The passion, pain and joy of being a Toronto FC fan

He has also watched as the people around him have built a community that feels more like family than anything else.“One of the most special things about this playoff run has been that reflection, just seeing how people have grown up, changed, the friends I’ve made, how many people are married, with their own families through TFC, and it’s been just a heck of a ride.”Last Wednesday night, after the greatest victory in club history, my brother and nephew and I lingered in the stands, watching the last of the players leave the pitch. He thinks what makes the TFC crowd different from the Raptors or the Leafs is that soccer is less of a show to sit back and consume. Pinto said.Now that the spotlight is on TFC, people are coming out of the woodwork to ask for tickets or interviews, but even in the lean years Mr. Mr. Aguilar said.He remembers Danny Dichio’s goal, the first in club history, which triggered a 10-minute delay as fans went haywire, throwing the seat cushions given away by the club onto the pitch.“I can’t even explain the excitement I felt,” he said. Miller said, with the caveat that belief doesn’t necessarily make it true.He attends matches with his children or his neighbours. Pinto said. He bused home from Montreal for the occasion. Dichio. Pinto played some soccer growing up and always liked the sport, but what drew him to TFC, and what unites the supporters, he says, is the thrill of creating something special in the stadium.“A lot of times passion is downplayed in other sports, especially in the crowd. Then there were the streamers hurled over opposing players, the massive, handcrafted banners that made icons of journeymen pros, and fans so raucous that their joyful leaping popped the rivets right out from underneath the stands. Survey research shows that TFC fans are young and cosmopolitan, according to Kaan Yigit, founder of Solutions Research Group.They have the second-youngest average age among fans of Toronto sports teams, next to the Raptors, and ahead of the Leafs and Jays. Dave Pinto, a 29-year-old accountant, is their president.He explained that the groups have different philosophies, but their presidents speak almost daily, making plans and organizing tifos, the large banners unfurled at games.The fans in his section range from blue collar to white collar, with people of all ages, class backgrounds and ethnicities. In 2013 the club reached a nadir when it fired its still relatively new president, Kevin Payne, and was threatening to remove the natural-grass field to accommodate a new tenant, the CFL’s Toronto Argos. But this season an awakening has taken the team and its fans to the brink of glory, giving Michael Bradley, Sebastian Giovinco and company a chance to lift the MLS Cup if they can summon a final win against Seattle at BMO Field on Saturday.It feels like a fitting reward for those who persevered through the lean years, when TFC routinely snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and plumbed unknown depths of managerial incompetence.Read more: Toronto FC, ready for battle, hope for winning weather SaturdayRead more: Toronto FC leads city’s sports resurgence in MLS championshipI will be among them, as I have been for most of TFC’s history, sitting in the west stands with my brother and my nephew and the friends we’ve made among the other season ticket holders around us over those years.People who’ve only seen the games on television always ask about the atmosphere. About 40 per cent are born outside Canada, and 40 per cent also speak a language other than English at home.Mr. “That’s a point of pride for us.”Boris Roberto Aguilar, a 31-year-old IT professional, is a past president of the Red Patch Boys. Miller said.There have been bad times, to be sure. That’s part of the culture, too, the steadfast belief that if we do our part the team will have a much better chance to do its part,” Mr. Mr. For 10 years, supporters of Toronto FC were renowned for being wildly passionate about a mostly pitiable club. It’s not always welcome in other arenas in North America, but it’s really an area here where people who have a passion for one thing are grouped together and it just elevates that passion for the sport, for the team and for the city,” Mr. Aguilar said he was a soccer fan before MLS arrived in Toronto in 2007, but hadn’t really followed the league. Why are the fans so passionate?I can only reply that there’s something about supporting this team that gets in your bones.David Miller, Toronto’s former mayor, a season ticket holder from the start and a man practised in the art of identifying the words and thoughts that bind a community, says even he struggles to describe the culture of the TFC fan. Miller spoke up in an angry, public letter, and announced he was returning his season ticket.“At that point in time we had gone through something like seven coaches in five years … in a team that needed stability it just seemed crazy,” Mr. And TFC is playing in a Cup final. “I remember seeing those seat covers flying and you couldn’t help yourself but join in. It’s slightly more male than the city in general, and perhaps slightly more Anglo, Scottish and Irish, but it’s otherwise demographically comparable to the city, he said.The data tend to back that up. That’s really where the fandom took over. “It’s more a feeling when you’re there,” he says.“It’s not easy to articulate, but I would say patient, loyal, resilient. The Cubs won the World Series, Donald Trump was elected president. These are the fans often featured on TV, shirtless, shrouded in smoke, jumping and singing to the beat of a drum.The Red Patch Boys are the largest with about 350 members, and next to them is U-Sector, which traces its roots back before TFC to earlier iterations of pro soccer in Toronto.Then there’s the Inebriatti, a younger group that styles itself as the hardest of the hard core and whose philosophy is closer in style to the Ultras that follow European clubs.There are also other groups including Kings in the North, which claims about 150 members. He wasn’t sure if the team would catch on, but he wanted to be part of it.“Toronto is a strange, fickle city when it comes to sports teams. Pinto said he never minded the sense of being overlooked.“I think that’s what builds the bonds among the people that are here now, knowing that we were there when the team was shit, as the song goes,” Mr. Miller said.“I still get stopped on the street by people saying thank you for sending that letter.”The fan culture of the west and east stands is relatively restrained in comparison with the south stand behind the goal, where the supporters’ groups reign. At TFC, fans feel compelled to be part of the action.“There’s a feeling of community, of solidarity, of joy, of apprehension, when you’re a TFC fan. Over the 10 years since TFC was born my nephew had grown from an exuberant 10-year-old to a world-weary university student. I find that, if it’s not top tier, people tend not to give it a chance,” Mr. We had watched the shape of the city change from our seats as the condo boom remade the downtown, but now the skyline was hidden behind the expanded east stand, a sign of the club’s growth.I thought of my own favourite TFC memory, when the crowd, with nothing else to cheer for, urged a rogue squirrel that had found its way on to the field to dart across the goal line.We walked home in the rain, not sure how to make sense of this feeling of utter happiness associated with TFC, and stopped at a pub packed with fans singing the name of goal-scoring hero Benoit Cheyrou to the tune of Hey Jude. Having a stadium-wide celebration, impromptu, really solidified at an early time in the team’s history that there’s something special going on here.”As the seasons have progressed he has organized fan protests, such as the time supporters wore green because it was the only language MLSE could understand, and been part of tributes to club legends like Mr. It began with the seat covers that poured from the heavens after the club’s first goal. Most of all, the TFC supporter realizes that their direct participation in supporting the team, through buying tickets and going to games and cheering, actually makes a difference for the team on the field. We ran through the alphabet, naming a former TFC player whose name began with each letter and drinking a toast in his honour, working our way through a decade of memories.A lot of strange things have happened in 2016. … Being part of a group that’s singing songs and urging the team on to victory is just incredibly fun,” Mr.

