Sunaya Sapurji

  • Like
  • Follow
Author

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.

  • 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

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

     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

    Read More »from Damian Warner comes full circle by breaking Canadian decathlon record at Pan Am Games
  • 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
    Read More »from Schmitt stands tall as leader of Canada's men's volleyball team
  • 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

    Read More »from Passion, crowdfunding helps get Canadian handballers to Pan Am Games
  • 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

    Read More »from Legendary Don Cameron calls it a career as the voice of Kitchener Rangers
  • 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

    Read More »from Rocky's ready to rumble as head coach of Windsor Spitfires
  • 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

    Read More »from General managers hoping their gambles pay at CHL import draft
  • Paul Bittner forges his own path from hockey-mad Minnesota to the NHL Draft

    The Bittner Family (L to R): Ryan, Jo, Paul, Jon, and Mark, will all be at the 2015 NHL draft in Florida this weekend.  Photo courtesy: Jo BittnerThe Bittner Family (L to R): Ryan, Jo, Paul, Jon, and Mark, will all be at the 2015 NHL draft in Florida this weekend.  Photo courtesy: Jo Bittner

    There was never a dull moment in the Bittner household. It was in the small town of Crookston, with a population just under 8,000, in northwest Minnesota, that Jon and Jo Bittner raised their three rambunctious boys. There was Mark, the oldest; Ryan; and the baby, Paul – all two years apart.

    He might have been the youngest, but Paul was the most independent and headstrong of the three boys. When he tried skating as a two-year-old, he refused any help from his brothers or his parents and would often be found on their backyard rink, lying flat on the ice.

    “He wanted nothing to do with any of us,” said Mark, now 22. “He’d say, ‘No! I’ll do it myself,’ so he’d rub his skates on the ice and just lay there in the middle of the ice. When we would play we’d only have one goalie on our outdoor rink so we’d have skate around him and avoid him.

    “One day he was up and skating with us and from then on we were all skating together.”

    That big backyard rink would host shinny games for all the

    Read More »from Paul Bittner forges his own path from hockey-mad Minnesota to the NHL Draft
  • NHL Scouts Poll: The class of 2015 is average beyond the top 10

    Upcoming NHL draft picks Connor McDavid (L) and Jack Eichel (R).  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)Upcoming NHL draft picks Connor McDavid (L) and Jack Eichel (R). (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    The 2015 NHL entry draft has been fastidiously churning in the hype machine for more than a year now. That’s to be expected with the likes of Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel eligible to walk down the draft floor in Sunrise, Fla., on Friday evening.

    Both players have been labeled as potential generational talents and dissected to their fullest – McDavid since he was a 14-year-old and Eichel following in the spotlight a few years later. But there are other familiar names, too. There’s Boston College defenceman Noah Hanifin and forwards Dylan Strome of the Erie Otters, Lawson Crouse of the Kingston Frontenacs and Mitchell Marner of the London Knights.

    The top-end talent has given the impression that this year’s draft could be as good – if not better – than the draft class of 2003, in which every single player drafted in the first round (led by first overall pick Marc-Andre Fleury) played, at the very least, a handful of games in the NHL.

    So, what do the experts think?

    Yahoo Sports polled

    Read More »from NHL Scouts Poll: The class of 2015 is average beyond the top 10
  • Leafs hiring Oshawa's D.J. Smith opens up another CHL job vacancy

    Oshawa Generals head coach D.J. Smith raises the Memorial Cup trophy after they won the tournament 2-1 in overtime against the Kelowna Rockets Sunday, May 31, 2015 at the Memorial Cup final in Quebec City. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDITOshawa Generals head coach D.J. Smith raises the Memorial Cup trophy after they won the tournament 2-1 in overtime against the Kelowna Rockets Sunday, May 31, 2015 at the Memorial Cup final in Quebec City. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

    The junior hockey job market continues to heat up as teams across the CHL fill the vacancies that opened up once the regular season ended. In the interim, many of those jobs for head coaches and general manager have been filled. However, with the Toronto Maple Leafs NHL scooping up many of the CHL's best and brightest, there are still a few openings to be filled. 

    The latest vacancy opened up on Tuesday afternoon when the Leafs hired Oshawa Generals head coach D.J. Smith to join Mike Babcock's coaching staff as an assistant. Smith led the Generals to a 51-11-2-4 record which culminated in an OHL title and a Memorial Cup victory last month.

    “I would like to thank (owner) Rocco Tullio and the entire Oshawa Generals organization as well as our great fans for supporting myself and my family over the past three seasons,” said Smith in a press release. “I am excited to begin a new chapter with the Maple Leafs and work alongside Mike Babcock, Jim Hiller and Andrew Brewer.”

    Smith, who was the

    Read More »from Leafs hiring Oshawa's D.J. Smith opens up another CHL job vacancy

Pagination

(401 Stories)