Eh Game

  • VANCOUVER – The odds are unlikely for Canada’s men’s national soccer team as it looks to break nearly 20 years of futility in World Cup qualifying.

    Canada hasn’t reached the final round of qualifying in the CONCACAF region since the 1998 World Cup cycle and will need a win over El Salvador Tuesday night (10 p.m., TSN) along with a Mexico win over Honduras, and a six-goal swing in the two games to reach the Hex. With Mexico already through to the six-team final round of CONCACAF qualifying, Canada trails Honduras by three points for the other berth, and is five goals behind on goal differential.

    The team knows the math. It now just needs to score like it hasn’t scored in recent memory.

    “I think it’s going to be an open game. We’re going to be doing a lot of attacking,” said forward Cyle Larin, who will be under pressure to find the back of the net like he’s done with Orlando City SC of Major League Soccer.

    “It’s about getting on the wing and crossing the balls. I think there’s going to

    Read More »from Mission Improbable: Canada needs goals and help to keep World Cup hopes alive
  • (Canadian Press)(Canadian Press)
    Training camps have begun for the World Cup of Hockey. So many questions.

    Right off the top, there is "why are we playing this?"

    Is it to stem the galaxy-wide divide between the presenting of the Stanley Cup and the opening of NHL training camps? You know, the one that stretches for an interminable twelve weeks? If that's the case, please just get to the point where the Stanley Cup Final is being played while all the other teams that didn't get there begin their training camps. So that hockey season never ends and The Cup is being handed out every nine months. Just keep 'er rollin'.

    There are other "whys," too. The jerseys to be worn by most every team are a bit of a "why?" My personal belief is that organizers wanted uniforms so unflattering that fans would actually demand that corporate branding be added to them to make them more attractive. "Please! Cover it with muffler shop logos!" Genius plan, Gary. Genius plan.

    The trophy to be awarded is its own special version of "why?"

    Read More »from Monday Musings: The Why Cup of Hockey is here
  • NEW YORK – Denis Shapovalov, the No. 4 junior boy in the world, is not in New York.

    Charlotte Robillard-Millette, the No. 9-ranked junior at the end of the 2015 season, also is not in New York.

    Bianca Andreescu, the world No. 4 coming into this season and currently at No. 11, is here and is the No. 7 seed in singles. We'll see Monday if she's at full health; the 16-year-old withdrew before her semi-final match at the big warmup tournament outside Montreal Friday, citing an adductor strain. But coach Nathalie Tauziat (the former world No. 3 and Wimbledon finalist) told Eh Game that it was more precautionary than anything, with the final junior major of the season coming up.

    Benjamin Sigouin, the No. 9 seed on the boys's side and a quarter-finalist at the French Open juniors in early June, went out in the first round Sunday.

    With the legion of premature exits from the Canadians in the big tournament (a notable exception is Gabriela Dabrowski, who is into the quarterfinals of the mixed

    Read More »from A skeleton Canadian crew in the US Open juniors as Félix Auger-Aliassime leads the charge
  • NEW YORK – Two forehands made, not missed, and Rafael Nadal would have had at least a silver medal at the Olympics in Rio and very likely would be playing Gaël Monfils in the US Open quarter-finals on Tuesday.

    Two forehands missed, and Nadal left Rio without a medal of any colour and on Sunday in New York, exited the US Open after a 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (6) loss to 22-year-old Frenchman Lucas Pouille.

    Nadal was somewhat distraugh at times during a tough loss, but he kept fighting, as he does. (Larry Marano/REX/Shutterstock) Nadal was somewhat distraugh at times during a tough loss, but he kept fighting, as he does. (Larry Marano/REX/Shutterstock) The wayward forehand in Rio against Juan Martin del Potro in the semi-finals came at 6-5 in the deciding tiebreak after Nadal had fought so hard to stay in what may go down as the craziest, most dramatic three-set match on the men’s side this season.