Gretzky says Olympics are worth it for NHLers, despite challenges

It took until the summer of 2013, following the lockout, for the league to confirm participation in the 2014 Games. He got home on a Tuesday, practised with the New York Rangers a day later and then played in Toronto on Thursday. “It’s hard on your body,” Gretzky said Friday, recalling the day-to-day schedule accurately while failing to mention his three assists in a 5-2 Rangers win.Read more: NHL owners debate participation in 2018 Olympics in South KoreaRead more: NHLPA rejects NHL’s offer of Olympic participation in exchange for contract extensionFor all the logistical challenges the Olympics present, Gretzky believes it’s ultimately worth it for NHL players to attend their sixth-consecutive Games in South Korea in 2018.No decision was reached, however, at the league’s board of governors meetings in Palm Beach this week and it remains uncertain what the next step will be. He’s not sure whether he even suffered a concussion in his career, “because in those days it’s a ‘take two Aspirins tonight and tomorrow you’re going to skate for an hour and we’re going to sweat it out of you.’”“We have so much more knowledge now,” Gretzky said. The group didn’t see the upside of the Olympics and believed it was more of an impediment than a benefit, what with the 17-day season shutdown, potential for injury and costs.Nothing tangible was gleaned either, Bettman said, from participating in Games outside North America.Bettman had hoped a recent proposal to the NHL Players’ Association, which could have offered two Olympics, two World Cups and two Ryder Cup-style events, would have helped change the minds of owners who are against attending the 2018 Games. Sure. It’s expected that the league and players’ association will discuss the matter again next week.Now a member of the Edmonton Oilers management team, Gretzky attended this week’s meetings and hopes the league ultimately chooses to attend.“I happen to love everything about the Olympic Games,” said Gretzky, who also built the Canadian team that won gold in Salt Lake City.While acknowledging there was nothing more exciting in hockey than the Stanley Cup, Gretzky said “the one spectacle that’s really remarkable is the Olympic Games.”“My opinion is – I told you – I like the Olympic Games, but does that mean that the NHL is going to go? The Oilers captain said he was “pretty shocked” to be removed after his chin smacked the ice in 2-1 Edmonton overtime loss.Bettman said the consensus among owners was that the program was having its intended effect.“The reason you have the spotter program is exactly for the instances that people are talking about because players typically – and you go back through the history of this – don’t want to come out of a game,” Bettman said. “And yet there’s so much more to learn about it.”The governors planned to review the matter again after the all-star game in Los Angeles.Additionally, Winnipeg Jets executive chairman Mark Chipman and Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson were voted onto the NHL’s executive committee, replacing Philadelphia Flyers late owner Ed Snider and Peter Karmanos of the Carolina Hurricanes. I don’t have a crystal ball, I can’t tell you.”Bettman said the recently completed World Cup of Hockey, a joint venture between the NHL and NHLPA, was deemed a big success internally, though some owners were concerned by injuries suffered during the event, which included Dallas Stars centre Tyler Seguin, Florida Panthers defenceman Aaron Ekblad and Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray.Holding the event before the start of the regular season, however, continued to be deemed a better option than a mid-season break, such as the one required for the Olympics.The governors also reviewed the league’s new concussion spotter program which came into focus earlier this month after Connor McDavid was pulled from a game against the Minnesota Wild. “Does that mean some players are going to get pulled who didn’t have concussions? All that became clear over two days in Florida was a collective distaste among owners with respect to attending the Olympics again in 2018.NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said there was “strong negative sentiment” and ultimately “fatigue” with the event. But the players rejected the idea, which included an extension of the collective agreement, last week.“There’s nothing right now,” Bettman said when asked what the next step was in regard to the Olympics. Wayne Gretzky remembered, with incredible precision, what it was like to fly back to North America from the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan.Part of the Team Canada squad that missed out on a medal, Gretzky recalled the challenge of travelling from Japan, through Vancouver, to New York. But it also means we’re going to make sure that the players who need to be off the ice are off the ice.”Gretzky voiced his support for the program. “We’ll see what happens. There’s nothing new from [Thursday] when we discussed it.”It’s unclear whether sentiment is truly as negative as Bettman suggests or whether the league is simply being tactical as a means of pressuring players toward a better agreement, perhaps one that includes the labour pact.Bettman said time was running short for the NHL to decide whether it would go or not, stating last month that a decision was needed by early January.

