Eh Game

  • Drogba, Impact at odds with MLS playoffs just ahead

    The Montreal Impact’s signing of Didier Drogba last year was hailed as a major coup for the MLS and the franchise. Now it appears they can’t get away from each other fast enough.

    Drogba was an instant hit in Montreal last year, scoring 11 goals in 11 matches and taking them to the eastern conference semifinals. This campaign has been nowhere near as winning, starting with last winter’s flirtations with Chelsea, and a rumoured move to Stamford Bridge and a coaching role that went nowhere, on through a season of just 10 goals and 18 MLS starts, and now continuing with Sunday’s playoff-clinching 2-2 draw with Toronto FC in which Drogba didn’t even show up at the club’s Saputo Stadium home ground.

    Drogba was initially listed as out with a back injury for the TFC game. But Impact coach Mauro Biello said afterward that the Ivorian’s absence was actually more about team selection.

    "I spoke with him (Saturday) and he didn't accept the fact that he would come off the bench and, in the end, he

    Read More »from Drogba, Impact at odds with MLS playoffs just ahead
  • Read More »from Erupt does just that in charging to Canadian International finish at Woodbine
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    Last season the announcement of a statue on Legends Row brought a tangible sense of reconciliation between Dave Keon and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    On Saturday evening, the 76-year-old was finally given his just due prior to the Leafs 4-1 win over the Boston Bruins.

    Keon’s No. 14 was retired along with the jersey numbers of 16 other players who were previously honoured by the club.  An honoured number technically could be, and in many cases had been, worn by multiple players.

    As it stood before Saturday, only two numbers had been officially retired, Ace Bailey’s No. 6 and Bill Barilko’s No. 5.  Both of their careers ended prematurely under tragic circumstances which evolved into a de facto criteria for the distinction.

    Keon, who had always maintained that he would only accept the retirement of his number as opposed to it being honoured as appropriate respect, was the last name called to the blue circular carpet at centre ice during the pre-game ceremony.  He received a warm reception

    Read More »from Maple Leafs get it right by retiring numbers thanks to former captain Keon
  • 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

    Read More »from Maple Leafs' wonder rookie Auston Matthews gets legends' stamp of approval
  • So long as Ed Whitlock’s able, he plans to keep running along in marathons. Given his track record, he’ll probably keep setting records along the way.

    On Sunday, the 85-year-old Whitlock will be taking part in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and is aiming to break the world record for the fastest marathon in the over 85-years-old category. It will be his first marathon since doing the same race three years ago and he hopes to go under four hours, which would be the envy of many people a third of his age.

    “I’ve been blessed, I suppose, with good genes for it. I’ve gone downhill slower than most people have done,” Whitlock told Yahoo Canada Sports with a smile Friday, after being presented with his bib number (85, just like his age) for the race.

    Canadian national team member Eric Gillis, 10th in this summer's Rio Olympics, chats with Ed Whitlock ahead of Sunday's Waterfront Marathon in Toronto.Canadian national team member Eric Gillis, 10th in this summer's Rio Olympics, chats with Ed Whitlock ahead of Sunday's Waterfront Marathon in Toronto.

    “There are still not that many people who are running at all at 85 but there are more and more. It’s getting more common.”

    Despite being surrounded by Olympians and previous Toronto Marathon winners, Whitlock was a star unto himself

    Read More »from At 85, Ed Whitlock is still in it for the long run at Toronto Waterfront Marathon
  • Marco Estrada set the bar high with his tremendous outing in the Blue Jays' Game 1 ALDS win. He'll be looking to replicate that performance, in results and approach, when he takes the mound for Game 1 of the ALDS on Friday night in Cleveland.

    Estrada dominated the Texas Rangers over 8 1/3 innings, a solo home run in the ninth the only run he allowed, and struck out six as he set the tone for a Toronto sweep. His approach in that game in terms of pitch selection didn't vary too much from what he did in the regular season, except he relied even more on his fastball and changeup and only used his cutter a couple times. It certainly worked on that afternoon in Arlington, and could very well work again here.