    On Sunday, in the fourth round at the US Open and with far less at stake – relatively speaking – Nadal had a forehand at 6-6 in the fifth-set tiebreak, as the match began its fifth hour and he had already saved three match points. He missed it badly into the net.

    Moments later, after a huge forehand winner of his own, Pouille was lying on

    Read More »from A new face introduces himself at the top of men's tennis as France's Lucas Pouille outlasts Nadal in a fourth-round US Open epic
  • NEW YORK – It’s hard to fathom that Serena Williams might not be the No. 1 female tennis player in the world in 10 days or so.

    But it’s a real possibility. So you’d think it might even do the 34-year-old some good to take mental break from this second consecutive year of chasing tennis immortality to focus on the short-term project of staying at the top.

    But it seems there’s no way for the 34-year-old to avoid history with every little step she takes.

    Williams’ easy-as-pie 6-2, 6-1 victory over Johanna Larsson of Sweden Saturday at the US Open added yet another mile marker to her very crowded interstate. With it, she posted the 307th Grand Slam tournament match victory of her career, which moves her one ahead of Martina Navratilova for the most ever by a female player.

    Serena Williams waves to fans after defeating Johanna Larsson of Sweden. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)Serena Williams waves to fans after defeating Johanna Larsson of Sweden. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

    With her next match, another eminently winnable one against big-serving Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan in the round of 16 on Monday, she would have 308 – one more than the all-time record holder, male or female.

    Read More »from Serena Williams chasing all kinds of milestones at the US Open but so far, so good
  • (Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)(Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Masai Ujiri has a new contract with the Toronto Raptors and one less title to worry about. The organization announced Friday they had agreed to a multi-year extension with Ujiri to stay on as president of basketball operations.

    He is, however, no longer the general manager as Jeff Weltman has been promoted to GM and Bobby Webster to assistant GM, though Ujiri will continue to have final say on personnel decisions.

    Both Weltman and Webster joined the Raptors' front office shortly after Ujiri took over ahead of the 2013-14 season. Weltman is a veteran NBA executive while Webster is known to be an expert on the CBA and the salary cap.

    The extension for Ujiri comes as no surprise. The Raptors have had their best run of success on the court with him at helm, making the playoffs three straight years and reaching the Eastern Conference Finals this past season after winning 56 games. The launch of a local D-League affiliate in Raptors 905 and the construction of the BioSteel Centre, the

    Read More »from Raptors announce Masai Ujiri extension, new front office hierarchy
  • SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras – The locals grin with the littlest bit of glee when they know they’ve met a Canadian.

    The first thing out of their mouths is usually “ocho-uno,” as in 8-1. As much as the scoreline four years ago has become a matter of great trauma to long-suffering Canadian soccer fans, it’s something the Hondurans hang their collective hats on.

    Even the most wide-eyed Honduran supporter doesn’t seriously expect a similar result on Friday but they still think that they’ll have the home-field advantage to pull off the victory and Canada knows what awaits them (5 p.m., TSN).

    “The guys have been talking about the atmosphere,” said midfielder Scott Arfield, who is about to be thrown into maybe the most intense experience Canada can face in its CONCACAF travels.

    “They get behind their team and we’re under no illusions about how tough a game it’s

    Read More »from Canada braces for intense test in Honduras World Cup qualifier
  • NEW YORK – The timing couldn’t be much worse for Canadian doubles icon Daniel Nestor’s recurring calf injury show its unwelcome self.

    Not only did the 43-year-old have to retire after just four games of his rain-delayed first-round men’s doubles match with Davis Cup partner Vasek Pospisil Thursday at the US Open, but his participation in Canada’s World Group playoff tie in Halifax in two weeks has to be in question.

    Nestor, who turns 44 Sunday, was practicing in Florida last week to help adjust to the heat and humidity he knew awaited him in New York, when he felt a bit of a pull in his left calf.

