Montreal Alouettes agree to two-year deal with receiver Ernest Jackson

“The addition of Ernest brings a world of new possibilities for our new offence to perform well looking forward to next season,” Alouettes general manager Kavis Reed said in a release. He spent three seasons with the Lions before joining the Redblacks. The Montreal Alouettes landed one of the top names on the CFL free-agent market Thursday by agreeing to terms with all-star receiver Ernest Jackson on a two-year deal.The six-foot-two 220-pound native of Rochester, N.Y., had 88 receptions, 1,225 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns last season for the Ottawa Redblacks. “This signing is in line with our plan to put together a productive and spectacular offence for our supporters.“Ernest is one of the most menacing offensive threats in our league. I am confident he will be among the fan favourites soon enough.”Jackson, a CFL all-star last year, had 96 receiving yards on six catches and a touchdown in Ottawa’s victory over Calgary in the Grey Cup last November in Toronto.The 30-year-old University of Buffalo product made his CFL debut in 2012 with B.C.

Canadian skaters lead with strong short programs at Four Continents

“It was a fight tonight, but I’m happy with what I was able to accomplish and with the overall package,” said the 19-year-old from Newmarket, Ont. “We made a little bit of a technical error in the middle of it, so it’s not ideal obviously, especially in the short program where we really have to capitalize on those technical points. While Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Zhang, also from China, were second with 75.20 points. Canada’s two-time world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were third with 74.31.Radford, from Balmertown, Ont., fell on the side-by-side triple Lutz.“I felt that our performance took a step up from our national championships,” Radford said. Canada’s Gabrielle Daleman and Kaetlyn Osmond dominated the women’s short program at the ISU Four Continents figure skating championships on Thursday.Canada’s Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir also lead after the short program.Daleman opened her program to music from the ballet “Herodiade” with a triple toe-triple toe combination en route to scoring 68.25 points. They’ve been really, really good for me for the last month. But we came out and felt like we attacked it. “It’s unfortunate about the Lutz, but it can’t be perfect all the time. Elizabet Tursynbaeva of Kazakhstan was third with 66.87.Virtue, from London, Ont., and Moir, from Ilderton, Ont., scored 79.75 points for their program to music by Prince.“Tessa and I were pretty happy actually with our performance,” Moir said. Her only miscue was a slight bobble on the landing of her triple Lutz. “It’s been great competing in Korea for my second Four Continents and it is just so motivational and inspiring to compete in the Olympic rink.”The Four Continents is a test event for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.Osmond, a 21-year-old from Marystown, N.L., fell on the landing of her double Axel and was second with 68.21 points. “We tried to soak that up as much as we could today.”Defending Four Continents champions Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani of the United States were second with 76.59, followed by teammates Madison Chock and Evan Bates with 74.67.In pairs, Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China finished first with 80.75 points after the short program. As always I’ll learn from this, take that mistake and do better in the long program.”The men’s short program and the ice dance free dance are on Friday.The Four Continents is a tune-up event for next month’s world championships in Helsinki. We’ve been training this program really hard.”Virtue and Moir are undefeated since returning to competition after a two-year hiatus, and have their sights set on reclaiming Olympic gold.“It feels extremely special to perform in this venue a year before the Games,” Moir said.

Muirfield to vote again on ending club’s male-only policy

Muirfield was immediately stripped of its right to play host to the British Open.A second vote was announced, and the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers said on Thursday the result is expected to be announced in mid-March.“Voting in favour of the resolution to admit women as members is recommended, unanimously, by the captain, captain nominate and the club committee of the Honourable Company,” a statement from the company said.A two-thirds majority is required for change. Muirfield will discover next month whether its members have voted to end the Scottish club’s male-only policy, which could pave the way for its return to the British Open rotation.The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, which owns Muirfield, voted last May against admitting female members following a ballot of its members, a move that provoked sharp criticism from players and lawmakers. Out of 616 members who voted the first time, 36 per cent were against allowing women.Muirfield has staged the British Open 16 times dating to 1892.Henderson four backAdelaide, Australia: Playing for the fourth consecutive week, Katherine Kirk wasn’t showing any signs of fatigue after shooting an eight-under 65 at Royal Adelaide to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Women’s Australian Open on Thursday. Canada’s Brooke Henderson was four strokes behind. Tied for second with 67s were Marissa Steen and Jane Park of the United States, South Korean Chella Choi and Min Lee of Taiwan.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby reaches 1,000 career points

