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Why the NHL still hasn’t returned — and what might happen when it does

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

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

The NHL has a lot to figure out

In a normal year, the NHL and NBA seasons would be in full swing right now. The absence of both is throwing off our natural rhythms as sports fans.

Help is on the way, though. NBA training camps opened this week, and the league announced its Dec. 22 season openers (a Warriors-Nets, Clippers-Lakers doubleheader) along with the customary five-game slate on Christmas Day. More dates went on the calendar today as the league revealed its schedule for the first half of the season. The Raptors open Dec. 23 vs. New Orleans at their temporary home in Tampa.

All good things. But they’re putting pressure on the NHL, which is not going to make the Jan. 1 start date it was shooting for. Everyone understands that planning a sports season during a pandemic is an unprecedented challenge. But when the league you normally run parallel with is ramping up for its season and you still haven’t figured out when (or even for sure if) yours will start, well, it’s starting to make people nervous.

So, what’s the holdup? When will we see NHL hockey? What might the season look like? Here’s the latest:

The main holdup is money.

Shocking, I know, from a league that’s lost a full season and two halves of a season to lockouts during Gary Bettman’s reign as commissioner. And frustrating for fans who are tired of seeing billionaires and millionaires fight over mountains of money. But let’s just try and understand where both sides are coming from.

Quick background: As part of their deal to return to the ice last summer, the NHL asked the players to give back some of the money they’re due in their contracts to help defray the revenue losses suffered by playing a shortened season(s) without fans in arenas. The reasoning behind this is that, basically, the players and team owners have agreed to split the money the NHL makes 50/50. So, if that balance is to be maintained, it’s no longer possible for the owners to pay the players what they promised them at a time when the league’s financial outlook was much better.

Understanding this, the players agreed to defer 10 per cent of their salaries for the upcoming season and allow 20 per cent to be held in escrow until the revenue is counted at the end of the season and the 50/50 line can be drawn. Given how grave things look at the moment, you have to assume owners will end up keeping that escrow money. So that’s a pretty big hit for the players if you compare it to 2018-19, when about 13 per cent of their pay went into escrow and they wound up getting more than 3 per cent back at the end of the year.

That’s why players were not happy a few weeks ago when the league came back and asked, reportedly, for the 10 per cent salary deferral to be bumped up to 26 per cent, along with the 20 per cent escrow. This is the owners’ way of accounting for the fact that the NHL’s financial outlook is now worse than it was in the summer, when it still seemed possible that a full season (or close to it) could be played — maybe even with fans in some buildings.

The players accused the league of reneging on the deal struck over the summer, and in a sense they have a point. But it depends on what you think “the deal” is.

The league/owners argue that the deal is the 50/50 revenue split and it will be preserved one way or another. Bettman framed it this week as a pay me now or pay me later situation: either players bite the bullet this season with the big salary deferral, or give the money back gradually in the coming years as the owners keep a bigger slice of the escrow and/or the salary cap falls.

There are some hard feelings right now, but the general mood still seems to be that a deal will be struck in time to have a season.

If/when a deal is reached, the season will be a strange one.

Multiple reports today said the NHL is now aiming for a 52- or 56-game season starting in mid-January. Training camps would open early in the new year, and the Stanley Cup awarded by early July.

Like the NBA’s, the season would likely be played in teams’ home arenas — so no bubble like we saw in the playoffs. Given the current cross-border travel restrictions, the NHL is reportedly considering a temporary realignment that puts the seven Canadian-based teams in their own division. But the money stuff probably needs to get settled before any of this can be worked out between the league and the players’ association.

Meanwhile, the worsening spread of the coronavirus (and tougher government restrictions aimed at combating it) are making players, owners and fans increasingly nervous that it will be very difficult to pull off a season. That angst was reflected in today’s report by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman that four teams — Anaheim, Boston, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh — are looking into the possibility of playing their home games outdoors. Sounds desperate. But, hey, desperate times.


The primary holdup in setting a new NHL season start date is money. Go figure. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/file)

Quickly…

Not everyone is sold on the Calgary curling bubble. It does seem a bit odd, the decision by Curling Canada this week to try and hold the 2021 Scotties, Brier and men’s world championship in a place where the provincial government is planning field hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients and all indoor gatherings are banned. So why Calgary? In short, because city council and the Alberta government support hosting those events. But, behind the scenes, many curlers are wondering whether it’s worth it. Read more about the concerns in this story by CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux.

