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Why the Kansas City Chiefs will win Super Bowl LV – Sportsnet.ca

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Ahead of Super Bowl LV between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sportsnet writers will break down why each team can win the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday.

First, we looked at the Buccaneers. Now, it’s time to size up the Chiefs.

You can’t talk about Super Bowl LV without a ton of GOAT references – it’s inevitable when we’re talk about the NFL’s Greatest Of All Time going for championship win No. 7 against the 25-year-old kid (we mean that in the baby-GOAT sense, of course) who’s looking for his second straight title.

We know that GOAT conversation is locked up (for now), so if Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs are going to beat Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday, it’s going to come down to this:

A wolf, a giraffe, a cheetah and Honey Badger.

Asked during Super Bowl media week what he’d like his spirit animal to be, Mahomes chose a wolf.

“I would like to be a wolf, kind of run around with my pack and being able to be a leader, someone that continues to attack and continues to lead as much as possible,” he said.

Mahomes was then asked what animal would best serve as tight end Travis Kelce’s spirit animal.

“It’s got to be something funny … I think he’d be a giraffe. He’s kind of just out there, grazing around the field, trying to make something happen,” said Mahomes. “He’s always a good time.”

Wide receiver Tyreek Hill is the fastest man in the football kingdom with his cheetah-like speed (it’s also his Twitter handle), and we all know the Honey Badger: safety Tyronn Mathieu plays as tenaciously now as he did back in college when he earned the nickname for his fearlessness on the field.

So, what do you get when you pit a GOAT against these four? You get a Chiefs Super Bowl victory and the league’s first back-to-back champs since Brady and the New England Patriots last won two straight in 2003 and 2004.

Patrick Mahomes

Mahomes’ one and only post-season loss came in 2019, hand-delivered by Tom Brady himself on his way to winning the Super Bowl with the New England Patriots. Now equipped with a Super Bowl win of his own after winning last year’s championship, Mahomes looks poised to run it back and do something Brady never did: win back-to-back Super Bowl MVP awards.

Mahomes enters Sunday’s showdown riding a personal 12-game win streak (including regular season and playoffs) and his numbers are otherworldly during that time span: 320.5 passing yards per game, a 29-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio, 32 passes of 25 yards or more and a quarterback rating of 110.1.

Just when we think we have a grasp of how good he is, Mahomes goes and does something outrageous – a no-look pass, a flawless pumpfake, etc. – and makes it look effortless.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle working against Mahomes is actually his own wolfpack (that’s what we’re gonna call the offensive line now). Pieced together through injuries and ailments all season, Mahomes’ ability to work his magic behind this group is a testament to his own ingenious and the offence around him, coached by Eric Bienemy. He’ll have his work cut out for him against a Buccaneers defence that has been dominant all season and even better in these playoffs. Tampa’s fearsome front four will be relentless, and Mahomes’ ability to thrive under pressure, as we’ve seen all season at the expense of anyone who dares try to blitz him, will be put to the ultimate test.

Travis Kelce & Tyreek Hill

Having one of Travis Kelce or Tyreek Hill would give any offence a massive advantage. Put ‘em together and have Mahomes throwing to them, and you’ve got an offensive trio that’s just downright unfair.

Kelce is unguardable in the red zone and boasts the kind of speed, physicality and versatility that make him one of the best tight ends to have ever played. Hill, meanwhile, has some of the surest hands in the game and is simply impossible to keep up with.

Hill’s 15 touchdown receptions this season were a career-best and ranked him second league-wide, and he’s coming off his best post-season showing yet – he tallied 172 yards through the air against Buffalo in the AFC Championship – and is just seven yards shy of setting a new franchise record for the most yards in a single post-season. And it just so happens that the finest game of Hill’s career came just a few months ago against the Buccaneers: his 269 receiving yards and three touchdowns against Tampa Bay back on Nov. 29 could be a sign of what’s to come this Sunday.

Kelce, meanwhile, is also playing some of his best football right now. He’s riding a six-game touchdown streak and finished the 2020 regular season second in receiving yards (1,416) behind just Stefon Diggs (1,535).

These two are gonna be a problem in Tampa Bay.

Tyrann Mathieu

Between their defensive line and a pair of linebackers who have wreaked havoc on some of the league’s best this year, it’s clear that Tampa Bay holds the advantage when it comes to defence in this matchup.

But Kansas City holds the wild card in Tyrann Mathieu – the star safety who’s about as versatile as they come.

His six interceptions in the regular season (including one against Brady in that November matchup in Tampa) ranked him third league-wide in the category, and his ability to lock down opponents is simply special – just ask the Buccaneers.

This matchup is extra significant for Mathieu, who was drafted by Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians in Arizona back in 2013. During a media availability this week, Arians called Mathieu his “favourite draft choice of all time.

“I just love him, his passion for football, but I am so proud of the man he’s become,” Arians said.

