Hockey icon Bill Dineen dies at 84

He helped the Aeros win Avco Cup titles in 1974 and 1975 with teams featuring Howe, and Howe’s sons Mark and Marty.Dineen was named the WHA’s coach of the year in 1977 and 1978. He spent a final WHA season as coach of the New England Whalers but was fired after 71 games with the Whalers in fourth place.Dineen later coached the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers for the 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons, giving him a chance to coach his son Kevin.He also spent six years as coach of the AHL’s Adirondack Red Wings, leading them to league titles in 1986 and 1989.Dineen was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in 2014.“During his time as a player and coach, and in the values he instilled in his family, Bill Dineen created a legacy of greatness in the American Hockey League that still resonates today,” David Andrews, AHL president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.Dineen’s sons Shawn, Peter, Gord, Kevin and Jerry all have careers in professional hockey.Kevin Dineen, a veteran of 1,188 NHL games, is a former head coach of the Florida Panthers and is currently an associate coach with the Blackhawks.Gord Dineen played 529 games in the NHL and is an associate coach of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. He made more of an impact as a player in the AHL, where he was a four-time 20-goal scorer over six seasons with Buffalo, Cleveland, Rochester and Quebec.He went into coaching after retiring as a player, taking the reins of the WHA’s Houston Aeros for six years starting in the 1972-73 season. Bill Dineen, a hockey icon who played with and later coached the legendary Gordie Howe, has died at 84.The American Hockey League confirmed in a statement that Dineen died Saturday at his home in Lake George, N.Y.Dineen, born in Arvida, Que., played 324 games in the National Hockey League with the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, winning two Stanley Cup championships in Detroit alongside Howe.

Staal scores in sixth round of shootout, Wild beat Oilers

Chris Stewart and Jordan Eberle each scored in the fifth round.Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, the league leader with 38 points, was held scoreless for just the fifth time in 14 games. Talbot had 34 saves.Nugent-Hopkins tied it with a power-play goal with 4:39 left when his wrist shot beat a screened Dubnyk. It was Minnesota’s first shot of the period.Eighteen of the Wild’s 26 contests have been one-goal games, including the last six. The goal was upheld by video review.Draisaitl scored his team-leading 13th goal with 55.4 seconds remaining in the first for a 1-0 lead.After a give-and-go with Benoit Pouliot, Draisaitl’s first shot was stopped by Dubnyk, but he scored on the rebound. His redirect easily beat Talbot at 1:18 for his third goal in five games. He was also without a point in Sunday’s loss to Minnesota.McDavid’s turnover in the Edmonton end put the puck on Mikael Granlund’s stick early in the third period, leading to a Wild goal for a 2-1 lead.From the right circle, Granlund backhanded a pass to Zucker alone at the left side. He entered with a league-best .946 save percentage and 1.65 goals-against average. Three of those went to a shootout, and one was decided in overtime. Eric Staal scored in the sixth round of a shootout and the Minnesota Wild beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 on Friday night.Matt Dumba and Jason Zucker scored in regulation for Minnesota, which has won three straight.Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk made 25 saves. The third-line centre has goals in three straight games and six goals in the past six games.Dumba snapped an 11-game scoring drought with a wrist shot past a screened Talbot 4:26 into the second to tie the game. Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had goals for the Oilers, whose four-game losing streak began with a 2-1 home overtime loss to the Wild last Sunday.Staal scored on a backhand deke before Nugent-Hopkins fired wide in the sixth round.Jason Pominville beat Cam Talbot high on the glove side on Minnesota’s first shootout attempt, and Draisaitl countered on Edmonton’s third.

Lowry scores 34 points, Raptors rally to beat Celtics

The Celtics pulled within four in the final minute, but Al Horford fouled Lowry on a 3-point attempt with 30 seconds to play. 20.Toronto argued that the game officials incorrectly called for an instant replay review of whether the Raptors’ Terrence Ross released a three-point shot prior to the expiration of actual time remaining. DeMar DeRozan added 24 points, and Norman Powell had 20.Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas sat out his second straight game with a strained right groin. Marcus Smart started in his place, but struggled to keep up with Lowry down the stretch.Horford and Avery Bradley each had 19 points to lead Boston.Boston had nine 3-pointers in the first half and used a 13-0 run in the second quarter to take a 14-point lead. The Raptors crawled out of that hole with 21-3 run in the third. The Replay Center official reviewed video of the play using a digital timer and determined the actual time remaining in the game expired before Ross released his shot, and the shot therefore did not count.The league found that calling for an instant replay review in this case was consistent with the playing rules because there was a clock malfunction. Lowry had 14 points in the quarter.The Celtics kept firing 3s in the second half, but cooled off and finished 17 for 42 for the game.Protest deniedEarlier Friday, the NBA denied the Raptors’ protest of their 102-99 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Nov. Lowry made all three free throws to help close out the victory. Kyle Lowry scored 21 of his season-high 34 points in the second half to help the Toronto Raptors hold on for a 101-94 victory over the Boston Celtics on Friday night.The Raptors have won eight of their last nine.Toronto erased an eight-point halftime deficit and led by as many as 11 in the fourth quarter.

