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Without NHL stars, Canada's men's hockey team is an inscrutable mix of youngsters and veterans – The Globe and Mail

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Mason McTavish, right, celebrates a goal with Jake Neighbours against Russia during first period IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship exhibition action in Edmonton, on Dec. 23, 2021. McTavish is among the players named to Canada’s men’s Olympic hockey team.JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

This is not the Olympic men’s hockey tournament that Canadians anticipated. The first for the likes of Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon and Mitch Marner, perhaps the last chance for another Golden Goal by Sidney Crosby.

There is no Auston Matthews nor a Tkachuk or two lining up for the Americans. Ovi is out for Russia. There is a Lean (Bergmann) playing for Germany but no Leon (Draisaitl). The Danes will make a debut at the Winter Games without Frederik Andersen in the net.

Fans everywhere looked forward to the return of NHL players in Beijing. Instead of competing on the world’s biggest stage, they will be in Canada and the United States making up some of the more than 100 games postponed this season because of COVID-19.

After participating in five successive Winter Olympics, NHL players skipped the 2018 Games in South Korea but were to compete in 2022 and 2026 as part of an agreement negotiated with the league.

The NHL opted out six weeks ago, however, and that caused a number of teams from 12 countries to engage in last-minute searches for athletes. Rosters were reconstructed by enlisting former NHLers, players from the KHL and other leagues in Europe and from the college ranks and major-junior level.

Canada’s men’s hockey team trying to bond on and off ice

Jeremy Colliton named coach of Canadian men’s hockey team at Beijing Olympics after Claude Julien injured

There is enough of a mixture of guys who are a bit past their prime and others who are relatively unknown or waiting to be discovered to make the outcome more inscrutable than usual.

Russia won in 2018 and should be counted as the favourite. China is new to this and Olympic officials are worried its inclusion could be an embarrassment. Denmark gets points for qualifying for the first time but has little chance. Six of its players missed practice because of illness on Thursday.

The Americans will likely be competitive even with a squad largely recruited from the NCAA. Toss them into the blender with everyone else.

Canada has assembled an interesting group that is potentially medal worthy. Some are NHL castoffs playing out their careers in other countries. Some are youngsters filled with promise. Others are veterans who hope a good performance in Beijing will earn them one last shot at the big time.

The team trained in Switzerland for eight days before it travelled to China. Its first game in the preliminary round is Feb. 10 against Germany. The Canadians then play the United States on Feb. 12 and conclude round-robin play in Group A against China on Feb. 13.

Eric Staal, the team captain, is 37 and played 17 seasons in the NHL. After helping the Montreal Canadiens reach the Stanley Cup final last summer, he became a free agent.

As COVID-19 ravaged the league, he skated and stayed in shape and hoped somebody would call. Nobody called.

When the league pulled its players from the Winter Games, there he was with hand raised.

Perhaps because he had become a pest around the house, his wife and three boys urged him on.

“They were pumped,” Staal said. “They really pushed me to be here. They were over the moon when I got this chance.”

Staal won one Stanley Cup with Carolina and a gold medal in Vancouver in 2010 on a line beside Sidney Crosby and Jarome Iginla. A second would look great on his résumé when viewed by teams looking to bolster their lineups for the NHL playoffs.

“We’ve got great players, but we need to perform as a team and we need to have everybody on board,” Staal said. “It’s a tough tournament to win. You need everything to line up correctly.”

Jeremy Colliton, the Canadians’ coach, has other veterans to draw on including David Desharnais, Jason Demers, Mark Barberio and Adam Cracknell.

Desharnais, 35, was a productive centre for Montreal for eight years and was recruited from a team in the Swiss elite league. Demers, 33, played 699 games as a defenceman in the NHL, the last in 2021 for the Arizona Coyotes. Barberio, 31, played defence for three NHL teams and has been toiling in the KHL. A right wing, Cracknell, 36, played for seven NHL teams and has spent the past two seasons in the AHL.

“This is a great honour for me,” Demers said. “It is going to be an amazing experience.

