Tag Archives: Legend

Why a Canadian legend walked away on the verge of her Olympic dream

Missing the certainty of yesterday but emboldened by the potential of tomorrow, Krystina Alogbo is embracing a new challenge.

At her teammate’s house in Verona, Italy for the sake of better internet — a site known most famously as the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet — Alogbo is relaxed and seated with a Monet-like setting behind her, a sailboat calmly floating along the river. Her playing career heading off into the sunset, with many dreams accomplished and injuries having taken their toll, a normal life and financial security in the afterlife of an athlete is top of mind.

Now acting as a player-coach for CSS Verona in the twilight of her playing days, Alogbo’s glittery 16-year international career at water polo’s highest level ends without an Olympic appearance. After guiding the Canadian women’s national team to a spot in the Tokyo Olympics as captain in 2019, health and COVID-19 emerged victorious as the postponement due to the global pandemic saw Alogbo suddenly announce her retirement in August, a month after she was supposed to achieve that dream.

“It wasn’t a relief because it was still a shock,” Alogbo said after revealing she spent months debating the decision. “It is 15 years of my life, it took a couple months to even come to that decision and actually realizing it was another thing because I was here [in Verona], the relief — it didn’t happen for a while. I can’t even tell you if I’m okay yet because I’ve talked to many ex-teammates of mine and it took a lot of time for them to get back on the saddle and getting into their new life and careers so I don’t think it’s that easy. No matter what way you go, there’s always that part of you that is missing.”

How does one of the best players in the game move on from missing out on her biggest goal despite accomplishments that can fill a room? Alogbo staked her claim as one of the future faces of women’s water polo when she won MVP at the 2003 FINA world junior championships where Canada won gold, won MVP of the senior world championships in 2009 as Canada were forced to settle for silver, was named Water Polo Player of the Year by Swimming World Magazine in 2011 and steadily pushed the nation to greater heights over the past decade. With all the accolades she’s received over the years, there will always be one dream she cherished that will remain unfulfilled.

It seems a cruel and abrupt end to an illustrious international career, but in the life of an athlete, Father Time is a constant whose reality has only been accelerated by a global pandemic.

Alogbo was named player of the year by Swimming World Magazine in 2011. (Reuters)


In Italy they call her Il Coccodrillo, which translates to the crocodile: ferocious, powerful, and always ready to pounce. She has only been there the past couple of years, but the traits with which she began the pursuit of a water polo career are the ones that hold true to this day.

“All my kids have been very athletic,” Simone, Alogbo’s mother, said about her three sons and two daughters who she raised as a single mother in Montreal working as a credit manager. “The boys were really good and they played soccer – she’s also very good at soccer, by the way. If they ever had to pick between her and any boy, they would pick her, they never feared picking her and they were older than her. To them, she was one of the boys.”

Alogbo developed a love for water polo right from when she began playing at the age of eight, providing early signs of the aggressive, energetic, and vocal leader she would become. Always looking to make an impression, she quickly began training at CAMO — a water polo club for Canada’s best in Montreal. The senior national team used to train there as well, and so she soaked in all she could as they prepped to qualify for the first-ever women’s water polo Olympic event in 2000.

Signing up for every event possible as a goal judge or ball girl to be as close as possible to the action and to stars such as Sandra Lize and Cora Campbell, Alogbo made a point of being the first one there and the last one to leave. She grabbed every opportunity to absorb lessons from the players, but it was the teachings of Daniel Berthelette that guided her from passion and raw talent to the complete player.

Krystina Alogbo, middle left, appears with her childhood swim team, made up of siblings and cousins. (Courtesy Alogbo family)

‘Born to play this game’

Regarded as one of Canada’s great coaches in the sport, Berthelette was a former head coach of the Canadian women’s team and led them to qualification in 2000, won gold at the ’99 Pan Am Games, and silver at the ’91 world championships, not to mention several national championships with CAMO. He had a gut feeling about Alogbo from the first time he saw her and so when things weren’t easy, he made sure to fight for her.

“When she was young, I told her mom, ‘Your daughter was born to play this game,'” Berthelette said.

In 2001 and 2002, Alogbo had a bit of a struggle connecting with some of the coaches on the junior national team. They didn’t take kindly to her strong personality, but Berthelette fought to convince them that it was all part of what made her tick and would also help the Canadian team find a new level.

“We had to sell that that personality she had could put a gold medal around the neck of the coach,” Berthelette said. “You saw right away that her game sense was there at a very, very young age. These are the type of athletes when you coach as long as I did, they’re born once every 10 years.”

These are the type of athletes when you coach as long as I did, they’re born once every 10 years.– Daniel Berthelette

Alogbo was demanding of herself from a young age and so did the same of everyone around her. Perhaps that wasn’t for everyone, and Patrick Oaten, a former head coach of Canada, was the man who needed some convincing. Fortunately, Berthelette’s words proving prophetic would be all the convincing he’d need.

Alogbo was a girl possessed at the junior world championships in Calgary in 2003, scoring at will and playing her best when it mattered most. After a strong team performance against Spain in the semifinals, Alogbo virtually single-handedly kept Canada in the hunt for gold against the U.S., scoring all three Canadian goals to stay level in regulation. With nothing left to separate the two sides, it was a shootout that would be the difference, where Alogbo converted the winning shot. MVP was a foregone conclusion, but Alogbo’s lasting memory from the tournament is what everyone around her, including the fans, made her feel.

“Right then, the country made us feel like we were already at the Olympic Games,” Alogbo said. “We were at a high level where it didn’t feel like it was just a junior worlds. When you look back as a 35-year-old you say, okay, junior worlds and senior worlds are completely different, but at that moment, the whole community, all of Canada did not make us feel like it was just a junior worlds …

“Winning against the Americans and everyone jumping in [the pool]. All the staff, the subs, the alternates, the three coaches including my mentor, Dan, they were all in the water. I think that was the best feeling knowing exactly what it meant. It wasn’t one person that won, it was all these people in the water that made this moment happen.”

Daniel Berthelette, then coach of the team, joins the celebration in the pool after the team defeated the U.S. to win gold at the 1999 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)


That was the perfect beginning and after all the personal accolades and team accomplishments along the way, Alogbo’s international career looked set for the perfect ending as well. After bitter disappointments in failing to qualify for the Olympics in 2008, 2012 and 2016, Tokyo was set to be the last stop after Canada claimed their spot with a silver medal at the 2019 Pan Am Games.

