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.

  • Team USA shocks with Alex DeBrincat cut for world juniors

    Alex DeBrincat (Getty Images)
    Alex DeBrincat (Getty Images)

    On Thursday morning, USA Hockey announced their latest cuts from world junior selection camp. The biggest name sent home, forward Alex DeBrincat, was a shock.

    For starters, the Erie Otters star is the leading goal-scorer in the Ontario Hockey League with 30 goals — and he also has 30 assists for 60 points — in 28 games. He trails his Otters teammate and Team Canada forward Taylor Raddysh by one point for the league’s scoring lead.

    The 19-year-old also has experience. The second-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks (39th overall in 2016), was on the bronze-winning team last year in Helsinki, Finland. His tournament, however, was cut short first by an ejection in his first game for spearing and second by a shoulder injury that limited him to five games in the tournament (in which he scored one goal).

    Usually, the elite, high-scoring forwards with experience are the ones you want to take to the world juniors, where every game is critical in a short tournament

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  • Sidney Crosby's heartwarming gesture for young Penguins fan

    TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 17: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at an NHL game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on December 17, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images)
    Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins during an NHL game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on December 17, 2016, in Toronto. (Getty Images)

     

    It’s the season of giving, and it’s nice to see NHLers like Sidney Crosby getting in on the act.

    On Tuesday night, after the Pittsburgh Penguins hammered the New York Rangers 7-2, Crosby did his best Santa Claus impression and gifted a little girl his stick.  The girl, in a Crosby jersey and super-cute pigtails, was at the game holding a sign that read: ‘Sid, can I have your stick please!’

    We all know Crosby has great peripheral vision, because after spotting the sign and doing a double-take, the Penguins captain returned to make this young fan’s holiday season extra special. The best part is at the end of the clip –

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  • 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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