Kadeisha Buchanan was named the Canadian women’s soccer player of the year. Like Alphonso Davies, who won the men’s share of Canada Soccer’s Canadian Players of the Year Award yesterday, Buchanan helped her club team capture a Champions League title. The 25-year-old defender played every minute of Lyon’s victory in the final and has now won the Women’s Champions League every year since joining the French club in 2017. Read more about Buchanan’s big year here.

Buchanan isn’t the only Canadian athlete who’s found a home in France. Several members of Canada’s women’s basketball team have joined club teams there and returned home raving about the experience: talented players, good coaches, guaranteed contracts and, of course, French culture. Today, five Canadians play in France’s top women’s league and another nine are spread across the other two. Read more about what the country is doing for them, and what they’re doing for the country, here.

Parkour is going through a civil war of sorts. Next week, the International Olympic Committee is expected to finalize the list of sports for the 2024 Summer Games in Paris. Parkour — an edgy type of running competition where athletes trick off different obstacles in an urban setting — seems perfect. It was developed in Paris in the 1990s and has the kind of young-person appeal the Olympics are desperate for. But an organizing group called Parkour Earth is asking the IOC not to add their sport because it believes the governing body of gymnastics is attempting a “hostile takeover” of it. FIG, as it’s known, is planning to stage the first parkour world championships in March in Japan, and Parkour Earth accuses the governing body of “encroachment and misappropriation of our sport.” Read more about the battle over parkour’s future here and see what the sport looks like here.

This weekend on CBC Sports

Here’s what you can live stream and/or watch on TV:

Alpine skiing: This should have been the week Lake Louise hosted the opening women’s downhill and super-G races of the World Cup season. But, due to the pandemic, all of alpine’s North American stops were moved to Europe and the schedule condensed. On Saturday, there’s a men’s giant slalom in Italy starting at 4:30 a.m. ET, and a women’s super-G at St. Moritz at 5:30 a.m. ET. Another women’s super-G goes Sunday at the same time. Watch the women’s races here and the men’s here. And if you’re pining for Lake Louise, this week’s edition of Olympic Games Replay revisits some of the great racing moments at the Alberta venue. Watch it Saturday at noon ET here or on the CBC TV network.

Freestyle skiing: Canadian star Mikael Kingsbury fractured two vertebrae in training and is likely out until late January. So he’ll miss the moguls World Cup season opener in Finland, which you can stream live Saturday at 9 a.m. ET here.

Luge: The World Cup season continues in Germany on Saturday with a doubles race at 3:25 a.m. ET and a women’s at 6:15 a.m. ET. On Sunday there’s a men’s race at 3:30 a.m. ET and a team relay at 7:15 a.m. ET. Stream them all live here.

Road to the Olympic Games: The show launches its winter season with the men’s giant slalom in Italy, the women’s super-G at St. Moritz and the moguls season opener in Finland. Watch Saturday from 3-6 p.m. ET on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app or the CBC TV network.

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McConnell hasn’t ruled out Democrats’ call for Trump impeachment trial witnesses

U.S. senators sparred over the shape of an impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on Monday, while Republican leader Mitch McConnell said he has not ruled out hearing from witnesses — as Democrats have demanded.

McConnell, speaking on Fox News, stopped short of agreeing to a Democratic request for the Senate to agree ahead of time to take testimony during the trial expected to begin in early 2020. He cited the 1999 impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, which ended in acquittal, as a model.

“We haven’t ruled out witnesses,” McConnell said in an interview with Fox & Friends. “We’ve said, ‘Let’s handle this case just like we did with President Clinton.’ Fair is fair.”

In that 1999 trial, he said, senators went through opening arguments, had a written question period and then decided what witnesses to call. There was limited testimony by video.

Allowing witness testimony, particularly from current and former administration officials, was likely to prolong the trial and could bring up new evidence damaging to Trump who was impeached by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives last week.

Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, said the trial must include witnesses. He urged his Senate colleagues to call for the release of relevant Trump administration documents.

“It’s hard to imagine a trial not having documents and witnesses. If it doesn’t have documents and witnesses, it’s going to seem, to most of the American people, that it is a sham trial, a show trial,” Schumer said at a news conference in New York.


A protester holds a sign in support of Trump’s impeachment during a rally near McConnell’s home in Louisville, Ky. (Bryan Woolston/Reuters)

The House voted along party lines to impeach Trump on two charges over his pressuring Ukraine to announce an investigation of former vice-president Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Biden is a potential Democratic candidate to run against Trump in the November 2020 election. Hunter Biden was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

Trump was charged with abuse of power and obstructing Congress’ investigation. He has said he did nothing wrong. There is little chance Trump will be convicted and removed from office by the Republican-controlled Senate.

