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Stars savouring rare opportunity to live out long-awaited dream – Sportsnet.ca

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EDMONTON — Ryan Bowness was a 33-year-old scout for Pittsburgh back in 2017 when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup, bestowing upon the Bowness family their first Stanley Cup ring.

He had his day with the Cup that summer, and brought it to the Halifax home of his parents. There, father Rick — a hockey lifer who had pursued that very chalice for far longer than Ryan had been alive — hosted a party in his son’s honour.

“I couldn’t have been more proud of him than when he brought that Stanley Cup home for the old man,” said Rick, the Dallas Stars head coach who gathered round ol’ Stanley for the requisite pictures.

“Of course, I didn’t touch it.”

After all these years in the game, Rick Bowness — drafted in 1975 by both the defunct Atlanta Flames and the Indianapolis Racers of the defunct World Hockey Association — will take his shot at earning his day with the Cup this summer, when he leads the Dallas Stars into Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night in Edmonton.

His is just another of the many tales that are authored whenever two teams of 40-some players, coaches, managers and organizational hockey folk get this close to The Dream.

For half of them, The Dream will be realized. For the other half, having spent two-plus months in the bubble only to lose the Cup Final, they will reel from the cruelest of blows. Some for years to come.

“When I was growing up (in Kazakhstan and Russia) my dream was to play in the NHL,” said Stars goalie Anton Khudobin. “I didn’t really think to win the Stanley Cup, but when I came here and realized it’s not so easy to get here to the Final, I start thinking it would be a great accomplishment to get there and sometime win the Cup.”

Today, Khudobin is 34 and near the end of the line. Like teammates Joe Pavelski (36) who has never won, and Corey Perry (35), who won as a sophomore in Anaheim and has never been back, this is very likely their last kick at the cat as well.

“My first time going to the Final (in 2007) we played Ottawa, and pretty much three-quarters of my family is from Ottawa,” recalled Perry. “So there were a lot of people at every game. Here, my wife is coming in (Saturday), and I’ll see her in four, five days — after the quarantine. It’s a little different. Not travelling across the country, everything is right here. It’s just a matter of going out and playing hockey.”

For every Bowness and Pavelski, however, there is a Tyler Seguin. He won a Cup as a rookie in Boston in 2011, defeating Vancouver, where Bowness was an assistant coach, in seven games. Seguin returned in 2013, where the Bruins fell prey to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Seguin was 21, and had two Finals under his belt and his name on the Stanley Cup.

At age 28, how does it feel to be back again?

“I have more respect for it. More of a smile,” he said. “You realize how hard it is to get to this point. Back in the Boston days you figured it was going to happen every other year, with how my career started. (Now) I know the worth of the Cup a lot more, and how it is to get here. So, I am definitely knowing every moment.”

If only we all had a chance in life to relive our biggest moments two or three times. To get enough reps so it’s not all a blur, whatever your moment may be.

“And with the experience I have, you want to go talk to guys if they look nervous, or they’re not smiling,” Seguin said. “This is what we all dream about. The best time of year, a best position to be in.

“It’s the opportunity you have. Everything that’s happened so far? Nothing matters. It’s one series. Anything can happen in these moments.”

Seguin recalls stressing over setting up tickets for family at his previous Cups, a rite of passage for any player who gets this far — until this season.

“Big Markets,” he said. “Back in Boston, playing in Vancouver and Chicago in the years I went to the Final, tickets were pricey. Worth every dollar to have your family and friends there, but these are different times. It’s 2020. Nothing is unexpected.”

Begrudgingly, Seguin smiles as he admits even to missing us scribes. OK, not personally. But the media presence at a Final is what helps make the experience, another facet that simply doesn’t exist in these bubble playoffs.

Friday was Media Day, which meant a series of Zoom calls. Woo hoo…!

“Honestly, you miss those (media) days,” Seguin admitted. “Being there twice, it feels like you’re a football player. There is so much media. Cameras in your face. It’s definitely surreal, and a memory I have.”

There are so many elements that are different this year. The result, however, will not be cowed by COVID-19.

