Cheers? I’ve still got love for the people there.”But did Durant have to join the Warriors of all teams? It’s all about the community there. The place where he grew into the basketball player he is today, and the man he has become.KD departed Oklahoma City with fanfare on the 4th of July last year to chase a championship with Stephen Curry and the star-studded Warriors. “Obviously, Kevin has done a lot for Oklahoma City and our team when he was here.”Warriors coach Steve Kerr changed teams so many times he became used to regular returns to arenas he once called home. As much as it still hurts for so many Oklahomans to see Kevin Durant shine elsewhere, the Golden State star remains committed to the community he called home for nearly a decade. You get an emotional kickstart. That’s totally separate from this NBA stuff. It’s one thing to be a role player for a few years but to be a superstar in one town and have the whole place adore, the whole city, to go back is going be very emotional for him.”You bet the Warriors want to win for him.“He grew up there, pretty much, into a man,” Curry said. It’s a weird feeling but it’s nice because out of 82 games sometimes you need that emotion, and that’ll definitely do it. It will be a huge weekend for them also. It’s as simple as that,” he said.There is no love lost between Durant and OKC’s current superstar. So when he goes back Saturday night for the first time it will be far from a perfectly harmonious reunion. It’s like any other time, you always have ones that you have circled on the schedule.”Golden State has already beaten Durant’s old team handily twice this season – by 47 combined points.Durant has been brilliant in those games: 79 points on 28-for-40 shooting.Most recently, Durant dazzled with a season-best 40 points in a 121-100 win Jan. “They want him coming back in there as well. And that’s fine with Durant. Just walking into the building is exciting, seeing all your old friends and having all those memories,” he said. That was home for me for eight years. No pregame pleasantries planned.“I don’t talk to nobody during the game,” Westbrook said, noting it’s up to the fans what kind of reception they choose for KD. “I’ve been a part of that group going on four years now. Those kids mean a lot to me, definitely want to continue to keep helping them. He hit seven 3-pointers on the way to 39 points in the first meeting, a 122-96 Warriors rout Nov. I can’t even imagine what it’ll feel like for KD, that’s a totally different level. Just ‘cuz I left there don’t mean I’ll stop building with them. 3 also at Oracle.There are certain to be mixed feelings when he enters Chesapeake Energy Arena again.Boos? “I had some great times there, man, never going to forget them.” He gets it, he understands what he meant to a city that so desperately needed the lift he provided.“I put everything into that place, so it will be great to see some people that I haven’t seen in a while,” he said. Yet the reigning NBA Coach of the Year was a role player, a far different situation than Durant’s going back.“It always gives you a bounce in your step when you go back to the place where you played. 35 jersey and turned to calling him a coward.Facing Russell Westbrook and his old teammates twice already, Durant has kept his emotions in check and flat-out dominated.“It’s good to see everybody but once the ball’s tipped you’re just playing, just hooping. So far, he has honoured that commitment after previously giving $35,000 to the school through his foundation.“Well, that’s real life,” Durant said in December. “… Both.So stung were some fans by his decision they burned his No. 18 at Oracle Arena. “That’s hard to turn off.”Durant acknowledges that truth.“It meant a lot,” he said of the community. The franchise that somehow rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Thunder in a thrilling Western Conference Finals last June.“I do know it’ll be huge for him, and them,” teammate Draymond Green said this week. “So I’m looking forward to that.”In December, Durant donated $57,000 to Positive Tomorrows, an Oklahoma City elementary school for homeless children that he still cares so much about – and insists he always will, wherever he is. Huge for him, and if it’s huge for him, it’s huge for us. I’m glad I can keep helping growing the school.
Douglas rode a stunning knockout of Mike Tyson in 1990 in Japan all the way to fight immortality – sports fans can’t forget his name, yet he never had another major victory in his career.Holm’s not quite there yet, though she was composed enough this week at Barclays Center to answer questions that lumped her in with Douglas.“After the fight with Ronda, I knew that if I didn’t win after that, those would be things that would be tossed around,” Holm said. Holm, fighting in the new 145-pound featherweight division created as a showcase for Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino, can join Conor McGregor, Randy Couture and B.J. Holly Holm is already the answer to a trivia question as the first fighter to dominate and defeat Ronda Rousey.Her leap from obscurity to instant celebrity landed her on daytime talk shows and chatting with late-night hosts and made her – oh so briefly – the most talked about fighter in UFC.She’s trying these days to avoid another rather dubious fight conversation. They’re very tough opponents,” Holm said. She’s a Dutch kickboxer who also fought in Strikeforce and also lost to Nunes in 2013.She gained a slice of notoriety when she knocked out Belgian actor Tom Waes in a short bout filmed for a reality show.“I fought a man who had 40 pounds over me and I knocked him out,” she said.Though in the main event, she might be the least known fighter on a Brooklyn card that boasts UFC legend Anderson Silva vs. “I do feel in my heart that I have the capability to win those fights. So, I want this for me for my career. “I want my career to be defined by me being the best fighter I can be and accomplishing the biggest things I can, and whatever competition comes in front of me. Derek Brunson. I don’t want it to just be around the one fight. “But I’m not in this sport to please everybody else and what they think and what they feel. Holm’s championship reign lasted only four months, and another loss soon followed that left Holm not as the heir apparent to Rousey in the women’s division, but rather on the cusp of being labeled an MMA version of a one-hit wonder like Buster Douglas. The 35-year-old Holm, who went 33-2-3 as a professional boxer and won several championship belts, wants to prove she’s more than the fighter who handed Rousey her first L.“I don’t want my whole career to be defined around getting the belt from Ronda,” Holm said. But she said she tested positive for a diuretic she is taking as part of a therapeutic treatment due to medical issues related to her difficult weight cuts before bouts.Rousey may not fight again following her 48-second loss to Amanda Nunes in her comeback fight at UFC 207.Holm is forever linked to Rousey in the history book. Both fights went five rounds and are the only losses in her career.“It’s not like I’ve been fighting nobody’s. I know. I just know that I didn’t perform my best.”Holm (10-2) can erase the Douglas comparisons and become the first two-division champion in UFC women’s history when she fights Germaine de Randamie (6-3) in the main event of UFC 208. I want them to remember everything after.”Like Holm, the 32-year-old de Randamie moved up in weight for the shot at the title in the first UFC pay-per-view in 2017. Douglas gained about 35 pounds and had grown lazy on his 15 minutes of fame when he lost the belt in quick fashion eight months later to Evander Holyfield.Holm lost the bantamweight belt when Miesha Tate choked her out in March 2016 and she lost a decision to Valentina Shevchenko in the main event of a Fox card in July. “This is my one and only shot to fight for the belt. After winning titles in the Invicta and Strikeforce promotions, Justino won her first two fights in the UFC. Because there’s a lot of girls out there that are very tough.”Justino’s UFC fate is in limbo because of a doping violation that knocked her off the New York card. “They just have to make some phone calls. I’m always realistic to myself so I’m going to make the most of it.” I’m in it because I love it.”Douglas was a 42-1 longshot when he KO’d the undefeated and seemingly indestructible Tyson and won the heavyweight championship. Jacare Souza fights Tim Boetsch, Glover Teixeira fights Jared Cannonier and Jim Miller takes on Dustin Poirier in the other PPV bouts.While Holm tries to avoid Douglas’ career arc, de Randamie would like to pull off a surprising win for the belt just like Holm.“I know, Saturday, it’s do or die for me,” de Randamie said. Penn as the only two-division champs in UFC history.“I can guarantee you, they can build this division in no time,” Holm said.