Price loses temper but Canadiens down Devils

The Devils return home to face St. Hall has scored in three straight games.Mitchell reached in from behind the net to tuck in his second of the game at 15:49.Montreal announced that defenceman Greg Pateryn, who took a shot off a foot on Tuesday in St. Andrew Shaw picked up his second assist of the game on the goal.There was another small bump on Schneider before Lehkonen scored into an open side at 9:59 of the second, but at that point, both coaches had used up their challenges.Pacioretty was alone in front to score on a backhand that trickled through Schneider’s pads 45 seconds into the third after Alexander Radulov forced a turnover.Henrique made a clever backhand pass for Hall to score into an open side on a power play at 3:07. Again, the goal was upheld after two reviews.At 17:15, Mitchell elected to shoot on a two-on-one and saw the rebound go in off Devil Nick Lappin’s skate. Price was pulled away in the ensuing melee. Carey Price lost his temper after being bumped twice in his crease but made 19 saves to win the game as the Montreal Canadiens defeated the New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Thursday night.Torrey Mitchell, with two, Phillip Danault, Artturi Lehkonen and Max Pacioretty scored for the Canadiens (18-6-3) in their return from a five-game road trip. It stood up to both the official review and Devils coach John Hynes’ challenge that Schneider was interfered with by Danault just outside the crease.Henrique tied it at 16:19 when the rebound of P.A. Adam Henrique scored a goal and set up one by Taylor Hall for New Jersey (12-8-6), which ended a two-game winning run. Off-season signing Redmond made his Canadiens debut. Parenteau’s shot went off him into the net just before Henrique rammed into Price. But rearguards Nathan Beaulieu (neck) and Zach Redmond (broken foot) returned from injuries. Louis on Friday night.Montreal had a season-high 49 shots on Cory Schneider.A wild first period saw three goals scored, four goal reviews and Price’s meltdown.With 18 seconds left in the first period, Kyle Palmieri slid into Price’s knees and the Canadiens goaltender jumped on him and started pounding him with his blocker. Palmieri got a minor for goalie interference while Price got four minutes for roughing, although he may have been lucky to avoid a match penalty which could lead to a suspension.Danault, who skipped the team skate Thursday morning due to an illness, opened the scoring at 12:49 on a disputed goal when he tipped Nathan Beaulieu’s shot past Cory Schneider. Louis, will be out about eight weeks with a fractured ankle.

Raptors conquer Wiggins-led Timberwolves

“If we’re serious about going anywhere, doing anything special, our defence and our attention to detail, our passion for defence, our give-a-crap level for defence, has to pick up.”A 9-0 run did the trick, aided by a couple of three-balls from Lowry and Patrick Patterson, which brought the score to 111-99 for Toronto with just under five minutes to play.It was another sublime effort from Lowry as the Raptors point guard led the way with 25 points and 11 assists. Thibodeau, in his first season leading the Timberwolves, was an assistant coach on the staff of Mike Krzyzewski and helped direct the U.S. “It’s a compilation of things. I thought that added a lot to our team.”Before the start of Thursday’s game, both Lowry and DeRozan were presented with their official Olympic championship rings, which they slipped on their fingers and proudly showed off for photographers.The Raptors, wearing their throwback Toronto Huskies jerseys, outlasted a stubborn Minnesota team 124-110 to conclude a season-high six-game home stand with a solid 5-1 record.The Raptors (15-7) took their time Thursday, waiting until the middle of the fourth quarter before finally putting some distance between themselves and the Timberwolves (6-16).And they won despite an old bad habit turning up, again, a leaky defensive effort.The Raptors allowed Minnesota to hit on more than 51 per cent of their shots and Casey was thankful to emerge with the win.“In spite of our defence — and that’s just what I told the team,” Casey said afterward. DeRozan had 27 points, five assists and eight rebounds.Zach LaVine was pesky forMinnesota, with 29 points, while Andrew Wiggins had 25 points and six rebounds.DeRozan set a franchise record with his 543rd appearance in a Toronto uniform, one more than the old mark held by Morris Peterson.And he celebrated in the final minute with an embracing one-handed put-back slam dunk over Ricky Rubio to send the crowd home even happier.The season hasn’t exactly gone as planned for Thibodeau, with a team brimming with young talent, including Wiggins, the NBA’s first over all pick from 2014 who hails from Vaughan, Ont.Paired with Karl-Anthony Towns, the top pick from the 2015 draft, many were projecting a playoff appearance for Minnesota this season, territory the Timberwolves haven’t visited since 2004.But the T-Wolves haven’t played ball – at least consistently for 48 minutes a game, according to their coach.“We’re a work in progress,” Thibodeau said. We’re striving to be a 48-minute team. men’s basketball team to gold at the Olympics in Rio.Two players who Thibodeau helped mentor on that team were DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, the two key members of the Raptors who have both said the Olympic experience helped kick-start their NBA season.From what he saw of the pair at the Olympics, Thibodeau said he is not surprised that the Raptors are faring so well.“The thing that I liked about them, Kyle was running the team great, making hustle plays,” Thibodeau said. Coach Dwane Casey usually receives the lion’s share of credit – and rightfully so – for the Toronto Raptors’ fast start this season.If the Cleveland Cavaliers were to drop off the NBA map, his Raptors would be the talk of the Eastern Conference.Tom Thibodeau, Casey’s counterpart with the Minnesota Timberwolves, who paid a visit to Air Canada Centre Thursday night, can also be given some kudos for the Raptors’ early season chutzpah. “And then DeMar would fly up the floor and you could tell they knew how to read each other really, really well. I think in this league that the good teams do that. So it’s something we’re working on.”“We’ll figure it out,” Wiggins, who is just 21 and in his third NBA season, said heading into the game.Spurred by a large contingent of family and friends, Wiggins came out firing as the Timberwolves jumped into a 32-22 first-quarter lead.Wiggins had 11 points in the opening frame, when Minnesota canned 59.1 per cent (13 of 22) of its shots.Minnesota increased its advantage to as many as 12 points in the second quarter before Toronto woke up to finish with a flurry to knot the score 59-59 heading into the break.The Timberwolves experienced one of their lulls at the beginning of the third quarter where the Raptors went on an 11-2 run to secure a 70-61 lead.Minnesota fought back and a three by Towns, showing nice range for a 7-footer, put his team back up 83-82 before the Timberwolves settled for an 89-88 lead heading into the fourth.Toronto flew to Boston after the game for Friday night’s game against the Celtics.