More NFL coaches are deciding to go for it on fourth down

But coach Doug Pederson’s aggressive play-calling cost the Eagles (5-7) a win against the New York Giants in November.Pederson passed up two chip-shot field goals to go on fourth downs in the first half. 20. Several of those attempts came at odd times during games, including a few in the Texans-Packers game played in snow.The Texans went on fourth-and-one from the Packers 49 early in the second quarter in a scoreless game. 1 and, quite frankly, the defence if you don’t get it, that if you do give away a short field that they’ll get the ball back for us,” Gruden said this week. Akeem Hunt got stopped short on what appeared to be a poor spot by the officials.“I felt like we needed a touchdown there,” said O’Brien, even though a field goal would’ve given Houston the lead.After Oakland went up 27-20, the Texans faced fourth-and-5 from their own 44 with only 3 minutes and 13 seconds to go and one time-out remaining. The Eagles lost 28-23 after failing to score a touchdown on four tries from the Giants 17 in the final minute.Obviously, six points would’ve made a difference. It defied conventional coaching logic, but Gruden kept his offence on the field, quarterback Kirk Cousins sneaked for the first down and Washington went on to score and secure the win.“I think it’s confidence in the offence, No. Both attempts failed. But Pederson had no regrets and stuck by decisions that backfired. “It shows confidence and belief in the guys,” he said. 21.He went on fourth-and-inches from the Raiders 15 with the score tied and 6 minutes and 15 seconds left in the game. Quinn’s decision to go for it earlier instead of kicking a 23-yard field goal also proved costly. We have a big, physical offensive line, we have got a big back, and we have a quarterback where, if we want to do a bootleg or if we want to drop back and throw it, we have confidence that he can make an accurate throw.“Confidence in the offensive line that can get movement, we can get a foot or a yard or two yards, and confidence in the quarterback to get it done.”For Cousins, it was an easy decision, even if teams holding leads late in the fourth quarter usually punt in that situation.“I think you had to do it,” Cousins said. Yet, O’Brien chose to punt. “At that time, I felt like we were moving the ball.”Last week, teams were 17 for 30 on fourth down. But they failed on fourth-and-two at the Texans’ 48 later in the game.O’Brien also had some interesting fourth-down calls against Oakland in the Monday night game in Mexico on Nov. Atlanta didn’t convert and eventually lost 29-28 because Eric Berry picked off a two-point conversion and returned it the other way. Brock Osweiler tossed a touchdown pass to tie it 7-7.But coach Bill O’Brien got conservative after that conversion.He chose to punt on fourth-and-five at Green Bay’s 36 in a 7-7 game late in the third. He went on fourth-and-one at the Chiefs 10. Through Week 13, teams went for it on fourth down 350 times and converted 181 or 51.7 per cent.Washington coach Jay Gruden made perhaps the boldest call when Washington faced fourth-and-inches from its 41-yard line with a 29-24 lead and 6 minutes and 12 seconds remaining against the Green Bay Packers on Nov. “It’s just a matter of which play to call and how do we execute it versus the front or blitz that they will bring.”No team has more fourth-down attempts than Philadelphia’s 19. The Texans never got the ball back.“If I had it back, I’d go for it,” O’Brien said afterward.Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn passed up a short field goal down 27-16 in the third quarter against Kansas City last Sunday. He decided to punt again on fourth-and-seven from the Packers 44 with 8 minutes and 59 seconds left and trailing 14-7.“It’s just where we were on the field,” said O’Brien, offering no explanation for the inconsistent decisions.The Packers converted on fourth-and-two from the Texans 42 when Cristine Michael ran for five yards on their first scoring drive. “But mainly, it’s confidence in the offence. Fourth-and-no is becoming fourth-and-go in the NFL.More coaches are going for it in situations that used to be automatic punts or field-goal attempts. Alfred Blue got stopped and Green Bay turned the short field into a touchdown.Houston later passed up a 23-yard field goal and went on fourth-and-one from the Packers 6 midway through the third quarter. Going for it meant risking the possibility that Aaron Rodgers would get the ball close enough for a short field goal with the game on the line.

Kansas City Chiefs continue to dominate in the AFC West

We’ve got to keep our eyes on the prize and stay focused on the main goal.”With the win over Oakland, the Chiefs assured themselves a second-successive 10-win season, something the club has only accomplished two other times in franchise history. We need to put this game behind us, stay focused, and finish the rest of the season strong.”That’s because there is still plenty on the horizon.The Chiefs haven’t won the AFC West since 2010, when they finished 10-6 in a division that, it seemed, nobody wanted to win. They are more like necessities for a team dreaming of a Super Bowl.“It’s good right now,” Chiefs running back Spencer Ware said, “but we can’t get comfortable. The Chiefs are 10-3 and barrelling toward bigger things, their future looking the brightest it has all season after their Thursday night win over Oakland.“We’re trying to get to our ultimate goal,” Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters said, “so we have to win, individually, each game. So we’re going to prepare for our next opponent and just keep moving on.” Along the way are not only the two wins over Oakland this year, but also a win in Denver – the other divisional team in the thick of the postseason hunt heading into the Broncos’ game Sunday at Tennessee.The Broncos visit Arrowhead Stadium on Christmas night.“It’s all about us. It’s going to be something more,” Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said after the 21-13 victory on Thursday night, “especially with a team like Oakland that’s at the top of the charts on offence and defence.”Well, they had been at the top of the charts heading into the showdown.The Chiefs knocked them down a peg.It was their fifth-straight win against the Raiders and their ninth-consecutive victory over division foes, the third-longest streak in franchise history. There is an argument to be made that the AFC West is the best division in the NFL.There is little argument to be made against the Chiefs being the class of it.After dispatching the Raiders on a frigid night at Arrowhead Stadium, the Chiefs are tied with them for the lead at 10-3 with three games left in the regular season. And that nine-game win streak of division foes is currently the best in the NFL, though Houston can match it with a win over Indianapolis on Sunday.But the Texans are only 6-6 overall. “This win means a lot to us, but the season’s not over. For the division title, sure. It’s not about who we play,” said star pass rusher Justin Houston, whose return from off-season knee surgery has given the Kansas City defence a big midseason lift.“We just need to stay focused,” he said. Their many deficiencies showed when they were routed 30-7 by Baltimore in their first playoff game, which they hosted because of their division title.Their last two playoff trips have started on the road as wild cards.Three years ago, they went to Indianapolis and built a big early lead before their defence melted down in the second half. But also for a first-round bye in the playoffs.“Every division game has got to be a playoff game. And last year, they went to Houston and came away with their first playoff victory in more than two decades, only to lose at New England the following week.So to say that a first-round bye and a home playoff game in the second round are crucial would be an understatement. But Kansas City holds the tiebreaker, thanks to two head-to-head wins over Oakland, which could loom large down the stretch.

