Tag Archives: AllStar

MLB moving 2021 all-star game out of Atlanta in response to voting restrictions

Atlanta lost Major League Baseball’s summer All-Star Game on Friday over the league’s objections to sweeping changes to Georgia voting laws that critics — including the CEOs of Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola — have condemned as being too restrictive.

The decision to pull the July 13 game from Atlanta’s Truist Park amounts to the first economic backlash against Georgia for the voting law that Republican Gov. Brian Kemp quickly signed into law March 25.

Kemp has insisted the law’s critics have mischaracterized what it does, yet GOP lawmakers adopted the changes largely in response to false claims of fraud in the 2020 elections by former President Donald Trump and his supporters. The law includes new restrictions on voting by mail and greater legislative control over how elections are run.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred made the decision to move the All-Star events and the amateur draft from Atlanta after discussions with individual players and the Players Alliance, an organization of Black players formed after the death of George Floyd last year, the commissioner said in a statement. A new ballpark for the events wasn’t immediately revealed.

Manfred said he also spoke with the Major League Baseball Players Association, which at the time of the commissioner’s decision said it had still not taken a stance.

“I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game and MLB draft,” Manfred said. “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.”

Kemp called it a “knee-jerk decision” that means “cancel culture and woke political activists are coming for every aspect of your life, sports included. If the left doesn’t agree with you, facts and the truth do not matter.”

“This attack on our state is the direct result of repeated lies from (President) Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams about a bill that expands access to the ballot box and ensures the integrity of our elections,” Kemp said in a statement, referring to the Democratic candidate whom he narrowly defeated in the 2018 election. “I will not back down. Georgians will not be bullied.”

Georgia state House Speaker David Ralston, a powerful Republican who backed the voting law changes, said the baseball league’s decision “robs Georgians of a special celebration of our national pastime free of politics.”

Like other Republicans in the state, Ralston vowed to stand behind the new law, which adds strict identification requirements for voting absentee by mail, limits the use of ballot drop boxes and makes it a crime to hand out food or water to voters waiting in line, among many other provisions.

Georgia Republicans say changes were needed to maintain voter confidence in the election system. Democrats and voting rights groups say the law will disproportionately affect communities of colour. On Wednesday, two of Georgia’s most prominent business leaders sided with the law’s opponents.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian labeled the law “unacceptable,” while Coca-Cola chief executive James Quincey called the legislation a “step backward.”

Atlanta team ‘disappointed by decision’ 

The Atlanta baseball team issued a statement Friday saying the team is disappointed by Manfred’s decision.

“We are saddened that fans will not be able to see this event in our city,” the team said. “The [Atlanta baseball] organization will continue to stress the importance of equal voting opportunities and we had hoped our city could use this event as a platform to enhance the discussion.”

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who is to guide the National League All-Star team, applauded MLB for moving the game from Georgia.

“I think in a world now where people want and need to be heard — and in this particular case, people of colour — for Major League Baseball to listen and do something about it, to be proactive, it sets a tone,” said Roberts, the son of a Black father and Japanese mother.

Abrams, who has championed voting rights since her loss to Kemp, blasted the new voting law. The Democrat is being closely watched to see if she seeks a rematch against Kemp in 2022.

“Georgia Republicans must renounce the terrible damage they have caused to our voting system and the harm they have inflicted on our economy,” Abrams said.

Heated political divide

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat, said she supports MLB’s decision. Atlanta will no doubt share in the economic loss, though the Braves’ home stadium is now located outside the city, in suburban Cobb County.

“Unfortunately, the removal of the MLB All-Star Game from Georgia is likely the first of many dominoes to fall until the unnecessary barriers put in place to restrict access to the ballot box are removed,” Bottoms said in a statement.

Some Democrats from the Georgia county where the game was to be held said they oppose MLB’s move. Lisa Cupid, the Black chairwoman of the Cobb County Commission, said she urged the league to stay rather than harm hotels and other businesses still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

State Rep. Teri Anulewicz, a Democrat whose district includes the stadium, added: “I don’t know who Major League Baseball feels they are punishing. The governor, from his statement, has made clear he doesn’t feel he is being punished.”

MLB still plans on saluting Hank Aaron

The relocation of high-profile sports events from cities in response to social issues has a long history in the U.S.