Trump on Monday accused Democrats of delaying tactics and urged for a quick conclusion to the impeachment process.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not yet transmitted the articles of impeachment to the Senate, a bid to pressure Senate Republicans to reach an accord with Schumer on trial rules. McConnell said the Senate could not take any action until it receives the articles.

“What right does Crazy Nancy have to hold up this Senate trial. None! She has a bad case and would rather not have a negative decision. This Witch Hunt must end NOW with a trial in the Senate, or let her default & lose. No more time should be wasted on this Impeachment Scam!” Trump said on Twitter.

Schumer has requested to have four witnesses subpoenaed for the trial.

The White House blocked all four, including acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton, from testifying during impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives in December.

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Health Canada says it hasn’t tested health effects of cannabis vaping but will release new products anyway

This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of eclectic and under-the-radar health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.


The federal government will allow the sale of cannabis vaping products starting next week despite not having tested the health effects of inhaling substances emitted from such devices. At least one cannabis company has preemptively pulled its product over health and safety concerns, CBC News has learned.

Cannabis vapes are among a series of new products — including edibles, extracts and topicals such as lotions — that can be legally sold in Canada as of Tuesday. 

Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec have outright banned the sale of cannabis vapes while Nova Scotia will not allow flavoured versions

Health Canada says that while it has tested the ingredients in cannabis vaping liquids, tests on the vapour emitted when those compounds are heated have not yet been done. 

“No legal products are on the market as of today,” Eric Morisette, a spokesperson for the health agency said in an emailed statement Thursday. “So, there has been no analysis done.”

Products released in midst of vaping illness outbreak

The release of the products comes amid an outbreak of vaping-associated lung illnesses across North America involving cannabis vapes and nicotine e-cigarettes

As of Dec. 10, 2,409 cases, including 52 deaths, have been reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in all 50 states this year. 

“In the middle of an epidemic in the United States, they still somehow come to the conclusion that there’s nothing to worry about here and we can go ahead and sell cannabis vaping products,” said Dr. Matthew Stanbrook, a respirologist at Toronto Western Hospital and deputy editor of the Canadian Medical Association Journal. 

“It just really speaks to a complete lack of attention to providing any safeguards here.”


Health Canada says that while it has tested the ingredients in cannabis vaping liquids, tests on the vapour emitted when those compounds are heated have not yet been done. (The Associated Press)

There have been 14 cases of vaping-associated lung illness reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada as of Tuesday. Three occurred in British Columbia, two in New Brunswick, four in Ontario, and five in Quebec.

“It’s sort of like the worst time that you could release these products in Canada,” said Dr. Mangala Narasimhan, the regional director of critical care medicine at Northwell Health in New York City, who has treated close to 40 cases of the illness. 

“It’s crazy to me that they’re allowing this to continue and that they’re actually going to introduce it in Canada, knowing everything that we know.”

The majority of the cases of vaping illness are linked to illicit cannabis vapes. The CDC has not singled out any one brand but recommends that people not use the devices at all.

“If the leading authority in the world is making that statement, then who am I or others to challenge them?” said David Hammond, a professor of public health at the University of Waterloo who researches vaping.

“And I would suggest that the actions in Quebec, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia are more in line with that. They are still trying to figure out what is killing people and putting people in hospital.”


Read CBC’s special coverage on vaping:

Cannabis company holding back on releasing vapes 

HEXO, a Canadian cannabis company that made headlines after it announced in October it would sell cannabis for $ 4.49 a gram, says it will not release cannabis vapes next week as planned because of concerns over the safety of the products. 

“We understand that diluting agents found in some cannabis extracts are under increased scrutiny for having potential negative health impacts,” Isabelle Robillard, HEXO’s vice-president of communications, said in a statement. 

“As such, to produce quality vapes, and out of an abundance of caution, HEXO will not develop products that use these.”


A Hexo Corp. employee examines cannabis plants in one of the company’s greenhouses in Masson Angers, Que. The company said it’s holding off releasing its cannabis vapes because of safety concerns. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Diluting agents include propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol and vegetable glycerin – synthetic fluids that are found in the majority of cannabis vape oils and even nicotine e-cigarette liquids currently on both the legal and illicit market.

Health Canada says the liquids are considered safe in many consumer products such as cosmetics and sweeteners but that “the long-term safety of inhaling the substances in vaping products is unknown and continues to be assessed.”

