On Friday, the NHLPA Executive Board voted to move ahead with talks regarding a 24-team playoff in the NHL’s return-to-play efforts. While this vote means that the players have accepted to move forward with the proposed plan of having 24 teams returning to play, the specific format of how the playoffs will go down has not yet been set in stone.
The NHLPA issued this statement after voting in favour of the format…
“The Executive Board of the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) has authorized further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format to determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup. Several details remain to be negotiated and an agreement on the format would still be subject to the parties reaching agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play.”
So, ultimately, the only thing that’s been accepted here is having 24 teams returning to play. The proposed playoff format that features eight teams (the top four in each conference) getting a bye while the remaining teams undergo play-in series to continue could still feasibly be tweaked.
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A few key issues that need to be ironed out include…
- The bracket-style format. In the format that Elliotte Friedman shared earlier in the week, the league would operate in a bracket-style, similar to that of the NCAA’s March Madness tournament. The issue here is that you could have a No. 12 seed playing a No. 4 seed in the second round while a better team seeded No. 8 or No. 9 would have to play the No. 1 seed. Simply re-seeding after each round from highest to lowest seed could solve this problem.
- Draft positions. There had previously been talk of using points percentage at the time of the pause in order to determine the draft order. But now, teams who were playoff bound could end up missing out on the playoffs if they lose their play-in series. Would they miss the playoffs and maintain a low draft position? One idea I’ve seen is that if the lower seed upsets in the play-in series, the two teams swap draft positions. So, if the Oilers lost to Chicago, they would get the Blackhawks’ draft spot.
- Also, could there be any way to offer an advantage to some of the higher-seeded teams during the play-in round? The Oilers were well ahead of the Blackhawks in the standings at the time of the pause, so it seems unfair that they have the same chance at moving on to the actual playoffs. Maybe the Oilers should start the series with a 1-0 lead to represent the lead they had on Chicago in the standings. It might be far-fetched, but players were reportedly aggravated by how much this format threw the regular season out the window.
Once the format is completely hammered out, the NHL and the PA have a wealth of even more complicated issues to decide upon. How will the quarantine work? How much freedom will players have? How will the league protect the players from the virus? How will testing work? Where will all of this go down? Who will the hub cities be?
Friday’s vote in favour of the 24-team format is a step in the right direction, but there’s a lot of work to be done.
Wes Unseld, Hall of Famer and former NBA MVP, dies at 74 – Sportsnet.ca
WASHINGTON — Wes Unseld was an undersized NBA centre known more for his bruising picks, tenacious rebounding and perfectly placed outlet passes than any points he produced.
He thrived in his role as a workmanlike leader.
“I never played pretty,” Unseld said when elected to the Hall of Fame in 1988. “I wasn’t flashy. My contributions were in the things most people don’t notice. They weren’t in high scoring or dunking or behind-the-back passes.”
Unseld, who began his pro career as a rookie MVP, led Washington to its only NBA championship and was chosen one of the 50 greatest players in league history, died Tuesday after “lengthy health battles, most recently with pneumonia,” his family said in a statement released by the Wizards. He was 74.
He spent his entire 13-season playing career with the Bullets-Wizards franchise, then was its coach and general manager. The team was based in Baltimore when he was drafted; he and his wife, Connie, opened Unselds’ School in that city in 1978.
“Wes Unseld was one of the most consequential players of his era,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “His competitive drive and selfless approach made him a beloved teammate. … Wes also set the model of class, integrity and professionalism for the entire NBA family during stints as a player, coach and team executive with Washington and through his dedication to expanding educational opportunities for children.”
Statement from the family of Wes Unseld.
Rest easy, Wes pic.twitter.com/NwEtuofgG9
Unseld instantly made the team then known as the Baltimore Bullets into a winner after he was taken with the No. 2 overall pick — behind future teammate Elvin Hayes — in the 1968 draft.
A decade later, he was the MVP of the 1978 NBA Finals as the Bullets beat the Seattle SuperSonics in a seven-game series best known for Washington coach Dick Motta’s proclamation: “The opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings.”
Listed at 6-foot-7 and 245 pounds, Unseld used power and savvy to outplay bigger opponents. He also brought his pro team something it never had experienced — and hasn’t, really, since he stopped playing: true sustained success.
As a rookie, he averaged 13.8 points and 18.2 rebounds, while the team went 57-25, a 21-win improvement over the previous season and the franchise’s first winning record. Unseld (1969) and Wilt Chamberlain (1960) are the only two players to win NBA Rookie of the Year and MVP honours in the same season.