CAS said the 31-year-old Savinova was “found to have been engaged in using doping” from July 2010 until August 2013.In 2014, Savinova was caught in undercover footage filmed by Russian doping whistleblower Yulia Stepanova appearing to admit to injecting testosterone and taking the banned steroid oxandrolone. The Moscow drug-testing laboratory was later shut down and its director testified he had covered up hundreds of failed tests by top Russian athletes.Two top coaches who worked with Savinova, Alexei Melnikov and Vladimir Kazarin, have also faced punishment. It takes less than 20 days.”Savinova also said that her husband, former runner Alexei Farnosov, had used “contacts” at a drug-testing laboratory to help cover up her doping. If she is banned, Pamela Jelimo of Kenya would be in line for silver, with bronze for Alysia Montano of the United States. “Oxandrolone is very quickly out of my body out again. Russian runner Maria Savinova was stripped of her 2012 Olympic gold medal for doping on Friday, putting Caster Semenya in line to become a two-time champion.Savinova, who won the 800-meter title at the London Games ahead of Semenya, was also banned for four years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. How should it go differently? Another Russian who originally finished sixth, Elena Arzahkova, was retrospectively disqualified in 2013 over blood doping.Semenya could also become a two-time world champion by inheriting Savinova’s gold medal from 2011. Melnikov was banned for life by the IAAF last year, while Kazarin is suspended awaiting the results of an investigation, though he’s been accused of breaking that suspension by continuing to coach Russian runners. Yvonne Hak of the Netherlands is in line for the 2010 European title, though Savinova keeps the 2010 world indoor title she won ahead of Britain’s Jenny Meadows.The Russian is also obliged to return at least $156,000 in prize money from various competitions where she’s now considered disqualified.The WADA commission which investigated Russian track and field had originally recommended a lifetime ban for Savinova.She can appeal the CAS ruling within 45 days.In the footage filmed by Stepanova, Savinova said doping was the only way to succeed in Russian sport.“What should we do? That is our system and in Russia that only works only with pharma,” she said, according to a transcript produced by WADA. She had been preparing for a comeback when she was filmed by Stepanova and then suspended during the investigation.Following further evidence of widespread drug use, the Russian track team was suspended from all international competitions in November 2015 and missed last year’s Olympics.If the International Olympic Committee decides to reallocate the medals from the 2012 final, Semenya will add that gold medal to the one she won last year in Rio de Janeiro.The original bronze medallist in the 2012 Olympic final, Ekaterina Poistogova of Russia, is also under investigation for doping. The footage helped spark a World Anti-Doping Agency investigation into Russia, and led to Savinova’s blood samples being re-examined.Savinova has not raced competitively since 2013.
Jose Mourinho says he is convinced striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic will extend his stay at Manchester United beyond this season.The 35-year-old former Sweden international has enjoyed a fruitful first campaign in English soccer, netting 20 goals in 33 appearances in all competitions.Ibrahimovic joined United on a free transfer from French champions Paris St Germain, signing a one-year deal in July with the option of extending his contract for a second season. No problem with his family. “He came with [the] intention of staying two years and the first year is going better than every expectation,” United manager Mourinho said Friday.“He knows we are going to try again to improve next season and try to share with him in a fantastic way probably the last year of his career at the highest level.”Ibrahimovic has clearly enjoyed teaming up again with Mourinho, having worked under him when the Portuguese was in charge of Inter Milan in 2008-09.The Swede, who netted 50 goals in his last season at PSG, has been able to replicate his clinical finishing at United.He scored with a stunning scissor kick three minutes into his debut in a friendly against Galatasaray, hit a late winner against Leicester to land United the Community Shield in August, the traditional curtain-raiser to the season, then marked his first Premier League start with a long-range strike against Bournemouth.The former Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona and AC Milan forward became the oldest player to score 15 goals in a Premier League season when he netted in last weekend’s win against Leicester.That hot streak is now set to continue next season with Mourinho saying: “I am convinced he is staying. I offer him extra days off to go to Sweden, he never goes.”
The fight to avoid relegation from the English Premier League is as intense as the race at the top.With 14 matches and four months of the season to play, the bottom six sides are separated by just two points: Sunderland (19 points), Crystal Palace (19), Hull (20), Swansea (21), Leicester (21) and Middlesbrough (21). There will not be a team in that region of the table who don’t think they can do it.”HULL (18th, 20 points)Much improved since Marco Silva was appointed manager last month, Hull plays all the sides in the bottom six between now and the end of the season.A draw at Manchester United was followed by a home win over Liverpool, but the tough run of fixtures continues on Saturday with a trip to Arsenal.“We need to continue to do our work to progress our performances,” Silva said. We need to get a result, got to pick points up,” said manager Sam Allardyce ahead of Saturday’s match at Stoke.“I haven’t been relegated from the Premier League in my entire career, so it’s the last thing I want. “We’re enjoying playing together and hopefully he can score many more goals.” But we keep losing! In 2014, 36 points was enough for West Brom to stay up.Here is a brief look at the bottom six teams:––– MIDDLESBROUGH (15th place, 21 points)Boro, without a league win since mid-December, do not concede many goals but do not score many either having notched a league-lowest 19 so far.Manager Aitor Karanka signed strikers Rudy Gestede and Patrick Bamford last month in a bid to add potency to an attack led by Alvaro Negredo, who is top-scorer on just six.Boro, which plays Everton at home on Saturday, has been warm-weather training in Spain this week to help foster team unity.LEICESTER (16th, 21 points)The storm clouds were circling the champions until manager Claudio Ranieri received a vote of confidence this week, the club offering “unwavering support” to the Italian.The Foxes have won just five league games amid reports of increasing dressing room unrest and a rift between manager and players.A much-needed victory in its FA Cup fourth-round replay on Wednesday against second-tier Derby has at least given some cause for optimism.“The win in the Cup will give us more confidence and we have to keep going,” Ranieri said.Leicester plays at fellow struggler Swansea on Sunday.SWANSEA (17th, 21 points)Paul Clement has been named the manager of the month for January after wins over Crystal Palace, Liverpool, and Southampton.Clement was appointed only in early January but seems to have galvanized the Welsh side which gave Manchester City a tough match in its last game, only to lose in injury time.On facing Leicester, Clement said: “We go into this game with a lot of confidence and a belief that we are going in the right direction. This team has a great chance of survival.”SUNDERLAND (20th, 19 points)The impressive win at Crystal Palace brought some respite for manager David Moyes, who hopes for more of the same from on-loan Manchester United winger Adnan Januzaj. “The same spirit, the same attitude, and the same team performance need to be shown.”CRYSTAL PALACE (19TH, 19 points)Palace has lost seven of its last 10 matches, and was jeered off in its last game after capitulating at home to relegation rival Sunderland 4-0.“I keep preaching the same thing: If you can’t win, don’t lose. Sunderland finished one place above the relegation places in 2016 and 2013, on both occasions staying up with 39 points. Bournemouth, on 26 points in 14th place but without a league win this year, could yet be dragged into the scrap.Reaching the 40-point mark is regarded as the target to ensure safety, although West Ham was relegated on 42 points in 2003.No team has ever got to 43 points and gone down. He created both of Jermain Defoe’s goals last weekend and is relishing their partnership.“In the last few games, we’ve linked really well,” he said.