All eyes on Toronto FC’s power duo Altidore, Giovinco in MLS Cup final

“You have confidence in him when he does get the ball that you can continue your run forward because he’s going to hold the ball up. “I think that is a combination any coach would love to have.Read more: MLS head praises Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders’ fan basesRead more: The passion, pain and joy of being a Toronto FC fanRead more: Toronto FC, ready for battle, hope for winning weather“They are a dangerous tandem and it will require some key moments from my captain over here [midfielder Osvaldo Alonso] to try and slow them down; an entire team effort to try and prevent them from scoring.”On the one side, Giovinco, 29, plays the sprite. Together, they have produced nine goals and eight assists in five playoff games over the past 45 days and if the Seattle Sounders are to upset TFC and win the Major League Soccer championship at BMO Field on Saturday night, they have to find a way to stop the pair. “He kind of keeps to himself a little bit. But injuries and other circumstances have seen him bounce from MLS to Spain to the Netherlands to England and back to MLS with only sporadic success.It was the same story when he joined the Reds in 2015 as part of a deal in which unhappy striker Jermain Defoe, a major piece in the Bloody Big Deal, headed back to England. “That for me counts for a whole lot, sometimes more than putting the ball in the back of the net.“At the beginning of the year we were grinding out games on the road and Jozy didn’t get a goal. This is a guy who competed every single day for this team and that should not go unnoticed.” We were winning games because of the amount of work he was willing to do for us on the road to compete and grind things out. It’s a blessing to be here today and to go train, to be among these guys.”His teammates love him right back.“Jozy is a great guy,” Beitashour said. He is a striker who can hit like a North American football linebacker but also has speed and feet every bit as soft and skillful as Giovinco’s. He has the whole package and he takes advantage of it.”One similarity between Giovinco and Altidore is that neither likes to talk to the media. Altidore prefers to discuss team play rather than himself during his infrequent interviews.“I just feel like what you can accomplish as a group is far greater than what you can do yourself,” Altidore said. Altidore scored 13 goals for TFC in 2015 but more was expected and when this season started slowly for him, followed by a hamstring injury, the critics started squawking.Since a mid-season return to health, though, Altidore has been knocking heads and putting balls in the back of the net. “Jozy is a very good target forward who also has the ability to turn and run at you. Then people started to notice his performances, but he’s always played great. In that sense, both are in the right league, given the comically inept way MLS has conducted interactions between the media and the players and coaches in the days leading up to the MLS Cup. In his past 20 games, Altidore scored 15 goals and the past five marked the first time an MLS player has scored in five consecutive games in one set of playoffs.Yet even when encouraged by a media type or two, Altidore still resists any urge to strike back at the naysayers. I get to live my dream,” Altidore said. He’s one of those guys who’s down-to-earth and you like to be around.”TFC head coach Greg Vanney dismisses the recent fuss over Altidore as so much misguided thinking that only goals matter when it comes to strikers.“He does everything and anything you ask him to do and then some,” Vanney said. Once Altidore receives a pass, the ball sticks to him, which allows teammates to gamble and rush forward because there is rarely a giveaway.“It’s surprising for a big man like that to be that quick and that agile and have such good feet,” TFC defender Steven Beitashour said earlier this week. Like so many talented players, the native of Livingston, N.J., has had to deal with outsized expectations since turning professional at such a precocious age. If they were spotted walking down the street together, Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco might be called Mutt and Jeff or Tom and Jerry or any other comic-book phrase that denotes two mismatched people.On the soccer pitch, opposing coaches may well take a hint from Toronto FC’s infamous Bloody Big Deal, the one that indirectly brought Altidore and Giovinco together as the Reds’ strikers, and call them The Bloody Big Handful. Nor will he contemplate the idea that he finally deserves some individual success after his travails.“I get to live my life as a professional soccer player. “As we look to the game Saturday, individual performances won’t matter if we don’t put it together as a team.”However, Altidore is on the best run of his career. “There’s going to be ups and downs but, I’m sorry, I don’t look at it the same way as a lot of people. But if you know him, you know the type of person he is; he cares about people.“He cracks some good jokes, too. Giovinco is a forward that can playmake,” said Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer. His listed size of 6-feet, 175-pounds in the TFC media guide must have been measured when he was drafted into MLS by the New York Red Bulls at the age of 16.However, Altidore is now a muscular, intimidating presence on the Reds’ front line who can also dance around opponents. On the other, Altidore, 27, is a formidable physical presence. A 5-foot-4, 135-pound wisp who confounds defenders with his one-on-one skills that see him spin away, or seemingly through, multiple players with the ball still on his feet.