The Bullets made the playoffs 12 consecutive times, reaching four NBA Finals. Unseld was an All-Star in his first four seasons and again in 1975.
“I know that night in and night out, the guy I play against will have more physical ability,” Unseld once said, “but I feel like if I go out against a guy and play him 40 or 48 minutes a game or whatever, toe to toe, head to head, he is going to get tired or beat up or bored for two or three minutes. That will be enough to make sure he doesn’t win the game for his team.”
He was remembered Tuesday as “the gentlest of giants” by former Bullets player Rex Chapman, who was coached by Unseld in the 1990s, and as “a Legend and a Leader” by Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, whose father, Stan, was a teammate of Unseld’s on the Bullets in the 1970s. Love’s middle name is Wesley in Unseld’s honour.
“Those of us who were fortunate enough to spend time with Wes knew him as a generous and thoughtful man whose strong will was matched only by his passion and drive for uplifting others,” Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard said. “His physical prowess, undeniable talent and on-court demeanour may have struck fear in opponents throughout the NBA, but he will be remembered best as a mentor, leader and friend.”
Wesley Sissel Unseld was born March 14, 1946, in Louisville, Kentucky. He won two state championships in high school, then averaged 20.6 points and 18.9 rebounds over four years at the University of Louisville.
In the NBA, Unseld averaged 10.8 points and 14 rebounds for his career and is still Washington’s career leader in total boards. He was No. 1 in assists, too, until John Wall overtook him in 2016.
“His scowl could be intimidating but really he was a kind, thoughtful and protective comrade,” said Phil Chenier, a teammate of Unseld’s for Washington’s 1978 title. “Wes is the epitome of a great teammate, team leader and friend.”
Aching knees forced Unseld to stop playing in 1981, but he remained with a franchise that retired his No. 41 jersey.
Unseld was Washington’s head coach from 1987-94, going 202-345 with one playoff appearance. He also had a seven-year stint as GM from 1996-03, with one other post-season trip.
After the club’s then-owner, Abe Pollin, died in 2009, Unseld said: “I have no doubt that he kept me longer in positions than he should have — and longer than I wanted him to. He was loyal.”
Unseld took a leave of absence from the Wizards for health reasons in 2003, ending 35 years of continuous service to the franchise, and had both knees replaced.
In addition to Connie, Unseld is survived by his daughter Kim, son Wes Unseld Jr., and two grandchildren. Kim is a teacher at Unselds’ School; Wes Jr. is an assistant coach with the Denver Nuggets.
Funeral arrangements were pending.
“We all admired Wes as the pillar of this franchise for so long,” Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said, “but it was his work off the court that will truly leave an impactful legacy and live on through the many people he touched and influenced throughout his life of basketball and beyond.”
As NHL stars share their outrage, hockey’s own backyard still needs work – Toronto Sun
Jonathan Toews has never been pulled over by a police officer because of the colour of his skin. He’s never been called the ‘N’ word.
As the Chicago Blackhawks captain wrote on Instagram on Monday: “I can’t pretend for a second I know what it feels like to walk in a black man’s shoes.”
Neither can Blake Wheeler, John Tavares, Alex Ovechkin, nor any of the white hockey players who have spoken out in the past few days about the racial injustices still plaguing our society. That’s fine. This isn’t about whether a white person can relate to the type of ugly experiences that their black teammates have had to endure.
For the most part, they can’t.
But they still have a voice. As white hockey players, it’s a particularly loud voice. And now they are using it to ask some hard questions.
“We have to be as involved in this as black athletes. It can’t just be their fight,” Wheeler said in a conference call on Tuesday. “And I want to be real clear, here: I look in the mirror about this before I look out at everyone else. I wish that it didn’t take me this long to get behind it in a meaningful way. But I guess what you can do is try to be better going forward.”
If there’s some good that has come out of the mass protests that have been staged across American cities ever since George Floyd died under the knee of a Minneapolis policeman more than a week ago, it’s that more and more people of power are using their platforms to shed light on an issue that’s been kept in the dark for far too long.
When the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup in 2018, Devante Smith-Pelly told me that he would not attend the ceremonial act of visiting the White House because “the things that (Donald Trump) spews are straight-up racist and sexist.”
Those comments made headlines, but with all due respect to Smith-Pelly, who is now playing in Russia after spending 395 games in the NHL, the message would have had a bigger impact had Ovechkin delivered it.
That is how real change occurs. It’s not enough for a fringe player to speak out. If you really want to get people’s attention, you need the stars of the game, such as Toews and Wheeler — who previously might have been worried about saying anything too inflammatory because they didn’t want to risk endorsement dollars — to use their influence and stand beside those who are afflicted.