His passing ability is probably the best in the league. And he’s been very lucky in the sense that he had Mario to lean on, a guy who’s been through all of it and a guy that understands the pressures that go with being the best player. His strength, his lower-body strength, is unbelievable. Even though he now works for the Oilers, and acknowledges that McDavid has Crosby in his sights, the Great One still believes Crosby is atop the NHL heap and will be until someone wrenches that title away.“Right now, Crosby is the best player,” Gretzky said. I’ve been very lucky to have him at my house for a few years as a tenant, and to be able to watch him every night is very special.”Apart from Crosby’s on-ice achievements, Gretzky believes the way he conducts himself off the ice sets him apart from other players in his peer group.“He’s won two Stanley Cups and two gold medals and handled the pressure and everything with grace and dignity,” Gretzky said. He’s really been special. He wants to be the best.”Crosby was seeking to become the 12th-fastest player in NHL history to score 1,000 career points, but his overall points-per-game average has him fifth all-time among players who’ve scored a minimum of 500 points or more, according to figures supplied by the Elias Sports Bureau.Only Gretzky (1.921), Lemieux (1.883), Mike Bossy (1.497) and Bobby Orr (1.393) had averaged more than Crosby’s 1.321 points per game over their respective careers.Colby Armstrong was one of Crosby’s first linemates in the latter’s rookie NHL season, 2005-06, and remembers how intrigued he was at the prospect of playing with Sid the Kid after spending three seasons apprenticing for the Penguins’ minor-league affiliate in Wilkes-Barre, Penn.“The first time I saw my name next to his, on the board in the dressing room where they post the lines – it was Crosby, Zigmund Palffy and me,” said Armstrong. He’s like all my regular hockey buddies – until he puts his skates on, and then he’s different. Only Gretzky got there faster, in 424 games. “You’d hear the buzz, but I didn’t actually see him play until the Memorial Cup that year when they lost in the final to London – and he was pretty much his whole team.“He’s got skill and drive and work ethic and all that stuff, but the way I look at it, the sun shines on him differently than anyone else. But there was also a triumphant surge in 2016, a singularly successful calendar year that saw him win both the Stanley Cup and the World Cup and earn MVP honours in both events.There is something unique about the make-up of the true generational players – qualities that set the all-time greats apart from the good and the very good.Lemieux thought it began with Crosby’s skating ability, which he described as “second to none. He’s just special.”Lemieux scored his first 1,000 points in 513 career games. Until somebody knocks him off the castle, that’s the way it’s going to be.”Lemieux was on the scene when Crosby and Alex Ovechkin went head to head in their rookie seasons, 2005-06, both exceeding 100 points. Finally, when it happened, the place went wild, Crosby acknowledging the standing ovation with a wave of his stick.There is probably no one better positioned than Lemieux to put into context everything Crosby has accomplished in his career. Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby’s original landlord in Pittsburgh, is usually the most reclusive of the NHL’s living legends, rarely making public appearances to offer his thoughts on the state of the game.But a few weeks ago, at the all-star game in Los Angeles, Lemieux broke his customary silence to help the NHL celebrate the 100 greatest players in history. “Whether it’s at practice or a three-on-three game at practice, he wants to win. If he goes one on one in the corner, he’s able to come out and make a play. “And you have to earn your stripes. That’s something Sidney probably took advantage of.” But they played in a different, higher-scoring era, which makes generational comparisons difficult.Gretzky is a keen follower of NHL history and pays close attention to what’s going on in the game. And his vision, of course, is also one of the best.“You put all that together, and now he’s starting to score some goals this year, leading the league in scoring. He’s just a special player that comes along not too often. Crosby’s greatness, he believes, can be attributed to his work ethic and his innate desire to improve every year.“Just like Wayne [Gretzky] was when he played, Sid is the hardest-working guy out there,” Lemieux said. I was like, ‘Okay, here we go. Lemieux, the Penguins’ owner, was on that list, as was his primary asset, Crosby, one of five active players who’d accomplished enough in their careers to warrant inclusion.Crosby is just 29 and has played in the lowest-scoring era of the past half-century.And yet on Thursday, playing in his 757th career NHL game, Crosby became the 86th player in NHL history to score 1,000 career points. It happened 6:28 into the first period of a game against the visiting Winnipeg Jets, when Crosby outfought Blake Wheeler for a loose puck and shovelled it over to longtime linemate Chris Kunitz, who beat goaltender Connor Hellebuyck from point-blank range for a 2-0 Penguins’ lead.Crosby had been on the cusp of 1,000 points for the better part of a week now, something the crowd at the PPG Paints arena – which included his parents Troy and Trina – was acutely aware of. There have been the bumps in the road since then for Crosby, most of them related to the concussions that derailed his career for the better part of two seasons. “He deserves all the accolades he’s getting. Whenever Crosby ventured into the offensive zone, a murmur ran through the building, anticipating the milestone at virtually every foray. I’m in the NHL now.’ ”In the same way that people in the hockey industry had become aware of Connor McDavid by the time he was 15, Armstrong says everyone in the Pittsburgh organization knew of Crosby’s potential long before the team drafted him first overall in 2005.“We had some guys from Montreal and the Quebec area who were our strength coaches and they told us, ‘This kid’s the real deal,’” Armstrong said. That’s really awesome.’ “I went from 31/2years in the minors and not getting an NHL game to playing with this young phenomenon that everyone’s been talking about – and lighting it up on what was a pretty bad team at the time. He was touched by the hockey gods. He’s just one of those guys – like McDavid – who are legitimately different from everyone else.“I don’t know how to explain it because when you hang out with him, he’s just a regular guy and a good person. To Lemieux, talent can only take a player so far. “I was like, ‘Wow, I’m playing with Sidney Crosby on the first line in an NHL hockey game.