The Ring Magazine names Muhammad Ali 1966 fighter of the year

He was at the peak of his career, which was soon to be interrupted for three years while he fought courts over his refusal to be drafted.But the magazine declined to name a fighter of the year for only the second time, saying Ali – who Ring called by his former name, Cassius Clay – did not meet the moral criteria for the award.“Most emphatically is Cassius Clay, of Louisville, Ky., not to be held up as an example to the youngsters of the United States,” wrote Dan Daniel, a co-founder of the magazine, at the time.Ali would later have his conscientious objector status upheld by the U.S. “But we can see the injustice by today’s standards even if we take issue with some of things Ali said and did.”Ali won all five of his fights in 1966, and did so in impressive fashion. Supreme Court, and resumed fighting in 1970. The Ring Magazine is making Muhammad Ali its 1966 Fighter of the Year, a half century after refusing to give him the award because of his disapproval of the draft for the Vietnam War and connection with the Nation of Islam.The boxing magazine said it was righting a wrong by retroactively naming the late heavyweight great as the best fighter of 1966. “The editors at that time obviously felt strongly that Ali, while succeeding in the ring, didn’t meet other criteria they deemed important,” said Michael Rosenthal, the magazine’s editor-in-chief. He was named the magazine’s fighter of the year in 1972, 1974, 1975 and 1978 along with his original award in 1963.The story on the retroactive award, as well as the original 1967 story, will be in Ring’s March 2017 issue.

All eyes on featherweights as UFC returns to Toronto

It’s just the UFC’s somewhat clumsy way of restoring order to the championship havoc caused by McGregor ruling two weight classes. But McGregor’s successor as the undisputed 145-pound titleholder won’t be decided until 2017 when Aldo faces the winner of Saturday’s main event at the Air Canada Centre – either No. 1 contender Anthony (Rumble) Johnson in a rematch of their UFC 187 fight won by Cormier via third-round submission.That was scrapped when Cormier was injured in training, moving Holloway-Pettis up.Former light-heavyweight champion Rashad Evans was also removed from the Toronto card after failing to secure a licence from the local commission for the second fight in a row. We’ll take care of business [Saturday] and it’s a straight shot after that.”Aldo dethroned Mike Brown in November, 2009, to win the WEC featherweight title and, when the UFC introduced lighter weight classes, became the UFC’s first 145-pound champion. Létourneau looks to return to the win column after losses to Joanne Calderwood and champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.Saturday’s show is the UFC’s fifth in Toronto and the first since the new ownership of the UFC cut staff at its Canadian office.A UFC spokesman said, “We’re tracking for a sellout,” but would not discuss the Air Canada Centre capacity under fight-night configuration.UFC 165, the last card in Toronto, drew 15,504 in September, 2013, when then light-heavyweight champion Jon (Bones) Jones beat Alexander (the Mauler) Gustafsson in a memorable five-round decision.Prior Canadian shows this year were in Vancouver in August and Ottawa in June.Since 2008, the UFC has staged 21 events in Canada with other stops in Calgary, Halifax, Montreal, Quebec City, Saskatoon and Winnipeg.The next show is slated for Halifax in February. 9 strawweight Valérie (Trouble)Létourneau of Montreal, bantamweight Mitch Gagnon of Sudbury and lightweights John (the Bull) Makdessi and Olivier (the Quebec Kid) Aubin-Mercier of Montreal and Jason Saggo, who fights out of Charlottetown by way of Bolton, Ont.Cirkunov, a rising 205-pound talent who has won all three of his UFC fights, gets a tough test in No. 13 light-heavyweight Misha Cirkunov of Toronto, No. Holloway and Pettis are fighting for the same interim title that Aldo won in July via unanimous decision over Frankie (the Answer) Edgar at UFC 200.Confused? Pettis moved down a weight class after losing three straight at 155 pounds, a losing streak that started with Rafael dos Anjos taking his lightweight title via unanimous decision at UFC 185 in March, 2015.When the Toronto card was originally announced, many hoped it would signal a return to action for former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. You know, the winner of this fight gets to fight for the undisputed title. The Irish star wanted to defend both titles but the UFC stepped in to avoid a championship logjam that might see fighters in one weight class chaff while McGregor attended to the other division.All Holloway and Pettis care about is what awaits the winner, with an improved purse now they are in the marquee matchup.“It means that we’re getting a definite shot at the official title of 145 pounds. And it’s always great to have extra cash in your pocket too, so it means a lot. 8 Nikita (the Miner) Krylov of Ukraine, who has won his past five UFC bouts. 10 middleweight Tim Kennedy, his opponent both times, will fight No. 14 Matt (the Immortal) Brown in the co-main event.The bouts are the first for Cerrone and Kennedy since stepping forward last week as two of the five high-profile fighters serving as the face of the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association, a group created to protect the rights of UFC fighters.There will be seven Canadians in action but only welterweight Jordan (Young Gun) Mein of Lethbridge, Alta., returning from a brief retirement, is on the main card.Undercard fighters include No. So we will see what happens. The Brazilian defended the UFC title seven straight times before McGregor knocked him out in 13 seconds at UFC 194 last December.The 25-year-old Holloway (16-3-0), a stylish, well-rounded fighter, has won nine straight since losing a decision to McGregor in August, 2013.The 29-year-old Pettis (19-5-0) made his featherweight debut in August, submitting Charles Oliveira. 8 Kelvin Gastelum instead Saturday.Donald (Cowboy) Cerrone, ranked fifth among welterweights, takes on No. That type of title shot don’t come a lot in this sport,” said Pettis, a former lightweight champion in his own right.“The water at this division was supermurky,” Holloway said, adding an F-bomb for emphasis. 5 Anthony (Showtime) Pettis. 2 contender Max (Blessed) Holloway or No. But that didn’t happen and light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier was matched against No. No. Another step in filling (the Notorious) Conor McGregor’s sizable featherweight shoes will take place Saturday night at UFC 206 as the MMA juggernaut returns to Toronto for the first time since September, 2013.With the Irish superstar now focusing on his lightweight title, Jose Aldo has been upgraded from interim to featherweight champion. “Now it’s superclear.