More than 1,000 Russian athletes involved in doping cover-up: report

If you are Russian, they accuse you of all sins.”McLaren accepted that there could be widespread doping elsewhere, though not on the same level as in Russia, the sole focus of his investigation.McLaren pointed out that Russia had won 24 gold, 26 silver and 32 bronze medals at London 2012 and no Russian athlete had tested positive.“Yet the Russian team corrupted the London Games on an unprecedented scale, the extent of which will probably never be fully established,” he said.“For years, international sports competitions have unknowingly been hijacked by the Russians. Only athletics and weightlifting banned the entire Russian teams.The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) did ban Russia completely from its Rio games, however, and said on Friday the full findings of the report “strike right at the heart of the integrity and ethics of sport”.McLaren accepted that Russian authorities had taken many steps since his first report, removing officials who had been involved in the cover-up, setting up a new anti-doping commission and proposing a “gold standard” doping control regime.However, when asked about the comments of Svishchev and Isinbayeva, he said: “The findings are not challengeable…my impression is that there is a certain embedded cultural aspect to what has been going on, so there probably does need to be cultural change.“That doesn’t mean change won’t occur, but it might take longer than a few months or a year.”WADA Director General Olivier Niggli told Reuters that the report only scratched the surface of the problem.“Richard McLaren and his team only had access to a fraction of what probably happened in Russia,” Niggli said. – More than 1,000 Russian competitors across more than 30 sports were involved in an institutional conspiracy to conceal positive drug tests as Moscow “hijacked international sport” over the course of five years, an independent WADA report said on Friday.The second and final part of the report for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) by Canadian sports lawyer Richard McLaren provided exhaustive evidence of an elaborate doping scheme sponsored by Russia’s Sports Ministry. It included switching and changing samples by opening “tamper-proof” bottles – using a method devised by the Russian secret service – and numerous other methods to bypass and cover up drugs tests.“We are now able to confirm a cover-up that dates back until at least 2011 that evolved from uncontrolled chaos to an institutionalised and disciplined medal-winning conspiracy,” McLaren told a news conference.The scale was unprecedented, he said.“We have evidence revealing that more than 500 positive results were reported as negative, including well-known and elite-level athletes and medal winners, who had their positive results automatically falsified.Read more: Doping decorum blown out of the water in RioGlobe editorial:If the IOC won’t, the athletes will: Why some athletes are accusing others of dopingMore than 1,000 athletes competing in Summer, Winter and Paralympic sport could be identified as being involved in or benefiting from tampering to conceal positive tests,” he said.The International Olympic Committee, which had refused a blanket ban of Russian competitors at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, said it had shown evidence of “a fundamental attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and on sport in general”.It said it would to test all Russian competitors’ samples from the London 2012 Olympics in addition to the ongoing re-tests from the Sochi 2014 Olympics.WADA president Craig Reedie called the report “alarming”, but Russia showed no sign of accepting its conclusions.The Sports Ministry said it would study the WADA report and cooperate with anti-doping bodies, but that it “denies that any government programmes exists to support doping in sport”.“UNFOUNDED ACCUSATIONS”Track and field chief Dmitry Shlyakhtin said he had not yet seen the report but conceded that Russian athletics’ problems “did not start yesterday”. Coaches and athletes have been playing on an uneven field.”The IOC on Wednesday extended provisional sanctions against Russian sport over the scandal, and an international ban on its track and field athletes remains in force pending a reform of its anti-doping programme.Forensic investigations by McLaren’s team detailed how a bank of clean urine samples was kept in a Moscow laboratory, where salt and coffee were added to try to fool officials testing “B samples” in supposedly tamper-proof bottles.DNA MISMATCHESThe report included cases where a doctored B sample did not match the DNA of previous specimens, and of samples that contained a mixture of male and female urine.It added that analysis of the samples from four Russians who won gold in Sochi had shown salt readings that were physiologically impossible, while there was evidence that the samples of 12 Russian Sochi medallists had been tampered with.More than 1,100 items of evidence contained in the report have been made available to the public at the website https://ipevidencedisclosurepackage.net.Friday’s report provided extensive evidence to support the original July report, which said Moscow had concealed hundreds of positive doping tests ahead of the Sochi Winter Games in 2014.The IOC declined to impose a blanket ban on Russia competing in Rio, letting international sports federations decide which athletes should be allowed to compete. However, he said it had now fulfilled all the demands made of it.Yelena Isinbayeva, double Olympic pole vault champion and newly-elected head of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency supervisory board, said shortly before the report was released: “It is well known to us that many foreign athletes have a history of doping but compete at an international level with no problems.“If we want to clean up world sport, let’s start…we don’t need to concentrate on just one country.”Dmitry Svishchev, a member of parliament and president of Russia’s Curling Federation, said: “We haven’t heard anything new. Unfounded accusations against us all.

