Suspension for Oilers’ Kassian proves unpredictability of bans - Canada News Media
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Suspension for Oilers’ Kassian proves unpredictability of bans

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EDMONTON — As a bettor, you’d have a better chance wagering nightly on NHL games than trying to predict the various bans handed down by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.

We’re not saying George Parros’ people are always wrong. We are saying, however, that those who try to predict the length of the suspensions that the DoPS metes out usually are. (Including me.)

So it was with the two-game ban handed to Zack Kassian on Monday night, a suspension that we were instructed would mirror the three games that Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse received when he straightened out an unwilling combatant in Roman Polak four seasons ago.

Or perhaps a one-game bit, considering that it was Tkachuk’s old school body checks — but new school fighting protocol — that played a major role in the whole thing. If Tkachuk drops his gloves like most guys who hit that hard, we’d have stopped talking about this whole affair two days ago.

In the end, the DoPS gave Kassian two games for rag-dolling Tkachuk, who they correctly deemed to be an “unwilling combatant.” It is a fair and accurate suspension to these eyes, and Kassian will miss games this week against Nashville and Arizona.

The good news?

When Tkachuk and the Flames arrive in Edmonton for a Feb. 29 rematch, Kassian will be back in the Edmonton Oilers’ lineup. And assuming nothing crazy happens, they’ll both line up again in their Feb. 1 meeting in Calgary (rubs hands together.)

The league gets its discipline, but fans in both cities get to see a renewed Battle of Alberta that is fully staffed. So we’re all good, and we even get a video to watch that explains the call.

The video tweeted out by DoPS is informative, as it walks us through the altercation on Saturday night in Calgary — for which Tkachuk was not penalized, while Kassian got a double-minor and a 10-minute misconduct.

It showed us a hard hit by Tkachuk on an unaware Kassian, who had the puck behind Calgary’s net and was being checked/engaged by Calgary defenceman Mark Giordano. In an earlier piece, we explained why some current and former NHL players didn’t like the hit, as Tkachuk saw a vulnerable Kassian and unloaded on him.

It was the second such hit of the night, and when Kassian rose from the ice, he was madder than a hornet. Tkachuk might have gotten away, but Connor McDavid — of all people — gave him a guiding shoulder, directing Tkachuk back toward Kassian.

From here, the commentary on the video becomes bizarre.

“Kassian attempts to grab Tkachuk, who is focused on following the puck up the ice for an offensive chance,” the video says.

Focused on following the puck? How about focused on anything or anybody other than the guy he just steamrolled?

Focused on getting the heck out of there.

“Kassian…throws a series of forceful punches, that are directed at Tkachuk, who is an unwilling combatant.”

This much is true, and for raining punches on a player who made the choice not to fight back — Tkachuk literally buried his head in his gloved hands — Kassian received a two-game suspension.

The reality is that Tkachuk couldn’t quite get away, much thanks to McDavid. Unwilling to find a willing partner, Kassian fought anyhow. That qualifies Tkachuk as an “unwilling opponent.”

At Monday’s morning skate in Montreal, Tkachuk was asked if he should have fought Kassian.

“If it was a different type of player, maybe. Maybe somebody closer to me out there, maybe,” Tkachuk said. “But it wasn’t the right time to do it, against the right person.”

Someone “closer to me?” We wonder what that means.

Tkachuk puts few restrictions on who he will hit, how hard he’ll hit them, or how vulnerable they are. When it comes to fighting however, he seems to have an arm’s length of boxes to be checked off before engaging.

He’s old school when he has the advantage, new school when he thinks he may not.

“I have a feeling half the people in this league wouldn’t go with that guy,” he said. “I just think I’d rather be out there, than in the box with him. And I’m sure if you ask the rest of my teammates, they’d rather me be out there, instead of taken off the ice for however long with him. They’d rather keep me on the ice, that’s for sure.”

When it comes to scoring goals? Unquestionably.

When it comes to finishing what Tkachuk starts?

We’re not so sure.

“It is important to note,” the video concludes, “that at no point does Tkachuk have an opportunity to square up, drop his gloves, or do anything other than protect himself from the punches being thrown.”

Like we said, trying to predict these bans is bad business.

And trying to understand the reasoning can be even more difficult.

