Tag Archives: teams

Vancouver Canucks confirm variant responsible for team’s COVID-19 outbreak

The Vancouver Canucks confirm a variant of the COVID-19 virus is responsible for the outbreak that has ravaged the team.

“As of today, 25 individuals have tested positive and the source infection is confirmed a variant — full genome sequencing by [B.C. Centre for Disease Control] will be required to determine which specific type,” reads the statement from the team.

So far, 21 players and four staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. An additional player is considered a close contact.

Earlier, the chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health told CBC News that officials had traced how the virus first gained a foothold in the team.

“The cluster at the Vancouver Canucks … we do know how the virus entered that community,” said Dr. Patricia Daly. “We don’t provide details of any cases.” 

The Canucks statement said the source is “a single individual obtained in a community setting, which has since been identified by public health as a public exposure location.”

“Rapid spread of infection throughout the team indicates a link between contacts and the primary case.”

Forward Adam Gaudette was the first member of the team to test positive for COVID-19 and was pulled off the ice mid-practice on March 30. 

Defenceman Travis Hamonic followed the next day and the NHL postponed the Canucks game against the Calgary Flames that evening.

Five more games have since been postponed as the virus spread among players and staff.

With the team having played just 37 of 56 regular season games, it’s unclear what the remainder of the season will bring. 

An NHL spokesperson said “a 56-game season is still the focus” but if necessary, the league has some flexibility on scheduling the opening of playoffs.”

The prolonged layoff while battling the virus could be another blow to Vancouver’s already precarious playoff hopes.

Heading into Wednesday night, the Canucks (16-18-3) trailed Montreal by eight points for the final playoff spot.

“The health and safety of players, staff, families and the greater community remains the utmost priority,” said the Canucks.  

“This is a stark reminder of how quickly the virus can spread and its serious impact, even among healthy, young athletes.

All staff and players remain in quarantine, according to the team.

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CBC | Sports News

Dutch join teams speaking out on human rights situation in Qatar ahead of World Cup

The Netherlands national team wore T-shirts on Saturday emblazoned with the words “Football supports change,” in an apparent statement about human rights in World Cup host Qatar, ahead of its Group G qualifier against Latvia.

Defender Matthijs de Ligt had said ahead of the match that the Dutch team wanted to make a statement about the human rights situation in Qatar, saying “it’s a very difficult situation with workers’ rights there.”

The Dutch action before the game at the Johan Cruyff Arena followed expressions of support for human rights by Norway and Germany players ahead of their first World Cup qualifying matches on Wednesday and Thursday.

The German team lined up in black shirts, each with one white letter to spell out “HUMAN RIGHTS,” ahead of the 3-0 win against Iceland in Group J. Midfielder Leon Goretzka said the German players had followed Norway’s lead and that they wanted to make a statement about the 2022 World Cup.

Norway players wore shirts stating: “HUMAN RIGHTS” and “Respect on and off the pitch” before their game against Gibraltar in Group G on Wednesday.

FIFA’s disciplinary code states players and federations can face disciplinary action in cases of “using a sports event for demonstrations of a non-sporting nature.”

FIFA has not opened a case against Norway or Germany for their actions.

The Norwegian national team made a point about human rights again ahead of its game against Turkey in Malaga, Spain. Its players took off jackets for the national anthem to reveal white T-shirts with the message “HUMAN RIGHTS On and off the pitch”, but this time calling on more teams to join forces with them. The shirts also bore the names of Norway and Germany with ticks beside them and the question “Next?”

Qatar, which won the World Cup hosting vote a decade ago, has been under scrutiny over laws and conditions for migrant workers helping to build infrastructure for the tournament.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said last week Qatar has made social progress because of becoming the World Cup host.

England manager Gareth Southgate said the English Football Association and Amnesty International have been in talks. Amnesty International wrote to the FA last year urging them to put pressure on FIFA to ensure the rights of migrant workers in Qatar are properly protected.

Southgate said talks between the two organizations remain ongoing and that Amnesty are not looking for the tournament to be called off.