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This Battle of Alberta won’t be like the past, but the emotion will be unmatched – Sportsnet.ca

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EDMONTON  — It’s been 31 years, so long that a generation really only knows the Battle of Alberta in snap shots from Hockey Night in Canada videos. 

Gretzky down the wing on Vernon. Smith, in off of Fuhr. Fleury break dancing across the Northlands Coliseum logo. Dave Brown, startin’ the lawn mower on Jim Kyte. 

Glen Sather, alternately cheering an OT goal in Calgary and issuing a hand gesture to Flames fans that would have garnered him a healthy fine today. 

We’re here to tell you: societal norms dictate that the old Battle of Alberta will never be re-lived. This can not be that. 

But although we might know what we’re NOT going to see when the Calgary Flames hook up with the Edmonton Oilers starting on Wednesday night, you never know what you might see in a matchup set to consume this prairie province for the first time since 1991. A grudge match that — in its best days — was as good a rivalry as the National Hockey League has seen in all its many years. 

“You always knew going into it that there was going to be bloodshed, and it was going to be some of your own,” former Oilers (and Flames) defenceman Steve Smith said in my book, The Battle of Alberta. “It was real then. There were going to be fights and you were expected to be part of fights and physical hockey.” 

“They were big, strong, physical,” added Edmonton defenceman Jeff Beukeboom. “They were dirty. Just like us,”  

The sheer violence does not exist anymore, and for that the NHL is a better place. But the emotion that has gone missing with that violence? 

That, we’d like to surgically implant back into the game, like a ligament from a cadaver that could put the hop back in the step of a league where too many players are buddy-buddy, asking how the wife and kids are rather than putting a glove in their opponent’s face. 

It was that emotion that fuelled the high-octane dragster that was The Battle. 

Emotion that would drive Doug Risebrough to slink into the penalty box with an Oilers jersey purloined from the latest Pier 6 brawl, and slice it into ribbons with his skates. Emotion injected into a practice from Flames head coach Bob Johnson, who dressed a Junior A goalie in an Oilers jersey so his players could feel the thrill of blowing pucks past a Grant Fuhr lookalike. 

“That’s the thing we’re missing in the game today. Emotion,” said former Flames goalie Mike Vernon. “Those games had so much emotion, and there was a price that had to be paid. Like the time Dave Brown fought Stu Grimson. Grimmer sat in the penalty box for 10 minutes with a broken face. 

“You want to see real? That’s real.” 

Emotion from players who knew, this wasn’t going to be a normal game. And if I play like it is, I won’t survive it. 

“I had no problem [expletive] cuttin’ your eye out. Wouldn’t have bothered me a bit,” said Theoren Fleury, a small man who cut a big swath through the Battle. “Hey – you’re trying to [expletive] kill me? This was survival. It was that unpredictability that allowed me to have the room that I had.”

On a macro level, Edmonton and Calgary have always been contesting each other.

They fought over who would get the first Canadian Pacific Railway terminal (Calgary), way back in the 1800s. They argued over who would be designated the provincial capital, or lay claim to the University of Alberta in the early 1900s (Edmonton, and Edmonton). 

Today the contest has been mostly won by the city that is simply 300 kilometres closer to the rest of the world than its rival. Calgary is the Dallas to Edmonton’s Houston, where the oil patch is concerned, an industry orchestrated by the white collars in the South, but serviced and operated by blue collars up North. 

But where all this has impacted the sports scene is this: Anecdotally, more people born in Edmonton continue to live in Edmonton, while Calgary has become a city more rich in people from elsewhere; Edmonton is a city you leave, whereas Calgary has become somewhere people come to, with allegiances to other teams in tow.

That assessment is subjective, sure, but it’s backed up by the fact the Oilers tend to post better media numbers than the Flames do, whether it’s radio, TV or print. There is simply more local interest in Edmonton’s team than Calgary’s, a phenomenon that will be invisible to the naked eye these next two weeks. 

When the original Battle began however, there was no question who was the big brother, and who was the little one. 

Edmonton had joined the NHL from the old World Hockey Association in 1979, and the Flames arrived from Atlanta a year later. Soon, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr, Paul Coffey et al. were clearly a group the Flames could not match, or catch up to via the draft. So the Flames, with former University of Wisconsin coach Bob Johnson behind their bench, built a team using older college grads like Joe Nieuwendyk, Joe Mullen, Joel Otto, Jamie Macoun and Gary Suter.

In the end, the Flames only won one of five playoff meetings between the two, but they played the Boston Red Sox to Edmonton’s New York Yankees, or Don Cherry’s Boston Bruins to the 70’s Habs that were Edmonton. 

“Ali needed Frazier,” Messier once said. “That top opponent that pushes, and challenges, and makes you better.” 

As the two teams ready for a meeting beginning Wednesday night in Calgary, that old Saddledome is perhaps the only visual that will provide a similar look, outside the familiar jerseys of each team. The landscape is unfamiliar, with teams full of players who have never faced each other in a post-season series. 