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Recap: Toronto Raptors push through, beat Minnesota Timberwolves 122-112 – RaptorsHQ

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After an evisceration of the Washington Wizards on Friday night, the Toronto Raptors traveled straight to Minneapolis to face the Minnesota Timberwolves. After starting the year middling near .500, the Timberwolves have fallen out of the playoff picture with a record of 15-26 coming into the game, and on a four -game losing streak.

The Raptors, meanwhile, were finally feeling healthy. Prior to the game, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star announced the starting five:

After all the injuries, it was pleasing to see the Raptors starting the preferred lineup. Yet, the Raptors had held their own while those with injuries and they were looking to extend a short winning streak—their first consecutive wins in nearly a month—while continuing to get everyone back up to speed. Only a frisky Minnesota team, and perhaps some confusing officiating, stood in their way.

During the first quarter, both teams started hot from all over the floor. In particular, the Raptors were getting to the basket early and often as the defensive communication was off for the Timberwolves.

The Master Grifter Kyle Lowry had an excellent fake to get Shabazz Napier on his feet to draw a foul and frustrate Napier:

As the quarter neared its end, however, the defense from the Timberwolves tightened up and the shooting cooled for the Raptors, giving the Timberwolves a narrow 39-32 lead.

The hot shooting streak for the Timberwolves finally slowed in the second quarter and the Raptors slowly made their way back to a tie just under midway through the quarter. The quarter itself was mired with an increasing amount of whistles from the officials and calls that left both teams beside themselves.

At the very least, the Raptors stepped up their defense, but very little of it turned into transition baskets as the team only had two fast break points at the half.

Nearing the end of the quarter, both Marc Gasol and Pascal Siakam were called for technical fouls after a couple of questionable calls and non-calls. Lowry, of all people, pulled the team aside after the exchange and got their emotions in check.

Despite the officials keeping the Timberwolves in the game—Minnesota was 15-for-18 from the line compared to the Raptors’ 5-for-6—the Raptors only trailed the Timberwolves by four at the half, 62-58.

Fred VanVleet and Jarrett Culver led all scorers with 16 points apiece. Pascal Siakam had ten and Lowry had 11, respectively.

The third quarter has been the quarter in which the Raptors have shined throughout the season and this third quarter was just the same.

The Raptors, particularly Lowry, started out with a vengeance.

Lowry hit two quick threes and suddenly they were up by a point. Additionally, the defense was homing in on Andrew Wiggins, stifling his ability to get space and forcing him to pass at times. Another three, this time from VanVleet, caused the Timberwolves to call a timeout near the nine minute mark.

The Raptors then weathered a Timberwolves run and started one of their own. It began with a three from Lowry after a quick rebound and dribble into the front court by Norman Powell. Then, Powell did some magic of his own in the lane and scored, making it 79-71. At that point, the Raptors had outscored the Timberwolves 21-9 in the third. They would go on to outscore them, 31-22.

Again, however, the Timberwolves stayed in the game and the quarter ended with the Raptors ahead 89-84. Kyle Lowry scored 17 points in the quarter and quickly became the spark in the Raptors’ offense.

In the final quarter, the Raptors continued to expand their lead as Minnesota began to collapse. Suddenly, the Raptors all started to click just as Minnesota was breaking down defensively and Toronto quickly made their way to a 20-point lead. They would lead by as many as 22 in the quarter.

VanVleet very much made his return worthwhile as he piled on the points in the fourth quarter. He finished with 29 points, four rebounds, two assists, and four steals. Furthermore, he finished with a team high plus-20 while shooting 7-for-8 from three.

Toronto finally buried Minnesota in the fourth and beat them 122-112 despite hometown officiating. Along with VanVleet, Lowry and Powell also hit the 20+ points mark, scoring 28 and 20, respectively. Siakam finished with 14 points, four rebounds, and three assists on a relatively quiet night from him.

After a high scoring game against the Wizards, the Raptors started out slow yet finished strong. Now that they are healthy, they can make a push for a higher seed in the Eastern Conference with a game against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, January 20th.

With the newfound health, we may finally begin to see just how high the ceiling is for these Toronto Raptors as they pass the halfway mark in the season.

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Conor McGregor returns to UFC, TKOs 'Cowboy' Cerrone in 40 seconds – CTV News

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LAS VEGAS —
Conor McGregor’s opening punch bloodied Donald Cerrone’s nose. He then floored Cerrone only 20 seconds into the bout with a perfectly placed kick to the head, and he mercilessly finished on the ground.