Cole Keith, Reegan O’Gorman, Matt Beukeboom, Robbie Povey and George Barton can all earn their first caps coming off the bench.“It’s exciting to see some new blood and see what they can do,” Anscombe said in a statement. Canada’s nine tries were the second most by a Canadian team in a test match, while the 64 points represented the third most by Canada.The forecast is warmer for Saturday but there may be high winds.The Argentina loss dropped Anscombe’s record to 1-6-0 since taking over Canada last March, although the New Zealand native hasn’t been able to field his strongest lineup in most of those matches.Gradyn Bowd starts at No. Du Toit partners the hard-charging Blevins in the centres as Brock Staller shifts from No. 34 Brazil on March 3.CanadaDjustice Sears-Duru, Glasgow Warriors Scotland), Oakville, Ont.; Benoit Piffero, Blagnac Sporting Rugby Club (France), Montreal; Matt Tierney, Section Paloise (France), Oakville, Ont.; Conor Keys, UVic Vikes, Stittsville, Ont.; Liam Chisholm, UVIC Vikes, Kenora, Ont.; Lucas Rumball, Balmy Beach RFC, Toronto; Ollie Nott, UVIC Vikes, Qualicum, B.C.; Admir Cejvanovic, Burnaby Lake RFC, Burnaby, B.C.; Gordon McRorie (capt.), Calgary Hornets, Calgary; Gradyn Bowd , UVIC Vikes, Red Deer, Alta.; Taylor Paris, Agen (France), Barrie, Ont.; Guiseppe Du Toit, UVIC Vikes, Maple Ridge, B.C.; Nick Blevins, Calgary Hornets, Calgary; Dan Moor, Balmy Beach RFC, Toronto; Brock Staller, UBC Thunderbirds, Vancouver.ReplacementsEric Howard, Brantford Harlequins, Ottawa; Rob Brouwer, Lindsay RFC, Lindsay, Ont.; Cole Keith, James Bay AA, Sussex, N.B.; Reegan O’Gorman, Marist Albion (New Zealand), Vancouver; Matt Beukeboom, Section Paloise (France), Lindsay, Ont,; Phil Mack, James Bay AA, Victoria; Robbie Povey, Bedford Athletic (England), Northampton, England; George Barton, Clermont Espoirs (France), Duncan, B.C.ChileVittorio Lastra, Rodrigo Moya, Jose Tomas Munita, Mario Mayol, Nikola Bursic, Arturo Seeman, Anton Petrowitsch, Benjamin Soto (capt.), Jan Hasenlechner, Francisco Cruz, Tomas Ianiszewski, Simon Pardakhty, Jose Ignacio Larenas, Franco Velarde, Pedro Pablo Verschae.ReplacementsMartin Mendoza, Claudio Zamorano, Gonzalo Martinez, Manuel Dagnino, Eduardo Orpis, Juan Pablo Larenas, Jorge Castillo, Rodrigo Fernandez. 10 as Anscombe continues to evaluate talent at fly half. Captain Gordon McRorie (23), centre Nick Blevins (37), prop Djustice Sears-Duru (22) and wing Taylor Paris (18) account for 100 of those.Veteran scum half Phil Mack has 34 of the 45 caps on the bench.Chile coach Bernard Charreyre has made 11 changes to the team that lost 17-3 in Brazil. There are nine new faces and two positional changes. 18 before flying south for matches against No. 30 for Chile.Canada, 99-140-5 since 1932, is looking for a landmark 100th test win that would seem likely if things go anywhere near the way they did last year when the teams met.Canada thumped Chile 64-13 in their first-ever meeting — in Santiago at last year’s tournament. “They’ve got a reasonable forward pack that’s capable of winning good ball so we’re going to have to be aware and alert and make sure our defence is on the ball.”The Canadian men are ranked 18th in the world compared to No. 25 and No. Robbie Povey started last week with McRorie moving to No. 10 when Povey came off. “We’ve got to be realistic in what we expect from them but it’s a great opportunity and all part of the process of building for the future.”It’s another green Canadian team with the starting 15 having a combined cap count of 139. Hooker Tomas Dussaillant is out with a fractured thumb.“There was only a period of 10 minutes where they were dominated by Brazil last weekend, the rest of that game was pretty even,” Anscombe said of Chile. Eagles at Swangard Stadium on Feb. 21 Uruguay on Feb. 13 to fullback.The Canadian men head to Burnaby to face the 17th-ranked U.S. Keys started the loss to the Argentina Jaguars which was not considered an official test because Argentina fielded its second side. Pat Parfrey is out with a leg injury.Prop Matt Tierney makes his first test start for Canada alongside hooker Piffero while Nott comes in at openside flanker. Canada and Chile have both revamped their lineups ahead of Saturday’s Americas Rugby Championship match in Langford, B.C.Canada coach Mark Anscombe has made five changes to the team that lost 20-6 to Argentina ‘A’ last Saturday in the snowy slop at Westhills Stadium.Djustice Sears-Duru, Benoit Piffero, Ollie Nott, Gradyn Bowd and Guiseppe du Toit come into the starting 15 with du Toit, Nott and Conor Keys set for their test debuts.
