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What we learned about Connor McDavid’s rehab

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When Connor McDavid scored his first goal of the season, there was plenty of reason to be excited.

The play was vintage 97, as he darted between Vancouver Canucks defencemen Quinn Hughes and Chris Tanev before lifting a shot over Jacob Markstrom’s blocker and under the bar. The tally broke a 2-2 tie and came with just over five minutes remaining in the third period of a contest that doubled as Edmonton’s first game of the new campaign and its home opener.

It also came on the heels of a summer-long rehab process McDavid required to heal a left knee injury sustained in the final game of the 2018-19 season, when he crashed into the post in a contest against the Calgary Flames

Given all that, it seemed completely natural to witness McDavid drop down to one knee and unleash a few furious fist pumps. His dad Brian, though, sensed a little extra mustard on this particular celebration.

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“There was a different level on that one,” Brian McDavid says.

That’s because Connor McDavid — unbeknownst to most of those watching in the building and around the country — came terrifyingly close to missing this season of NHL hockey, a fact revealed in an hour-long documentary titled ‘Whatever It Takes’ that aired on Sportsnet Friday night. In it, McDavid and his inner circle — including his parents, girlfriend and medical professionals — speak candidly about the extent of an injury that, in the early stages, created real concern about his long-term future in the game.

Thankfully, McDavid is right where he should be, leading the NHL in scoring at the break. It’s a happy ending to a chapter in his career he’ll never forget. Here are some of the can’t-miss aspects of this story.

It takes a lot, but it’s possible to rattle Connor McDavid

Despite the fact he plays a faster game than anybody in the history of hockey, McDavid always seems in control. On the ice, he’s the one dictating the action. In the dressing room, he’s measured and economical in front of microphones.

Even in the immediate aftermath of his injury, we saw McDavid calmly say the words, “It’s broken” to the group of teammates, trainers and opponents huddled around him. Once he was out of view, though, hobbling down the hallway, McDavid came undone.

“I held it together until we got through the tunnel and [then] I was a mess,” he says in the doc.

You’d expect nothing less from an athlete in that position. Still, it was jarring to hear those closest to him explain how distraught McDavid was as he processed what had happened and what might have to happen next

One of the doctors consulted told McDavid surgery was the way to go, the recovery period would be upwards of a full year and, even then, there was no guarantee his knee would be exactly as it was before he fully tore the posterior cruciate ligament, tore the medial and lateral menisci, fully tore the popliteus muscle, tore the posterior capsule and sustained a tibial plateau fracture.

Oh, and by the way, the sooner you have this surgery, the better.

“I’ve got to make this decision at 22 [years old] and I’ve got to make it in 24 hours,” McDavid says.

Maybe for the first time in his life, the next move wasn’t obvious.

Squeeze; Release; Repeat

With his surgery already scheduled, McDavid sought one more opinion before going under the knife. That doctor suggested forgoing the scalpel in favour of a pioneering, multi-pronged rehab program. Feeling there was no harm in trying, McDavid opted for that route.

The film details the painstaking steps McDavid undertook as — for 10 hours a day, seven days a week — he worked to heal his body. In the beginning, he was spending two hours a day locked in a hyperbaric chamber doing the one tiny exercise he’d be cleared for.

“I’d be in [the chamber] and I would flex my quad muscle for 10 seconds on, rest for 10 seconds, and I would do that over and over again trying to save the muscle,” McDavid says.

When he was finally allowed to put some weight on the knee, McDavid spent so much time in the pool his skin is probably still wrinkled. For a while, he didn’t know if the work would be in vain and surgery would still be required. But the hours of meticulous and varied rehabilitation started to pay off as the PCL fibres began to re-attach.

Somebody knows how to keep a secret

Any time the game’s premier star is suddenly worrying about the potential for career derailment, you’d think word would leak out and travel at lightspeed around the hockey world. Somehow, the team around McDavid managed to keep the deep details of this injury under wraps — even from high-profile new hires.

When Ken Holland was talking to Oilers chairman Bob Nicholson about the possibility of filling the vacant general manager’s office last summer, the former was justifiably curious about how the franchise’s foundational player was recovering from his injury.

“I gave him information; I didn’t give him all the information,” Nicholson explained. “We [the Oilers] really talked about, hey, we’ve got to keep this as tight as possible. There were a lot of people poking around, trying to get more information and we just clamped it down.”

