Jagr moves into second behind Gretzky on NHL career points list

Aleksander Barkov was credited with the goal that deflected off the 44-year-old Czech star.In a video, Gretzky offered congratulations. over my hockey career, and I thank the fans,” Jagr said in a brief ceremony during which he was given a golden stick.Only Wayne Gretzky, with 2,857 points, has more than Jagr. Florida Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr has moved into outright No. 1,888 on Thursday night, breaking a tie with Mark Messier. “I appreciate everything … 2 spot on the NHL career scoring list.Jagr got career point No. “You play the game the right way,” he told Jagr.The game was stopped for a celebration, and Jagr came onto the ice to accept the commemorative golden stick from the Panthers. The historic point was an assist with 6:40 left in the third period Florida’s 3-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday night. He waved to the crowd, got congratulatory stick-taps from both teams, and the game — his 1,663rd in the NHL — resumed.

Duke suspends Grayson Allen indefinitely from team for tripping

It doesn’t mean you have to see it, or anybody else has to see it.”Teammate Matt Jones said he tried to console the emotional Allen afterward.“I love Grayson, he’s my brother,” Jones said. Roughly two weeks later, Allen kicked up his left leg to trip Florida State’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes as Rathan-Mayes tried to run by from behind.Allen wasn’t called for a foul there, but the Atlantic Coast Conference later reprimanded him.The Blue Devils don’t play again until opening ACC play at Virginia Tech on Dec. And I’m responsible for that kid, so I know him better than anybody. We won plenty of games together. Obviously, we will do more. 9, Allen received a flagrant foul for extending his leg to trip Louisville’s Ray Spalding after he fell to the court and Spalding tried to go by him. Duke suspended Grayson Allen indefinitely from the team Thursday, one day after he was caught tripping an opponent for the third time in a year.In a brief statement announcing the suspension, coach Mike Krzyzewski said the program “needed to take further steps regarding his actions that do not meet the standards of Duke basketball.”

Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford issued a statement supporting the move, calling sportsmanship “one of the core values of our league” and adding that the suspension “demonstrates adherence to this important principle.”Allen picked up a technical foul for tripping Elon’s Steven Santa Ana on a drive in the first half of a 72-61 win Wednesday night. So to think that it’s the last thing that’s said about this to him is wrong. “There’s no excuse for it.”Krzyzewski called Allen’s actions “unacceptable and inexcusable” in the statement. He described them similarly in the immediate aftermath of the game, but at that time declined to publicly reveal any other measures or reprimands.“I handle things the way I handle them,” Krzyzewski said after the game. That earned him a seat on the bench for the final 4:15 of the half and the start of the second half, though he returned to the game with about 16 minutes left.Afterward, Allen met with Santa Ana and Elon coach Matt Matheny to apologize before hanging his head and fighting back tears while talking to reporters in the locker room.“Just talking about what led up to it is just an excuse,” Allen said. So there’s nothing really you can say.“I just gave him a really big hug, told him, ‘I love you.’ That’s all that was, and let the silence kind of fill the void. “We’ve been to battle, we’ve won a (national) championship together. There’s nothing really you can say about it.”It’s officially a pattern for Allen, who was twice caught tripping opponents last winter.On Feb. 31. “I think I’ve handled this correctly and moving forward I will continue to handle it correctly, and I don’t need to satisfy what other people think I should do.“I’m a teacher and a coach.