    “I didn’t think that much of it, kept playing through it the last few days. Saw a doctor initially when I got on site. They didn’t see much on the scan. And then, kept playing through it. Went to the hospital because there was still pain. Saw a specialist and he saw a little bit of a tear. He treated it, but I knew going in there’s a chance to reinjure it and make it worse. And that’s what

    Read More »from A calf injury knocks Daniel Nestor out of the US Open, means Davis Cup questionable
  • Meaningful September baseball has returned to Toronto for the second straight year but we already know the final month of the 2016 regular season will not be exactly like it was in 2015.

    In fact, many of the elements surrounding the Blue Jays are quite different than a year ago, which makes for at least four compelling storylines to follow down the stretch.

    Different divisional dynamics

    Unlike last year when it was a one-on-one showdown between Toronto and the New York Yankees for the American League East title, there are two teams bearing down on the Blue Jays in the standings.

    The Boston Red Sox are two games back and have six games left against the Blue Jays that could very well decide the division. They’re not messing around, either, calling up top prospect Yoan Moncada to play third base.

    The Baltimore Orioles are four games behind Toronto, as their poor starting pitching and a recent injury to Adam Jones has seen them fade a little of late Heck, even the Yankees are just 6 1/2

    Read More »from Four September storylines for AL East-leading Blue Jays
  • NEW YORK – Vasek Pospisil knows ahead of time that there are certain tournaments where his entire collection of Asics shirts is going to end up in a big, soaking-wet pile next to his chair by the end of a match.

    Miami is one of them. So is the US Open most years, when the weather is as it was Wednesday. The humidity and his opponent will end up tag-teaming him, two against one.

    But Pospisil’s biggest problem Wednesday in his second-round match against South Africa’s Kevin Anderson was his serve. Or rather, the fact that his usually powerful, effective serve was missing in action.

    The 26-year-old from Vernon, B.C. felt this was the biggest stumbling block in his 7-6, 6-4, 6-4 loss to Anderson, which ended his US Open in singles and leaves him focused on trying to win the men’s doubles with countryman Daniel Nestor.

    When the serve isn’t going to be there, he can usually tell pretty early on. Some days he can even feel it in the warmup, that it’s not going to flow as freely. And on a

    Read More »from Out of the singles, Vasek Pospisil will try to transfer his renewed confidence into the US Open doubles
  • SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras – Canada’s men’s soccer team arrived Thursday for its massive World Cup qualifier and Honduras is ready to do its utmost to be as inhospitable as possible.

    Just as it was four years ago, it will be an unofficial holiday when the teams take to the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano on Friday afternoon and tickets won’t be expensive, so there will be no reason why upwards of 40,000 fans won’t pack the stadium in what will be hot mid-afternoon conditions (5 p.m. ET, TSN).

    The fans will arrive early. The horns will start honking early and considering how successful their tactics were four years ago in an 8-1 Honduran victory that ended the Canadian men’s last World Cup qualifying campaign and Stephen Hart's tenure as head coach, the partisan support will be encouraged to up their game.

    Those Canadians who experienced that nightmare four years

    Read More »from Canada returns to the scene of the crime in critical World Cup qualifier
  • NEW YORK – The tennis machine that is Milos Raonic Inc. broke down Wednesday at the US Open, proving that no matter how much attention to detail, how many hours of efficient work are put in on the practice court or how painstaking the diet might be, the human body is, well, human.

    The 25-year from Thornhill, Ont. was beaten by American Ryan Harrison 6-7 (4), 7-5, 7-5, 6-1 in a match that clocked in at three hours-plus even before the formality of the 26-minute fourth set.

    By the middle of the second set, Raonic was starting to cramp. By the middle of the third, it was clear he was in big trouble. He had treatment for his left wrist, as well as a couple of visits from the physio to massage his left quad. He was shaking out his right wrist by the end, as well – sometimes even in the middle of points.