“I think in terms of the situation in Qatar, the FA are working closely with Amnesty International and will be talking with Qatar as well,” he said. “My understanding is Amnesty don’t want the tournament postponed or moved. They want to work and highlight issues that maybe could be improved. So, it’s important we work with organizations like that.”

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CBC | Soccer News

Canadian NHL teams exploring hosting fans, but no plans as of yet

At least five of Canada’s NHL teams have talked with their provincial government about fans returning to their buildings before the current season ends, but one infectious disease expert thinks it makes more sense to wait until the fall.

The Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets all say they have explored the possibility of putting some fans back in the stands. Canadian teams have played in empty buildings since March 12, 2020, due to concerns about COVID-19.

“We have had preliminary conversations with local authorities about a plan to host some fans at Rogers Arena this year, however nothing is imminent,” said a statement from Canucks Sports and Entertainment. “Any plans to welcome fans back this year will be with the approval and guidance of public health officials. We expect discussions to continue in the near future.”

Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease physician for St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, Ont., pointed to rising COVID-19 cases in several provinces.

“I mean Montreal, Winnipeg, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver are all not in great places,” he said. “There is case growth in every single one of these cities. It’s hard to justify putting a bunch of people in a single place.”

Chagla said October may be a better time for fans to return as more people will have been vaccinated.

“I think you’re getting closer to normal by the fall,” he said.

“It might not be like full 100 per cent but you probably could get half capacity, so that’s a good thing.”

WATCH | Rob Pizzo recaps week 10 in the NHL’s all-Canadian division:

In our weekly segment, Rob Pizzo catches you up on the week that was in the all-Canadian division in the NHL. 3:54

Edmonton served as one of the NHL’s two playoff hub cities. Rogers Place was empty when it hosted the Stanley Cup final and the IIHF World Junior Championships.

“We believe we can host fans in Rogers Place and do it as safely as any venue in the world, based on our track record and expertise,” Tim Shipton, senior vice-president of communications and government relations with the Oilers Entertainment Group, said in an email. “We will only move forward with the plan, in conjunction with Alberta Health, as they ultimately need to sign off on the plan.”

A spokesman for the Flames said the team is also talking with the provincial government.

Rob Wozny, the Winnipeg Jet’s vice-president of communications, said the team has ongoing discussions with the province.

“We have shared we have the ability, experience, and resources to open the arena … when it is safe to do so, but no timeline has been discussed,” he said in an email.

A spokesman for the Quebec government said talks have been held with the Canadiens.

A Toronto Maple Leafs spokesman deferred any questions about fans returning to the provincial government.

Dakota Brasier, press secretary to the minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, said “the province will continue to follow the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, other health experts and local public health to determine when and if it is safe for measures to be lifted.”

Chagla said even if fans are allowed back in buildings before the season ends May 8, the numbers will be limited because of social distancing concerns.

“You’re probably looking at maybe 2,000 maximum,” he said. “It’s how much can you get reasonable distancing. As much as we say two metres, it probably needs to be a whole lot more than that considering all the interfaces between people.”

Most American teams hosting fans

In the U.S., 18 of the 24 American-based teams have already welcomed a limited number of fans or plan to allow them this month. Numbers have ranged from three per cent to 30 per cent of capacity.

David Legg, a professor of sports management at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said the return of a limited number of fans presents a whole series of challenges for teams.

Clubs will face questions about safety protocols; how many staff to hire; the best way to offer food and beverage service; and who gets tickets and at what price.

“I hate to use the word unprecedented but that’s exactly what it is,” said Legg. “No one’s got a model or pattern from which to follow.

“I think every team is guessing. Do you offer the tickets to past season-ticket holders … or do you simply put it out to the highest bidder? How you price them becomes tricky because you really don’t know what the demand is going to be.”

There’s also the risk of games being postponed. The Canadiens had four games postponed last week after two players were placed in COVID-19 protocol.

Enforcing mask rules, when people are cheering, eating and drinking, can cause problems.

“In some respects, I would think they might be better off just waiting until next fall again,” Legg said.

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CBC | Sports News

Scientist behind COVID-19 mRNA vaccine says her team’s next target is cancer

The scientist who won the race to deliver the first widely used coronavirus vaccine says people can rest assured the shots are safe, and that the technology behind it will soon be used to fight another global scourge — cancer.

