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.

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

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

Gretzky says Olympics are worth it for NHLers, despite challenges

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

Price loses temper but Canadiens down Devils

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

Raptors conquer Wiggins-led Timberwolves

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

The Ring Magazine names Muhammad Ali 1966 fighter of the year

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

All eyes on featherweights as UFC returns to Toronto

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