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.

  • Departure of Bulls from Belleville sparks memories for alumni

    Luke Judson of the Belleville Bulls. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL ImagesLuke Judson of the Belleville Bulls. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

    It is a rivalry that started long before there was major junior hockey in either city.  The dislike – fans might use a stronger word – between the sporting cities of Kingston and Belleville has been raging for years.

    It goes back to the old senior hockey days, and the big Junior B battles that spilled over into baseball as well. 

    “There were some pretty intense games back then,” said Larry Mavety.

    No one is probably as well versed in the hockey rivalry between the two cities as Mavety, now 72, who served as general manager and head coach for both the Ontario Hockey League’s Kingston Frontenacs and Belleville Bulls at various times during the course of his legendary hockey career. He was there for the early days of the Belleville Bulls, back in 1979, as head coach of the Tier II junior club before the team joined the OHL.

    The Bulls spent 34 years in the OHL before owner Gord Simmonds, a businessman from Uxbridge, Ont., announced he had sold the team and it was moving to Hamilton.

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  • Belleville Bulls sold, OHL team moving to Hamilton

    Belleville Bulls. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL ImagesBelleville Bulls. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

    Many fans and observers in the Ontario Hockey League knew this day was coming.

    On Thursday afternoon, Quinte News first reported that the Belleville Bulls had been sold and are moving. The news was confirmed later in the day by the OHL which confirmed the team would be playing out of Hamilton's FirstOntario Centre starting in the 2015-16 season.

    The Bulls had been a part of the OHL since 1981, and according to reports out of Belleville there was no attempt from owner Gord Simmonds to find a local buyer or any discussion with the city about a move.

     

     In the OHL's press release, commissioner David Branch welcomed Hamilton to the league, saying, "Hamilton has a long and storied history in junior hockey and we look forward to building on this tradition starting next season.”

    Hamilton has been home to a number of OHL franchise in the

    Read More »from Belleville Bulls sold, OHL team moving to Hamilton
  • Jake Paterson's trade to Kitchener has put the Rangers back into the game

    Jake Paterson is reticent to take any credit for the recent success of the Kitchener Rangers. He'd rather credit the defence playing in front of him or his relatively new teammates for changing the group dynamic.

    There is, however, no humility in the facts. Prior to the Rangers acquiring the 20-year-old goaltender, the team was mired at the bottom of the Western Conference standings battling with his former team - the Saginaw Spirit - for the last playoff spot. The Rangers weren't expected to be a powerhouse and they stayed true to form.

    The first game in a Rangers uniform, Paterson stopped 29 shots for his first shutout of the season, a 5-0 victory over the Belleville Bulls. Since the trade, Paterson is 9-3-1.

    "Whenever you get traded to a new team there's new scenery and personally I just wanted to get off on the right foot," said Paterson. "The first few games went well and for the most part I think most of that's because of the team, the guys have been playing well since I got

    Read More »from Jake Paterson's trade to Kitchener has put the Rangers back into the game
  • OHL approves sale, move of Plymouth Whalers to Flint

    The Plymouth Whalers are moving to Flint (Aaron Bell, OHL Images).The Plymouth Whalers are moving to Flint (Aaron Bell, OHL Images).

    The Ontario Hockey League's 25-year run in the Metro Detroit area came to a close on Monday as the league's board of governors approved the sale of the Plymouth Whalers.

    The team's new owner, Rolf Nilsen, who purchased the team from long-time owner Peter Karmanos, will move the team to Flint, Mich., for the 2015-16 season. The team will play out of Perani Arena, which OHL commissioner David Branch said will need some minor renovations to things like dressing rooms and board and glass systems in order to be suitable for major junior team.

    Branch said the league was impressed by the amenities the city of just under 100,000 had to offer prospective players, though they'll be staying in the suburb of Grand Blanc, Mich.

    "We're really excited because we understand first and foremost the responsibility we have for our players and their families to make sure that this is going to be a great place for them to grow and develop," said Branch on a conference call. "It's an exciting time for us

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  • Kelowna's Nick Merkley proves cream rises to the top for NHL draft

    Nick Merkley #10 of Kelowna Rockets (Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)Nick Merkley #10 of Kelowna Rockets (Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

    ST. CATHARINES, Ont. — At the hotel for the 2015 Top Prospects Game, Nick Merkley went on a scouting mission. He wasn’t looking to gain insights into Thursday night’s opposition – Team Cherry in this case – or for anything that would give him an on ice advantage playing in the showcase featuring the best young NHL draft prospects in the Canadian Hockey League.

    No.

    What he was desperate to find was something far sweeter: An ice cream sandwich.

    This season those cold treats have become an integral part of his pre-game ritual prior to home games with his Kelowna Rockets. Merkley said he once forgot to eat one and had a rough game, so he wanted to make sure he had one at the ready for the big game.

    These are the capricious thoughts of teenage hockey stars.

    “It’s probably not the best thing to have,” said Merkley with a smile, noting the Oreo are his favourite among ice cream sandwiches. “It’s working so far.”

    There’s no question – ice cream or not – that Merkley is having a breakout year.

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  • Canada bent but wouldn't break in reclaiming the world junior hockey championship

    Long before the game started fans were outside the Air Canada Centre in eager anticipation. It was a night that Canada had been dreaming about since last winning gold in 2009. It was the night their world junior championship drought ended.