Canada’s speed, teamwork raise hopes for world junior hockey gold

Group A is at the Bell Centre in Montreal with Finland, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Denmark. the U.S.Canada has won the event 16 times since its inception in 1977, but gold has been elusive since losing the 2010 final to the U.S. The 2015 gold with a team that included McDavid, Sam Reinhart and Curtis Lazar was their first in six years. It was the only medal Canada has won in the last four world juniors, with the other three played on international-size ice in Europe.The United States, learning that scoring ace and Vancouver Canucks prospect Brock Boeser will sit out with a wrist injury, should also be in the hunt along with Finland, Russia and Sweden.Strome, a rangy scorer and faceoff ace picked third overall in 2015 by Arizona, is expected to centre Canada’s top line and first power play unit. and blowing a third-period lead to Russia in 2011 championship game. Canada’s Dylan Strome, left to right, Mathew Barzal and Julien Gauthier wait for their turn as the world junior selection camp opens, in Boisbriand, Que., on Sunday, December 11, 2016. “We’re also a tight group off the ice and that benefits us on the ice.“One thing you really need in a short competition is for everyone to be close off the ice. You can see that in our dressing room.”Canada will be the favourite on the NHL-sized rinks at home, where it won two years ago when the event was also held in Toronto and Montreal. New York Islanders 2015 first-rounder Barzal will be looked to for scoring, particularly if Ducharme keeps him on a line with Joseph and Raddysh.Jost’s unit with six-foot-four forwards Gauthier and Nicolas Roy could be a menace for opposing teams while Stephens, Anthony Cirelli, Dillon Dube, Blake Speers and Michael McLeod are all proven junior-level scorers.Rushing rearguard Chabot and Noah Juulsen are expected to lead the defence with Jake Bean and six-foot-four Philippe Myers, while big hitter Jeremy Lauzon, Kale Clague and Dante Fabbro can all move the puck.But mostly, it will be teamwork and effort that will be Canada’s motor rather than the elite skill of any individual.“We’re coming together,” Strome said this week. 5 in Toronto and Montreal. The chemistry’s building and that’s a good thing for this tournament.”Much of the pre-tournament talk has been about who will not play, and that list is certainly impressive.Besides McDavid and Marner, Canadians who are eligible but weren’t loaned for the tournament include defenceman Jacob Chychrun and forwards Travis Konecny, Anthony Beauvillier and Lawson Crouse.But the Americans are missing Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, Matt Tkachuk, Zach Werenski and Noah Hanifin, while Finland is without the top three scorers from last year’s tournament — Patrik Laine, Jesse Puljujarvi and Sebastian Aho. 26 to Jan. The top four in each group advance to the quarter-finals. Forwards like Quebec league goals leader Mathieu Joseph, 2016 third-overall draft NHL pick Pierre-Luc Dubois, Ontario Hockey League scoring ace Taylor Raddysh and University of North Dakota digger Tyson Jost should give them four lines that can provide offence.“Our pace and our skill and how hard we work, we put those three things together and it really works well,” Jost said this week. Czech and Latvia vs. “We’re close.“We’re all happy when anyone scores. Sweden, Finland vs. Others out are Russian defenceman Ivan Provorov, Switzerland’s Denis Malgin and the Czech Republic’s big centre Pavel Zacha.Even some top draft-eligible prospects like Canada’s Nolan Patrick and American Casey Mittelstadt are out with injuries, but there are other 17-year-olds expected to go high in the 2017 draft to watch, such as Nico Hischier of Switzerland, Czech forward Martin Necas, Sweden’s Elias Petterson and nine young Finns including Eeli Tolvanen, Miro Heiskanen, Juuso Valimaki and Urho Vaakainen.There is also 16-year-old Swedish defenceman Rasmus Dahlin, who some see as the first overall draft pick in 2018.And there will be some gifted players already drafted to watch, including Sweden’s Alexander Nylander and Joel Eriksson Ek, Finland captain Olli Juolevi, big Russian defenceman Mikhail Sergachev and several Canadians.Canada will play the preliminary round in Group B at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto with the U.S., Russia, Slovakia and Latvia. THE CANADIAN PRESS

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Junior hockey players vie for second chance to put Canada on the podium

Coach Dominique Ducharme brings a team four lines deep in scoring ability with a decent defence and what they expect will be better goaltending with Carter Hart and Connor Ingram than the Canadian side that was eliminated by Finland in the quarter-finals of last year’s world juniors in Helsinki.Canada has five players back from that team: forwards Dylan Strome, Julien Gauthier, Mitchell Stephens and Mathew Barzal and defenceman Thomas Chabot. Playing on home ice with a team built for speed and tenacity could be a winning combination for Canada at the world junior hockey championship.While Canada is missing teenage stars like Connor McDavid and Mitch Marner, who have already graduated to the National Hockey League, their closest rivals will also be without top talent at the tournament, which runs from Dec. The semifinals and final will be in Montreal.Play opens Dec. 26 with Canada against Russia, Denmark vs.

Five world junior hockey players to watch

He will be Finland’s captain this year.Alexander Nylander, Sweden: The Calgary-born brother of Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander and son of former NHLer Michael Nylander was the Ontario Hockey League rookie of the year in 2015-16 with 78 points in 57 games. The six-foot-three, 212 pounder is expected to anchor the Russian defence. He was a tournament all-star with nine assists in seven games as host Finland win gold at last year’s world juniors. Then he helped the London Knights win the Memorial Cup. 5 event in Montreal and Toronto.Here are five players to watch:

Olli Juolevi, Finland: The heady six-foot-two defenceman was selected fifth overall in June by the Vancouver Canucks for his steady two-way play and his habit of winning trophies. He has 16 points in seven games since his return to Erie. Strome and Marner led Canada in scoring at last year’s world juniors with four goals each and he is expected to get first-line duty as Canada’s captain this year. And the six-foot-one winger led Sweden with four goals and nine points at last year’s world juniors. He now plays for Rochester in the AHL.Mikhail Sergachev, Russia: Big and physical, but also a strong skater with a booming point shot. He had 129 points as a teammate of Connor McDavid in 2014-15 and 111 last season.Nico Hischier, Switzerland: The shifty, 17-year-old centre is one of the top draft-eligible players in this year’s tournament with 23 goals and 48 points in 31 games for the Halifax Mooseheads, leading Quebec Major Junior Hockey League rookies. Many scouts see him becoming the highest NHL-drafted Swiss player ever, ahead of Nino Niederreiter’s fifth overall in 2010. The world junior hockey championship lost some big names to the NHL this year, including Canada’s Mitch Marner, the United States’ Auston Matthews and Finland’s Patrik Laine, but there will still be some intriguing talent on display at the Dec. That combination made him the OHL’s top defenceman as a rookie last season with the Windsor Spitfires and prompted the Montreal Canadiens to take him ninth overall. He had two assists in six games at last year’s world juniors as a 16-year-old. That led the Buffalo Sabres to draft him eighth overall, the same spot his brother was selected two years earlier. 26 to Jan. He played three games for Montreal and since then has 15 points in 18 games after a slow start in Windsor.Dylan Strome, Canada: The six-foot-three centre was sent back to the Erie Otters after picking up one assist in seven games for the Arizona Coyotes, who drafted him third overall in 2015.

Indians sign Edwin Encarnacion to three-year deal: reports

The offer ensured Toronto would receive compensation if he signed with another team as a free agent.Encarnacion was acquired by the Blue Jays midway through the 2009 season in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds. It was the fifth consecutive year that the first baseman/designated hitter had cleared the 30-homer plateau. Encarnacion earned $10-million this year while playing out the team option on his previous contract.The 33-year-old native of La Romana, Dominican Republic, helped Toronto end a 22-year playoff drought in 2015 as the Blue Jays reached the American League Championship Series before falling to Kansas City.In 2016, Encarnacion hit a walkoff homer to give Toronto a wild-card game victory over the Baltimore Orioles. Encarnacion rejected a $17.2-million qualifying offer from the Blue Jays after the season ended. The Blue Jays beat the Texas Rangers in the AL Division Series for the second successive year but lost to Cleveland in the ALCS.In 1,513 career regular-season games, Encarnacion has a .266 batting average with 310 homers and 942 RBIs.He was drafted in 2000 by the Rangers with the 274th overall pick and made his big-league debut in 2005 with the Reds.The Canadian Press Free-agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion has reportedly signed with the Cleveland Indians.Multiple reports Thursday night said the deal was for a guaranteed $65-million (all currency U.S.) over three years.Encarnacion hit .263 last season with 42 home runs and 127 runs batted in with the Blue Jays. His breakout season came in 2012 when he hit 42 homers and added 110 RBIs.He has been one of the game’s top sluggers since.