Griffin to play with Cleveland Browns for first time since breaking his shoulder

Jackson watched and rewatched practice film before settling on Griffin, who will be backed up Sunday by rookie Cody Kessler.“He gives us a chance to win,” Jackson said, adding that he needs a larger sampling size on Griffin before making any judgments about him for the future. He got hurt in the fourth quarter when he was hit while trying to run out of bounds, taking an unnecessary hit near the sideline.But after knocking off some rust, Griffin made good throws in practice and showed enough of a grasp of the offence for Jackson to bring him back.Jackson’s counting on Griffin to play without fear.“That is what I have seen in practice,” he said. So hopefully it will go right. It [the shoulder injury was] unfortunate. If we all do our job equally, we can go out there and win football games and that’s the bottom line.”In a season that’s been a straight line drop, the Browns have come full circle with Griffin, who signed with the team in March hoping to revive his career after being released by Washington.Jackson held off until Wednesday night before telling Griffin he would start. We can’t change that. Not just a Sunday thing.“That’s always been my focus is to come in here and show my teammates that I can do this for them. It’s a motto he first adopted while winning the Heisman Trophy at Baylor, where the Bears turned around their program and it’s a mantra he lives by now.“It’s nothing that I force on anybody, but it speaks volumes to what we’re going through here, too,” he said. The 26-year-old has missed time with knee, ankle and shoulder injuries.“The most important thing about that position is availability,” Jackson said. Three months later, Robert Griffin III is starting anew with the Browns.RG3 wants to make the wait worth it.“It’s all about being in the right situation at the right time,” he said Thursday.Griffin, who didn’t make it out of Cleveland’s season opener without getting hurt, will make his second start on Sunday when the 0-12 Browns play host to the Cincinnati Bengals. Again, it’s his second game in a little over maybe two years. “We’re trying to change the culture and we want to get late in the season, and then next year to have an opportunity to make a run for a championship.”Jackson said Griffin needs to show the Browns he can make it through a grind through a 16-game season. “I wanted to really evaluate it all because sometimes, guys tell you they can do that, but they will not do that. We will put him out there and go from there.”Griffin wore a “No Pressure, No Diamonds” hooded sweatshirt when he met with reporters. It’s an everyday thing. But I think he’s up to the challenge.”In his debut for the Browns, Griffin completed 12 of 26 passes for 190 yards and an interception. “I’m not expecting for everything to go perfect.“You don’t want to put that kind of pressure on anybody. But if it doesn’t that’s okay, too.“We all understand the situation that he’s in and that he’s facing. All he can do is play now and show what he can do for this team and for all of us.” The Associated Press It’s the sixth quarterback change this season for the rebuilding Browns, who have been overrun by injuries. Griffin hasn’t played since breaking a bone in his left shoulder in the Sept. 11 season opener at Philadelphia, an injury that only strengthened the argument that he’s brittle and set the stage for the worst stretch in Browns history.But after showing coach Hue Jackson in practice that he’s healthy and ready, Griffin will make just his second start since 2014.It’s another chance to show doubters that he’s durable and perhaps the beginning of a four-game audition to prove to the Browns that he can be their long-term answer at quarterback.“My job is to go out there and make them believe that,” he said.“Every single day that you come into the building, you have to show the coaches, show the organization you’re going to do what it takes to be that guy.“That doesn’t change just because they name you the starter or just because you’re playing. “And I think he gets that. We won’t really know until Sunday, but I think what I have seen in practice is a guy who is ready to play.

IOC head wants to change Olympic bidding process to avoid ‘too many losers’

However, he was asked twice about the possibility of awarding both games at the Lima meeting, and he didn’t categorically rule it out.“Let us study this question, which is not an easy one,” he said.Bach suggested it is more likely any major change will come for future bidding races.“We have to think long term,” he said, adding that, for the 2024 race, the IOC advised three unidentified cities during the “invitation phase” not to submit bids because they failed to meet the requirements.The IOC has been seeking to fix the bidding process for years amid a sharp downturn in interest from potential host cities, many scared off by the $51-billion (U.S.) price tag associated with the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.The bid races for the 2020, 2022 and 2024 Olympics were all hit by withdrawals for political or financial reasons. It is to produce the best possible host for an Olympic Games. “You can be happy about a strong field in quantity for one day but you start to regret it the next day.“It is not the purpose of an Olympic candidate city procedure to produce losers. Six cities pulled out of the contest for the 2022 Winter Games, leaving only two finalists, with Beijing defeating Almaty, Kazakhstan.Hamburg pulled out of the 2024 race after local residents rejected the bid in a referendum, and Rome’s 2024 bid was scrapped after the new mayor rejected the project over costs.Bach’s Olympic Agenda 2020 reforms were aimed at making bidding and hosting more flexible and less costly. But Bach acknowledged on Thursday the reforms hadn’t solved everything, saying they have been affected by “more changes in the decision-making mechanisms in politics.”“You can see how in many countries, you have populist movements and anti-establishment movements getting stronger and stronger, asking different and new questions,” he said.While the IOC has traditionally awarded one Olympics at a time, some other major sports bodies have awarded multiple events at a time.FIFA awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and 2022 tournament to Qatar in the same bidding process. Signalling a potential radical change in the way Olympic host cities are chosen, IOC president Thomas Bach wants to revise the bidding process because it “produces too many losers.”He wouldn’t rule out the possibility of awarding two games at the same time.Bach’s comments came on Thursday, the same day the IOC executive board cleared all three candidate cities for the 2024 Olympics – Paris, Los Angeles and Budapest – to advance to the next stage of the race. Olympic officials in recent months have begun privately discussing the idea of awarding the 2024 and 2028 Games simultaneously, ensuring that Paris and Los Angeles would get one or the other.Some officials believe that, because both cities are such strong contenders, it would be a mistake for one to lose out. It would seem unlikely that either loser would bid again for 2028.Bach repeated several times that the 2024 bidding is already in full swing and the IOC is “happy” with that process. Swiss federal prosecutors are still looking into suspicions of wrongdoing during that contest. The International Olympic Committee is scheduled to vote on the host city in September in Lima.Paris and Los Angeles are viewed as close favourites, with Budapest as an outsider. We will have to look into this.”It was the first time Bach has publicly spoken about further changes to the bidding process, which has suffered in recent years as voters rejected bids in referendums, and cities dropped out because of concerns over the costs of the games.Paris, Los Angeles, and Budapest are in the final nine months of the race for the 2024 Games. “We have to take into consideration that the procedure as it is now produces too many losers,” Bach said at a news conference. FIFA leaders say that was a mistake that will not be repeated.

