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Zach Hyman is exactly what was missing in the Edmonton Oilers top-six – Edmonton Sun

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But the book on him if you’re a member of OilerNation, is he’s hockey’s pre-eminent worker bee

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Zach Hyman was an academic all-American at the University of Michigan and he’s an accomplished author of three children’s works, which shows his Renaissance Man side.

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But the book on him, if you’re a member of Oiler Nation, is he’s hockey’s pre-eminent worker bee.

His game is blue-collar where there are no days off, which is exactly what Edmonton general manager Ken Holland is now paying him $38.5 million over the next seven years for. To be the dirt road player beside Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, whichever centre the left-winger winds up with.

If the Oilers had a missing piece in their top-six before, they don’t now. If they needed several sheets of sandpaper, they’ve got it now with Hyman, along with his tool kit.

He is the 2021 version of the mulletted Ryan Smyth; works the boards, gets it to the net, takes a couple of cross-checks, keeps on smiling and supports the stars.

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In his first two years at U of Michigan, playing for the tough-love Red Berenson, Hyman had nine points each season, 18 points in 79 games. By his fourth year there, playing with Dylan Larkin, Hyman was a Hobey Baker finalist as NCAA’s best player, and a brainiac in the classroom with a love of history.

A year later he was in the NHL, with the Toronto Maple Leafs, because he willed himself to get there.

And now he is here with the Oilers, video-conferencing Wednesday, fittingly with a picture of No. 99 in the background.

“Yeah, a print of Wayne Gretzky, an Andy Warhol copy,” he said.

Hyman, who had 43 points in 53 games, was the most annoying, most impressive Maple Leafs player in their three-game series blowout of the Oilers at Rogers Place this past season.

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If he wasn’t dogging McDavid, he was in Mike Smith’s face. The Oilers noticed, and when the Leafs had no room to keep him because they’re paying Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander $40.4 million on the cap, they romanced Hyman.

“His greatest trait is his compete. He’s a forechecker, he’s relentless, he’s on the puck,” said Holland. “We needed, along with the addition of Warren Foegele, forwards who can try to create more pressure in the offensive zone. We don’t want to be just a rush team.”

Just because you do grunt work doesn’t mean you can play with the big guns, though.

“Zach has great hockey sense. When you play with star players, and he’s played with a lot with some of the greatest young players in Toronto, you have to think at their level. Plus, if he plays down the lineup, he’s got the game to do that and read off their grinding style. He brings a tremendous amount of versatility,” said Holland.

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Hyman, his wife, Alannah, and even their Siberian husky, Lady, were all ears when the Oilers were wooing the forward, even the four-legged one.

“I think my dog’s the most excited to be going to Edmonton,” laughed Hyman, who came here for a summer relationship-building visit a week ago while his dog will probably flourish in the snow in January.

The trip to Edmonton was crucial for Hyman.

“I paid my way out there with my wife. Only place I visited. If Edmonton was a place I wanted to play in, it was important for me to see the city. My wife’s never been there and this season, when I was in Edmonton, I was stuck at the hotel,” he said.

“We saw all the neighbourhoods we could potentially live in, we have a seven-month-old son named Theo and it was important we see where he could maybe go (to school). It was important to check all the boxes. Toured the rink and, as you all know, it’s an incredible facility, met the management team.”

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He did his homework too. Hey, he had a 4.0 grade-point average in college.

“Once Edmonton came to the forefront from a hockey fit, for the opportunity to win a Stanley Cup, seeing the city, knowing the passion, the fan base, all the boxes seemed to be checked. Once I closed the door on Toronto, it was Edmonton all the way. A no-brainer,” said Hyman, who talked to McDavid as well as former teammates Tyson Barrie and Tyler Ennis, who all gave him two thumbs up.

Obviously, the chance to play with McDavid or Draisaitl was a selling point.

“They’re two of the best players in the world. Connor is a generational player. I had the opportunity to play with Auston and Mitch, John and Willy (Nylander). With Connor, his speed is off the charts. I’ll try to get him the puck as much as possible and give him second and third opportunities. If I can get the puck into his hands, we’ll be in good shape.”