The last time Canada’s women qualified for the showcase event was 2004, but her passion for the Olympics stemmed from hours upon hours sitting and watching everything from the opening ceremony to the different competitions to the closing ceremony with her mother. Simone can remember her daughter had “Olympian” as her dream accomplishment in her high school yearbook. It’s all she’s ever wanted within the prism of her athletic career.

“The word ‘Olympic’ to me started way before even knowing what sport I chose,” Alogbo said. “I was a kid and my mom is like the biggest fan of the Olympic Games. Her favourite is the opening ceremonies, from the get-go she’s all about it. We were mainly watching the Winter Olympics at that time because I know figure skating was a big one that my mom loves to watch.

“We were always glued to the TV when the Olympics were on and also the Summer Games, I remember all the names like Donovan (Bailey). My mom made us passionate about those games.”

The little kid inside her yearned for the moment, but the world and Alogbo’s body said no. In February last year, Alogbo was already confronted with the consequences of the pandemic as Italy was one of the countries hardest hit. She had to fly out to Montreal for training camp with the national team – after initial plans to train in Hungary were scrapped – not knowing what to expect and left behind everything, including her beloved 11-year-old Yorkshire chihuahua.

Emma Wright is one of the young stars of Canada’s team who says she is grateful for her opportunity to learn from Alogbo. (Associated Press)

Something wasn’t quite right

She got home before North America felt its first COVID-19 reverberations, and the first ripple toward retirement soon followed. With the chance to be back home and spend time with family, Alogbo made dinner plans with Berthelette. Her mentor for more than two decades, he could tell something wasn’t quite right and this was going to be more than a belated celebration of her birthday.

After a long day of helping her mother, Alogbo and Berthelette decided to unwind the best way they knew how. They went to the Boston Pizza in Anjou, Que., around 8 p.m. at night, had a round of beers, uncorked a bottle of wine, checked in on each other’s health, both mental and physical, reminisced about old results accomplished together, and what the future may bring. And that’s when Alogbo let out a bombshell: On the verge of making her Olympic debut after 15 years representing the nation at the highest level, three herniated discs in her neck had her contemplating retirement.

“Knowing that I hurt myself badly with my neck and having a hard time to grasp all that, and having a hard time seeing my lasting until the end of July,” Alogbo said about what led to the discussion. “That point was a very crucial moment for my family, lots of things happened and he was there for me, he’s always been like a father to me.”

Berthelette detailed the decisions he made over the course of his life and true to his straight-shooting style, asked honestly about how seriously Alogbo had thought about life beyond her playing career. She admitted she hadn’t given it too much thought but knew that having a “normal life” was a desire, being able to walk up the stairs or just go to sleep at night without her hands going numb. Berthelette’s advice was to weigh the pros and cons of everything and write it down.

Knowing that I hurt myself badly with my neck … and having a hard time seeing my lasting until the end of July.– Krystina Alogbo on her decision

“Once you finish writing everything down, your mind is going to be clear because when you just think, think, think, it’s not the same,” Berthelette said. “It’s easier for you as a human being. Measure everything because one day when you wake up you’ll regret over things you didn’t think of before.”

Their conversation lasted into the early morning, and Alogbo came away thinking she had what it took to keep battling for another seven months. She spoke with national team doctors at the camp, spoke with her CSS Verona’s doctors when she came back, got MRIs done and received three cortisone shots to her neck. There was a shoulder problem as well, but the hope was that addressing the neck would help all around, but the other challenge was that returning to Verona where a lockdown was in place meant that she was rehabbing on her own. There was guidance from trainers on what she needed to do and her roommate would try to help out, but the makeshift rehab certainly made recovery more difficult.

Then in March, the Canadian Olympic Committee announced it would not send athletes to Tokyo if the Olympics weren’t postponed by at least a year. Her dream was quickly unravelling but Alogbo – having seen what some of her teammates in Verona were forced to contend with – understood what was happening around her rightly took precedent.

“The fact that Canada was the first of all nations to do that, I think showed a lot of strength and unity for the world crisis,” Alogbo said. “I was proud, because usually Canada just follows into big movements like that. It’s a weird thing to say, I was proud for that movement. I had friends here [Italy], they were going through a lot of drastic things and grandparents, people dying and just their country being so demoralized and locked down and all that. Just seeing the struggles in the world, it was bigger than just us and our own big dreams.”

The eventual postponement of the Olympics by a year crystallized what Alogbo needed to do. In August, she went to the ranch in Montreal where the national team trains with her mind made up and some members of the team already aware of what was coming. After a morning practice, the team was together for a meeting discussing philosophies of the team when Alogbo let them know they would be without their longest-serving member and would need a new captain for the Olympics.

Alogbo is now a player/coach with CSS Verona in Italy. (Getty Images)

“Emotion, tears, hugs – from her teammates and her,” head coach David Paradelo said about the team’s reaction. “I shared, I shed a tear, too. She’s not only been a part of the program, she’s built the program. She’s been a builder in this adventure and it’s sad when you see someone go.”

Paradelo has seen the rise of Alogbo firsthand. He was one of those boys who competed with and against her when he was around eight years old and she was a year younger. They got to know each other better around the age of 12, played together at CAMO until about the ages of 14 (competition was co-ed until then) and had the privilege of coaching her while also being able to lean on her leadership and captaincy. With that tightly knit relationship, it wasn’t a total surprise when he found out Alogbo decided her time was up.

“It was a shock in that you always hope it’s not going to happen,” Paradelo said. “You also hope for the best for each and every athlete and at that point in time that was the better option for Krys in terms of her physical and mental health.”


A superstar’s legacy is often defined by leaving the sport in a better place than where it was when they first arrived, and a big part of why Alogbo feels some comfort in making her departure from the international scene is seeing the current crop of talent that’s ready to take Canadian women’s water polo forward. Young stars like Elyse Lemay-Lavoie and Emma Wright have emerged to play key roles in helping the side qualify for the Olympics, and while both have been presented the challenge of filling the void left by Alogbo by playing the centre forward position now, Wright has had to transition from the left side of the pool.

