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.

  • Five things you need to know about Canada's WJC selection camp

    Team Canada selection camp.
    Team Canada selection camp.

     

    Team Canada announced its list of 32 players to bring to camp for the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championship next month in Toronto and Montreal. Here are the five things you need to know about the selection camp that will take place Dec. 11-14 in Blainville, Que.

    1. FIVE RETURNING PLAYERS

    There are five players back from Team Canada’s dismal sixth-place finish in Finland last year. The returnees include forwards Julien Gauthier (Carolina Hurricanes) and Mitchell Stephens (Tampa Bay Lightning) along with Mathew Barzal (New York Islanders) and Dylan Strome (Arizona Coyotes), who were both recently sent back to junior from the NHL. Thomas Chabot (Ottawa Senators) of the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs is the lone defenceman returning.

    2. INJURY UPDATES

    Despite their invites to camp, injured forwards Nolan Patrick and Blake Speers are not yet 100 percent, according to Hockey Canada’s head scout Ryan Jankowski.

    “We don’t know what’s going to happen with them and that

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  • Saskatoon Blades coach bans players' cellphones from rink

    The Saskatoon Blades are going without cellphones at the rink.
    The Saskatoon Blades are going without cellphones at the rink.

     

    The Saskatoon Blades head coach Dean Brockman wants the undivided attention of his players – so much so, that he’s implemented a ban on using cellphones at the rink.

    “When there’s distraction and you’re not mentally focused towards one thing, we just thought it was a course of action that we’d try for a short-term period and see if it helped our play or helped our focus on the ice and in the dressing room,” Brockman told the CBC.

    Players had been putting their phones in a bag some 90 minutes before game time, but now they’re handing over their phones to the coaches before practices and games.

    From CBC:

    [Brockman] said the players had responded well to the change, although there was some disappointment.

    “At first there you could see that maybe some of the faces were a little bit longer,” said Brockman. “But we haven’t had any issues with it or anybody argue that it’s not a good thing.”

    The Blades are currently in ninth

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  • Flailing finances could force sale of Peterborough Petes

    Peterborough Petes
    Peterborough Petes

     

    The Peterborough Petes are in dire financial trouble according to the team’s president.

    In a Peterborough Examiner story published on Thursday, Dave Pogue outlined the Petes’ monetary problems telling city council that the team would be broke within four years if the city did not help improve the terms of their current lease at the Memorial Centre.

    “We need a proactive approach so we can be viable into the future,” Pogue was quoted as saying.

    Pogue said that under their lease agreement, the city rakes in somewhere between $800,000 and $1 million a year from having the Petes as the main tenant of the Memorial Centre.

    The city shares in Petes ticket sales, for instance. They also get money from the concessions (the Petes get nothing) and from parking (again, the Petes don’t share in this revenue).

    Pogue suggested the team would like a new agreement so they can share more of that $1 million with the city.

    “We’re suggesting maybe the city could scale back, so they make

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  • Minor hockey coach fired in Quebec for punishing kids after loss

    AP Photo
    AP Photo

     

    A minor hockey coach in Laval, Que., is out of a job today after forcing his Laval-North Cobra Atom AA team – made up of 9-and-10-year-olds – to run outside the arena in their equipment for 20 minutes.

    According to the front page story by Gabriel Beland of La Presse, the parents of the children were in the arena and unaware of what the coach was doing. It was only after the children returned to the rink that they found out what had happened and contacted both La Presse and the Minor Hockey Association of Laval-North.

    Representatives of the minor hockey association met with the coach on Tuesday and both sides decided it was best for the coach to leave.

    “Following a meeting with the coach, he admitted the facts on this case,” Hockey Laval-North vice-president Benoit Puskas told La Presse. “There was a common agreement that the AA atom coach needed to resign. Hockey Laval-North does not adhere to this type of behaviour and isn’t consistent with our values.”

    This incident comes

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  • Memorial Cup bids pricing smaller markets out of competition

     

     

    The Memorial Cup is given to the champion of the Canadian Hockey League. Photo by Aaron Bell/CHL Images
    The Memorial Cup is given to the champion of the Canadian Hockey League. Photo by Aaron Bell/CHL Images

     

    Amid tepid interest in the open bidding to host the 100th Memorial Cup, the Canadian Hockey League has narrowed the field to Regina (WHL), Hamilton (OHL) and Oshawa (OHL).

    Under normal circumstances the 2018 centennial would have been the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s turn to host the event, but given the milestone, the CHL decided to open the bid process across the country. According to a CHL source the interest in hosting the marquee event was less than enthusiastic. That seems in line with a report from Durhamregion.com which suggests only the three finalists were serious about bids.

    It had been rumoured that only those three teams expressed an interest, surprising given the prestige involved in the centennial anniversary of the championship.

