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.

  • 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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  • Auston Matthews' long, winding road to No. 1 showdown against Connor McDavid

    Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid and Toronto Maple Leafs' Auston MatthewsEdmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid and Toronto Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews
    Not since Sid vs. Ovi have hockey fans been this excited over a showdown between No. 1 overall NHL draft picks.
    Connor McDavid, the top pick in 2015, and Auston Matthews, selected first in last June’s NHL draft, will face off against each other for the first time on Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre.
    It’s big enough that even The Great One – Wayne Gretzky – made an appearance at Tuesday morning’s skate.
    “All eyes will be on those two kids, there’s no question about it,” Gretzky said. “I’ll be watching, that’s why I flew in and I’m excited to see the game. I think it’s great for our sport.”
    Gretzky remembers his own battles with Mario Lemieux and said that whenever they played each other it provided a little extra motivation.
    “Absolutely it fires you up,” Gretzky said. “Listen, it’s a team game but individually you’ve got pride, too, and that’s what makes superstars Hall of Famers.
    “That’s what makes the game great.”
    With two players as special as McDavid and
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  • 'Sky's the limit' for Sea Dogs star Joseph Veleno

    Joe Veleno #9 of the Saint John Sea Dogs fires a shot against the Gatineau Olympiques on October 18, 2015 at Robert Guertin Arena in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images)Joe Veleno #9 of the Saint John Sea Dogs fires a shot against the Gatineau Olympiques on October 18, 2015 at Robert Guertin Arena in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images)

    Joseph Veleno grew up in his Montreal neighbourhood surrounded by family. Right next door were his older cousins – Michael and Anthony Buonincontri – who he’d watch play hockey when he was a kid. And, when Veleno was old enough, he and his older brother Michael-Anthony would join them in various games: soccer, mini-sticks, street hockey, and all the other Canadian childhood staples.

    It was always Veleno, the youngest, paired with his cousin Michael, the second oldest. Even within the tight knit family, the two always shared a special sporting bond. The competition was always intense and Veleno wasn’t always the most gracious in defeat.

    “When we’d be losing in a soccer game he’d be so upset that sometimes he’d cry because he was so young,” says Michael Buonincontri on the phone from France where he plays pro hockey. “He was determined to win. I don’t think it would make him cry anymore, but when he was younger he’d definitely take it to heart.”

    The Buonincontri’s father, Frank, coached

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  • Former OHLer Ben Johnson sentenced to prison for sexual assault

    Former Spitfire Ben Johnson was sentenced on Tuesday.Former Spitfire Ben Johnson was sentenced on Tuesday.

    Former Windsor Spitfires forward Ben Johnson was sentenced to three years in prison on Tuesday.

    Johnson, 22, was convicted in early September of raping a then 16-year-old “near comatose” girl in the washroom of Windsor nightclub in 2013. The assault occurred when he was 18 and still playing for the Ontario Hockey League team.

    In addition to the prison time the former New Jersey Devils prospect will also have to be registered as a sex offender for the next 20 years and provide a blood sample for a DNA database. He is also prohibited from owning weapons for 10 years.

    The maximum sentence for sexual assault is 10 years. The crown had been asking for a jail sentence of between three-and-a-half to four years for the native of Calumet, Michigan.

    In addressing the court on Tuesday, Johnson told Superior Court Justice Kirk Monroe that he had grown as a person since the assault and was now a married man. The judge however noted that the sentence had to fit the severity of offence and the

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  • Trade has new Day dawning in Windsor for Spitfires

    Sean Day poses after being selected 80th overall by the New York Rangers at the 2016 NHL Draft.  (Getty Images)Sean Day poses after being selected 80th overall by the New York Rangers at the 2016 NHL Draft. (Getty Images)
    When Sean Day entered the Ontario Hockey League as an exceptional player at the age of 15, the expectations were huge. He was following in the footsteps of fellow defenceman Aaron Ekblad and forwards John Tavares and Connor McDavid – all surefire stars and No. 1 overall NHL draft picks.
    Day, now 18, has yet to reach the promise of greatness many held for him when he was selected fourth overall by the Mississauga Steelheads in the 2013 OHL draft. On Tuesday, Day was traded from Mississauga to the Memorial Cup-host Windsor Spitfires.
    “There’s been a lot of criticism,” said Mississauga general manager James Boyd. “I’ve used this terminology before but he’s been a lightning rod for criticism. I think a lot of it is unfair. He’s a talented player … I think when he received exceptional status there was an expectation from observers that he would be the first overall pick and an NHL superstar right away and that hasn’t materialized. He’s still a very good player.
    “I think time will
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  • Maple Leafs' wonder rookie Auston Matthews gets legends' stamp of approval

    If there’s anyone who understands the scrutiny of playing for the Maple Leafs in a hockey mad city like Toronto as a teenager, it’s Wendel Clark.

