Tag Archives: Surprise

Amid unusual circumstances, Lafreniere goes 1st as NHL draft offers little surprise

There was little surprise at the very top of the NHL’s pandemic-delayed draft Tuesday.

The New York Rangers chose star winger Alexis Lafreniere, the presumptive No. 1 pick since January, with the first selection.

But following a just-completed season like no other — one suspended in March, restarted in August and completed late last month inside a tightly-controlled bubble without fans thanks to COVID-19 — there were bound to be twists with teams and NHL hopefuls linking up remotely instead of being under one roof at Montreal’s Bell Centre.

First there was some timely draft history, then an appearance by a Canadian celebrity, and finally, an emotional selection made by the widow of a hockey icon.

To start things off, however, the night belonged to Lafreniere, a star winger from the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He registered 35 goals and 112 points in 52 games before the 2019-20 season was cancelled because of the pandemic.

“It was an unreal feeling,” Lafreniere, sporting his new team’s hat and jersey, said on a video conference call from the family home in St-Eustache, Que., after having his name called first. “The New York Rangers are a great organization.”

WATCH | Rangers make Lafreniere top pick:

Alexis Lafrenière from Saint-Eustache, Que., is chosen by the New York Rangers as the first overall pick of the 2020 NHL draft. 0:27

Just the second back-to-back recipient of the Canadian Hockey League’s player of the year award, following in the footsteps of fellow Rimouski captain Sidney Crosby in 2004 and 2005, Lafreniere was NHL Central Scouting’s top-ranked North American skater and long-viewed as the consensus choice at No. 1.

The draft, which was originally scheduled for June 26 and 27, continues Wednesday with rounds two through seven before NHL free agency opens 48 hours later.

“We’ve been waiting for a long time so it was something really special,” added Lafreniere, the first Canadian to go No. 1 since the Edmonton Oilers selected Connor McDavid in 2015. “We’re all really excited.”

Before the Lafreniere pick, commissioner Gary Bettman announced the league and players are now focused on starting next season on Jan. 1 after previously aiming to get things going Dec. 1.

The Los Angeles Kings had the second selection and chose six-foot-four centre Quinton Byfield of the Ontario Hockey League’s Sudbury Wolves. Byfield became the highest Black player picked in NHL draft history after Evander Kane (2009) and Seth Jones (2013) each went fourth overall.

“That definitely means a lot to me,” Byfield said. “Being in the record books for anything is super special, but that especially.”

WATCH | Byfield makes history at second overall:

Quinton Byfield from Newmarket, Ont., is selected 2nd overall in the 2020 NHL draft by the Los Angeles Kings. 0:35

The Ottawa Senators used the No. 3 selection, which they acquired from San Jose as part of the Erik Karlsson trade two years ago, to grab shifty German winger Tim Stuetzle, with University of Ottawa graduate and “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek announcing the pick in a pre-taped appearance.

“I didn’t know like 100 per cent what was going on with [the No. 2 and 3] picks,” Stuetzle said. “It’s just a big honour to play for the capital of Canada.”

General manager Pierre Dorion said Trebek’s appearance was the idea of team owner Eugene Melnyk, adding the gameshow icon recorded versions for Lafreniere, Byfield and Stuetzle.

Trebek’s inclusion even got a thumbs up from Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas.

“One of the highlights for me in all my time watching drafts,” Dubas said.

WATCH | Alex Trebek announces Senators’ 1st pick:

Alex Trebek, the host of ‘Jeopardy!’ and University of Ottawa graduate, announces that the Senators selected Tim Stuetzle as the 3rd overall pick of the 2020 NHL draft. 0:58

The top-ranked European skater, Stuetzle spent this season with Adler Mannheim in his country’s top professional league, where he was named rookie of the year. He’s also the third German-trained player to be drafted in the top-6, matching 2020 Hart Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl’s selection at No. 3 by Edmonton six years ago.

“I want to win Cups in Ottawa, and I want to play in the NHL as fast as I can,” added Stuetzle, who admitted with a smile he doesn’t watch “Jeopardy!”

The Detroit Red Wings, who dropped from No. 1 to No. 4 in the first phase of the NHL’s draft lottery in June, got Swedish winger Lucas Raymond with their pick.

