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St. Louis caps off incredible All-Star Weekend –



The Great One, the honorary captain for the Pacific, talked about how far hockey had come here since the St. Louis Blues entered the NHL as an expansion team in 1967.

Five players from St. Louis were selected in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft. The Blues hosted the 2017 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Busch Stadium, won the Stanley Cup for the first time last season, then opened a four-sheet, $80 million practice facility and completed a three-stage, $120 million renovation of Enterprise Center before this season.

Now this.

“Everything’s been incredible,” said Gretzky, who played for the Blues at the end of the 1995-96 season. “Of course, winning the Stanley Cup was icing on the cake, and this weekend and festivities have been just tremendous here. Everybody’s really enjoyed it. These players are such great athletes. It was a great show and a great weekend.”

[RELATED: Complete 2020 NHL All-Star Game coverage]

It was the first NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis since 1988, and it was the first time since 1989, when Gretzky returned to Edmonton as a member of the Los Angeles Kings, that the defending Stanley Cup champion hosted the NHL All-Star Game.

Fans soaked it up from the 2020 NHL Fan Fair at Union Station, the historic train station that recently completed its own $187 million renovation, to the game itself.

“Being here for the Stanley Cup and then coming back for the All-Star Game, I can’t tell you the energy that is infused in the city,” said actress Jenna Fischer, who is from St. Louis and was the honorary captain for the Atlantic Division.

“I was down at Union Station today as part of the Fan Fair, and that was amazing. Having the Stanley Cup on display in our city for people to see, I mean, there was a line out the door.”

Video: League’s best electrify at 2020 NHL All-Star Game

The line was 5 ½ hours long.

“Everything was awesome,” said Brett Hull, who is the Blues all-time leader in goals with 527 and was the honorary captain for the Central Division. “Can’t have better timing to win the Cup, to have the All-Star Game, for these fans who have been through so much for this city.”

Nothing could have set the tone better than this: When it was time for “The Star-Spangled Banner,” out walked Charles Glenn, the longtime Blues anthem singer who had retired after last season. The crowd roared, and he belted out a beautiful rendition, drawing out the word “free.”

Actor Jon Hamm, who is from St. Louis and was the honorary captain for the Metropolitan Division, well, hammed it up in an introductory video. At one point, Oilers captain Connor McDavid said he was “truly the Jon Hamm of hockey,” but while his lips moved, it was Hamm’s voice.

When the players were introduced, the Blues came last, and out came Laila Anderson, St. Louis’ superfan who is battling hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, a severe systemic inflammatory syndrome, and became part of the team last season. She called out their names on a red carpet on the ice, and she did it with feeling.

Video: Laila Anderson introduces Blues All-Stars

Goalie Jordan Binnington, defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and forwards Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron each stopped to give her a hug or a fist bump.

“She was really good,” Perron said. “She had a good voice and pretty loud. She had fun doing it, so it certainly was special for all four of us.”

After the Atlantic Division defeated the Metropolitan Division 9-5 in the first semifinal, Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie did an in-arena interview on the bench. He was selected by the Blues in the first round (No. 24) of the 2005 NHL Draft and played for them from 2008-15. He said he had been part of some heartbreaking seasons and it was “very exciting for them to finally get that Cup.”

Craig Berube, coach of the Blues and the Central Division, used an all-Blues starting lineup, of course, and the fans treated the Central Division as the home team, chanting “Let’s go Blues.” Even Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, who was booed all weekend for representing a division rival, was cheered when he scored. At least for a moment. He put his hand to his ear.

However, the Central lost to the Pacific in the semifinal 10-5.

“It doesn’t even matter,” Hull said. “It was so great.”

The championship still featured Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk and Ottawa Senators forward Brady Tkachuk, the sons of former Blues forward Keith Tkachuk. They grew up in St. Louis tagging along with their dad, skating on this very ice, wrestling in the locker room. They went to a couple of All-Star Games with their dad, and now here they were making their NHL All-Star Game debuts at home.

The fans even sang John Denver’s “Country Roads” like they do at Blues games.