    Prior to last June’s NHL entry draft, Clark had been the only other first-overall pick made by the franchise. The former Leafs captain was selected as an 18-year-old out of the Western Hockey League in 1985 before becoming one of Toronto’s most beloved players. Now, of course, there’s Auston Matthews, 19, the Leafs newest wunderkind who was taken first this summer and announced his arrival in Ottawa Wednesday night with four goals - an NHL record debut.

    “The easiest place to come and play when you’re 18 is Toronto,” said Clark on Friday, at the unveiling of the Leafs’ top 100 players of all-time. “People think it’s hard, but it’s actually easier because he’s learning the game at the most popular place to learn it. So if he was coming here as a 26-year-old and played somewhere else and then came here? It’s harder because you get comfortable

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  • The Ontario Hockey League is looking into an incident involving Ottawa 67’s and head coach/general manager Jeff Brown. Multiple sources told Yahoo Sports that Brown grabbed one of his own players on the bench during a game in Sarnia on Sept. 30. One source described Brown’s actions as a “horse-collar” – grabbing the player by the back of the jersey – and pulling him downward.

    OHL commissioner David Branch said the league received “some comments which we found concerning” about the incident and were conducting interviews.

    “We have a duty and commitment to our players and their player experience and we take that very seriously,” said Branch on Tuesday afternoon. “So we are in the process of talking to some of our players and others in Ottawa.”

    Ottawa 67’s owner Jeff Hunt told their local CTV affiliate that Brown “crossed the line” and had apologized to the player in question.

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  • With Halifax in the rear-view, Ehlers has sights set on making Jets

    Winnipeg Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers. The Canadian PressWinnipeg Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers. The Canadian Press
    As far as Nikolaj Ehlers is concerned, he’s ready to take the next step in the NHL with the Winnipeg Jets. In terms of his junior career, he’s been there and done that, with little more to prove with the Quebec League’s Halifax Mooseheads.

     

    “I feel like I’ve proven what I can do (in the QMJHL) and what kind of player I am,” said Ehlers, the ninth overall pick in the 2014 NHL draft. “I also think it’s time for me to play against bigger men.

     

    “I feel like I’m ready.”

     

    Ehlers said he is no longer under contract with the Mooseheads, but the team still holds his North American rights. So in the event he doesn’t make the Jets, he’d be able to play in Europe. The 19-year-old Danish import grew up playing hockey in Switzerland where his father, Heinz Ehlers, is a head coach in the Swiss league.

     

    Last month Ehlers told Swiss News Agency Sportinformation that if he didn’t make the NHL, his first choice would be to play in Switzerland. However, this week the forward backtracked slightly on
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  • The NHL dream finally 'starting to get real' for McDavid, Eichel

     

    The reality is finally beginning to set in for the NHL’s youngest and brightest stars. During their childhood years, many of them collected hockey cards. They’d pick them up at convenience stores or trade them among friends and all of them had a favourite.

    On Tuesday, a new crop of potential NHL rookies were on hand at the Mattamy Athletic Centre at Maple Leaf Gardens to pose for their own Upper Deck hockey cards.

    “Of course I collected trading cards, I think every kid did,” said Connor McDavid, the No. 1 overall draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers in June. “It’s really special to be on one now.”

    Earlier, Jack Eichel, who was selected one spot after McDavid by the Buffalo Sabres, signed an exclusive multi-year trading card deal with Leaf. No terms of the deal -- which includes cards, autographs and memorabilia – were released, but Leaf CEO Brian Gray called it “easily the most lucrative autograph trading deal for any rookie in the history of the sport.”

    “You dream of this

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Pagination

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