Neate Sager

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Neate Sager is a blogger for Yahoo! Sports.

  • Canada Olympic women’s hockey win was amazing; whither the drive for five?

    Canada could have many changes over the next quadrennial (AP)

    Team Canada, bless it, put the band back together and won a fourth consecutive Olympic women's hockey gold medal in a 3-2 overtime decision that no one on either side of it will soon forget, for good or I-think-I'm-gonna-be-ill. How much of the three-goal turnarund was Canada having seemingly bottomless resolve and how much of it was an outright choke by Team USA could be debated as much as what the U.S. described as the "bogus call" that gave Canada its decisive power play.

    Canada, especially the perhaps departing golden generation of 36-year-old Jayna Hefford and 35-year-old Hayley Wickenheiser, the last two Olympic women's hockey originals, got the result it wanted. As savoury as it was, one shouldn't lose sight of the reality that winning against long odds can create a halo effect, airbrushing out dents and imperfections. Or put another way, it's not too early to talk about what comes next, as the 'drive for five' in 2018 begins.

    Read More »from Canada Olympic women’s hockey win was amazing; whither the drive for five?
  • North Bay’s Brendan O’Neill blanks Erie Otters: Thursday’s 3 Stars

    North Bay goalie Brendan O'Neill (OHL Images)No. 1 star: Brendan O'Neill, North Bay Battalion (OHL)

    O'Neill and his team became just the second club to shut out the high-powered Erie Otters, with the goaltender making 19 saves for his first career clean sheet in the OHL during North Bay's 2-0 victory. This is a bit of a team award, since the close-checking Battalion treated Erie, the second highest-scoring team in the league, to nothing but frustration.

    The 19-year-old O'Neill, who's been North Bay's backup for much of the season, rose to the challenge with a big early save on Team Canada forward Connor McDavid. The Ilderton, Ont., native also made a critical save on Belleville Bulls first-rounder Brendan Gaunce, then his team popped in a pair of power-play goals 3:09 apart in the second to take control of the contest.

    Erie mustered only one shot on goal during a nine-minute stretch of the third period. Battalion overage captain Barclay Goodrow (1G-1A), who was in on both goals, was named first star inside the Memorial Gardens.

    The Guelph Storm, with two, are the only other team to shut out Erie this season.

    Read More »from North Bay’s Brendan O’Neill blanks Erie Otters: Thursday’s 3 Stars
  • Team Canada tops Team USA 3-2 in overtime for Olympic women’s hockey medal

    Canada celebrates Poulin's golden goal (Julio Cortez, AP)

    Right on time, Marie-Philip Poulin showed up to save Canada's bacon.

    The breakout star in Vancouver was a saviour in the women's hockey gold-medal game, scoring with 55 seconds left to force overtime just moments after a Team USA shot at Team Canada's empty net hit the post. Hobbled by a high ankle sprain that benched her for all but the team's last two games before leaving for Sochi, and held to just one tally through Team Canada's first four games at the Sochi Olympics, Poulin corralled Rebecca Johnston's centering pass, feinted and flipped the puck over Jessie Vetter's right pad.

    [Watch the game-tying goal]

    And that was merely an appetizer for a breathless overtime session that was probably inevitable for the North American titans, who also needed extra time at the worlds two years ago. Following some more bacon-saving stops from Shannon Szabados, the teams were playing 3-on-3 when a U.S. giveaway led to Hilary Knight hauling down Hayley Wickenheiser on a breakaway. On the enusing power play, Poulin wired a shot in to cap an improbable 3-2 comeback victory in perhaps the tensest women's hockey game ever played.

    The goal gave Canada its country's fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal and completed a remarkable turnaround for a team that had a coaching shake-up exactly 10 weeks ago. Wickenheiser, captain Caroline Ouellette and Jayna Hefford became the first hockey players to win four consecutive golds.

    "It's our conditioning and our heart," wing Brianne Jenner, who scored the first goal of the comeback, said to CBC. "Kudos to them, they're a great team ... Kevin [Dineen] kept an even keel."

    Team USA had an apparently firm grip on the game through 56 minutes, leading 2-0 by virtue of a second-period screen-shot goal by captain Meghan Duggan and a power-play tap-in tally by Alex Carpenter 2:01 into the third. Coach Kevin Dineen, who stepped behind the bench after Dan Church resigned in December, began line-juggling and shortening his bench. With 3:26 left, defender Meaghan Mikkelson, playing with a broken right hand, head-manned the puck to Jenner, who cut into the slot and picked a top corner over Vetter.