Robillard said HEXO is working with a research organization to further study the safety of the products and the occurrence of adverse events with cannabis vapes. 

What’s allowed in cannabis vapes?

Under federal regulations, cannabis vapes cannot contain anything that may cause injury to the health of the user or anything other than “carrier substances, flavouring agents, and substances that are necessary to maintain the quality or stability of the product.”

Similar to the rules for nicotine e-cigarettes, banned ingredients for cannabis vape oils include added vitamins or minerals, nicotine or alcohol, caffeine and added sugars, sweeteners or colours. 

That includes vitamin E acetate, which has been identified as a “chemical of concern” by the CDC in the vaping-related illness outbreak across North America but has not officially been confirmed as the culprit.  

Health Canada will allow cannabis vaping products to contain up to 1,000 mg of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, per package (a gram of dry cannabis has about 100 mg of THC).

It will also allow flavours, the use of which has been discouraged by the Canadian Paediatric Society in nicotine-based vaping products because of a fear that they will make the products more attractive to young users. 

“There’s no question that flavours play an important role in the appeal of vaping products to youth,” said Hammond. 

“If you start adding flavours to THC vape oils or other cannabis products, it’s probably going to increase their appeal to non-users and young people. That is just common sense.”


David Hammond says there’s ‘no question’ flavours play an important role in the appeal of vaping products to youth. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

Making cannabis products more appealing to youth would contradict one of the federal government’s main stated reasons for cannabis legalization: to deter use among young people.

Flavouring chemicals such as diacetyl (found in buttery flavours) are also associated with conditions such as “popcorn lung,” and pulegone (found in menthol) can have toxic effects when vaped at high levels. 

Flavouring compound raises concern 

One way to flavour cannabis vaping oils is to use a class of organic compounds found naturally in cannabis called terpenes.

Terpenes, which Canadian cannabis companies such as Canopy Growth, Aphria, Aurora and Organigram have confirmed to CBC News they are using in their vaping extracts, are oils that gives cannabis strains their distinct smell and taste. 

But when cannabis is distilled into a vaping extract, the terpenes are removed, leaving an oil that is essentially odourless. 

When those terpenes are added back into cannabis vaping liquids as flavouring, they have the potential to produce toxic emissions when vaporized, including known carcinogens such as benzene, according to a new lab study published in the journal ACS Omega.

“The big take-home message as far as the terpenes go is that people shouldn’t add a large percentage of them to the formulations,” said Dr. Robert Strongin, lead author and professor of organic chemistry at Portland State University in Oregon.

“We just don’t know the full toxic toxicity.”


Health Canada says ‘relatively little is known about the pharmacological actions’ of terpenes, but it has not restricted the use of the organic compounds as a flavouring agent in the cannabis products that go on sale next week. (Steve Helber/Associated Press)

HEXO’s spokesperson Robillard says the company is also looking at the chemical stability of terpenes when they are converted into vapour.

“This will allow us to see if our compounds are degraded into potentially toxic products when atomized,” she said. 

“Once we are confident in the safety of our vapes and formulations, we will launch our products and conduct additional post-marketing studies.” 

Uncertainty over health effects

Health Canada says on its website that “relatively little is known about the pharmacological actions” of terpenes, but it has not restricted their use in the cannabis products that go on sale next week. 

The agency said in a statement to CBC News that it has received 48 applications from licenced cannabis producers to sell cannabis vapes in addition to 746 applications for cartridge-based vaping systems. 

It’s unclear how many will be available on the market, because that number includes instances where the same product is sold by two separate licence holders, as well as products that are essentially the same but contain different concentrations of THC. 

“The only thing we can say right now with certainty is that we really just don’t have a good understanding about what the health effects are of these products,” said Dr. Constance Mackenzie, a respirologist and toxicologist at St. Joseph’s Health Care in London, Ont. 

“It took decades to understand what the risks of smoking cigarettes were on the lungs. We probably shouldn’t be making the same mistakes again.”