Holland acknowledged he really didn’t understand the full extent of things until after he’d put pen to paper. Now, we’re all in the know. And that makes what McDavid is doing this season even more remarkable.

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Bedard, Fantilli headline Canada’s selection camp roster for 2023 World Juniors – Sportsnet.ca

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Recap: Brazil vs South Korea – World Cup 2022 – Al Jazeera English

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Neymar has returned from injury to help Brazil thump South Korea 4-1, setting up a World Cup quarter-final clash against Croatia.

Four unanswered Brazilian goals in the first half at Stadium 974 on Monday set an imperious tone for a team with their sights firmly on a sixth World Cup title.

And while the game settled in the second period, it was never sluggish or scrappy, and a spirited South Korea fought hard to score a consolation goal in the 76th minute.

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It took just seven minutes for Brazil to get off the mark, with Raphinha picking up the ball just outside the box and rushing in on the right side, sending in a pass to Neymar. The Paris Saint-Germain number 10 was brought down by his marker and the ball ended up at the feet of Vinicius Jr, in acres of space.

The Real Madrid star steadied himself before placing it to the right of Kim Seung-gyu in the South Korean goal.

Brazil celebrating their third goal, with goalscorer Richarlison in the centre [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Just three minutes later, Richarlison was brought down by Jung Woo-young inside the box, and the referee pointed to the spot. Neymar, who had reportedly flown his barber out to Qatar to dye his hair blonde following previous victories over South Korea with bleached hair, wasted no time in slotting it into the bottom-right of the net. Brazil was up two-nil with less than 15 minutes on the clock.

South Korea had their share of chances, with Hwang Hee-chan, fresh off scoring the winner against Portugal, having a go from a distance but sending the ball comfortably over the bar. Moments later, Allison was forced to make a diving save to his left, his first save of the tournament.

But Paolo Bento’s men were simply outclassed in every part of the pitch.

A remarkable piece of skill in the 26th minute saw Richarlison juggling the ball, heading it to himself three times while evading defenders on the edge of the South Korean box. He then passed the ball before running through on goal to receive the return, firing the ball in for Brazil’s third.

Just 10 minutes later, Vinicius Jr set up Lucas Paqueta with a cheeky chip, and the midfielder shot low and right. Kim Seung-gyu could do little but look at the ball nestling in the back of the net.

With four goals before half-time, Brazil was putting down a marker for any teams who think they might have a chance of lifting the trophy on December 18.

Son Heung-min nearly clawed one back for South Korea straight after the restart, but Alisson — who must, through this game alone, be in contention for the Golden Glove — got enough of his arm onto the shot to tip it wide.

Faced with the intensity of Brazil’s onslaught, South Korea tried to slow the game, but more chances for Raphinha and Vinicius Jr followed despite the best efforts of the men in red.

Then came the 77th minute, and out of nowhere, Paik Seung-ho scored from outside the box. A free kick for South Korea was bundled clear by the Brazilian defence, falling to Paik, who belted it past Alisson’s dive to find the top-right corner. Finally, the South Korean fans had something to cheer about.

South Korea continued to work hard in defence and create chances in attack, but that goal was to be their only score, and they head home having been soundly beaten by one of the best teams in the world.

Brazil will face Croatia in the quarter-finals at Education City on Friday.

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Christine Sinclair, Diana Matheson reveal pro Canadian women's soccer league set for kickoff in 2025 – CBC Sports

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Professional women’s soccer is coming to Canada.

Christine Sinclair and former national teammate Diana Matheson announced on Monday plans to kick off a domestic professional women’s league in 2025, featuring eight teams throughout Canada.

The two players sat down with The National‘s Adrienne Arsenault to reveal the news.

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After the duo helped Canada capture bronze at the 2012 Olympics — Matheson scored the medal-clinching goal — Sinclair expected progress. After all, the team had just snapped Canada’s 108-year podium drought in the sport.

“I really thought that 2012 was going to be a turning point for this country in bringing professional soccer home,” Sinclair told Arsenault. “But it never happened. And there’s still no pathways within this country.”

And so, a decade later, Sinclair and Matheson took matters into their own hands.

The still unnamed league would begin in April 2025 with an inaugural champion crowned sometime in the fall. Each team will have at least one Canadian international, and the goal is to bring home about half of the over-100 Canadians currently playing abroad.

