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With Ontario courses set to open, here's how golf has changed as province eases restrictions – CBC.ca

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Golfers and course operators in Ontario must have felt like they sank a hole-in-one this week.

Golf courses will be allowed to open on Saturday as part of an initial stage of easing restrictions on businesses in place since March 23 to limit the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. 

The Ford government gave golf the green light yesterday after weeks of business shutdowns and orders for people to combat the coronavirus pandemic by staying inside and avoiding contact with others as much as possible.

And while golf will return in time for the May long weekend in Ontario, it comes with new guidelines designed to maximize physical distancing and limit the number of contact points where the virus can be transmitted. 

Lauren Zanini, director of golf operations at Echo Valley Golf Club in London, Ont., is elated that her course can finally open.

“It hasn’t been easy holding off, but we’re excited about this,” she said. “We’re used to being open in the beginning of April. So our goal now is to open up while keeping everyone safe.”

I think it’s good for people to get out. People are going stir crazy right now.– Lauren Zanini, Echo Valley Golf Club’s director of golf operations

Zanini said unlike most other sports, even pre-COVID-19 golf has a certain amount of physical distancing built into its existing rules of play. 

“You’re outside. You can follow your own ball, and you don’t have to be with the players you’re playing with. You’re not confined to a particular space,” she said.

“I think it’s good for people to get out. People are going stir crazy right now.” 

WATCH | Is it safer to be indoors or outdoors during coronavirus outbreak?

Andrew Chang asks an infectious disease doctor whether it’s safer to be indoors or outdoors during the coronavirus pandemic. 1:02

Zanini said golf course operators in London have used this spring’s downtime to swap ideas about how the game could be tweaked to keep players safe. 

Many of those ideas are included in the guidelines the Ontario government released as part of yesterday’s announcement. 

Here are some of the ways the age-old round of golf is changing in this COVID-19 age. 

Call before going 

Echo Valley is asking golfers to book ahead and arrive no earlier than 20 minutes before their tee time. Instead of the standard 10-minute intervals between groups, Echo Valley is doubling that to spread out groups and reduce the chances of golfers bunching up on greens or at the tees. 

The clubhouse will be open, but Echo Valley is using a “staging” model where golfers move from the pro shop to the putting green and onto the first tee in timed intervals. At the clubhouse, only a limited number of people will be allowed inside at a time. Echo Valley has installed Plexiglas around the cash register, and golfers should be ready to pay by debit or credit card — no cash. The course is also adding online payment to its website so golfers can pay before they arrive. 

“Even in the parking lot and on our practice greens, we’re trying to keep only one group on at a time to maintain social distance,” Zanini said. 

This is part of the provincial guidelines, which call on courses to consider moving to no-touch payments as much as possible. 

On the course

Golf allows players to spread out as they move from tee to fairway to green, so in most cases, physical distancing shouldn’t be difficult to achieve. Zanini said golfers are asked to use the same common sense they use while sharing a sidewalk and make an effort to spread out around two potential choke points: the tee and the green. 

No more holes? 

So what about reaching into the hole after sinking a putt? 

At Echo Valley that won’t happen because each hole will be blocked with a chunk of cylinder-shaped foam that sits flush with the top of the hole.

“It’s kind of like a pool noodle,” Zanini said. “It just blocks the hole.” 

If your ball rolls over the foam, you’ve holed out, meaning you got the ball in the hole. This is a twist on what the province recommends: elevating the plastic cup out of the hole so the ball doesn’t fall in. Any ball contact with the cup, and it’s considered a good putt. 

As for the flag stick? The new rule at Echo Valley is don’t touch it. And again, the provincial guidelines are also calling for flags to be left in place.

Lauren Zanini of Echo Valley Golf Club in London, Ont., says golf is the perfect sport for physical distancing. (Submitted by Lauren Zanini)

“We actually already have signs asking people not to touch it,” Zanini said. 

