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SIMMONS SAYS: Confrontations with angry season ticket holders ends in compromise for Leafs and Raptors – Toronto Sun



Frustrated and disappointed season ticket holders of the Maple Leafs and Raptors will get a financial break of some sort on Monday when they’re informed that their April 8 deadline payment on next season’s tickets will be pushed back a month.

That decision has been made after heated exchanges between season ticket holders and account executives, many that ended up with name-calling and threats of removing tickets.

The change of date by one month is a consolation of some kind for those who have been scrapping with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. The push back is nice at first glance but still probably not enough for those whose businesses, lives or professions have been on hold in the wake of COVID-19.

Earlier, MLSE had offered some financial flexibility for season ticket holders of the Argos and Toronto FC. The big money, though, comes from Leafs and Raptors tickets.

The request for a down payment on season tickets, moved to May 8 now, comes without understanding of what happens to money already paid for tickets and games that may not be played. There are seven games left on the Maple Leafs regular season schedule and nine Raptors games remaining. All of them paid in full by ticket holders.

With the likelihood that the remaining money will be advanced towards the purchase of next season’s tickets. Raptor ticket prices have gone up by 6% for the coming season, Leafs tickets will be up around 9% price.


Stick tap to the NHL for being the first of four major leagues to make their star players available for online interviews during this shutdown. That was the good part. The bad part, the NHL deciding who could or couldn’t be on the calls. That’s a dangerous game for any professional league to be playing, determining who you want to cover you … Watched the famous Wayne Gretzky high stick on Friday. Backed it up and watched it again. And again. It’s easy to see the blood on Doug Gilmour from 1993. It’s not so easy to see the high stick that referee Kerry Fraser never called. If you have to watch something over and over again to get a sense of exactly what happened on the play, you can’t expect an on-ice official, in real time, without replay, to make the call … The Leafs still could have won Game 6 and that series had Glenn Anderson not taken a really foolish penalty in the final seconds of regulation time and had the Leafs defence, on a penalty kill, left Gretzky all alone in front of Toronto’s goal. It’s 27 years ago and in a way seems like yesterday … Watched Gilmour play in the Stanley Cup Finals with the Calgary Flames in 1989 and again in the playoffs in 1991. He was a good player. But watch him with the Leafs in `93 and `94 and he was sensational. You wouldn’t have known it was the same guy and not many years apart. Something magical happened to Gilmour in Toronto that never happened before or after Toronto … One of the real differences between the 1993 Los Angeles Kings and the Leafs. Kings had Rob Blake on defence. Leafs had no one to compare to him.


Keeping up with the Jones’. Within 24 hours of each other, Jon (Bones) Jones, forever in trouble, got busted for driving while impaired. Another notch on his messed up championship belt. Meanwhile his younger brother, Chandler, a linebacker with the Arizona Cardinals, was donating 150,000 meals to the food back for those affected by coronavirus. Same family, different people … NHL VP Bill Daly talked the other day about finishing the season and the Stanley Cup playoffs. Jays president Mark Shapiro cautioned about figuring it could be months before there’ll be a baseball season. Truth is: we don’t know. We can’t know and we may not know for months. Professional leagues are working out all kinds of scenarios, not knowing the time frame on any of them. In the meantime, be safe, be smart, stay home, and be healthy … You can’t make up stuff like this: Dominik Hasek is considering running for president of the Czech Republic. If he talks as fast in his native tongue as he does in English, no one will understand a word he says … Not knowing who else the Leafs will have on defence next season, but assuming they don’t have Tyson Barrie back, they’ll have to protect Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin plus one of a) new defenceman b) Justin Holl c) Travis Dermott on the backline in the upcoming expansion draft. They could lose a defenceman or goaltender Jack Campbell to the Seattle hopefully named Fielders … You can make a case that O.G. Anunoby is the best small forward in Raptors history, which tells you how thin the list of Toronto small forwards has been. There’s Morris Peterson. There’s Terrence Ross. And there’s who else?