Ozlem Tureci, who founded the German company BioNTech with her husband, Ugur Sahin, was working on a way to harness the body’s immune system to tackle tumours when they learned last year of an unknown virus infecting people in China.

Over breakfast, the couple decided to apply the technology they’d been researching for two decades to the new threat.

Britain authorized BioNTech’s mRNA vaccine for use in December, followed a week later by Canada. Dozens of other countries, including the U.S., have followed suit and tens of millions of people worldwide have since received the shot developed together with U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

“It pays off to make bold decisions and to trust that if you have an extraordinary team, you will be able to solve any problem and obstacle which comes your way in real time,” Tureci told The Associated Press in an interview.

Among the biggest challenges for the small, Mainz-based company were how to conduct large-scale clinical trials across different regions and how to scale up the manufacturing process to meet global demand.

Along with Pfizer, the company enlisted the help of Fosun Pharma in China “to get assets, capabilities and geographical footprint on board, which we did not have,” said Tureci.

Co-operation and collaboration 

Among the lessons she and her colleagues learned was “how important co-operation and collaboration is internationally.”

Tureci, who was born in Germany to Turkish immigrants, said the company reached out to medical oversight bodies from the start, to ensure that the new type of vaccine would pass the rigorous scrutiny of regulators.

“The process of getting a medicine or a vaccine approved is one where many questions are asked, many experts are involved and there is external peer review of all the data and scientific discourse,” she said.

Amid a scare in Europe this week over the coronavirus shot made by British-Swedish rival AstraZeneca, Tureci dismissed the idea that any corners were cut by those racing to develop a vaccine.

“There is a very rigid process in place and the process does not stop after a vaccine has been approved,” she said. “It is, in fact, continuing now all around the world, where regulators have used reporting systems to screen and to assess any observations made with our or other vaccines.”

Tureci and her colleagues have all received the BioNTech shot themselves, she told the AP. “Yes, we have been vaccinated.”

Aim to develop new tool in fight against cancer

As BioNTech’s profile has grown during the pandemic, so has its value, adding much-needed funds the company will be able to use to pursue its original goal of developing a new tool against cancer.

The vaccine made by BioNTech-Pfizer and U.S. rival Moderna uses messenger RNA, or mRNA, to carry instructions into the human body for making proteins that prime it to attack a specific virus. The same principle can be applied to get the immune system to take on tumours.

“We have several different cancer vaccines based on mRNA,” said Tureci.

Asked when such a therapy might be available, Tureci said “that’s very difficult to predict in innovative development. But we expect that within only a couple of years, we will also have our vaccines [against] cancer at a place where we can offer them to people.”

Workers pack boxes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as they are prepared to be shipped at the Pfizer manufacturing plant in Kalamazoo, Mich., in December. The vaccine was the first to be cleared for use in both Canada and the U.S. (Morry Cash/AFP/Getty Images)

For now, Tureci and Sahin are trying to ensure the vaccines governments have ordered are delivered and that the shots respond effectively to any new mutation in the virus.

On Friday, the couple were taking time out of their schedule to receive Germany’s highest award, the Order of Merit, from President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a trained scientist herself, was to attend the ceremony.

“It’s indeed an honour,” Tureci said of the award. “Both my husband and I are touched.”

But she insisted developing the vaccine was the work of many.

“It’s about the effort of many, our team at BioNTech, all the partners who were involved, also governments, regulatory authorities, which worked together with a sense of urgency,” she said. “The way we see it, this is an acknowledgement of this effort and also a celebration of science.”

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CBC | World News

With 8 teams remaining, Scotties title feels like anyone’s game

When this year’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts began one week ago, many expected the usual curling characters to rise to the top. Jennifer Jones, Kerri Einarson and Rachel Homan were picked by many to advance to the championship pool and that’s exactly what happened.

But what many curling fans and prognosticators didn’t see developing was a young Quebec team and veteran Saskatchewan skip also rising to the top. 