“We have a collective group of 25 to 30 guys all pushing in one direction. It is in our hearts and minds and when that happens a team is hard to stop.”

Among Canada’s young players, the best is 19-year-old Owen Power. The 6-foot-6 defenceman was chosen first in the 2021 draft by the Buffalo Sabres and is currently attending the University of Michigan.

“I had heard about him and the other day I caught myself watching him a bit,” Demers said last week. “He is very impressive.

“He reminds me a bit of [Tampa Bay’s] Victor Hedman. I am sure he could have played in the NHL immediately and that Buffalo would have won another 10 or 15 games.”

Other newcomers to watch include forward Mason McTavish and goalie Devon Levi.

A 19-year-old centre, McTavish was taken by Anaheim with the third selection in the 2021 entry draft and had two goals and an assist in games when he began the year with the Ducks. He was then sent to the OHL for more seasoning.

Levi, 20, had a .964 save percentage and led Canada to a gold medal at the 2021 world junior championship. He has started 24 consecutive games for Northeastern University in Boston this season and has a 16-7-1 record with a .948 save percentage. Northeastern is a top NCAA Division I program.

“Any time I have ever had success with a team, it has come because we had a good balance of youth and experience,” Staal said. “This seems like a great group and I like our balance.”

Canada was upset by Germany in the semi-final in South Korea four years ago, but rebounded to capture a bronze medal. Canada won the men’s gold in 2002, 2010 and 2014.

Perhaps the most intriguing among the Canadians in the midst of trying to rebuild his career is Josh Ho-Sang, the 26-year-old forward who signed a professional tryout offer with the Maple Leafs this summer and has been playing for the Marlies, their AHL affiliate.

A first-round draft pick of the New York Islanders in 2014, Ho-Sang has spent parts of three star-crossed seasons in the NHL. In 2019, after he showed up late for camp, the Islanders immediately sent him back to the minor leagues.

“I would have laughed in your face only months ago if you told me I would be at the Olympics,” Ho-Sang said last week. “The fact that I was even on anybody’s radar was amazing to me.

“I am continuing to try to grow as a person and a player. It is not an easy task but it is nice to know you are on the right track.”

Ho-Sang, who is from Toronto originally, said he owes a debt of gratitude to the Maple Leafs and general manager Kyle Dubas for giving him a chance.

“This wouldn’t have been possible without them,” Ho-Sang said. “It seems like I matter there and that inspires me to be better on and off the ice. I feel like I have a stake in something.”

Ho-Sang would love to be called up to the Maple Leafs. If any other team shows interest in him after the Olympics, he may defer.

“I am so grateful for everything Toronto has done for me,” Ho-Sang said. “I would take that into consideration very heavily. This is not something I would throw away.”

For now, his mind is set on helping Team Canada.

“It would be an injustice to myself to look beyond the opportunity I have right now. It is once in a lifetime and very fleeting.”

Our Olympic team has a daily newsletter that lands in your inbox every morning during the Games. Sign up today to join us in keeping up with medals, events and other news.

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Avalanche forward Andre Burakovsky a ‘possibility’ to return for Game 6 – Sportsnet.ca

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Canada's Summer McIntosh, 15, wins 2nd gold medal at world aquatics – CBC Sports

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Summer McIntosh of Kelowna, B.C., capped a sensational week of swimming on Saturday, becoming the first Canadian with two victories and four medals at a single world championship.

The 15-year-old lowered her junior record time to four minutes 32.04 seconds in the women’s 400-metre individual medley on Saturday in Budapest, Hungary. Earlier this week, she also set world junior marks in the 200 butterfly (gold) and 400 freelstyle (silver) while earning freestyle relay bronze in the 200.

‘”This is a dream come true,” McIntosh gushed to the crowd in the post swim on-deck interview. At 15 years 311 days, she is the second-youngest winner of the women’s 400 IM behind Tracy Caulkins of the United States, who was 15 years 224 days in her 1978 win in West Berlin.