What really doesn’t interest me: Pictures of your dog. You can love your dog. I love dogs. I just don’t care much what yours looks like – or seeing videos of them playing with your cats … Alex Anthopoulos has taken huge heat over the years for trading Noah Syndergaard to the Mets for R.A. Dickey. Dickey started 130 games for the Jays, his last one in 2016. Four years later and Syndergaard has started just 118 for the Mets and he won’t pitch this season, if there is one, and halfway though next season after getting Tommy John surgery … Baseball played a shortened season and shortened playoffs in 1972 but had a terrific seven-game World Series with Catfish Hunter’s Oakland A’s winning Game 7 against the Big Red Machine Cincinnati Reds of the `70s with Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Pete Rose and Tony Perez … The 1979 NHL Draft was delayed and held in August, delayed because of the merger negotiations between the NHL and the WHA. It turned out of be one of the stronger drafts in history. From that draft came: Ray Bourque, Mark Messier, Mike Gartner, Dale Hunter, Michel Goulet, Glenn Anderson, Rick Vaive, Guy Carbonneau and Kevin Lowe. Passed over in that draft: 608 goal scorer Dino Ciccarelli … This isn’t necessarilt coronavirus related: If horse racing can’t make in Canada without government assistance, then say bye bye to horse racing. There’s too much for government to support right now. Horse racing should be way down the list for handouts … Anyone who has already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics will be in for 2021. Now the complicated part, training, money, preparation, lifestyle, qualification standards. The usual. Postponing had to happen. It doesn’t uncomplicate the forever complicated Olympic sporting life.


One hockey game to play, who do you want calling it? Danny Gallivan? Bob Cole? Foster Hewitt? Doc Emrick? Chris Cuthbert? Gord Miller? Dan Kelly? If it was Montreal playing, I’d want Gallivan. For the rest, I’ll take Cole. But I can hear each of them in my head, with their signature calls and their singular styles … Players still in the NHL who were playing in the league the last time there was no Stanley Cup presented: Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Ilya Kovalchuk, Jason Spezza, Justin Williams, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Eric Staal, Ron Hainsey … A good time to catch up on some fine Canadian comedy: Top of my list, Schitt’s Creek, Kim’s Convenience and if you can find these treasures, any reruns of SCTV … My own Muhammad Ali booklist: 1. King of the World by David Remnick; 2. Muhammad Ali by Thomas Hauser; 3. Sound and Fury, two powerful lives (about Ali and Howard Cosell) by Dave Kindred; 4. Facing Ali by Stephen Brunt … Joel Embiid shot 47% in the NBA last season, 37% when playing against Marc Gasol and the Raptors in the playoffs. Gasol played 45 minutes in Game 7 of Round 2, same as Embiid played. Truth: the Raptors don’t win an NBA championship without Kawhi Leonard. But more truth: They don’t win if they don’t trade for Gasol at the deadline … Happy birthday to Tom Wilson (26), Jeff Beukeboom (55), Keith Tkachuk (48), Walt Frazier (75), Rick Barry (76), Denny McLain (76), Marie-Philip Poulin ((29), Egon Beiler (67) and John Anderson (63) … And hey, whatever became of B.J. Ryan?


You probably don’t know the name Borislav Stankovic, but you should.

There may not have been a Toronto NBA team without him.

He was one of prominent international basketball people in the world in the early `90s when his country, Yugoslavia, was on the verge of breaking up. Yugoslavia was supposed to play host to the World Basketball Championship in 1994, but considering the politics, that wasn’t going to happen.

And this was years before ’94. Stankovic, who was friendly with Paul Henderson, the international rowing voice and IOC member, asked Henderson if Toronto had any interest in hosting the world event. Henderson wasn’t sure, years before the event was to bed held.

So he asked local businessman John Bitove if he had interest in putting on the basketball worlds in Toronto, knowing that Bitove had aspirations of eventually bringing an NBA team to this city.

A meeting was set up by Henderson with Stankovic:  Bitove was there along with prominent city politician Joe Halstead and Rick Traer then of Basketball Canada. At the meeting, the group asked Stankovic if he would introduce them to David Stern, then commissioner of the NBA. This was before there was an NBA team in the city.