  • Watch and engage with CBC Sports’ That Curling Show live every day of The Scotties at 7:30 p.m. ET on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube

Quebec skip Laurie St-Georges has been fearless in the face of pressure in her first Scotties appearance. And her team seems to be soaking up every second on the ice, smiling, laughing and embracing the big stage. The team finished the preliminary round with a 6-2 record and is one of the eight teams remaining, battling it out for the final three spots.

Then there’s Saskatchewan skip Sherry Anderson, who at 57 is playing in her 10th Scotties and led her team to first place in Pool B with a 6-2 record. (In fact, Anderson got her first Scotties victory 27 years ago today. She’s won 56 games at the national championship throughout her career and is becoming one of the great stories at this year’s event.)

Team Fleury (5-3), skipped by Chelsea Carey, Quebec (6-2) and Manitoba (6-2) also advanced out of Pool B. 

In Pool A, Homan and Einarson lead the way with 7-1 records, but Homan finished first by defeating Einarson in their final preliminary game. Also advancing out of Pool A are Team Peterson and Alberta, each at 5-3. 

WATCH | That Curling Show breaks down moving day at Scotties:

From tiebreaker scenarios to championship round matchups, hosts Colleen Jones and Devin Heroux get you caught up. 47:55

The teams will carry over their records from the preliminary round to the championship round, making each game that much more important the rest of the way. The four teams from Pool A will play the four teams from Pool B. 

The top three teams after the championship pool advance to the playoffs, with the first-place team moving directly to Sunday’s final while the second- and third-place teams battle it out in the semifinal. 

Throughout the week of competition there were moments of drama, shots were made and shots were certainly missed. The curlers are in a situation like no other having not been able to properly practice heading into the national championship.

Under normal circumstances, teams would have played anywhere from 10 to 12 events by this point of the curling season. The rust was noticeable. But now with a week on the ice behind them, it appears the teams are getting a grasp on the ice conditions and seem more comfortable. 

Team Einarson, outside of the loss to Homan, has been one of the most consistent teams and looks a good bet to repeat their championship last year in Moose Jaw. Not since Homan won in 2013 and 2014 has a team repeated. 

Homan, eight months pregnant, is making another championship push at the Scotties, looking to erase her back-to-back losses in the championship game the past two years.

Jones is looking to make more history. Earlier in the tournament she surpassed Colleen Jones for most wins ever at the Scotties. If she wins Sunday’s championship, it will be her seventh, moving her past Colleen Jones for most titles as a skip. 

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CBC | Sports News

Why the NHL’s Canadian division is controlling COVID-19 better than U.S. teams

About 160 kilometres separates Toronto from Buffalo, N.Y., but when it comes to the NHL and COVID-19, the two cities are even farther apart.

The Buffalo Sabres have seen head coach Ralph Krueger and nine players placed on the NHL’s coronavirus protocol list and the team has been forced to reschedule 12 games.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have no players on the protocol list and have had no changes to their schedule.

Krueger, wearing an N95 mask, and defenceman Rasmus Dahlin returned to Buffalo’s practice on Sunday. Forward Taylor Hall was back on the ice Saturday.

WATCH | Week 4 roundup of the NHL’s North Division:

Rob Pizzo catches you up on the week that was in the all-Canadian division in the NHL. 2:54

The tale of the two teams is an example of the contrast between what has been happening in the seven-team, all-Canadian North Division and the NHL’s 24 U.S.-based clubs.

As of Sunday, 35 players appeared on the NHL’s COVID-19 list.

The Ottawa Senators were the only Canadian team with a player on the list after acquiring forward Ryan Dzingel Saturday in a trade from the Carolina Hurricanes. Dzingel must quarantine for 14 days before he can play.

Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi was placed on the list Thursday morning ahead of a game with the Montreal Canadiens, but has since been cleared.

Of the 35 games the NHL has postponed this year, none have involved Canadian teams.

“I think it’s a great natural experiment,” said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease physician for St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton. “You’re running the same league, with the same rules on both sides of the border, and you’re seeing a completely different result.”

Greater community transmission in U.S.

Dr. Jill Weatherhead, an assistant professor in infectious diseases at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, said the blame for what’s happening with U.S. teams comes from outside the arena.