Ottawa was back on the clock with its own selection at No. 5 and chose blue-liner Jake Sanderson from the U.S. under-18 program to become the first team since 2000 to make two picks in the top-5.

The Senators, who have largely made headlines for all the wrong reasons since getting within a goal of the 2017 Stanley Cup final, hope securing Stuetzle and Sanderson will accelerate a rebuild that saw a roster once led by Karlsson — the team’s captain and a two-time Norris Trophy-winning defenceman — torn down to its studs.

“It’s one of the biggest nights in this franchise’s history,” Dorion said.

The son of former NHLer Geoff Sanderson took in proceedings with his family from a suite at the University of North Dakota’s home arena where he started his first semester this fall.

“It’s a little bit different draft this year,” Sanderson said. “But I think it’s kind of special in its own way.”

The Winnipeg Jets had Crystal Hawerchuk, wife of the late Dale Hawerchuk, make their selection of centre Cole Perfetti from the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit at No. 10.

Dale Hawerchuk, who became the face of the original Jets en route to the Hall of Fame, died in August at age 57 after a battle with cancer.

“Just the raw emotion that everyone feels and then the love that we feel for Dale and his family,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said when reflecting on the moment. “Just the way the stars aligned in our 10th year when we had the opportunity for the 10th pick, we had the idea of who better to make it than the greatest No. 10 in the Winnipeg Jets history?”

“It just felt so special.”

The Oilers took centre Dylan Holloway at No. 14, the Leafs selected Russian winger Rodion Amirov at No. 15 and the Montreal Canadiens snagged defenceman Kaiden Guhle at No. 16. Earlier in the day, Montreal traded forward Max Domi and a third-round pick to Columbus for winger Josh Anderson.

The Calgary Flames traded down twice from No. 19 to No. 22 and then finally to No. 24 where they took centre Connor Zary.

The Senators selected centre Ridly Greig at No. 28, which originally belonged to the New York Islanders. The Vancouver Canucks, meanwhile, don’t have a selection until Wednesday’s third round.

Unlike their NFL or NBA counterparts, NHL teams are usually seated at tables on the floor of one of the league’s 31 arenas for its draft, but the 2020 edition saw general managers and much of their scouting staffs spread across North America.

Cheveldayoff said it was nice to be able to talk out in the open and not have to try and hide his draft list, but there were downsides.

“There’s nothing like being able to meet the player right away, give him the jersey, have him put it on and just feel their excitement,” he said.

The prospects set to take their first steps into the NHL, meanwhile, all watched proceedings away from the usual bright lights. First-round hopefuls were each sent gear from the league’s 31 teams so they’d have some swag once their names were called.

Lafreniere and his counterparts didn’t get the normal thrill of climbing on stage in front of friends and family, but the night will be memorable nonetheless for every player picked.

“It’s different, and we didn’t expect that a couple of months ago,” Lafreniere said. “Growing up, you’re dreaming of being drafted.

“And for me today, it’s amazing to go first.”

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Genie Bouchard (surprise) might be Canada’s best French Open hope

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:

2 Canadians are left in the French Open — just not the ones we figured

Canada had six singles players in the Grand Slam event, and the strength appeared to be on the men’s side. Even with Milos Raonic opting out, Canada was still pretty loaded with No. 9 seed Denis Shapovalov and No. 19 Felix Auger-Aliassime, along with unseeded Vasek Pospisil (ranked 76th in the world) and Steven Diez (181st). The only women’s entries were 100th-ranked teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez, who had one career Slam match win to her credit, and 168th Genie Bouchard, who hadn’t won one since early 2019.

But — surprise! — Bouchard and Fernandez are the only two still alive. Bouchard reached the third round yesterday, and Fernandez joined her today with a three-set victory over 47th-ranked Polona Hercog. Meanwhile, Shapovalov, who was the last Canadian man left, dropped a five-set, five-hour marathon to 101st-ranked Roberto Carballes Baena. Read more about today’s results here.

Bouchard’s next match is Friday at 5 a.m. ET. Her opponent is Polish teenager Iga Swiatek, who’s ranked 54th in the world and has reached at least the third round in all three Grand Slams this year.

If Bouchard wins, it’ll be her first trip to the fourth round of a Slam since the 2015 U.S. Open. She had to withdraw from that match after slipping in the locker room and hitting her head. Bouchard sued the tournament organizers, and a settlement was reached before the trial was completed.