When he paraded around the ring with an Irish flag on his shoulders to celebrate, the mixed martial arts world knew McGregor is back with a big bang.

The Irish former two-division champion came out of a three-year stretch of relative inactivity and outside-the-cage troubles with a welterweight performance in UFC 246 on Saturday night that echoed his greatest fights during his unparalleled rise.

“I feel really good, and I came out of here unscathed,” McGregor said. “I’m in shape. We’ve got work to do to get back to where I was.”

After hurting Cerrone (36-14) with his first punch, McGregor (22-4) dropped him with a sublime kick to the jaw. McGregor pounced and forced referee Herb Dean to save Cerrone, delighting a sellout crowd of 19,040 at T-Mobile Arena.

McGregor’s hand hadn’t been raised in victory since November 2016, when he stopped lightweight Eddie Alvarez to become the first fighter in UFC history to hold two championship belts simultaneously. With his fame and fortune multiplying, McGregor fought only his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather in 2017, and he lost a one-sided UFC bout to lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in late 2018.

“I wasn’t committed,” McGregor said afterward while speaking to reporters with a bottle of his Proper Twelve whiskey on the table before him. “I just felt like I disrespected the people that believed in me and supported me. That’s what led me to re-centre myself and get back to where I was at.”

After a year spent out of competition and in repeated trouble with the law, McGregor got back into training and vowed to return to elite form. This dramatic victory over Cerrone indicated he’s well on his way, and McGregor has vowed to fight multiple times in 2020.

Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and veteran brawler Jorge Masvidal watched UFC 246 from cageside. Either man could be McGregor’s next opponent, but UFC President Dana White is pushing for a rematch with Nurmagomedov, who first fights Tony Ferguson in April.

“Any one of these mouthy fools can get it,” McGregor yelled into the microphone. “Every single one of them can get it. It does not matter. I’m back and I’m ready.”

McGregor also wants to make up for his loss to Nurmagomedov, but he doesn’t want to wait until the champion is ready to fight again in late summer. McGregor wants an earlier fight, and he predicted that the Nurmagomedov-Ferguson fight will be scrapped, as it already has four times during those fighters’ careers.

Cerrone is the winningest fighter in UFC history with 23 victories, a mark that reflects both his durability and commitment to an uncommonly busy schedule. Cerrone, who also holds the UFC record with 16 stoppage wins, had fought a whopping 11 times since McGregor’s win over Alvarez, and he was in the cage for the 15th time since he lost his only UFC title shot in December 2015.

But Cerrone’s last two fights were stopped when he took too much damage, and he couldn’t block McGregor’s decisive kick or recover from the punishment on the ground.

“I’d never seen anything like that,” Cerrone said. “He busted my nose, it started bleeding, and he stepped back and head-kicked me. Oh, man. This happened this fast?”

Although many observers have scoffed, the 31-year-old McGregor believes he can reclaim the fearsome form he showed during his meteoric rise to unprecedented MMA success. He won 15 consecutive fights during a five-year run from low-profile shows in Dublin to the world’s biggest MMA events, stopping five straight elite UFC opponents with punches on the way up.

After his latest victory ended, McGregor peeled away briefly to celebrate, but quickly returned to comfort the disoriented Cerrone. When Cerrone’s grandmother, Jerry, entered the cage after the fight to hug her grandson, McGregor also hugged Jerry and got a kiss on the cheek.

Even after his prolonged absence — or maybe because of it — McGregor’s return was a huge seller on pay-per-view, according to White. The UFC said it made more than $11 million in ticket sales at T-Mobile Arena for the fourth-biggest gate total in the promotion’s history.

“This guy is such a huge superstar,” White said. “I put him up there with (Mike) Tyson, (Sugar Ray) Leonard, all of them. He’s got the biggest pay-per-view in history, and how many of the top 10 does he have? I don’t know. Coming up in his career, he’s been doubted for his talent, and he proves them wrong every time.”

An eager Vegas crowd showed up in person, with celebrities including Matthew McConaughey, Jeremy Renner and Dave Bautista, along with NFL stars Tom Brady, Christian McCaffrey, Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett and Jon Gruden.

Former bantamweight champion Holly Holm beat Raquel Pennington by unanimous decision in the penultimate bout of UFC 246. The 38-year-old Holm (13-5) had lost five of her seven fights since she memorably knocked out Ronda Rousey in November 2015.

