that gold back from last summer [ at the Olympics]. We came out and did that, and it was a great race,” said Curzan, who anchored the U.S. home.
On Friday, the 22-year-old Oleksiak provided her trademark finishing kick in the mixed 100 relay, overtaking Curzan to push Canada to a silver medal with a national record time of 3:20.61. All eight of her medals (two silver, six bronze) have come in the relay.
WATCH | Oleksiak anchors Canada to mixed relay silver medal:
Oleksiak was fourth in the women’s 100 freestyle on Thursday, reaching the finish an agonizing 6-100ths behind bronze medallist Huske. The Toronto native won gold in the event at the 2016 Rio Olympics and placed fourth last summer in Tokyo.
WATCH | Oleksiak narrowly misses bronze in 100m freestyle:
Mollie O’Callaghan won Thursday’s competition before anchoring the Australian medley relay team to silver two days later.
In the men’s 4×100 medley relay, Canada’s Javier Acevedo, James Dergousoff, Joshua Liendo and Ruslan Gaziev swam to 11th in the preliminaries in 3:35.62.
Liendo led all Canadian men this week with bronze in the 100 free and 100 fly and silver in the mixed 100 free relay.
WATCH | Liendo bursts to bronze in 100m butterfly:
American Ress awarded backstroke gold after review
Justin Ress of the United States won gold in the 50 backstroke in dramatic circumstances after officials overturned his initial disqualification following a lengthy review.
Victory was earlier awarded to compatriot Hunter Armstrong after it was ruled that no part of Ress’s body was above the water as he reached first for the wall.
Ress, who had set the pace in the heats and the semifinals, was later reinstated as the winner and the medal ceremony held again, with Armstrong taking silver and Polish teenager Ksawery Masiuk having to settle for bronze.
In other action:
- Gregorio Paltrinieri, gold medallist at the 2016 Rio Olympics, set a new championship record in the 1,500 freestyle, comfortably finishing ahead of Robert Finke and Florian Wellbrock in a time of 14:32.80. The Italian looked on course to break Sun Yang’s world record of 14:31.02 but faded in the last 100 metres.
- Earlier, former Olympic champion Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania clinched gold in the women’s 50 breaststroke, beating Italian Benedetta Pilato by 0.10 seconds, with Lara van Niekerk of South Africa coming home in third.
Meilutyte was handed a 24-month suspension in 2019 for anti-doping violations and returned to competitive action only in December last year.
Action in Budapest continues Sunday for live action beginning at 7 a.m. ET with the open water swimming team relay, followed by Canada vs. Netherlands in the women’s water polo crossover game at 8 ET.
The first diving final, men’s 3-metre springboard synchro, is scheduled for 10 a.m.
Coverage continues every day through July 3. Click on the link below for a full schedule of events.
Dufour nets four as Sea Dogs rally past Cataractes, advance to Memorial Cup final – TSN
SAINT JOHN, N.B. — The Shawinigan Cataractes scored 49 seconds into Saturday’s final round robin game at the Memorial Cup and enjoyed a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Then William Dufour of the Saint John Sea Dogs said “hold my (root) beer.”
Dufour, the 2020 fifth-round draft pick of the New York Islanders, rattled off three consecutive goals in the second period and added a fourth in the third as the tournament hosts scored five unanswered goals to defeat the Cataractes 5-3 to earn a berth in Wednesday’s Cup final.
The trip to the final erases a bit of the disappointment of the Sea Dogs’ first-round loss in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs.
The Cataractes, with two wins and a loss in the round robin, will have to beat the Hamilton Bulldogs in Monday’s semifinal game to get another shot at their QMJHL rival.
Jeremie Poirier scored Saint John’s other goal, while teammate Josh Lawrence added two assists. The Sea Dogs finished the round robin with two wins and an overtime loss.
Loris Rafanomezantsoa, Olivier Nadeau and William Veillette scored for Shawinigan, who outshot the Sea Dogs 15-10 in the first period but were outshot 21-5 in the second.
The six-foot-three Dufour, named MVP of the QMJHL this season, had 56 goals and 116 points during the QMJHL regular season.
“To finish my (junior) career like this is so great,” said the 20-year-old Dufour, calling the win one of his greatest moments in hockey. “We have one more game to win. We’re just going to go for it.”
POKE CHECKS: The Hamilton Bulldogs, who finished the round robin portion of the 102nd Memorial Cup championship with one regulation win for three points, lost to the Sea Dogs 5-4 on June 20, then dropped a 3-2 decision to the Cataractes on June 23, before beating the Edmonton Oil Kings 4-2 on Friday. The Oil Kings finished the tournament with one overtime win and two losses for two points and failed to make the playoffs. … Next year’s Memorial Cup will be held in Kamloops, B.C., home of the Western Hockey League Blazers who won the national tournament in 1992, 1994 and 1995.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2022
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