“We have a lot of shooters, a lot of great shooters,” Alogbo said. “But when the tough gets going, you gotta get some people playing in the centre, the hole as we call it. It was a lot of, ‘Listen, you gotta push through it, push through the pain, fight harder,’ and they worked hard. They’re ready for it, I know they sometimes underestimate themselves, but who doesn’t at that age?”

Wright’s first interaction with Alogbo came as a 13-year-old at her first national team tryout in the summer of 2011. Hoping to make the junior Pan American team, the senior team was also in the building preparing for the world championships and their pool times had aligned for a scrimmage. Alogbo guarded Wright at one point, and like any inexperienced athlete, Wright was terrified and consumed by how little she knew compared to the face of the senior team.

WATCH | Alogbo and Canadian team vs Netherlands:

Watch coverage of the 2019 World Aquatic Championships Gwangju, South Korea. 1:06:50

It wasn’t long, though, before the two were on the same side as Wright – a teenage star herself – joined the senior team a couple of years later. At 16, she was the youngest member of the 2013 world championships senior squad and became a fixture thereafter. With the added experience under her belt and now being able to observe and learn from Alogbo on a regular basis, Wright could genuinely appreciate everything Alogbo brought to the table.

“I realized that Krys was just a very, very smart player, she just had a really amazing sense for the game,” Wright said. “Not only was she strong and fast, she had very good game awareness and that was pretty impressive for me to see.”

Wright – naturally left-handed – saw herself as more of a driver and favoured playing out wide, thinking it helped the team that she could change passing patterns and present a different challenge to the goalie with her handedness at that position. But Alogbo saw a different future for her, letting Wright know from the very beginning of their association that a time would come for her to play centre forward. Until her retirement, Alogbo was the only senior team captain Wright knew, and true to the leader Alogbo has been, she was there to help Wright understand the demands of the role.

“Especially during the beginning when I was starting to transition more into playing that role,” Wright said of Alogbo’s guidance. “She was definitely there to correct me and give me pointers here and there. She’s done that for a long time for Elyse. She’s kind of been Elyse’s mentor and been there to help her along the way so when I transitioned to that role she was definitely there for me. I’ve always looked up to her but definitely as a centre – she was the best centre in the world at one point. You obviously want this person to give you as much of that information and experience as they can.”

Alogbo loved the camaraderie of the team. (Reuters)


The early days of the national team practising without Alogbo took some getting used to and, with a lack of competition because of travel restrictions, they can’t yet be sure of where they stack up without her. Knowing there’s no going back, though, the team has steadily continued to adapt and move forward as best they can.

If there is one thing they hope to carry forward from the Alogbo days it’s partying just as hard as they play. Whether it be teammates, coaches, or family, Alogbo has always made a point of making others feel special. When health and safety restrictions are such that a proper celebration can be had for Alogbo and her career, they intend on ensuring it happens.

“She’s big about celebrating,” Paradelo said. “She’s invited the team to her house so many times, she made sure that every chance, every birthday, even if we weren’t together on that given day, we celebrated at some point in time before or after.

“Krystina showed how to appreciate life, how to appreciate the moments you’re spending on the road with your teammates, how to spend the moments that you’re at home and that you’re still able to be with your teammates as family or friends, not just co-workers.”

The time has come for Alogbo to appreciate even more of the lighter side of life, like her new dog Enzo, a Lagotto she picked up in light of the international retirement that made her realize she’d have time to care for two dogs while still getting a feel for coaching. Throw in spending more time with family and hobbies like soccer, volleyball, wind surfing and yoga and it’s a start to acclimatizing to life without Team Canada.

Is Alogbo completely comfortable with the idea yet? She’s getting there.

“Just being with my family, being there for them and also them giving me that approval was huge,” Alogbo said. “My sister saying, ‘You’ll always be our Olympic champion no matter what’ and my mom and her saying to leave it to the younger ones because I have six nieces and nephews made all the difference.”

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Flames legend Jarome Iginla plays role of beleaguered motorist during Boston TV segment

“We’re from Canada, so, it’s not too crazy. We’ve got some winter tires,” said a man interviewed by Boston 25 News on Saturday night. “We’re used to this growing up.”

It was a typical local news piece, reporting on poor visibility and poor road conditions in Massachusetts.

The man’s comments wouldn’t typically seem out of place in such a piece, except in this one instance — when the man on the street just happened to be Calgary Flames legend Jarome Iginla.

“I like the winter, but not necessarily — this might be a little too much,” Iginla told Boston 25 News.

On Twitter, Nicole Oliverio, the weekend evening anchor with the station, said she didn’t immediately recognize Iginla, who played a stint with the Boston Bruins.

“In my defence, it wasn’t my interview!” Oliverio wrote. “I was anchoring though, and didn’t pick up on it right away.”

In the interview, Iginla was turned to for his driving tips for the typical Boston driver in times of inclement weather.

“It’s not great, I tell you, you get some tough stretches,” he said. “But if you don’t go too fast, it’s doable.”

Iginla announced his retirement in 2018 after 20 seasons in the NHL. He scored 525 goals and 570 assists for 1,095 points in his 1,219 games with the Flames, before being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2013.

Iginla also played for the Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings, finishing his career with 1,300 points.

He also won two Olympic gold medals and was named to the NHL All-Star team six times.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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All Blacks rugby squad pays tribute to soccer icon, ‘world legend’ Maradona

New Zealand paid tribute to Diego Maradona when captain Sam Cane laid an All Black jersey, No. 10, on the field before the start of their Tri-Nations test match against Argentina on Saturday.

As the All Blacks lined up to perform the haka, Cane stepped out, walked toward midfield and laid down the jersey — with Maradona’s name and number on it — as Argentine players stood arm-in-arm and watched.

“It was a gesture, a token, of paying our respects to an Argentine legend, a world legend in his field as well,” Cane told The Associated Press after the match in Newcastle, which New Zealand won 38-0.

Maradona died Wednesday of a heart attack at age 60 in a house outside Buenos Aires. The soccer great had been recovering from a brain operation.

WATCH | CPL’s John Molinaro remembers Diego Maradona’s life, legacy:

Legendary soccer player Diego Maradona has died at the age of 60. John Molinaro joins CBC Sports to discuss his legacy on and off the field. 3:44

The idea came from All Blacks halfback TJ Perenara, Cane said.

