What you need to know as NHL training camps open
6 players opt out; Matthews confirms positive test; Penguins hold 9 out as precaution
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Here's what you need to know right now from the world of sports:
NHL training camps are open
The league and the players finally finalized their return-to-play deal and a new collective bargaining agreement on Friday night. That cleared the way for all 24 teams involved in this year's expanded playoff competition to open camps today in their home cities. Six of the seven Canadian teams qualified (Ottawa is the only one out) and you can read a quick catchup on each of them here.
The Pittsburgh Penguins already experienced a hiccup at their camp. They held out nine unidentified players today because they may have been exposed to someone who had contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19. The players will be sidelined until test results show it's safe for them to return.
At the Toronto Maple Leafs' camp, Auston Matthews confirmed that, as reported, he tested positive for COVID-19 last month. The star forward said today that he was "pretty much asymptomatic" at the time, but having to take a few weeks off the ice set him back a bit physically.
Today is also the deadline for players to opt out of the restart. Anyone may do this for any reason, without punishment (though they won't get paid for the games they miss). So far, six players have exercised this right: Calgary's Travis Hamonic, Vancouver's Sven Baertschi, Montreal's Karl Alzner, Edmonton's Mike Green, Dallas' Roman Polak and Boston's Steven Kampfer. Montreal's Max Domi, who has Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease, is considering opting out. The Canadians agreed to give him an extra week or so to decide.
Other key things to know about the NHL restart:
The timeline: Training camps run until July 26, when teams will travel to their designated hub city (Edmonton for the Western Conference, Toronto for the East). Exhibition games will be played July 28-30. The first phase of the playoffs begins Aug. 1. The standard 16-team playoff tournament opens Aug. 11. The Stanley Cup final is tentatively slated to start Sept. 22 and end by Oct. 4 at the latest. Free agency will open a week after the Cup is awarded. The draft will be held in between. Training camps for the 2020-21 season will open in mid-November, and Dec. 1 is the target date for the start of the regular season.
How the playoffs work: The first phase is the so-called Stanley Cup Qualifiers. There are two parts to this. One is the "qualifying round." Here, teams seeded 5th to 12th in their conferences are matched up in best-of-five series to decide who advances to the standard 16-team playoff tournament. The Western matchups are (5) Edmonton vs. (12) Chicago, (6) Nashville vs. (11) Arizona, (7) Vancouver vs. (10) Minnesota, and (8) Calgary vs. (9) Winnipeg. The Eastern matchups are (5) Pittsburgh vs. (12) Montreal, (6) Carolina vs. (11) New York Rangers, (7) New York Islanders vs. (10) Florida, and (8) Toronto vs. (9) Columbus. The other part of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers is a round robin for the top four teams in each conference. That's St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Dallas in the West, and Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia in the East. So that's three games for each team. They all advance, with their round-robin records determining how they're seeded for the 16-team tournament (1 through 4). The conference finals and the Stanley Cup final will all be held in Edmonton.
The schedule: It's pretty wild at the start. Games for the Stanley Cup Qualifiers phase are staggered so that the ones in Toronto start at noon, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET, and the ones in Edmonton start at 2:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. ET. To make sure the games don't overlap too much, the NHL said it may fluctuate the Edmonton times by up to 30 minutes. So, for better or worse, you'll have the opportunity to watch upwards of 13 consecutive hours of hockey a day. Read more about the NHL's return-to-play deal here.
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The Washington NFL team is getting a new name
Ten days ago, facing renewed pressure (including from a major sponsor) to stop using a name that many find offensive to Indigenous people, the franchise said it would "undergo a thorough review of the team's name." Today, Washington announced in a press release that it "will be retiring the Redskins name and logo upon completion of this review."
Team owner Dan Snyder and head coach Ron Rivera are "working closely to develop a new name and design approach," according to the release. But it didn't say how long this might take. Reportedly, the team is still working to secure trademarks. So, for now, the controversial name remains in place. NFL training camps are set to open in about two weeks.
Washington's announcement could turn up the heat on other sports teams with Indigenous names. The Cleveland Indians and the Edmonton Eskimos both said over the last 10 days that they're reconsidering their names. The Chicago Blackhawks and the Atlanta Braves have both indicated they'll keep theirs. Read more about Washington's decision to (eventually) drop its name here.
The Blue Jays will honour the late Tony Fernandez this season. They'll wear a patch on their jerseys with Fernandez's No. 1 on it. The Jays' all-time leader in games played and hits, and a member of the 1993 World Series championship team, Fernandez died in February at the age of 57 after battling kidney problems. Read more about the Jays' tribute to him here.
After two postponements, Toronto FC finally played its opener at the MLS is Back Tournament. Originally, Toronto was supposed to face D.C. United last Friday night. But the match was moved to Sunday morning after TFC's arrival at Disney World was delayed because someone in its travelling party showed COVID-19 symptoms, meaning more testing had to be done. Then the match was called off minutes before kickoff Sunday because of a positive test for a D.C. player and an inconclusive result for a TFC player. They finally played it this morning, and it ended in a 2-2 draw. Toronto's next match, vs. the Montreal Impact, was pushed back from Wednesday to Thursday night. Read more about today's draw vs. D.C. and watch highlights here.
Manchester City got its Champions League ban overturned. The English powerhouse was suspended from soccer's most prestigious and lucrative club competition for two years back in February for violating UEFA's so-called Financial Fair Play regulations. These are designed, in part, to keep deep-pocketed owners (Man City's is a member of Abu Dhabi's royal family) from spending wildly on player salaries to buy themselves a championship. A team's payroll has to be in line with the revenue it actually brings in. One of the allegations was that Man City overstated its sponsorship deals, some of which were linked to state-backed companies in Abu Dhabi. But the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld Man City's appeal today, clearing it to play in the Champions League next season, which is when the ban would have started (Man City is still alive in this year's competition, which resumes in August). The court did, however, fine the team 10 million euro ($11.3 million US) for not co-operating with investigators. Read more about the case and today's decision here.
ESPN suspended its top NBA reporter. Adrian Wojnarowski, who's known as the top news-breaker in the sport, was reportedly banned for two weeks without pay for emailing "F--- you" (he wrote the actual word) to Josh Hawley, a U.S. Senator from Missouri. This was in response to Hawley's writing an open letter to NBA commissioner Adam Silver in which he criticized the league for allowing players to put anti-racism and other social-justice messages on their jerseys, but not ones supporting law enforcement or the protests in Hong Kong against the ruling Chinese government (the NBA has lucrative business ties to China). In what will be his last tweet for a couple of weeks, Woj apologized for his email and called it "disrespectful." Several players, including LeBron James and Canadian Jamal Murray, expressed their support for the reporter by tweeting "#FreeWoj".
And in case you missed it...
Moh Ahmed broke the Canadian record in the 5,000 metres again. The 29-year-old from St. Catharines, Ont., won a race in Portland, Oregon on Friday night in 12 minutes 47.20 seconds. That time lowered the national record he set last summer by about six seconds and also made him the 10th-fastest 5,000m runner of all time. Everyone else in the top 15 represented either Ethiopia or Kenya. Ahmed was born in Somalia and moved to Canada when he was 11. Last fall, he became the first Canadian to win a medal in the 5,000 at the world championships when he took bronze in Doha. He barely missed the Olympic podium in 2016, finishing fourth. Read more about Ahmed's latest record-breaking run here.
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