Chris Neil to play his 1000 game as an Ottawa Senator Saturday night

“When you first start out you’re just excited to get your first game,” Neil said Thursday. “Away from the rink he’s the guy who always wants to pull a fast one and be a prankster. “I have so much respect for the guys I have to go up against. “I’ve always worked hard and take pride in my conditioning, and make sure to work hard in the off-season and keep myself in the best shape possible, and I think that’s paid off, especially later in my career. It doesn’t matter if you have friends on the other team, you’re going out and playing hard and trying to keep guys honest. It’s not easy to play that kind of game and to do it for 1,000 games is a huge accomplishment for the style he plays.”Married and a father of three, Neil admits it is sometimes difficult explaining to his young children why he’s fighting, but he’s been honest with them about his role.“They know it’s sticking up for my teammates and it’s something I take pride in,” he said. While he enjoys the role, he’s usually the first to pull a prank.“He’s an intense guy when it comes to the hockey part of it and will say what needs to be said, but outside of it he’s carefree and lighthearted,” Smith said. From the time he was a child in elementary school, Chris Neil was determined to play in the NHL.The hard-nosed Ottawa forward not only made it to the NHL, he’s set to become just the 52nd player to reach the 1,000-game plateau with the same team. Neil, who first cracked the Senators’ lineup in 2001, will reach the milestone Saturday night in Los Angeles. Now 37, he has found a way to remain effective at both ends of the ice as the league has shifted away from fighting.“When the game started to change I knew I had to trim down weight-wise and [I] dropped 15 pounds and it’s made a difference for me,” he said. But they’ve seen [me fight] and they realize it’s just a part of the game.”Once the fresh face in the locker room, Neil is now the grizzled veteran. He’s a big character, that’s for sure.”There are few who enjoy a good laugh more than Neil, but even he knows there will be a time when he’ll have to move on.“Having the young guys keeps you young,” he said. “For me something has to happen if someone is taking liberties with our players, but thankfully a lot of time the kids are in bed and they’re not watching the game. “I feel like I’m 20. “And before you know it, you have 100 and then 500 and then over the years they just keep accumulating, and then it’s a pretty exciting accomplishment.“Being with the Senators my whole career has been awesome, it’s been an honour to suit up for one team.”Drafted in the sixth round (161st over all) of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, Neil has scored 112 goals and added 136 assists over his career. He also sits 22nd on the league’s career list with 2,492 penalty minutes.Neil was known as an enforcer-type in his early days. I still think I’m one of the young guys and that’s how I approach the game. Hopefully I’ve got lots left in me.”Neil’s work doesn’t go unnoticed by teammates and this next milestone will be meaningful for many.“It’s a huge accomplishment, especially for the type of role Chris has,” centre Zack Smith said. But he still values the importance of players who are willing to stand up for teammates.“It’s the toughest job in hockey because you can never take a night off,” he said. ”A solid fourth-line player, Neil understands the game is changing. “He fights, checks, goes in dirty areas and that’s hard on the body and hard on the mind. When I’m not having fun any more I’ll know that’s when I’m done.”

Olympic hurdler Phylicia George tries her hand at bobsledding

“But by my fourth time down, I could kind of feel each turn, and I knew what a corner felt like. Me making the decision to run to 2020, I knew that I wanted to do something to break up the monotony of all that.”George finds both the similarities and differences between the two sports appealing. “I do need to earn my spot, but I really believe, I was pushing really well with not really good technique and no real strengths behind me and not really doing the sport.“And I think that’s why she was also really excited about what she saw as well, because there’s so much room for improvement, and I was picking up things really fast.”Bobsled has a history of capitalizing on athletes in power sports. track stars Lauryn Williams and Lolo Jones both competed in bobsled at the Sochi Games.Jones, a hurdler who was fourth in the London Olympics, told Team USA of her bobsled debut: “It felt like someone put me in a can and threw me off of Mt. “I’m going to be totally honest … I actually hated it my first run down,” George said laughing. “People tried to explain to me ‘This is what it’s going to feel like,’ but you have to just experience it to know. It’s fun to work with other people, it’s fun to come together and say ‘Okay, we’re going to do this together.’” And the prospect of the Olympic podium is also a big draw. Last season, it was Olympic hurdles medalist Priscilla Lopes-Schliep.George, who was sixth at the 2012 London Olympics and eighth last summer in Rio in the 100-metre hurdles, plans to compete in track until 2020.But bobsled, she believes, can complement her track training. Phylicia George bounced around like a bobblehead on her first trip down the Whistler track, tossed out of her comfort zone at 120 kilometres an hour.It was an inauspicious bobsled debut for the two-time Olympic hurdler, who is hoping to make the successful jump to the winter sport for the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. I didn’t sit in the sled low enough so I was getting whipped around like crazy, my neck was killing me after.”George, fellow hurdler Nikkita Holder, and Canada’s rugby sevens captain Jen Kish were among athletes recruited to try bobsled by two-time Olympic gold medalist Kaillie Humphries.George did well at initial testing in Calgary, and the 29-year-old from Markham, Ont., made the trip to Whistler earlier this month where she was quick to discover that racing down a track of ice requires a completely different skill set – such as being a human shock absorber.“I got out and said ‘Oh my gosh, it was so bumpy,’ and Kaillie was like ‘No, it was a pretty smooth ride,’” George said from Baton Rouge, La., where she’s back training for the upcoming track and field season. So I like that competitiveness about it,” she said. And I thought ‘Oh, this is nothing.’ I was totally comfortable in the sled once I was a little more aware of where I was and what was happening.”Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton is no stranger to recruiting top talent from other sports. “Make the standard, be the best and you go.” You’re sitting way too high.’” Each run was incrementally better.“I think when you’re in the sled and it’s your first time going down, you’re so disoriented, because you just feel yourself whipping in half,” George said. “But when we looked at the video, we were like ‘Oh. And she welcomes a new challenge.“When I went to Calgary and I was learning, that’s what I liked about it, I liked doing something new and being challenged in a way I haven’t been challenged in a long time,” George said. “I guess the one [difference] I like is the team aspect. Everest.”George said there is push testing several times a year, and “based on those testings, they’ll choose who is going to be in what sled, and Kaillie has some discretion about who she wants to push with as well.“But it’s really going to be a numbers game, very similar to track,” she said. Okay. It’s quantitative like track – fastest time wins.“You’re working towards being faster. Sprinter Glenroy Gilbert and CFL player Jesse Lumsden are Olympians in bobsled.U.S. “I’m still trying to get better at the hurdles, I’m still trying to be a better sprinter, but I’ve been doing it for years now. Humphries won two-man gold with Heather Moyse at both the 2010 Vancouver Games and four years later in Sochi.“That’s super exciting, potentially getting in and going with [Humphries],” George said.