“Rugby is a game first and foremost that is built on respect I believe, and it was the respectful and right thing to do,” Cane said.

Maradona’s death ‘a source of inspiration’

Several Argentine players nodded in acknowledgment of the gesture.

“I didn’t know [about the tribute] until I did the coin toss with Sam Cane and he told me about it,” Pumas flanker Pablo Matera said. “I’m really thankful for that. Diego Maradona was obviously huge for Argentina, so I’m really thankful for that gesture from the All Blacks.”

WATCH | Maradona’s famed ‘Hand of God’ goal:

In Mexico City during a quarter-final match against England, Argentine striker Diego Maradona scores “the goal”. 0:50

Matera told The Associated Press that Maradona’s passing had been a source of inspiration for many of the squad.

“Maradona was a guy who represented our country the best way you could represent us as a sportsman,” Matera said. “He’s been a huge inspiration for all of us: players, coaches, the people of Argentina.

“So, we always have him in our thoughts and we just want to represent our country the way he did.”

Manchester City and Burnley soccer players and coaches stood and applauded as a video showed Maradona’s famous solo run and goal for Argentina against England in the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup. The “Hand of God” goal was earlier in the game.

“This week, we lost a true footballing great. Diego Maradona was everything football should be: expressive, exciting, attacking and free,” City manager Pep Guardiola said in the team’s matchday program.

“A unique, once-in-a-generation player who brought joy to so many people,” he added. “Football will never forget Diego.”

WATCH | Maradona’s ‘Goal of the Century’:

After scoring the “Hand of God” goal in 1986, Diego Maradona scores again, a spectacular effort against England. 0:58

Across the world Saturday, teams paid tribute with moments of silence before European soccer games.

City and Burnley players warmed up to the song “Live is Life” by Austrian band Opus. That’s the tune Maradona warmed up to before one of Napoli’s UEFA matches in 1989. The players went through their usual routine as the Etihad Stadium loudspeakers played the song.

Led Napoli to pair of Serie A titles

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti struggled to hold his emotions together. He made the sign of the cross and kissed his finger after a tribute before their match against Leeds. Ancelotti played against Maradona during their time in Serie A and later went on to manage Napoli.

Maradona led Napoli to its only two Serie A titles in 1987 and 1990 and is considered an icon in the southern city.

Tributes are ongoing across Serie A this weekend. The warmup song will also be broadcast in Italian stadiums.

All Serie A players were taking the field wearing a black armband, and a minute’s silence was being observed before each kickoff, with players lined up around the centre circle.

The Italian league is also holding a minute’s silence, projecting an image of Maradona on stadium screens, and highlighting the message “Ciao Diego” on the stands — which, like most stadiums in Europe, are empty because of coronavirus restrictions.

At the 10th minute of each Italian match, an image of Maradona was being projected again, in honour of his jersey number.

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Soccer legend Diego Maradona dead at 60

Diego Maradona, the Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, has died. He was 60.

Bold, fast and utterly unpredictable, Maradona was a master of attack, juggling the ball easily from one foot to the other as he raced upfield. Dodging and weaving with his low centre of gravity, he shrugged off countless rivals and often scored with a devastating left foot, his most powerful weapon.

“Everything he was thinking in his head, he made it happen with his feet,” said Salvatore Bagni, who played with Maradona at Italian club Napoli.

A ballooning waistline slowed Maradona’s explosive speed later in his career, and by 1991 he was snared in his first doping scandal when he admitted to a cocaine habit that haunted him until he retired in 1997, at age 37.

Hospitalized near death in 2000 and again in 2004 for heart problems blamed on cocaine, he later said he overcame the drug problem. Cocaine, he once said famously, had proven to be his “toughest rival.”

But more health problems followed, despite a 2005 gastric bypass that greatly trimmed his weight. Maradona was hospitalized in early 2007 for acute hepatitis that his doctor blamed on excessive drinking and eating.

He made an unlikely return to the national team in 2008 when he was appointed Argentina coach, but after a quarter-final exit at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, he was ousted — ultimately picking up another coaching job with the United Arab Emirates club Al Wasl.

‘An idol for the people’

Maradona was the fifth of eight children who grew up in a poor, gritty barrio on the Buenos Aires outskirts where he played a kind of dirt-patch soccer that launched many Argentines to international stardom.

None of them approached Maradona’s fame. In 2001, FIFA named Maradona one of the two greatest in the sport’s history, alongside Pele.

“Maradona inspires us,” said then-Argentina striker Carlos Tevez, explaining his country’s Everyman fascination with Maradona at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. “He’s our idol, and an idol for the people.”

Maradona reaped titles at home and abroad, playing in the early 1980s for Argentinos Juniors and Boca Juniors before moving on to Spanish and Italian clubs. His crowning achievement came at the 1986 World Cup, captaining Argentina in its 3-2 win over West Germany in the final and decisive in a 2-1 victory against England in a feisty quarter-final match.

WATCH | CPL’s John Molinaro remembers the life and legacy of Maradona:

Canadian Premier League director of content John Molinaro recaps the life and legacy of Argentina soccer great Diego Maradona, who died from a heart attack on Wednesday at the age of 60. 10:44

Over the protests of England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, the referee let stand a goal by Maradona in which, as he admitted years later, he intentionally hit the ball with his hand in “a bit of mischief.”

But Maradona’s impact wouldn’t be confined to cheating. Four minutes later, he spectacularly weaved past four opponents from midfield to beat Shilton for what FIFA later declared the greatest goal in World Cup history.

Many Argentines saw the match as revenge for their country’s loss to Britain in the 1982 war over the Falkland Islands, which Argentines still claim as “Las Malvinas.”

“It was our way of recovering ‘Las Malvinas,”‘ Maradona wrote in his 2000 autobiography I am Diego.

“It was more than trying to win a game. We said the game had nothing to do with the war. But we knew that Argentines had died there, that they had killed them like birds. And this was our revenge. It was something bigger than us: We were defending our flag.”

First soccer ball at age 3

It also was vindication for Maradona, who in what he later called “the greatest tragedy” of his career was cut from the squad of the 1978 World Cup — which Argentina won at home — because he was only 17.

Maradona said he was given a soccer ball soon after he could run.

“I was three years old and I slept hugging that ball all night,” he said.