Wayne Gretzky defends Connor McDavid’s fiery outburst

McDavid, who missed 37 games of his rookie season with the injury, said he went out of his way to defend Manning at the time.“I guess we can put the whole if he did it thing to rest because what he said out there kind of confirmed that,” said McDavid, who taunted Manning after scoring the second goal in the Oilers’ third straight loss.Gretzky didn’t mind seeing that fire in McDavid. It was something he and Mario Lemieux dealt with in their day, and a reality Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Steven Stamkos and now McDavid, confront in the current era.“And Connor, he’s going to get tested every night, but this is not new for him,” Gretzky said Friday at the NHL board of governors meetings. As the primary target of opponents over his Hall of Fame career, Wayne Gretzky could certainly empathize with the frustration Connor McDavid was feeling Thursday night.McDavid and Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Brandon Manning jostled all evening long in an eventual 6-5 Oilers loss, the Edmonton captain angrily denouncing the tactics of his opponent after the game. “It’s good to see that he’s combative and he wants to excel and he wants to win and that’s what makes him a great player is he’s got that competitive spirit.”Gretzky didn’t have a problem with how outspoken McDavid was after the game either. I’m a guy who plays the game hard and I take pride in that.”Rejoining the Oilers in a business role in early October, Gretzky has tried to be around to advise McDavid if called upon, recently describing him as the best 19-year-old player he’d ever seen. McDavid said Manning showed “what kind of guy he is” with his actions, including his decision not to fight with teammates who rushed to McDavid’s defence.“I think anybody who knows me or who has played with or against me along the road here, knows that I am not that kind of player,” Manning said according to a statement released by the Flyers. “He’s been tested since he was a kid and then playing junior hockey and now in the NHL and he’s always responded and done his part.”McDavid is currently leading the NHL with 38 points.Following Thursday’s game, McDavid claimed that Manning said he intentionally injured him last season, a “classless” act in the eyes of the Newmarket, Ont., native. Gretzky said the targeting came with the territory of being a superstar. Competitiveness is part of what makes the great ones great, he argued, referring to Carey Price’s blocker attack on Kyle Palmieri, which saw the Canadiens goaltender pepper the Devils forward with shots after a drive into the Montreal goal.“It’s good to see that he’s got that emotional fight in him,” Gretzky said. “I am not out there intentionally trying to hurt people. McDavid broke his collarbone in early November when the Flyers defenceman partially shoved him into the boards.

Gretzky says Olympics are worth it for NHL players, despite challenges

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

Athletics Canada fires head coach Peter Eriksson over ‘style’

Peter Eriksson has been fired as head coach and chief technical officer at Athletics Canada just months after the track and field team had one of its most successful Olympics in decades.Canada captured six medals at the Rio Summer Games, its best performance in a non-boycotted Games since 1932, and has seen the rise of young stars such as sprinter Andre De Grasse and high jumper Derek Drouin. It almost worked. “This isn’t about looking backwards. Here’s whyRead more: Tunes cranked, Drouin pumped: Raucous atmosphere a boon to golden high jumper“We talked to a lot of athletes and coaches out there,” Athletics Canada chief executive office Rob Guy said on a conference call Friday. Everybody else is trying to take those medals back from us.”The 64-year-old Eriksson was hired by Athletics Canada in August 2013 after four years working with Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic track teams, including one year as the track team’s head coach. It’s done.“The athletes and their coaches in their daily training environment is really what drives this. But there has been growing discontent with the team’s leadership for months. Overall there was just a general feeling that a different style might be a little bit more appropriate.”When asked what style Guy would look for in a successor, he suggested that person will need to be more inclusive.“The results of the review confirm that people want to feel supported, they want to work with the federation in driving performance,” Guy said. “Athletes and coaches are the key to everything. In a very decentralized sport like track and field where a lot our athletes are working on their own, they just need to feel good about themselves and feel really supported.“Everybody has their style. “I suppose a style that’s perhaps a little more supportive and engaging with these athletes and coaches.”The organizational review included both an anonymous online survey and more than 120 in-person or phone interviews with staff, provincial branch members, athletes, coaches, sponsors, media and other stakeholders.“Going to miss you,” Olympic racewalker Evan Dunfee said via Twitter. It’s about looking forward. We need to make sure we’re providing the best possible support we can.”Guy said that although Canada’s track and field success in Brazil this summer was impressive, it didn’t come down to one person.“We did a significant reload on our high performance plan after [the 2012 Olympics] and we significantly changed our system,” said Guy, who added the federation will be reviewing all of its policies. “Rio’s over with. The move comes after an extensive internal review.Read more: Andre De Grasse, Penny Oleksiak success boosts optimism for Tokyo 2020Read more: De Grasse’s plan was to beat Bolt by making him run faster. “U believed in our little race walk group from the beginning & we wouldn’t have had our successes without that.”Former star hurdler Perdita Felicien called it “the right move.”“I wish Peter the best,” she tweeted.Eriksson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.The review committee was asked to use the results of the report to make recommendations to the board.Guy informed Eriksson of the decision in person in Ottawa on Friday morning after the board of governors met Thursday night.While the decision was largely about Eriksson’s approach to the job, Guy added it was also made with Athletics Canada’s focus squarely on the future, including the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.“Yes it’s about style, but it’s also about continuing to win medals and continuing to have success,” Guy said.

Maple Leafs trade Peter Holland to Coyotes for draft pick

“We look forward to having him join our team.”