Hockey parents’ behaviour creates need for Respect in Sport training

After noticing declining behaviour in their arenas, organizations are requiring one parent per child to undergo Respect in Sport training. In the past few years, parental fights were gaining increased media traction after being immortalized with video footage. The program’s co-founder, Wayne McNeil, said that the long-term issue has come to the forefront in recent years.“In the old days, it would have happened in the parking lot of the arena, and no one would hear about it but that little community,” he said. “The same can be said about the coaches and some of the organizers, too. Colley was hesitant to release the man’s identity without consulting with the detective in charge of the case, as “it can cause us a lot of headache” and the man was not a risk to public safety.In many organizations – including the Ontario Hockey Federation and Hockey Calgary – the Respect in Sport Parent Program has been presented as a solution. Just let the kids do their own thing and this stuff doesn’t happen.” As the Mississauga Hockey League, part of the GTHL, cleans up the aftermath of its recent parental clash, executive director Jeff Leavens echoed Mr. He tells them the program is about learning to nurture and respect your child’s sport and to not live vicariously through them or create undue pressure.“The likelihood of your kid making a career out of this is less than 1 per cent,” he said. McNeil said. “It creates a lot of pressure for these athletes, and it reinforces the idea that these behaviours are appropriate.”Though her study won’t be completed until the end of this hockey season, she said that implementing respect training showed a concerted effort by the leagues to address underlying issues.“I don’t think it can be the only solution, though.” Additional steps, including a streamlined system for parents to report negative behaviour they witness, and updated policies addressing parental harassment, would be beneficial, she said.In many instances though, Canadian parents are the ones pushing back.“The initial response is, ‘Why do I need this program? When it spilled into the parking lot, police were called and a player’s father was charged with assault. Parents can be banned from arenas for posing a threat to safety. Earlier this month, an altercation in Markham, Ont., left one dad with stitches and one player with a host of injuries.Last weekend’s skirmish in Meadowvale only adds to the list.According to Peel Police Sergeant Josh Colley, supervisor of public information and media relations, one of the fathers involved in the two-father, three-mother fight in Meadowvale was charged with a single count of assault.Sgt. I’m already a good parent,’” Mr. “They won’t fix things overnight.”She and her team are documenting parental behaviour in leagues with the program versus leagues without.“The idea is that the longer these things are in place, this focus on positive parental involvement in sport improves, and over time, that becomes the norm,” she said.While the majority of parents in her experience were demonstrating positive behaviours, even the lesser incidents – verbal rather than physical – are worth addressing.“There are parents yelling comments at their children, at their children’s teammates, at their opponents, at the referees,” she said. Leavens said. “There are no shoe endorsements being handed out at the end of this game,” he said.Disciplinary action taken against the parents is pending with a potential hearing at the MHL office. Jack Kukolic is only 13 years old, but he’s already aware that adults should know better.At a Meadowvale hockey arena, west of Toronto last Saturday, his eyes were drawn away from the room where his 11-year-old brother unlaced his skates. “When kids are playing hockey, how are they supposed to know not to yell at the refs and not to fight with each other if their parents are doing it?” the teenager asked.The Greater Toronto Hockey League, where the brothers play, has taken steps this year to address such behaviour, by implementing mandatory training for parents.The GTHL is joining a growing number of leagues countrywide. In his five years as executive director, it has never come to that point for Mr. In the hallway, a brawl broke out involving five parents from two teams. In Calgary, the program’s implementation in 2010 led to a drop in parent disciplinary hearings of 10 per cent to 15 per cent.A study conducted at Mount Royal University found that while the program didn’t halt the most severe of parental behaviour, 70 per cent of those surveyed in the minor-hockey community would support increased training.At the University of Toronto, researcher Katherine Tamminen is broadening research on the program with her own three-year study, which is two-thirds of the way completed.“These types of programs are not silver bullets,” she said. McNeil’s sentiment. This year alone, several incidents have been documented.In April, RCMP officers had to deal with a multiple-parent fist fight at a game for 10-year-olds in Osoyoos, B.C. Leavens, but he isn’t ruling out the possibility.“Wayne Gretzky made a comment, years and years ago, that hockey – and a lot of sports – would be different if you just kept the parents away and just let the kids have the sport,” Mr.