From San Jose to Toronto, TFC’s Beitashour has been forced to be patient

“He’s someone that I respect a lot … He always says things happen for a reason and you make the best out of every situations.“I’ve tried to do that so far.” He is not ready to discuss why that happened but hopes the door remains open to international play.It is one of many chapters in his past he has questioned. But he did the little things right, helping his team. And then grown to accept.“One of my cousins always says ‘Never question your past, because you’re here because of that path you took.’ He’s a wise guy. Beitashour excelled with San Jose and Vancouver before, in December, 2015, joining Toronto where he and Morrow have become ever-present bookends.“You know what you’re going to get from him every single day,” Toronto coach Greg Vanney said of Beitashour. And he was mighty motivated.He had a tryout during college with a Belgian team, which wanted to keep him. Beitashour asked whether the coach could put in a good word for him with Yallop, a former Canadian international who went on to coach Team Canada.So his best friend’s younger brother talked to Schrick, the coach Beitashour didn’t know. But without their part, I couldn’t have gotten to my part.”His part continues. Beitashour was so excited he took a picture of himself the first time he put on the uniform to go to the training ground.The trial eventually turned into an offer to stay. And Schrick, on the advice of his player’s scouting report, called Yallop to tell him about Beitashour.The next day, Yallop phoned Beitashour to invite him for a trial.For a local boy who had served as ball boy for the San Jose Clash in the league’s inaugural game in April, 1996, it was something very special. Beitashour, honouring his father’s wish, noted he was one semester away from finishing school and that the MLS SuperDraft was coming. I try to listen to him,” Beitashour said. Leland High eventually retired his number – the second player to be so honoured after Pat Tillman, who gave up a career in the NFL to fight, and sadly die, for his country in Afghanistan. He was summoned again for a camp in January of 2013 but had to leave early to heal from a hernia surgery that was causing him trouble.When another invitation didn’t come from U.S. “The belief and trust of a complete random stranger, to give me an opportunity like that.“My best friend’s little brother, he didn’t have to say anything to his coach. And those who didn’t.Beitashour, 30, could be the poster boy for “things happen for a reason.”Coming out of Leland High School in San Jose, the then-central midfielder drew little attention from colleges despite being a two-time offensive player of the year there. Welcomed by fans and players alike, he made his debut in October, 2013, against Thailand coming off the bench after the Tehran crowd chanted “Put Beitashour in” in Farsi.Beitashour was part of Iran’s team at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil but, much to his disappointment, did not see action. “He comes out and he just puts his work boots on and he plays and he competes.”It’s a compliment to say Beitashour is the kind of player you don’t really notice. The Earthquakes waited and took him in the second round (30th over all) in the 2010 SuperDraft, two picks after selecting Justin Morrow, who now mans the left fullback spot in Toronto.Given the chance, Beitashour did his part to impress on the field. “Those are the guys you love to have on your team.”But not every team.Called up by the United States in the summer of 2012 before a game against Mexico at Azteca Stadium, Beitashour watched in street clothes on the bench. Then he declined Cal-Berkeley’s offer.Converted to fullback at San Diego State, Beitashour was not a flashy player with eight career assists. But Beitashour’s father, a now-retired electrical engineer with Apple, wanted him to finish school. … I did my part. Soccer, he accepted the latest in a series of offers from Iran, his parents’ homeland. Beitashour pointed out the e-mail he had sent the school as a high-school senior, saying he didn’t want a scholarship if it meant he could have a chance to play for the Golden Bears. Beitashour won the inaugural Pat Tillman award, given to a Bay Area student for outstanding achievements in athletics and academics.Still he arrived at San Diego State, which plays in the Pac-12, as a walk-on with a chip on his shoulder.“I just wanted to prove to … UCLA, Stanford, Berkeley [to] at least take a look at me,” he recalled.Cal-Berkeley took notice of him after his second year and suggested he transfer. One of the top fullbacks in Major League Soccer, Toronto FC’s Steven Beitashour remembers all too well the people who helped him chart his unlikely course. He just does his job.Excellent at reading the game as a defender, Beitashour will also “give you an honest day’s up and down all day long” on attack, Vanney added.Beitashour is also a team player, helping organize club functions off the field.“He’s just a honest working guy, every single day, and gives you everything he has,” Vanney said. But he has never forgotten Schrick and his best friend’s brother for their roles.“It was pretty remarkable,” Beitashour said. So Beitashour got his degree (major in communications, minor in biology), buoyed by the knowledge that he had the goods to play professionally.Now it was a question of convincing everyone else.As his college career came to a close, it took a friend of a friend to help open the door to professional soccer.His best friend’s younger brother was playing for a club team that had Shea Salinas of the San Jose Earthquakes come in as a guest coach for a day.Beitashour took in the session and found out later that Salinas had been invited because the team’s coach, Mark Schrick, knew San Jose coach Frank Yallop.