“My interpretation of what’s happening in Canada is there’s a lot more regulation in terms of what people are allowed to do and restrictions than what we’re experiencing here,” said Weatherhead, who was raised in Michigan and grew up a die-hard Detroit Red Wings fan.

“As a result, we have more widespread community transmission and what’s happening in the community will be reflected in what’s happening in these teams, if they’re allowed to interact with the community.”

Sabres centre Jack Eichel said players understand how serious the virus is.

“We’re in the middle of a global pandemic,” he said during a teleconference. “The league is trying to do what they can to keep us safe. It is still a learning experience for all of us. It’s unchartered territory.

“At times maybe we are learning as we go.”

WATCH | Rob Pizzo on the NHL’s biggest pests through the years:

Matthew Tkachuk has spent the season driving players crazy, but he is far from the first to do it. Rob Pizzo looks at 9 other players who got under their opponents skin. 2:03

Chagla said the NHL no longer has the control over players it did during the playoffs when teams were confined to bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton. COVID-19 restrictions also vary in different U.S. states.

California, Texas, Florida and New York State lead the U.S in COVID-19 infections.

“Some parts of the States are more lax in rules,” said Chagla. “Every one of those players has a connection outside of the rink. Some of these guys have families, they have kids that have access to schools, their spouses have access to jobs.

“It makes it a whole lot more liable for you to get into trouble if the pressures and the density of infections in the community is 10 times more than it is in Canada. The odds of you bumping into someone with COVID, or one of your contacts, your household members … is up every day.”

Last week, the NHL announced it was expanding its protocols to battle COVID-19.

The league is introducing game-day rapid tests for players, team staff and on-ice officials. The tests, initially being made available to the U.S.-based teams, provide results with half an hour.

Among other moves, the league is advising players not leave their homes except to attend practices, games or essential activities. There’s also a recommendation that household members stay at home and consider using grocery-delivery services.

Plans for more contact tracing

The NHL is also launching a player-tracking system to assist in contact tracing.

Weatherhead said contact tracing is a key weapon in fighting the spread of the virus.

“If you don’t have the resources to do that sort of in depth contact tracing, then you’re going to miss cases and there will be more widespread transmission on teams and between teams,” she said.

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Willie O’Ree broke the league’s colour barrier in 1958, and there have been a lot of firsts since then. Rob Pizzo walks you through 9 trailblazers for Black History Month. 1:52

Dallas Stars head coach Rick Bowness said travel presents one of the biggest challenges for teams.

“Because you are going in and out of hotel lobbies and elevators with other people around, it’s impossible to feel as safe,” Bowness told The Associated Press. “You’ve got strangers on the elevator. In Carolina the other day when we were getting on to an elevator, a couple got off and the woman did not have a mask on, so we don’t know, was she coughing in the elevator? Was she sneezing? Who knows?”

The start of the Oilers game Thursday night was delayed an hour to allow for contact tracing and test results after Puljujarvi was added to the COVID-19 protocol list.

Chagla said it’s possible there may be more positive tests on the Canadian teams.

“I certainly can’t say that every team is going to get through this unscathed,” said the Leafs fan. “I don’t think it’s going to be as profound as what’s happening in the U.S. though.”

Considering the number of infections and games that have already been postponed, Weatherhead doubts the NHL will be able to complete a 56-game season on May 8 as originally planned.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they have to extend the season,” she said. “I feel like they’re at a transition point. If it keeps going like this, it will be very difficult.”

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CBC | Sports News

Inside the Canadian women’s basketball team’s virtual training camp

It was exactly 367 days ago when Canada’s women’s basketball team qualified for Tokyo 2020.

Fast-forward to today, and the team is coming off a week-long virtual training camp, unable to meet in person due to the pandemic that forced the one-year postponement of the Olympics.

“That was sort of like the last big thing before the wheels fell off, and you think back to your mindset and just how everything felt at that point in time in Belgium: living the life, competing, playing against the best in the world, winning games, qualifying for [the] Tokyo Olympics, doing it all together. We were on top of the world,” head coach Lisa Thomaidis said of the Olympic qualifying tournament played last February.