    “A little bit of stress. I don't think hydration was an issue. I think I always take that precaution. Probably just nerves and stress, a mental sort of over-exuberance rather than --

    Read More »from Stress, and cramps, combined to hustle Milos Raonic out of the US Open in the second round
  • Just weeks after playing in the Rio Olympics quarter-finals, Canada’s top-ranked beach volleyball team has called it quits.

    Sarah Pavan and Heather Bansley have decided to end their partnership ahead of the upcoming SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals, according to FIVB, the sport’s governing body.

    “In a dramatic twist, Rio quarterfinalists Heather Bansley and Sarah Pavan have decided to split,” the FIVB article says.

    A spokesperson for Volleyball Canada also confirmed the split to Yahoo Canada Sports.

    Pavan and Bansley have played together since 2013, deciding to partner up when Pavan, a former national indoor player, reached out to Bansley to inquire whether anyone was looking for a new beach partner. Bansley was and the team agreed to play together. 

    They enjoyed a successful run over four seasons on the international stage, reaching seven FIVB World Tour podiums. They were the fifth-ranked team heading into the 2016 Summer Games. In their Olympic debut, the Canadian pair reached the

    Read More »from Canada's top-ranked beach volleyball team of Pavan and Bansley split after Rio
  • NEW YORK – Genie Bouchard had never lost in the first round at the US Open. And while she ruefully said afterwards that there was a first time for everything, being out of the final Grand Slam of the 2016 season on the first Tuesday was not part of the plan.

    Bouchard’s 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 loss to No. 72-ranked Katerina Siniakova on a steamy hot day was not short on heart. Far from it; time and time again she was in trouble, and most often she was able to escape.

    What Bouchard, who was really downcast after the loss, most regrets was the level of her tennis.

    “I feel like I didn’t really play well. My opponent played really well, I think. I tried my best, I fought my hardest. I have no regrets in that sense. But I wish I could have had better feeling on the court, served better, things like that,” a downcast Bouchard said in a packed small interview room afterwards. “I thought (Siniakova) was really going after it, and very consistent while doing that.”

    The first set really came down to one

    Read More »from A poor serving day and a solid, feisty opponent combine to send Eugenie Bouchard home from the US Open in the first round
  • The Toronto Blue Jays show no ill effects from any expected post-Olympics hangover.  (Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP)The Toronto Blue Jays show no ill effects from any expected post-Olympics hangover. (Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP)
    Sometimes big events like the Olympics aren't really good for television.

    Sure, ratings soar during the Games but once they're over, promoting non-Olympic fare is a lot like trying to force cheesecake on your dinner guests after a seven-course meal. There's a post-Olympic hangover that tends to send people as far from their televisions as possible, especially in summer.

    But sometimes the Olympics act to stimulate the appetite for high-performance sports, which apparently is what has happened this summer.

    Both the Toronto Blue Jays and the CFL, which saw ratings take a little dip during the Rio goings-on, bounced back in a big way over the weekend.

    Despite a rather unattractive opponent in the lowly Minnesota Twins -- and there's no truth to the rumour that the team wants to change its name to the Lowly Minnesota Twins --- the Blue Jays drew huge audiences on the weekend.

    The three-game series averaged 1.3 million viewers per game, the kind of numbers normally reserved for pennant runs

    Read More »from The Great Canadian Ratings Report: No post-Olympics slump for Jays or CFL
  • Over the course of a long career in football, Jason de Vos has filled a lot of roles: standup central defender, captain, winner, licensed coach and popular media analyst and critic. In every one of them, he’s been someone who wasn’t afraid to speak up -- to get stuck in, as the game’s vernacular puts it.

    Now, with international soccer’s transfer window poised to shut, de Vos is the Canadian Soccer Association’s prize signing to a new position as the organization's first Director of Development. In a country where regional interests in the sport have historically gotten in the way of the greater good, it’s hard to imagine a more credible, made-in-Canada face to put in this role, or one who comes in more prepared or more eager for the task ahead.