“It’s just so good,” said Kelly Chase, who played for the Blues from 1989-94 and 1997-2000. “It’s a perfect storm here right now. I hope everyone goes home and has a great perspective [on St. Louis], with the job not only the Blues did here, but also the whole city and the way that they respond to these kind of events. You witnessed it at the outdoor game a few years back, and you just see it continues in this city.”

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Blue Jays blank Royals as Manoah makes marvellous Rogers Centre debut –



TORONTO — The Blue Jays celebrated a second win in two starts in their Rogers Centre return thanks to co-starring performances from rookie pitcher Alex Manoah and centre fielder George Springer.

Manoah tossed seven shutout innings while Springer smashed home runs in his first two at-bats in Toronto’s 4-0 victory against the Kansas City Royals on Saturday. The Blue Jays arrived back home in Toronto on Friday after 22 months away because of the Covid-19 pandemic, playing home games in Buffalo and Dunedin, Fla.

Manoah made a return of sorts, too. He injured himself two weeks ago, slipping on the rain-soaked steps of the Blue Jays dugout in Buffalo. He suffered a right-back contusion. He yielded only a pair of singles in his 89-pitch outing.

“It kind of got me pretty good,” Manoah said when asked about his fall. “It was a long couple of weeks, and I’m just so happy and so grateful to be back on that mound.

“Body felt really good; everything felt good. I was able to throw a lot of strikes and get the boys a win.”

The 23-year-old Manoah (3-1) knew he would be keyed up for his first Rogers Centre start. So he attempted to control his adrenaline with deep breaths. He didn’t have the velocity he exhibited earlier in the season.

However, he still managed four strikeouts and retired 16 Royals in a row between Ryan O’Hearn’s one-out single in the second inning and Hunter Dozier’s two-out base hit in the seventh.

“We thought he was going to be rusty,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoya said. “But he was throwing strikes.

“This kid didn’t have his best stuff, and he still can get you out.”

If Manoah can continue to chip in as he did on Saturday, the Blue Jays should have a scary starting rotation with their top four pitchers, led by Robbie Ray, Hyun Jin Ryu and newcomer Jose Berrios. The latter was acquired from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for shortstop/outfielder Austin Martin and right-handed pitcher Simeon Woods Richardson on Friday.

Berrios, scheduled to start for the Twins on Friday, was expected to arrive at Rogers Centre on Saturday evening. Montoyo plans to start his new pitcher in the series finale on Sunday afternoon if he deems himself ready.

“I’ll be waiting here for him,” Montoyo said in his post-game remarks.

The Blue Jays also had to wait for Springer to make an impact this summer. The free agent signed a six-year, $150-million US contract with Toronto last January. But a right-quadricep strain limited his playing time earlier this season.

He found his form in July. His first-pitch leadoff homer down the left-field line, for his 40th career leadoff round-tripper, and his third-inning two-run blast were his 10th and 11th home runs of the year. He now has gone 19-for-49 (.388) in his last 13 games with six doubles, six homers and 10 RBI.

“Obviously, this is where I wanted to play,” said Springer, who has reached base 50 times in his 34 outings in 2021. “This is home. For us to have a chance to come back here, to play in front of the fans, the atmosphere has been unbelievable the last couple of games. It’s exciting.”

After Manoah departed, the Blue Jays received some substantial relief pitching from lefty Ryan Borucki and Adam Cimber. Borucki got the first two outs in the eighth inning, while Cimber closed down the Royals (45-58) with four straight strikeouts to end the game.

The Blue Jays (53-48) have won three in a row and four of their last five.

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Toronto's Penny Oleksiak makes history as Canada swims to bronze in medley relay – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

Published Saturday, July 31, 2021 10:23PM EDT

Last Updated Saturday, July 31, 2021 10:23PM EDT

TOKYO — Canada’s women capped Olympic swimming with a bronze medal in the medley relay Sunday and produced a historic seventh career medal for Penny Oleksiak.

Kylie Masse of LaSalle, Ont., Sydney Pickrem of Clearwater, Fla., Maggie Mac Neil of London, Ont., and Toronto’s Oleksiak touched in 3:52.60, a Canadian record.

Australia took gold with an Olympic-record 3:51.60. The Americans were close behind, finishing second in 3:51.73.