    Read More »from Team Canada tops Team USA 3-2 in overtime for Olympic women’s hockey medal
  • Sochi 2014 is Wickenheiser's sixth Olympics in hockey and softball (AP)

    Thursday is been quite a day for Hayley Wickenheiser: elected to the IOC athletes commission during the afternoon, USA-Canada women's hockey gold-medal game on tap for the evening.

    Doubtlessly, there's wider interest in the latter, because #wearewinter. The veteran forward Wickenheiser will be integral in Canada's game plan to stymie U.S. sniper Hilary Knight when the teams face off at the Bolshoy Ice Place. It is remiss to skip over the fact that being "a tremendous representative for our country," to quote from the Canadian Olympic Committee release, also involves advocacy, something her predecessor Beckie Scott took to heart before Sochi.

    Once the Olympics commence, there's a tendency to focus on the competition and drift away from the political underpinnings. With Sochi 2014 almost over, though, it's hardly a rehash to point out that the IOC compromised its principles by staging the Games in Russia, with its deplorable anti-gay laws. And it's worth noting Wickenheiser did speak out about it, at considerable personal peril, last year.

    Read More »from Canada’s Hayley Wickenheiser, elected to IOC athletes’ commission, should remember her words from prior to Sochi 2014
  • Jorrit Bergsma (centre) win in the men's 10,000 highlighted the fourth Dutch podium sweep in speed skating (AP)

    The Dutch speed skaters wear orange, own the gold and their cheeks are tinged with pink because all this winning is slightly discomfiting.

    Long story short, the Netherlands' dominance at the speed skating oval, where its team has won 19 of the 27 medals, is "unprecdented" to the point that it's spurring questions about whether it's hurting the sport.

    The Netherlands has always punched above its weight, strictly on a population basis, in speed skating. The nation of 16.8 million won eight medals at the oval in Vancouver. Nineteen is a byproduct of a lot of characters that the Dutch team has made work for it, but it might also speak to how the Olympics are becoming fragmented, where countries "assign much of their Olympic funds to the sports in which they do well and are well appreciated by their people." It's micro-targeting and it's not necessarily bad, although it might create a more predictable Olympics.

    Read More »from Dutch dominate speed skating due, in part, to lack of snow and lack of big-spending rivals
  • Olympics dropping women’s hockey will ‘never happen,’ says IIHF boss

    Canada's Meaghan Mikkelson ties up Meghan Duggan (AP)

    For once, teams Canada and USA are prepping for an Olympic women's gold-medal game without any media-driven narrative about whether it will be the last.

    Thursday's joust for gold is pretty much an inevitable matchup, pitting the speedy Americans vs. the sage Canadians. Along the way, though, there was some upheaval; Switzerland-Sweden for the bronze medal on Thursday morning is considered a sign of increasing competitiveness among the second tier, bearing in mind there's a very steep drop-off from the topmost echelon that might never be corrected. At least the official tone was gone from "we cannot continue without improvement" to the International Ice Hockey Federation saying that cutting women's hockey from the Games will "never happen."

    [Related: Canada, U.S. battle for gold again]

    The fine print is that female hockey is a regional sport and will continue to be without investment. How one addresses the gap in numbers between North America and Europe is hard to say. Nothing's really changed per se, except learning to like it and lump it.

    Read More »from Olympics dropping women’s hockey will ‘never happen,’ says IIHF boss
  • Charles Hamelin has sterling Olympic legacy, despite crashes on Sochi’s soft ice

    Hamelin's crash ended his 2014 Olympics (David J. Phillip, AP)

    There is Charles Hamelin, the competitor and lynchpin of Canada's short track team. Then there is the Charles Hamelin that Canada wished to live through for a couple of weeks, watching him rack up golds as automatically as frequent flier miles.

    Keeping the two separate helps with sorting out the legacy, which is complicated following the denouement of the short-track star's third Olympics on Tuesday. The 29-year-old from Ste-Julie, Que., was talked up as a possibility to win four medals. Sportsnet magazine had him on the cover of its Olympic preview alongside a POISED FOR WORLD DOMINATION headline. Hamelin set the bar at being a double gold medallist for the second Olympics in a row. Instead, after crashes in the first heat of both the men's 500 and 1,000 metres on the possibly overused and over-watered ice at the Iceberg Skating Palace, Hamelin will leave with one.

