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Spezza wants to return to Maple Leafs, can become free agent – NHL.com

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Jason Spezza said he has no plans to retire and wants to return to the Toronto Maple Leafs next season.

The forward, who will turn 37 on June 13, signed a one-year, $700,000 contract with his hometown team July 1, 2019. He can become an unrestricted free agent after the 2019-20 season, which was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

“I definitely feel like I have game left and there is nowhere I’d rather be than play another year here in Toronto,” Spezza said. “I do hope it works out.

“At this point, it’s not the focus (because of the pandemic), but I would love to be back. I feel we’re building things with this club and I want to be part of it.”

Spezza scored 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in 58 games this season, seeing regular time on Toronto’s second power-play unit, and he won 54.0 percent of his face-offs.

Those statistics show Spezza is still effective in certain roles, but he said he wasn’t sure what his roles were at the beginning of the season.

Under coach Mike Babcock, Spezza was a healthy scratch for 10 of Toronto’s first 23 games and admitted he was confused at how he was — or wasn’t — being used.

“It obviously wasn’t the start I envisioned … (but) I didn’t really want to feel sorry for myself,” Spezza said. “I was just trying to just stay in the fight and give myself an opportunity to play well when I did get in.”

That opportunity came Nov. 20, when Babcock was fired as Maple Leafs coach and replaced by Sheldon Keefe.

With Keefe showing renewed confidence in him, Spezza played in all but two of Toronto’s next 47 games prior to the pause, and he scored six of his seven power-play points this season after the coaching change.

“We went through the start of the season where I was in and out of the lineup and just trying to establish myself to find a certain (role) with the team,” Spezza said. “I think as the year progressed, my role became more defined, and then I was able to focus on just playing and being a more positive influence on the games every night, and less so about being in and out of the lineup. I think that helped me know what my role was, and what was expected of me.

“As the year progressed, I got more and more comfortable with the system. Different nights I would move around in the lineup. It was fun and it was a great challenge.”

Video: ANA@TOR: Spezza fakes then scores go-ahead goal

One player who would welcome Spezza’s return is forward Zach Hyman, who sits beside him in the Maple Leafs locker room and said his influence goes much deeper than his NHL career statistics (940 points in 1,123 games). 

“I picked his brain a bunch,” Hyman said last week. “You can ask him any question about hockey and he will have an answer for it.

“He has been through a lot this year and he had a calm and steady demeanor through it and was a great presence for our younger guys. It would be awesome to have him back.”

Although Spezza wants to return for another season, he is still hopeful he’ll get to resume this one with Toronto (36-25-9), which is in third place in the Atlantic Division. 

He said he was impressed with the growth in accountability many of the younger players on the Maple Leafs developed in what he described as an inconsistent season.

“We have a much more mature locker room than we did at the beginning of the season,” Spezza said. “There’s a lot more ownership.”

Spezza also mentioned 22-year-old forwards Mitchell Marner and Auston Matthews helping revitalize him at this stage in his career.

“With [Marner] it’s the enthusiasm, the excitement, the energy he brings every day. He’s got an infectious personality,” Spezza said. “The guys love being around him. Kind of like the Energizer bunny, going around the rink and yapping at guys. … As for [Matthews], I’ve really taken to him. He loves the game. He works really hard at it. People don’t realize how dedicated he is. … I can relate to him because I was like that as a young guy.

“There’s no limits to how good you can be with a team when you have high-end guys like that.”

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Conor McGregor retires (again) via Twitter moments after UFC 250 – MMA Fighting

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For the third time in his career, former two-division champ Conor McGregor suddenly retired via Twitter. And as with his first two announcements, there were immediate questions and speculation as to his true intentions.

“Hey guys I’ve decided to retire from fighting,” McGregor wrote in a tweet posted just moments after the conclusion of UFC 250. “Thank you all for the amazing memories! What a ride it’s been! Here is a picture of myself and my mother in Las Vegas post one of my World title wins! Pick the home of your dreams Mags I love you! Whatever you desire it’s yours.”

Many fans suspected the Irish star was either trolling or engaging in a form of contract negotiations. The previous two times McGregor signed off – first in 2016 when he declared “thanks for the cheese” and the second when he retired from “Mixed Martial Art” – he was in the midst of negotiations with the UFC over his next fight and later returned to competition after hashing things out behind the scenes.