Arsenal’s consecutive losses to Watford and Chelsea has the Gunners in fourth and the fans grumbling.Manager Arsene Wenger, the focus for much of the angst, will again be in the stands when his side hosts Hull in Saturday’s early game as he completes a four-match touchline ban.Manchester United, home to Watford, is unbeaten in 15 straight league games, but has seen its hopes of muscling into the top four frustrated by three draws in four matches.Third-place Manchester City, three spots and four points above United, travels to fading Bournemouth on Monday.Leicester faces a huge match at fellow strugglers Swansea City on Sunday having fallen within a point of the bottom three. If Tottenham Hotspur is to keep up the chase of Premier League leader Chelsea the team must find a cure for its Anfield jinx and pile on the misery for fading Liverpool on Saturday.Victory in the late kickoff would see Spurs cut Chelsea’s lead to six points before the Blues travel on Sunday to face a Burnley side that is proving formidable at home this season. Reuters “They are in for a tough game.”Liverpool is not the only side whose title challenge has collapsed. Tottenham has lost five and drawn three of its past eight league matches with Liverpool.The last time Spurs returned from Anfield with three points was in 2011 and before that it was way back in 1993.With Liverpool’s title ambitions effectively over after picking up only three points from the last 15 available, it could be the perfect time for Spurs to break through.Conversely, it could be just the kind of fixture Liverpool needs to remedy a malaise that has turned up the heat on manager Juergen Klopp for the first time since he took over in 2015.While the perception, until recently, was that Liverpool has moved forward under the German coach, his record after 54 league games is identical to that of his predecessor, Brendan Rodgers – 26 wins, 16 draws and 12 losses.“In a few days we have an opportunity to play football and we can show then that we are ready for all the other games, because it’s Tottenham, who are a top team,” former Borussia Dortmund coach Klopp said after a 2-0 loss to Hull City last weekend that left Liverpool fifth, 13 points behind Chelsea.Spurs have the best defensive record in the league with only 16 goals conceded but will be without two key components of their backline on Saturday with central defender Jan Vertonghen (ankle) and left back Danny Rose (knee) still injured.Chelsea will be wary of a trip to Burnley, which has gathered 28 of its 29 points this season at Turf Moor.“We believe we can beat Chelsea. Our home form has been unbelievable,” Burnley’s former Manchester United defender Michael Keane said.
We played outdoor basketball, and eventually the church there formed a team and we entered the tournament as young kids.”Fishing is no longer a major employer, but basketball remains a major community activity in the remote indigenous villages.Parnell said the tournament’s roots, which date back to the late 1940s, were about building community and competition among the area’s indigenous groups.“The competition was mainly for the purpose of our people coming together and enjoying each other and at the same time showcasing the kind of basketball players we are putting on the court,” he said.Parnell will be inducted into the All-Native Tournament’s hall of fame during a ceremony honouring his achievements as a volunteer tournament builder and administrator. They save their money all year to come to the All-Native.”He said it’s the largest basketball tournament in B.C., and the largest indigenous cultural event in Canada.“It mushroomed very quickly into a social event where once a year everyone could come together,” said Haugan.But the tournament has not been without controversy. It’s like a bright light for First Nations. “We had our own stars to look up to.” The Canadian Press Last year officials refused to allow a 22-year-old man who was adopted by an aboriginal family as a child to play for his home village on the grounds he didn’t meet rules for family-line origins.Haitian-born Josiah Wilson said it was discriminatory to bar him from playing for a team from Bella Bella, where his adoptive grandparents live.This year, tournament officials banned teams from wearing politically-sensitive attire after the Skidegate Saints senior division champs wore T-shirts with “No LNG” slogans, referring to the development of liquefied-natural-gas plants in the area.The same team members wore their anti-LNG shirts to greet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge when the royal’s arrived at Haida Gwaii in a war canoe.Parnell said the tournament celebrates communities and the sport of basketball in those communities.“It was something we grew up with,” he said. If you talk to anybody in the villages, they can’t wait for that week. “We played basketball at the elementary school. But it’s amazing he was able to play in one of the top indigenous sporting and cultural events in Canada in the first place. “There’s just the pride of winning this thing. 18. He received an honorary doctorate last summer from University of Victoria for his work providing loans for aboriginal business ventures.Tournament president Peter Haugan said isolated First Nations villages along the northwest coast empty out as people come to cheer on their teams, and for those who can’t attend the tournament, many of the games are broadcast live on radio or over the Internet.Competition between the teams is fierce with rivalries that have lasted decades and bragging rights at stake between teams and communities, he said.“There’s no cash prizes or anything,” Haugan said. There are 51 men’s and women’s teams and about 600 athletes.Parnell said despite economic and social hardships among indigenous peoples, basketball has endured as the heart and soul of indigenous sporting culture in B.C.He recalled basketball becoming a huge part of his life when his family moved from Masset on Haida Gwaii, B.C., to Port Edward, south of Prince Rupert, to work in what was a thriving fishing industry.“Everybody used to live in Port Edward for fishing and cannery work,” said Parnell. Frank Parnell says the spirit of the long-running All-Native Basketball Tournament in Prince Rupert on British Columbia’s north coast never left his body, even though the last time he was on the court was almost 50 years ago.Parnell, 67, said he was 19 years old when he last played in the tournament. “I was born with one hand, so I was kind of unique to the tournament,” he said.Up to 4,000 people are expected to attend the tournament, which starts Sunday and concludes Feb.
City leaders heaped praise on the man known simply as “Mr. Near the end of a disappointing 2008 season, Ilitch said he and the team would review everything done to put the roster together but focusing on the $138 million payroll wasn’t the priority.“I’m not afraid to go out and spend money,” Ilitch said. “It’s been very costly, but I’m not going to change my ways.”But Ilitch never got the chance to see his team win a World Series as its owner, despite spending millions of dollars on contracts for stars like Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Victor Martinez, Ivan Rodriguez and Prince Fielder.“I’ve never seen a man more dedicated to this community and to baseball than Mr. “What he has done for this franchise, and for Detroit, is immeasurable. “Whether he was making pizza, building successful sports and entertainment franchises or supporting youth organizations in our city, Mr. Pizza!” ads featuring an animated “Little Caesar” — in suburban Detroit in 1959. Billionaire businessman Mike Ilitch, who founded the Little Caesars pizza empire before buying the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Tigers, and won praise for keeping the professional sports teams in the city as others relocated to new suburban stadiums, has died. He was a prolific philanthropist, and, above all, a devoted partner and husband to his wife of 62 years, Marian. Ilitch are incredibly passionate about Detroit and their teams,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland told The Associated Press in a 2010 interview. A food service distribution company soon followed to supply ingredients and other products for the growing number of restaurants. They eventually grew the business into one of the world’s largest carry-out pizza chains with several spin-off companies that now employ 23,000 people worldwide and posted revenues last year of $3.4 billion.His investments in Detroit spearheaded the current flurry of development from downtown to Midtown.“Mike Ilitch saw the bright possibilities of Detroit’s Woodward Corridor at a time that other investors had fully turned their backs on the city,” said Rip Rapson, president and chief executive of the Troy, Michigan-based Kresge Foundation.