Steelers have playoff spot, bragging rights on the line against Ravens

Pittsburgh’s wide receiver group is hurting. Darrius Heyward-Bey is nearing his return from a foot injury, but still hasn’t caught a pass in two months.Asked if he can line up as a receiver and go deep to take some of the pressure off Brown, Bell laughed and said “we’ll see.”“I never turn down a go route,” said Bell, who is second on the team with 72 receptions. Eli Rogers is primarily a possession receiver and Cobi Hamilton a practice-squad graduate who only has one reception for 21 yards on the season.Not exactly the kind of production that forces opponents to reconsider having two or three players shadow Brown wherever he may roam.Though Brown’s 96 receptions lead the AFC, his 12.6 yards a catch is his lowest since 2012.Offensive co-ordinator Todd Haley pointed to the steady play of Jesse James and Xavier Grimble – who filled in capably while Green recovered from off-season ankle surgery and other problems – as proof the Steelers can move the ball without a true downfield complement to Brown.Maybe, but maybe not.Pittsburgh’s midseason slump started right after Coates – who had one reception of at least 40 yards in each of the Steelers’ first five games – injured his fingers while catching a pair of touchdowns against the New York Jets.The team didn’t fully snap out of it until Green had a pair of 30-plus yard receptions against Indianapolis on Thanksgiving.Coates continued to play through the injury on special teams and caught his first pass in seven weeks against the Bengals, signs he appeared to be heading in the right direction.“It’s not easy to have those finger issues as a wide receiver,” Roethlisberger said. I’ll just keep challenging him to come back and be the best he can be. Bad.Sammie Coates is still dealing with two broken fingers on his left hand and was limited in practice on Thursday with a hamstring issue.Tight end Ladarius Green is likely out after being put on the concussion protocol following a helmet-to-helmet hit in the fourth quarter last Sunday in Cincinnati against the Bengals. Bell missed Baltimore’s win in the wild-card round later that season with a knee injury. Roethlisberger sat out an overtime setback in 2015 with a knee issue.Their knees are fine this time around. “If they give me a go route, I’m going to try and run a go route every time they ask me.”It might be worth a shot.While the Steelers (9-5) have ripped off five straight wins thanks in large part to an offence that’s become increasingly dependent on Bell’s constantly churning legs, Green’s emergence as a deep threat to complement Brown has certainly helped.Green is averaging a healthy 16.9 yards a catch since coming off the physically unable to perform list against Dallas last month, but who knows how long he might be out after getting drilled while finishing off a 28-yard reception in the fourth quarter against the Bengals.The options appear to be dwindling. The last time Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown were in uniform together for the Steelers at Heinz Field against the Ravens, Roethlisberger threw for 340 yards and six touchdowns in a 43-23 romp midway through the 2014 season.It’s still Pittsburgh’s only victory in the past seven meetings between the two teams that will meet for the de facto AFC North title game on Christmas night, a rare blowout in a series dominated by taut defensive struggles usually decided by a kicker. And help us, offensively.”Those plans may be put on hold after Coates trudged out of the team’s facility with a noticeable limp and Green was wearing a black sweatsuit after sitting out practice yet again.No matter, Roethlisberger remains confident with a playoff spot on the line and an archrival coming to town.“We’ve got other guys that have been here all year doing this stuff,” Roethlisberger said. “You’ve really seen him play well on special teams and start to really do some more on offence. “So we’ll have to count on them if [Green] is not ready to go.” The issue might be finding some help, particularly for Brown.

Chicago Cubs won World Series just in time for many long-time fans

