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Raptors VanVleet, Powell speak out against Blake shooting, consider boycotting games –



Their raw emotion evident, their frustration palpable, Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell found themselves on Tuesday once again addressing the media in the aftermath of another shooting of a Black man by police.

The two Toronto Raptors are among the many players using their platform at the NBA’s post-season bubble to speak out against systemic racism and police brutality.

But after watching the video of Jacob Blake being shot multiple times in the back by police in Kenosha, Wis., VanVleet told reporters he was “in a different place today, emotionally speaking.”

The situation has caused the Raptors to discuss their options around protesting and potentially boycotting vital playoff games as the team gears up for Game 1 of an Eastern Conference semifinal against the Boston Celtics on Thursday.

“You know, coming down here and making a choice to play was supposed to not be in vain, but it’s just starting to feel like everything we’re doing is going through the motions and nothing’s really changing,” VanVleet said Tuesday.

“Here we are today with another unfortunate incident, so my thoughts today are with that man and his family and trying to wrap my mind around what they’re going through.”

The Raptors have been at the forefront of the NBA’s social justice initiatives, arriving to the league’s Walt Disney World campus earlier this summer in buses emblazoned with the slogan “Black Lives Matter” and asking for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black people who have been killed by police.

VanVleet said now it’s time for others to get involved.

“We’re the ones with the microphones in our face, we’re the ones who have to make a stand,” he said. “The responsibility falls on us to make a change to stop being oppressed. At what point do we not have to speak about it any more?

“Are we going to hold everybody accountable, or are we just going to put the spotlight on Black people or Black athletes or entertainers and say ‘What are you doing? What are you contributing to your community? What are you putting on the line?’ “

Players consider boycotting games

VanVleet and Powell said players have discussed options on how to respond to Blake’s shooting. Powell said boycotting games has been discussed. 

“I think everybody’s at the point of sitting up and saying ‘Black Lives Matter’ and having these discussions and Zoom calls and putting apparel on, that’s not getting the job done,” he said. “Taking a knee for the anthem, that’s not getting the job done.”

“It’s starting to get washed out. I feel like Black Lives Matter is just another thing in conversation now,” Powell said. “Something needs to happen where you’re forcing those people who can affect and make the change to do something.”

VanVleet said not playing could motivate the right people.

“For example, this happened in Kenosha,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be nice, in a perfect world, if we all said we’re not playing, and the owner of the Milwaukee Bucks steps up to the plate and puts pressure on the district attorney’s office and state attorneys and governors and politicians there to make real change and get some justice.

“I know it’s not that simple, but if we’re going to sit here and talk about making change, then at some point we’re going to have to put our nuts on the line and actually put something up to lose rather than just money or visibility.”

A demand for accountability

The Wisconsin Department of Justice is leading an investigation into the shooting, which is expected to take several weeks. The officers involved were placed on administrative leave, which is standard practice in such cases.

Powell said police officers need to face consequences when under investigation.

“They believe they’re following the law and they think that’s OK,” Powell said. ” ‘We did an investigation and we found them not guilty.’ And they go home and sleep at night perfectly fine. They live their lives and go to their jobs.

“Until they’re on the line for getting fired and having to lose everything, nothing’s going to happen.”

VanVleet said his family has arrived in Orlando, and he’ll be able to see them in about a week. He said he thinks of his two young children when he sees an incident like the Blake shooting.

“To think about my babies having to see that, or my son is going to have to walk some of these same environments, and you have to teach your kids about how to interact with the police, and what to do, what not to do, you become helpless a little bit and it’s scary.”

Tuesday’s comments from Powell and VanVleet come with the Raptors getting ready to start a second-round series with the Celtics.

“I don’t really care about that right now to be honest with you,” VanVleet said.

“I’m sure when Thursday comes and it’s time to play I’ll be able to lock into basketball, it’s not really that hard for me. I know [the Celtics are] an unbelievably talented team, a great team, and I think the fans have been looking forward to this for a long time.

“Once we get to that point, if we get to that point, then we’ll deal with that when it comes, but right now today, on Tuesday, I couldn’t care less.”

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Shattenkirk scores in OT, Lightning one win away from Stanley Cup after downing Stars – TSN



EDMONTON — The Tampa Bay Lightning moved to within one win of the Stanley Cup on Friday, beating Dallas 5-4 on an overtime power-play goal that left the Stars livid.

Kevin Shattenkirk fired the puck from the right face-off circle through traffic and past Dallas goalie Anton Khudobin at 6:34 of overtime.