“Revitalizing the historic Fox Theatre and relocating his business headquarters to the city were bold moves, but ones that ultimately set downtown on a course for incredible investment and remarkable transformation,” Rapson said.Ilitch was as much a fan of the often-struggling Detroit as he was of sports. At this moment of heartbreaking sorrow, we send deepest condolences to the entire Ilitch family and to all who were privileged to know him, play for him or work for him.”Ilitch was inducted into the NHL Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003, and into the U.S. I,” Tigers Executive Vice-President and General Manager Al Avila said Friday in a statement. His son, Christopher, is president and CEO, while his wife, Marian, was vice chairwoman as well as sole owner of MotorCity Casino Hotel, one of Detroit’s three casinos.Ilitch broke into sports ownership in 1982, when he paid a reported $8 million for the struggling Red Wings. I wish we would have won the ultimate world championship for him,” former Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski told The Associated Press on Friday. “He loved the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan and its fans.”Christopher Ilitch called his father a “once-in-a-generation entrepreneur, visionary and leader.”“He made such a positive impact in the world of sports, in business and in the community, and we will remember him for his unwavering commitment to his employees, his passion for Detroit, his generosity to others and his devotion to his family and friends,” Christopher Ilitch said in a release.Ilitch is survived by his wife, seven adult children, 22 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.Funeral services will be private, but plans are being made for the public to pay their respects to Mike Ilitch and the Ilitch family. He was a Detroiter through-and-through,” Mayor Mike Duggan said Friday night in a statement. But we all understand we have to produce to be around for a long time.”As part of his long-term plan to build a Detroit-based business empire, Ilitch also bought Olympia Entertainment, which manages sports and entertainment venues, in 1982.Husband and wife bought the downtown Fox Theatre five years later and started a massive, $12 million restoration. Once a National Hockey League powerhouse, the team had bottomed out to mediocrity, but it began winning again under Ilitch. The Red Wings took home the Stanley Cup in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008.“With the passing of Mike Ilitch, the Red Wings have lost the consummate owner, the National Hockey League has lost a cherished friend and passionate builder, Detroit sports has lost a legend and the city of Detroit has lost not only a devoted native son but a visionary and driving force in the rebirth of downtown,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.“Mike’s commitment to excellence and to winning were unparalleled and his commitment to the community was unrivaled – as was his boundless support of youth hockey. It reopened a year later and became a lucrative venue for musicals, plays and other productions. He moved it in 2000 from the storied but fading Tiger Stadium to Comerica Park, across from the Fox Theatre.Unlike previous owners of both sports franchises, Ilitch opened his checkbook to sign top players — finding solid success in hockey, and a roller coaster in baseball.The Tigers lost an American League record 119 games in 2003, but advanced to the World Series three years later, losing in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals. When approached in 2009 by organizers of the Motor City Bowl in Detroit, Ilitch agreed to sponsor the annual college football bowl game despite a poor local economy. The team last made the playoffs in 2014, losing to the Baltimore Orioles.“We won a lot. “They create a family atmosphere with stability, loyalty and a personal touch. and Mrs. He was 87.His family released a statement saying Ilitch died Friday at a local hospital. He was always there to give us whatever we needed because he wanted greatness and happiness for all of us — especially the fans.”The Tigers made the American League playoffs in 2011, a return to winning that brought more fans to Comerica Park. I helped to bring thousands of jobs and opportunities to our city and attract millions of dollars of investment.”Family spokesman Doug Kuiper confirmed the death, but no other details were provided.Ilitch and his wife, Marian, founded Little Caesars — later known for its “Pizza! He played baseball at Detroit’s Cooley High School and was signed by his hometown Tigers after his four-year stint in the U.S. The game was renamed the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.“It’s a sporting event, and we need sporting events,” Ilitch said at the time. Thank God for ‘em, especially at times that are rough right now.”The son of Macedonian immigrants, Ilitch was born on July 20, 1929. Blue Line Foodservice grew into one of the largest program account food service distribution companies in the U.S.Ilitch Holdings Inc. They called him a visionary who set the tone for his company and his family. Marines, spending three years in the team’s farm system before a knee injury ended his playing career.But he found his niche in business.It started with that first Little Caesars restaurant in Garden City, a working-class suburb west of Detroit. I” to most in Michigan for all that he put into Detroit.“Mike Ilitch was more than just a shrewd, successful businessman. was established in 1999 to manage the family’s interests in food, sports and entertainment, and the company remained family focused. The Little Caesars world headquarters also was moved downtown.Then, in 1992, the man who once dreamed of playing for the Detroit Tigers bought the team for $85 million. “It picks our community up to no end, with all the great colleges we have in this state and the professional teams that we have. Hockey Hall of Fame and Michigan Sports Hall of Fame a year later.“Mr.
“Sometimes at the start of the year it’s not my type of game so when they get down to the nitty-gritty I can maybe get a little bit more of it.”While the 24-year-old plays well all season, he seems to shine following the all-star game.Over the past three seasons, he’s averaged 0.68 points per game prior the all-star contest (38 goals, 56 assists in 138 games). “Those guys, they look this way and all of a sudden it’s right on your stick and you’re all surprised.“Those are the high-end minds, the high-end hockey IQs that you don’t see a lot of, even at the NHL level. “When you’re playing with a guy you know can get the puck at any point…then you’re always ready and you expect to get the puck.”The return of goalie Craig Anderson continues to be a waiting game for Ottawa. Zack Smith played much of the second half of last season alongside Stone and scored 16 of his career-high 25 goals after the all-star break.“He seems possessed at times, especially the way he can strip pucks,” Smith said. But in 68 games after the all-star break, he’s averaging 1.04 points per contest (30 goals, 41 assists).Stone, for one, was surprised to learn of the increase.“For three years I’ve tried to be as consistent as possible,” he said. He resumed practising last week after missing nearly two months to be with his wife as she underwent cancer treatment, but hasn’t seen game action yet.Boucher said while Anderson looks strong in practice, the goaltender will ultimately decide when he’ll play.“Right now it’s for him to tell us if mentally he’s ready to go,” Boucher said. (Stone) has definitely got that high-end hockey IQ.”Stone’s linemates also benefit from his play. When it matters most, Mark Stone finds a way to elevate his game.The Ottawa Senators forward seems to thrive later in the season when games become more important and teams start focusing on making their run to the playoffs. Stone scored the winning goal in Thursday night’s 3-2 victory over Dallas and has three goals and two assists since the all-star break. “It’s a lot more about feeling prepared and making sure he’s seen enough situations to feel he can go in a game.”Should Anderson not feel ready to play Saturday when Ottawa hosts the New York Islanders, Mike Condon will get the start.NOTES: Boucher won’t make a final decision on his lineup versus the Islanders until Saturday morning. “The game tightens up a bit and maybe that’s a strength for me,” he said. “The way the game is going it’s very physical and many players are very unexpecting now.“If you can have that anticipation and read the play really well to create offence, it’s a little thing that can definitely help.”Ottawa head coach Guy Boucher said Stone, a 2010 sixth-round pick, reminds him of Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.“When I coached Crosby it was the same,” Boucher said. “As a younger guy, you try to grow in the league and find ways to improve your game and I’m still looking to do that.“I want to be relied upon, not only on the ice, but off it, and kind of be someone younger guys can come to.”Stone is also adept at stripping the puck, having registered a league-high 70 takeaways.“It’s anticipation and reading the play,” Stone said. He’s considering going with seven defencemen and 11 forwards with some players under the weather…New York’s Shane Prince returns to Ottawa for the first time since being dealt to the Islanders last February.