Instead of using cardboard scorecards handed out at the clubhouse, Echo Valley has put its scorecards online. Golfers are asked to print out a copy before they head to the course. Ball washers and wastebins have been pulled from the course to minimize touch points. 

No cart sharing, limited bathrooms, other rules

Zanini said over the past few weeks the use of golf carts has been a topic of debate. The provincial guidelines say one cart per golfer. Also, the province calls for carts to be thoroughly sanitized between rounds, something Zanini said her staff is already doing. 

At Echo Valley, outdoor bathrooms have been removed. Washrooms inside the clubhouse will be open and with enhanced cleaning protocols in place. 

Zanini said much of this comes down to common sense. 

“If people are going for walks in their neighbourhood, I don’t see why they can’t golf if they’re using their own equipment, and they’re social distancing.”

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Stanley Cup Playoffs to be best-of-7 following Qualifying Round – NHL.com

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All series in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs will be best-of-7 and will be set based on seeding, the NHL announced Thursday.

When the NHL on May 26 announced its Return to Play Plan, which involves 24 teams in competition for the Stanley Cup, it said the length of the first-round and second-round series would be determined.

“Everybody is used to a best-of-7,” Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang told The Associated Press. “You know how it’s structured. You know how it feels if you lose the first two or you win the first two. You kind of know all the scenarios that can go through a best-of-7.”

The tournament will begin with a 16-team, eight-series Qualifying Round (best-of-5) and a Seeding Round Robin among the top four teams in each conference to determine seeds for the playoffs.

 

[RELATED: Return to Play planEastern Conference matchupsWestern Conference matchups]

 

In each round of the playoffs, the highest remaining seed in each conference will play the lowest remaining seed in that conference, the second-highest remaining seed will play the second-lowest remaining seed, and so forth. It will not be predetermined by a set bracket, the format that had been used since 2013-14.

Ties during the round-robin will be broken by regular-season points percentage. The seeding order for these top four teams will remain the same throughout the playoffs.

In the qualifying round, the higher-seeded team will be designated as the home team in Games 1, 2 and 5. The lower-seeded team will be designated as the home team in Games 3 and 4.

During the first round, second round and conference finals, the higher-seeded team will be designated as the home team in Games 1, 2, 5 and 7. The lower-seeded team will be designated as the home team in Games 3, 4 and 6.

In the Stanley Cup Final, the team with the higher regular-season points percentage will be designated as the home team in Games 1, 2, 5 and 7. The team with the lower regular-season points percentage will be designated as the home team in Games 3, 4 and 6.

“Any team that is going to win five rounds, four rounds of best-of-7 … I think it will be a very worthy Stanley Cup champion and they’ll be as worthy as any team or players that won it before them,” Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares said.

The NHL paused the regular season March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus and said the remaining 189 games would not be completed. The 12 qualifying teams from the Eastern and Western conferences were determined by points percentage as of that date. Seven teams did not qualify.

The qualifying round and round-robin will be held at two hub cities to be identified, one for the 12 participating Eastern Conference teams and one for the 12 Western Conference teams, and begin at a date to be determined.

In the Eastern Conference, the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers each will have a bye and play each other once in the round-robin to determine the order of the top four seeds for the first round of the playoffs.

The four Eastern Conference Qualifying Round series will be the Penguins against the Montreal Canadiens, the Carolina Hurricanes against the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders against the Florida Panthers, and the Maple Leafs against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

In the Western Conference, the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars each will have a bye and play in the round-robin to determine their seeding order.

The four Western Conference Qualifying Round series will be the Edmonton Oilers against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Nashville Predators against the Arizona Coyotes, the Vancouver Canucks against the Minnesota Wild, and the Calgary Flames against the Winnipeg Jets.

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NBA approves 22-team return – TSN

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The NBA’s Board of Governors has approved a 22-team format for restarting the league season in late July at the Disney campus near Orlando, Florida, another major step toward getting teams back onto the court and playing games again.

