Sunaya Sapurji

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Sunaya Sapurji is the junior hockey columnist for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Sunaya previously worked at the Toronto Star for 10 years as a copy editor and writer covering the Ontario Hockey League.

  • Rychel's late gamble pays for Windsor with Fischer signing

    Christian Fischer with Windsor coach Rocky Thompson, left, and GM Warren Rychel. Photo: Windsor SpitfiresChristian Fischer with Windsor coach Rocky Thompson, left, and GM Warren Rychel. Photo: Windsor Spitfires

    It’s been a while, but Warren Rychel is finally looking forward to a Windsor Spitfires season with more than just cautious optimism.

    “You can probably tell I’m excited,” said the general manager. “More than I have been in the past few years. I think we’re a little deeper and we’ve made some changes.”

    A big part of that excitement came on Monday morning, when the team announced the signing of American forward Christian Fischer. The 18-year-old was a second round pick – 32nd overall – of the Arizona Coyotes at the June NHL entry draft. He spent last season with the U.S. National Team Development Program’s under-18 squad, where he scored 31 goals and 33 assists in 66 games. The native of Wayne, Ill., had been committed to the hockey program at Notre Dame, but after recently signing a three-year entry-level contract with the Coyotes, his NCAA eligibility was quashed.

    “He’s a real smart, hard working player,” said Rychel of Fischer. “He’s good in the corners, good on the wall, plays a

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  • Rudi Ying follows family tradition, opens doors to China through hockey

    Rudi Ying sits for an interview with the Chinese media.Rudi Ying sits for an interview with the Chinese media.

    Before Rudi Ying had even hit his teenage years, a meeting was arranged for him at a Chicago hotel room. He was 11 years old.

    There, he would get the opportunity to sit and talk with Houston Rockets centre Yao Ming, who already had achieved superstar status as one of China's most revered athletes.

    Ying had left China for the U.S. two years earlier in order to follow his hockey dream.

    He might not have realized it at the time, but that meeting with the NBA star would leave a lasting impression.

    “That was an experience,” said the now 17-year-old of his tête-à-tête with Ming. “He did for basketball basically what we would like to do for hockey – to completely open up the sport to China.

    “Even though he doesn’t play the same sport, I certainly see him as a role model in terms of opening up the sport to China.”

    This week at St. Michael’s College School Arena, Ying and fellow Chinese under-18 teammate Wei Zhong have been participating at the BioSteel hockey camp in Toronto, which includes

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  • Shawinigan's new marketing campaign 'an insult' to First Nations

    Shawinigan Cataractes captain Anthony Beauvillier depicted in First Nations imagery has upset many.Shawinigan Cataractes captain Anthony Beauvillier depicted in First Nations imagery has upset many.

     

    It should come as little surprise that the Shawinigan Cataractes – a team with a chief logo and a caricature mascot named Thomas Hawk (aka Tomahawk) – would take yet another insensitive misstep.

    Their latest in cultural appropriation comes in the form of an ill-guided marketing campaign which features three players: captain Anthony Beauvillier, Alexis D’Aoust and Samuel Girard – none of whom identify as First Nations - dressed up in the stereotypical warrior motif complete with war paint and braided hair with beads and feathers in team colours.

    It’s stunning to think someone with the Quebec league team thought this was a good idea.

    The slogan for the campaign is the equally tone deaf: “My History. My Colours”

    Former Halifax Mooseheads captain Trey Lewis, a Mi'kmaq from the Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick, can’t understand how anyone with the team thought this would be a positive marketing tool. He said it might have been different if the players were themselves First

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  • Canada's Andre De Grasse earns second Pan Am gold medal in record time

     Andre De Grasse of Canada holds the Canadian flag after winning the men's 200 meter final on Day 14.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Andre De Grasse of Canada holds the Canadian flag after winning the men's 200 meter final on Day 14. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

    Coming into the 2015 Pan Am Games, Andre De Grasse was hardly a household name for many Canadians. In fact many weren’t even sure how to correctly say his name.

    “A lot of people before this didn’t know how to pronounce my last name, they used to say De Grassi, but now I think everybody knows my name is (pronounced De Grass),” said De Grasse. “It feels really good that people know my name and I’m making an impact in the track and field world.”

    That would be an understatement.

    On Friday, De Grasse won his second gold medal of the Pan Am Games with a stunning victory in the men’s 200-metre. He finished with a time of 19.88, setting a Pan Am and Canadian record in the process. The 20-year-old also became the first Canadian to run the 200-metres with a sub-20 second time.

    “It feels amazing,” said De Grasse after the race. “The first Canadian to run under sub-20 seconds, it doesn’t get any better than this. It just feels like an unreal moment right now.”

    At first, he wasn’t even sure he had

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     Damian Warner of Canada celebrates after he won the men's decathlon on July 23, 2015 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Damian Warner of Canada celebrates after he won the men's decathlon on July 23, 2015 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    It was a moment Damian Warner knew was coming. He didn’t know when or where it would happen, but he had always believed he had talent to reach new heights in the decathlon.

    “Before my first decathlon I had big dreams,” said the 25-year-old. “I thought I was going to be a world record holder from the start, but I kind of learned about patience and I continue to teach myself about patience and let things come where they may and do my best.”

    On Thursday, Warner made history when he broke the 19-year-old Canadian points record set by Michael Smith (8,626) back in 1996. He finished with 8,653 and set a new Pan Am record in the process.

    “I knew I wanted the Canadian record so bad,” said Warner. “I didn’t think there was a better place to have it here at home.”

    It was at the old track and field centre on the grounds of York University that Warner competed in his first ever competition. So it was a sort of homecoming for the London, Ont., native.