Stars captain Jamie Benn was in the box for tripping after getting tangled up with Lightning forward Tyler Johnson at the Tampa blue line.

“I don’t have a ton of time for a (penalty call on a) play where Tyler Johnson steps in front of Jamie Benn that has no real effect on the play,” said Dallas forward Joe Pavelski.

“Jamie breathes on him and the guy falls over.

“(In the playoffs) it’s overtime, we expect five-on-five to battle it out.”

The Lightning have a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven NHL final series and could lift the cup for the second time in franchise history with a win in Game 5 Saturday night at Rogers Place.

Brayden Point, with two goals, Yanni Gourde, and Alex Killorn also scored for Tampa Bay. Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 26 shots for his 17th win of the post-season against six losses.

Pavelski, with two goals, John Klingberg, and Corey Perry replied for Dallas. Khudobin made 30 saves. His playoff record falls to 13-9.

It was a back-and-forth game, with Tampa Bay rallying back twice from deficits and torching Dallas with three power-play goals.

“We stayed persistent,” said Killorn. “On a couple of (power plays), it seems like the first minute isn’t great, but the second unit comes on (and) they’re ready.

“All the goals are kind of I don’t want to say greasy, but we’re working for these goals. They’re not back-door passes or anything like that.”

Tampa had to kill a penalty of their own in overtime before Shattenkirk got the winner.

“I think it was just sticking with the process,” said Point. “We were working. We weren’t focused on the end result, just that next shift and it worked out for us tonight.”

Dallas coach Rick Bowness, looking to spark his team after a 5-2 loss in Game 3, broke up his top line of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov, mixing and matching them in various combinations with Joel Kiviranta, Perry, and Pavelski among the top six.

The strategy worked early on.

Dallas had just three shots in the first period but scored twice. Klingberg scored first, then Benn dished to a streaking Pavelski in the slot, who zipped the puck blocker-side low on Vasilevskiy.

Point got his first goal in the dying seconds of the first period on a perfectly executed 200-foot breakout.

Shattenkirk, at his own end line, fired a bounce pass off the boards that Ondrej Palat corralled at centre and in turn relayed to Point in full flight, who deked out Khudobin on the backhand.

Point tied the game 2-2 early in the second period on the power play, standing beside the Dallas net and bunting a puck out of mid-air.

Dallas took a 3-2 lead midway through the second period when Vasilevskiy stopped a close-in shot from a streaking Seguin, but Perry sailed in to jam home the loose puck.

Tampa replied again on the power play with a minute to go in the frame. Gourde jumped on a rebound that came right to his stick in the slot.

Killorn and Pavelski swapped sharp-angle goals in the third.

Seguin said while it’s a short turnaround to Game 5, Dallas will be ready.

“I think we’ve got more,” he said. “I believe in this team, believe in the boys. We’ve got another level here.”

Point has 13 goals and 17 assists this post-season, but remains behind linemate Nikita Kucherov for the NHL playoff scoring lead. Kucherov logged two assists and has seven goals and 32 points.

Pavelski leads the Stars with 12 post-season goals.

Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos did not dress for the game and is questionable for the rest of the series. Stamkos started Game 3 on Wednesday and scored on his first shot but sat on the bench for the last two periods.

He had been out since late February, recovering from core muscle surgery and a lower body injury. The NHL is not releasing injury information.

All games are being played in front of no spectators at Rogers Place, and players are isolating between contests to prevent contracting COVID-19.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2020.

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Atkins says Blue Jays’ organizational changes a result of pandemic hardship



TORONTO – Ross Atkins says restructuring the Toronto Blue Jays’ five special assistant positions, including one held by Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar, is a by-product of financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that all are welcome to remain at a lower pay rate.

Alomar, his father Sandy, fellow Hall of Famer Tim Raines, Pat Hentgen and Paul Quantrill were all impacted by wider organizational changes that hit Thursday hours before the club clinched a post-season berth.

All five performed a variety of tasks for the Blue Jays, from attending events in the community to helping groom young players in the farm system. Their full-time positions were eliminated and the club is said to have offered them part-time spots instead.

Where things stand with them wasn’t immediately clear, although Atkins called them “incredible,” and praised “the impact and influence they’ve had long before I was here on so many different players, and obviously on the fan base and just to this organization, what they’ve meant, I think the world of all of them.”

“Really, the way that we view it is they’re helping us transition through a pandemic and through a financial hardship and through a minor-league restructure,” he continued. “We would love to have them here, to continue to be here. They will be compensated very differently. They will always be welcome. And our hope is that we look up a year from now or maybe two years from now, and they’re back into similar, if not similar, even more significant roles with us.”