“The value of that is immeasurable to us. And it’s so impactful,” said retired NHL goalie Kevin Weekes, who is an analyst for the NHL Network. “Unfortunately, it takes other people who aren’t impacted to give credibility to what’s happened. It’s empowering to see Jonathan Toews and Blake Wheeler and so many guys behind the scenes who don’t have a horse in the race speak up. I celebrate those guys.”
Weekes, who grew up in Scarborough, Ont., and spent most of his pro career in the U.S., added that this is not strictly an American problem.
Sure, the issues regarding race and discrimination might be worse in the U.S. than in Canada. But let’s not pretend that black hockey players are welcomed with open arms north of the border.
Weekes had a banana thrown at him during a 2002 playoff game in Montreal. The same things happened to Wayne Simmonds during a pre-season game in London, Ont. While playing for the Windsor Spitfires, Akim Aliu was the target of racial discrimination disguised as rookie hazing.
It happens. It happens more frequently than we’d probably like to admit.
“I know people in Canada say it’s not happening here, but that could not be further from the truth,” said Weekes. “I got ‘driving while black’ more at home than anywhere. More than in Carolina, more than in Florida, more than anywhere in the U.S.”
We’d like to believe that times are changing, that what Weekes went through as a pro is less than what Willie O’Ree endured when he was the first black player in the NHL, and that the league today is more welcoming and more inclusive than it was 10, 20 or 30 years ago.
And yet, it was in April when New York Rangers prospect K’Andre Miller held an online Q&A with fans that was quickly overrun with someone typing the N-word over and over again.
Earlier in the year, Bill Peters was forced to resign as the head coach of the Calgary Flames after Aliu revealed that his former coach had uttered racial epithets in his direction when both were in the minors.
The problem hasn’t gone away. It just keeps getting swept under the carpet and re-appearing somewhere else.
“I said this when the Bill Peters story came out: This is going to happen again in six months. What are we going to do about it?” said retired NHL forward Anthony Stewart, who is an analyst for Sportsnet. “It’s unfortunate to see the county being burned, but lost in the message is that they kneeled and they had a silent protest and nothing happened. Let’s actually make a difference now.”
To the NHL’s credit, it has been working hard to try and make the league as inclusive as possible. Kim Davis was hired a couple of years ago to spearhead social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs. And in December, commissioner Gary Bettman unveiled a multi-pointed ‘zero tolerance’ appropriate conduct.
As of Tuesday, almost every team had issued some form of statement expressing support for peaceful protest.
Weekes, in particular, has received text messages and phone calls from players, general managers and agents telling him that he is not alone and asking him how they can help make the league a better and safer place.
It’s a start, he said.
“I love our sport,” said Weekes. “I’m proud of the sport itself and the values that the sport teaches. I love hockey. But we have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Nadal's 5 Best Roland Garros Moments – ATP Tour
With 12 titles to his name, Rafael Nadal is the most successful player in Roland Garros history. Apart from leaving an indelible mark in Paris, he has provided countless memorable moments throughout the years.
ATPTour.com takes a look back at five of his biggest highlights at this event.
To Paris On Crutches
Two injuries delayed Nadal’s Roland Garros debut. In 2003, he hurt his right elbow while training in Manacor. The following year, he picked up a stress fracture in his left foot during his win in Estoril against Richard Gasquet.
Nadal’s agent, Carlos Costa, convinced Nadal to visit two of his sponsors at 2004 Roland Garros. Although the trip was only for a couple of days, the former No. 10 in the FedEx ATP Rankings believed it would be good for Nadal to familiarise himself with the surroundings and discover the charm of Court Philippe Chatrier.
The teenager boarded a plane with his crutches and made his way around the tournament on them. For his introduction to Court Philippe Chatrier, Nadal went to the top of the stands with Costa.
“We went to watch a Robredo match and [Nadal] was only able to stay there for 10 minutes,” Costa recalled. “He couldn’t be in the stands instead of on the court. That was when I realised he was a champion.
“On the street, without me asking, he told me he couldn’t be there any longer. He said that he was broken because it wasn’t his turn to win, that he would have to win when he played there for the first time.”
On 5 June 2005, Nadal climbed into one of the boxes in the stadium to celebrate with this team after beating Mariano Puerta 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-1, 7-5 to win his first crown in Paris. The critics labelled him as the favourite, but the victory was still extraordinary for the 19-year-old.
“I told you I would do it!”, Nadal shouted to Costa when it was his turn for a high-five in the stands.