McIntosh took the lead early in Saturday’s race and waged a battle with American Katie Grimes, who touched the wall in 4:32.67 for her second silver of these worlds after placing second in the 1,500. Teammate Emma Weyant, the 2020 Olympic silver medallist, earned bronze in 4:36.00.

“It’s really cool to race someone like Katie as she is around my age and she’s a really tough competitor,” said McIntosh, who clocked 4:34.86 on April 9 at Canadian trials. “So I’m looking forward to racing her and keep pushing myself.”

WATCH | McIntosh holds off American Katie Grimes for 4th world medal:

Canadian Summer McIntosh wins 400m medley at swimming worlds

8 hours ago

Duration 7:29

The 15-year-old edged American Katie Grimes by 0.63 seconds at the FINA World Championships in Budapest.

Katinka Hosszu of Hungary had her streak of consecutive world titles in the 400 medley halted at four as she finished fourth in 4:37.89. The 33-year-old has won the race five times in her last seven appearances at worlds and still holds the world record of 4:26.36 and 4:29.33 championship mark from 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Canada’s women wrapped up the competition with bronze in the 100 medley relay, matching their result from 2019 worlds.

Kylie Masse, Rachel Nicol, Maggie Mac Neil and anchor Penny Oleksiak stopped the clock in 3:55.01, behind the Americans (3:53.78) and Australia (3:54.25). It was Nicol’s first world medal while Oleksiak broke a tie with Masse with her ninth career medal at the event, all in the relay.

“‘It’s obvious at this point I wouldn’t be here without the team, so it feels weird to claim that title on my own,” Oleksiak told Swimming Canada of her success. ”I feel really lucky to be part of Team Canada.”

WATCH | Oleksiak sets Canadian record for most medals at aquatics worlds:

Penny Oleksiak sets Canadian record for most medals at aquatics world championships

6 hours ago

Duration 0:42

The 22-year-old from Toronto, Ont., becomes the most decorated Canadian swimmer at the aquatics world championships after winning bronze in the 4x100m medley relay.

Three years ago, Sydney Pickrem, Masse, Mac Neil and Oleksiak posted a time of 3:53.58 in Gwangju, South Korea.

Saturday’s relay bronze was the national record-extending 11th medal — three gold, four silver, four bronze — for Canada at these worlds after it surpassed the mark of eight at a single world championships from 2019 on Friday.

McIntosh only led Grimes by 9-100ths of a second through 50 metres but was 62-100ths ahead midway through the backstroke leg and under world-record pace through 200 metres, in front by 1.33 seconds.

WATCH | McIntosh captures gold in 400m IM:

Summer McIntosh wins gold in 400m individual medley

6 hours ago

Duration 0:43

15-year-old Summer McIntosh set a new world junior record in the 400m individual medley to win gold at the 2022 FINA world championships in Budapest.

3 top-10 finishes in Olympic debut

Hosszu gained ground in the breaststroke and moved into third spot at the 250-metre mark, with McIntosh holding a 2.15-second advantage over Grimes. But Weyant overtook Hosszu for bronze position through 300 metres and stayed there while Grimes closed to within 98-100ths of McIntosh with 50 metres remaining.

Last summer, a 14-year-old McIntosh was the youngest member of the Canadian Olympic team in Tokyo but certainly didn’t show her age on the world’s grandest athletic stage.

WATCH | McIntosh swims to world silver in 400m freestyle:

Summer McIntosh earns silver in 400m freestyle at world aquatics championships

7 days ago

Duration 6:20

The Toronto native finished with a time of 3:59.39 for the 2nd-place finish at the FINA World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

She placed fourth in the 400 free, at that point lowering the Canadian record twice. She was ninth in the 200 free and 11th in the 800 free, setting a national age group record. McIntosh was also part of the 200 relay squad that finished fourth in national record time, while her opening-leg swim broke the Canadian age group record.

At national trials two months ago in Victoria, McIntosh turned heads by winning four events and swimming the 400 free in the third-fastest time this year.

