I’ve watched — and re-watched — the video of Jacob Panetta shrugging his shoulders towards Jordan Subban during an ECHL game on the weekend many times in the past 48 hours.
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The first hockey games at the Beijing Winter Olympics take place exactly three weeks from today. Here’s the latest on the two Canadian teams:
After delaying the announcement by a few weeks due to COVID-19 cases on the team, Canada finally revealed its 23-player Olympic roster yesterday afternoon. The most notable of the final three cuts was veteran defenceman Meaghan Mikkelson, who’d been trying to make it to her fourth Olympics after having knee surgery in June.
Captain/overtime magician Marie-Philip Poulin and fellow forward Rebecca Johnston will compete in their fourth Olympics, and go for their third gold medal, as Canada looks to avenge its 2018 shootout loss to the archrival United States. The Canadians turned the tables at the world championship last summer in Calgary, snapping the Americans’ run of five consecutive titles when Poulin (who else?) scored in overtime in the final. Ten Canadians are set to make their Olympic debuts in Beijing.
Like a lot of Canada’s Olympic athletes right now, the women’s hockey team is laying low in an effort to avoid COVID-19 infections, which could jeopardize a player’s eligibility for the Games. The squad is bubbled together in Calgary and, after several players tested positive last month, the decision was made to not play any more games before Beijing. The final three dates of the Rivalry Series tour vs. the U.S. were cancelled, as was this week’s matchup vs. an Alberta Junior Hockey League men’s team.
Canada’s first Olympic game is Feb. 2 at 11:10 p.m. ET vs. Switzerland. Then it faces 2018 bronze medallist Finland on Feb. 3, Russia on Feb. 6 and the U.S. on Feb. 7 (all at 11:10 p.m. ET). All five teams in this group automatically advance to the quarter-finals, so these games are just about determining seeding. The playoff rounds begin on the night of Feb. 10 (ET), and culminate with the gold-medal game on Feb. 16 at 11:10 p.m. ET.
It’s highly likely that Canada and the U.S. will square off for gold for the sixth time in the seven Olympics since women’s hockey joined the program. That matchup would, as usual, be a toss-up. Read more about the Canadian roster here. Read analyst Kirsten Whelan’s position-by-position breakdown here.
It’s been three weeks since the NHL and its players officially bailed on Beijing, and we still don’t know who’s going to play for Canada. Based on the 2018 Olympics, which the NHL also skipped, we can assume the roster will be made up largely of guys who play for European clubs (especially in the Russia-based KHL), plus a few from the AHL (North America’s top minor league) and even the NCAA (U.S. colleges/universities). Four years ago, the leading scorers on Canada’s bronze-winning team were Maxim Noreau, who was playing in the Swiss league, and Derek Roy, who’d moved to the Swedish league after a long career in the NHL. Canada’s top goalie was former NHL journeyman Ben Scrivens.
This year’s team is being picked by new general manager Shane Doan, the former Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes forward who stepped in to replace Doug Armstrong when the NHL withdrew. Former Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien will be behind the bench.
Probably the biggest name they’re thought to be considering is six-time NHL all-star Eric Staal. The 37-year-old forward is currently not playing for anyone after helping Montreal to the Stanley Cup final last year, but Staal’s agent says he’s been working out and wants to play in the Olympics. His resumé is impressive: 1,034 points (including 441 goals) in 1,293 NHL regular-season games, plus a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2005 and Olympic gold in 2010.
Another interesting player is 19-year-old Owen Power, who’s reportedly a lock for the Canadian team. The No. 1 overall pick in last year’s NHL draft opted to play another season at the University of Michigan and lit up the world junior championship in December, scoring a hat trick in one of the two games Canada played before the tournament was cancelled. Power also played against grown men at last year’s world championship, recording three assists in 10 games to help Canada win gold.
Among the recognizable ex-NHLers also reported to be under consideration for the team are forwards Eric Fehr and Josh Ho-Sang, defencemen Jason Demers and Cody Franson, and goalie Devan Dubnyk.