    It was a tense 5-4 victory over Russia which saw Canada take a four-goal lead only to watch it slowly evaporate. Many still remembered the collapse of 2011 in Buffalo when the Russians came back from a three-goal deficit to steal the gold in front of many Canadian fans that had made the trek across the border. But as the seconds dwindled and final buzzer went Monday night there was nothing left for the Russians to do except accept defeat amid the chaos on the ice. Sticks and gloves littered the ice as players took turns jumping into each other’s arms.

    The crowd of 19,014 at the Air Canada Centre, who had been raucous all game, went absolutely wild.

    “My ears are still ringing a little bit from it,” said Team Canada captain Curtis Lazar. “It was

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  • Canadian fans cheer while watching Canada. REUTERS/Alexander DemianchukCanadian fans cheer while watching Canada. REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk

    Monday night's gold medal game between Canada and Russia has all the makings of another world junior classic. And, as a result, people are looking to cash in on the hype.

    The final game of the 2015 world junior championship in Toronto has become a hot ticket as Canada looks to claim gold for the first time since 2009. Fans are also eager to witness their two-year medal drought end, so they're willing to pay for prime seats.

    Outside the Air Canada Centre on Monday afternoon after Benoit Groulx had announced Zach Fucale would start for the Canadian side, scalpers were already out looking for buyers.

    How much are tickets going for?

    "From $500 to $1,000," said one scalper.

    For one ticket? Or a pair?

    He laughed. "One ticket."

    Prices weren't much better on secondary ticket sites like StubHub. Early Monday afternoon, for the gold medal game, tickets on the site ranged from $318 for a standing room only (no alcohol section) ticket to $1,900 for a lower bowl seat - Row 10 - in the corner

    Read More »from World Junior 2015: Fans looking for golden ticket will have to pay small fortune
  • All signs point to another Canada-Russia classic in world junior hockey championship finale

    It has all the makings of another classic game in the long, rich hockey history between Canada and Russia. The grand daddy of them all, the 1972 Summit Series, happened more than two decades before the players skating in the final of the 2015 world junior championship were even born.

    For this group of teenagers, it might as well be ancient history. Their touchstones are far more recent. Talk to the Canadians and they will regale you with tales of Jordan Eberle in 2009. How they cheered when he scored the game-tying goal with 5.4 seconds on the clock in Ottawa to force an eventual shootout victory over Russia.

    “You have to look back to Jordan Eberle and his heroics in the semifinal,” said Canada’s captain Curtis Lazar. “Every time these teams meet – there’s also that epic comeback by the Russians – so it goes both ways and that’s what happens when you have two powerhouses going at it.”

    That epic comeback, the Russians will remind you, was in 2011 when Artemi Panarin scored twice to

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  • World Junior 2015: Swiss bliss as Germans sent packing in relegation final

    Kay Schweri #18 of Switzerland battles for the puck against Fabio Wagner #16 of Germany. (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)Kay Schweri #18 of Switzerland battles for the puck against Fabio Wagner #16 of Germany. (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)
    The Germans will be saying auf wiedersehen to the top tier of the world junior championship after they were relegated on Saturday night.

    Switzerland sent Germany packing to Group A Division I by sweeping their best-of-three series with a 5-2 victory. The Swiss had come close to making the quarter-finals but were undone by a shootout loss to Denmark. The Danes ended up advancing, only to lose 8-0 to Team Canada on Friday night.

    “The difference between the quarter-finals and the relegation round was one goal – the overtime shootout loss to Denmark,” said Swiss head coach John Fust. “It’s invaluable experience. We have the youngest team in the tournament; we’re a core of (1996 and ’97 birth years). There’s no other team that had as few (19-year-old’s) as us and it was a bit of a gamble, but that’s the best we have for such a small nation.”

    Belarus, who won the Group A Division I tournament in Italy this year, will take Germany’s place at the 2016 world junior championship in Helsinki,

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  • Matej Paulovic #29 of Team Slovakia celebrates a victory over team Finland with teammates Martin Reway #10 and Denis Godla #30. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)Matej Paulovic #29 of Team Slovakia celebrates a victory over team Finland with teammates Martin Reway #10 and Denis Godla #30. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

    After Canada embarrassed Slovakia in the opening game of the world junior championship in Montreal last week, the Slovaks held a meeting.

    Star forward Martin Reway told the media he was “embarrassed” after the 8-0 loss as a third-year forward. Whatever was said afterwards worked, as the Slovaks rebounded with important victories over defending champions Finland and rival Czech Republic to advance to the semifinal.

    “Canada woke us up,” said Slovakian coach Ernest Bokros, through an interpreter. “That was our wake-up call and since then we’re playing well.”

    Bokros said playing against Canada, the home team in Montreal, in a building packed with more than 14,000 rabid fans in the Bell Centre left his team starry-eyed. Now he says, they’ve become accustomed to the big arena and loud fans, which is good because facing Canada in the semifinals at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre on Sunday will be no different.

    “The opener against Canada for most players was the first big game at such a big

    Read More »from World Junior 2015: Canada's 'wake-up call' helps Slovakia return for rematch in semifinal

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