Leafs’ defenceman Gardiner getting more chances under Babcock

But it’s also the result of a connection between player and coach that was lacking before Babcock’s arrival.The former first-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks says Babcock allows him to be himself on the ice, not asking that he transform into a different type of defenceman.“I think he just realizes that I’m not going to be a guy that kills guys or hits guys,” said Gardiner, averaging less than one hit per-game this year. “He’s getting better defensively every day and we think he’s an important part of our team.”Acquired from Anaheim in January, 2011, Gardiner got to Toronto as a 20-year-old and found a kindred spirit in former Leafs coach Ron Wilson, who wanted the Leafs always on the attack, an approach that played well to a player who liked to dart up the ice and make plays with the puck.Gardiner averaged almost 22 minutes in his first Leafs season, putting up 30 points in 75 games and earning a place on the NHL’s all-rookie first team.“[Ron] was a lot more relaxed and kind of let me play my game and then Randy was the opposite. Jake Gardiner didn’t know what to think a few years ago when Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle told him to toughen up.“It’s not like I’m a Matt Martin-type guy where I’m going to hit guys and plow them over,” the Toronto defenceman said this week, referring to the NHL’s hits leader for five years running. Defenders like Gardiner, who rely on positioning, skating and stick work to get the puck up and out of the defensive zone, help you do that.“And that’s what you want: get out of your zone quick and get on offence,” Leafs defenceman Matt Hunwick said of Gardiner and the modern approach to defence.Toronto has garnered 57 per cent of available scoring chances when Gardiner is on the ice at even-strength, one of the top marks among all NHL defencemen this season.Babcock recognizes how Gardiner helps his team and encourages it, though he’s still pushing him to retrieve pucks even faster. Gardiner took chances to make things happen and naturally those attempts sometimes backfired. Gardiner looked uncomfortable in the harsh Toronto media spotlight.That was then.These days the 26-year-old fits in nicely under Carlyle’s full-time replacement, Mike Babcock.Gardiner ranks as the Leafs’ top driver of puck possession this season (54.6 per cent), leading the group with 24 minutes (including 10-plus in the third period) and 13 shot attempts in a one-goal loss to the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night.“I just think he’s a way better player than he was a year and a half ago,” Babcock said of Gardiner’s evolution since he took over Toronto’s bench.Gardiner’s escape from centre stage is thanks in part to the influx of talented youngsters such as Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, who are sucking up most of the oxygen. I just never really found my stride under him,” Gardiner said.Beyond his hopes of instilling more physicality into Gardiner’s defensive game, Carlyle (who replaced Wilson in March of Gardiner’s rookie year) was also wary of his defender’s play with the puck. “I’m going to be in the right positions most of the time and move the puck well and make that first pass. “I’m not sure really what the whole deal was there.”

Gardiner’s career stalled for the two-plus years that Carlyle coached the Leafs. His time under Carlyle was marked by stints as a healthy scratch, incessant trade talk, stinging minor-league demotions, and not-so-subtle frustration from the man behind the bench. Carlyle scratched Gardiner, who had just signed a five-year contract with the Leafs, three games into the 2014-15 season. When media asked what he could do to impress once he got back in the lineup, Carlyle responded bluntly: “Play better.”Teams in the age of advanced analytics are realizing that good defence means not playing any defence at all. He was a defensive guy. He doesn’t spend a whole lot of time in his own zone and can play against good players,” Babcock said. The defensive-minded coach didn’t like the unpredictability and tried to temper it, which resulted in uncertainty in Gardiner’s game.He was afraid to make mistakes and played that way.The coach’s tough-love approach didn’t work either. I think he just realizes that that’s my game and kind of ran with it I guess.”Babcock isn’t sure if Gardiner’s improvement is tied to a surge in confidence, natural progression with age or increased comfort as a defender, but he recognizes the player’s importance.“He generates offence for us.

Seattle Sounders finally play for MLS Cup after years of success

The Sounders have sold out 146 consecutive matches. There’s very much a new energy,” Steiner said. (Hanauer took over as majority owner last year.)It wasn’t initially obvious the Sounders would be an MLS phenomenon. “We’ve been able to figure a few things out,” Schmetzer said on Monday.But the Sounders paid a price. 2-ranked Orlando City SC.Standard soccer capacity at CenturyLink is about 39,500 when many upper-deck seats are closed off. Before the Sounders launched, Hanauer and company spent time in Toronto to figure out what made it work.“Toronto really focused on young sports fans who were out in the bars, a highly educated young international crowd that was willing to commit emotionally,” Hanauer said.Seattle posted average attendance of 30,897 at CenturyLink Field in 2009, its first year; the average peaked at 44,247 in 2015, then slipped to 42,636 this season. In seven postseasons, the team reached the semi-finals only twice.Moreover, this past summer, the goal of winning the MLS Cup appeared more distant than ever. The Sounders have always put winning teams on the field while setting numerous MLS attendance records. Plural.” USL games in Seattle attracted only a few thousand people. “It is so painful not to win that elusive MLS Cup.”

