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Ryan Reynolds wants a piece of the Ottawa Senators. The NHL needs to make sure it happens

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For nearly five minutes on Tuesday evening, Brady Tkachuk stood near his locker stall and fielded questions about the Ottawa Senators’ 6-4 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

Tkachuk wore a grim expression on his face for most of the session, a clear indication that the current six-game losing streak is not sitting well with the captain. Many of Tkachuk’s answers were laced with passion as he spoke about the current state of the team.

He used the word “frustrating” to open and close his first answer.

At one point, he bluntly stated, “Everybody in here hates losing. It’s not fun.”

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But at the very end of the media scrum, Tkachuk’s eyes suddenly brightened with a new line of questioning. His expression changed and the more affable version of Tkachuk — the one we usually deal with — reappeared.

And the question that changed his tone?

Was it a bit of a distraction to have Ryan Reynolds show up on Tuesday night?

“I think it’s great. He’s got interest in the team and I think it would be great for the community,” Tkachuk said. “You can see the fans really enjoyed it too. So to have somebody like him kind of have interest in us, it’s pretty cool to see.”

There are few things that can distract a passionate and angry hockey market and its captain from a six-game losing streak. But an A-list celebrity suddenly being on the radar to buy your NHL franchise is certainly one of them. We’ll have plenty of time to wallow in the misery of defensive breakdowns and questionable roster decisions. Heck, I’ve probably written that column a dozen times in the calendar year 2022.

But in the midst of this abysmal losing streak, we need to take a brief moment and appreciate what is unfolding in front of our eyes.

In the span of a week, Reynolds’ interest in the Senators has gone from a vague single emoji on Twitter to a full-court press. And on Tuesday evening, he dropped into the Canadian Tire Centre, where he was given a massive ovation when he was welcomed in the first TV timeout of the contest.  At ice level, Senators players were banging their sticks against the boards to join the chorus of applause inside the arena.

“I’ve definitely enjoyed some of the movies he’s been in,” said Tkachuk. “So to see him live was pretty cool.”

This surprise appearance in Ottawa came less than 24 hours after Reynolds appeared on The Tonight Show and publicly expressed his interest in owning a portion of the team.

“I am trying to do that,” Reynolds told host Jimmy Fallon. “It’s very expensive. So I need a partner with really deep pockets.”

As we’ve reported for several months in this space, there are multiple parties interested in purchasing the Senators and keeping them in Ottawa. It stands to reason that all of them would connect with Reynolds now, as the actor is clearly putting his cards on the table for everybody to see.

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In usual circumstances, Gary Bettman doesn’t like this type of showmanship from potential owners who are outside of the NHL circle. If we’re following the typical league playbook, it feels like splashy PR campaigns and media appearances drastically reduce an outsider’s chances of joining the NHL’s inner sanctum.

But during a media session on Tuesday night in Winnipeg, Bettman seemed to embrace the fact that Reynolds is publicly showing interest in being part of the Senators franchise.

“Listen, anything that engages the fan base, that brings a lot of attention to the franchise or the team is a plus,” said Bettman. “He’s a very popular and well-respected person.”

Bettman’s response feels like a stark departure from the usual script, where newcomers are kept at arm’s length until a thorough vetting process has concluded. But Reynolds doesn’t fit the mould of a typical prospective NHL owner. He’s not a wealthy hi-tech entrepreneur who is trying to become a household name by owning an NHL franchise.

Instead, Reynolds is already a household name and arguably the brightest star in the Hollywood galaxy.

In this case, it would be the Senators using Reynolds’ stardom to build their brand. Not the other way around.

The NHL sphere — especially at the corporate level — is full of milquetoast personalities who generate little buzz and excitement. The board of governors meetings could certainly use an injection of Reynolds’ star power. Over the past week alone, the Senators and the NHL have ended up with significant mentions in People magazine and The Tonight Show.

Sure, the Senators have enjoyed brief brushes with celebrities before.

There was the time Rihanna inexplicably wore a Sens jersey as a fashion statement.

Matthew Perry briefly sported a Senators shirt in the movie The Whole Nine Yards.

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And of course, Carrie Underwood spent some time in Ottawa when Mike Fisher played for the Senators.

But all of these were fleeting moments.

Reynolds, meanwhile, is looking to own a piece of the Senators and ostensibly become a significant voice for the franchise. As a content producer, Reynolds could probably dream up imaginative ways to market the hockey team to a much wider fan base.

The Senators have always suffered from “little sibling syndrome,” geographically stuck in between the two most storied Original Six franchises in Montreal and Toronto. But bringing Reynolds on board could help alter that power dynamic. It won’t erase the decades of history those franchises have on Ottawa, but it will significantly change the perception of Ottawa as the sleepy, boring government town that fun forgot. Even the most obstinate Canadiens or Maple Leafs fan would concede that Reynolds owning a piece of the Senators would improve Ottawa’s street credit in NHL circles.