The format calls for each team playing eight games to determine playoff seeding plus the possible utilization of a play-in tournament for the final spot in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference post-season fields. The National Basketball Players Association has a call on Friday to approve the plan as well.

Thursday’s vote was the most significant step yet in the process of trying to resume a season that was suspended nearly three months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic. There are numerous other details for the league to continue working through — including finalizing specifics of what the testing plan will be once teams arrive next month at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex and the calculating the financial ramifications of playing a shortened regular season.

“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “While the COVID-19 pandemic presents formidable challenges, we are hopeful of finishing the season in a safe and responsible manner based on strict protocols now being finalized with public health officials and medical experts.”

Meanwhile, a person speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the details of the ongoing talks have not been publicly released, said the NBPA and the NBA are continuing to work on a “lengthy” medical protocols document. The details of that document will be shared with teams once those discussions are completed, said the person, who added that teams should receive them in plenty of time for them to prepare for their arrivals at the Disney-ESPN complex.

The NBA also said it is planning to have the draft lottery Aug. 25, the draft on Oct. 15 and start next season on Dec. 1.

If all 22 teams that are going to Disney next month play their allotted eight games before the post-season begins, the NBA would play 1,059 games in this regular season. That means 171 regular season games would be cancelled, which could cost players around $600 million in salary.

Those 22 clubs would play somewhere between 71 and 75 regular season games if the Disney portion of the schedule is completed, down from the customary 82-game slate. The teams who didn’t qualify for the restart will see their seasons end after having played somewhere between 64 and 67 games.

But one of the biggest hurdles is now cleared, and if things go according to plan an NBA champion for a season unlike any other will be crowned in October. The season could go into that month if the league goes ahead with its plan for the same playoff rules as usual, that being every round utilizing a best-of-seven format.

Teams will likely arrive at the Disney complex around July 7. Once there, camps will continue and teams will likely have the chance to have some scrimmages or “preseason” games against other clubs before the regular season resumes.

Thursday’s move by the board of governors — one that came, coincidentally, on the same day this season’s NBA Finals would have started if these were normal times — was largely a formality. The NBA considered countless restart options after suspending the season on March 11, whittled that list down to four possibilities last week and from there the 22-team plan quickly began gaining momentum.

The 22-team plan includes all teams that were holding playoff spots when the season was stopped, plus all other clubs within six games of a post-season berth.

Milwaukee, the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston and reigning NBA champion Toronto had already clinched playoff berths. Now with only eight games remaining for each team, it means that eight other clubs — Miami, Indiana, Philadelphia, the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver, Utah, Oklahoma City and Houston — have post-season spots secured, and Dallas virtually has one as well.

That leaves nine teams vying for three remaining playoff berths. In the East, Brooklyn, Orlando and Washington are in the race for two spots. In the West, Memphis, Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio and Phoenix will jostle for one spot.

If the gap between eighth place and ninth place in either conference is four games or less when the shortened regular season ends, those teams will go head-to-head for the No. 8 seed. The team in ninth place would have to go 2-0 in a two-game series to win the berth; otherwise, the No. 8 seed would advance to the post-season.

Thursday’s decision also means that the seasons for Atlanta, Cleveland, New York, Golden State, Minnesota, Detroit, Chicago and Charlotte are over. The Knicks will miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season, the third-longest current drought in the league behind Sacramento and Phoenix — who still have chances of getting into the playoffs this season.

And with the Hawks not moving on, it also means Vince Carter has almost certainly played the final game of his 22-year NBA career — the longest in league history.

Carter, the first player in NBA history to appear in four different decades, is retiring. He appeared in 1,541 NBA games, behind only Robert Parish (1,611) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,560) on the league’s all-time list.