A rep for McGregor’s team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The 31-year-old McGregor’s path remained unknown after his triumphant return to the octagon in January with a first-round drubbing of Donald Cerrone at UFC 246. He bounced from opponent to opponent, targeting rival Khabib Nurmagomedov, who submitted him in a pay-per-view blockbuster at UFC 229, Jorge Masvidal, and, most recently, Anderson Silva. Many of his requests were filtered through UFC President Dana White, who most recently suggested the ex-champ wait for the winner of Nurmagomedov’s title unifier against interim champ Justin Gaethje, which is expected to take place in September.

Apparently, McGregor wasn’t keen on that, and with one tweet, he took the attention from the UFC’s most recent PPV product and redirected it at him. If the retirement sticks, it would add the promotion’s biggest star bar none to a group of major stars who’d recently backed away from the company. In the past week, top stars Jon Jones and Jorge Masvidal asked to be released from contract, citing disputes over pay and treatment.

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UFC 250 bonuses: Cody Garbrandt, Sean O’Malley earn bonuses for dramatic one-punch knockouts – MMA Fighting

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UFC 250 had no shortage of exciting finishes and four fighters rewarded for avoiding the judges.

Cody Garbrandt and Sean O’Malley both received $50,000 Performance of the Night bonuses for their sensational one-punch knockouts of Raphael Assuncao and Eddie Wineland, respectively. For Garbrandt, his win came at the second-round buzzer, while O’Malley needed less than a round to silence Wineland and he did so in style walking off after landing a blasting Wineland with right hand.

O’Malley has now won a bonus in each of his three UFC appearances to date.

In lieu of a Fight of the Night award, two other fighters received a Performance of the Night bonus, Aljamain Sterling and Alex Perez.

Sterling cemented his status as a future title challenger with an 88-second rear-naked choke submission of Cory Sandhagen, who was previously unbeaten in the UFC. Perez made short work of longtime flyweight contender Jussier Formiga, forcing a referee stoppage after dropping Formiga with leg kicks.

That’s back-to-back fight night bonuses for Perez now, while Sterling cashes in for the first time in his six years with the UFC.

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Conor McGregor says he’s ‘decided to retire from fighting’ – Sportsnet.ca

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Conor McGregor has announced his retirement for the third time in four years.

McGregor abruptly made his latest dubious declaration Sunday morning on his Twitter account, where the former two-division UFC champion also announced his retirement in 2016 and 2019.

“Hey guys I’ve decided to retire from fighting,” McGregor wrote in a caption below a photo of him and his mother. “Thank you all for the amazing memories! What a ride it’s been!”

The 31-year-old Irish superstar revitalized his combat sports career in January with an impressive first-round stoppage of Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at UFC 246. McGregor (22-4) hadn’t won a fight in a mixed martial arts cage or a boxing ring since 2016, but he remained the UFC’s brightest star and biggest financial draw.

UFC President Dana White has already said McGregor is next in line for a title shot at the winner of lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s bout with Justin Gaethje this summer.

The UFC’s schedule is in upheaval due to the coronavirus pandemic, but McGregor was expected to get his title shot later this year, and he recently had been talking to White about taking another fight even earlier. Earlier this week, McGregor posted photos and videos of himself training for fights.

White was still willing to take McGregor’s retirement announcement at face value — at least publicly — when he learned about it at his news conference following UFC 250 in Las Vegas.

“If Conor McGregor feels he wants to retire, you know my feelings about retirement,” White said. “You should absolutely do it. And I love Conor. … There’s a handful of people that have made this really fun for me, and he’s one of them.”

Retirements are a time-honoured device for gathering attention and increased bargaining power in combat sports. From Muhammad Ali and Floyd Mayweather to Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell, countless champions of boxing and MMA have gone back on their solemn announcements whenever need or ego brought them back to the sport.

McGregor made his first Twitter retirement announcement in April 2016 during a spat with the UFC over promotion of his rematch with Nate Diaz.

McGregor famously wrote: “I have decided to retire young. Thanks for the cheese. Catch ya’s later.”

McGregor and Diaz fought in August 2016.

Three years later, McGregor retired again in March 2019 in what White believed was a gambit to entice the UFC to offer him an ownership stake in the company. McGregor began talking about new fights shortly afterward, and he eventually returned to face Cerrone in early 2020.

The loquacious McGregor has long proven that his pronouncements can’t be taken as gospel truth. Earlier this year, McGregor “accepted” future fights against former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva and long-retired boxing superstar Oscar De La Hoya with little reason to think they will ever happen.

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