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The Canadian Press

Canada’s speedskaters energized by unexpected results ahead of world championship

Canadian speedskaters are relishing a bit of normalcy in an abnormal season. The 13 who travelled to Heerenveen, Netherlands, for their first international races in 10 months did so with scant training on an indoor oval. But 11 medals in a pair of World Cups there, including two gold, boosts morale heading into the world long-track championship starting Thursday at the same Dutch oval. “We surprised the international teams. We surprised ourselves,” Ottawa’s Ivanie Blondin told The Canadian Press. More than medals, the Canadians are revelling in a return to hard training in an indoor oval, and getting a chance to express that work by racing. “We’re so glad to skate again. We feel like kids again every day,” Laurent Dubreuil said. The COVID-19 pandemic crushed the international racing calendar this winter as it has in many other sports. Canada’s long-track season will consist of January’s two World Cups and this week’s world championship in Heerenveen’s Thialf oval. The short-track team won’t get any World Cup races this winter because all were cancelled, although March’s world championship remains on the schedule. Speed Skating deliberated on whether to send long-track athletes to Holland in the global pandemic, but some skaters felt desperate for competition a year out from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. “I was one of the skaters who pushed hard for us to go,” Dubreuil said. “I’m an athlete rep at Speed Skating Canada. A lot of athletes wrote me and said they wanted to go.” The Canadians arrived in Holland short on quality ice time. They’ve been without ice at their national training base, Calgary’s Olympic Oval, since September because of a mechanical failure. Ice will not be restored there until spring. The athletes followed a makeshift schedule of dryland training, skating outdoors, short-track workouts and two weeks at a B.C. indoor oval in November. Dubreuil, of Quebec City, also doesn’t have access to an indoor oval in his hometown because one is currently under construction on the site of the previous oval. He often travels to Calgary for national-team camps, but ice isn’t available there either. Despite suboptimal preparation, Dubreuil earned a silver medal and two bronze in the men’s 500, plus another bronze in the 1,000 in the two World Cups. The 28-year-old compensated for lack of ice time by analyzing video of his good and bad races, and daily visualization of himself racing. “I think I did the work necessary to perform,” Dubreuil said. “When I think about it from a logical point of view, it makes no sense that I would feel confident, but I really did. “First and foremost you have to believe, which is true in a normal season, but it was even more important this year because the training we did, we knew it wasn’t great, but it was the best we could do with the things we had.” Blondin overcame self doubt to win a pair of silver medals in women’s mass start, in which she is the reigning world champion. Blondin, Ottawa’s Isabelle Wiedemann and Valerie Maltais of La Baie, Que., kicked off each of the two World Cups for Canada by winning team pursuit gold on the first day. “Leading into the first World Cup, I was really stressed,” Blondin said. “I knew in the team pursuit, that we would do well. I didn’t know we would do necessarily as well as we have. “I was worried about individual performances. I thought ‘am I still going to be as good as I was last season?’ “It’s those little demons that come out when you can’t measure yourself against the rest of the world.” Canada’s lack of reps is more evident in long distances. Reigning men’s 5,000-metre world champion Ted-Jan Bloemen of Calgary finished off the podium in his individual World Cup races, although he helped Canada win a silver medal and a bronze in team pursuit. World 10k champion Graeme Fish of Moose Jaw, Sask., was among Canadian skaters who didn’t travel to Heerenveen. Blondin chose not to compete in the 3,000 metres this season. “We knew we would have the base, but the ice component wasn’t there,” Blondin explained. “In the longer distances, you need to feel efficient and to get that efficiency takes months of practice to get on the perfect edge.” The athletes are tested regularly in Heerenveen and must wear masks, Dubreuil said. The Canadians are largely confined to their hotel and the oval, but are allowed outdoor cycling workouts. “We are pleased and happy that to date the hub has been a relatively great breath of fresh air for our team,” Speed Skating Canada chief executive officer Susan Auch said. “They’ve had a year filled with not only the COVID uncertainty, but uncertainty with the venues they always train in and call home. “While they’ve had some really awesome experiences skating outside, there is nothing that can replace being on fast ice, world-class ice, which we had in Calgary and we will have again.” This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 10, 2021. Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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Chris Schultz, former Argos lineman and CFL broadcaster, dies at 61 – The Globe and Mail

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Former CFL offensive lineman and broadcaster Chris Schultz has died after suffering a heart attack at 61.

