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SIMMONS: NHL players almost fully paid still want shot at the Stanley Cup – Toronto Sun

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When NHL players return this summer — if they return at all — they won’t be paid for playoff participation. And they can’t wait to play for nothing but the Stanley Cup.

That says something about the athlete and the sport, although in fairness they’ve already received all but one cheque of their season’s salaries. The world may be fighting itself everywhere, with so many questions, but hockey players still want that trophy.

In baseball, which may be ready to begin its season by early July, no one has been paid anything yet. And all they are doing is fighting over dollars. There won’t be ticket revenue in any sport for a while. There won’t be fans in the stands or money from parking or concessions.

Major League Baseball has come up with a complex 67-page plan to bring the sport back but none of it will mean anything if the players can’t agree to some kind of reduction in salary, more than simply cutting salaries in half as the season will be cut in half.

Each sport, each league, has its own individual difficulties and challenges to deal with regarding testing and social distancing and the possibility of travelling. But it is good to know, in terrible times, how much players still want the Stanley Cup.

THIS AND THAT

When Pat Quinn was coaching the Los Angeles Kings in the 1980s, he got his team ready for a playoff series with the great Edmonton Oilers by showing a videotape of highlights. Wayne Gretzky goals. Jari Kurri goals. Paul Coffey goals. Mark Messier and Glenn Anderson running people and scoring. Just amazing stuff to watch. But not for Tiger Williams. Williams let Quinn and his teammates know what he thought of the highlight preparation tape when, afterwards, he took the VCR and threw it at the TV, smashing both to pieces … Weird possibility if hockey comes back this summer: A Toronto-Montreal playoff series may happen for the first time in 41 years. Might be just a best-of-three, depending on which format the NHL eventually settles on. But it can happen. Overall, the Leafs and Habs have played 15 times in a variety of playoff series, with Montreal winning eight of them. They last played in the playoffs in 1979. Leafs haven’t won a playoff game against the Habs since Toronto won the Stanley Cup in 1967. When the NHL season was halted, Montreal had 71 points, 10 fewer than the  Leafs … Imagine that: A Montreal-Toronto series and no fans in the stands … Mike Futa, whose contract wasn’t renewed by the Kings, has interviewed for numerous GM jobs around the NHL in recent years, including with the Maple Leafs … Nice guy Art Howe, who was terribly and inaccurately misrepresented in the movie Moneyball, is in hospital with COVID-19. Thinking of him and all those who are struggling. Thinking also of Alex Delvecchio, the smooth Red Wings centre, living alone in a nursing home in Detroit at the tender age of 88.

HEAR AND THERE

Defencemen better than P.K. Subban at this point in time: Roman Josi, John Carlson, Drew Doughty, Victor Hedman, Alex Pietrangelo, Ryan Suter, Brent Burns, Mark Giordano, Miro Heiskanen, Kris Letang, Seth Jones, Dougie Hamilton, Shea Weber, Morgan Rielly, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Erik Karlsson, Thomas Chabot, Zach Werenski, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, and the kids Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar. And I’m probably missing a few. If Subban wants back in the Norris Trophy conversation, and he should want that, that’s a large group to leap over … The only three defencemen with worse plus-minus numbers than Jake Gardiner this season all played for the rather terrible Detroit Red Wings … For some reason, and we’re not sure why, commissioner Gary Bettman wants former Oilers and Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli back working in the NHL. He’d like to place him with the historically dysfunctional Arizona Coyotes. The league would also like Shane Doan to wind up with the Coyotes, but there’s apparently some bad feelings about how everything ended for him in 2017. Doan currently works for the league … Pierre McGuire denies it but word is he recently interviewed for the GM job that may or may not be open in New Jersey. “They have a GM,” said McGuire … It’s no wonder why people are turning away from the WWE. The lack of stars and interesting characters and plot-lines are easy to bypass. When Wrestlemania 6 was held in Toronto in 1990, the lineup included Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, Macho Man Savage, Andre The Giant, Bret Hart, Ultimate Warrior, Shawn Michaels, Dusty Rhodes, Jake (The Snake) Roberts, Jimmy Snuka — all of whom were bigger stars than anyone working WWE today.