He regularly gets calls from Europe and from Manitoba and the Maritimes – and even has a following among anglophone Habs fans.“I probably get between 200 and 300 e-mails and texts a day,” he said.Those days start early and finish late. The officials list for the postseason was released and his name wasn’t on it. But not tonight.”)A few nights later, after the Habs-Flames game, he was in grand fettle – and not by accident: Listeners who live and die with each result expect him to reflect their mood after what they’ve just witnessed. I know … nope, not him.” (Of Finnish rookie Artturi Lehkonen he said, “I love him, I love him, I love him. Suffice to say that his uncle Rodolphe, an amateur opera singer, made a living for a time serenading restaurant patrons and it left an impression. Until this season Fournier worked alone, save for a studio technician; now the show has a part-time researcher, a producer with all-sports network RDS.Evenings draw fewer listeners than the morning drive, but Fournier has owned his 8:30-to-midnight time slot for decades; fully one-third of Quebecers tuned in at night listen to Ron.He has also turned an unusual trick in the Quebec media firmament: Not only does his appeal cut across demographic and gender lines, he is as popular in Quebec City and Gatineau and Rimouski as he is in Montreal.And that popularity extends beyond the province. So Fournier broke out the old Soviet national anthem.“I did it cold,” he said. Fournier played himself – a voice on the radio.)It’s basically impossible to do justice in English to Fournier’s staccato delivery, sotto voce asides and polite, yet flirting-with-unhinged patter. Fournier is a character, not in character.Setting up straw men is also a favoured device; he often assigns the role to himself.In a recent show focusing on whether an NHL dressing room could handle an openly gay player, his opening stance was that “hockey is a virile sport, a man’s sport, a sport where guys have hair all over” – in essence, a sport hostile to the LGBTQ community. Ron is ready to take your calls, sports fans, but there are ground rules – and they are subject to change without notice.On this night, in the minutes after a 5-1 Montreal Canadiens win over the Calgary Flames, there are three rules: Don’t disparage the refs, don’t insist on bringing up far-fetched trade rumours – and for the love of everything holy, do not, under any circumstance, sing. By the end of the discussion, which featured regular callers, gay athletes, well-known sports media and business personalities and a lengthy, meandering tangent about the civil rights movement of the 20th century, he had comprehensively demolished the rhetorical position.“I think the only way things ever get better is when we talk about it,” he said, quietly, to one caller.It’s a typical enough moment for Bonsoir les sportifs, which operates on a shoestring. He was the team’s head coach at the time. Funny guy.”The music thing has taken on a life of its own, and now the resources of both his workplace and entourage have been brought to bear on his subjects. There’s only one person here with a licence to warble.That would be Ron – Mr. “Did you know I’m a psychologist?” he said to one. Fournier didn’t become the longest-tenured radio personality English-Canadians have never heard of without depth and texture. The songs about Alex Radulov (with apologies to disco artist Tina Charles’ I Love to Love, it’s called I Love to Radu-love), Paul Byron, Shea Weber and now-Ottawa Senators goalie Mike Condon (set to Hands Up, from the old Club Med commercials) have something approximating proper production values.In Ron’s world, you have to earn your tune.His latest is a whisky-voiced Alex Galchenyuk track set to joual troubadour Plume Latraverse’s Si vous payez l’cognac.“My wife, Chantale, is the one who does the lyrics – although she doesn’t really watch hockey, so I help with the references,” Fournier said with a laugh.Ron has Don Cherry’s showmanship and iconoclasm, minus the grating, reactionary bombast. He also uses this in real life when signing off phone conversations. He had exactly one caller – his brother, who at least had the decency to disguise his voice.Within a few years, Fournier was CKAC’s headliner, and when the station went to an all-traffic format, he moved to its 98.5 FM sister station.Through it all, the people have kept calling.As long as Ron feels up to the job, it’s a safe bet the lines will continue lighting up. Fournier is a stickler for preparation and file-keeping – he favours foolscap pages, and his small, memento-strewn office is the only one in the radio station with no desktop computer.He is a throwback and his advancing age has been incorporated into his shtick.One recent evening, a few minutes after the Montreal Canadiens were tossed aside 4-1 by the Pittsburgh Penguins, he implored general manager Marc Bergevin to make a trade, saying this is the year to win it all because “let’s face it, I’m getting too old to wait.”As the phone lines lit up, he ran his finger down a game sheet from his perch in the Bell Centre press box: “I’m looking for a star of the game on the Montreal side. He is frequently imitated and occasionally lampooned on comedy shows. And there’s no one else quite like him.Exactly when the man started breaking into song on his show is unclear. No, not that guy. He is a veritable catchphrase factory – from the onomatopoeic “po-ppy, po-ppy, po-ppy,” his version of “pas pire” or “not bad,” the stock response to callers asking how he’s doing (everyone asks how he’s doing), to the rat-a-tat “byebyebyebyebye” when cutting short questioners. “And he was right. “We must have talked for an hour. In his home province, he is as instantly identifiable and as synonymous with hockey as any Habs player.He is, well, Ron. That was a sign.”Gilbert would go on to play 416 NHL games. Ronald Fournier, the one-time junior hockey goalie, former NHL referee and reigning monarch of French-language sports radio in Quebec and beyond. He even had a small role in the opening moments of the hit 2006 film Bon Cop Bad Cop. (So did Mercer, in fact, as a Cherry-esque character. Former Habs captain Guy Carbonneau once phoned in to set him straight on something or other. He has Rick Mercer’s zaniness and ease with man-on-the-street encounters, but with an added dash of Robin Williams’ propensity to wax operatic at any moment.He is a storyteller with a contact list to rival any hockey insider’s.The Québécois country music group Les Cowboys Fringants has memorialized him in song. “Anyway, I should be.”The show receives calls from all sorts of people. He is also far more than just a voice on the radio; you might say Fournier is something of a cultural institution – the raconteur as entertainer and social critic.His program – Bonsoir les sportifs, which he has hosted for almost 30 years – isn’t just about jokes, fourth-liners and the power play. So he left, at 37.“They said, ‘Nobody quits on the NHL.’ But I did.”At loose ends, he went home to the Laurentians and took a job as a beer rep – “a buddy of mine worked for Labatt. “And I’ve met him a few times at golf tournaments and things. They gave me a brown station wagon, a company credit card and all the beer I could drink.”Around that time came the phone call that would change his life.Michel Tremblay was the young sports program director at a scrappy Montreal upstart station called CJMS, and since taking up the post the previous fall he’d been looking for an evening host to take on powerhouse CKAC.“We’d heard that Ron had left the NHL, and I tried to get him to come on the air to talk about it,” Tremblay recalled. “Maybe the best four years of my professional life,” said Fournier, who has more than a few tales from his wild and woolly WHA days, none of which are suitable for a family publication.But then the league folded and he returned, cap in hand, to the NHL. 3, 1949, and grew up in the north Montreal neighbourhood of Ahuntsic, where the local hockey and baseball associations were run by a fellow named Maurice Richard, who also hailed from the area. It wasn’t auspicious.For his first show the phone lines were stubbornly, resolutely open. (He has since updated the Price tune, basing it on a song by La Compagnie Créole, the 1970s Caribbean pop band.)His follow-up, a Max Pacioretty number – set to a cornball whatsa-matta-you melody borrowed from a local Italian restaurant chain – set a higher comic bar.