WATCH | McIntosh wins world 200m butterfly semifinal in junior record time:

Toronto teen Summer McIntosh sets world jr. record to qualify for world 200m butterfly final

4 days ago

Duration 7:06

15-year-old Summer McIntosh swam the fastest qualifying time, and set a world junior record in the women’s 200 metre butterfly semifinals, to advance to the final at the 2022 FINA world championships in Budapest.

In the women’s medley relay, the Americans were favoured for gold while the Swedish foursome of Hanna Rosvall, Sophie Hansson, Louise Hansson and Sarah Sjoestroem were the fastest in qualifying in 3:56.77.

Masse, who fell short of the 200 backstroke podium on Friday in her bid for a third medal in Hungary, got the Canadians off to a quick start with the second-fastest reaction time at 0.54 and led Regan Smith of the U.S. for top spot through 50 metres and by 1-100th at the end of the leg.

Nichol took over in backstroke and fell off the pace, trailing the Americans 1.27 seconds. Mac Neil fell behind by 1.51 halfway through the butterfly and by 1.40 when anchor Penny Oleksiak entered the pool for the free.

Trademark finishing kick

Canada’s most decorated Olympian ever was unable to close the gap in the first half of her leg but managed to draw closer near the wall and finished 1.23 seconds off the winning time.

WATCH | Canada reaches podium in women’s medley relay:

Canadian women take bronze in 4x100m medley at swimming worlds

8 hours ago

Duration 6:57

Kylie Masse, Rachel Nichol, Maggie MacNeil and Penny Oleksiak claimed third place at the FINA World Championships in Budapest.

Masse, who won gold in the 50 backstroke and silver in the 100 earlier this week, is tied for second with Ryan Cochrane with eight career medals.

“It’s always special to be part of a relay team,” said Masse, based at HPC-Ontario. “It’s nice to be doing it more than just yourself and that always pushes me.”

The American quartet of Lilly King, Torri Huske, Claire Curzan and Smith proved too strong for the rest of the field.

“We take a lot of pride in that relay and really wanted to put in a good time and get that gold back from last summer [ at the Olympics]. We came out and did that, and it was a great race,” said Curzan, who anchored the U.S. home.

On Friday, the 22-year-old Oleksiak provided her trademark finishing kick in the mixed 100 relay, overtaking Curzan to push Canada to a silver medal with a national record time of 3:20.61. All eight of her medals (two silver, six bronze) have come in the relay.

WATCH | Oleksiak anchors Canada to mixed relay silver medal:

Silver in 4x100m freestyle gives Canada a national record 9th medal at swim worlds

1 day ago

Duration 8:53

Penny Oleksiak, Kayla Sanchez, Javier Acevedo and Josh Liendo swam to a silver medal in the 4×100-metre mixed freestyle relay, giving Canada its ninth medal (two gold, four silver, three bronze) at the 2022 FINA world championships in Budapest. Canada’s previous record of eight medals (two gold, six bronze) was set at the 2019 worlds.

Oleksiak was fourth in the women’s 100 freestyle on Thursday, reaching the finish an agonizing 6-100ths behind bronze medallist Huske. The Toronto native won gold in the event at the 2016 Rio Olympics and placed fourth last summer in Tokyo.

WATCH | Oleksiak narrowly misses bronze in 100m freestyle:

Penny Oleksiak misses the world championship podium by 0.06 seconds

2 days ago

Duration 5:21

Toronto’s Penny Oleksiak fell 0.06 seconds short of landing on the podium in the women’s 100 metre freestyle final, finishing in fourth place with a time of 52.98 seconds. Australian Mollie O’Callaghan won, ahead of Sarah Sjoestroem of Sweden and American Torri Huske. Toronto’s Kayla Sanchez finished in sixth place.

Mollie O’Callaghan won Thursday’s competition before anchoring the Australian medley relay team to silver two days later.

In the men’s 4×100 medley relay, Canada’s Javier Acevedo, James Dergousoff, Joshua Liendo and Ruslan Gaziev swam to 11th in the preliminaries in 3:35.62.

Liendo led all Canadian men this week with bronze in the 100 free and 100 fly and silver in the mixed 100 free relay.