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Holland was drafted 15th overall by Anaheim in 2009.Arizona has lost six in a row and is tied with Colorado for the fewest points in the NHL. The Arizona Coyotes acquired centre Peter Holland from the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday for a 2018 conditional draft choice.The 25-year-old Holland had an assist in eight games with Toronto this season. He has 30 goals and 40 assists in 203 NHL games with Toronto and Anaheim.“Peter is a big, solid centreman with good NHL experience,” Coyotes general manager John Chayka.

Kelly: Blue Jays are restoring the American League’s familiar order

Nine months ago, Jose Bautista stood outside the Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse in Dunedin and laid out his personal vision.“My job is to play baseball, and I know what my value is,” Bautista said.As it turns out, no.“There is a direct correlation with the success of [Rogers’] earnings-per-share after we start experiencing success.”

Incorrect.“I’m not trying to sound like it was adamant and I put down the law and I drew lines in the sand.”It sounded that way.Long after Bautista has retired to nurse his many grievances in private, agents will be showing that clip to their clients and saying, “You’ve heard of negotiations, right? One can only imagine how well he’s going to take that prospect.Things aren’t going quite as poorly for Edwin Encarnacion, but they’re close.It appears baseball has got smart at the worst-possible moment for Bautista’s less prickly doppelganger. A few months ago, he was certain he was worth $150-million (U.S.). The Jays’ only gamble right now is that, having created so much new interest in the past couple of years, the inertia of 2015 and 2016 will carry them through to the end of 2018.That’s when Josh Donaldson leaves and Toronto re-enters its habitual baseball funk.For just a moment there, this team and everyone connected to it were buoyed by an unfamiliar feeling of hope. Once somebody does sign him, it’s shaping up as one of those “We paid how much for whom?” disappointments.Of course, the best fit for Encarnacion is returning to Toronto at something substantially less than his initial demand. Every once in a while, a manager or executive will kick their own player on the way out the door, but never someone else’s on the way in. His dreams of multiyear stability are gone. It creates an understanding with fans that the team is trying to win every year.In Toronto, that money is a way to pad the bottom line. That things were not just possible, but sustainable over the long term. Now it’s a time bomb. You can imagine going to an AL East rival would appeal to Bautista’s petty streak – a chance to stick it to everyone in Toronto who’d doubted him.Instead, the Orioles used this opportunity to humiliate him. Now he must realize he erred in refusing the Jays’ $17.2-million qualifying offer.Through a combination of age and injury and lack of production, Bautista finds himself reduced to baseball’s working class. Our fans do not like your player.”Bautista’s agent denied it had happened. While always talking a good line about competing with the best, the Jays remain a team of miserly aspiration. Nobody wants to pay $125-million for a one-dimensional soon-to-be middle-aged player.One by one, Encarnacion’s likeliest suitors have opted for budget versions of what he does. The former is politics. Louis Cardinals-style.That feeling is being buried under market realities that were papered over for a while, but never really changed. With each new signing, a little of the shine comes off Encarnacion.Part of the point of dropping nine figures on a player is generating excitement and selling tickets. We knew people in baseball did not like Bautista, but we didn’t realize they despised him.Bautista’s people took a meeting with the Baltimore Orioles this week. Even the guys who’d already got off. Steep, sudden, unexpected decline.Bautista is the most jarring example. And if it doesn’t, well, we can fail to try our utmost again next year. You can’t win every year, but you can be in with a shot – St. The Boston Red Sox flipped three years of Chris Sale for a Cuban kid they’d paid $63-million in signing bonuses and resultant penalties.The Yankees gave Aroldis Chapman a market-upending $86-million to throw one inning two nights out of three.In Boston and New York, that sort of money is the cost of doing business. Not any year. This is not how to do them.”Rather than give a news conference, Bautista might as well have spent those 10 minutes soaking himself in lighter fluid. Signing Bautista was always going to be a risk. From now on, he’s Mike Napoli with a better beard.What’s most notable about this is how baseball is reacting to Bautista’s diminishment – with malign glee. And that aspiration is to wring as much money as possible out of the baseball operation.After a few years of flux, the familiar order is being restored. The latter seems capricious.That’s the only way to explain Duquette going so far out of his way to embarrass a guy he’s never worked with.Whatever small market Bautista was hoping to put together for his services, Duquette has gone a long way to ruining it. The team might occasionally be in, but not all the way. That’d make everybody (except Bautista) happy.With that PR and performance gift being dangled in front of them, the Jays instead signed Steve Pearce. First, they leaked the fact the meeting had amounted to a hard “No” with an explanation – that everybody in Baltimore hates Bautista.Then, Baltimore GM Dan Duquette repeated the insult in a radio interview: “I told the agent we’re not interested. It’s had rather the same effect on his career.Now that the winter meetings are done, one senses a theme emerging when it comes to the Blue Jays and anyone connected to it – decline. You’ll be forgiven for being unfamiliar with his oeuvre, perhaps because he’s not very good at baseball.Pearce is also a one-dimensional soon-to-be middle-aged player, but far less impressive in that one dimension and often injured. Encarnacion has been sitting on the MLB shelf for weeks now, getting mouldy. If it goes sideways, the GM who made the call cannot say he wasn’t warned. Then Duquette circled back to confirm he’d said it.This is almost unprecedented stuff. They’re going to hope to get lucky and do it on the cheap. There is a significant possibility that Bautista ends up somewhere on a one-year reclamation deal for less than his qualifying offer. The Yankees and Red Sox think big; the Jays stay small.It’s probably fitting that as the Jays playoff ship begins to sink, it’s taking everyone down with it. It’s subtraction by addition.While the Jays drift backward, their opponents are making ambitious leaps forward. If it works, great.