“Of course I’ve heard it,” Pacioretty said recently. “In those days you had to wait for [legendary NHL ref] Bruce Hood to die if you were a young guy,” he said with a laugh.So in 1974 he bolted for the upstart World Hockey Association, which had offered to triple his salary. People often sound giddy at having actually gotten through to speak to the great man.To think, it’s almost entirely the result of happenstance.Fournier was born on Aug. “He was surprised.”Of course colleagues recall similar impromptu renditions at office Christmas parties, where Fournier has been known to grab the mike.Anyway, over the past decade he has turned his attention to Habs-centric ditties, the first of which was an improvised bit of musical doggerel on goalie Carey Price. His peers weren’t exactly thrilled to see him back – “I did well at the first training camp, but there were sensitivities, so I had to go back to the minors for a while.”He was soon back in the NHL, where he remained until 1987.His final divorce from the league came just before the playoffs. Fournier would go on to referee school.It was a smart move.In the early 1970s, he joined the NHL officials system, working mostly in the American Hockey League. In the end he said no to the interview, but during the conversation I had a flash: This is my guy.”The two had met only once, but Tremblay went to see his boss and urged him to bring Fournier in for a chat.“Former athletes or sports people having successful on-air careers is a 50-50 deal: Half of it is direct professional sports experience, which they have, half of it is broadcasting, which is my job,” Tremblay said. Hmm, no, not him either. According to Fournier, it all began one night 20 or so years ago when a caller with a discernible Russian accent phoned in. (Fournier was friendly with one of his sons.)He was a decent ballplayer, but a better goaltender.In his mid-teens he moved to Drummondville to play major junior – the local star at the time was future Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne – but he soon got caught behind goaltender Michel Plasse, who later became a first-overall NHL draft pick.So it was off to Trois-Rivières, a junior-A team, where he soon found himself losing playing time to a kid named Gilles Gilbert.“When I got there he told me, ‘I think I might be a little better than you,’ ” Fournier recalled. “Ron had most of that second 50 per cent already.”That fall, Fournier made his radio debut.
“I had a lot of fun hitting with them and being around them. “He moved on from it so well and had such a great career, and I want to do the same thing.”Shapovalov, who stopped playing junior events last summer to concentrate on pro tournaments, is scheduled to train in Montreal with Laurendeau this week and stay with one of his best friends, 16-year-old Félix Auger-Aliassime, winner of last year’s Junior U.S. Then the player known as a really good kid pulled a ball from his pocket and swung at it in frustration, expecting it would soar innocuously to the ceiling of Ottawa’s TD Place. His mother, Tessa, once a player for the former Soviet Union who now runs her own tennis academy, wouldn’t let him lie around. Some of their parents were asking my mom all about it and they all felt bad for me. It was such a fluke accident. Shapovalov was fined $7,000 (U.S.) by the International Tennis Federation – far less than the maximum of $12,000 it could have fined him for such an offence.Asked to recount his memories of that night, Shapovalov took a deep breath and parsed them together as best he could. She got him up early to walk the dog. I’ve never hurt a single person in my whole life – never even wanted to hurt someone. The worst part was I had no idea how badly I may have hurt him. He told me he was okay and I shouldn’t worry. The Canadian team let him make a statement but then had Laurendeau field reporters’ questions. I knew I wanted to fess up to it and show who I am.”He requested to speak with Gabas personally. You’re not out there alone. “In my mind I had two options: hide from the world or man up and own up to my mistake. 19 Nick Kyrgios at July’s Rogers Cup, faced the Davis Cup press after the incident. He remembered the crowd falling into a dead silence, the French umpire clenching his face in pain and Canada Davis Cup coach Martin Laurendeau saying something Shapovalov couldn’t hear because the whole scene went foggy for a few moments.He remembered his adviser, Andrzej Kepinski, speaking to him in the locker room while several people tried to comfort him. The teen and his parents drove back to their home in suburban Toronto.“This is a 17-year-old kid on the rise, not a 29-year-old veteran who has a history of anger-management issues. “I went into complete shock after I hit it. The umpire was remarkably kind. Along the way he chose to see some Tennis Canada employees working in the offices of Toronto’s Aviva Centre.“Then my mom had me face the kids at the academy and hit with them. He then went for a long drive and picked up his fitness coach to take him for lunch for his birthday. “He was so professional. On Sunday night, the reigning Wimbledon junior champion from Richmond Hill, Ont., was down two sets during the deciding match of Canada’s Davis Cup tie with Great Britain. Instead, his body torqued too far, the ball rocketed right toward chair umpire Arnaud Gabas and struck the official in the eye with such force that it swelled instantly.“I did a very stupid thing and I’m really embarrassed and ashamed,” Shapovalov said during a lengthy phone interview. He spoke about the incident before the crowd that night as part of an interview-style discussion led by broadcaster Christine Simpson. He has to make sure this never, ever happens again, or else people will label him among the ‘bad boys.’ Many people have been really supportive, really willing to give Denis the second chance he deserves and we all want him to take that second chance now and run with it.”The next day, Shapovalov woke up at his parents’ home. Eric Lindros was among the fellow athletes he met that night and the former NHLer perked him up, pointing out that we all make mistakes.Tweets of support came from his veteran Canadian Davis Cup teammates, Vasek Pospisil and Daniel Nestor, testifying to Shapovalov’s good nature and maturity – and his incredible promise. More words of support came from across the tennis world, from people such as John Isner, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Ivan Lendl.Tim Henman reached out to Shapovalov this week, and the two plan to speak soon. He’s a humble kid and a fantastic prospect. You have so many people watching you play.’”He kept his previous obligation to attend Wednesday’s Conn Smythe dinner in Toronto, a charity for Easter Seals. He’s a good kid and he didn’t mean to do anything bad,” Laurendeau said by phone from Montreal on Thursday. I hope I get to see him again.”Shapovalov, who is no stranger to the media after a stunning win over then-world No. We think his tennis can do the talking.” Open. Shapovalov, expected to carry the torch for Canadian tennis, lost the match by default, giving Great Britain a 3-2 win and a trip to the Davis Cup quarter-finals. That was so unprofessional of me. Shapovalov wanted to talk, but the words just wouldn’t come out.“Andrzej stepped in to talk to me and I can’t remember it all, but he basically said: You have to go face the music,” Shapovalov recalled. Five nights after the worst day of his young life, Denis Shapovalov was on the telephone and his voice cracked a little.The 17-year-old, widely considered a rising star in Canadian tennis, was waiting to board a flight from Toronto to Montreal. “Denis can decide which road to take here. The retired British pro and one-time world No. “What he did wasn’t acceptable and we want him to manage the emotions. He wondered if the audience might boo him, but instead he found warm applause. Gabas even joked about the wild odds of that ball hitting him.“I wasn’t sure how he would react to me, but he was so nice to me,” Shapovalov said. My parents said, ‘You better learn from this and you can’t be taking the sport for granted.’ My mom said, ‘You have to find a way to channel your emotions. But Shapovalov was determined to speak about what he had done, what the days had been like since – and the shame and regret that may haunt him for some time. He’ll be a wild card entrant at an ATP 250 tournament in Marseilles, France, this month before returning to Canada to play Futures and Challenger events in Quebec.“Emotion is good in tennis if you can channel it the right way and Denis is a very creative guy on the court, so we don’t want him to lobotomize himself and remove all of his emotions along with the terrific passion in his game,” Laurendeau said. 4 was tossed from Wimbledon in 1995 after he accidentally struck a ball girl with an errant tennis ball.“I take comfort in knowing he understands how I feel – and he went on to be known as Tim Henman the great gentleman of the game,” Shapovalov said. I promise I am going to mature from it and learn from it.”The bizarre incident left Gabas with visible bruising but no serious damage to his eye. These are kids who have always looked up to me and I was scared of how they might look at me, but they were so accepting,” Shapovalov said.