The locker-room fall coincided with Bouchard’s fall from grace. She had finished the 2014 season ranked fifth in the world after a magical run that saw her reach the Wimbledon final, the semifinals of the Australian and French Opens and the fourth round of the U.S. Open. By the end of 2015, she was down to 48th. She closed the 2019 season 224th.

Bouchard, who’s now 26, has clawed back up to 168th (and climbing) with some solid clay-court play over the last few weeks. Before the French Open, she made the final of a low-stakes tournament in Istanbul, where she benefited from the world’s best players either being busy at the U.S. Open or sitting out.

Fernandez, 18, is hoping to trace her fellow Quebecer’s steps up the world rankings. This is her first season as a full-fledged pro. She qualified for her first Slam at the Australian Open in January, and picked up her first Slam win at the U.S. Open last month. In order to reach the fourth round in her French Open debut, she’ll have to beat No. 7 seed Petra Kvitova. The 30-year-old Czech was ranked second in the world as recently as January 2019. She’s won Wimbledon twice and has banked more than $ 32 million US in prize money. Their match is Saturday.

WATCH | Leylah Annie Fernandez’s French Open journey continues:

The 18-year-old from Laval, Que., beat world No. 47 Polona Hercog of Slovenia 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 to advance to the third round of the French Open. 3:10

Well, that didn’t last long

The Toronto Blue Jays’ surprising return to the post-season ended yesterday after just two games. Ace Hyun-Jin Ryu got roughed up in an 8-2 loss that gave the top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays a sweep of the best-of-three first-round series.

The ending was definitely a bummer, but this was a fun season for Jays fans. The team kept its chin up after getting kicked to a minor-league park in Buffalo, and took advantage of a shortened season and a generous new playoff structure to earn a surprising playoff berth — its first in four years.

Despite yesterday’s struggles, Ryu looks like a legit ace and rookie pitcher Nate Pearson showed flashes of brilliance (when he was healthy). Young shortstop Bo Bichette seems like the real deal (at least at the plate). Vladimir Guerrero Jr., still hasn’t broken out, but his power numbers improved a bit from his rookie year and he finished the regular season strong. So maybe he can solve those ground-ball woes for next year. And Toronto’s two best hitters this year — outfielders Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Teoscar Hernandez — are still early in their primes and under team control for next season. Hernandez is arbitration-eligible (good timing by him) but Gurriel is signed for three more years at team-friendly salaries.

So there’s a lot to look forward to, especially if baseball decides to keep its expanded playoff format. And, hey, just be glad you’re not a Twins fan. Minnesota got swept by Houston yesterday and has now lost an incredible 18 (!) consecutive playoff games.


The NFL postponed the Titans-Steelers game for this week. After several members of Tennessee’s team tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, the NFL initially planned to just push back Sunday’s showdown between the 3-0 clubs to Monday or Tuesday. But two more positive tests today brought the Titans’ total to 11, including five players, prompting the league to call off the game. It’ll be played later this season. Week 7 looks like the best option because the Titans are scheduled for a bye while both the Steelers and their opponent that week, Baltimore, have byes the following week. Read more about the Titans’ outbreak and the postponed game here.

The Miami Heat are in trouble. When you’re as big an underdog as Miami is in its NBA Finals matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers, you need pretty much everything to go right to pull off the upset. But pretty much everything went wrong last night. The Heat got blown out 116-98 in the series opener, and that score (lopsided as it is) even flatters them thanks to some garbage-time scoring. L.A.’s two-star system worked to perfection. Anthony Davis dominated on both ends of the floor and finished with a game-high 34 points along with nine rebounds and five assists, while LeBron James (25/13/9) nearly put up a triple-double. Their gravity created a lot of open looks for the supporting cast, which knocked down its share of shots. Oh, and it (somehow) gets worse for the Heat. Two of their best players, Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo, both left the game with injuries and are looking doubtful for Game 2. Another Miami star, Jimmy Butler, was slowed by an apparent ankle injury. Not to overreact to one game, but this is shaping up to be a short series. Read more about the Heat’s devastating Game 1 loss here.