The NFL originally awarded the 1993 Super Bowl to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, but decided in March 1991 to move it to Pasadena, California, after the state failed to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day an official holiday. Arizona became the last state to adopt an MLK Holiday when voters approved it in November 1992.

The NBA first scheduled its 2017 All-Star Game at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, then shifted it in July 2016 because of its objections to a North Carolina law that limited anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The law was partially repealed in 2017, and the 2019 All-Star Game was held in Charlotte.

NCAA officials decided in 2001 to ban awarding championship sites in advance to states that displayed the Confederate flag but did not alter events whose sites were determined by seeding or ranking. That was expanded last June to prevent any NCAA championship event from being played where the flag had a prominent presence. Mississippi’s governor signed a law less than two weeks later to retire the flag.

WATCH | Hank Aaron, home run king who fought racism, dies at 86:

Sports legend Hank Aaron has died at age 86. The baseball hall-of-famer, who broke Babe Ruth’s home run record, is being remembered for his skill and his perseverance in the face of hate. 2:10

Manfred said despite the change of venue, MLB still plans to use the All-Star Game this year to honour Hank Aaron, the Atlanta’s Hall of Famer and former career home run champion who died on Jan. 22 at age 86.

Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker, a former teammate of Aaron’s, applauded the move and said the late outfielder “always had the rights of the people in the forefront of his mind and in his heart.”

“This is what Hank would have liked, even if it was his town,” Baker told reporters.

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Team Jennifer Jones adds free-agent all-star lead Lisa Weagle

All-star lead Lisa Weagle wasn’t a free agent for long.

Let go last week after a decade-long run with skip Rachel Homan’s Ottawa-based rink, she has joined Team Jennifer Jones.

The Winnipeg-based Jones rink, which includes third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jocelyn Peterman and lead Dawn McEwen, will operate as a five-player team.

Jones and Weagle confirmed the news Wednesday morning in phone interviews with The Canadian Press. A formal team announcement was expected later in the day.

We connected instantly and our goals were aligned.— Lisa Weagle on her conversation with new teammate Jennifer Jones

“She’s just a super-talented player and one of the best leads to ever play the game,” Jones said. “She works hard on every aspect of her game. But at the end of the day, I think she’s a phenomenal person as well. So I think she’s just going to add a ton of value to our team in every aspect.”

Weagle’s departure from Team Homan was a stunner on the curling scene. They had won three national titles together and reached the Scotties Tournament of Hearts final last month in Moose Jaw, Sask.

‘I want to do everything I can to help the team’

Jones reached out to Weagle last Sunday and the five players firmed up plans for next season on a video call.

“We connected instantly and our goals were aligned,” Weagle said. “What struck me the most was hearing it in Jen’s voice that she wants to win and she’s very determined. This is an athlete that’s won everything there is to win in curling and she still wants to do more.

“That had me hooked and ready to go right away. I believe in her and I believe in her team and I want to do everything I can to help the team and be a part of it.”

The team plans to sort out the logistics of the five-player setup in the off-season.

Many teams use a fifth player as an alternate but they see limited ice time. That is not expected to be the case with Team Jones.

Busy week on domestic curling scene

Team Homan represented Canada at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics but did not reach the podium. Sarah Wilkes was brought on as Weagle’s replacement on Tuesday.

Team Jones won gold at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Jones is also a two-time world champion and six-time national champion.

The addition of Weagle is the latest move in a busy week on the domestic curling scene as several high-profile teams have made changes as they gear up to make a run at the 2021 Olympic Trials.

“We all have a little bit more jump in our step and we’re very excited,” Jones said. “We feel very privileged that Lisa would agree to play with us.

“A player of her talent, calibre, and just the person that she is, we feel it’s a huge privilege for us and we’re hoping that we can do some great things together.”

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All the Ways Kobe Bryant Was Honored at the NBA All-Star Game

All the Ways Kobe Bryant Was Honored at the NBA All-Star Game | Entertainment Tonight

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Tiffany Haddish, Chadwick Boseman and More Celebs Attend NBA All-Star Game

Tiffany Haddish, Chadwick Boseman and More Celebs Attend NBA All-Star Game | Entertainment Tonight

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Canadians Jordyn Huitema, Stephanie Labbe named to CONCACAF all-star team

Teenager Jordyn Huitema, who led the tournament in scoring, is one of four Canadians named to the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Championship Best 11.