Leicester has also qualified for the knockout stage of the Champions League, meaning the club has at least an outside shot at winning a tournament this season.But for fans like Matt Davis, the nail biting is far from over. I do think so. Last year the two scored 41 goals between them, with Vardy netting 24; this season Vardy has five goals, and Mahrez just three.And while winning the title meant qualifying for play in the prestigious Champions League, it’s caused more wear and tear on the players and given Ranieri less time to prepare.For now Ranieri has the backing of the team’s owner, Thai businessman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, and he’s keeping up a brave face. This time last year, Leicester City was the darling of the sports world, on track to overcome 5,000-to-1 odds and win the English Premier League championship. A lot of sacrifice. There’s no reason why we can’t do it again.” We connect together in a fantastic season – terrific season. Thanks to a new television deal, each Premier League club will see its TV revenue climb to an average of £120-million ($195-million) this season, up from about £80-million last year. “We’re the reigning champions, and quite frankly it’s been terrible. Relegated clubs get “parachute payments” from the Premier League to cushion the blow, but it can be hard to recover. What we didn’t expect was come 14 games to go we’d be one point ahead of possibly slopping down to the next division … Where does the buck stop?”He recently conducted a poll on his site, and 61 per cent of respondents agreed that Ranieri had to go.Forryan and others say the players have lost their desire and grown complacent after receiving new contracts last summer.“Before, we were fighting. “We have to believe and we have to try, try, try again. That’s it.”He pointed out that prior to last season, Leicester had a history of failure and barely stayed in the Premier League in 2014-15, when the club pulled off “the great escape,” winning six of its last eight matches to avoid relegation in one of the most remarkable comebacks in league history.He acknowledged the importance of Sunday’s game, saying it’s the closest thing to a must win, particularly given the club’s woeful record on the road. Davis, 46, a lifelong fan who is also vice-chairman of the fan club Foxes Trust. And that doesn’t include extra revenue from tickets, merchandise and Champions League. “Sunday’s game certainly is crucial,” said Mr. On Wednesday, Leicester beat Derby County 3-1 in an FA Cup match, with recently acquired Wilfred Ndidi scoring a stunning goal. After losing just three Premier League matches in all of 2015-16, Leicester has been defeated 13 times this season, and has yet to win a single road game.The once-cohesive unit of endearing misfits dubbed the “band of brothers” has become unglued and unsightly. Some, such as Chris Forryan, are saying what many thought unthinkable only a few weeks ago: Fire Ranieri.“At the end of the day it’s been a bad season,” said Forryan, 55, who runs a website called Leicester Till I Die.“None of the fans really expected Leicester to repeat last year – that was never, ever, ever going to happen. It’s been embarrassing,” goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel said after last Sunday’s 3-0 defeat at home to Manchester United. Players also typically have clauses in their contracts allowing them to bolt if the club is demoted, meaning Leicester could lose some of its top talent.There are some signs of hope. “It’s been a surprisingly bad season.”When asked if he thought Leicester will stay up, he replied: “Yes. We’ve done this great escape before. Now, for whatever reason, that hasn’t happened.”The problems are many and varied.The loss of midfielder N’Golo Kanté, who was sold to Chelsea last summer, has proved devastating because he drove so much of the offence and gave the team’s main defenders, Robert Huth and Wes Morgan, a sure-footed outlet target to move the ball up field quickly.The players brought in last summer to replace Kanté have failed to live up to expectations, and hopeful Nampalys Mendy has been stricken with injury.Power duo Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have been ineffectual, brought down by injury and shrewder tactics from opponents. The 65-year-old Italian still smiles broadly, mocks his poor English and shakes hands with every journalist before each news conference.“When we won the title, all the world said it’s a fairy tale,” Ranieri said Friday. Players were giving their all. And he is especially desperate to build up the confidence of Mahrez, who set up so many Vardy goals last year. That is my philosophy.”The manager is trying to find answers. The financial gap between the Premier League and the next rung down, the Sky Bet Championship, is staggering when it comes to television and ticket revenue. He has met with Vardy and Mahrez to figure out what’s gone wrong. There are reports of disgruntlement in the locker room, complaints about lineup changes and open despair from some players. “It’s time for every single one of us, right from the top to the bottom of this club, to stand up and be counted – because if we don’t, we’re going to end up getting relegated.”There’s more than just pride at stake. And yes, obviously I hope so. By contrast, TV revenue in the Championship is about £3-million a season and other revenue is far less. His message to the Algerian has been simple: “I said, ‘Come back to last season.’ Two words: ‘Come back.’”While Ranieri stays confident and cool, some of his players are showing signs of stress. Okay, when you achieve something so special it’s normal, a little down, was normal, it’s human, is human. Relegation is costly; teams that go down face financial hardship that can take years to overcome. The team that could do no wrong last year has lost four in a row and scored just one goal in its past seven league games. Things have gotten so bad that manager Claudio Ranieri, last year’s FIFA Coach of the Year, has reportedly banned chicken burgers from the training table as punishment.Fans are getting restless too. “It’s true. But that epic fairy tale has turned into a nightmare, with the club struggling so badly it risks being knocked out of the league altogether.Leicester sits just one point above the relegation zone, and by the time the team plays Swansea City on Sunday, the Foxes could be among the bottom three and facing the real prospect of being the first club in 79 years to be relegated just one season after winning the league title.