Reynolds likely has a vision and a plan for how to make this work, with his ownership stake in the Wrexham soccer club serving as a good template for embracing the underdog mantra.

And the fact that Reynolds wants to buy a piece of the Ottawa Senators because he has a personal connection to the city should not be lost on anybody. He’s made it clear on a number of occasions that spending time in Vanier as a teenager had a profound effect on him. And Tuesday’s surprise cameo in Ottawa makes it feel like Reynolds wouldn’t be an absentee owner in this market.

The Senators’ financial picture has always felt like a house of cards, with financial instability and attendance issues putting them just a notch or two above Arizona in the minds of many hockey fans. Just imagine if a celebrity of Reynolds’ stature suddenly expressed an interest in purchasing a stake in the Coyotes. It would seem unfathomable.

But that’s the gift the Senators have been given this week.

Reynolds doesn’t need the Senators. The Senators need him.

But the most important thing is that Reynolds wants the Senators.

And that should be enough for any prospective ownership group to make sure that Reynolds has a stake — and a voice — in the Senators moving forward.

As his media scrum concluded on Tuesday, Tkachuk was asked if Reynolds came by the Ottawa dressing room after the game.

“No, we didn’t see him,” Tkachuk said. “Maybe down the road potentially we can see him.”

If the NHL is smart, they’ll make sure that’s a reality for Tkachuk and his teammates.

(Photo: Richard A. Whittaker / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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NBA Returns to Montreal with Raptors vs. Wizards Pre-Season Game

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Montreal, QC – The NBA is set to make an exciting return to Montreal. The league announced on Thursday that the Toronto Raptors will face off against the Washington Wizards at the Bell Centre on October 6, marking the 10th edition of the NBA Canada Series.

This annual series has featured 15 teams playing 18 pre-season games across six Canadian cities. Notably, this will be the eighth NBA Canada Series game in Montreal, the highest for any city outside the Raptors’ usual home in Toronto.

Last year, Montreal fans witnessed the Detroit Pistons take on the Oklahoma City Thunder, featuring Canadians Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort. The Raptors’ previous game in Montreal was in 2022.

This year’s game will be particularly special as it will showcase several Canadian players. Montreal natives Chris Boucher and Quincy Guerrier are both on the Raptors’ training camp roster. Additionally, Kelly Olynyk and RJ Barrett, who are set to represent Canada at the upcoming Summer Olympics, are also expected to play for the Raptors.

The Wizards bring their own Canadian connection with Kyshawn George, selected in this year’s NBA Draft. George, born in Switzerland, is the son of Montreal’s Deon George, a former member of Canada’s men’s basketball team.

The October 6 game will cap off the Raptors’ Montreal-based training camp, promising an exciting end to their preparations.

For more updates and coverage on the NBA Canada Series, visit Canada News Media

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Fafa Picault Leads Vancouver Whitecaps to Victory Over Sporting Kansas City

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Vancouver, BCFafa Picault emerged as the hero off the bench, scoring in the second half to secure a 2-1 victory for the Vancouver Whitecaps against Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday.

The Whitecaps (11-7-5) dominated the first half, with two goals being disallowed due to offside calls. Vancouver’s breakthrough came in the 34th minute when Kansas City defender Robert Valoder accidentally scored an own goal, giving the ‘Caps a 1-0 lead.

Sporting Kansas City (6-14-5) showed more vigor in the second half, equalizing in the 69th minute with a goal from Willy Agada. However, Picault’s decisive goal in the 76th minute ensured the Whitecaps extended their unbeaten streak in Major League Soccer (MLS) to five games (4-0-1).

Yohei Takaoka delivered an outstanding performance with 16 saves for Vancouver, while Tim Melia made 12 stops for Kansas City, whose three-game winning streak came to an end.

First Half Dominance

The Whitecaps were aggressive from the start, creating several early scoring opportunities. Brian White nearly scored with a header in the seventh minute, but Valoder cleared it off the goal line.

Ali Ahmed had a notable moment in the 27th minute, maneuvering past defenders to set up White for a goal that was disallowed due to offside. The Whitecaps’ pressure paid off in the 34th minute when Valoder deflected the ball into his own net, attempting to intercept a pass from Ryan Gauld to White.

Ahmed seemed poised to increase Vancouver’s lead eight minutes later, but his goal was also ruled offside. Despite these setbacks, Vancouver outshot Kansas City 9-2 in the first half.

Kansas City’s Resurgence

Sporting Kansas City made three substitutions at halftime, revitalizing their performance. Stefan Afrifa, substituting for Alenis Vargas, struck the crossbar in the 63rd minute, and Daniel Salloi’s follow-up shot was expertly saved by Takaoka.