When NHLers were expected to play, Canada was favoured to win gold. Now the betting markets have defending-champion Russia as the clear No. 1, and Canada part of a following pack with Finland and Sweden. Those countries, like Russia, have solid domestic leagues.
Canada’s first game is Feb. 10 at 8:10 a.m. ET vs. Germany, which surprised everyone in 2018 by making it to the gold-medal game and nearly upsetting Russia before losing in OT. Canada then faces the U.S. on Feb. 11 at 11:10 p.m. ET, and wraps up the group stage vs. China on Feb. 13 at 8:10 a.m. ET.
Everyone in the men’s tournament advances to the playoffs, but the winner of each of the three groups and the top second-place team advance directly to the quarter-finals. The rest must survive a one-game qualification playoff to join them. Those games are on Feb. 14 and 15 in Canadian time zones, and the quarters on Feb. 15 and 16. The gold-medal game is Feb. 19 at 11:10 p.m. ET.
The Novak Djokovic saga took another twist. The world No. 1 is still on track to play in the Australian Open starting next week after a judge on Monday overturned (on procedural grounds) the decision by border officials to revoke Djokovic’s visa because they felt his exemption to the country’s vaccination requirement for foreign visitors was invalid. However, Australia’s immigration minister has the power to deport Djokovic, and he may choose to wield it after the tennis star appears to have been caught in both a lie and some careless behaviour. Part of Djokovic’s argument for not needing to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter Australia is that he claims he recently recovered from the illness, and thus has some natural immunity. But reporters discovered that, at the time Djokovic claimed to have been infected (and knew so), he did an interview and photo shoot in his native Serbia while not wearing a mask. Reports also pointed out that Djokovic’s claim to Australian officials that he did not travel for 14 days prior to his flight to Melbourne is untrue based on social-media posts placing him in Serbia and in Spain during that period. Djokovic admitted via written statement today that he made an “error in judgement” by doing the interview when he was infected. He blamed the inaccurate travel declaration on his support team for “ticking the incorrect box” on his form. Read more about the latest in the Djokovic controversy here.
The NHL had a Kodak moment. Last night in South Florida, the Panthers beat the visiting Canucks 5-2 to stay atop the Presidents’ Trophy race with an NHL-best 24-7-5 record. But everybody on the internet is talking about the real story from the arena, which of course was Florida’s Sam Reinhart racking up three points to continue his breakthrough season. I’m kidding, obviously. Everyone knows the big story was actually Panthers star Jonathan Huberdeau chipping in an assist to stay in the thick of the Art Ross Trophy race. And also, yeah, I guess this was interesting too.
Here’s what you can live-stream today and Thursday on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem:
Freestyle skiing — aerials: The final World Cup event before the Olympics is taking place at Utah’s Deer Valley. Watch it today at 5 p.m. ET.
Junior hockey: Watch a WHL battle between the Prince Albert Raiders and the Red Deer Rebels tonight at 9 p.m. ET.
Alpine skiing: It’s time for one of the jewels of the World Cup circuit as this week’s men’s races happen on the revered Lauberhorn mountain in Wengen, Switzerland. Watch the super-G on Thursday at 6:30 a.m. ET. Back-to-back downhills go Friday and Saturday.
Figure skating: Watch the junior women’s and men’s free programs from the Canadian figure skating championships in Ottawa on Thursday at 10:50 a.m. ET and 2:10 p.m. ET, respectively.
Freestyle skiing — moguls: Canadian star Mikaël Kingsbury took back the men’s World Cup lead from Japan’s Ikuma Horishima with back-to-back victories last week at Mont-Tremblant, Que. This week’s stop at Deer Valley is their last chance to square off before the Olympics. Watch the first of two competitions Thursday at 4 p.m. ET. The other goes Friday at the same time.
See the full CBC Sports streaming and broadcast schedule here.
You’re up to speed. Talk to you tomorrow.
“There could be a scenario like that,” Gronkowski told reporters, via 95.3 WDAE in St. Petersburg. “I will never throw anything off the board because you never know how anything is going to play out. It’s the NFL. It’s one of the craziest businesses out there. You see organizations just totally flip year in and year out sometimes.