The world championships were held in Toronto in the summer of 1994. But before that, in November of 1993, Toronto was awarded an NBA expansion franchise. Bitove was the original owner.

Borislav Stankovic passed away last week at the age of 95. The Raptors are the defending NBA champions. Paul Henderson, by the way, who set up the original meeting, has been to just one Raptors game in the club’s history.


I’ve been watching too many old NHL games in recent days and the more you see of Wendel Clark in 1993 and 1994 – he scored 19 playoff goals in 39 games – the more you realize the kind of guts it must have taken for Cliff Fletcher to make the deal for Mats Sundin.

Clark was a tour de force in the `93 series against the Los Angeles Kings and it was clear his wrist shot had completely intimidated Kings’ goalie Kelly Hrudey. In the famous Game 6 – the Wayne Gretzky high stick that wasn’t called – Clark scored a hat trick against Hrudey.

In retrospect, considering all Sundin did for the Leafs, it was an easy and necessary trade to make. But looking back, and considering the circumstances, it had to have been gut wrenching for Fletcher, who was no stranger to making big deals.

He brought Doug Gilmour to Toronto. He traded Clark away for Sundin. He brought in future Hall of Fame players Glenn Anderson, Dave Andreychuk, Mike Gartner and Grant Fuhr to play for the Leafs.

Before that, Fletcher had traded for Joey Mullen, Lanny McDonald and Doug Risebrough while with the Flames – and also, traded Brett Hull away.

But when you watch Clark’s last season with the Leafs, first time around, he scored 55 goals in 82 games, regular season and playoffs combined. Huge numbers. And then was dealt. And he never scored like that again.

When offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga recently left the Green Bay Packers for the Los Angeles Chargers, I found myself thinking of a conversation we had during the lead up to Super Bowl XLV.

I was working on a story on Mike McCarthy, then coach of the Packers, now coach of the Dallas Cowboys, and asking a variety of players to pass on their best McCarthy anecdote.

Bulaga told this story. He was a rookie with the Packers and during training camp McCarthy made the unusual decision to give the team the afternoon off from two-a-day football practices and replace the practice with a home run derby, softball style.

The winner got a car that was sitting in the Packers parking lot, fully covered.

The derby came down to the rookie Bulaga and the veteran receiver Donald Driver. A huge man and a not so huge man. A 300-pounder against a 190-pounder. “I was basically broke at the time,” said Bulaga. “I needed that car.”

Bulaga went on to win the home run competition. When he and his teammates got to the parking lot to unveil the winning vehicle, they found a dented, beaten-up, trashed car. The whole team had a good laugh about it. Except for maybe Bulaga, who is laughing all these years later.

The deal he recently signed with the Chargers is for three years and $30 million, $19.2 million of that guaranteed. If he needs a new car, he doesn’t have to hit home runs. He can just buy one.

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Toronto FC captain says Donald Trump doesn't have 'a moral bone in his body' – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

Published Thursday, June 4, 2020 7:23PM EDT

Last Updated Thursday, June 4, 2020 11:08PM EDT

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”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 4, 2020.

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NBA owners approve 22-team season restart plan – CityNews Toronto



The NBA’s Board of Governors has approved a 22-team format for restarting the league season in late July at the Disney campus near Orlando, Florida, another major step toward getting teams back onto the court and playing games again.

The format calls for each team playing eight games to determine playoff seeding plus the possible utilization of a play-in tournament for the final spot in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference post-season fields. The National Basketball Players Association has a call on Friday to approve the plan as well.

Thursday’s vote was the most significant step yet in the process of trying to resume a season that was suspended nearly three months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic. There are numerous other details for the league to continue working through – including finalizing specifics of what the testing plan will be once teams arrive next month at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex and the calculating the financial ramifications of playing a shortened regular season.

“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “While the COVID-19 pandemic presents formidable challenges, we are hopeful of finishing the season in a safe and responsible manner based on strict protocols now being finalized with public health officials and medical experts.”