WATCH | Diego Maradona’s famed ‘Hand of God’ goal:

In Mexico City during a quarter-final match against England, Argentine striker Diego Maradona scores “the goal”. 0:50

At 10, Maradona gained fame by performing at halftime of professional matches, wowing crowds by keeping the ball airborne for minutes with his feet, chest and head. He also made his playing debut with the Argentinos Juniors youth team, leading a squad of mostly 14-year-olds through 136 unbeaten matches.

“To see him play was pure bliss, true stardom,” teammate Carlos Beltran said.

Maradona played from 1976-81 for first division club Argentinos Juniors, then went to Boca Juniors for a year before heading to Barcelona for a world-record $ 8 million.

In 1984, Barcelona sold him to Napoli, in Italy. He remade its fortunes almost single-handedly, taking the team to the 1987 Italian league championship for its first title in 60 years.

A year after losing the 1990 World Cup final to West Germany, Maradona moved to Spanish club Sevilla, but his career was on the decline. He played five matches at Argentine club Newell’s Old Boys in 1994 before returning to Boca from 1995-97 — his final club and closest to his heart.

Drug problems overshadowed final playing years

Drug problems overshadowed his final playing years.

Maradona failed a doping test in 1991 and was banned for 15 months, acknowledging his longtime cocaine addiction. He failed another doping test for stimulants and was thrown out of the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

In retirement, Maradona frequented Boca matches as a raucous one-man cheering section and took part in worldwide charity, sporting and exhibition events. But the already stocky forward quickly gained weight and was clearly short of breath as he huffed through friendly matches.

In 2000, in what doctors said was a brush with death, he was hospitalized in the Uruguayan resort of Punta del Este with a heart that doctors said was pumping at less than half its capacity. Blood and urine samples turned up traces of cocaine.

Maradona frequented Boca matches as a raucous one-man cheering section and took part in worldwide charity, sporting and exhibition events. (Agustin Marcarian/Reuters)

After another emergency hospitalization in 2004, Maradona was counselled for drug abuse and in September of that year travelled to Cuba for treatment at Havana’s Center for Mental Health. There he was visited by his friend, Cuban President Fidel Castro.

In Cuba, Maradona took to playing golf and smoking cigars. He frequently praised Castro and Argentine-born revolutionary “Che” Guevara, who fought with Castro in the Cuban revolution — even sporting a tattoo of Guevara on his right arm.

A new chapter

Maradona said he got clean from drugs there and started a new chapter.

In 2005, he underwent gastric bypass in Colombia, shedding nearly 50 kilograms (more than 100 pounds) before appearing as host of a wildly popular Argentine television talk show. On 10’s Night, Maradona headed around a ball with Pele, interviewed boxer Mike Tyson and Hollywood celebrities, and taped a lengthy conversation with Castro in Cuba.

In retirement, Maradona also became more outspoken. He sniped frequently at former coaches, players — including Pele — and the pope. He joined a left-wing protest train outside the Summit of the Americas in 2005, standing alongside Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to denounce the presence of then-U.S. President George W. Bush.

WATCH | Diego Maradona’s ‘Goal of the Century’

After scoring the “Hand of God” goal in 1986, Diego Maradona scores again, a spectacular effort against England. 0:58

His outsider status made it all the more surprising when he was chosen as Argentina coach following Alfio Basile’s resignation.

He won his first three matches, but his tactics, selection and attention to detail were all questioned after a 6-1 loss to Bolivia in World Cup qualifying equalled Argentina’s worst-ever margin of defeat.

Victor Hugo Morales, Argentina’s most popular soccer broadcaster, said Maradona will ultimately be remembered for a thrilling style of play that has never been duplicated.

“He has been one of the great artists of my time. Like great masters of music and painting, he has defied our intellect and enriched the human spirit,” Morales said. “Nobody has thrilled me more and left me in such awe as Diego.”

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John Legend Enjoys Father’s Day Barbecue With Cardboard Cutouts of Britney Spears, Lizzo & the Queen

John Legend Enjoys Father’s Day Barbecue With Cardboard Cutouts of Britney Spears, Lizzo & the Queen | Entertainment Tonight

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Motor racing legend Stirling Moss dies at 90

Stirling Moss, a daring, speed-loving Englishman regarded as the greatest Formula One driver never to win the world championship, has died. He was 90.

Moss died peacefully at his London home following a long illness, his wife, Susan, said Sunday.

“It was one lap too many,” she said. “He just closed his eyes.”

A national treasure, affectionately known as “Mr. Motor Racing,” he was fearless and fiercely competitive. The balding Moss’ taste for adventure saw him push cars to their limits.

“If you’re not trying to win at all costs,” he said, “what on earth are you doing there?”

His often reckless attitude took a toll on his slight body. His career ended early, at age 31, after a horrific crash left him in a coma for a month in April 1962.

By then, Moss had won 16 of the 66 F1 races he entered and established a reputation as a technically excellent and versatile driver across many racing categories.

Arguably his greatest achievement was victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia — a 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometre) road race through Italy — by nearly half an hour over Juan Manuel Fangio, the Argentine great who was Moss’ idol, teammate and rival.

An F1 title didn’t follow, though — a travesty to many in motorsport. Moss finished second in the drivers’ championship four times (1955-58) and third on three occasions.

In 1958, Moss lost out to Ferrari’s Mike Hawthorn by one point despite winning four races to his rival’s one. In 1959, Moss’ car failed during the final race, in Florida, when leading and again in with a chance of the title.

“I hope I’ll continue to be described as the greatest driver who never won the world championship, but it doesn’t really matter,” Moss once said. “The most important thing for me was gaining the respect of the other drivers and I think I achieved that.”

Sporting world loses a ‘gentleman’

When his resolve to drive solely for English teams waned, Moss raced for Maserati, Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz — partnering Fangio in an all-star line-up. In total, Moss raced in 107 different types of car and boasted a record of 212 wins in the 375 competitive races he finished.

“The sporting world lost not only a true icon and a legend, but a gentleman,” Mercedes tweeted Sunday. “The team and the Mercedes Motorsport family have lost a dear friend. Sir Stirling, we’ll miss you.”

Moss was born in 1929 into a racing family. His father, Alfred, competed in the Indianapolis 500; his mother, Aileen, was English women’s champion in 1936. The young Moss learned his trade during a racing boom in England after World War II.