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Friends and fans remembered Chris Schultz as a gentle giant, who became a respected TV and radio analyst after a successful playing career with the Dallas Cowboys and Toronto Argonauts.

Schultz, a native of Burlington, Ont., died Thursday after suffering a heart attack. He was 61.

At six foot eight and 277 pounds during his playing career, Schultz was hard to miss on and off the field. The former offensive tackle was a big man with a grip to match.

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“He was a genuine personality. He was himself,” said TSN broadcaster Rod Smith, a longtime friend and colleague. “There was no pretense to him.

“He could be gentle with people. He always asked about my family. But at the same time, he was strong, he was imposing. And oh that handshake. It was the most crushing handshake – and I’ve got big hands – that I’ve ever experienced in my life.

“I think of him right now and I just think of shaking his hand. You always had to be ready.”

In an era when a Canadian in the NFL was something special, Schultz turned heads when he was drafted by America’s Team in 1983.

Taken in the seventh round (189th overall) after a college career at the University of Arizona, Schultz played 21 games for the Cowboys from 1983 to 1985 under Hall of Fame coach Tom Landry before returning home to play for the Argonauts in 1986.

Toronto had selected Schultz in the first round (seventh overall) of the 1982 CFL draft.

Schultz played for Toronto from 1986 to 1994 and was named a CFL all-star twice (1987 and ’88) and East all-star three times (1987, ’88 and ’91). He was named to the Argonauts all-time team in 2007.

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“Chris Schultz was made to play football, or football was made for Chris Schultz,” Argonauts GM Michael (Pinball) Clemons said in a statement.” Either way it was a symbiotic relationship His passion reverberated on radio, television, coaching kids or walking the dog. He was always willing to talk football.

“I’m disappointed because he had more to give, and my fervent hope is he knew how much he was loved,” he added.

Clemons, Schultz and quarterback Matt Dunigan, who joined Schultz as a TSN analyst, combined to win the 1991 Grey Cup for the Argos, capping a season to remember under the ownership of Wayne Gretzky, John Candy and Bruce McNall.

Schultz also played in the 1987 Grey Cup, which saw the Argos lose on a last-second Edmonton field goal.

After his playing career, Schultz moved into radio before spending 20 years as an analyst for TSN. He spent the last two seasons as colour commentator on the Argos’ radio broadcasts.

Smith recalls interviewing him back for a broadcast position in 1998.

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“I remember doing this audition with him and immediately being impressed by not only his knowledge and his passion but just his presence. He was a big man with a big presence,” he said in an interview. “And I could tell instantly how good he was going to be on television.”

Schultz got the job and became a fixture on TSN’s CFL panel.

Bell Media senior vice-president Stewart Johnston called Schultz “a gentle giant who brought passion, dedication, and energy to his coverage of the game.

“Chris was a unique voice in Canadian football broadcasting, and an iconic figure to fans across the country.”

“A big bear of a man but so funny, warm and welcoming,” added TSN hockey analyst Bob McKenzie, who shared the same seat as Schultz when football turned to hockey in the network’s studio.

Schultz took his broadcast duties seriously. Part of a panel that could occasionally take a comedic detour, he would look to stick to football and ensure everyone had their say.

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“He was a real student of the game,” said author/CFL historian Paul Woods.

Schultz would be one of the last Argos to leave the locker-room, staying to work out or watch film. It would serve him well in his role as analyst.

Woods is author of “Bouncing Back: From National Joke to Grey Cup Champs,” which tells the story of the Argos in the early ’80s. He interviewed Schultz for his next book, expected out this year, which focuses on the years around the ’91 Grey Cup victory.

Woods, a former Canadian Press reporter and manager, says while the 1991 Argos were a relaxed bunch who liked to have fun during their pre-game walkthroughs, Schultz was all business.

He told Woods he had to operate on the field as a robot, in a zone.

“He was an intense guy,” said Woods, noting Schultz was once ejected from a pre-season game after getting into a fight with several Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

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Away from the job, Schultz was a private man. Mike Hogan, who shared the Argo radio booth with Schultz, called his friend a “complex” person who “liked to separate work life from real life.”