Two teams who once combined for 780 goals in a season settled for 576 this season. And penalty minutes? 

Forget about it… 

In 2022 however, there are some similarities. Connor McDavid will play the part of Wayne Gretzky, while the Elias Lindholm line will lend depth and execution the way Johnson’s old Flames would attack Edmonton using his oft-referenced — but never actually seen — “Seven Point Plan” to beat the Oilers. 

Today Matthew Tkachuk is the spoon that stirs the emotional bouillabaisse, whereas before it was Esa Tikkanen or Neil Sheehy, the Flames defenceman and Gretzky-pesterer whose refusal to fight anyone on Edmonton wound the Oilers up like a top. 

When it’s done, all we can hope for is some lasting memories, some players who might not tee it up together the way they may have a summer ago, and two organizations that see each other as they once did — as the in-division hurdle that had to be jumped on the way to a Stanley Cup. 

“All the most important, most memorable team meetings we ever had were held in that dressing room in Calgary,” Craig MacTavish once said. “We were the best two teams in the NHL of that day, and we would meet very early in the playoffs. 

“They were absolute wars,” he added. “A pleasure to be a part of, in hindsight.” 

We leave you with this anecdote, from Beukeboom. 

“I think it was a pre-season game,” he began. “I was going up ice and got two-handed on the back of the legs by Fleury. Whack! I remember a pile-up in the corner one day, after Simmer (Craig Simpson) had taken out their goalie, and Fleury was running his mouth. ‘You guys suck. You can’t skate, you big [expletive].’ So now we’re in the pile in the corner, and he’s on top of me. But, we come out of it together, and now he’s saying, ‘It’s OK. I’ve got you. No problem.’ Like, now he’s being a nice guy.” 

So, what did Beukeboom do? Exactly what Fleury would have done, had the shoe been on the other foot 

“I suckered him. Cut him open for stitches,” he said. “It was one of the few times [head coach] John Muckler paid me a compliment.” 

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Barkov, Bergeron, Lindholm named as Selke Trophy finalists – Sportsnet.ca

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The Calgary FlamesElias Lindholm joined fellow centres Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers and Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins as one of three finalists named for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, the NHL announced Tuesday.

The award, which is given “to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of
the game,” is voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, with the top three vote-getters listed as finalists.

Lindholm, 27, has never won the award, but posted a plus-61 rating that was second only in the league to teammate Johnny Gaudreau’s plus-64. The Swedish centre was the fifth-best in the league at faceoffs, with a 52.9 per cent success rate in 1,592 attempts.

Barkov, who won the Selke last year, led the Panthers to the Presidents’ Trophy this season with the league’s best record. The 26-year-old from Finland posted a career-best 57 per cent success rate in faceoffs and led his team’s forwards in average ice time (20:18) for the fifth straight year. His plus-36 was fourth best in the league amongst forwards.

Bergeron, who may retire this off-season, has won the Selke four times in his 19-year career, which is tied with former Montreal Canadiens great Bob Gainey for the most in NHL history. The 36-year-old from L’Ancienne-Lorette, Que., has been a finalist for the Selke 11 times and led the league this season for the seventh time in his career in faceoff wins, with a success rate of 61.9 per cent.

The NHL plans on revealing its 2022 award winners during the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final.

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England to host 2025 Women’s Rugby World Cup

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World Rugby (WR) has named England as the host nation for the 2025 Women’s Rugby World Cup.

In addition, WR also unanimously approved Australia as hosts for the men’s World Cup in 2027 and the women’s in 2029 with the United States (US) hosting the men’s tournament for the first time in 2031 and the women’s in 2033.

WR is hoping to generate US$1 billion from the World Cup in 2031 as it seeks to tap into the US’ vast sporting culture and commercial potential.

“The USA is the golden nugget everyone wants to get a hold of. It’s the world’s biggest sporting market,” said WR chairperson, Sir Bill Beaumont.

2031 and 2033 World Cups have 25 or so venue bids on the table from all over the country. WR delegates have already been shown around the Denver Bronco’s impressive Empower Field home. One possibility could see the tournament start in the west of the country and gradually move east. There is also the possibility of using localized pools, where each group plays in a different part of the country before congregating for its grand finish.

The whole process is expected to cost in the region of US$500 million and has already received bipartisan support, alongside the seal of approval from President Joe Biden, who wrote a letter to Sir Beaumont promising regulatory support and infrastructural guarantees.

In the US, there have been many attempts to crack the market, but none have yet succeeded. However, the continued presence of rugby in the Olympics, the growing footprint of Major League Rugby (MLR) and an acceptance of where things went wrong in the past, means there is optimism around the next decade.

The US men’s team faces one of the biggest games in their history in June when they have their two-legged playoff against Chile for a spot in the 2023 Rugby World Cup scheduled to take place in France from the 8th of September to the 28th of October 2023.

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