SCENE AND HEARD

My best investment this year: Argos season tickets. The money I paid for them will be refunded if they don’t play, dollar for dollar. Over the same period of time, my BMO stock has gone from $100 a share to $62 … For the record, this will be the second consecutive Victoria Day that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. won’t be in the Blue Jays starting lineup … One thing the WWE has going for it: It’s making biological history. The Man is pregnant … I checked my milk carton. He wasn’t on it. Anyone knowing the whereabouts of NHLPA leader Donald Fehr, please contact the authorities … It still bothers me that the Leafs and Raptors have raised ticket prices for next season, assuming there is a next season. Who can afford more today than they could yesterday? …  For a late-bloomer like Cavan Biggio, losing a half season or even an entire season at this time, it has to be personal. Especially when his career seems just poised to take off … Among the many rules baseball is looking at for a re-opening is no post-game buffets in the clubhouse. And I can’t help but think of the late Tony Fernandez, leaning over a post-game plate full of roast beef, mashed potatoes, and all kinds of gravy in Boston on a night he sat out complaining of stomach pains. Roger Clemens happened to be pitching for the Red Sox that night. That could give anyone stomach pains.

AND ANOTHER THING

This is made for the movies: LeBron James’ production company is planning to do a docu-drama on the Houston Astros cheating scandal … I admit it. Being home for 60-plus days is getting to me. I have zero interest in UFC and watched six hours of it last Saturday night — and didn’t hate it. The lasting impression: The power of heavyweight Francis Ngannou. There’s some young George Foreman in this guy … The UFC did about $50 million in pay-per-view sales last weekend, which is impressive when  you consider how many people have figured out how to stream this stuff for free … My Netflix tout of the week: Waco … It’s been 13 months since Dion Phaneuf last played an NHL game and he still hasn’t announced his retirement. Odd … Did anybody else find it funny that London MP Peter Fragiskatos wasn’t happy about the CFL asking for government support because too many of its players are American. In fact, most of the highest-paid players in the CFL are American and guess where they pay their taxes? Here … By the way, Auston Matthews, Johnny Gaudreau and Brock Boeser are Americans playing in Canadian NHL cities. They also pay the majority of their taxes in Canada. Does Fragiskatos know that? … I understand the CFL meeting with government and asking for help. I understand the CFLPA meeting with government and asking for help. I don’t understand them doing it separately … Happy birthday to Sugar Ray Leonard (64), Tessa Virtue (31), Jack Morris (65), Thurman Thomas (54), Terence Davis (23), Floyd Smith (85), Simon Whitfield (45), John Salley (54), Kyle Wellwood (37) and Jeff Skinner (28) … And hey, whatever became of Colby Rasmus?

ssimmons@postmedia.com

twitter.com/simmonssteve

There’s never a wrong time to tell a Rickey Henderson story. Here’s one of my favourites.

Henderson was 39 years old, in his 20th big league season and still playing regularly on a young Oakland A’s team that had a 24-year-old rookie catcher in A.J. Hinch and a 24-year-old shortstop star in Miguel Tejada. The team was on a bus one day during the 1998 season and the young players, sitting near the front of the bus, started playing team trivia.

Where were you when Kirk Gibson hit the home run?

Do you remember the Carlton Fisk home run?

The questions were being asked, the answers were being shouted out.

Then came the big question: Where were you when Joe Carter hit the home run? Jason Giambi had just finished a season of A ball in Modesto. Hinch was still in college, at Stanford. The Canadian, Matt Stairs, was home after a triple-A season in Ottawa and a few days with the Montreal Expos.

The answers from the A’s were lively and all over the place, I’m told, and then a voice from the back of the bus was heard?

Where were you when Joe Carter hit the home run?

“I was on second base,” said Henderson.

The great Henderson, by the way, went on to play five more years for five more teams. His all-time WAR was 111.2, just behind a couple of guys named Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams.

The settlement looked huge. The lawsuit against the Canadian Hockey League and its Canadian operators finally came to a conclusion Friday when it was announced that $30 million will be paid out by junior hockey to those involved with the class action suit.

At first glance, it looked like the players won large with their suit. But first glances are often deceiving.

The lawyers won huge — they’ll get somewhere in the $10-million range. But the purpose of the lawsuit launched by players, who believe they were wronged in junior hockey and not paid an appropriate wage, including former Leaf Bill Berg’s son, Sam, essentially lost their fight. The rules of operating in junior hockey haven’t changed here. They will still operate without paying reasonable wages to players.