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Seven years is a long time on the body for the pounding game Hyman plays, also a 29-year-old. If Hyman plays like he normally does as one of the NHL’s premier support players, he’ll be worth every penny of his $5.5 million price tag.

And he can keep penning his children’s books, like: Hockey Hero, The Bambino and Me, and The Magician’s Secret. They bring out a softer side of a hard-to-play-against NHLer.

“It’s so important to be a multi-faceted individual because the hockey season is a roller-coaster,” said Hyman, who’s decided on a new ride with the Oilers.

E-mail: jmatheson@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @jimmathesonnhl

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In final clash before potential playoff duel, Rays torment Blue Jays once more – Sportsnet.ca

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – No team torments the Toronto Blue Jays quite like the Tampa Bay Rays, and adding insult to injury in their final regular season meeting was getting a beatdown from their archnemesis and then watching them clinch a playoff berth.

The finale of a three-game set at Tropicana Field lacked the typical drama most of Wednesday afternoon after Ross Stripling got lit up for five runs in a six-run third that effectively decided a 7-1 Rays win. But theatre arrived in the eighth when Ryan Borucki hit Kevin Kiermaier, who triggered ill will Monday by grabbing a data card dislodged from Alejandro Kirk’s wristband during a play at the plate, prompting words to be exchanged and the dugouts to empty.

Relative calm prevailed as Rays manager Kevin Cash ranted to the umpiring crew, which then gathered by the mound after and ejected Borucki. That prompted pitching coach Pete Walker and manager Charlie Montoyo to argue, and Walker was restrained before he was ejected, too.

David Robertson closed things out in an incident-free ninth inning and the Rays poured out on the field afterwards for business-as-usual handshakes.

As usual, the Rays got the better of season series with 11 wins, and at 94-59, now have a magic number of four to clinch the American League East in back-to-back seasons. Of their 19 clashes this season, it was only the sixth time the game was decided by four runs or more, in contrast to the 10 contests settled by two or less.

The Rays winning the East is an inevitably at this point and should the Blue Jays successfully clinch a wild-card berth and then win that game to reach the division series, the Rays are likely to be waiting for them there.

There are steps to be taken for them to get there, but the math remains fairly favourable for the Blue Jays (85-67), who fell even with the New York Yankees (85-67) for the second wild card and dropped two games back of the Boston Red Sox (87-65) for the first, pending Wednesday night’s action. The Yankees were scheduled to host Texas, the Red Sox home to the Mets.

With 10 games left, beginning with a four-game set at the Minnesota Twins opening Thursday, a 6-4 run would push them to 91 wins, a total likely enough to get them into the playoffs. After the Twins, the Blue Jays have three-game series at home versus the Yankees and Baltimore Orioles, so the opportunity for 7-3 or even better is certainly there.

A big weekend versus the Twins while the Red Sox and Yankees play three in New York this weekend is a pivotal chance to gain ground before Boston closes out against Baltimore and Washington. The Yankees finish against the Rays after playing Boston and Toronto.

Nothing should be taken for granted, but the Blue Jays are set up fairly well, even after their bullpen game Wednesday went terribly awry.

Stripling, entering behind opener Julian Merryweather as the bulk pitcher, got through his first inning unscathed but didn’t survive the next, going single, double, walk, sacrifice fly, three-run homer by Austin Meadows and single before Montoyo came with the hook.

Taylor Walls added a two-run single in the frame before it was over and, with the Rays’ bullpen game going much more to plan, this was a hole the Blue Jays offence couldn’t dig out of.

Surviving as best as possible for Thursday became the priority at that point, and essential on that front was the 2.1 shutout innings delivered by Anthony Castro. That allowed the Blue Jays to both get Jordan Romano and Trevor Richards needed rest and keep Adam Cimber and Tim Mayza available for the Twins opener.

Pearson was pressed into duty after Borucki’s ejection.

Castro’s work may very well get him optioned, as Thomas Hatch, at one point a candidate to be activated from the taxi squad for Wednesday, is likely to join the bullpen Thursday.

Another reinforcement could be Santiago Espinal, whose return from a rehab assignment at triple-A Buffalo is suddenly more urgent with Breyvic Valera on the COVID-19 IL for coming into close contact with a family member.