    “It’s kind of come full circle and I’m so

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  • Schmitt stands tall as leader of Canada's men's volleyball team

    On a volleyball court full of giants, Gavin Schmitt still stands out. Schmitt, a behemoth at 6-foot-10, 234 pounds, is one Canada's biggest names despite playing in relative obscurity at home. 

    Overseas, however, Schmitt is popular star and is considered one of the best pro volleyball players in the world. At the Pan Am Games he’s helped power Canada to a perfect 3-0 record and a berth in Friday’s semifinals.

    When he played for Daejeon Samsung Bluefangs in South Korea, it wasn’t uncommon to have an adoring home crowd of 7,000 fans chanting his name. He loved his time in the country so much, he got a tattoo with the words: commitment, perseverance, and passion – his coach’s mantra - tattooed on his torso in Korean.
    Schmitt was so popular there he’d be recognized and stopped on the street. There was even a marriage proposal sent his way.
    The recognition was hard to adapt to for the modest, but affable 29-year-old native of Saskatoon.
    “Being in a place where people recognize me is more
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  • Passion, crowdfunding helps get Canadian handballers to Pan Am Games

    Canada's Casper Bilton holds the ball during the Canadian men's handball team's 34-17 loss to Brazil at the Pan Am Games in Toronto.Canada's Casper Bilton holds the ball during the Canadian men's handball team's 34-17 loss to Brazil at the Pan Am Games in Toronto.

    When Dan Devlin stepped on the court for Canada’s inaugural match against Brazil, it marked the third time he had worn the Maple Leaf in the sport of handball at the Pan Am Games.

    It also marked the third time he had to pay his own way to get there.

    Such is life for athletes in niche sports trying to make headway in Canada, where the biggest challenge is often not on the field of play, but in trying to find funding.

    Devlin, like many of his handball teammates male and female, has been forced to crowdfund in order to represent Canada internationally.

    “A lot of us crowdfunded to be here which was fantastic because it eased a lot of the stress we had to do for work,” said the 31-year-old medical school student.“Typically when we’re at home we’re working, trying to live our lives, but we’re also working trying to have money available so we can continue to play handball. That’s one of the hardest things.”

    Having money for handball means paying for things like plane tickets and ancillary

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  • Legendary Don Cameron calls it a career as the voice of Kitchener Rangers

    Legendary broadcaster Don Cameron retires after 53 years of calling games for the OHL's Kitchener Rangers. (Photo: Kitchener Rangers)Legendary broadcaster Don Cameron retires after 53 years of calling games for the OHL's Kitchener Rangers. (Photo: Kitchener Rangers)

    It was back in 1956 that Don Cameron made his first life-changing decision. He was just out of high school in his native Summerside, PEI, and he had to make the choice to either go to university or take a job in radio.

    “It was my life-long ambition to get into broadcasting and do play-by-play for hockey,” said the 79-year-old. “I used to do it as a kid playing road hockey, I say, ‘I’m not going to play anymore, I’m going to broadcast the game.’ Then I’d sit up on a fence and broadcast the game.”

    It’s no surprise: He took the radio job.

    He parlayed that gig calling games for the Summerside Aces – in the local senior league – into a job in St. Catharines, Ont., doing play-by-play for the Jr. A Teepees. That, too, was a big decision considering Cameron had spent his whole life on the Island.

    “Boy, were my eyes ever opened when that plane landed in Toronto,” said Cameron. “I took my first drive on a four-lane highway.”

    From there he moved to Kitchener, broadcasting games for the Dutchmen

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  • Rocky's ready to rumble as head coach of Windsor Spitfires

    Former NHL Rocky Thompson, right, was recently named new coach of the Windsor Spitfires.Former NHL Rocky Thompson, right, was recently named new coach of the Windsor Spitfires.

    Rocky Hockey is coming to Windsor and the Spitfires better be ready. On Friday, the OHL team announced they had hired former Edmonton Oilers assistant coach Rocky Thompson as head coach, replacing Bob Boughner.

    “We want to play fast and we want to play aggressive,” said Thompson of his new team. “We want our system to definitely be more aggressive than the Windsor Spitfires have played in the past.

    “I’m a family oriented individual it means everything to me and I know the culture has been great there, but I’m going to build on that foundation and there’s going to be trust in our locker room. Individuals are going to have success, but they’re going to want to be a part of the group. That’s something I can bring – bringing people together, teaching them the game and getting the most out of them.”

    This philosophy should come as no surprise to anyone who saw Thompson play during his pro career with more than a decade in the AHL and stints – totaling 25 games - in the NHL with Florida and

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  • General managers hoping their gambles pay at CHL import draft

    Oliver Kylington reacts after being selected 60th overall by the Calgary Flames during the 2015 NHL Draft.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)Oliver Kylington reacts after being selected 60th overall by the Calgary Flames during the 2015 NHL Draft. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    There were lots of gambles taking place on Tuesday as the Canadian Hockey League held their annual import draft. Many big names – including players taken last weekend at the NHL entry draft – were in the mix as 120 players had their CHL rights picked up.

    Going first overall to the Acadie-Bathurst Titan was Russian forward Vladimir Kuznetsov. The 17-year-old won a gold medal with Russia at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge last year and played the regular season with his hometown Yekaterinburg in the MHL, Russia’s junior league. He finished with 12 points in 43 games. He won't be eligible for the NHL draft until 2016.

    Russia lead the charge at the draft with 19 players selected followed by the Czech Republic (12) and Finland and Sweden tied at nine players a piece.

    One of the biggest names taken on Tuesday was Swedish defenceman Oliver Kylington, a second-round pick of the Calgary Flames. The 18-year-old was one of the biggest surprises last weekend when he fell late in the second

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