    “It’s a big change in my life, but I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to put words into action,” de Vos said Tuesday in a phone interview. “That’s what excites me the most. I now get to start living some of the principles I’ve been

    Read More »from De Vos a familiar voice ready to rattle the grassroots of Canadian soccer
  • Steven Seagal defeats GSP via first-round stabbing in cringeworthy fight scene

    We all know that Georges St-Pierre has been training regularly throughout his nearly three year long hiatus from the UFC. What we didn't know, was that he's been training with the one and only Steven Seagal.

    Don't expect to see GSP throwing front kicks like the ones Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida used after spending some time with the Hollywood actor. Instead, St-Pierre and Seagal trained in the art of choreographed hand-to-hand combat in "Killing Salazar."

    If you're wondering why you've never heard of this film before, it's because it was so bad it went straight to DVD. Take a look for yourself.

    Fans may be excited to see the former UFC welterweight champion make his long awaited return to the Octagon, it's safe to say not many of those fans want to see him return to the big screen. Sorry, small screen in this case.

    If only someone on set had gone up to St-Pierre after that shoot to express how disappointed they were in his performance the way he did to Matt Hughes.

    Read More »from Steven Seagal defeats GSP via first-round stabbing in cringeworthy fight scene
  • TORONTO — Matthew Tkachuk didn’t mind that his summer was a little short. In fact, he wouldn’t have had it any other way

    Tkachuk and his London Knights teammates enjoyed a deep run at the Memorial Cup that went well into May, with the team capping off their season by claiming the championship on the 29th day that month when Tkachuk tapped in the puck 7:49 minutes into overtime to beat the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.

    The win capped off a dominating season for the Knights and Tkachuk, a Calgary Flames prospect, is hoping he can carry over some of that winning momentum into his first NHL training camp.

    “I’m one of the few guys that was on a winning team this past year,” he said. “I just think that I have that mindset where I know how to play big in those types of games and be on a winning team.”

    Since hoisting the Memorial Cup in Red Deer, Alta., the 18-year-old left winger has been spending much of his time skating and working out in Toronto (and hanging out with friends because he is 18,

    Read More »from Matthew Tkachuk takes advice from his dad heading into first NHL training camp
  • Canadian IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe isn't scared of racing along tight tracks at speeds of 230 mph, but what really scares him might be learning how to salsa.

    The mayor of Hinchtown is putting on his dancing shoes as Hinchchliffe has announced he will join the cast of 'Dancing with the Stars' for its 23rd season.

    "Well, I can honestly say this will rank just above the Indy 500 as one of the most nerve-racking things that I've ever agreed to do," Hinchcliffe told the Hamilton Spectator. "Normally I'm used to working under pressure in front of a live audience, but I can't see them, so this should be a totally new experience for me and especially as someone with no ability to dance whatsoever.

    "My partner definitely has her work cut out for her because the last IndyCar driver that did this (Hélio Castroneves) did pretty well, and so my goal has to be to match that or else I'm going to get a ton of crap from everybody back in the paddock."

    Castroneves had set the bar quite high,

    Read More »from Canada's James Hinchcliffe taking his two left feet to 'Dancing with the Stars'
  • NEW YORK – With both players firing on all of their considerable cylinders, a matchup between Milos Raonic and Dustin Brown, though short on rallies, could have produced some crowd-pleasing fireworks before a well-refreshed evening crowd on Court 17 Monday night.

    In the end, though, Raonic’s first-round form – a long way from where he plans for that form to be by the end of the fortnight – was far too good for Brown’s effort in his first match back after suffering a devastating ankle sprain in the first round of the Olympic event.

    The magic was not to be. Raonic moved through, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 and righted the ship after a few serving issues in the first set. But in the end, all he really had to do was navigate calmly because the physically compromised Brown had to go for broke.

    Here's what it looked like.

    That’s a relative term with the dreadlocked German-Jamaican, whose game runs to high risk even in his more mellow moments. But there was no joy for him on this night even when he did

    Read More »from Milos Raonic dispatches Dustin Brown in straight sets to get his US Open off to a good start