Sutton United to provide Arsenal with a humbling welcome

“Sometimes you get knocked down and you have to pick yourself up and go again and that’s what I have been doing here at Sutton.”That means trying to forget about the glittering career he hoped to enjoy at the pinnacle of football.“We try to rehabilitate those players in a positive way,” Doswell said. “It’s the magic of the FA Cup playing a team like that.” The match will provide a stark clash between a 13-time English champion, packed with some of the world’s costliest talent, and a fifth-tier semi-professional team that reached the fifth round of world soccer’s oldest cup competition for the first time in the club’s 118-year history.Gander Green Lane stadium, with a capacity of 5,013 that includes just 765 seats in one tiny stand, has a ramshackle, boiling-hot dressing room – due to faulty valves on the radiators – and cold showers that run to a trickle. We thought about putting new shower heads in for about two seconds. But had Arsène Wenger not lifted the Cup in 2014 and 2015, he might no longer be in charge of Arsenal.Humiliating nights like Wednesday, coupled with a 13-year Premier League title drought, make Wenger’s Arsenal future seem even more precarious.“Do I feel sympathy for him? This run will undoubtedly help Sutton break the million-pound barrier, with £300,000 earned just from the victory over Leeds. “But if they put another team out, then it does get to the 1- and 2-per-cent chances.”Typically, Premier League teams rest their stars in the FA Cup as the importance of the competition has diminished. And then we thought, ‘No, we haven’t done it for any of the other teams coming down.’”Languishing in 17th place in the fifth-tier National League, Sutton produced one of the biggest shocks ever in the FA Cup when it beat Leeds United, a former English champion now playing in the second tier. “For them, it’s a mental thing as well. Playing at Sutton United, though, will be a step into the unknown for the pampered millionaires from Arsenal, browbeaten by the 5-1 Champions League loss in Germany. No,” Doswell said bluntly. If being routed at Bayern Munich felt uncomfortable for Arsenal’s players, the embarrassment from slipping up on the next assignment will be far greater.Arsenal has to travel only to the other side of London for Monday’s FA Cup match. “He is well schooled, and he has been in the job for 20 years.”There will, however, be some sympathy in the Sutton dressing room, which is packed with Arsenal fans.“Hopefully they are not going to be star struck,” said forward and coach Craig Dundas, himself a lifelong Arsenal fan, “but it’s on their mind the whole time.”Sutton midfielder Craig Eastmond failed to make the grade at Arsenal after winning the FA Youth Cup in 2009 with current first-teamer and friend Francis Coquelin.“I’ve done that dream, I’m still happy,” said Eastmond, who played 10 times in Wenger’s first team. It takes us months to get them even enjoying their football again.”Instead of playing at Arsenal, where record-signing Ozil earns £140,000 a week, Sutton’s maximum salary is £600 – a reflection of the disparities between the London clubs. Sutton lacks the resources to fund stadium renovations and already relies on a loan of more than £1-million ($1.6-million) from a manager who goes unpaid and also runs a property development company.“The boiler is absolutely shot to pieces, which is why at best they will get lukewarm showers,” manager Paul Doswell said on Thursday in a modest hospitality room with a leaky roof. It just needs Sutton to exploit the fragile state of a demoralized Arsenal side and hope they can cling on for a draw.“The pressure is not for us, it’s them,” said Maxime Biamou, a French forward in the Sutton lineup said. “The water is struggling to get through those three little pins in the shower head. But as the cost of watching teams such as Arsenal soars, attending lower-league games becomes more appealing with prices lower and fans feeling a greater connection with the players.“We are definitely picking up people who are disenfranchised, [put off] paying £100 for a Premier League ticket,” Doswell said.The prize money and television revenue from this dazzling FA Cup run will transform Sutton. While Arsenal generated £354-million last year, Sutton’s turnover was around £800,000. That 1-0 victory in the fourth round was secured by Jamie Collins, the captain who is also a construction worker, scoring on a penalty.Could there be an even bigger upset against the multimillionaires on the Premier League’s fourth-place team?“If you see Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez on the team sheet, our chance doesn’t come beyond zero,” Doswell said. There will be another windfall from hosting Arsenal, regardless of the result.“It won’t go into buying players,” Doswell pledged.He outlined plans for four new changing rooms for youngsters at the club in a London suburb close to the Wimbledon tennis club, and about 25 kilometres south of Arsenal’s 60,000-seat Emirates Stadium.A trip to north London for a money-spinning replay would be the ideal result for Doswell and the Sutton bank balance.

Team Carey returns to Scotties Tournament of Hearts rested and ready

The final is Feb. Those opportunities are very rare. Chelsea Carey returns to the Canadian women’s curling championship feeling tighter with her team and oddly rested.Among the bonuses for winning the Scotties Tournament of Hearts is an automatic berth in the next one as Team Canada. So defending champions Carey, third Amy Nixon, second Jocelyn Peterman and lead Laine Peters avoided the grind of provincial playdowns this year. You just won’t survive the week otherwise.“For sure we’re coming in a little more rested than probably most of the other teams. What did you see?’ I’m like, ‘Nothing.’ You play two games a day and have a nap in between because you have to. Catharines, Ont., for this year’s event starting Saturday with full gas tanks.“The biggest thing that’s different is you don’t have to win your provincial, so you have all this time,” Carey said. “It makes it easier to survive such a long week when you know each other a little better.”In the 55 years of the Canadian women’s championship, seven teams have won back-to-back titles: Rachel Homan, Jennifer Jones, Kelly Scott, Colleen Jones, Sandra Schmirler, Heather Houston and Vera Pezer.Carey, McCarville, Ontario’s Homan and 2006 Olympic bronze medalist Shannon Kleibrink from Alberta are the headliners of this year’s tournament at the 5,300-seat Meridian Centre.A glaring absence is Jones, the reigning Olympic champion, who didn’t make the Manitoba provincial final.The top four teams after the preliminary round advance to the Page playoff with ties for fourth solved by tiebreaker games. Jones and Homan have secured two of nine women’s berths so far.If Homan won nationals and finished in the medals at worlds, the Olympic berth would then go to the highest-team in the Canadian Team Ranking System that didn’t have a trials spot.Carey was fourth in last year’s world championship in Swift Current, Sask., and thus missed out on nailing down a berth.“That’s highly disappointing for sure,” Peters said. Runner-up prize money is $26,900, third is $21,900 and fourth is $16,900.The victor also qualifies for the 2018 World Financial Group Continental Cup of Curling in London, Ont. Chelsea Carey’s team ‘antsy’ to defend Scotties title (The Canadian Press)

The Calgary team heads to St. 26.Games start Thursday evening with Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Yukon and New Brunswick playing off to get into the 12-team main draw.This is the final year of the unloved pretournament qualifier as all provinces and territories will participate more fully in the national men’s and women’s championships next year.The Hearts winner represents Canada at the world championship between March 18-26 in Beijing and gets a return trip to next year’s tournament in Penticton, B.C.A medal of any colour at the world championship guarantees that team a spot in December’s Olympic trials in Ottawa. We recognize that.“We’ll go in the Scotties with the mentality we’ll do our best and the chips will fall where they may. “I always laugh at people who say, ‘You went to this town. “That’s been kind of weird, but kind of nice that it’s been a little slower pace leading up for us.”They’ll need their reserves to repeat as Canadian champions, says the skip.“It’s a long, long week and it’s an absolute grind,” Carey said. “This year, we would love to have another opportunity. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe that’s a bad thing, I don’t know, but I like it.”The Glencoe Club foursome claimed the 2016 Tournament of Hearts in Grande Prairie, Alta., in Carey’s first year skipping the team.She drew to the eight-foot ring with her final shot to beat Northern Ontario’s Krista McCarville 7-6 in the final.Peters said in Grande Prairie their team was still a work in progress.Now in their second season together, they’re more in tune with each other’s personalities and modes of communication, which can help them ride out the emotional highs and lows at nationals, according to the skip.“We’re more comfortable with each other and with everybody’s stress reaction, how they’re going to react if they are under some sort of stress or pressure,” Carey said. Hopefully we end up on top and have another shot at the worlds.”Prize money and Sport Canada funding over a two-year period adds up to $205,900 for the Tournament of Hearts winner.