“And then, you know, a few short weeks later, just how everything came crashing down.”

Training camp kicked off first thing Monday with words from Canadian chef de mission Marnie McBean, who reassured the team that Tokyo 2020 would indeed be going ahead in 2021.

McBean advised the team to block out reports that may arise in the coming months, such as the single-source story from the Times of London in late January that claimed the Japanese government had concluded to cancel the 2021 Games.

“It was good timing because it had come out [two] week[s] prior to us getting together. And so for her to come on the Monday morning and just be kind of like, ‘OK, this is what’s really happening,’ it was good just to kind of get rid of the elephant in the room,” Thomaidis said.

McBean’s insistence set the tone for a week of daily two-hour meetings covering everything from team vision to Olympic logistics to Tokyo heat.

“[We] went through a lot of envisioning and projecting what it’s going to be like in Tokyo, the conditions, the living arrangements, our competition schedule or training schedule leading into it,” Thomaidis said.

Those exercises helped put players’ minds at ease about attending the Olympics during a pandemic — not that there was much hesitance after already waiting this long to compete.

Forward Ruth Hamblin said it was important to hear assurance from McBean when she sees so much negativity surrounding the Olympics every day on Twitter.

“I feel like this meeting just kind of solidified what we have as a team and our system and our momentum. It’s going to be different, but it’s still an Olympics. I think that that doesn’t change. And if anything, it’s more than ever because the world needs some positivity,” said Hamblin, who currently plays in Poland.

Social activity welcomed

With questions surrounding the Olympics sorted, Thomaidis began instilling some of the team’s on-court systems. It’s tough to implement anything too complicated over Zoom, but some base principles helped sharpen how the team will attempt Canada’s first-ever Olympic women’s basketball medal.

After so much time apart, the social aspect of the week was also welcome to both coach and players alike.

Some meetings included games with quiz software Kahoot, and another ice-breaker matching Emojis to different players kicked off each day’s festivities.

“It’s just good old times, like the familiarity with these people because we spent so much time together. It’s really good to just hang out with them,” Hamblin said.

“I think more than anything, it was just that the energy that they came to the meetings with was pretty cool. People are tuning in from all around the world,” Thomaidis reiterated.

The team will continue to meet regularly over Zoom, likely every three or four weeks with frequency increasing as the Olympics approach.

Next opportunity to meet in May

While some other teams, including the U.S., were able to meet in person during the international window, Canada was stuck online with players dispersed throughout the U.S., France, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and Germany.

Forward Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe, who plays for Lyon in France, thinks that could work in Canada’s favour.

“I don’t think anyone expects us to get together two hours every day and watch film together and have a virtual reality. And I’m just really happy that we’re doing these things that can gain us a competitive edge over some of the other countries,” she said.

Canada’s next opportunity to meet in person is in May, when the team hopes to hold training camp in Edmonton ahead of the FIBA AmeriCup in June.

Overseas pro leagues will be done by then, meaning the logistics of gathering could be simplified. Then again, planning in a pandemic is fluid.

“I think it’s going to be one of the strangest Olympics ever,” Hamblin said. “And our ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances is going to be a key to our success.”

A basketball team going over a year without practice ahead of its biggest tournament certainly qualifies as strange. But from all corners of the world, Team Canada appears to be adjusting well.

And after the long period of inactivity, that competitive fire only burns brighter.

“We’re a basketball team, we just want to go and compete. I think everyone’s just finally looking forward to that. So, yeah, definitely some excitement building,” Thomaidis said.

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CBC | Sports News

Ontario permits indoor dining for NHL teams while province under stay-at-home order

The Ontario government announced Monday that teams competing in the NHL’s all-Canadian North Division will be permitted to dine inside certain Ontario restaurants despite ongoing stay-at-home orders within the province.

When asked why it is considered safe for NHL personnel to dine indoors but not the public, Premier Doug Ford yielded to the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, who pointed to the league’s strict COVID-19 testing policy.