“I’m just going to really basically do what is basically best for myself in terms of the football world. It’s basically going to be a decision upon where I’m at in a couple weeks.”
Gronkowski had high praise for the closeness of the locker room and explained the next steps in deciding his future. He said he’ll take time off to recover, let his body heal and clear his mind in a process that could take 3-5 weeks. That doesn’t mean he would announce any decision in that time frame.
The five-time Pro Bowl tight end initially called it quits in March 2019, citing in part injuries sustained throughout his career. He added to them early this season with multiple rib fractures and a punctured lung.
Gronkowski ended his first NFL retirement to join Brady, who has delivered nearly every one of his career catches, in Tampa Bay ahead of the 2020 season. A year later they were Super Bowl champions together again, adding to their success with the New England Patriots. It was the fourth title for Gronkowski, 32, and seventh for Brady, 44.
Brady said after Sunday’s loss he had not thought much about the retirement question yet. He also said he would take time off after the season to think and talk it over with family.
I’ve watched — and re-watched — the video of Jacob Panetta shrugging his shoulders towards Jordan Subban during an ECHL game on the weekend many times in the past 48 hours.
To me, it did not look like it was racially motivated. But I wasn’t on the ice. More importantly, I’m not black.
So I don’t know — and I can’t know — what must have been going through Jordan Subban’s mind when he saw an opponent making what looked like “monkey gestures” at him. To Subban, who is black, it must have looked similar to the racist gesture that occurred days earlier in the American Hockey League, when a player made a racial gesture towards Boko Imama.
Panetta, who was released from his team and suspended indefinitely, said that wasn’t the case.
In an interview with Postmedia on Monday night, the 26-year-old claimed he was only making “a tough-guy, muscle-flexing pose” towards Subban and that it got misinterpreted. It’s the same gesture Panetta said he has made many times before. There’s even video evidence to back that up, as well as of Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson doing the same thing at the NHL level.
It was only after the game ended and Panetta was in the dressing room that he realized that Subban saw it differently.
“I heard him in the hallway and I kind of clued in that it was perceived like that and he took it that way,” said Panetta. “I was kind of in shock. It’s not my character. It’s not what I intended. That thought never crossed my mind.
“It’s tough hearing things. But actions are perceived differently by everyone. Unfortunately, those actions were perceived as racial. I want to emphasize that that was never my intention. My parents raised me to treat people with the utmost respect. That’s exactly what was going through my mind and what’s been going through my mind for the past 36 hours or so.”
As tough as the past couple of days have been for Panetta, who has been branded a racist and who many believe should be banned from playing professional hockey altogether, the Belleville, Ont., native said he can only imagine how difficult it has been for Subban and anyone else who viewed his gesture as racial.
“I’m sure it’s caused a lot of mental and emotional damage to Jordan and his family. It’s something that I’m sincerely sorry for,” said Panetta. “I just want to emphasize again that I’m sorry that he viewed it that way and I’m sorry for all the anger and hurt I’ve caused him and anyone else in the (arena) or anyone that’s had a chance to view it on social media.”
Maybe this is just one big misunderstanding, a case of crossing your signals and thinking something is worse than it actually is. Maybe Panetta is completely innocent. If that’s the case, we owe him an apology for blaming him for something he did not do.
At the same time, that doesn’t mean Subban is to blame. Nor does it mean that what Subban saw — and felt — is less important or less valid.
There’s a reason why Subban assumed he was being racially targeted. It’s because it has happened to him before. Many times. Over his career, he has been called names and felt like he didn’t belong. Talk to his brothers — PK is a defenceman with the New Jersey Devils and Malcom is a goalie with the Buffalo Sabres — or to Wayne Simmonds, or countless other black hockey players and they will tell you the same thing.
“The unfortunate thing isn’t just the incident,” PK Subban told reporters on Sunday. “The unfortunate thing is how many kids deal with this every day and it doesn’t come to light.”
There’s a reason why the Hockey Diversity Alliance partnered with Budweiser Canada to launch the #TapeOutHate campaign. There’s a reason why the NHL hired Kim Davis as its executive vice president of social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs.