His knowledge of racing cars was second to none and he took his profession to the extreme, experimenting and risking his own safety in the process.

He broke both legs and damaged his spine in a crash in 1960. Even worse was the accident in Goodwood, England, two years later, when he careered into a bank of earth at 100 mph (160 kph) without a seatbelt while competing in the Formula One Glover Trophy.

To the extreme

It took 45 minutes to cut him from the wreckage. He suffered brain injuries, and his body’s left side was partially paralysed for six months. With his eyesight and reflexes also permanently damaged, Moss quit racing.

“I knew that if I didn’t get out, I’d kill myself and maybe somebody else,” Moss said.

Moss then became a successful businessman, selling property and designing gadgets out of his state-of-the-art home in central London and working as a consultant to car manufacturers. He received a knighthood in 1999.

In 2010, he broke both ankles and hurt his back in a fall three floors down an elevator shaft at home.

Six years later, Moss was taken ill with a chest infection while on a cruise in Singapore and was hospitalized for 134 days before he could return home. The family described it as a “subsequent slow and arduous recovery” that led to Moss retiring from public life in 2018 at the age of 88.

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Blue Jays legend Tony Fernandez dies at 57 from stroke, kidney complications

Tony Fernandez, one of the greatest infielders in Toronto Blue Jays history, has died, according to a statement from the team. He was 57.

Fernandez had battled kidney problems for several years. He was first hospitalized with polycystic kidney disease in 2017.

A statement from the Blue Jays called Fernandez “one of our club’s most celebrated and respected players.”

“Enshrined forever in Blue Jays history on the Level of Excellence, Tony left an equally indelible mark in the hearts of a generation of Blue Jays fans during his 12 unforgettable seasons with the team,” the team said.

“His impact on the baseball community in Toronto and across Canada is immeasurable. Our deepest condolences are with the Fernandez family during this time.”

The Dominican-born Fernandez, who spent much of his time at shortstop while also seeing time at second and third base, played 12 seasons over four stints with the Blue Jays. He is the franchise leader in games played (1,450), hits (1,583) and triples (72).

Fernandez’s defence also was a huge part of his game. He won four straight Gold Glove Awards with the Blue Jays from 1986-89 and was a five-time all-star.

A standout in the field, Fernandez was put on the Blue Jays’ Level of Excellence at the Rogers Centre late in the 2001 season. (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images/File)

Dealt to Padres in Alomar trade

Originally signed by the Blue Jays in 1979 at the age of 17, Fernandez was one of prized finds of longtime Jays scout Epy Guerrero, who died in 2013.

The Dominican-born scout played a major role in the Blue Jays’ Latin America push, helping Toronto land Carlos Delgado, George Bell, Damaso Garcia and Alfredo Griffin.

Fernandez, who made his major-league debut with Toronto in 1983, was part of the Blue Jays’ first two playoff teams in 1985 and ’89 before he was shipped out in a stunning, blockbuster trade after the 1990 season.

Then-general manager Pat Gillick dealt Fernandez and first baseman Fred McGriff to the San Diego Padres for second baseman Roberto Alomar and outfielder Joe Carter.

Alomar, now a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., and Carter were two of the most important players as the Blue Jays won their first and only two World Series titles in 1992 and ’93. The latter hit the walkoff home run in the 1993 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Fernandez, however, also was a key part of the ’93 team after the Jays re-acquired the pending free agent in a trade with the New York Mets, who originally landed the shortstop in a deal with San Diego after the ’92 season. The Jays had a hole at shortstop after Dick Schofield suffered a season-ending injury.

Fernandez batted .306 in 94 regular-season games for the Blue Jays in 1993. He then had averages of .318 and .333 in the American League Championship Series against the Chicago White Sox and World Series versus the Phillies, respectively.

Added to Level of Excellence in 2001

After stints with the Cincinnati Reds and New York Yankees, Fernandez fell just short of winning another World Series title with Cleveland in 1997 as the Indians lost in Game 7 against the Florida Marlins.

Fernandez returned to the Blue Jays for two more years starting in 1998. He made the all-star game in 1999 before spending a season in Japan.

Fernandez finished his 17-season major-league career playing 48 games for the Blue Jays in 2001 after he was released by the Milwaukee Brewers.

Late in the 2001 season, the Blue Jays put Fernandez on their Level of Excellence at the Rogers Centre.

Fernandez was the seventh recipient of the honour, and the second infielder after Alomar.

After his retirement, Fernandez was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.

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NBA legend Kobe Bryant, daughter killed in helicopter crash

Kobe Bryant, the 18-time NBA all-star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash Sunday. He was 41.

Bryant died in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, Calif., along with four others, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. The crash happened around 10 a.m. local time, about 50 kilometres northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

The city of Calabasas confirmed Bryant’s death via Twitter.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said the helicopter was a Sikorsky S-76 and it was not known what caused the crash.

Bryant retired in 2016 as the third-leading scorer in NBA history, finishing two decades with the Lakers as a prolific scorer with a sublime all-around game and a relentless competitive ethic. He held that spot in the league scoring ranks until Saturday night, when the Lakers’ LeBron James passed him for third place during a game in Philadelphia, Bryant’s hometown.

“Continuing to move the game forward (at) KingJames,” Bryant wrote in his last tweet. “Much respect my brother.”

Bryant had one of the greatest careers in recent NBA history and became one of the game’s most popular players as the face of the 16-time NBA champion Lakers franchise. He was the league MVP in 2008 and a two-time NBA scoring champion, and he earned 12 selections to the NBA’s All-Defensive teams.

“Kobe was not only an icon in the sports arena, he was a man of the world and touched so many lives and communities in the most positive ways,” said NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird. “His star was continuing to rise every day and he knew no limits because of his many intellectual and creative talents and desire to give back to others — his passion for the game, for his family and for others was apparent in everything he accomplished.”

He teamed with Shaquille O’Neal in a combustible partnership to lead the Lakers to NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002. He later teamed with Pau Gasol to win two more titles in 2009 and 2010.

Bryant retired in 2016 after scoring 60 points in his final NBA game. 