WATCH | Liendo bursts to bronze in 100m butterfly:

Josh Liendo claims 100m bronze for his 2nd medal at FINA world championships

1 day ago

Duration 6:08

Josh Liendo of Markham, Ont., won bronze in the men’s 100-metre butterfly at the FINA world championships in Budapest on Friday, just two days after capturing his first career world championship medal by taking bronze in the 100-metre freestyle.

American Ress awarded backstroke gold after review

Justin Ress of the United States won gold in the 50 backstroke in dramatic circumstances after officials overturned his initial disqualification following a lengthy review.

Victory was earlier awarded to compatriot Hunter Armstrong after it was ruled that no part of Ress’s body was above the water as he reached first for the wall.

Ress, who had set the pace in the heats and the semifinals, was later reinstated as the winner and the medal ceremony held again, with Armstrong taking silver and Polish teenager Ksawery Masiuk having to settle for bronze.

In other action:

  • Gregorio Paltrinieri, gold medallist at the 2016 Rio Olympics, set a new championship record in the 1,500 freestyle, comfortably finishing ahead of Robert Finke and Florian Wellbrock in a time of 14:32.80. The Italian looked on course to break Sun Yang’s world record of 14:31.02 but faded in the last 100 metres.
  • Earlier, former Olympic champion Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania clinched gold in the women’s 50 breaststroke, beating Italian Benedetta Pilato by 0.10 seconds, with Lara van Niekerk of South Africa coming home in third.

Meilutyte was handed a 24-month suspension in 2019 for anti-doping violations and returned to competitive action only in December last year.

Action in Budapest continues Sunday for live action beginning at 7 a.m. ET with the open water swimming team relay, followed by Canada vs. Netherlands in the women’s water polo crossover game at 8 ET.

The first diving final, men’s 3-metre springboard synchro, is scheduled for 10 a.m.

Coverage continues every day through July 3. Click on the link below for a full schedule of events.

CBC Sports streaming & broadcast schedule

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Dufour nets four as Sea Dogs rally past Cataractes, advance to Memorial Cup final – TSN

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SAINT JOHN, N.B. — The Shawinigan Cataractes scored 49 seconds into Saturday’s final round robin game at the Memorial Cup and enjoyed a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes.

Then William Dufour of the Saint John Sea Dogs said “hold my (root) beer.”

Dufour, the 2020 fifth-round draft pick of the New York Islanders, rattled off three consecutive goals in the second period and added a fourth in the third as the tournament hosts scored five unanswered goals to defeat the Cataractes 5-3 to earn a berth in Wednesday’s Cup final.

The trip to the final erases a bit of the disappointment of the Sea Dogs’ first-round loss in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs.

The Cataractes, with two wins and a loss in the round robin, will have to beat the Hamilton Bulldogs in Monday’s semifinal game to get another shot at their QMJHL rival.

Jeremie Poirier scored Saint John’s other goal, while teammate Josh Lawrence added two assists. The Sea Dogs finished the round robin with two wins and an overtime loss.

Loris Rafanomezantsoa, Olivier Nadeau and William Veillette scored for Shawinigan, who outshot the Sea Dogs 15-10 in the first period but were outshot 21-5 in the second.

The six-foot-three Dufour, named MVP of the QMJHL this season, had 56 goals and 116 points during the QMJHL regular season.

“To finish my (junior) career like this is so great,” said the 20-year-old Dufour, calling the win one of his greatest moments in hockey. “We have one more game to win. We’re just going to go for it.”

POKE CHECKS: The Hamilton Bulldogs, who finished the round robin portion of the 102nd Memorial Cup championship with one regulation win for three points, lost to the Sea Dogs 5-4 on June 20, then dropped a 3-2 decision to the Cataractes on June 23, before beating the Edmonton Oil Kings 4-2 on Friday. The Oil Kings finished the tournament with one overtime win and two losses for two points and failed to make the playoffs. … Next year’s Memorial Cup will be held in Kamloops, B.C., home of the Western Hockey League Blazers who won the national tournament in 1992, 1994 and 1995.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2022

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