Oleksiak swam the anchor freestyle leg into the history books as the most decorated Olympian in Canadian history. The 21-year-old surpassed speedskater Cindy Klassen and speedskater-cyclist Clara Hughes at six medals apiece.

“Knowing that I have the best girls in the world to race with, I pretty much had a medal in the back of my mind the whole race,” Oleksiak said. “I’m racing with three of the best swimmers in the world, so why should I worry?”

The achievement says a lot about Oleksiak’s depth of talent, said Marnie McBean, Canada’s chef de mission.

“Winning one medal is hard, and multiple at one Games is all about the ability to reset and focus. Winning multiple medals at multiple Games — that is a battle against so much more,” McBean, a three-time Olympian, said in a statement.

“The notion of repeating and the burden of expectations, internally and externally, can be so disruptive. Penny figured out how to thrive all while being an amazing role model to young Canadians.”

Masse led Canada off in backstroke followed by Pickrem’s breaststroke leg and Mac Neil in butterfly.

As Mac Neil hung the medal around Oleksiak’s neck during the medal ceremony, Masse applauded and Pickrem shimmied in celebration.

“Most decorated,” they chorused during post-ceremony interviews with reporters.

Oleksiak, Mac Neil and Masse claimed their third medals at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre.

Mac Neil, 21, also captured 100-metre butterfly gold. She and Oleksiak took silver in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay on the first day of finals, so Mac Neil leaves Tokyo with a complete set.

The COVID-19 pandemic kept Canada’s swim team out of the water for large chunks of the last 15 months. Mac Neil said that didn’t stop the swimmers from challenging the world in Tokyo.

“We’ve had one of the strictest lockdowns in the entire world, so it was just putting in the training that we’ve doing for the last 15 months in and showing the world what we have,” Mac Neil said.

Masse, 25, earned a pair of silver in backstroke. Oleksiak, who revealed Sunday she’d been dealing with an ongoing back injury, also claimed bronze in the 200-metre freestyle.

The women’s swim team amassed six medals in Tokyo to equal its Rio count of five years ago.

Taylor Ruck of Kelowna, B.C., Pickrem, Mac Neil and Toronto’s Kayla Sanchez posted the fastest qualification time in Friday’s heats to give Canada a middle lane Sunday.

The medley relay medal was Canada’s first since 1988 and fourth in the 61-year Olympic history of race. Canadian women were bronze medallists in 1976, 1984 and ’88.

Oleksiak won 100-freestyle gold, 100-butterfly silver and anchored Canada to a pair of freestyle relay bronze medals at age 16 in Rio.

Heats, semifinals, finals and relays added up to 10 races over nine days for Oleksiak in Tokyo, where she added a pair of relay medals and the 200 free bronze to her total.

Canada’s men’s team finished seventh in the medley relay just minutes after the women left the pool Sunday.

Markus Thormeyer (backstroke), Gabe Mastromatteo (breaststroke), Joshua Liendo (butterfly) and Yuri Kisil (freestyle) finished in 3:32.42.

The U.S. took gold in the men’s event with a world record 3:26.78. Great Britain came second and Italy captured bronze.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 31, 2021.

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Kylie Masse won her second medal of the Summer Olympics – Sports –



Make it an even dozen medals for Canada and a second for swimmer Kylie Masse at the Tokyo Olympics.

Masse won her second silver, finishing just behind Australian Kaylee McKeown in the women’s 200 metre backstroke.

She also won silver in the 100 backstroke.

Masse went out fast and led for much of the race. But, McKeown put on a strong kick over the final 25 metres to touch just ahead of Masse.

McKeown won in two minutes, 4.68 seconds, 74 one-hundredths ahead of Masse.

Masse’s time of 2:05.42 established a Canadian record in the event.

Kelowna-born Taylor Ruck was sixth in 2:08.24.

Masse joins Maggie Mac Neil and Penny Oleksiak as double medalists at the Olympics.

Canada has a good chance for one final medal in the pool Saturday evening in the women’s 4×100 metre medley.

The team, which included Ruck, finished with the best time in their semi-final earlier in the day.

The roster for the team could change for the final.

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