___

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Report: NBA’s Board of Governors approves 22-team return-to-play format – Sportsnet.ca

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The NBA’s Board of Governors has approved a 22-team format for restarting the league season in late July at the Disney campus near Orlando, Florida, another major step toward getting teams back onto the court and playing games again.

The format calls for each team playing eight games to determine playoff seeding plus the possible utilization of a play-in tournament for the final spot in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference post-season fields. The National Basketball Players Association has a call on Friday to approve the plan as well.

Thursday’s vote was the most significant step yet in the process of trying to resume a season that was suspended nearly three months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic. There are numerous other details for the league to continue working through — including finalizing specifics of what the testing plan will be once teams arrive next month at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex and the calculating the financial ramifications of playing a shortened regular season.

“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “While the COVID-19 pandemic presents formidable challenges, we are hopeful of finishing the season in a safe and responsible manner based on strict protocols now being finalized with public health officials and medical experts.”

Meanwhile, a person speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the details of the ongoing talks have not been publicly released, said the NBPA and the NBA are continuing to work on a “lengthy” medical protocols document. The details of that document will be shared with teams once those discussions are completed, said the person, who added that teams should receive them in plenty of time for them to prepare for their arrivals at the Disney-ESPN complex.

The NBA also said it is planning to have the draft lottery Aug. 25, the draft on Oct. 15 and start next season on Dec. 1.

If all 22 teams that are going to Disney next month play their allotted eight games before the post-season begins, the NBA would play 1,059 games in this regular season. That means 171 regular season games would be cancelled, which could cost players around $600 million in salary.

Those 22 clubs would play somewhere between 71 and 75 regular season games if the Disney portion of the schedule is completed, down from the customary 82-game slate. The teams who didn’t qualify for the restart will see their seasons end after having played somewhere between 64 and 67 games.

But one of the biggest hurdles is now cleared, and if things go according to plan an NBA champion for a season unlike any other will be crowned in October. The season could go into that month if the league goes ahead with its plan for the same playoff rules as usual, that being every round utilizing a best-of-seven format.

Teams will likely arrive at the Disney complex around July 7. Once there, camps will continue and teams will likely have the chance to have some scrimmages or “preseason” games against other clubs before the regular season resumes.

Thursday’s move by the board of governors — one that came, coincidentally, on the same day this season’s NBA Finals would have started if these were normal times — was largely a formality. The NBA considered countless restart options after suspending the season on March 11, whittled that list down to four possibilities last week and from there the 22-team plan quickly began gaining momentum.

The 22-team plan includes all teams that were holding playoff spots when the season was stopped, plus all other clubs within six games of a post-season berth.

Milwaukee, the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston and reigning NBA champion Toronto had already clinched playoff berths. Now with only eight games remaining for each team, it means that eight other clubs — Miami, Indiana, Philadelphia, the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver, Utah, Oklahoma City and Houston — have post-season spots secured, and Dallas virtually has one as well.

That leaves nine teams vying for three remaining playoff berths. In the East, Brooklyn, Orlando and Washington are in the race for two spots. In the West, Memphis, Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio and Phoenix will jostle for one spot.

If the gap between eighth place and ninth place in either conference is four games or less when the shortened regular season ends, those teams will go head-to-head for the No. 8 seed. The team in ninth place would have to go 2-0 in a two-game series to win the berth; otherwise, the No. 8 seed would advance to the post-season.

Thursday’s decision also means that the seasons for Atlanta, Cleveland, New York, Golden State, Minnesota, Detroit, Chicago and Charlotte are over. The Knicks will miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season, the third-longest current drought in the league behind Sacramento and Phoenix — who still have chances of getting into the playoffs this season.

And with the Hawks not moving on, it also means Vince Carter has almost certainly played the final game of his 22-year NBA career — the longest in league history.

Carter, the first player in NBA history to appear in four different decades, is retiring. He appeared in 1,541 NBA games, behind only Robert Parish (1,611) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,560) on the league’s all-time list.

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