Valera is fully vaccinated and produced a negative test, but when he’s eligible to return will be dependent on returning more negative tests and getting sign-offs from both MLB and the union. Kevin Smith was recalled from the Bisons to cover for the time being.

Cavan Biggio is a possibility to join the club next week, although the Blue Jays are hoping he can establish some rhythm at the plate before he’s returned from his rehab assignment.

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2020 Ryder Cup: The significance of the numbers on Team Europe's Ryder Cup golf bags – Golf Channel

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Analytics have become an increasingly important part of the entire Ryder Cup process, but European captain Padraig Harrington is taking his numbers game to a new level – literally.

Stitched on the golf bags of all 12 of Harrington’s players this week at Whistling Straits is a number. The digits are unique to each player and signify where they fit on Team Europe’s historical timeline, which has featured 164 players, from the first eight Brits in 1927 to Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger, who was the last rookie selected for this year’s squad.

“Mine is the smallest number, obviously: 118,” said Lee Westwood, who is competing in his 11th Ryder Cup this week.

The 48-year-old Westwood, who has played in 44 career cup matches, just three shy of Phil Mickelson’s record. His first match came back in 1997 at Valderrama, where the Europeans, captained by the late Seve Ballesteros, edged the Americans by a point.

It was a solid debut for Westwood, who went 2-3 and teamed with Nick Faldo for all four team sessions, but the Englishman doesn’t remember the birdies and bogeys from that week as much as the passion that exuded from the European team.

“I knew from day one, really, [how important the Ryder Cup was],” Westwood said. “Listen, that week the captain was Seve Ballesteros. There may have been one or two people over many generations as passionate as Seve about the game of golf, but I doubt there’s been many as passionate about the Ryder Cup as Seve was. … You just fed off him, really. With Nick Faldo as my partner, Seve and Nick both held the Ryder Cup in high regard, and just being around them, you could see how much it meant to them.

“Passion for the Ryder Cup was never something that I had to learn or gain. Pretty much like European team spirit is not something we have to work on; it’s just there.”

Sergio Garcia can attest. The Spaniard, whose 25 ½ career points earned is a Ryder Cup record, has played in nine of these matches. His debut came in 1999, and he teamed with Jesper Pernevik to go 3-0-1 in team play, though the Euros lost by one at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.

But when it came to his number, Garcia had no clue until Monday night when Harrington played a short, inspirational video before presenting each player his number and bag.

“I’ve always known that being a part of the Ryder Cup team is very difficult, but I didn’t know that only that little amount of players have made it,” said Garcia, who is No. 120. “So, that showed you how difficult it really is. That’s why every time I’m a part of a team or the rest of our teammates, that’s why we give it the respect that it deserves, because it’s so difficult to be a part of it.

“It’s an honor, and we treat it like that.”


Harrington using numbers to inspire Team Europe


McIlroy, No. 144 (behind just Westwood, Garcia, No. 130 Paul Casey and No. 134 Ian Poulter), described some of the video presentation, which featured the theme, “Make it count.”

“To put it into context: 570 people have been into space. I think over 5,000 people have climbed [Mount] Everest. 225 have won a men’s major. When you sort of break it down like that it’s a pretty small group and it’s pretty cool,” McIlroy said.

“It’s a small collection of people that have played for Europe in the Ryder Cup,” McIlroy added. “I think that’s what brings us very close together, and that’s been one of our sort of big focus points this week is just being here is very special and being part of a European team. Very few people can call themselves a European Ryder Cup player.”

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Blue Jays-Rays data card scandal a new case study for sportsmanship in MLB – Sportsnet.ca

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Among the office equipment the Toronto Blue Jays travel with is a paper shredder, and every document they print off with any sort of data is run through it before ending up in a trash bin.

That’s not a new practice, as different coaching staffs have been doing it for about a decade now. A newer habit for one of the team’s pitchers is to double-check that all info cards have been removed from his hats before they get packed up, lest someone find one of the cheat sheets and feed it to a rival front office.