All five have been with the organization for years, with Alomar among the franchise’s most recognizable figures and Hentgen part of the organizational fibre. Other clubs in the past have asked about Hentgen’s availability but he was never interested, fully committing his heart to the Blue Jays.

“A thousand per cent,” said one scout from a rival club. “All the players love him.”

The changes didn’t stop at the special assistants. The Blue Jays are also parting with triple-A manager Ken Huckaby, pitching rehab co-ordinator David Aardsma, pitching rehab coach Darold Knowles, and perhaps others. More changes are expected, too.

“Going through a pandemic with what that has meant for the industry financially, what it’s meant for the Toronto Blue Jays financially, then having a minor-league restructuring process in the industry where we’re going to all but certainly be operating with two less teams, and a significantly less number of players, it would have been irresponsible us not to think about how we could operate more efficiently,” said Atkins. “Any business has had to do that, and it would be very difficult not to.

“At least in our view, felt like it was something we had to do. As it relates to Ken, and specifically as we thought about how we could be more efficient, we had to decrease the overall number of leaders in our organization.

“It was more just circumstance. He has certainly done great things for us and will continue to do great things in baseball. He’s had a significant impact here. I feel strongly about the person, the character, his contributions, just a very tough decision that we had to make.”


Atkins added that Huckaby’s replacement as manager of the triple-A Bisons “will definitely be an internal candidate.”

The reduction of two minor-league teams Atkins mentioned is part of a wider Major League Baseball plan to streamline the minor leagues, triggering significant tumult among owners of teams on the chopping block.

Last November, in a list published by Baseball America of 42 teams proposed for removal from the affiliated minor-leagues, the only Blue Jays affiliate mentioned was rookie-ball Bluefield.

Their other affiliates are: triple-A Buffalo, double-A New Hampshire, advanced-A Dunedin, low-A Lansing, short-season Vancouver, the rookie GCL Blue Jays, and Dominican Summer League Blue Jays.

The draft was reduced to only five rounds this year and industry speculation is that next year’s draft will be pushed back to July and perhaps reduced to 20 rounds from the usual 40.


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Steven Stamkos ruled out for Game 4 of Stanley Cup final –



Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos will not play in Friday’s Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Dallas Stars, head coach Jon Cooper announced.

In making the announcement, Cooper did not rule out his star for the remainder of the series. That would include Game 5, which is Saturday — the only back-to-back games in these finals.

“He’s not going to play, but we haven’t ruled him out for the series,” Cooper said. “But he’s not going to play tonight.”

Stamkos, 30, played for the first time since Feb. 25 when he suited up for Game 3 on Wednesday. Stamkos underwent surgery in March to repair a core muscle injury. He had an initial recovery timeline of six to eight weeks, but it’s believed he aggravated the injury and experienced at least one setback since then while trying to join the team.

WATCH | Stamkos scores in 1st period back from injury:

In his daily recap, Rob Pizzo compares Steven Stamkos comeback in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals to the Karate Kid. 2:55

He scored in the first period of the Lightning’s 5-2 win in Game 3 — giving Tampa Bay a 2-1 series lead — but then did not return to the bench after the first intermission. He logged 2 minutes, 47 seconds of ice time.

“Obviously, there is an issue that I’ve been working through. We’ll see what happens from here, but I was just extremely happy to be out there with these guys and have a chance to just be on the bench and contribute to a win,” Stamkos said after the game.

Despite his limited ice time, Stamkos made a big impact on his team by simply being on the ice — with the goal an added bonus.

“He only had five shifts, but probably as efficient a five shifts as you’re ever going to see in a National Hockey League playoff game,” Cooper said. “Here we are watching a player come back, and then do what he did on the biggest stage at the biggest time of year … you have to marvel at it, and it was pretty damn cool.”

“‘Stammer’s obviously he’s our leader, he’s our captain,” Tampa Bay forward Anthony Cirelli said. “To have him with us there, you give Stammer one opportunity he’s going to make it count. Just having him there with us, the emotion was high, he got that goal there for us which was a huge, huge goal and … we fed off that.”

Stamkos finished second on the team in scoring in the regular season with 66 points in 57 games. His 29 goals were also second on the team.

Taken first overall in 2008, Stamkos has 832 points (422 goals, 410 assists) in 803 regular-season games in his 12-year career, all with the Lightning. He also has 54 points (24 goals, 30 assists) in 71 career playoff games.

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