    “It was a little bit shocking, but we’ll take it because I think it improves our odds dramatically,” Generals owner Rocco Tullio

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  • Game Changers, Part Three: The best defence is offence

    Florida's Paul Laus, right, checks Vancouver's Greg Hawgood (4). (AP Photo)Florida’s Paul Laus, right, checks Vancouver’s Greg Hawgood (4). (AP Photo)

     

    How is junior hockey developing a new generation of NHL player like Connor McDavid? Yahoo Sports is publishing a three-part series speaking to coaches and GMs – many of whom are former NHLers – across the Canadian Hockey League to find out how the game is changing.

    When Darren Rumble was patrolling the blue line in the NHL during the mid-1990s, he vividly remembers playing against a fellow defenceman named Greg Hawgood.

    Listed generously at 5-foot-10, Hawgood managed to carve out an impressive pro career with more than 450 games in the NHL at time when small defencemen were a rarity.

    “He was so good that he would sit on the bench for the whole game and just play the power play,” recalls Rumble. “He was too good to play in the minors, but he was super small. He could run a power play like nobody else.

    “He couldn’t take a regular shift because he wasn’t big enough. Now (in today’s game) he’d be up for the top

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  • Game Changers, Part Two: Video explosion makes for quantum leap in coaching

    Erie Otters head coach Kris Knoblauch writes on the board before the Canada-Russia Series. Erie Otters head coach Kris Knoblauch writes on the board before the Canada-Russia Series.

     

    How is junior hockey developing a new generation of NHL player like Connor McDavid? Yahoo Sports is publishing a three-part series speaking to coaches and GMs – many of whom are former NHLers – across the Canadian Hockey League to find out how the game is changing.

    As head coach of the Halifax Mooseheads, Andre Tourigny spends an inordinate amount of time watching video. It comes from everywhere: YouTube, websites, Facebook, TV feeds, and recorded game tapes. NHL games, junior games, international feeds – you name it, he’ll watch it.

    The 42-year-old is on the lookout for anything that will give his team or his players an advantage either through a new idea or a teachable moment. That doesn’t even take into account the pre-scouting he and his staff do daily trying to parse his next QMJHL opponent.

    So how much time does he spend watching video?

    “Too much, way too much,” said Tourigny with a

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  • Game Changers, Part One: No red line a green light for speeders

    Connor McDavidConnor McDavid with the OHL’s Erie Otters

     

    Connor McDavid’s blazing speed was never more evident than in junior hockey, when he played for the Erie Otters. In one of his final games against eventual OHL champion Oshawa, he left three players in his skating wake to set up a goal. It was nothing out of the ordinary.

    Making the jump to the NHL, the 19-year-old’s speed is even more impressive. Now, the Edmonton Oilers captain is beating the best players that pro hockey has to offer on a nightly basis. He’s not the only one, but McDavid has become the poster boy for the new NHL: the next generation of skilled, well-trained, high-speed hockey players.

    As a result, the game has never been faster.

    “The generation that’s taking over is a new one in my opinion,” said Edmonton Oilers coach Todd McLellan.  “They haven’t played under the old clutch-and-grab rules. They never were exposed to it ever — no matter where they were at their age. They’ve always played free hockey. Some of the older

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  • Canada's still the big cash cow for world junior championship

    Team Canada celebrates winning gold at the 2015 world junior championship in Toronto.
    Team Canada celebrates winning gold at the 2015 world junior championship in Toronto.

     

     

    Canada has always been seen as the promised land for the world junior championship. Thanks to wall-to-wall television coverage and a schedule that provides an attentive audience over the Christmas holidays, the tournament has taken on a life of its own in this country.

    There is big money to be made and everyone, including the International Ice Hockey Federation knows it. It’s why Canada hosts the tournament as often as it does now. Even with a poor turnout at the Montreal portion of the 2015 tournament – blamed on high ticket prices for the market – Hockey Canada still turned a profit.

    “I really like the idea that we go every second year to Canada,” said IIHF president Rene Fasel at a Q & A session with reporters on Tuesday. “I think the expectations were so big for Toronto and Montreal and I was part of the decision to make this back-to-back (in 2015 and 2017). I think we made a mistake.  The

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  • Brock McGillis overwhelmed by 'emotional' support from hockey community

    Former OHL goaltender Brock McGillis came out as gay in a first-person piece for Yahoo Sports Canada.Former OHL goaltender Brock McGillis came out as gay in a first-person piece for Yahoo Sports Canada.

    There’s a short pause while Brock McGillis tries to find the right word.

    “Unbelievable,” he finally said.

    That’s the word the former Ontario Hockey League goaltender uses to describe the outpouring of support he’s received since publicly coming out as gay in a Yahoo Canada Sports article published last Thursday.

    Since the first-person piece detailing his struggle with homophobia in the hockey world was published, he’s been inundated by messages from people via text and social media. He said he had been prepared for negative or no reaction – save for friends and family – so when the messages started pouring in, he was shocked.

    “I didn’t expect this,” McGillis said from his hometown of Sudbury, Ont. “This was on a whole different level. On Thursday the amount of messages I received – text messages, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram – I would say was almost in the 10,000 range.”

    People he hasn’t heard from in years – including old teachers, friends, and former teammates – have reached out

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