Such is the degree of caution, bordering on paranoia, big-league clubs have around their proprietary information and it helps explain, in part, why the Blue Jays are so upset that Kevin Kiermaier grabbed the catcher’s card jarred loose during a play at the plate Monday.

What matters is not so much the specific game-plan information that the Tampa Bay Rays outfielder carried back to the dugout and clandestinely passed to field co-ordinator Paul Hoover, but the window into the Blue Jays’ thinking it provides.

Breaking down the card allows the Rays to see what kind of information the Blue Jays give their players, how they present it and extrapolate how they process data for dissemination. The cards used by their catchers contain far more data than those used by pitchers and outfielders, and is the one they most wouldn’t want another team to see, said one person with the club.

So, it is suboptimal that a division rival the Blue Jays face 19 times a season and could meet in the post-season this year has it then.

What some Blue Jays found especially irksome is the way Kiermaier scooped it up after making the third out of the inning at home plate, and then slipped it to Hoover. Once Kirk realized it was missing, manager Charlie Montoyo sent a batboy over to the Rays dugout to ask for it back, and he returned with a message making light of the situation, something along the lines of, “we can’t hit Robbie Ray anyway.”

Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins spoke with Rays counterpart Erik Neander on the field before the game Tuesday and later, manager Kevin Cash came out to chat with Montoyo. Cash ended up apologizing to him, Atkins, pitching coach Pete Walker “and if I needed to speak to Robbie Ray, I’d have no problem doing that,” he said. “Charlie and I go back and forth a lot during the course of a game, I actually thought he was joking. Regardless, not ideal, and I’m sorry for that.”

Montoyo called it “agua under the bridge,” and with the apologies in place, Cash replied “I do not,” when asked if he expected any further fallout.

For the moment, perhaps, and while it wasn’t immediately clear if Major League Baseball is involved, it’s an interesting case study for a sport long tied to the adage, “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.”

There’s certainly some grey area in how off-side Kiermaier was, if at all, and given the scandals in recent years around the Houston Astros’ systemic sign-stealing and the Boston Red Sox’s illicit use of smartwatches, there’s room to see this in a sportsmanship-vs-gamesmanship vein.

Shown video of the matter, a veteran scout with a rival club took a harsher outlook on the matter, shaking his head and saying, “that’s bullshit — what’s Kiermaier doing picking that up? I want to beat a guy fair and square. If you’re going to look at that, what’s the difference between banging on a trash can?”

On the other hand, a longtime coach with another organization took no issue with Kiermaier’s actions, saying, “I always play by the finders-keepers, losers-weepers principle… (having the other team get the card) is the chance you take.”

Former Blue Jays centre-fielder Vernon Wells, meanwhile, made a point echoed by others, that the simplest way to avoid losing proprietary information was to not use cheat sheets on the field in the first place.

“This whole thing is ridiculous. Here’s an idea… TEACH THE GAME BETTER AND STUDY THE GAME BETTER! You shouldn’t need cards if you are a student of the game. Stop being robots and play the game!” he posted on Twitter.

Cash defended his player, saying “the card’s on the ground,” and after watching the video, “it looked like he was considering giving back and he just said, forget it, whatever, it’s sitting here, I’m going to pick it up and take it in.”

Kiermaier, when approached by Sportsnet colleague Arash Madani, said initially he wasn’t sure if the card was the one he carries with outfield positioning, as, “they’re all pretty similar.”

“Then as I picked it up, I realized it was that. I never even looked at it, I’ll say that,” he said. “But at the same time I’m not going to drop it or hand it back. I don’t know what their thoughts were about it or whatnot. At the time though, I saw it on the ground and I picked it up nonchalantly, not thinking anything of it and haven’t heard anything of it since.”

“Everything was so quick and after I did it, I was like dang, their scouting reports or whatever was on the ground and I grabbed it,” he continued. “It got to the point that I’m not going to return it or do that. It’s September, whatever. I didn’t know what was going on.”

Maybe, or maybe he saw an opportunity to gain an edge in the heat of the moment and took it. Either way, Kiermaier’s act of subterfuge caused a stir around an industry already paranoid about protecting data and offered up a reason to be all the more cautious.

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