Canada Artistic Swimming closed its national-team training centre in Montreal after athletes complained of abuse and harassment. Artistic swimming is the new name for synchronized swimming. Radio-Canada reported that the training centre is closed as an external firm investigates allegations made in a series of emails. According to the report, some athletes complained they heard offensive comments made by a coach about Black, Muslim and LGBTQ people. Another coach who is part of the organization told Radio Canada that wasn’t the only incident, and that there’s a “culture of fear and compliance” at Canada Artistic Swimming. Read more here.

And finally…

15 for fighting. That’s what the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League will start penalizing players who drop the gloves under new rules passed yesterday. Anyone involved in a fight gets hit with the standard five-minute major, plus a 10-minute misconduct. Instigators get an extra two minutes. Frequent fighters will also be targeted. A player’s third fight of the season lands him an automatic three-game suspension, and he’ll get another game for every additional scrap after that. The new rules go into effect when the regular season starts tonight.

Isabelle Charest, who’s the minister for sports in Quebec, had called for the QMJHL to ban fighting. Meanwhile, the league is asking for a $ 20-million government bailout to help it through the pandemic. But commissioner Gilles Courteau insisted the new rules weren’t a condition for receiving money from the government. Read more about the QMJHL’s crackdown on fighting here.

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Tove Lo Shares Marries Charlie Twaddle In Surprise Wedding

Tove Lo Shares Marries Charlie Twaddle In Surprise Wedding | Entertainment Tonight

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‘Selling Sunset’: Chrishell Stause and Justin Hartley’s Split at Center of Surprise Teaser for Season 3

‘Selling Sunset’: Chrishell Stause and Justin Hartley’s Split at Center of Surprise Teaser for Season 3 | Entertainment Tonight

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Oprah Makes Surprise Appearance During John Krasinski’s Virtual Graduation to Honor Class of 2020

Oprah Makes Surprise Appearance During John Krasinski’s Virtual Graduation to Honor Class of 2020 | Entertainment Tonight

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Vin Diesel Teases ‘Big Surprise’ for ‘Fast & Furious’ Fans (Exclusive)

Vin Diesel Teases ‘Big Surprise’ for ‘Fast & Furious’ Fans (Exclusive) | Entertainment Tonight

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Jake Gyllenhaal Joins John Mulaney for Surprise Cameo in Wild ‘Saturday Night Live’ Musical Sketch

Jake Gyllenhaal Joins John Mulaney for Surprise Cameo in Wild ‘Saturday Night Live’ Musical Sketch | Entertainment Tonight

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Surprise! Shop 30% Off Everything at Kate Spade New York

Surprise! Shop 30% Off Everything at Kate Spade New York | Entertainment Tonight

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Kathy Griffin Announces Surprise New Year’s Eve Engagement and Wedding!

Kathy Griffin Announces Surprise New Year’s Eve Engagement and Wedding! | Entertainment Tonight

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Trump makes surprise Thanksgiving trip to Afghanistan, voices hope for ceasefire

U.S. President Donald Trump paid a surprise Thanksgiving visit to Afghanistan, where he announced the United States and Taliban have been engaged in ongoing peace talks and said he believes the Taliban wants a ceasefire.

In his first trip to the site of America’s longest war, Trump arrived at Bagram Air Field shortly after 8:30 p.m. local time Thursday and spent more than two and a half hours on the ground, serving turkey, thanking the troops and sitting down with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

As per tradition, reporters were under strict instructions to keep the trip a secret to ensure his safety in the country. About 12,000 U.S. forces remain in Afghanistan.

Travelling with Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming and a small clutch of aides, including his acting chief of staff, press secretary and national security adviser, Trump appeared in good spirits as he was escorted around the base by heavily armed soldiers, as the smell of burning fuel and garbage wafted through the chilly air. Unlike last year’s post-Christmas visit to Iraq, the president’s wife Melania Trump did not make the trip.

Trump’s first stop was a dining hall, where he sat down for a meal. But he said he only tasted the mashed potatoes before he was pulled away for photos.

“I never got the turkey,” he told the troops. “A gorgeous piece of turkey.”

Trump speaks to the troops during the visit. (Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images)

During his visit, Trump said the U.S. and Taliban have been engaged in peace talks and insisted the Taliban want to make a deal after heavy U.S. fire in recent months.

“We’re meeting with them,” he said. “And we’re saying it has to be a ceasefire. And they don’t want to do a ceasefire, but now they do want to do a ceasefire, I believe … and we’ll see what happens.”