Last January, Brandon Manning was suspended for five games in the AHL for using a racial slur against Imama. A year later, Krystof Hrabik was suspended for 30 games after he pretended he was eating a banana in front of Imama. That was in the same week where Willie O’Ree had his jersey retired in Boston as the first black NHLer.
In other words, we’ve come a long way as a sport and a society. But we’ve also got a long way to go. These are not isolated incidents. And they are not going away.
As Maple Leafs captain John Tavares told reporters on Monday: “We have a lot of work to do with learning and discussion — and something we addressed with the team as well.”
That might be the only good thing that comes out of this.
Regardless of Panetta’s intentions, this is a teachable moment for hockey. It’s yet another opportunity for the sport to work at being more and more inclusive to everyone.
A similar moment occurred three years ago, when TV microphones caught what sounded like a homophobic slur coming from Toronto’s Morgan Rielly. He claimed he was shouting for a teammate to “rag it” — a hockey term for ‘hang on to the puck and kill the clock.’ It could have ended there, as a simple misunderstanding.
Instead, Rielly and Leafs GM Kyle Dubas held a news conference a day later where they used the incident as a way to deal head-on with LGBTQ rights and matters of inclusion.
“I think it’s an opportunity for us as a team to realize that there’s really no place for slurs like that in sport and in life,” said Rielly said at the time.
That’s the direction the sport needs to take now with this.
“It’s definitely been a great teaching point for me,” said Panetta. “Even though those gestures were never meant to be racial, I’ve definitely learned that actions can be perceived differently and taken in different way. I just want to keep learning from it. I hope that we can have a conversation and I can talk to (Subban) and begin to work through this.”
It’s the kind of gesture we need more of these days.
VANCOUVER — When Émilie Castonguay was a girl, her family had a cottage in Mont-Tremblant, about two hours northwest of their home in Montreal.
She and her sisters would go skiing there. But the frigid winter temperatures in the Laurentians would often turn the snow to ice, and Émilie remembers sitting on the chairlift one morning with her older sister, Valerie, watching skiers clatter and crash on the crusty slopes below them.
“We said, ‘You know, we need to go to Vancouver. That’s where the big mountains are. We can have fresh snow all day,’” Émilie recalled Monday. “We always talked about Vancouver and how amazing it is.”
A few years later, when Émilie came home for the summer before her fourth year at Niagara University, Valerie reminded her of their conversation. On a hockey scholarship at the college above Niagara Falls on the New York side of the border, Émilie had undergone shoulder surgery and figured the injury ended any chance of a playing career in women’s hockey.
“I was lying in bed watching Friends re-runs and she came in and we had a conversation,” Émilie said. “I made a joke and she said: ‘Oh, I think we’ve known your career has been over for a long time in hockey.’ I was third-line winger in the NCAA… so obviously I wasn’t going to have much of a career playing after college. But she said: ‘You’re going to do your law degree like me. You’re going to go to law school and then you’re going to become GM for the Vancouver Canucks.’
“She passed away the next day. It was really the last conversation I ever had with her. Vancouver was where I scattered her ashes.”
Valerie Castonguay went into hospital for what her sister says was a routine surgery and died on the operating table. She was 25, one year older than Émilie. Their younger sister is Alexandra.
Émilie Castonguay did go to law school at the University of Montreal, passed her Quebec Bar exam and became a National Hockey League player agent. And on the “visions board” she kept at home, Castonguay wrote “38 Van” — her goal to work in Vancouver by age 38.
“I had put Vancouver on my vision board because I thought that’s where I want to build my life,” she said. “I don’t know how I’m going to get there. I had a business in the east… but I’d figure it out. It’s just kind of strange how the universe makes things happen sometimes.”
On Monday, the Canucks’ new president, Jim Rutherford, named Castonguay the organization’s first female assistant general manager. She turns 38 in about six weeks.
“For Vancouver and Jim to call me, and have such a vision and a plan — I love what I’m doing and I love being an agent — but if this isn’t a sign from (Valerie), I don’t know what it is,” Castonguay told Sportsnet in an interview after her Zoom call with reporters. “It’s a personal decision, but also a professional one, kind of mixed together.