The 18-year-old striker is joined by goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe, centre back Kadeisha Buchanan and fullback/midfielder Ashley Lawrence on the tournament all-star team.

The U.S., which defeated Canada 3-0 Sunday in Carson, Calif., in the tournament final, has three players on the Best 11 – Christen Press, Crystal Dunn and Lindsey Horan. Also on the all-star squad are Costa Rica’s Stephanie Blanco and Raquel Rodriguez, Haiti’s Nerilia Mondesir and Mexico’s Renae Cuellar.

Huitema won the Golden Boot with a tournament-leading seven goals, five of which came in a 9-0 group-stage win over Jamaica. Labbe claimed the Golden Glove Award after posting three clean sheets in four matches.

Press won the Scotiabank Golden Ball as tournament MVP. The American forward scored five goals, including a goal in every group-stage match, plus the semifinal win over Mexico.

Canada and the U.S. will represent CONCACAF, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean, at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

WATCH | Huitema’s strike the difference as Canada clinches Olympic berth:

Jordyn Huitema scored the lone goal as Canada edged Costa Rica 1-0 to book a spot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. 1:11

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Hockey Night in Canada: NHL All-Star Game

Hockey Night in Canada·Live

Watch the NHL All-Star Game live on television and online beginning on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on Hockey Night on Canada.

Live coverage begins on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET

Watch the NHL All-Star Game live on television and online beginning on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on Hockey Night on Canada.

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Hockey Night in Canada: NHL All-Star Skills

Hockey Night in Canada·Live

Watch the NHL All-Star Skills competition live on television and online beginning on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET on Hockey Night on Canada.

Watch live on on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET

Watch the NHL All-Star Skills competition live on television and online beginning on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET on Hockey Night on Canada.

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Raptors’ Pascal Siakam rockets to NBA all-star game as starter

Marc Gasol admits he never thought Pascal Siakam would amount to much when he first played against the Toronto Raptors’ wiry forward.

It was two seasons ago when Gasol was with the Grizzlies, and Siakam had yet to hit the gas on his lightning-fast rise up the NBA ranks. Siakam wasn’t exactly a focus of the Grizzlies’ scouting report for the game. And he scored just eight points.

“He was a toothpick to us in Memphis,” Gasol scoffed. “Obviously he didn’t have the confidence or the minutes or the usage that he has [now]. I remember him going to his right, he didn’t trust his shot as much as he does now obviously.”

Fast forward two seasons and Siakam wrote another page in his stunning NBA story on Thursday when he was named a starter for the Eastern Conference team for this year’s NBA all-star game.

“As a young player coming in and knowing my path and how I got here, to be in that competition, that’s crazy to think about,” Siakam said.

The starters were chosen by fan balloting. Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry is expected to be an all-star reserve. The reserves are chosen by the head coaches in each conference, and will be announced Jan. 30.

The 25-year-old Siakam has averaged 23.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game this season — all career highs — and after virtually everyone counted Toronto out as a force in the Eastern Conference this season in the absence of superstar Kawhi Leonard, Siakam has kept them in the conversation. They’re just a point out of second place in the East and riding a five-game winning streak.

Siakam has averaged 23.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game this season — all career highs. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Siakam’s selection Thursday marked the sixth consecutive year the Raptors have an all-star starter. They’re the only NBA team during that time span that can say that. Leonard started last season. Kyle Lowry started in 2015 and 2016, while DeMar DeRozan started in 2017 and 2018.

“The kid that two years ago started the season as our 11th man and he played in the D League the year before that. That’s a hell of a rise up,” said Raptors coach Nick Nurse. “I think again credit to just our organization in general. Picks, scouting, player development, the whole thing. I think all those things kind of work together to make that possible.”

Meteoric NBA rise

Siakam took an unorthodox path to the NBA. He’d only played two seasons of organized basketball before he arrived, a scrawny kid from Douala, Cameroon at New Mexico State.

Paul Weir was an Aggies’ assistant coach when Siakam was there, and recounted how he walked into his office one day and asked to borrow a book on basketball.

“I’d give him a 300-page, 400-page textbook on basketball,” the Mississauga, Ont., native told The Canadian Press during the Raptors’ championship run. “He’d come back two days later and say ‘Do you have another one?’ He was just a very eager kid to be the best he could be.”