The $20 million or so remaining will be split among the more than 4,000 players who were involved in the class action suit. That money will mostly be paid by insurance carriers. It’s a pretty small settlement big-picture for each individual player, especially considering the grief many of them took for being involved in trying to change the system. They’ll probably get a few thousand dollars each. In the end, it was a lot of noise and a lot of fight and a lot of purpose and a lot of money moving around — and basically nothing changing.

The hope now is that at last junior operators will learn from being so crass and nasty with their players. That’s a hope, it may not be a reality.

—-

The question I asked to Rob Ray, who fought more than 270 times in his NHL career, was rather basic: If you came back this summer to play, knowing the world has all but stopped for COVID-19, knowing how you played your game, would you fight?

“I wouldn’t have to,” said for the former enforcer for the Buffalo Sabres. “There isn’t really any fighting in the NHL anymore. And when it comes to playoffs, there isn’t really any fighting there either.”

The NHL has never officially put in rules to prevent fighting in hockey. But as both science and the game have evolved, along with some legalities, fighting has basically disappeared. But I can’t help but wonder: If you play this summer, what happens with contact, with scrums, with pushing and shoving, with face-washes, all still part of the NHL game?

“You may think about COVID before the game and you might think about it afterwards, but I think when the game begins, you’ll be so dialed in to the game that you won’t know what’s going to happen,” said Ray. “If you’re programmed the way I was programmed, you might not think about it for that split second. You’re going to do what comes naturally. Playoffs are the most intense hockey of the year. You’re going to have some altercations of some kind. That’s only natural.”

But how natural will it be in an arena without fans or noise?

“Do you hear the crowd when you play?” said Ray. “I don’t. I never did. You’re so dialled in you have no idea what the crowd is doing, you’re so focussed on your thing. Most of the time, I never heard the crowd. I don’t think it’s a big deal playing without fans.”

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Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley says Donald Trump doesn't have 'a moral bone in his body' – The Globe and Mail

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In this Nov. 13, 2019, file photo, Toronto FC MLS soccer player Michael Bradley speaks to the media during an end of season availability in Toronto.

Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley pulled no punches Thursday, lamenting the “zero leadership” south of the border as the U.S. is ravaged by racial unrest.

The long-time U.S. skipper took square aim at President Donald Trump.

“We have a President who is completely empty. There isn’t a moral bone in his body,” Bradley told a news conference call.

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“There’s no leadership. There’s no leadership from the President, there’s no leadership from the Republican senators who have sat back and been totally complicit in everything he’s done for the last three and a half years.”

Bradley urged his fellow Americans to speak with their ballot in November, saying it was “impossible to overstate” the importance of the coming election.

“I just hope that people are able to go to the polls in November and think about more than just what is good for them, more than what is good for their own status, their own business, their own tax return. I hope that people can go to the polls and understand that in so many ways, the future of our country and the future of our democracy is at stake.

“We need as many people as possible to understand that at a real level, to think about what four more years with Trump as president, what that would mean, how terrible that would be for so many people.”

Referencing racial inequality and social injustice, Bradley added: “If we want any chance to start to fix those things, then Trump can’t be president, it’s as simple as that.”

The 32-year-old Bradley has run through the gamut of emotions while watching the violence and unrest unfold in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis while three police officers restrained him — one with his knee on Floyd’s neck.

“I’m angry, I’m horrified, I’m sad and I’m determined to do anything and everything I can to try to be a part of the fix,” he said. “Because it has to end. And we all have to be part of that fix.”

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He acknowledged that while he has much to learn on the issues, politicians, policy-makers and businesses have to be held accountable.

Bradley has criticized Trump before. In January, 2017, he said he was “sad and embarrassed” by Trump’s travel ban aimed at citizens of predominantly Muslim countries.

The TFC captain, while happy to see the MLS labour impasse over, noted there had been “some real difficult moments along the way.” That included a threat of a lockout from the league.

Such tactics “did not sit well with the players,” he said.

He also said there had been a frustrating absence of dialogue right from the beginning of talks, which he acknowledged played out against an unprecedented global threat.