“I can tell you, when I saw Jim’s name pop up on my cell phone, I told myself: I have no players in Vancouver, so he’s not calling me to talk about a player. And that’s when it kind of dawned on me that maybe this was about bringing me on. And it definitely took me a second to compose myself at that moment.”
The hiring of Castonguay is much bigger than the Canucks. With a client list that included former first-overall pick Alexis Lafrenière, ex-Canuck Antoine Roussel and Canadian national team captain Marie-Philip Poulin, she became in 2016 the first female agent certified by the NHL Players’ Association in Canada. Her role with the Canucks is ground-breaking for women in hockey.
But several times during her virtual press conference, Castonguay emphasized that she has always viewed her journey in hockey in “non-binary” terms.
“I grew up playing hockey with the boys, same as them,” she said. “I watched hockey, same as them. I played with the boys when I was young, and then I played with the girls when I was older.
“I never thought: Hey, you know, there’s only men in this industry; I can’t do this. I just put my head down and did the work. I think if you let gender get in your way or you let it intimidate you, that’s when it will do that. And I never really let that happen to me and my journey. Doors open up, and if you can do the work, you’re going to get the jobs. Hopefully this is the start of just more women getting jobs in sports and in hockey particularly. But for me, I just never let gender get in the way.”
Later, she said: “I’ve always had such a good reception from everybody in the sport. It’s important for women that want to be in the sport to know that. Sometimes you get intimidated, but you shouldn’t. If you have the knowledge and you’ve done the work, there’s a place for you here. And if it needs to start with me, then good.”
Castonguay’s duties with the Canucks will include salary-cap management, player contracts and all issues related to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Rutherford said her voice will be heard in all aspects of hockey operations, and that he hired Castonguay because she was the best candidate — not because she is a woman.
“I’m not just doing this to do this and then people are going to be happier or pacified or whatever,” Rutherford said. “It’s because I believe in this. It’s another voice from somebody that came up through the system in a different way. And I think the more voices we can have that’s coming from a different place, the more beneficial it’s going to be.”
Last week, the Canucks hired Rachel Doerrie for their analytics department, and Rutherford told Sportsnet he has his eye on another candidate, who also happens to be female, for another position.
Castonguay said the hardest part of taking the Canucks’ job was telling her player-clients she could no longer represent them.
“When she called me the other day, she was crying because she couldn’t represent me,” Roussel, traded to Arizona from Vancouver last summer, said Monday. “I’m like: ‘Are you kidding me? Like, it’s a dream job, like everybody wanted. Dude, it’s the best thing that can happen.’
“She’ll do awesome. She’s a great, great woman. She’s the best. I think she’ll have a tremendous career in the National Hockey League.”
Asked if he thinks Castonguay will one day become the NHL’s first female general manager, Roussel said: “One hundred per cent. I think she’ll be the one.”
If that’s the case, it may have to be with the Canucks. Castonguay said she wants to stay in Vancouver.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in Whistler and Tofino, and Squamish is probably my favourite place,” she said. “Everything from Granville Island to Stanley Park, just everything, Vancouver is my place, where I feel at home the most in the world. It’s crazy to say that, but I’m not even making it up. That’s where I feel at home.
“I plan on being there for a long time, for the rest of my life if I can. I’m taking this challenge very seriously. Failure is not an option here for us. We’re going to do things the right way and with the right people, and players are going to feel like they want to be there. That’s my goal.”
Castonguay first visited Vancouver in 2009, the year after her sister died. She brought Valerie’s ashes as a way to fulfill the girls’ promise of going to Vancouver together.
Émilie scattered the ashes on the shore as the sun was setting across the Pacific.
“Vancouver is the place that I always wanted to be,” Castonguay said. “I’ve always felt my sister there. Every time I have a chance to go on vacation, that’s where I go. I have a very personal relationship with that city. And so for it to turn out this way, it’s just kind of serendipitous.”
It’s more than that.
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