14. Donn Young, a now-retired researcher at the university’s Comprehensive Cancer Centre. What is more likely, he said, is explained in another study that found people remember positive events more than they do negative ones – meaning that nurses and other caregivers are more likely to recall those patients who made it through the holidays than those who didn’t.Still, Young acknowledged that some of the ailing might eat better, more faithfully take their medicine and get plenty of rest in the hopes of reaching a milestone. “When we started talking about it she said, ‘They haven’t won since I was born.’ It was probably the last thing we shared with her because she died on Nov. Patrick Cecil, a Catholic priest in Chicago, who died Nov. “He was so thrilled after all those years of waiting.”And that, she said, is helping her get through this first holiday season without her husband, who even at 82 could recite the names of the starting lineup of the 1945 Cubs. 2 when the World Series ended safely in Anthony Rizzo’s glove during an epic Game 7 in Cleveland. Weeks afterward, she remembered only bits and pieces about the World Series victory party at her nursing home in Manitowoc, Wis., the Cubs cake, the staffer dressed like the late Cubs announcer Harry Caray and the singing of Take Me Out To The Ball Game. The memories she collected over 98 years were slipping away. “He will be sharing that victory with those from the Cecil family that have preceded him.”It was a similar story for Marvin Peterson.“He was thinking the [National League] pennant would be the only thing he’d get,” Margaret Peterson, a resident of a Chicago suburb, said of her 82-year-old husband, who was dying of cancer at the time.Instead, he watched on television as the Cubs beat the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series, the Indians in the World Series and then celebrated with millions of fans at a massive parade and rally.At his bedside a few days before he died on Nov. And there is no underestimating the value of the smiles and the general bliss for Cubs fans the night of Nov. But the woman who lived most of her life about a mile from Wrigley Field, close enough to hear the roar of the crowd if the wind was blowing just right, could remember with absolute clarity that the Cubs had won it all.Then, after getting a letter from the hospice about this 105-year-old Cubs fan, the team sent up a package containing a shirt, decals, a photograph of the late Cubs great Ernie Banks and a note thanking her.“When the package came she was just overwhelmed that they would remember her,” said her son. Their study concluded there was no evidence that cancer patients willed themselves to live just a bit longer.“You’d hear it all the time, that a nurse said so and so hung on until after Christmas, and it’s a nice story,” said the study’s co-author, Dr. Did the older Matijevich stick around long enough to see the Cubs win the World Series?“I really think that was the reason, I really do,” said his son.In 2004, as Boston was basking in an at-long-last World Series championship, biostatisticians at Ohio State University threw water on all those stories about dying fans who kept themselves alive long enough to witness the first Red Sox title in 86 years. When Kathleen Strobel talked to her, she could tell by the blank look on her mom’s face that that she didn’t understand a lot of what she was saying.Then came the World Series.“She really came alive when it started and they had the Cubs games on,” Strobel said. “That was one of the last memories she would have.”She died Dec. 18 was a gift from his son-in-law: a replica of the World Series trophy.“It gave him a lot of joy,” said his wife. At the end, not much was getting through to Helen Weithman. “I am so happy he got to experience that,” she said.Roger Sieben could see what the win meant to his 105-year-old mother, Suzanne. He just knows what he saw at the north Chicago home where he lived with his father.“He was really going downhill, but in the World Series he was eating better, sleeping more,” Matijevich said of his 88-year-old father, John. 5. There is no forgetting, at least for a little while, the distraction that the Cubs provided to those who had just hours or days to live.That showed up in the death notices – long a place where the families have included loved ones’ allegiance to the Cubs – in the days after the Series.The Cubs’ win “was one of his happiest moments as he went through treatments and rehabilitation” for a nerve disease, read the death notice for the Rev. 29.”