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Shawn Mendes on Why He Hasn’t Shared Details About His Love Life: ‘It’s Not Just Me in the Relationship’

Shawn Mendes on Why He Hasn’t Shared Details About His Love Life: ‘It’s Not Just Me in the Relationship’ | Entertainment Tonight

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No, AMD Hasn’t Quit Making Reference 5700 and 5700 XT GPUs

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There’s an odd rumor going around that AMD has killed off its reference RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT GPU designs, or that it intends to do so once AIB’s custom cards are in-market. It started with French site Cowcatland, which ran the following headline:

CowCotLand

The translation of that headline states that AMD’s reference GPUs for the 5700 and 5700 XTSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce have both reached EOL status only five weeks post-launch. It’s not true. According to AMD, the goal and point here are not to compete with AIB partners. “We expect there will continue to be strong supply of Radeon RX 5700 series graphics cards in the market, with multiple designs starting to arrive from our AIB partners,” AMD said. “As is standard practice, once the inventory of the AMD reference cards has been sold, AMD will continue to support new partner designs with Radeon RX 5700 series reference design kit.”

AMD provides reference designs for AIBs that want to speed cards to market without designing their own reference coolers or graphics boards. Early boards are typically based on these reference products. The delay between AIB shipments and reference card availability can be relatively short or can lag for some weeks. Some fans are unhappy that it’s been five weeks at this point without AIB designs, though we’ve seen this happen with Nvidia launches as well in the past. AMD isn’t killing off its reference cards, and they’ll still be manufactured going forward.

The enthusiast community isn’t particularly happy with the delay in blower cards or the fact that these cards are blowers, or the fact that the 5700 and 5700 XT remain noisier than equivalent Nvidia GPUs. The hope, therefore, is that dual or triaxial fan coolers will provide better acoustics than AMD’s default reference designs. This is, generally speaking, a pretty good bet.

Having tested the 5700, 5700 XT, Vega 64, Radeon VII, and an associated mixture of 2060, 2070, 2080, and 2080 Ti parts (both made by Nvidia and not), I’d say that honestly, the battle over a blower versus an open-air cooler can be a little inflated. Thermally, there’s an obvious difference between the two solutions (blowers exhaust hot air, while open-air coolers just move it around inside the chassis). What that difference means for your system depends a lot on what your system preconditions are. Open-air coolers can offer higher-performance in roomy cases with good airflow, while blowers provide more consistent results. The relative volume of the two solutions depends on their cooler design. A blower can be louder than an open-air cooler or vice-versa. The 5700 XT (a blower) is far quieter than Vega 64 (another blower). Vega 64 and the Radeon VII (an open-air design) have very similar noise profiles.

One interesting thing about reviews of Navi, however, is the degree to which the noise measurements from different review sites diverge. Anandtech, for example, reports that the 5700 XT is a 54dB(A) solution compared with 61dB for the Radeon Vega 64.

Image by Anandtech

This 54/61dB(A) solution seems to conform more closely to my own subjective experience of using the Radeon Vega 64, Radeon VII, 5700 XT, and associated Nvidia GPUs.SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce The reason why I say this is because, to my own ear, the 5700 XT is vastly better than either the Radeon 64 or Radeon VII, both of which recall the Bad Old Days of loud GPUs like the R9 290X.

Other reviews, however, make very different claims:

Image by Guru3D

Guru3D claims that the Vega 64 and Radeon 5700 XT are identical in terms of db(A) and that the Radeon VII is significantly louder. Since distance from target obviously impacts noise measurements, I’m not concerned with the fact that Anandtech and Guru3D measure different levels of sound. What’s far more interesting is that one article shows Vega 64 and 5700 XT as comparable, while the other very much does not.

Image by TechPowerUp

TechPowerUp has a third distribution, with the 5700 XT and 5700 scoring identically and the Radeon VII below the Vega 64. Three well-regarded websites for tech reviews, three distinct results. Based on my own subjective experience, the one that “looks” the most correct is Anandtech’s — but noise measurements are going to be impacted by a number of factors, including relative levels of background noise, case-open testing versus case-closed, the distance from the target, and the equipment used to perform the test. It’s also possible that individual GPU variation is at work here as well.

In my own opinion, the 5700 and 5700 XT are firmly on the “Quiet enough” side of the “Is this GPU quiet enough to use or not?” It is not as quiet as the RTX 2060 or 2070 that we tested for the same review. It is considerably quieter than the Radeon VII or Vega 64. I have been known to wear earplugs when testing both of those cards in case-open configuration to avoid hearing damage, though the fact that I already have fan-related hearing damage in my left ear has also made me paranoid of harming it further. I’ve used a Vega 64 in my own system and disliked how noisy it was for gaming without headphones. The Radeon 5700 XT doesn’t cause the same issue.

Radeon AIB cards have often been quieter than the reference designs and so it’s likely this will continue to be the case. Whether these cards will offer reasonable values for the money is something we’ll check when they hit the market in larger quantities. Reference card designs will continue to exist alongside these newer cards as well.

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