On the job, he shone brightly.

“We called Chris Schultz the Big Man for so many reasons beyond the obvious,” CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie, who played with Schultz with the Argos, said in a statement. “He had a big personality. He could make you think as easily as he could make you laugh.

“He had a big presence on CFL on TSN, breaking down each game with incredible passion, insight and joy But most of all, my teammate and friend had a big heart. It was oversized even for his frame.”

Schultz started his football career in the Burlington Minor Football Association and played for the Aldershot Lions during high school. While he also played basketball, he looked south of the border for football opportunities, travelling by bus to Michigan State and Syracuse to gauge interest.

He earned a scholarship at the University of Arizona, where he started life as a defensive lineman before switching to the offensive line as a senior. His played for the Wildcats from 1978 to 1982, appearing in the 1979 Fiesta Bowl.

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Football took a toll on Schultz’s body. The big man walked with a shuffle, paying the price for past knee injuries.

Away from football, he made the Purolator Tackle Hunger program a cause close to his heart.

“When he spoke publicly about working at and with food banks, and what it meant to him and to families in need, Chris’s sincerity and empathy moved everyone,” said Ambrosie. “Those moments not only made the program stronger. They made everyone who experienced them want to be better, to be more like Chris.”

Schultz was inducted into the Burlington Sports Hall of Fame in 2015 and the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.

“The CFL is filled with countless men and women who make it spectacular, and we lost one of them (Thursday),” said Blue Bombers coach Mike O’Shea.

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On the coaching carousel and why hiring Darryl Sutter isn’t a ‘safe’ move – Sportsnet.ca

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A common complaint among NHL followers is that “apparently there’s only 35 people on Earth qualified to coach in the NHL” based on what’s viewed as a coaching carousel, where the fired get quickly re-hired and breaking into the ranks seems next to impossible.

The joke isn’t without that shred of truth most jokes hold, as teams mostly make conservative hires to avoid the type of big-swing-and-a-miss that could get a GM kicked out of what’s perceived as the Old Boys Club.

They’ve done the hard work to get in, after all, and if jobs are going to get passed around to those who’ve made it there, one assumes the last thing they’d want to do is rock the boat, get thrown out, and miss their turns.

What gets lost, though, is that being the head coach of an NHL team is a unique job, and a particularly challenging one given the myriad moving parts. On top of X’s and O’s (which, I’ll be frank, are weirdly similar across the board) and practices and in-game decisions, there’s the managing of young ambitious millionaires trying to climb over one another for ice time and opportunity so they can reap the benefits that come with those things.

There’s managing your GM and owner to go along with the expectations of a fanbase. There are media obligations. There are swaths of information in the form of analytics and sport science these days, and staffs have swelled in size to match the players on the ice. The job is not just running a few practices and throwing your best players over the boards in games, it’s involved, and takes measures of knowledge and confidence.

It stands to reason that having been a head coach is just about the best experience a person could have on their resume when applying for the job of being a head coach. I don’t blame GMs for not wanting to be the organization where a person cuts their teeth, and instead hires someone who’s been through it a few times and comes into the role understanding what it all takes. The GM’s career is on the line too, so hiring someone who’s shown themselves to be at least proficient in the role in the past likely feels safer for their own careers than choosing the mystery box.

That said, the Darryl Sutter hiring in Calgary doesn’t exactly feel like the type of safe re-hire that I’m talking about above. The man is four seasons removed from coaching in the NHL, and had since resumed his life as a cattle rancher, running his farm in Viking, Alberta, where he was seemingly content to have moved on from a life in hockey.

(Is this not the most Disney plot the NHL has cooked up since the Mighty Ducks? The uncompromising farmer from the before-times returns to the NHL to turn around a group of stubborn new-age youths? It can only end in glory, with the real twist in the end being what the farmer learns from the kids.)

I say it doesn’t feel like a typical “safe” coach recycling because Sutter isn’t that. He was out of the game, and even before that it felt like he was a bit of a coaching dinosaur. Everything in the NHL (and all sports) is moving in the direction of math and science and computers, and while I’m not suggesting Sutter is some luddite (though some may), I don’t think anyone’s labelling him as being at the forefront of any of those particular movements.