Strobel hasn’t wondered if the hope of finally witnessing her Cubbies win it all added a little time to her mom’s life. Studies have long suggested no one can will themselves to stay alive just a little bit longer to reach a milestone event like a birthday, holiday, wedding or World Series.Try telling that to the families of some Chicago Cubs fans who are convinced their loved ones hung on to see the team win its first Series in 108 years.Robert Matijevich doesn’t know much about all the studies. “When the Cubs won, he said, ‘They did it in my lifetime.’”He died that night.

Behind the sensory overload of a Toronto Raptors game

“The teams have the best understanding of what their fans like and take the lead on arranging programming that best suits their fan base.”Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t – at which point the league will not hesitate to step in.Back in 1999, when former Raptor Marcus Camby was making his first return to Toronto following a trade to the New York Knicks, a tape of a baby wailing was piped over the PA system when he first entered the game.Later in the game, when Latrell Sprewell of the Knicks was lining up to shoot a free throw, the message “CHOKE” was flashed on the video board.For those indiscretions the league slapped the Raptors with a $10,000 fine.John Lashway was one of the Raptors’ first front-office hires in the communications department when the team started out in 1995 and played its first 2 1/2 seasons in the cavernous Rogers Centre, then known as the SkyDome, until the ACC opened.Back then, Lashway said, basketball fans in Toronto had to learn about game protocols.He recalled one occasion at the SkyDome when fans seated behind the basket were given inflatable noisemakers, which they were supposed to wave and beat together to distract the opposition when taking free throws.Except the fans also beat the sticks when the Raptors were shooting. “Then they add all this music and these noises that any third-rate bar mitzvah DJ has at his disposal.”Hosford said the demographics for Raptors games points to a younger crowd than you would see at a Leafs game – between 18 to 35 and many of them women.“The crowd at basketball games, it’s really representative of Toronto,” Hosford said. Definitely not cool.“But Toronto was a quick study,” added Lashway, who now runs his own communications and branding company out of St. Blake Papsin is the chief of otolaryngology, head and neck surgery, at Toronto’s Hospital For Sick Children. The incessant din at Air Canada Centre was hovering between the rumble of a subway train and the squeal of a diesel-truck engine.And that was before a recent NBA game between the Toronto Raptors and the Brooklyn Nets had started, when the spectators were rocking out to pregame hip-hop and rap music. And on this night, although the basketball team enjoyed another lopsided win, many of the fans remained engaged, still bopping in their seats, until the final buzzer sounded.“Our fans come here, they enjoy the game,” Shannon Hosford said during a recent interview. “Toronto is still louder and crazier for the Raptors than any arena I go to.”These days, attending a Raptors game, or any NBA game for that matter, is an experience of sensory overload that includes blaring music, scantily-clad dancers, video montages and silly antics from the mascot.And it is loud – so much so that at least one former club executive believes he lost a bit of hearing in one of his ears as a result of the excessive noise.Dr. Nowadays everything’s become noisy.”Those who long for the days when you could actually hear the squeak of sneakers on the hardwood during basketball games are apparently in the minority.“They are undervaluing the ability of fans just being able to listen and watch NBA games to draw in new fans, thinking they have to change everything,” said lifelong NBA fan John Thayer, a 36-year-old legal assistant who lives in Los Angeles. “A smattering” over the years.“Our job is to get our fans involved, engaged and excited, to give the team an advantage,” she said.At the end of a Raptors game at the ACC, when all the commotion has finally died out, Kuhn grabs the microphone one last time to bid farewell to the fans.“And peace” he concludes – and it truly is. “Our job is to give them the ultimate NBA experience. “But you could hear the puck. You’ll never hear a Stompin’ Tom Connors tune during a Raptors’ game.You are more likely to hear snippets of The Sweet Escape by Gwen Stefani, Drake’s Hotline Bling and the truly inane Cha Cha Slide by DJ Casper, which contains the “everybody clap your hands” plea.Those are some of the songs that the Raptors sent to the NBA for vetting and are on the team’s play list for home games this season.“I do think the point is, we as an organization never try to cookie-cutter from one brand experience to another brand experience,” Hosford said. He said while he finds the ramped-up sound at hockey and basketball games personally annoying, the noise will probably not damage hearing.“I’m old enough to remember when you wore a suit to Leaf games and clapped even when the other team did something good,” Papsin said. She said the noise levels are monitored every game and normally fall within the NBA’s guidelines.“We get called [by the NBA] if we’re over the levels,” Hosford said.Has she had many calls? And the Toronto basketball fans, a younger and more ethnically diverse gathering than what you usually see at a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game, obviously lap it up.The Raptors have recorded 107 consecutive home sellouts, dating to November of 2014. Catharines, Ont. So you will see that in the production of our show.“When we talk about being on trend, lifestyle trends and all that – that’s what our fan is looking [for from] us, to be on that edge.”Anton Wright, director of game presentation for MLSE, said the idea is to augment what he referred to as the “glitz and glamour” of the play on the court to all the off-court activities.“The idea is to pack as much as possible and engage our fan as much as possible within that 2 1/2-hour time frame,” he said. When the lights in the arena dimmed and the Raptors’ pregame video started rolling on the giant TV screens above centre court, it was the signal for ACC veterans to grab the earplugs in preparation for the oncoming audio assault.“Basketball fans,” Herbie Kuhn, the long-serving, leather-lunged basketball public-address announcer, roared into the microphone, as he began his familiar refrain,“Please welcome the starters for your Toronto Raptors.”As pyrotechnics erupted from both ends of the court, the music continued to thump and the capacity crowd of close to 20,000 cheered incessantly as their heroes were introduced.And the racket rarely diminished over the 2 1/2 hours it took for the actual game to be played.It’s loud, over the top and definitely not for the faint of heart. “We’ve very conscious of what we’ve been told, the feedback we’ve heard, the surveys that we get, in terms of what’s working with one team and one brand to another.”The Raptors, like the other 29 NBA clubs, receive direction from the NBA front office on in-house entertainment.“Our teams are always looking for new and different ways to create an exciting entertainment experience for fans of all ages at each and every game that exceeds their expectations,” Mike Chant, an NBA senior director of team programming, said in an e-mail. And you’re always going to see that at a Raptors game.”Hosford said that she rarely gets any push back from basketball fans about the noise. But it’s by design.“We want to take those fans on a ride and we want them to be a part of every part of that show, never be bored, always thinking about what’s coming up next.”Hosford is the vice-president of marketing and communications at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the well-heeled owners of the Raptors, hockey’s Maple Leafs and soccer’s Toronto FC.Whatever entertainment occurs aside from the game, Hosford and her team of about 120 are responsible for dreaming it up.Hosford would be the first to admit that what passes for in-stadium entertainment during a Raptors basketball game would probably have patrons streaming for the exits if they tried to replicate the production at a Leafs game.And probably vice-versa.Put it this way. “It’s culturally diverse, it’s very young – a lot younger than our other teams. “So you see through our talent and through our music and our mascot and everything else.“It’s really having that story and having a beginning, a middle and an end.