NBA all-stars head to Mardi Gras in New Orleans

That the full weekend of events involving celebrities and the NBA elite would coincide with the first major Mardi Gras parades was pitched as more a selling point than a complication.“We were in a good position in that we were already prepared for Mardi Gras, and already had our special event operations ongoing – to kind of plug the NBA into that,” Ryan Berni, a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu, said in an interview with The Associated Press.NBA owners, officials, players and other dignitaries have been invited to parties at prime viewing areas along historic St. “It’s good for the suburban hotels and the casino hotels on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”Security is always a concern at major events, but officials are taking steps to keep everyone safe.With the two major events overlapping, there will be no days off and plenty of overtime for the police force of close to 1,200, New Orleans police chief Michael Harrison said. Always the day before Ash Wednesday, it falls on Feb. 28 this year. Bobby Hjortsberg, a local lawyer and captain of the Krewe of Freret parade, said riders are excited about rolling during all-star weekend. They’re well aware of where the [NBA hotels on the route are] and that a lot of players could be around there,” Hjortsberg said. And other area law enforcement agencies will also send officers. Yes, Mardi Gras revelers and basketball fans alike will “Let the good times roll!” when New Orleans’ famous pre-Lenten Carnival meets NBA all-star weekend. Roughly 170 extra state troopers are coming in to supplement the usual contingent of about 30. We’ll try to get their attention and throw something to them. The Pelicans all-star said he hasn’t been available to accept previous invitations.“I’m thinking about doing it this year since we’re going to be in town and just get that whole experience,” Davis said. Celebrations, however, begin in January and the city’s major parades begin 11 days before the big day.That poses a few welcome challenges, such as finding enough hotel rooms. Normally, the city’s hotels do not fill to capacity during the first Mardi Gras weekend.“I’ve been trying to get people some rooms and being turned down,” said Mark Romig, president of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation. Charles Avenue on Friday night and will have an opportunity to experience Mardi Gras like a local, said Jay Cicero, president of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation.“What a great way to expose Mardi Gras to people who may have never been,” Cicero said.Because of the relatively short notice – the city didn’t learn it would hold the 2017 all-star events until mid-August – the NBA is cordially co-existing with Mardi Gras but not really co-ordinating.“Most of the work, particularly stuff for that first weekend of parades, would have all been decided by that time,” said Barry Kern, whose family business includes design and construction of floats plus hosting special events at Mardi Gras World.Hjortsberg said his float is pretty much full but would make an exception for the right guest.“I got an extra spot on my float if Anthony Davis or LeBron [James] want to come ride,” he said wishfully.Hjortsberg might want to give Davis a call. In addition to the traditional colourful strings of beads, Hjortsberg expects parade krewes to shower people along the route with basketball-themed items.Riders will also be taking longer looks at some of the taller spectators to see if they look familiar.“We’ve got a lot of basketball fans that are part of our parade. Floats, marching bands and street parties are about to converge with slam dunks, three-pointers and buzzer beaters in New Orleans.Laissez les bons temps rouler! “People will definitely have their eye out for any players that might be out and about. “You know, have fun with it.”Tourist-dependent businesses are hoping other partygoers feel the same way Davis does and are looking for a larger-than-normal Mardi Gras boost with the NBA presence.“We’ll put on extra bartenders, extra barbacks, extra doormen,” said Earl Bernhardt, owner of five Bourbon Street bars and a French Quarter restaurant. It might be the only opportunity we have where they’re looking for something from us.”Mardi Gras is one reason why the NBA’s annual showcase is in New Orleans for a third time.When the league pulled the 2017 all-star game from Charlotte because of a North Carolina law that limits the protections of LGBT people, New Orleans hurriedly put together a bid to host. “We’ll be ready.”In a city with deep Roman Catholic roots, Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is a final day of unabashed excess preceding the arrival of Lenten solemnity.