He can be a bit of a curmudgeon, and surely there were “safer” names out there for Brad Treliving to choose, because if this doesn’t go well, it could certainly come back on Treliving.

Claude Julien is a safe hire. Gerard Gallant is a safe hire. Bruce Boudreau is a safe hire. Sutter is one of the few willing to swim against the NHL currents, and so hiring him is too.

When I first heard the Flames re-hired Sutter, I was taken aback. The Flames history of coaching hires is flat-out terrible, and part of that has felt like a lack of due diligence and considering all candidates. My first impression is that this was just more of that, grabbing the closest available name that wasn’t going to cost a fortune. But with some reflection I can see it isn’t that.

More there in a second, but first consider the Flames’ coach hirings since Sutter was last there.

Every guy is either a first-time coach (some would say to keep costs down, as I’ve heard many times on Calgary radio), or a retread on his career’s last legs. None of them — not one of the seven — has held another head coaching job in the NHL since their time in Calgary (and given our discussion on coaching carousels, that’s some statement). Only one remains employed in the NHL to this day, though we’ll give Ward the benefit of the doubt as it’s a near-certainty he’ll find another NHL role this off-season.

Jim Playfair
Mike Keenan
Brent Sutter
Bob Hartley
Glen Gulutzan (currently an assistant coach in Edmonton)
Bill Peters
Geoff Ward

This feels different because it’s obviously a hire made for a purpose, and not just a hire of the closest available name they know well enough (who won’t cost a fortune, as someone like Julien surely would).

I believe this management group has developed real questions about the core of the team and its ability to knuckle down and do the right things on a consistent basis. Treliving has recently said this is a team with an “A” game and a “D” game, and nothing in between. Well, motivated and committed players with talent, even on their off-nights, should be able to find a “B” game. That’s where the questions come in.

Moving on from this core would be a big deal. We’re talking about massive trades, a rebuild with a long-term vision, and likely years of transition (and if you’re the ownership, are you sure you’re going to let Treliving be the guy to do that if you think this group he’s built has failed?)

In 2018-19, just two seasons ago, the Flames finished first in the Western Conference, and had the second-best offence in the entire NHL. Shocking to remember, right? They averaged 3.52 goals per game, which is exactly the offensive number that leads the entire NHL right now. Before you torch that core and start over, you better do everything you can to get the most out of some talented players you already have.

So, Sutter feels like just the type of guy who won’t take any guff from any player, and he might also be the type to use the word “guff.” There’ll be no time for half-efforts or excuses. It’ll just be “go out there and work hard or you won’t play.” It’s not that unlike the way John Tortorella coaches, minus the yelling. Do it or don’t, that’s up to you, but we’ll decide what to do with you based on your actions.

This hiring is about the core of players, and finding someone who can squeeze the most juice from it.

So in a world where coaches are recycled, it would be easy to view Sutter in the same light.

But I see a spot filled by someone who’s been known to run a team the way this core needs to be run right now, if for no other reason than to see if they’ve got “it” or not. Sutter’s more of a hired assassin brought in for that one task than he is some safe retread, meant to preserve middling results and jobs. And if he fails, then this core has failed too.

None of it feels safe. Rather, it feels like it’s now up to Johnny Gaudreau and friends to figure it out under Sutter before the clock hits zero on this group.

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Former Argos star, TSN broadcaster Chris Schultz dies at 61 – Yahoo Canada Sports

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Chris Schultz was 61.

Former Toronto Argonauts and Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Chris Schultz has died at the age of 61, the CFL team announced on Friday. 

According to TSN’s Rod Smith, Schultz died of a heart attack.

Schultz, born in Burlington, Ont., was selected in the seventh round of the 1983 NFL Draft by the Cowboys after attending and playing football at the University of Arizona. Schultz played 21 career NFL games from 1983-1985, starting in eight contests. The Canadian football player then took his talents to the CFL where he played for Toronto from 1986-1994. Schultz was twice named to the All-CFL team. In 2007, the tackle was listed as a member of the all-time Argos team.

After his playing career, Schultz transitioned to the broadcast booth where he was a member of TSN’s CFL broadcasting team. Schultz was also a member of TSN 1050 Toronto’s radio team. In 2016, he was inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.

Since his death was announced, many have taken to social media to pay tribute to the football and broadcasting star.

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