“The rules of the NHL are very much strict with their protocols, with their frequent testing, their isolation of their players to the extent, and especially very tight transport within Canada,” Williams said. “They do not leave the country, so they’re staying in this country the whole time. There are some players, of course, this is not their home, and [they] require some place to have some eating and food facilities.

“The NHL has procured that in a tight level of restriction and control. So that’s all part of their bubble, if you may use that term, which they have strictly laid out in their protocol. And so far, as far as I’m concerned, they’ve been adhering to it.”

Canadian-based NHL players say they have had an easier time avoiding COVID-19 due to tighter rules and restrictions compared with those in the United States. There are currently no Canadian-based players on the league’s protocol list, but that has largely been the result of limiting potential exposure and following strict routines.

WATCH | Ontario announces it will allow indoor restaurant dining for NHL players:

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams on why the provincial government is allowing NHL staff and players to eat inside restaurants while the remainder of the province remains under stay-at-home orders. 1:15

Prior to the Ontario government’s decision, travelling players and coaches in Canada were only permitted at the hotel, arena or airport during the division-only season.

The league will submit a plan for approval to the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health that will specify a full list of Ontario businesses and places that will be used by the NHL.

Along with certain restaurants, the list will include selected bars and facilities for recreational fitness.

Every business or establishment listed in the NHL’s plan must comply with certain conditions, including not allowing spectators. Hotels must also ensure that their facilities are open only for the use of NHL personnel.

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CBC | Sports News

Canadian NHL teams getting ready for season-long sprint

The sprint to the NHL’s 56-game finish line started in earnest Sunday.

The seven teams that missed out on the league’s summer restart to a 2019-20 season brought to a screeching halt in March by the COVID-19 pandemic opened training camps Thursday ahead of the new campaign.

The other 24 clubs, including six from Canada, that took part in the expanded post-season inside the Edmonton and Toronto bubbles got going with testing and physicals to close out the weekend before hitting the ice Monday.

And with the schedule’s Jan. 13 curtain-raisers fast-approaching — plus no exhibition schedule — time is precious and the runway short.

“It’s going to be different,” Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid said on a video conference call with reporters Sunday. “We’ve got to learn on the fly, we’ve got to learn quick. It’s going to be different for everybody. It’s the times we live in.”

“It’s going to be a little tricky,” Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin added. “But we’re in the same boat as every other team.”

Because of border restrictions related to non-essential travel, the NHL has rejigged its divisions for the shortened 2020-21 season, including a seven-team Canadian circuit that should present plenty of mouth-watering matchups.

“I remember the last 48-game season [in 2012-13] when you woke up one day and you had 15 games left,” Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving said. “It just goes by. You play every night.”

WATCH | CBC Sports’ Rob Pizzo breaks down NHL’s return-to-play plan:

It’s official: hockey is back, but it will look a little different this year. 2:08

That one-time-only North Division will begin in empty arenas — a handful of U.S. franchises, meanwhile, have indicated they will have some fans in attendance from the start — but that’s unlikely to turn the temperature down with teams often playing the same opponent two and three times in quick succession, and up to 10 occasions total over 116 days of action.

“I’m looking forward to it,” McDavid said. “An all-Canadian division’s exciting. It’s never happened before. You look at some of the rivalries, the matchups, it can make for a pretty exciting division.

“Just about anyone can win the division, but with that being said, three teams aren’t going to make the playoffs.”

While the NHL has said it believes it has an agreement on health and safety protocols to play games in Canada, the B.C. and Alberta governments are the only provinces with teams to publicly announce a thumbs up for the puck to drop.

The Ottawa Senators, who were the only Canadian club not included in the NHL’s summer bubbles, have already been on the ice, but the other six situated north of the border are about to get their first looks at a number of new faces.

And there won’t be any easing into things.

“In years past when you’ve had a 21-day camp … you sort of build up and build your way through camp until right to the end,” Calgary captain Mark Giordano said. “We know that starting [Monday] that on-ice session, the attention to detail has to be really bang on.

“You have to force yourself as a professional to make sure that every little play and practice, every little pass means something, and you’re sharp and you’re crisp.”