WATCH | Kobe Bryant’s video tribute from his final game:

Players, coaches and others reflect on Bryant’s career. 3:25

Bryant looms large over the current generation of NBA players. After James passed Bryant on Saturday, he remembered listening to Bryant when the superstar came to speak at a childhood basketball camp.

“I remember one thing he said: ‘If you want to be great at it, or want to be one of the greats, you’ve got to put the work in,'” James said. “There’s no substitution for work.”

James later teamed up with Bryant on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team in Beijing.

“He had zero flaws offensively,” James said. “Zero. You backed off of him, he could shoot the 3. You body him up a little bit, he could go around you. He could shoot from mid-range. He could post. He could make free throws. … He was just immortal offensively because of his skill set and his work ethic.”

Bryant was a basketball superstar for his entire adult life. He entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 1996 after a childhood spent partly in Italy, where his father, former NBA player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, played professionally.

The Lakers acquired the 17-year-old Bryant in a trade shortly after Charlotte drafted him, and he immediately became one of the most exciting and intriguing players in the sport alongside O’Neal, who had signed with the Lakers as a free agent. Bryant won the Slam Dunk Contest as an upstart rookie, and the Lakers gradually grew into a team that won three consecutive championships.

Bryant and Gasol formed the nucleus of another championship team in 2008, reaching three straight NBA Finals and eventually winning two more titles.

In 2003, Bryant was charged with attacking a 19-year-old employee at a Colorado resort. He had said the two had consensual sex. Prosecutors later dropped the felony sexual assault charge against Bryant at the request of the accuser.

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The legend of the ‘Crazy Canucks’ began in the savage beauty of Kitzbühel

There’s been a lot of talk in the lead up to the downhill dash over the “Rooster’s Comb” on the face of the Hahnenkamm mountain which looms above the historic ski station at Kitzbühel, Austria.

The course, known simply as “The Streif,” or “The Stripe,” is symbolic of the notion that speed and danger are most definitely ahead.

It’s as simple as that.

This is the race that rings alarm bells with ski fans everywhere.

It’s most certainly the one winter event that has given rise to a hefty portion of Canadian alpine lore.

WATCH | The Crazy Canucks were the kings of Kitzbühel:

The 1980’s began with Canada’s Crazy Canucks — Ken Read, Steve Podborski and Todd Brooker — rattling off four straight wins at Kitzbühel. 2:29

The narrative revolves around an interlude at the outset of the 1980’s which saw a band of upstarts known as “The Crazy Canucks” capture the most precious prize in this treasure of a ski race, not once, but four years in a row.

Before Ken Read won the downhill at Kitzbühel in 1980 and then Steve Podborski followed up with back-to-back victories in 1981 and 1982, and Todd Brooker capped the amazing run with the championship in 1983, no non-European had been the “Hahnenkammsieger” or champion of the dastardly race since it came onto the World Cup in 1967.

Kitzbühel requires skiers to be on a ‘different level’

Canada’s Todd Brooker is shown after he clocked best time in the Hahnenkamm men’s downhill race in January of 1983. (File/The Canadian Press)

“I guess everyone wants to earn the respect of their peers at whatever they do,” mused Brooker from his home near Collingwood, Ont. “All of us who raced Kitzbühel know what it takes just to compete there. And we know the different level you need to be on to actually win. It would be like winning the Masters in golf or the U.S. Open [in] tennis.”

The only North American to win Kitzbühel since the Canadians did it is a skier from the United States named Daron Rahlves who prevailed on a dramatically shortened course, in what amounted to a sprint downhill, in 2003.

This is a race won by the legends of the sport. Included are the denizens of skiing’s hall of fame, superstars like Jean-Claude Killy of France, Switzerland’s Didier Cuche, who won five times, and the great Austrians Toni Sailer, Franz Klammer, and Hermann Maier.

‘Skiing is Austria’s hockey’

The miraculous streak fashioned by the “Crazy Canucks” was kind of like a team full of capable but as yet unheralded Scandinavian hockey players winning the Stanley Cup and upsetting the dynastic Montreal Canadiens in their heyday.

It was unheard of.

“Skiing is Austria’s hockey,” noted Max Gartner, who is Austrian born and came to Canada to coach skiing in 1982. He went on to become the chief athletic officer and eventually president and CEO of Alpine Canada.

He knows what significance skiing has for Austria and what Kitzbühel’s downhill means to skiing.  He’s well aware that the arrival of the “Crazy Canucks” changed the plot forever.

Ben Thomsen of Canada is shown during a training run in Kitzbühel, Austria on Jan. 22, 2019. Thomsen registered a career-best finish at Kitzbühel in 2019, placing sixth. (File/Getty Images)

“Every young Austrian skier’s dream is to win Kitzbühel, even more than the Olympics,” Gartner reckoned. “To have Canada owning it was sure noticed.”

It was more than just noticed. This swashbuckling squadron of Canadian skiers has been lionized over the years and the story has become a modern fable, not only in the eyes of rabid Austrian devotees, but back home as well.

“It adds something magical and special and it just never goes away,” Steve Podborski said as he reflected on that time. “It’s the one. If you want to know how good you are then go out and win at Kitzbühel then nobody else can tell you that you can’t ski.”

The Super Bowl of alpine skiing

The lustre of the downhill at Kitzbühel has developed over time. It’s been broadcast live on television, via ORF, the national, public broadcaster, since 1959. In a country of 8.8 million people it has an average audience of two million in Austria alone.  Estimates are that each year, the Hahnenkamm downhill is consumed by an audience of 260 million European TV viewers while about 100,000 fans actually attend the race in person.

Gondala cars transporting spectators to the “Startchuss” (start hut) which is perched above the menacing and cliff-like “Mausefalle” (mousetrap) are named after past champions.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is shown during the Hahnenkamm race in 2016 in Kitzbuehel, Austria. The event attracts plenty of celebrities eager to take in the competition. (File/Getty Images)

I can recall the one time I visited Kitzbühel in advance of the 2007 FIS world championships which were held in Are, Sweden, and riding to the top of the downhill course in the Todd Brooker car.

“There’s no question that carrying on the winning legacy at Kitzbühel is a huge motivation,” Brooker said, with an obvious measure of pride. “It’s such a thrill to join other Canadian winners in this exclusive club but beyond just our team to join the distinguished history of the race.”

Peering out at the track, which is often shrouded in shade in order to add to the difficulty, I wondered at how anyone could possibly attempt to ski down it.