“This, at a certain point for me, was about what’s right and what’s wrong in the middle of the pandemic. And the way to treat people and the way that you look after people. I kept coming back to that idea. That we have all put so much into growing the game in North America, at all levels — ownership, league office, executives coaches, players, fans.

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“Everybody is important to what we’re trying to do. To try to dismiss any of the entities that I just named would be short-sighted and disrespectful because the game is about everybody.”

He said he would have loved to have seen everyone get on the same page early on and find a way “to cut through the [bull].”

“To just say, ‘This is where we are right now. Nobody has a playbook. Nobody has any answers, but how are we going to come out better and stronger from all of this?’ … I think conversations would have carried so much more weight and I think we would have been able to avoid so much of the way certain things played out.”

Bradley underwent ankle surgery in January to repair an injury suffered in the MLS Cup final loss in Seattle on Nov 10. His rehab over, he was part of a small group training session Thursday.

“I’m doing well,” he said. “I’m continuing to make progress. … At this point, physically, I feel really good. My ankle feels really good. And now it’s just about training. Getting back into real training in a way that now prepares me for games.”

Still, he said injuries are an issue in the league’s return to play given the time that has passed since the league suspended play March 12.

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“That is a big concern,” he said. “And it’s not a big concern only amongst players. I know that has been a real topic amongst coaches and sports science staff and medical staff.”

While teams will do everything possible to get the players ready, a compressed schedule at the Florida tournament that awaits teams won’t help injury fears, he said.

“That certainly is a big question. Maybe the biggest question when you get past the initial health and safety stuff of COVID, among players and coaches and technical staff,” he said.

“How are we going to give ourselves the best chance to win, but also do it in a way where guys are at their highest level both technically and physically.”

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MLBPA rejects league’s demand for additional salary concessions – Sportsnet.ca

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NEW YORK — Baseball players reaffirmed their stance for full prorated pay, leaving a huge gap with teams that could scuttle plans to start the coronavirus-delayed season around the Fourth of July and may leave owners focusing on a schedule as short as 50 games.

More than 100 players, including the union’s executive board, held a two-hour digital meeting with officials of the Major League Baseball Players Association on Thursday, a day after the union’s offer was rejected by Major League Baseball.

“Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless players negotiate salary concessions,” union head Tony Clark said in a statement. “The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon. This threat came in response to an association proposal aimed at charting a path forward.”

“Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless players agree to further salary reductions,” Clark added.

Players originally were set to earn about $4 billion in 2020 salaries, exclusive of guaranteed money such as signing bonuses, termination pay and option buyouts. The union’s plan would cut that to around $2.8 billion and management to approximately $1.2 billion-plus a $200 million bonus pool if the post-season is completed.

MLB last week proposed an 82-game season with an additional sliding scale of pay cuts that would leave a player at the $563,500 minimum with 47% of his original salary and top stars Mike Trout and Gerrit Cole at less than 22% of the $36 million they had been set to earn.

Players countered Sunday with a plan for a 114-game regular season with no pay cuts beyond the prorated salaries they agreed to on March 26. That would leave each player with about 70 per cent of his original pay.

MLB rejected that Wednesday, when Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem wrote in a letter to union chief negotiator Bruce Meyer informing him “we do not have any reason to believe that a negotiated solution for an 82-game season is possible.”

“Nonetheless, the commissioner is committed to playing baseball in 2020,” Halem said in the letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press. “He has started discussions with ownership about staging a shorter season without fans.”

Management officials have said they are considering a slate of perhaps 50 games or fewer. There has not been a schedule averaging fewer than 82 games per team since 1879.

“The overwhelming consensus of the board is that players are ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions that could affect the health and safety of not just themselves, but their families as well,” Clark said in a statement. “The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.”

Baseball’s March 26 deal allows games if there are no government restrictions on playing in front of fans and no relevant travel limitations. The sides agreed to “discuss in good faith” the economic feasibility of playing in empty ballparks, which appears to be the likely option.

MLB says that without fans it would average a loss of $640,000 for each additional game played. The union disputes the teams’ financial figures.

Teams also worry about a second wave of the new coronavirus this fall and don’t want to play past October, fearing $787 million in broadcast revenue for the post-season could be lost. MLB proposed expanding the playoffs from 10 teams to 14, which would generate additional broadcast rights to sell, and players have offered to guarantee the larger playoffs for both 2020 and 2021.