Notable off-season moves

Among the biggest moves made by Canada’s NHL teams this off-season, the Toronto Maple Leafs added Joe Thornton and Wayne Simmonds up front to go along with T.J. Brodie and Zach Bogosian on defence, while the Canadiens acquired forwards Josh Anderson, Tyler Toffoli and Corey Perry, and also brought in blue-liner Joel Edmundson and backup goalie Jake Allen.

“Every time you start a new season, you’re always excited,” Bergevin said. “I like what we’ve done, (but) you can put anything you want on paper. It doesn’t matter until you start playing games.”

Leafs GM Kyle Dubas, whose team sits as the betting favourite to win the North, said his team’s focus during camp will be on its details following a string of post-season failures, including during the summer qualifying round.

“Going back to [the 2016-17 season] all the way through last year, we’ve had stretches that have hindered our ability to position ourselves as strongly as possible going into the playoffs,” Dubas said. “What we’re focused on right now on Day 1 of camp is building the foundation that’s going to serve us in the regular season.

“If we don’t do that, then we’re not going to be in a position to have the success that we all would like.”

The rebuilding Senators’ new faces include forwards Alex Galchenyuk, Evgenii Dadonov and Austin Watson, along with defenceman Erik Gudbranson and goalie Matt Murray. Fans in the nation’s capital are also excited to see what Tim Stuetzle — the No. 3 pick at the 2020 draft — can bring after his impressive offensive performance for Germany at the world junior hockey championship.

The Winnipeg Jets brought centre Paul Stastny, an integral part of their run to the 2018 Western Conference final, back into the fold, but questions remain regarding the future of sniper Patrik Laine, whose agent has reportedly said a trade would be best for all parties, and the status of restricted free agent forward Jack Roslovic.

‘Fast and furious’ pace

Calgary added goalie Jacob Markstrom and defenceman Chris Tanev in free agency from the Vancouver Canucks, while Edmonton’s biggest moves were the signings of defenceman Tyson Barrie and centre Kyle Turris, and the return of winger and 2016 fourth overall pick Jesse Puljujarvi from Europe.

“Based on what I’ve gone through before in a lockout-shortened schedule, the games are going to come fast and furious,” Flames head coach Geoff Ward said. “Rest is going to be so critical. Depth is really, really necessary.”

McDavid said it’s no secret what Edmonton will key on after a promising 2019-20 regular season was soured by a disappointing showing in the bubble.

“I don’t think we have a problem scoring goals,” he said. “It’s keeping the puck out of our net. Lots has been made about that. No one’s hiding their head in the sand here. Everyone understands where we’re at.”

The Vancouver Canucks, meanwhile, added Braden Holtby to replace Markstrom, and Nate Schmidt on the back end after their young core took a big step last season.

“It’s going to be an exciting year,” GM Jim Benning said. “Games are going to be intense … they’re going to be playoff-style.

“It’s going to be a sprint.”

One that, after a long wait and plenty of uncertainty, is right around the corner.

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NHL says it has agreement with provinces on conditions for Canadian teams to play season on home rinks

The NHL says it believes it has an agreement with provincial governments on the conditions for its Canadian teams to play out the 2021 season from their home markets.

“On the basis of our discussions in the past week, as well as our exchange of correspondence over the last 24 hours, we believe we are aligned and in agreement on the conditions on which each of our Canadian franchises can begin play in their own buildings for the start of the 2020-21 NHL season,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly said on Thursday.

CBC News has confirmed the statement, as first reported by Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic.

The seven Canadian teams will be grouped in one division and only play each other for the duration of the 56-game schedule, which is slated to begin Jan. 13.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are scheduled to host the Montreal Canadiens, while the Edmonton Oilers are slated to face the visiting Vancouver Canucks as part of a five-game schedule on opening night.

The Winnipeg Jets open Jan. 14 against the visiting Calgary Flames, while the Oilers and Canucks meet again in Edmonton.

The Ottawa Senators start their season Jan. 15 against visiting Toronto, the first of two games in as many days between the Ontario rivals in the nation’s capital.

Baseball-style series are common under the revised scheduele as the league attempts to reduce travel. For example, the Canadiens and Senators each are scheduled to play three straight games in Vancouver in January.

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