A year later, Seattle is in position to finally win the championship that has eluded the team’s grasp. She has since gone all-in on the team: She leads the purchase of a suite each season, and is president of the Alliance fan group.This season’s dramatic mid-season turnaround and playoff run to the MLS Cup Final has raised spirits to record levels, she said.“Something clicked. The long-term goal is to sell out all 69,000 seats at CenturyLink regularly.Seattle fans have loved the team from the start.“I just fell in love with the atmosphere. Open Cups and a Supporters’ Shield in 2014 for best regular-season record – the MLS playoff disappointments had started to weigh. The wrenching tumult around the early season failings and firing of a valued head coach and loyal employee, was difficult for everyone, including the franchise’s long-standing part-owner.“If I’m honest, this has been the worst year of my professional soccer career,” Hanauer, 50, said in an interview. Success doesn’t happen by chance.”Seattle soccer is ingrained in Hanauer. I didn’t know anything about soccer,” said Stephanie Steiner of first seeing the Sounders in 2009. A year ago, after the Seattle Sounders had made the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season but once again had failed to reach the MLS Cup Final, majority team owner Adrian Hanauer addressed a group of hard-core fans.“We struggle through this just like you,” Hanauer said at the annual meeting of Sounders FC Alliance, the team’s official member association. The team has gone 12-3-4 since. The Sounders play Toronto FC for the Major League Soccer championship in Toronto on Saturday.Unlike Toronto, which until recently had struggled for most of its existence, Seattle has been a success from its start in 2009. In 2001, he joined the ownership group of the Sounders when the team was in the United Soccer League, and soon became majority owner and GM.In 2007, Hanauer connected with Joe Roth, a major Hollywood movie producer. For bigger games, the team opens up more seats, and has drawn crowds of more than 60,000 seven times. But the Sounders still draw about 11,000 more fans per game than No. Roth took the financial lead, and Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder and Seattle Seahawks owner, joined Hanauer as a minority shareholder. They have inspired a rabid following among Seattle fans, which has helped make the Sounders the most valuable franchise in MLS, worth an estimated $285-million (U.S.) according to Forbes Magazine’s 2016 tally.Read more: Toronto FC, ready for battle, hope for winning weather SaturdayRead more: TFC hopes experience, confidence lead to MLS championshipRead more: Toronto FC leads city’s sports resurgence in MLS championshipBut for all the success – the perennial playoff appearances, four U.S. It has good players, it has talent.”The next day, Seattle signed Uruguayan midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro to a designated-player deal, and everything seemed to suddenly turn around. The playoff streak looked finished, too: Seattle was 6-12-2 in late July, and parted ways with its only MLS coach, Sigi Schmid. “I’ve told people that, which is so ironic now, heading to Toronto for MLS Cup.But I’ve been really proud the way the organization has responded. Loderio has eight goals and eight assists. “The goal is MLS Cups. He grew up in suburban Bellevue and Mercer Island, and was kicking a ball not long after he learned to walk. He was replaced by long-time assistant Brian Schmetzer; general manager Garth Lagerwey said at the time that “this team can succeed. But the Seahawks’ backing in the early days helped.“They just had a dream start in MLS and they’ve never looked back,” said Bob Lenarduzzi, president of the Vancouver Whitecaps, the long-time rival of Seattle in both the USL and MLS.Sounders management took a cue from Toronto FC.TFC struggled on the field but was a box-office smash, building a large, vocal and devoted following. Together, they landed the MLS team. He attended his first Sounders game when he was eight – in 1974, the team’s first year in the North American Soccer League.Away from the game, Hanauer – whose family had a bedding business – made successful early investments in technology, including Amazon when it was a startup.

Toronto FC, ready for battle, hope for winning weather Saturday

But even someone such as midfielder Armando Cooper, who hails from tropical Panama, claims to embrace the chill.An interpreter passed along the weather question to Cooper and then replied: “Would he like it a little warmer? “If we can make Saturday the most special night yet, I think everybody is going to be amazed by what they see.” Just don’t try to tell that to TFC midfielder Michael Bradley.There is just too much excitement over what is at stake – no Canadian team has ever won the MLS Cup and no Toronto team has won a major sports title since the Toronto Blue Jays took the World Series in 1993 – for the weather to be considered a problem.“I don’t think the weather will affect anything [Saturday] night,” Bradley said emphatically.“Every forecast you look at says it should be somewhere around freezing or just below.“I’ve played different games in my career, played in Germany in the winter, in different cities where it’s very, very cold. Of course, but cold and him get along well. I think actually it will be an amazing night to play. (ET) start, with the chance of snow flurries, conditions could be unpleasant.Throw in the usual wind off Lake Ontario that can blast across BMO Field and the scene could gust to nasty. “They are ready to explode and help our group to the finish line on Saturday night.“There are a lot of people here for the event but we as a group are concentrating on the game. On those days, yeah, it can be hard to play. Wherever he’s played, he gets along just fine.”TFC defender Steven Beitashour admitted to checking the weather forecast every day. The guys went out and played a bit [Thursday]. We’ve taken all the proper protocols we need to insulate [the players] the best we can and allow them to be themselves. Distractions abound when you are trying to run a team that will play for a league championship in a city starved for one but Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney thinks his players still have their eyes on the ball.“This is something all the fans in Toronto have been looking forward to for many, many years and have endured through those years,” Vanney said of the Major League Soccer championship game against the Seattle Sounders at BMO Field. It’s been focused but light at the right times. It gets to this point and the last thing anybody is worried about is the temperature.”The Reds have lots of players who grew up in Canada or the northern United States who are accustomed to playing in the cold. “We don’t want it to be a sloppy game for the fans.”Those fans, who have supported the Reds through 10 mostly lean years in MLS and can out-howl any wind, are expected to be the real advantage for TFC against the Sounders.“What it means to represent this city has been driven home time and time again,” Bradley said. The atmosphere will be unbelievable. I think our field, after 10 days or so [recovering from the Grey Cup], will have come back in a really good way. The locker-room mentality has been great. Thanks to the mild fall weather and the fact the first leg of the Eastern Conference final was played indoors in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, the elements have not played a big role in the playoffs.But with the MLS Cup set for BMO Field, and the forecast calling for temperatures around -5 C for the 8 p.m. However, he thinks the only potential problem is that famous wind that can howl off the lake.“All other elements are okay but the wind always changes the game,” he said. It was loose but with the right concentration for Saturday.”Read more: Seattle Sounders finally play for MLS Cup after years of successRead more: TFC hopes experience, confidence lead to MLS championshipRead more: Toronto FC leads city’s sports resurgence in MLS championshipAside from the fuss created by the fans and media, a major concern is the weather.