Blue Jays’ Tulowitzki sets sights high for himself and his infield teammates

established himself as one of the game’s greats playing 21 years for the Baltimore Orioles.While Ripken finished off his career at third base, Tulowitzki is determined to continue at shortstop.At least, that’s his plan.“I’m trying to do something that no one’s ever done – and that’s, being as big as I am, continually playing shortstop at the highest level,” he said. “It’s one of those things when a guy gets to test the market, you want good things for him so you want him to be somewhere where he’s going to be happy, obviously somewhere where he makes a lot of money.“But bottom line, you want him to be back. I started early today and I’m leaving right now. He goes about his business quietly but efficiently, especially on the baseball diamond where he remains one of the game’s premier shortstops at age 32.His face is usually locked into a determined grimace and Tulowitzki speaks his mind when he has something to say. “I don’t think there’s too many of me around. Others ducked in and out of the medical room, through a door with a large sign that ominously warns the nosy media to stay out. He makes us a better ball club.”So, too, does Tulowitzki, the Blue Jays shortstop who is beginning his second full season with the American League club, and whose presence as a clubhouse leader cannot be underestimated. So for Jose to come back, I think everybody knows how much he means to the city, how much he means to the Blue Jays. The MLB Network was tuned into the large TV near the front entrance.Suddenly, there was a commotion toward the back of the room.Players started whooping it up in the jocular fashion they often do, yelling and laughing with plenty of backslapping and manly hugs. It seemed like the usual mundane spring-training routine in the Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse Thursday morning.Players sat slumped in front of their lockers before workouts were to begin, absently pecking on their smart phones. Tulowitzki considers him an unpolished product.“Devon’s, someone I’m going to constantly be doing early work with and you’re going to see me on the field with him, putting in work, because he wants to get better,” Tulowitzki said. That thinking went out the door when 6-foot-4 Cal Ripken Jr. Conversations in Spanish started to erupt.Jose Bautista was in the house and, as usual in whatever he is doing, his presence created a stir.Bautista threw his bag into his locker in the high-rent district of the clubhouse and immediately started to engage with Troy Tulowitzki, another of the team luminaries who is as quietly confident as Bautista is brazenly brash.Tulowitzki was glad to see his old teammate, who had hoped to land a lucrative free-agent contract this past off-season. It’s something I take pride in and hopefully for my entire career I’ll be at that position.”As for the Blue Jays’ infield defence, Tulowitzki said he will challenge them on a daily basis to get better.Josh Donaldson at third base “made huge strides last year and really made himself into an elite defender,” Tulowitzki said. But with his work ethic he’s going to get better, no doubt.” I want to do it as long as I can and it means something to me.”When he was cutting his teeth in baseball, the leading lights at shortstop were Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, who had yet to make the transition to third base.Tulowitzki cherished the moments when he had a chance to talk with them.“I’d have to talk about how they were my role models and how I had posters of them in my room,” Tulowitzki said.Now it has come full circle for Tulowitzki with a fresh crop of young and exciting shortstops entering the game, including Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros and Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians.These players now come up to Tulowitzki when their paths cross, telling him that they studied his game when they were younger.Sturdily built at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Tulowitzki in the old days would have been considered too bulky, not nimble enough, to play shortstop. But he is also generous with his time with any player who wants to learn the game and get better.Tulowitzki, heading into his 12th major-league season, is almost a throwback to the old days of the game, before Sabermetrics and cellphones, when players sat around more, shooting the breeze and dispensing knowledge.“I always considered myself a little bit more of an old-school type,” Tulowitzki said. “He needs to get better in that area. And he’s definitely a leader on this team so we welcome him back. “And it’s fun. Justin Smoak at first, he said, “is as good as it gets.”And Devon Travis at second base? I challenge myself every single day to keep this thing going. … I’m here all the time. I put in long hours.“And I can keep saying, I respect this game, I love this game. When that failed to materialize, Bautista agreed to a deal that will keep him in Toronto for at least one more season at $18-million (U.S.).“You don’t know what’s going to happen,” Tulowitzki said a few hours later, remarking on Bautista’s return.

Sens goalie Mike Condon gets ‘special’ shutout during father-son trip

A video review upheld Phaneuf’s ninth of the season and third in four games.Karlsson made it 2-0 with a shot from the right point that Schneider slowed down but let trickle into the net.Condon had the best saves in a scoreless first period. “We need to take care of ourselves. The puck hit the upper right corner of the net and came out quickly, leaving some players wondering whether the puck had gone in the goal. The Senators didn’t ice the game until the final four minutes, when Erik Karlsson scored on a point shot that crawled into the net and Kyle Turris shot into an empty net.The win was the Senators their third in four games, and it moved them within four point of first-place Montreal in the Atlantic Division. “(I) saw the video of him cringing up in the stands during the game. I feel we’ve done a good job to put ourselves in this position, and we’re happy where we are, but we’re here to win games.”Cory Schneider stopped 32 shots, but the Devils lost for the second time in regulation (4-2-1) in their last seven games.New Jersey remains five points behind Toronto for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, but it has played one more game.“I thought for the most part we did the right things in the first two periods and then in the third, they just squeezed us a little harder and we were not able to execute quite as well and get in and get some sustained shots,” Schneider said. Not easy for goalie dads to be out there watching their kids play, and I can’t even imagine what it’s like. We can’t really focus on what other teams are doing. I’m happy to give him a good result.”The tight checking game was scoreless until Dion Phaneuf scored on a power play late in the second period. “I got the puck for him, and that’ll be special, and he’ll have this memory for a long time,” Condon said. “They just outplayed us in the third, and when you are down a goal, that is not the way to go.”Phaneuf broke a scoreless tie with a rocket from the left point with 1:59 left in the second period. The Canadiens also have played three more games than Ottawa.“We’re not looking at that,” Karlsson said. He denied Kyle Palmieri on a shot from the inside the right circle at 4:37 to go and seconds later stopped blast by defenceman Ben Lovejoy from between the circles.Bennett also hit the post early in the second period. He stopped Beau Bennett in close six-plus minutes into the game. The father-son trip for the Ottawa Senators turned into something special for goaltender Mike Condon.Condon made 21 saves in recording his fifth shutout of the season, and his father, Ted, got a gift to commemorate the Senators’ 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night.Mike Condon said it was the first time his father has been in attendance for one of his six NHL shutouts.