Johnny Gaudreau’s absence, early return reignite Calgary Flames

That’s why he got the big raise. Without their most gifted scorer, the Flames started to perform better defensively, thanks in large part to goaltender Chad Johnson’s excellent play.They were 6-3-1 in Gaudreau’s absence and are 3-0 since his return. They had to adjust to the teachings of a new coaching staff headed by Gulutzan, while integrating two new goaltenders into the mix.But mostly, Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, captain Mark Giordano, defenceman T.J. There’s still a lot more season to play, but this is definitely helping us.”Last Sunday, Gulutzan said he saw something different in Gaudreau’s body language upon his return to the lineup: “Johnny [against Anaheim] was really excited. That Gaudreau was tentative and uncertain – nothing like the player who Calgary fans had come to expect these past few years. Gaudreau earned points on all four goals they scored. When playing with confidence, he can be such a catalyst offensively. Suddenly, all looked lost out on the ice.But a funny thing happened during Gaudreau’s absence. “We’ve put ourselves in a good position now, but we’re not out of the woods yet. He has gone back to playing with the same daring abandon that makes him so hard to defend. Gaudreau, Monahan and Giordano were all in the first years of contract extensions that gave them whopping pay raises and, as such, were feeling the pressure to earn those dollars on every shift they took.It meant they were getting away from the things that made them effective in the first place. The net result is a five-game win streak that’s moved them back into playoff contention.On Friday morning, after returning home from a two-game trip, the Flames woke up tied with the Edmonton Oilers atop the Pacific Division.That standing was a little bit of a mirage, given that the teams in pursuit – mainly a trio of California contenders – all held either three or four games in hand on Calgary. Brodie – four of the six core pieces at the heart of their rebuild – were not good.Indeed, they were so not-good that even the increasingly elusive president of hockey operations, Brian Burke, came out of the shadows to explain why.Burke blamed the rich-guy syndrome for their struggles. That’s Gaudreau. Sitting back, watching, getting excited and recentered, he brought a lot of good energy when he came into the room.”That energy carried over to the trip, where Calgary won a pair of back-to-back 2-1 games. Still, this was a vast improvement over the first month, when a season that began with some reasonable level of optimism, had threatened to go completely down the drain.Since then, the Flames sorted out their goaltending and special-teams play and have won a league-high nine road games (in 17 tries).“We’ve got to keep this rolling,” said Gaudreau, following a two-assist performance in a 2-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes. When he’s humming along in high gear, Gaudreau is an elusive, quick, play-making imp who confuses and perplexes NHL defences. The return of Johnny Gaudreau to the Calgary Flames lineup occurred unexpectedly last Sunday, when the diminutive sniper came off the injury list weeks earlier than anticipated and immediately scored an early goal in an 8-3 romp over the Anaheim Ducks.The energy he brought to the team, and to the building, was palpable – and according to coach Glen Gulutzan, far different from the player who showed up for work just as training camp ended, armed with a new six-year, $40.5-million contract, and feeling more pressure than he’s ever felt in his pro career. All along, the Flames have been getting good work from their supporting cast, but they didn’t have a difference maker on offence. Just in the nick of time, too. Mysteriously, that Gaudreau had gone missing before the slash from Minnesota’s Eric Staal broke his finger and sent him to the sidelines for 19 days.Read more: Amid all the fuss, Calgary Flames’ goalie Chad Johnson stands tallThere were a lot of reasons why the Flames got off to a miserable start this season.

MLS head praises Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders’ fan bases