While baseball has reverted to the economic bickering that led to eight work stoppages from 1972-95, the NBA announced plans Thursday to resume its regular season with 22 teams on July 31, the NHL is moving ahead with plans for an expanded Stanley Cup playoffs this summer and MLS is planning to have teams return with a tournament in July.

“In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, players want nothing more than to get back to work,” Clark said. “But we cannot do this alone.”

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TFC's Bradley on Trump: We have a president who is completely empty – TSN

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Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley pulled no punches Thursday, lamenting the “zero leadership” south of the border as the U.S. is ravaged by racial unrest.

The longtime U.S. skipper took square aim at president Donald Trump.

“We have a president who is completely empty. There isn’t a moral bone in his body,” Bradley told a media conference call.

“There’s no leadership. There’s no leadership from the president, there’s no leadership from the Republican senators who have sat back and been totally complicit in everything he’s done for the last 3 1/2 years.”

Bradley urged his fellow Americans to speak with their ballot in November, saying it was “impossible to overstate” the importance of the coming election.

“I just hope that people are able to go to the polls in November and think about more than just what is good for them, more than what is good for their own status, their own business, their own tax return. I hope that people can go to the polls and understand that in so many ways, the future of our country and the future of our democracy is at stake.

“We need as many people as possible to understand that at a real level, to think about what four more years with Trump as president, what that would mean, how terrible that would be for so many people.”

Referencing racial inequality and social injustice, Bradley added: “If we want any chance to start to fix those things, then Trump can’t be president, it’s as simple as that.”

The 32-year-old Bradley has run through the gamut of emotions while watching the violence and unrest unfold in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis while three police officers restrained him — one with his knee on Floyd’s neck.

“I’m angry, I’m horrified, I’m sad and I’m determined to do anything and everything I can to try to be a part of the fix,” he said. “Because it has to end. And we all have to be part of that fix.”

He acknowledged that while he has much to learn on the issues, politicians, policy-makers and businesses have to be held accountable.

“My man Mike is a as real as they come. Nothing but the truth here,” teammate Joze Altidore tweeted.

Bradley has criticized Trump before. In January 2017, he said he was “sad and embarrassed” by Trump’s travel ban aimed at citizens of predominantly Muslim countries.

The TFC captain, while happy to see the MLS labour impasse over, noted there had been “some real difficult moments along the way.” That included a threat of a lockout from the league.

Such tactics “did not sit well with the players,” he said.

He also said there had been a frustrating absence of dialogue right from the beginning of talks, which he acknowledged played out against an unprecedented global threat.

“This, at a certain point for me, was about what’s right and what’s wrong in the middle of the pandemic. And the way to treat people and the way that you look after people. I kept coming back to that idea. That we have all put so much into growing the game in North America, at all levels — ownership, league office, executives coaches, players, fans.

“Everybody is important to what we’re trying to do. To try to dismiss any of the entities that I just named would be short-sighted and disrespectful because the game is about everybody.”

He said he would have loved to have seen everyone get on the same page early on and find a way “to cut through the (bull).”

“To just say ‘This is where we are right now. Nobody has a playbook. Nobody has any answers but how are we going to come out better and stronger from all of this? … I think conversations would have carried so much more weight and I think we would have been able to avoid so much of the way certain things played out.”

Bradley underwent ankle surgery in January to repair an injury suffered in the MLS Cup final loss in Seattle on Nov 10. His rehab over, he was part of a small group training session Thursday.

“I’m doing well,” he said. “I’m continuing to make progress … At this point physically I feel really good. My ankle feels really good. And now it’s just about training. Getting back into real training in a way that now prepares me for games.”

Still, he said injuries are an issue in the league’s return to play given the time that has passed since the league suspended play March 12.

“That is a big concern,” he said. “And it’s not a big concern only amongst players. I know that has been a real topic amongst coaches and sports science staff and medical staff.”

While teams will do everything possible to get the players ready, a compressed schedule at the Florida tournament that awaits teams won’t help injury fears, he said.

“That certainly is a big question. Maybe the biggest question when you get past the initial health and safety stuff of COVID, among players and coaches and technical staff,” he said.

“How are we going to give ourselves the best chance to win, but also do it in a way where guys are at their highest level both technically and physically”

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