Zidane & The First Title
Rafael Nadal collected his first Coupe des Mousquetaires from the hands of Zinedine Zidane, the French football legend and Real Madrid’s current manager. For Nadal, well-known for his love of football, it was hugely exciting to receive his first Roland Garros trophy from Zidane.
Back in the locker room, Nadal was drinking a soft drink. He had a short conversation with Jaime Lissavetzky, then-Secretary of State for Sport in Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s government in Spain. Later, still dressed in his green sleeveless t-shirt and white pirate pants he had worn in the match against Puerta, the player sat on a wooden bench with the trophy as his team continued to recall moments from the match.
Two special guests then approached Nadal to congratulate him and have their photo taken with him: 1977 Roland Garros champion Guillermo Villas and Gustavo Kuerten, former No. 1 and three-time champion in Paris (1997, 2000, 2001).
Mats Wilander, another three-time champion in Paris (1982, 1985, 1988) also asked for a photo. The Swede had been the last player to win the tournament on his first attempt before Nadal accomplished the feat.
But nobody in the room, not even Nadal himself, could imagine on that afternoon that they had just witnessed the birth of the best tennis player of all time on clay.
With Nadal looking to break the record for most titles won in Paris with his seventh Roland Garros crown, rain pushed the end of his 2012 final against Novak Djokovic to Monday.
The match was delayed that evening in Paris as Nadal led Djokovic 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 1-2. However, the Serbian was in the midst of a comeback after winning eight consecutive games from 0-2 in the third set.
Nadal was unable to sleep that night or calm the butterflies in his stomach as he lay in his room. It was almost midnight and Nadal was still restless, his mind on Djokovic’s comeback.
In a desperate attempt to relax, Nadal opened his computer and started watching Dragon Ball, the successful cartoon series inspired by Akira Toriyama’s manga. He managed to stop his mind from churning and was able to fall asleep.
Heavy rain meant the match was restarted on Monday at 13:00. Nadal won back the service break in the fourth set and prevailed 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 to win his seventh Coupe des Mousquetaires, surpassing Bjorn Borg’s record to become the most prolific winner in the tournament’s history.
“Call An Ambulance!”
After holding the Coupe des Mousquetaires for the ninth time at 2014 Roland Garros by defeating Djokovic 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4, Nadal climbed into his team’s box to celebrate. When he reached Toni Nadal, his uncle and coach, the Spaniard covered his mouth and whispered into his ear that he needed an ambulance.
“He had been having cramps since the third set and he asked me to call an ambulance,” Toni explained. “I spoke to Angel Ruiz Cotorro [Nadal’s doctor] because he told me he didn’t have any saline solution. Afterwards, he went to see the doctor and he got better.
“Rafael was worse than Djokovic because he had cramps. Playing for an hour with cramps makes you hesitant all the time. You know that you have to run more than normal, that you have to be cautious. And that’s why the match required a few moments of brilliance. He knew that if we didn’t win it in the fourth set, it would be difficult to do so in the fifth.”
Nadal reiterated this when he spoke to journalists after the match.
“This was the French Open in which I’ve suffered the most physically,” Nadal said. “There have been moments when I felt very empty, very tired. I don’t know what would’ve happened in the fifth set. I guess I would’ve tried to find strength from somewhere, but I was really in a bad way and very much at my physical limit.
“Passion, motivation, the desire to win… All of that keeps you on court with the mentality that you want to do it. I don’t know what it was, but for whatever reason, I managed to handle it. I was able to suffer and find solutions. I coped with the physically difficult moments with very high-quality tennis. In one way or another, I found a way to win this title.”
A Replica Of The Coupe Des Mousquetaires
To celebrate Nadal’s 10th title at 2017 Roland Garros, a historic moment in the world of sport, the tournament decided to present him with a replica of the Coupe des Mousquetaires with “Rafa Nadal’s Tenth” engraved on it, something that has never been done for any other champion.
The tournament organisers had decided that the Spaniard should be the first player of all time to keep a Coupe des Mousquetaires, having won it on 10 occasions.
Normally, Roland Garros champions pose with the trophy after the final and the next day at an iconic part of the city, but the one they take home is a small replica. However, the tournament organisers decided to make a life-size replica of the Coupe des Mousquetaires that Nadal could display it in the museum of the Rafa Nadal Academy.
In addition, Roland Garros wanted to recognise Nadal’s 10th victory with a couple of special moments during the ceremony. Firstly, the fans in the stands held up cards to form an enormous mosaic that read “Bravo Rafa”, together with a huge 10 in reference to his 10 titles at the tournament. Toni Nadal was also given the honour of making a surprise appearance on court to present his nephew with a special trophy, breaking from the usual protocol.
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