“I remember standing in the starting gate and thinking I don’t have a clue,” Podborski said of his first race there as a 17-year-old. “I can’t imagine making it. So what do I do? It’s called a leap of faith, I took a leap of faith and I made it.”

That leap of faith and that devil-may-care attitude is what endeared the “Crazy Canucks” to generations of followers including the ski-obsessed, European, faithful. The daunting nature of this downhill was not nearly enough to deter the Canadians.

“It is a very unique layout with sections that take extreme courage from the skiers. More than any other course on the World Cup,” Gartner reasoned. The ‘Crazy Canucks’ had a reputation for putting it all on the line and for risking it all. This was a style that was especially required in Kitzbühel.  In order to win it requires full attack.”

This heroic era of racing at Kitzbühel is not lost on the current generation of Canadian, speed, skiers.

Canada’s Todd Brooker is carried away by helicopter after suffering a bad crash during World Cup downhill training on the Streif course in January of 1987. (File/The Associated Press)

Ben Thomsen of Invermere, B.C., covets the Hahnenkamm downhill like no other event. He had his best result there last season when he finished a strong sixth and he can’t wait to go back for more in spite of the inherent risks involved.

“It’s just the pinnacle for me and just thinking about it gives me this inspirational feeling of wanting to do everything I possibly can to be as fast as possible,” Thomsen told me with a wide-smile plastered on his face.

“It comes down to two words…beautiful chaos.”

The crowd is often littered with celebrities such as actor and former Governor of California, the “Terminator” Arnold Schwarzenegger as well as Formula One drivers like the late Niki Lauda or Canadian Gilles Villeneuve who watched the “Crazy Canucks” triumph here in the 1980’s before being killed in a car crash in 1982.

Former Austrian champions like Franz Klammer, who won four times, and Herman Maier will also be there. American Lindsey Vonn, the most prolific female skier in history, will be a special guest this year.

They all gather to take in the spectacle that is Kitzbühel and to see the alpine gladiators defy the mountain in order to chase glory. It can be a brutal kind of extravaganza. Only the very few can win this race which demands so much of every skier.  Many of the aspirants risk hurting themselves badly in the attempt.

Canadian skier Tood Brooker calls it quits at a press conference in Toronto, Ont., on March 3, 1987. The skier crashed at Kitzbuehel, Austria in January of that year, leaving him with a serious knee injury, a concussion and a broken nose. (File/The Canadian Press)

Todd Brooker still savours his victory in 1983 but he also recalls the dark and essential side of the Hahnenkamm. Brooker crashed horrifically in 1987 and his “rag doll” tumble down the mountain left him unconscious with multiple broken bones effectively ending his World Cup skiing career.

“No other course asks for the same commitment as the Streif and no victory is as thoroughly earned,” Brooker estimated.  “The high degree of risk or perhaps the penalties you face for taking those risks are always on your mind. I’ll never regret crashing because I was trying to win again. And being on the edge like I was…is exactly how you win at Kitzbühel.”

That’s the savage beauty of the Hahnenkamm downhill.

It’s a victory that must be earned but one which earns immediate respect when it’s achieved. It’s that legacy of respect which the “Crazy Canucks” fashioned four decades ago that endures to this day.

“Those guys were legendary and remember Austrians are crazy about ski racing and their heroes,” Gartner concluded. “The skiers are under total scrutiny and every step is reported on. Many Austrians felt if we can’t win, it might as well be the Canadians. They’re much better than the Swiss and the Austrians have adopted them to a great degree.”

For alpine skiing, Kitzbühel is the biggest and most important race in any given season.

It will never be forgotten that there was a time when the Canadians conquered this fearsome race and became the undisputed stars of skiing’s greatest show on earth.

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Hockey legend Bobby Orr calls Cherry firing ‘disgraceful’

Hockey legend Bobby Orr appeared on Boston radio station WEEI on Thursday and didn’t mince words with his reaction to the recent firing of Don Cherry.

Orr, who was coached by Cherry with the Boston Bruins, said, “What they’ve done to him up there is disgraceful. It really is.”

Cherry was fired Monday by NHL rights holder Sportsnet after he singled out new immigrants for not honouring Canada’s veterans and fallen soldiers in a Coach’s Corner segment, which runs during the first intermission on Hockey Night in Canada.

“You people … you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that,” Cherry said Saturday night.

“These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada. These guys paid the biggest price.”

Orr also described Cherry as a “generous, caring guy” and said the 85-year-old is not a bigot or a racist.

Sportsnet issued a statement Sunday morning, calling Cherry’s remarks “divisive” and not representative of the network’s values.

Cherry has not apologized for his comments, but told CBC News that he blames his firing on poor word choice.

“I think it was a mistake,” he said. “But I think the big thing was that I should have said ‘everybody’ — that was the big, big thing.”

Later Thursday, Cherry sent out a tweet saying, “Just want to thank everybody for all the support and kind words. You’ll be hearing from me soon.”

WATCH | Don Cherry’s comments on Coach’s Corner:

Don Cherry sparked online backlash on Saturday night for his comments about immigrants not wanting to wear poppies ahead of Remembrance Day. 0:50

Players across the NHL reacted to Cherry’s remarks on Tuesday.

Montreal Canadiens forward Max Domi wouldn’t say if he agreed with Sportsnet’s decision, but was quick to express admiration for a man he calls a family friend.

“I love Don Cherry. I always have, always will,” Domi said, on Tuesday after the team’s morning skate. “He’s a big reason why most of us play hockey. We grew up looking up to a guy like that, watching Coach’s Corner and stuff. It’s unfortunate what happened. It’s sad. He’s a big part of hockey.”

WATCH | Cherry faces major backlash after controversial comments: 

CBC’s “The National” touches on the reactions of many Canadians following Don Cherry’s remarks on “Coach’s Corner”. 4:00

In the Toronto Maple Leafs’ locker room, meanwhile, the feeling was disappointment, both with Cherry’s words on Saturday and the rough finish for a nearly 40-year run on Hockey Night in Canada.

“I think he’s meant a lot to the game and provided a lot,” said Leafs captain John Tavares. “[It’s] obviously disappointing, what happened and the result. I think everyone would wish something like this didn’t happen and didn’t come to these types of circumstances.”

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