Tarasenko and Steen score late to lift Blues past Canucks

It came on the second man-advantage of a double-minor given to Sedin for high-sticking.Less than two minutes later, Sutter deflected Alexander Edler’s shot past Allen to cut the deficit to one.Paajarvi backhanded Shattenkirk’s shot off the end boards to give the Blues a 1-0 lead at 4:30 of the first period. St. Louis improved to 7-1 since Mike Yeo took over as coach, which is the best start for a coach in Blues history.Bo Horvat, Henrik Sedin and Brandon Sutter scored for the Canucks, who dropped their third game out of their last four. 14 to give the Blues a 2-1 lead late in the first. Jake Allen made 18 saves. Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen scored third-period power play goals to lift the streaking St. It is the sixth straight game in which the Blues have scored first.Horvat tied it for the Canucks midway through the opening frame. The goal was scored 19 seconds after Shattenkirk’s shot trickled in past Markstrom that appeared to give the Blues a two-goal lead, but the referees had blown it dead believing that Markstrom had stopped it. Nikita Tryamkin intercepted Jay Bouwmeester’s pass at the blue line and found Horvat alone in front of the net.Lehtera scored his first goal since Jan. Jacob Markstrom made 17 saves.Tarasenko gave the Blues a 3-2 lead with a power-play goal 58 seconds into the third period. It was the Blues first goal with the man-advantage in four games.Steen’s power-play goal five minutes into the period made it 4-2 and stood as the game-winner. The Canucks unsuccessfully challenged the goal, claiming the Blues were offside.Sedin scored off a nifty pass from his brother Daniel Sedin to tie the game at 8:27 of the second period. Louis Blues to a 4-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night.Magnus Paajarvi and Jori Lehtera also scored, and Kevin Shattenkirk had three assists for the Blues, who won their sixth straight game.

Sidney Crosby gets 1,000th point, then leads Penguins by Jets in OT

Postma tied it 4:22 into the third with a slap shot from the point that beat Fleury. Connor Hellebuyck made 35 saves, but couldn’t get a handle on Crosby’s 31st of the season and 369th goal of his career.Crosby insisted as the milestone approached that he’d be happy once it was out of the way so the focus could swing back to Pittsburgh’s chase of first-place Washington in the relentlessly competitive Metropolitan Division. The two-time MVP and Stanley Cup winner reached 1,000 points in 757 games. Of course he provided the exclamation point on the same night he became the 86th player in league history to reach 1,000 career points. Crosby is. “I think the sky’s the limit for Sid. Kunitz powered it into the open net, the 186th time the longtime teammates have factored in a goal together.“He’s been able to use his body to create space and then to have the vision to be able pull the puck away from somebody and give me an open look for a pass that was right in my wheelhouse,” Kunitz said. It was, in many ways, Sidney Crosby’s remarkable career distilled to its essence. Crosby collected himself, then slipped a pass to Kunitz wide open in the spot. Byfuglien put Winnipeg in front with a wraparound that saw the puck duck in between Fleury’s legs 8:24 into the third.Kessel forced overtime when he beat Hellebuyck on the power play with 6:05 left in regulation, setting the stage for Crosby one more time. Spectacularly.Crosby finished with a goal and two assists to give him 1,002 in his career and 64 on the season, which also happens to be tops in the NHL. I think he’s that good of a player.”One who got to 1,000 with an assist on Chris Kunitz’s first-period goal, began the march to the next thousand when he helped set up Phil Kessel’s game-tying goal in the third, and then capped it by getting to Evgeni Malkin’s centring pass a half-step before Scheifele.Malkin also scored for Pittsburgh, while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 44 shots for the Penguins, who improved to 6-0-2 since the All-Star break.Patrik Laine scored his 27th for Winnipeg. “It’s nice to win the game when you have a memorable night like this,” Crosby said. “That’s the way he battles.”The 461st consecutive sellout at PPG Paints Arena – a streak that overlaps Crosby’s rise to one of hockey’s biggest stars – roared its approval when the red goal light came on. His sprint to the mark turned into a slow jog during a rare two-game scoreless drought and inched closer with an assist in a victory over Vancouver on Tuesday to give him 999.History came in typically symbolic fashion for one of the game’s best playmakers.Crosby reached it not with some breathtaking move, but by simply outworking an opponent. Paul Postma collected his first and Dustin Byfuglien his eighth for the Jets. Of course he poked the puck over the goal line with 21 seconds left in overtime to give the Penguins a 4-3 victory on Thursday night. A race to the puck. None of them are playing anymore. These are the moments the Pittsburgh Penguins star embraces as well as anyone in his sport.Of course he beat Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele to the crease. Same as it ever was for the 29-year-old who remains very much in the thick of his prime.“The fact he scores the game winner is apropos, given he gets the 1,000th point in the game,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. The Penguins were already up 1-0 on Malkin’s goal 59 seconds into the game when Crosby beat Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler to a loose puck in the left circle. Officials stopped the game briefly while equipment manager Dana Heinze grabbed the keepsake puck, one that will go to Crosby’s father Troy for safekeeping.The celebration also served as a wakeup call to the Jets.Winnipeg slowly turned the momentum by stretching the ice and getting the Penguins into the kind of up-and-down game that Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan wants his high-powered but only so-so defensive team to avoid.Laine brought the Jets within one 17:10 into the second off a pretty cross-ice feed by Mathieu Perreault. Only 11 players got there faster. “You want to finish it the right way.”Something Crosby has done again and again. Game on the line. A wide-open net.

Leafs hope Mitch Marner can play Saturday against Senators

“He’s not gone for good. He’s yet to miss a game because of an apparent right shoulder injury but that hasn’t stopped Toronto Maple Leafs players from being asked what it might be like without exciting rookie Mitch Marner at the rink.“I mean he’s still here,” veteran centre Tyler Bozak said cheerfully. Toronto has benefited from remarkable luck in the injury department — Bozak (three games) and Morgan Rielly (six) the only significant contributors to miss time — and hopes to have dodged another bullet with Marner.“It’s a long season; there’s obviously going to be injuries here and there,” Bozak said. 1, recording 22 points in 21 games. He’s a point behind Connor McDavid in that stretch and tied for 10th among all NHL players entering Friday’s play.Babcock describes Marner as the driving force of a line that includes veterans Bozak and James van Riemsdyk.“He’s a huge part of our team obviously,” van Riemsdyk said. “If the doctors are in charge they’ll decide (Saturday).”Marner was injured Wednesday night when he fell awkwardly into the boards during the second period of a 5-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. “You’ve seen the kind of success that he’s had already.“It’s just an opportunity for other guys to step up now and play different roles if that’s the case and we’ll just see what happens and go from there.”Connor Brown slid into Marner’s usual spot at practice Friday and would play there if Marner can’t go against the Senators. He’s flourished with five points in two games, including a career-high three points in a 7-1 win Tuesday over the Islanders.Babcock called Leivo the team’s best forward “by far” when he produced two assists against Columbus.Brown, meanwhile, has registered 12 goals and 24 points in his rookie year. We still see him every day!”