Kansas City equalized six minutes later when Agada capitalized on a rebound after Takaoka’s save, slotting the ball into an open net.

Picault’s Winning Goal

The Whitecaps regained the lead in the 76th minute through Picault’s sixth goal of the season. Sebastian Berhalter, who replaced Ryan Raposo in the 67th minute, delivered a perfect cross to Picault, who headed it past Melia to make it 2-1.

Kansas City had a chance to level the score in injury time, but Erik Thommy’s free kick went over the bar following a foul by Mathias Laborda.

The victory solidifies the Whitecaps’ position as a formidable team in the MLS, with Picault’s performance highlighting their depth and resilience.

Stay tuned for more updates and coverage on the Vancouver Whitecaps at Canada News Media.

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Canada announced its Olympic team — here are some fun facts about the athletes

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The Canadian Olympic Committee today unveiled its team of 338 athletes for the Paris Summer Games. That’s fewer than the 371 named for the Tokyo Games three years ago, but still one of the country’s largest Olympic delegations ever.

Competition in Paris begins next Wednesday with some men’s soccer and rugby sevens games, but Canada doesn’t have a team in either event. Canadians see their first action the following day in archery and a women’s soccer match vs. New Zealand.

The opening ceremony is on Friday July 26, featuring a first-of-its-kind boat parade of athletes on the Seine river. Canada will announce its flag-bearers (expected to be a woman and a man) sometime in the coming days.

Here are some interesting facts and figures about the Canadian Olympic team:

The clear majority of them are women. Excluding the 22 alternates on the team, 61 per cent of the athletes named today “identify as female or are competing in women’s events,” according to the COC. Women are also expected to win the bulk of Canada’s medals. They account for 13 of the 20 (65 per cent) projected by the data company Nielsen’s Gracenote.

The oldest athlete is 61-year-old equestrian rider Jill Irving. The first-time Olympian will compete in dressage after helping Canada to a team gold at the 2019 Pan American Games. Irving is two years older than men’s equestrian rider Mario Deslauriers, who’s back for his fourth Olympics after being Canada’s eldest athlete at the 2021 Tokyo Games. Deslauriers made his Olympic debut way back in 1984.

The youngest athlete is 14-year-old skateboarder Fay De Fazio Ebert. She won gold in the women’s park event at last year’s Pan Am Games, when she was still 13. De Fazio Ebert is 24 years younger than fellow Canadian Olympic skateboarder Ryan Decenzo, who turns 38 in a few days. She’s 36 years younger than British rider Andy Macdonald, who will be 51 by the end of the month.

Canada’s best athlete is also a teenager. Seventeen-year-old swimming sensation Summer McIntosh is favoured to win two individual gold medals and could add a few more in solo and relay events at her second Olympic Games. She debuted as a 14-year-old in Tokyo, where she placed fourth in both the 400m freestyle and 4x200m freestyle relay and cracked the top 11 in her two other individual events. Since then, she’s won back-to-back world titles in both the 200m butterfly and 400m individual medley.

The most experienced Olympian is table tennis player Mo Zhang. The 35-year-old will be competing in her fifth consecutive Games after finishing a career-high ninth in both singles and doubles in Tokyo. 142 of Canada’s athletes have Olympic experience, including 38 medallists, while 174 are rookies.

The most decorated Olympian is swimmer Penny Oleksiak. She collected an all-time Canadian record seven medals over the past two Summer Games. That includes her stunning four-medal performance in 2016 in Rio, where she won an individual gold as a 16-year-old. Now seemingly in the winter of her career at the age of 24, Oleksiak did not qualify for any individual events in Paris but could add to her medal collection in the relays. If she doesn’t, Andre De Grasse will have a better chance to catch her. The track star hopes to contend for the podium in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m events after winning a medal in all three of them at two straight Olympics.

There are 10 children of past Olympians. They include men’s basketball star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, whose mother, Charmaine Gilgeous, was a sprinter for Antigua and Barbuda at the 1992 Barcelona Games; and his fellow NBAer RJ Barrett, whose father, Rowan, played with Steve Nash in 2000 in Sydney and is now the team’s GM. Equestrian rider Amy Millar’s dad, Ian, appeared in a world-record 10 Olympic Games in that sport, while Summer McIntosh’s mom, Jill Horstead, swam in the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

There are five sets of siblings. And they each compete in the same sport. Women’s judo sisters Christa and Kelly Deguchi are, thankfully, in different weight classes. Melvin Ejim and his sister Yvonne Ejim can cheer for each other in men’s and women’s basketball, while mountain bikers Gunnar and Isabella Holmgren are also separated by gender. Twin sisters Katherine and Michelle Plouffe share the court in women’s 3×3 basketball, while sailors Antonia Lewin-LaFrance and Georgia Lewin-LaFrance are quite literally in the same boat.

Read more about the Canadian team in this story from the COC.

 

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