Siakam was drafted 27th overall by Toronto in 2016.

Nurse tells the story of the sponge-of-a-player showing up at the Raptors’ practice facility the day after Toronto was swept by Cleveland in the 2018 conference semifinals.

“He said ‘Listen, I need to learn how to shoot,”‘ Nurse said. “We literally walked him down to square one, three feet from the basket and tried to explain the process.  It’s not easy for anybody to change their mechanics, their form or whatever. He just took that as wholeheartedly as he could take it at that stage.”

Siakam’s hard work paid off — he won the NBA’s most improved player award last season. Gasol was happy his first impression of Siakam was so wrong.

“He’s a guy that can do so many things on the floor, a guy that can impact the game on the defensive end like very few can,” the Spaniard said. “And then offensively he can go left, he can go right, he can push you up, he can play you off the dribble, he can play mid-post, he can play pretty much 20 feet from the basket.

“And then he’s very unselfish at the same time. So, you see all the potential, and then I think coach gave him the freedom and the ultra green light and trusted him with a lot of actions in different positions on the floor. And he responded awesomely.”

If others doubted Siakam during the early days, he never counted himself out. Did he ever think he’d be an all-star? Sure, why not?

“I’ve always believed in myself and I’ve always put the work in to get to not only be an all-star but be an all-star for a long time. That’s my goal,” said Siakam. “I think about these things and I feel like I have the ability to do it.

“It’s on me to go out there every single night and make sure that I’m the best player I can be and continue to work hard and not be complacent and do everything in my power to get out there.”

James, Antetokounmpo meet again

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks return as captains for the game, as they were last season. Both were the top overall votegetters from the Western and Eastern Conferences, respectively. 

James has been named a starter for the 16th time — an NBA record. He’s also now third on the all-time appearance list, behind 19-time selection Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and 18-time selection Kobe Bryant.

As the top votegetter, he’ll have first pick when he and Antetokounmpo pick their teams; Antetokounmpo will get first choice in the second round when reserves are chosen. 

Other starters include:

  • Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers.
  • Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers.
  • Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks.
  • James Harden of the Houston Rockets.
  • Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers.
  • Kemba Walker of the Boston Celtics.
  • Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks.

NBA all-star weekend is Feb. 14-16 in Chicago.

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History of the NHL all-star game: Pizzo

Every year, when all-star Weekend is upon on us, I find hockey fans fall into three distinct categories.

The first group absolutely hates it. They think the all-star game is not entertaining, the intensity is non-existent, and would gladly give up their first-born child to blow the whole thing up.

The second group tolerates it. They’ll have the game on every year, but put about as much effort into watching it as the players do into winning it.

The third group: are children.

But one thing they all have in common is that they have an opinion on the ever-changing format. The first official all-star game happened in 1947 (games before that were benefit games), and since then we have seen 6 formats. Let’s take a look at how the All-Star weekend has evolved over the years.

Stanley Cup Champions vs. NHL All-Stars

Total times used: 19

When the all-star game first became a yearly event, this was the first format they used. 

It ran from 1947-1968 (with the exception of the 1951 and 1952 all-star games. More on that in a bit). 

The main reason it worked at the time was because the defending champs remained pretty much intact. There was no such thing as free agency, or the salary cap, and trading star players was not a regular occurrence. 

With only six teams in the league, the hatred between players was never a secret. They loved getting a shot to dethrone the champs.

I love this format, but it just wouldn’t work today, players change teams too often.

First Team All-Stars vs. Second Team All-Stars

Total times used: 2

This was only used for 2 years (1951 and 1952) as a knee-jerk reaction to even up the playing field.

In 1950, the defending champions, the Detroit Red Wings (a team full of superstars), laid a beating on the All-Stars 7-1.

So the league thought; if you can’t beat’em, split’em up!

The remaining roster spots for the first team were filled by players on American based franchises, and the second team got players from Canadian teams.

Both games ended in ties and the league went back to its Cup Champs vs. All-Stars format the next year. 

Let’s face it, this is just plain stupid and I’m glad it happened long before I was born. 

Wales/East vs. Campbell/West

Total times used: 26

The league started using this format in 1969 when it doubled in size the season before and it just made sense.