Marner didn’t practise Friday morning but head coach Mike Babcock was still hopeful he’d be available to play Saturday against the Ottawa Senators. He returned to play two shifts in the third before exiting for good.His absence, even for a game, would surely be felt by the Leafs (63 points), who enter Friday’s play holding down the Eastern Conference’s final wild-card spot just one point ahead of the New York Islanders and two in front of the Philadelphia Flyers. The 19-year-old is listed as day-to-day, which would suggest the Leafs will avoid their leading scorer missing significant playing time.“Obviously if I’m in charge he’s in,” Babcock said of Saturday’s game, a date against the Carolina Hurricanes to follow Sunday. Babcock intended for the 23-year-old to begin the year alongside Bozak and van Riemsdyk before Marner came along and altered those plans.“I didn’t know Mitch was ready like he is,” Babcock said of Marner, the fourth overall pick of the 2015 draft.Whether Marner plays or not, Toronto will be looking for a better showing Saturday, including from van Riemsdyk, benched briefly in the loss to Columbus.The Leafs enter the division tilt with Ottawa having lost seven of their last 10 games. He’s leading Toronto in both categories with 33 assists and 48 points in 56 games and tied with Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine for tops in NHL rookie scoring.A shifty winger of considerable skill, vision and wily passing ability, Marner has been especially potent since Jan. “It happens with every team so you’ve just got to battle through it.” Toronto is also one point behind the Boston Bruins (64) and two in back of Ottawa for the final two Atlantic Division playoff spots.Marner is enjoying a banner season, on pace to smash the franchise rookie records for most points and assists. Surging 23-year-old Josh Leivo would stand to take his spot on the power play with rookie Nikita Soshnikov also getting back into the lineup potentially after sitting recently due to injury.Scratched a great deal this season, Leivo responded with a rare opportunity to play this week.

Bautista says he has nothing to prove this season with the Jays

He is just here to do his job, nothing more, nothing less.Jose Bautista arrived at the Toronto Blue Jays’ spring training camp on Thursday and spoke to the media for the first time here Friday morning.In spite of an off-season that did not go exactly as planned, with a free-agent market that suddenly turned cold when it came to aging sluggers, Bautista was not full of vitriol. Whatever happens, happens.”What he hopes won’t happen are injuries like the two he suffered last season that sent him to the disabled list on two occasions and limited his playing time to just 116 games.He always keeps himself in impeccable shape, but he said there was little he could have done to prevent the injuries he suffered to his foot and knee.“I mean I was trying to make baseball plays both times,” he said. “Again, I’m here to play, I’m here to have a healthy season and have fun, enjoy it, enjoy my teammates and try to win games. “He’s motivated to have a big, big year,” Gibbons said.Bautista said his mindset will remain the same as always. I can’t say that proving people wrong is one of those in one way or another.“There’s always people that need to be proven wrong in every player’s situation when it comes to different aspects of the game. “I think I come out here every single year with the same mentality and with the same desire to help my team win games and be the best player I can be,” he said. If you focus on that you’re probably going to get a little distracted. I’ve had the same things that have motivated me since I was a little boy playing and those are the same things that motivate me today.”It was a tumultuous off-season for the Blue Jays batting star, one of the most popular players in franchise history. “I have my things that motivate me. It’s just unfortunate that it happened to me. He heads into the season with 265 career home runs over nine seasons in Toronto, ranking him second all-time with the franchise, trailing only Carlos Delgado, who finished with 336.At spring training last year, Bautista reportedly tabled a take-it-or-leave-it demand seeking a new five-year deal worth an eye-popping $150-million (U.S.) if the Blue Jays wanted to retain his services.Bautista has always denied that figure.Regardless, he never signed a new deal and stumbled through an injury-marred 2016 season where his production slipped, heading into free agency as a large question mark.In a market where the interest for sluggers throughout Major League Baseball was stagnant, Bautista was not exactly a hot commodity and languished on the open market.When teammate Edwin Encarnacion bolted for the Cleveland Indians on a three-year deal, and with the Blue Jays in desperate need to fortify a thin outfield, Toronto’s interest in bringing Bautista back started to warm.In January, Bautista and the team officially agreed to a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $18-million (U.S.) in the first year. “One I ran into the wall, the other one my cleat got caught in the turf. The contract also includes a mutual option for 2018 and a vesting option for 2019. Jose Bautista says he’s willing to be a ‘trooper’ for the Jays (The Canadian Press)

He said he does not have anything to prove this season with the Blue Jays to dispel any notion that, at age 36, he is injury prone and on the downside of a great career.“I didn’t know that was the perception,” Bautista said, rather icily. I can’t explain it. I don’t think I could have done anything different.”Toronto manager John Gibbons said on Thursday that he believes the travails Bautista went through over the off-season will only serve to get the right fielder’s competitive juices flowing. Any other day in July I could have been just running down to first and tripped over myself and maybe hurt myself worse.“Those kinds of things are bound to happen to anybody on the field.