Road To The Olympic Games

Figure Skating·The Buzzer

It's a tough time for Canadian figure skating, but there's hope

Today's edition of our newsletter looks at the athletes to watch on a still-rebuilding Canadian figure skating team. Plus, the NFL MVP dodges a bullet and an NBA phenom is hurt.

A young ice dance duo is among those worth watching this season

Canada is short on contenders again this season, but young ice dancers Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha give fans something to look forward to. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

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Here's what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

Figure skating's Grand Prix season is on

The first event — Skate America — starts today in Las Vegas. The marquee name is Nathan Chen, the big-jumping 20-year-old American who won both the world title and the Grand Prix Final in each of the last two years. He plans to attempt at least three quads during his new free skate, which is set to Elton John songs. Canada's entries are Keegan Messing (men's), Veronik Mallet (women's), Camille Ruest and Andrew Wolfe (pairs) and Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen (dance). Messing is probably the only Canadian with a real shot at the podium this week. Read figure skating analyst Pj Kwong's in-depth preview of Skate America here.

The Grand Prix regular season is made up of six events held around the world — one each week for the next six weeks. Skaters are allowed to enter up to two of them, and the assignments have already been decided. When that's over, the top six in each competition — women's, men's, pairs and ice dance — advance to the Grand Prix Final starting Dec. 5 in Italy. The winners there are considered the champions of the Grand Prix season. In the new year, skaters move on to their national championships and, if they're good enough, the world championships. Montreal is hosting that event in mid-March.

Canada's Grand Prix event — Skate Canada — is next weekend in Kelowna, B.C. Most of the Canadians competing in the Grand Prix will be there, and every competition will have multiple Canadians.

Last season was a rough one for Canadian figure skaters. The Canadian program is still rebuilding after its best skaters all stepped away from competition (and eventually retired) following the 2018 Olympics: ice dance superstars Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, three-time men's world champion Patrick Chan, two-time pairs world champs Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford and 2018 women's world champ Kaetlynn Osmond. No one really stepped in to fill the void last season. Keegan Messing was the only Canadian in the Grand Prix Final, and he only got in as a last-minute sub for injured Japanese star Yuzuru Hanyu.

This season could be tough too, but there's hope. "There are always reasons to be excited," says Pj, ever the optimist. She holds out hope for Gabby Daleman, Nam Nguyen and Messing to contend for the odd podium in the individual events, but she sees the pairs and dance events as Canada's real strengths. In pairs, Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro won bronze at Skate Canada last year and finished fourth at the NHK Trophy in Japan. In dance, Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier took bronze in both their Grand Prix events a year ago, but the most intriguing duo might be Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha. They won the junior world title last year and are Canada's best hope for a successor to the incomparable Virtue and Moir.

Where you can watch: CBCSports.ca is live streaming every competition at every Grand Prix meet except for Skate Canada. Skate America got started right around our publish time today, and you can watch here. All the short programs are today, and the free skates begin tomorrow at 4 p.m. ET.

Keegan Messing is Canada's best, and probably only, hope for a medal at Skate America. (Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images)

Quickly...

The NFL's reigning MVP dodged a bullet. Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who was already playing with a bad left ankle, dislocated his right kneecap in the first half of last night's win in Denver. That sure sounds like a season-ending injury, but it may not be. Immediate x-rays showed no fractured bones, and an MRI today revealed that Mahomes also avoided any significant damage to his ligaments. He'll reportedly seek other opinions, but right now the plan is for him to return in four to six weeks. There's precedent for this: Detroit QB Matthew Stafford dislocated his kneecap in 2009 and was back in a month.

NBA phenom Zion Williamson is going to miss the season opener in Toronto. The rookie-of-the-year favourite — and one of the most exciting basketball prospects ever — is dealing with a knee injury that is expected to keep him out for a "period of weeks," according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. That would rule Zion out for Tuesday's opener against the Raptors. The injury is to the same knee that he hurt when his shoe exploded during one his college games with Duke last season.

One of Canada's top junior hockey leagues has its first female coach. Olivia Howe (no relation to Gordie) was hired as an assistant by the Moose Jaw Warriors. She's the first woman to coach in the Western Hockey League. Howe played collegiately at a school in Upstate New York and is now trying to work her way up in coaching. Read more about her path and her job with the Warriors here.

The Minnesota Wild are falling apart. They're off to a horrible start: dead last in the NHL with only one win in their first seven games. And now they're turning on each other. Forward Jason Zucker called out, well, pretty much everyone after last night's dreadful 4-0 loss in Montreal — including coach Bruce Boudreau. "Bruce has got to be better. We've got to be better. Everybody's got to be better," said the guy who makes $5.5 million US a year and has two goals and zero assists this season.

The Yankees look cooked. They're down three games to one to Houston in the American League Championship Series after once again leaving a ton of guys on base in last night's 8-3 loss. New York now has to beat the best team in baseball three times in a row to avoid elimination. Two of those wins will have to come against Astros co-aces Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. They're both at the top of the list to win the AL Cy Young Award, and Houston hasn't lost a game Cole pitched in since July 22. Verlander is the starter for tonight's game, which is at 7 p.m. ET in New York.

Looking ahead...

Winnipeg and Calgary are about to play a home-and-home that could decide the CFL's West Division. With three weeks left in the regular season, the league's six playoff teams are already set. Hamilton (12-3) has clinched the East, and Montreal (8-7) will be the only other playoff team from that division. Things are a lot muddier out West. Edmonton (8-8) is likely to finish fourth, but the order of the other three playoff teams is anyone's guess. Calgary and Saskatchewan are both 10-5, and Winnipeg is 10-6. The Stampeders host the Blue Bombers on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET, and they'll meet again next Friday night in Winnipeg. While those teams beat up on each other, Saskatchewan gets to play 5-11 B.C. and then Edmonton.

The Major League Soccer playoffs start this weekend. Toronto FC is the only Canadian team that made it. They're the fourth seed (out of seven) in the Eastern Conference and host fifth-seeded D.C. United on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET. The winner advances to face top-seeded New York City FC, which has a bye in the first round. MLS tweaked its playoff format this year, ditching the European-style two-match aggregate contests it had used in the second and third rounds. Every playoff matchup is now a one-off, hosted by the team with the better regular-season record. And there's no re-seeding after reach round anymore. It's a straight bracket right through the MLS Cup final on Nov. 10.

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