Canadian government puts Olympic sports funding under review

Despite the success, the system that helped put Canadians on the podium is under scrutiny. Canada ranked third in the over all medal count with 26 medals.The stated objective for 2010 was to win more medals than any other country.The goal was the same four years later in Sochi, where Canada ranked fourth with 25 medals, including 10 gold.Canada is a winter sports power. That’s the value of this review. The country ranked second in world championship medals in 2016 with 18, behind Germany’s 19, according to OTP statisticians.Canada has also won more medals to start this 2016-17 World Cup winter season (73) than any other country, OTP said.Gains in summer sports have taken longer.Canada’s one gold among 19 medals won at the 2012 Summer Games in London was unremarkable when compared with three gold in 19 four years earlier in Beijing.While Canada remains a top-three country in the Winter Paralympic Games, the country has lost ground in the Summer Games.Other nations are putting more effort and resources into their summer para-sport athletes than they were a decade ago. Canada dropped from 50 medals to 31 to 29 over the past three Summer Paralympics.The company hired to gather data encompassing pre-2010 to the Rio Games is expected to complete its work in January, a Heritage department spokesperson told The Canadian Press in an e-mail.Findings will be submitted to Sport Canada, which will in turn make recommendations to Qualtrough in 2017. Own The Podium has been tasked with delivering the targeted approach, but how does the whole system get better? But that doesn’t mean change shouldn’t happen, she added.“The government of Canada’s decision to deploy a targeted-excellence approach has delivered in spades,” Merklinger said. Taxpayers are the largest investors in the country’s high-performance athletes to the tune of almost $200-million annually.Own The Podium (OTP) makes funding recommendations directing $70-million – about $6-million of it comes from the Canadian Olympic Committee – to sports federations whose athletes demonstrate medal potential.The strategy is called “targeted excellence” and is defined as identifying “a subset of athletes and/or teams that have a high probability of attaining stated desired Olympic and Paralympic performance results, and to provide them with focused support and funding to attain those results.”In other words, the money and resources are doled out based on the ability to produce medals.The Department of Canadian Heritage, with Sport Canada under its umbrella, is reviewing targeted excellence among other aspects of the sport system.Own The Podium has its critics as the organization that holds sway in determining which sport federations get how much targeted-excellence money. Some federations have received a small sliver of that funding pie, or sometimes, none at all.Under pressure to win medals, coaches and high-performance directors have made controversial decisions at Olympic Games in the makeup of men’s bobsleigh teams and rowing crews.OTP works with significantly more taxpayer money now than the $23-million a year it got prior to 2010.The organization also oversees a sport science and technology program, monitors sports federations’ high-performance programs and has established a program of identifying and developing the next generation of Olympians and Paralympians.The government has decided it’s time to look at whether the sports system is getting desired results affordably and if it is adapting to changing needs.“Fourteen years ago we thought this was a good idea, this was the path and this was a cutting-edge approach to high-performance sport internationally,” Minister of Sport Carla Qualtrough told The Canadian Press in 2016.“So like any coach will tell you we need to keep reviewing the game plan. Medal performances say how well we’ve done under this particular plan, but maybe there’s a different direction we need to go to achieve even better results next time.”OTP was established five years out from the 2010 Winter Games and Paralympic Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., to get the host country’s athletes on the podium.Anne Merklinger, OTP’s third chief executive officer following Roger Jackson and Alex Baumann, said Canada’s results in the Olympics and Paralympics in the past 11 years are an argument for the targeted approach. It’s been incredibly successful.“That said, can we improve? “The data speaks for itself. That’s the kind of thoughtful dialogue I would say needs to happen once the report is tabled.”In 2010, as the host country, Canada won 14 gold medals, a record for any country at a single Winter Games. Canada proved in 2016 it could compete with the world’s top summer sports countries, equalling its best showing at a non-boycotted Summer Olympics with 22 medals at the Rio Games.Four golds were the most for Canada at a Summer Olympics since the country won seven in 1992, and after falling short of the goal of a top-12 finish in the overall medal count in both 2008 and 2012, Canada finally cracked the top 10 in Brazil (10th).

Toronto FC loses Will Johnson and Josh Williams via free agency

Toronto FC lost two players Thursday, with free-agent midfielder Will Johnson headed to Orlando and defender Josh Williams taken by Columbus in Stage 2 of the MLS re-entry draft.A source confirmed Johnson’s departure to Orlando with the deal announcement pending.The 29-year-old Canadian international, whose lone season in Toronto was interrupted by a knee injury, started 19 games for the Reds and appeared in four others. Johnson made $395,333 (all figures U.S.) last season while Williams earned $131,500, according to the MLS Players Union.Unlike Johnson, the out-of-contract Williams was eligible for the re-entry draft.Johnson came to Toronto last December in a trade with Portland that sent a conditional second-round pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft and targeted allocation money to the Timbers.The 10-year MLS veteran, who previously played for Real Salt Lake and Chicago, had two goals and five assists this season for Toronto.The Canadian Press A childhood friend of Toronto captain Michael Bradley, Johnson offered experience and some bite in midfield. The move to Orlando reunites Johnson with coach Jason Kreis, who was in charge of Real Salt Lake during Johnson’s time there. Orlando is also home to Canadian striker Cyle Larin.Williams, 28, appeared in 15 games this season with 11 starts, but found himself behind Drew Moor, Eriq Zavaleta and Nick Hagglund when coach Greg Vanney switched to a three-man backline late in the season.The two players’ departure frees up money under the salary cap.