Win the Stanley Cup, and it is something these players and coaches will never forget.

Lose? Same.

“The Vancouver one stays with you every day of your life,” Bowness admits. “When you get to Game 7 and you lose a Stanley Cup Final? That stays with you.

“I’ve only been there a couple of times, but any time you get to those Stanley Cup Finals, man, it stays with ya. The rest of your life.

“It’s painful.”

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Report: Ravens acquire DE Ngakoue – TSN

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Yannick Ngakoue is on the move again.

The Minnesota Vikings have traded the defensive end to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional fifth-round pick in 2022.

 Through six games this season, Ngakoue has recorded 12 tackles, 5.0 sacks and two forced fumbles.

In his fifth year out of Maryland, Ngakoue was acquired by the Vikings from the Jacksonville Jaguars – with whom he spent the first four seasons of his career – at the end of August.

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Virtanen signs two-year, $5.1 million contract with Canucks – NHL.com

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Jake Virtanen signed a two-year, $5.1 million contract with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday. It has an average annual value of $2.55 million.

The 24-year old forward was a restricted free agent and avoided a salary arbitration hearing scheduled for Oct. 28. He scored 36 points (18 goals, 18 assists) in 69 games with the Canucks last season and three points (two goals, one assist) in 16 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

“Obviously there’s a bright future with the Canucks organization, so many young, talented players coming in and the moves that we’ve made, I think it’s going to be just a brighter future for our team moving forward,” Virtanen said. “I’m excited to see how it all pans out and how our team’s going to do and super excited to get things going.

“[Contract negotiations] felt like a long time but obviously super excited to get this done and be back with the Canucks for two more years. Just happy to get it done and get it over with and just focus on training and skating and the whole thing, being ready to go.”

With forward Tyler Toffoli signing a four-year contract with the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 12, it opened up a spot on one of the top two lines, and Virtanen is hoping he’ll get a chance to play there.

“Obviously I’d love to play top six and have a bigger opportunity, more responsibilities,” Virtanen said. “That’s what I really hope I get. I want to be able to prove that to the team and my teammates that I can play up there and be consistent every night, making sure that I can play night in and night out. It’s an opening for me to try to jump up there. I’ve got to make sure I’m coming to camp ready to go.”

Selected by Vancouver in the first round (No. 6) of the 2014 NHL Draft, Virtanen has scored 95 points (50 goals, 45 assists) in 279 regular-season games and three points in 16 playoff games.

“Jake has continued to make progress on his two-way game and remains a contributor offensively, using his speed and size to generate chances,” Canucks general manager Jim Benning said. “We look forward to him taking additional steps in his growth this year to help our team be successful.”

NHL.com staff writer Tim Campbell contributed to this report

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NHL postpones Winter Classic, All-Star Game – TSN

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The NHL has announced the postponement of the 2021 Winter Classic and the All-Star Game. The annual outdoor game was scheduled for Jan. 1 at Target Field in Minnesota. The All-Star Game was scheduled for Jan. 30 in Sunrise, FL.

The postponements were expected as the dates were scheduled prior to beginning of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The NHL concluded the 2020 playoffs in September — over three months later than originally scheduled — as part of the league’s negotiated Return To Play format. The regular season concluded on Mar. 11, after the league was forced to its season on pause due to the pandemic.

“Fan participation, both in arenas and stadiums as well as in the ancillary venues and events that we stage around the Winter Classic and All-Star Weekend, is integral to the success of our signature events,” said NHL Senior Executive Vice President & Chief Content Officer Steve Mayer. “Because of the uncertainty as to when we will be able to welcome our fans back to our games, we felt that the prudent decision at this time was to postpone these celebrations until 2022 when our fans should be able to enjoy and celebrate these tentpole events in-person, as they were always intended. We are also considering several new and creative events that will allow our fans to engage with our games and teams during this upcoming season.”

Both events will be rescheduled, according to the league.

The NHL also announced that the postponement of the events doesn’t change their target date of Jan. 1 to begin the 2020-21 season. 

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