On the undercard, 37-year-old flyweight Roxanne Modafferi pulled off one of the biggest upsets in recent UFC history with a one-sided decision victory over previously unbeaten 21-year-old Maycee Barber, the UFC’s top 125-pound prospect.

Barber (8-1) injured her left knee during the bout, but Modafferi (24-16) was already dominating with the superior jiu-jitsu she has been practicing for Barber’s entire life. Modafferi was the biggest betting underdog on the UFC 246 card, facing 10-to-1 odds at some sports books.

Aleksei Oleinik, a 42-year-old heavyweight who made his pro debut in 1996, also beat Maurice Greene by submission in the second round.

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McGregor defeats Cowboy in main event at UFC 246 – TSN

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LAS VEGAS — Conor McGregor stopped Donald Cerrone with a head kick and punches 40 seconds into the first round at UFC 246 on Saturday night, announcing his return to mixed martial arts with his first victory since 2016.

The Irish former two-division champion returned from a three-year stretch of inactivity and outside-the-cage troubles with a performance that echoed his greatest fights during his unparalleled rise.

McGregor (22-4) floored Cerrone (36-14) only 20 seconds into the bout with a perfectly placed left kick to the head, and he mercilessly finished on the ground to the delight of a sellout crowd at T-Mobile Arena.

McGregor’s hand hadn’t been raised in victory since November 2016, when he stopped lightweight Eddie Alvarez to become the first fighter in UFC history to hold two championship belts simultaneously. With his fame and fortune multiplying, McGregor fought only his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather in 2017, and he lost a one-sided UFC bout to lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in late 2018.

After a year of inactivity and trouble outside the cage, McGregor vowed to return to elite form in this bout against a fellow UFC veteran and stoppage specialist. This dramatic victory over Cerrone indicated he’s on his way, and McGregor has vowed to fight multiple times in 2020.

Cerrone is the winningest fighter in UFC history with 23 victories, a mark that reflects both his durability and commitment to an uncommonly busy schedule. Cerrone, who also holds the UFC record with 16 stoppage wins, had fought a whopping 11 times since McGregor’s win over Alvarez, and he was in the cage for the 15th time since he lost his only UFC title shot in December 2015.

But Cerrone’s last two fights were stopped when he took too much damage, and he couldn’t block McGregor’s decisive kick or recover from the punishment on the ground.

McGregor believes he can recapture the fearsome form he showed during his meteoric rise to unprecedented MMA success. He won 15 consecutive fights during a five-year run from low-profile shows in Dublin to the world’s biggest MMA events, stopping five straight elite UFC opponents with punches on the way up.

McGregor walked to the cage with the Irish flag wrapped around his shoulders. The bearded fighters touched gloves beforehand in an extension of this bout’s unfailing sportsmanship — not always a hallmark of McGregor’s previous bouts.

After the referee stopped the bout, McGregor peeled away briefly to celebrate, but quickly returned to comfort his disoriented opponent. When Cerrone’s grandmother, Jerry, entered the cage after the fight to hug her grandson, McGregor also hugged Jerry and got a kiss on the cheek.

Even after his prolonged absence — or maybe because of it — McGregor’s return is expected to be a huge seller on pay-per-view. An eager sellout Vegas crowd showed up in person, with celebrities including Matthew McConaughey, Jeremy Renner and Dave Bautista, along with NFL stars Tom Brady, Christian McCaffrey, Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett and Jon Gruden.

Former bantamweight champion Holly Holm beat Raquel Pennington by unanimous decision in the penultimate bout of UFC 246. The 38-year-old Holm (13-5) had lost five of her seven fights since she memorably knocked out Ronda Rousey in November 2015.

On the undercard, 37-year-old flyweight Roxanne Modafferi pulled off one of the biggest upsets in recent UFC history with a one-sided decision victory over previously unbeaten 21-year-old Maycee Barber, the UFC’s top 125-pound prospect.

Barber (8-1) injured her left knee during the bout, but Modafferi (24-16) was already dominating with the superior jiu-jitsu she has been practicing for Barber’s entire life. Modafferi was the biggest betting underdog on the UFC 246 card, facing 10-to-1 odds at some sports books.

Aleksei Oleinik, a 42-year-old heavyweight who made his pro debut in 1996, also beat Maurice Greene by submission in the second round.

___

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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