Meanwhile, a person speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the details of the ongoing talks have not been publicly released, said the NBPA and the NBA are continuing to work on a “lengthy” medical protocols document. The details of that document will be shared with teams once those discussions are completed, said the person, who added that teams should receive them in plenty of time for them to prepare for their arrivals at the Disney-ESPN complex.

The NBA also said it is planning to have the draft lottery Aug. 25, the draft on Oct. 15 and start next season on Dec. 1.

If all 22 teams that are going to Disney next month play their allotted eight games before the post-season begins, the NBA would play 1,059 games in this regular season. That means 171 regular season games would be cancelled, which could cost players around $600 million in salary.

Those 22 clubs would play somewhere between 71 and 75 regular season games if the Disney portion of the schedule is completed, down from the customary 82-game slate. The teams who didn’t qualify for the restart will see their seasons end after having played somewhere between 64 and 67 games.

But one of the biggest hurdles is now cleared, and if things go according to plan an NBA champion for a season unlike any other will be crowned in October. The season could go into that month if the league goes ahead with its plan for the same playoff rules as usual, that being every round utilizing a best-of-seven format.

Teams will likely arrive at the Disney complex around July 7. Once there, camps will continue and teams will likely have the chance to have some scrimmages or “preseason” games against other clubs before the regular season resumes.

Thursday’s move by the board of governors – one that came, coincidentally, on the same day this season’s NBA Finals would have started if these were normal times – was largely a formality. The NBA considered countless restart options after suspending the season on March 11, whittled that list down to four possibilities last week and from there the 22-team plan quickly began gaining momentum.

The 22-team plan includes all teams that were holding playoff spots when the season was stopped, plus all other clubs within six games of a post-season berth.

Milwaukee, the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston and reigning NBA champion Toronto had already clinched playoff berths. Now with only eight games remaining for each team, it means that eight other clubs – Miami, Indiana, Philadelphia, the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver, Utah, Oklahoma City and Houston – have post-season spots secured, and Dallas virtually has one as well.

That leaves nine teams vying for three remaining playoff berths. In the East, Brooklyn, Orlando and Washington are in the race for two spots. In the West, Memphis, Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio and Phoenix will jostle for one spot.

If the gap between eighth place and ninth place in either conference is four games or less when the shortened regular season ends, those teams will go head-to-head for the No. 8 seed. The team in ninth place would have to go 2-0 in a two-game series to win the berth; otherwise, the No. 8 seed would advance to the post-season.

Thursday’s decision also means that the seasons for Atlanta, Cleveland, New York, Golden State, Minnesota, Detroit, Chicago and Charlotte are over. The Knicks will miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season, the third-longest current drought in the league behind Sacramento and Phoenix – who still have chances of getting into the playoffs this season.

And with the Hawks not moving on, it also means Vince Carter has almost certainly played the final game of his 22-year NBA career – the longest in league history.

Carter, the first player in NBA history to appear in four different decades, is retiring. He appeared in 1,541 NBA games, behind only Robert Parish (1,611) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,560) on the league’s all-time list.

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LeBron James explains why he can’t ‘stick to sports’ in Instagram video –



More than two years ago, Fox News television host Laura Ingraham asked LeBron James to “shut up and dribble” when the superstar was publicly critical of U.S. President Donald Trump.

On Thursday, in the wake of widespread protests about racial injustices following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, James posted a powerful video on Instagram to explain why he won’t fulfill Ingraham’s request.

The video is a series of sentences that cleverly transition in sync with the sound of a basketball’s bounce.

First, they are sports themed: “Shut up and dribble”; “Shut up and tackle.”

Then, they become more general: “Shut up and get paid”; “Shut up and just do your job.”

Next, they start telling the story of an encounter with police: “Shut up and do you live around here?”; “Shut up and you fit the description.”

That leads to sentences that loosely depict the injustice Floyd faced when Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin put all his weight on a prone Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes: “Shut up and get on the ground”; “Shut up and lay still.”

Finally, James closes with a statement and a question: “This is why we can’t just stick to sports. Do you understand now?”

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