The trip came after Trump abruptly broke off peace talks with the Taliban in September, cancelling a secret meeting with Taliban and Afghan leaders at the Camp David presidential retreat after a particularly deadly spate of violence, capped by a bombing in Kabul that killed 12 people, including an American soldier.

Trump meets with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani at Bagram Air Base. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

That ended a nearly yearlong effort by the U.S. to reach a political settlement with the Taliban, the group that protected al-Qaeda extremists in Afghanistan, prompting U.S. military action after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. U.S. and international forces have been on the ground ever since.

2,400 U.S. service members killed

Trump ran his 2016 campaign promising to end the nation’s “endless wars” and has been pushing to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and in the Middle East, despite protests from top U.S. officials, Trump’s Republican allies in Washington and many U.S. allies abroad. For months now, he has described American forces as “policemen” and argued that other countries’ wars should be theirs to wage.

Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and more than 2,400 American service members have been killed since the war began 18 years ago.

U.S. President Donald Trump had said he would be spending Thanksgiving at his club, Mar-a-Lago, in Florida. Instead, he visited the troops at Bagram Air Field. (Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images)

Just last week, Trump flew to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to oversee the transfer of remains of two officers killed when their helicopter crashed as they provided security for troops on the ground in Logar Province in eastern Afghanistan. The Taliban still controls or holds sway over about half of the country, staging near-daily attacks targeting Afghan forces and government officials.

The U.S. and Taliban had been close to an agreement in September that might have enabled a U.S. troop withdrawal.

Trump meets with Afghan president

Trump said he was proceeding with a plan to reduce U.S. troop levels to about 8,600, telling reporters we’re “bringing down the number of troops substantially.”

Still, he said, the U.S. will stay in the country “until we have a deal or we have total victory.”

Trump also met briefly with Ghani, the Afghan president. Ghani thanked the Americans who have made the “ultimate sacrifice” in Afghanistan and assured Trump that Afghan security forces are increasingly leading the fight.

“In the next three months, it’s going to be all Afghanistan,” Ghani said.

Taking pains to keep trip secret

Ghani also praised Trump for the October mission that killed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The Afghan leader also said, as Trump himself has, that the al-Baghdadi mission was even more significant than the 2011 mission targeting al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. The bin Laden mission was ordered by then-president Barack Obama.

“President Trump, people talked a lot about bin Laden, but what you did to eliminate al-Baghdadi, who was an organizer and not a talker, is a much great accomplishment,” said Ghani, in remarks to U.S. troops before Trump’s departure.

The White House took pains to keep the trip a secret after Trump’s cover was blown last year when Air Force One was spotted en route to Iraq by an amateur British flight watcher.

Decoy airplane

Cellphones and other transmitting devices were confiscated for the duration of the trip from everyone travelling aboard Air Force One. And Thanksgiving-themed tweets were teed up to publish ahead of time from Trump’s account to prevent suspicions arising about the president’s silence.

A small group of reporters was told to meet Wednesday night on the top floor of a parking garage and transported in black vans to Andrews Air Force Base. Meanwhile, the president was secretly flying back from Florida, where reporters had been told he’d be spending Thanksgiving at his Mar-a-Lago club.

Air Force One sits on the tarmac at Palm Beach International Airport in Florida on Wednesday. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

The plane he’d flown to Florida — the modified 747 painted in the iconic white and blue of Air Force One — remained parked on the tarmac at West Palm Beach Airport to avoid revealing the president’s movement.

About 9:45 p.m. local time Wednesday, the president boarded a nearly identical plane concealed in a hangar at Andrews Air Base, taking off and landing under the cover of darkness, with cabin lights dimmed and window shutters drawn.

‘We thought it’d be a nice surprise’

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said plans for the visit had been in the works for weeks.

“It’s a dangerous area and he wants to support the troops,” Grisham told reporters before Trump landed. “He and Mrs. Trump recognize that there’s a lot of people who are away from their families during the holidays and we thought it’d be a nice surprise.”

Shortly after midnight, Trump and his entourage departed from Afghanistan.

The president told the troops he was honoured to spend part of his holiday with them.

“There is nowhere I’d rather celebrate this Thanksgiving than right here with the toughest, strongest, best and bravest warriors on the face of the earth,” Trump said.

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