The allure of the All-Star game isn’t seeing which players will go head-to-head against each other, it’s seeing players play with each other.

All you have to do is look at a few score-sheets to see dream scenarios that came to fruition. Phil Esposito scoring from Guy Lafluer in 1975, Mike Bossy from Larry Robinson in 1982, and my favourite — Mario Lemieux from Wayne Gretzky in 1997.

North America vs. World All-Stars

Total times used: 5

With NHL players gearing up for the 1998 Winter Olympics, the NHL thought they would add an international flavour to the game by pitting North Americans against the rest of the world’s players. I never really got onboard with this one, because it wasn’t really international. For example, Canada and USA are rivals, so sticking them on the same team takes all the fun out of it. International hockey is about cheering for your home country; when was the last time you actually felt pride because of the result of an all-star game?

The Draft

Total times used: 3

The league finally showed some creativity and decided to hold a fantasy draft.

Two captains (Nicklas Lidstrom and Eric Staal), one-by-one, selected their team from the players who had earned an all-star spot. 

Sounds familiar right? 

Anyone who played on an outdoor rink at some point in their lives has taken part in this exact situation. It was great!

But then people got their hockey socks in a knot because players like Phil Kessel were left sitting to be picked last (and got a car for it!). Unfortunately, this only lasted three years. I blame millennials!

3-on-3 tournament

Total times used: 4 (and counting)

This is the current format and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere. 

A four team, 3-on-3 tournament, where the four teams each represent one of the league’s four divisions. This move made sense. The league had just gone to a 3-on-3 format for overtime in regular season games, why not try it for the all-star game?

Here’s the thing, 3-on-3 in the regular season is amazing to watch for one very simple reason: the games MEAN something! 

When the players don’t really care (even though with a first prize of $ 1 million US, their bar tab will be paid for), the excitement level slows to a crawl by the last game.

That being said, I’m ok with this one for a while.

What’s your favourite format?

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Canadian teams well represented for NHL All-Star weekend

The Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs each had two players named to NHL All-Star Weekend.

Oilers captain Connor McDavid will make his fourth all-star appearance after being voted as the captain of the Pacific Division team for the Jan. 24-25 festivities. He will be joined by teammate Leon Draisaitl as the German forward gets a second all-star nod.

They will be joined by forward Matthew Tkachuk — a native of host city St. Louis — and defenceman Mark Giordano of the Flames and forward Elias Pettersson of the Vancouver Canucks on the Pacific squad.

Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck and forward Mark Scheifele were named to the Central Division squad. Toronto goaltender Frederik Andersen and centre Auston Matthews will be joined by Montreal defenceman Shea Weber and Ottawa forward Anthony Duclair on the Atlantic Division squad.

Weber will be making his seventh all-star appearance.

The host Blues will have three players. Captain Alex Pietrangelo, goaltender Jordan Binnington and playoff MVP Ryan O’Reilly will represent the defending Stanley Cup champions. Forward David Perron was not chosen as an all-star despite being in the middle of a career season.

The league’s hockey operations department filled out the all-star rosters beyond the captains voted in by fans.

Washington’s Alex Ovechkin was voted in by fans but opted to skip all-star to rest his body for the stretch drive and playoffs. Capitals teammates John Carlson and Braden Holtby will go instead.

Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane is set to make his ninth all-star appearance, which is the most among active players.

With the skills competition and 3-on-3 tournament more than three weeks away, two all-star selections at goaltender will likely need to be replaced. Arizona’s Darcy Kuemper and Columbus’ Joonas Korpisalo are both injured.

Artemi Panarin will represent the New York Rangers after putting up 51 points in his 38 games for them since signing an $ 81.5-million US, seven-year deal last summer. The rival New York Islanders are sending forward Matthew Barzal.

Six forwards, three defencemen and two goaltenders were picked from each of the four divisions: the Metropolitan, Atlantic, Central and Pacific. All 31 NHL teams needed to be represented on the initial rosters.

Each team has one additional roster spot to be filled in by a fan selection out of a pool of available players.

Montreal forward Max Domi, Ottawa forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Toronto forward Mitch Marner, Winnipeg forward Patrik Laine, Calgary forward Johnny Gaudreau, Edmonton forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Vancouver defenceman Quinn Hughes are among the players available to fill the final roster spots.

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