Toronto made its first playoff appearance last year, but was dispatched by the Montreal Impact in one game.Since neither team has played for the Cup, a new champion will be crowned Saturday, one of numerous firsts that Garber highlighted during his hour-long session with the media.Among others:It’s the first championship game in Canada;It’s both the first time the game will be broadcast live on network TV in the United States on Fox, and it’s the first time the MLS Cup will be offered in virtual reality. It might have taken Toronto FC nine seasons to win a playoff game in Major League Soccer.But off the field, MLS commissioner Don Garber says, the franchise set the league standard with its passionate fan base from Day 1.Toronto battles the Seattle Sounders for the MLS Cup on Saturday, and Garber praised both young franchises in his annual state of the league address on the eve of the game. “And how having a downtown stadium that was supported by the Red Patch Boys, and a whole bunch of other travelling passionate flag-waving fans, that environment became sort of a brand statement – this is what we think MLS can be and you see that being replicated in many other markets.“We’ve had lots of passionate supporters [in other cities]. “As I was sitting in those stands, hoping to have something memorable happen, to see it happen on the field and give us something that I think will create lifetime memories for all the people who are fans of this team, memories for the fans of the Montreal Impact, it’s going to provide us with a very solid future for the sport and Major League Soccer here in this country.”Garber also announced several changes for next season, including expanding the target allocation program, which provides clubs cash to spend strategically to improve their rosters. They’re the first team in history to make the playoffs in all eight of their seasons since they entered the league in 2009. All 21 teams, he said, will receive $1.2-million (U.S.) – an increase of $400,000 per club.And they hope to implement VAR – video-assisted refereeing – by the second half of 2017 MLS season. Seattle led the league in attendance this season, averaging 42,636 a game, while Toronto was third (behind Orlando) at 26,583.Garber said Toronto’s ownership group, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, didn’t treat its soccer team as the younger sibling, and that was key.“When the leadership of that organization says our team is going to be treated the same as the Maple Leafs, the same as the Raptors, our stadium is going to be no different than Air Canada Centre, I think that was a pretty big talisman that they held and had many other clubs say: We ought to do that,” Garber said.The Sounders, who share CenturyLink Field with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, followed Toronto’s lead.“A lot of that came from this idea that MLSE treated all of their brands equally and proudly and we see that now with every one of our clubs,” Garber said.On the field however, the Sounders found success right out of the gate. But there was something about how the supporter movement – downtown stadium, small stadium, great brand – all came together to tell a very good story.”Both franchises know how to draw fans through the turnstiles. The game will be shown in a 170 countries in more than 90 different languages – both records;The game sold out in less than four minutes and it will be the highest attended MLS Cup (36,000) since the league moved to its new playoff format;The Eastern Conference final between Toronto and Montreal set viewership records on TSN and RDS and more than 100,000 fans packed Olympic Stadium and BMO Field; Garber was at the conference final nail-biter at BMO Field and said it epitomized what the league had hoped for when it expanded into Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.“It was one of the great games in our league’s young history,” Garber said. Read more: The passion, pain and joy of being a Toronto FC fanRead more: Toronto FC, ready for battle, hope for winning weatherGarber said both finalists had helped, in their own way, set the standard for the league.“I think what Toronto did when they came in in 2007 is showed the North American market in many ways what an environment of passionate soccer supporters can be,” Garber said.

Jamie Vardy’s struggle symbolizes the decline of champion Leicester

Defences struggled to contain him as he scored in a record 11 consecutive Premier League games from August to November of 2015. City is the most recent team to follow a title triumph with relegation – way back in 1938.City’s current mission is coping for the next four games without Sergio Aguero, with Kelechi Iheanacho replacing the banned striker in the starting lineup. And if results go against Leicester, the team could start the game in the relegation zone.The 29-year-old Vardy rejected the chance to join perennial top-four team Arsenal to see if Leicester could build on its fairy-tale season. He only has to look to Sunderland, the team that was last when he took charge in south Wales and plays Swansea on Saturday. “But if you worry about that, the players will spit you out fast. The midfielder would seem to perform the work of two men when he was on the field and without him Leicester’s defence has seemed easier to break through.Many at the club have publicly attributed the drop in domestic form to the desire to impress on the continent.Now there are no distractions for the next two months before the Champions League knockout phase begins.The visit of Manchester City is a timely reminder about the fate of champions. What has also been noticeable is how Vardy is no longer linking so effectively with Riyad Mahrez – if at all – as the supply line for scoring opportunities has fractured.Unless the symbiotic relationship between Vardy and Mahrez is resurrected in the second half, Leicester is in real danger of seeing its three-season stay in the Premier League end on the first anniversary of its title triumph in May.“Of course he’s not happy,” Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri said of the central England club’s Thai owner. If I am telling the players they have to look adversity in the eye and have some courage, then I have got to do that, too.”Bradley shouldn’t give up hope. BournemouthThere’s a meeting Saturday between two of the league’s four English managers.What is surprising is that only Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, rather than Burnley counterpart Sean Dyche, was seriously linked with the England coaching job when it came up twice this year.In its second top-flight campaign, Bournemouth is 10th in the 20-team standings after beating Liverpool last weekend by winning 4-3 after trailing 3-1.Burnley, after making an instant return to the Premier League, is 15th. N’Golo Kante produced a league-leading 175 tackles and 156 interceptions last season before joining Chelsea. Sunderland has won three of its past four games under David Moyes.Burnley vs. “No one at the club is.”The one player Leicester couldn’t persuade to stay in the off-season is being sorely missed. SunderlandWith only one win in seven games as Swansea manager, Bob Bradley has seen his new team slide to the bottom. The American’s dire introduction to the Premier League was heightened when his disjointed team lost 5-0 at Tottenham last week.Is Bradley’s job already under threat?“You go in every day and at any moment the club can say, ‘We need to make a change,’” Bradley said on Thursday. Now, the striker can barely get a shot on target and Leicester is struggling because of it.If Vardy fails to score against Manchester City on Saturday, it will be 11 consecutive games without a Premier League goal. That has happened in Europe, with Leicester qualifying for the round of 16 in its Champions League debut as a group winner.Leicester collected as many points in the six group games as in the 14 Premier League matches so far: 13.Vardy didn’t find the net once in five European games before being rested in Wednesday’s 5-0 loss to FC Porto, which didn’t affect Leicester’s group-winner status, but was a high-profile humiliation.Vardy has only two Premier League goals and managed a mere four shots on target in the competition dominated by Leicester so unexpectedly last season. City is fourth in the standing, four points behind Chelsea.Swansea vs. After spending last season as one of the key forces behind Leicester’s rise to the Premier League title, Jamie Vardy is now the symbol of the team’s alarming decline.The rough diamond unearthed in non-league soccer helped power Leicester to its first English title by scoring 24 goals. They will see through you.