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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.

“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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CFL to return in August

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The Canadian Football League (CFL), which saw its entire 2020 campaign wiped out by the COVID-19 outbreak, said on Monday its board of governors voted unanimously to kick off a shortened 14-game season in August.

The CFL, whose biggest source of revenue comes from ticket sales rather than TV deals like those enjoyed by larger U.S.-based leagues, also said fans will be able to return to the stands in line with provincial guidelines.

“This is an exciting day for Canadian football and for Canada itself,” CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in a news release.

“I want to thank our fans, players, coaches, and partners for their incredible support and patience as we’ve worked together towards this day.”

The season will begin Aug. 5 while the Grey Cup championship game will be played Dec. 12 in Hamilton, Ontario.

The full schedule will be released on Tuesday along with each of the league’s nine team’s plan for distributing tickets to season ticket holders and, where government restrictions on stadium capacity allow, ticket sales to the general public.

After first delaying its 2020 season, the CFL decided to scrap it entirely following a last-ditch effort to secure financing from the Canadian government to stage a shortened campaign that would have been held entirely in Manitoba was turned down.

The CFL had previously said it would only move forward with a 2021 season if it could secure the government approvals for its plans to keep players and coaches safe and the green light to allow a “significant” number of fans to attend games.

“We are on track to receive all of the necessary health and safety approvals, thanks to our tireless medical advisers and staff, and the dedicated government officials who have been working with them,” said Ambrosie.

“And while the outlook for fans in the stands varies from province to province, we are confident that process is also on the right track.”

 

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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Mixed Martial Arts-Door is open for YouTube’s Paul brothers in MMA

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Logan and Jake Paul would make great Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters, Bellator president Scott Coker has said as he targets exhibition matches featuring the YouTube personalities such as the former’s boxing bout against Floyd Mayweather.

Logan Paul went the distance, surviving eight rounds against unbeaten (50-0) five-division world boxing champion Mayweather in an exhibition on Sunday at Miami’s Hard Rock stadium.

USA Today reported the fight brought in one million pay per view buys with $50 million generated from sales in the United States.

It was only the second fight of Paul’s career, while his brother Jake has fought in three professional boxing matches, beating former MMA fighter Ben Askren in April.

Critics have labelled the bouts a sideshow due to the lack of sporting credibility of the duo, who made their names as social media personalities and have millions of subscribers on YouTube.

However, Coker told Reuters the brothers have impressive physiques and the door is open for them to move into MMA.

“I met with Logan Paul about two years ago and I’ve spoken to Jake Paul’s manager and Jake on a zoom call recently… The one thing I said was hey, if you want to do MMA we would love to promote you guys,” the 58-year-old said in a Zoom interview.

“These guys are young, athletic, strong and you saw the fight on Sunday night these guys they came and did their work.

“Mayweather couldn’t finish him and I know he tried, I heard he wanted to knock this kid out so bad,” he added.

“When I heard both had high school wrestling backgrounds in Ohio, which is a prominent wrestling state in the U.S., it really made me interested in pursuing them in some super fights in Mixed Martial Arts – and that door is continually open.”

HEADLINE FIGHT

Bellator, owned by Viacom, is gearing up for a busy month of events, starting with Bellator 260 on Friday with the headline fight between reigning welterweight world champion Douglas Lima and the undefeated Yaroslav Amosov.

However, super fights and exhibitions are where Coker is targeting a younger audience.

“My 14-year-old niece, I told her I was going to the Logan Paul fight and she thought that was the greatest thing,” he said.

“She asked me who he was fighting and I said Floyd Mayweather and she said ‘who’s that?’ – I thought wow, she doesn’t know boxing, she doesn’t know MMA, she’s just a 14-year-old girl on the internet doing what they do.”

As the sporting world gears up for the delayed Tokyo Olympics starting in July, Coker believes MMA will feature in future Games.

“When you think about mixed martial arts, what you’re talking about is boxing, wrestling, judo, taekwondo, karate – those are all Olympic sports,” he said.

“Why wouldn’t mixed martial arts eventually get into the Olympics because six out of the seven disciplines MMA is known to use really is already there.

“There’d be a lot of details to work out but to me I think it will happen, it’s just a matter of time.”

 

(Reporting by Christian Radnedge,; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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Montreal will host the 2024 world figure skating championships

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Montreal will host the 2024 world figure skating championships, the International Skating Union (ISU) said on Wednesday, after the 2020 event Canada was to host was cancelled due to COVID-19.

The championships will return to Montreal from March 18-24, marking the 11th time Canada has staged the event.

“Skate Canada has a proven track record of holding successful ISU events and we are looking forward to bringing the world’s best skaters to the fantastic Canadian city of Montreal,” said Debra Armstrong, CEO of Skate Canada, in a statement.

 

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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