WATCH | CBC Sports’ Signa Butler examines absence of top domestic women’s league:

Canada’s greatest athletes still without a domestic league of their own

2 months ago

Duration 2:53

Host Signa Butler explains the landscape of women’s sports leagues in Canada, as some of the country’s best athletes are without a league in their own backyard.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Calgary Foothills Soccer Club are confirmed as the first two teams to join the upstart league.

“Whitecaps FC are thrilled to be one of the first teams to sign on to a professional women’s soccer league in Canada,” said Stephanie Labbe, Whitecaps FC general manager of women’s soccer. “The creation of this league is something we have been advocating for over many years, and to be part of seeing it come to fruition is truly exciting.”

The league is being built by Matheson and her business partners at Project 8 Sports Inc. Sinclair, soccer’s all-time international scoring leader, is on board as an official advisor.

“The whole idea behind this is to aim high. And like, if you’re not, what’s the point?” Sinclair said.

“So let’s go out from the get-go and compete with the best leagues in the world and bring in the top talent. And yeah, have 10 year olds watching a game that 10 years later is on the Whitecaps, for instance. That would be my dream.”

Matheson, who retired from playing in July 2021, has visions of the league pushing the entire Canadian women’s sports infrastructure forward.

“It’s health and wellness. It’s confidence. It’s tied with better academics. There’s a huge tie between women in sport and women in business,” Matheson said. “And this is about soccer, but it’s about the coaches, it’s about the referees, it’s about women in executive roles in sport.”

Part of that women’s sports fabric comes down to marketing like jersey sales. Sinclair said she can’t even get her hands on her own jersey to gift to her niece.

“I don’t know if they exist,” Sinclair said.

Pursuing diversity

Matheson, 38, said she’s been working on obtaining her Master of Business Administration, as well as partaking in UEFA programming. She’s hoping the league becomes a Canada Soccer member by 2023, with full sanctioning by 2024

Sinclair, left, and Matheson, right, at the 2012 Olympics. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

She said Air Canada and CIBC are already on board as sponsors, and that it’s especially important to have the right team owners involved in the league.

“One of the things is having more diversity to begin with — more women, diverse voices to begin with, more players voices to begin with. And that’s top to bottom. I want women owners, women in the executive, women’s player voices as part of this,” Matheson said.

The Oakville, Ont., native made the case that the buy-in, which is expected to be between $8-10 million, is a worthwhile investment, noting that National Women’s Soccer League clubs, which were bought for $150,000 US 10 years ago, are now valued at a minimum of $35 million US. The Orlando NWSL franchise was purchased in 2021 for about $400 million US.

Matheson said her league can compete with average player salaries across the world right now.

“We just have way more opportunities to monetize our own brand. Players can do appearances, they can work with companies, they can run camps in a way that they just can’t when they’re playing in Italy and England,” she said.

Another point of importance for Matheson and Sinclair is ensuring players in their league are protected. Reports of abuse in the NWSL last season resulted in the resignation of half of the league’s coaches.

Sinclair is captain of the Portland Thorns, whose CEO Merrit Paulson stepped down in October following reports of systemic emotional and verbal abuse, as well as sexual misconduct.

“[It’s] unfortunate just how women are treated and taken advantage of. That’s why we need women owners. We need female executives,” Sinclair said.

Added Matheson: “It’s training, it’s vetting, it’s independent reporting systems. And for us, that’s going to mean working with those groups that are really good at doing those things.”

Sinclair autographs a fan’s ball during a men’s World Cup watch party in Toronto in November. (Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press)

Establishing pathways

At its crux, though, the league intends to establish pathways for young Canadian women to stay in soccer and work their way onto the national team — to foster future generations so that one day they could get their golden moment like Sinclair had in 2021 in Tokyo.

“It’s time to change the narrative and inspire the next group,” Matheson said. “I believe kids need to see it to believe that it’s possible to happen. And with the launch of this league, kids will be able to go into their own backyard and watch their heroes play and dream of one day representing their hometown professional club and maybe representing Canada.”

Sinclair said she was once one of those kids, watching the 1999 World Cup with a dream to be on that pitch herself one day.

23 years later, the Burnaby, B.C., native has accomplished nearly everything she could in her sport.

“We’ve inspired Canadians on the podium,” Sinclair said. “Now it’s time to actually make an impactful difference here in Canada.”

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