    “Short track is a sport that can be really exciting and can be really, really glorious for some people,” Hamelin said following his crash in the 500, where he took a long time to collect himself privately before addressing the media. “And sometimes it can be really rude and really cruel for some other people.”

    [Related:  Charles Hamelin crashes again, women’s 3,000 relay takes silver]

    The truth, though, might reside in the irony that the gold came in the 1,500. Based on Hamelin's history, shaped up as his "longest-shot medal." That might be an indicator of how special a run Hamelin, who's on the bubble to re-up for 2018 ("Maybe, maybe"), has had across the past three quadrennials.

    Read More »from Charles Hamelin has sterling Olympic legacy, despite crashes on Sochi’s soft ice
  • Hewitt (from left), Maltais, Drolet and St-Gelais celebrate their relay medal (David J. Phillip, AP)

    Minutes after another Charles Hamelin crash, Canada's hard-luck short-track team finally got some salvation with a silver medal in the women's 3,000-metre relay.

    Short track is a sport of extremes, and Hamelin has experienced both ends of it in terms of expectation and outcome at the Sochi Olympics. The double gold medallist at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics was pegged as a contender in all four of his events, but fell in his second consecutive heat, abruptly ending his Olympics three days and three races early.

    [Watch: Charles Hamelin crashes in 500]

    Hamelin's fall came entirely on his own. The CBC commentator, Kristina Groves, noted the Iceberg Skating Palace's surface has developed ruts, with workers flooding the ice rather than filling in holes.

    The fall left it to the 3,000 relay team of Marie-Ève Drolet, Jessica Hewitt, Marianne St-Gelais and Valerie Maltais to give Canada a medal from the day. They won silver, giving Canada its second medal in the discipline in Sochi.

    Canada has won at least three short track medals at every Games since 1992. It would need a medal in the men's 500 or women's 1,000 to avoid its worst-ever performance, but its highest-profile competitors, Hamelin and St-Gelais, both failed to make it out of their heats.

    [Eh Game: Charles Hamelin has sterling Olympic legacy, despite crashes on Sochi’s soft ice]

    Read More »from Charles Hamelin crashes again, women’s 3,000 relay takes silver; Canada on verge of record-low medal haul in short track
  • Canada reaches women’s hockey gold-medal game, beating pesky Switzerland 3-1

    Julia Marty of Switzerland and Natalie Spooner of Canada battle against the boards for control of the puck during the third period of the 2014 Winter Olympics women's semifinal ice hockey game at Shayba Arena, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)


    Canada fought through more frustration than generally expected during its 3-1 semifinal win over determined Switzerland in the Olympic women's hockey semifinal at Shayba Arena.

    The proof of how, or even whether, that carries forward into the never-in-doubt gold-medal matchup vs. Team USA on Thursday (12 noon ET/9 a.m. PT, CBC) will be decided by that game itself. For a change, Team Canada did its damage early, scoring thrice in the first 11½ minutes. It was contained for the duration by a 45-save effort the indomitable Florence Schelling, but Shannon Szabados (21 saves) was up to the task in her own net.

    [Video: Watch Natalie Spooner's 2nd that gave Canada 2-0 lead]

    "They gave us a good game, that's what we expected," Szabados told CBC. "Playing for this team, you get used to it [not having a lot of shots]. You just have to stay used to it."

    Coach Kevin Dineen's team, which took two days off following its preliminary round win over the U.S. last Thursday, struck quickly.

    Read More »from Canada reaches women’s hockey gold-medal game, beating pesky Switzerland 3-1
  • Hard to buy into the notion that minor hockey is wholesome and wonderful after seeing footage of an ugly incident in Winnipeg last weekend that police are investigating.

    (Warning: NSFW language.)

    As Global Winnipeg is reporting, during a game at Southdale Community Centre in Winnipeg involving a team from Sagkeeng First Nation, a scuffle broke out between the players during what had already been a testy game between 12-year-old players. With parents screeching in the background, two players began to exchange punches, with one referee "going down to the ice with one of the young players." Immediately after the boy was tackled — police confirmed he was injured — a man came off the team bench and tussled with the referee. Others came in to break it up, but Global's report said the hostilities resumed off-ice after the game.

    Anyone still think that Respect In Sport courses for hockey parents are unnecessary?

    Read More »from Minor hockey brawl sees 12-year-old player injured, parents and refs fighting (VIDEO)


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