    Jason Kipnis and Mike Napoli are two of Cleveland's most dangerous hitters, and they both have struggled hitting changeups this season. Estrada has one of the best

    Read More »from Blue Jays' Marco Estrada should stick to same approach in ALCS Game 1
  • When Bob Cole gets the cue to go live on Saturday night as the Ottawa Senators visit the Montreal Canadiens, it will mark the start of his 48th season broadcasting hockey.

    Cole’s voice is synonymous with Hockey Night in Canada, and at age 83 he has no plans on retiring from the job he loves and in large part defines him. Meanwhile, he’s had something of a career renaissance in recent years. There’s a Bob Cole mobile app. He trends on Twitter during games, and people still clamour to get their picture taken with him much in the same way they did with his mentor Foster Hewitt.

    It was just under a decade ago that he was shuffled out of the No. 1 role at HNIC and while his successors have answered the bell, many Canadians feel there’s still no one able to capture the feel and flow of hockey like Bob Cole.

    A private man, Cole wasn’t interested in writing a book but with a little help from acclaimed author and Sportsnet colleague Stephen Brunt and perhaps some encouragement by his family, he

    Read More »from Q&A: Bob Cole, Stephen Brunt talk new book 'Now I'm Catching On'
  • CLEVELAND – A chilly day with the wind blowing in from Lake Erie made up the ideal conditions for the Blue Jays’ workout at Progressive Field on Thursday afternoon. They’ll be prepared to deal with the fall weather when they return to the field Friday night for Game 1 of the ALCS, but they’ll also have to contend with a hostile Cleveland crowd.

    Cleveland won 53 games at home in the regular season, tied for the most in the American League, and added two more wins at Progressive Field in their ALDS sweep of the Red Sox. While Toronto was the second-best road team in the AL with 43 wins, and won two games in Texas in their division series, teams with home field advantage in a 2-3-2 postseason series have won 55% of them.

    The Blue Jays don't have to go far to find out how important being at home can be. The Raptors happen to be playing the Cavaliers in a NBA preseason game across the street from the ballpark at Quicken Loans Arena on Thursday night. Toronto and Cleveland, of course,

    Read More »from Blue Jays preparing for Cleveland's home field advantage in ALCS
  • When the Pittsburgh Penguins received their 2016 Stanley Cup championship rings earlier this week, it may have looked as if they were getting a flashy, one-of-a-kind piece. But to Jostens, the brains behind the bling, the jewelry amounts to much more than the sum of its diamond-encrusted, white gold parts.

    “Our job … is to help the Pittsburgh Penguins, or any championship team, have their entire story come to life on a ring,” said Chris Poitras, vice-president of the professional sports division at Jostens. “For us, it’s helping them show different ways they can depict the entire story of the season with their brand on a championship ring.”

    The Minneapolis-based Jostens — yes, the same Jostens you may recall from class photo day — has been in the sports rings business since 1952, working with all four major North American sports leagues at one point or another. In recent years, Jostens has produced the championship rings for the Kansas City Royals, winners of the 2015 World Series,

    Read More »from Why are championship rings so huge and everything else you need to know
  • The British Royal family has had a long history of attending races at Woodbine. But never has the 90-year-old monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, ever sent a horse to race at the Toronto track.
     
    That will all change Sunday when the 4-year-old Dartmouth starts from post five in the $1-million Pattison Canadian International Championship Stakes. Owned by the Queen, Dartmouth has won half of his 14 starts, including the G2 Hardwicke Stakes at Ascot earlier this year.
     
    Queen Elizabeth has visited Woodbine four times. The Queen Mother loved Woodbine, having visited it eight times before she died in 2002.
     
    This year’s International has attracted a field of nine, with only one local horse in Danish Dynaformer, trained by British-born racing Hall of Famer Roger Attfield. Back in the days when Attfield rode
    Read More »from Queen Elizabeth-owned Dartmouth in with a chance at Woodbine's $1 million International
  • Canada’s top club soccer derby will be getting the North American limelight on the weekend as Toronto FC’s visit to the Montreal Impact on the penultimate weekend of MLS action will be aired on ESPN south of the border in addition to TSN2 in Canada.

    In the first few years, little more than city pride was on the line but the 401 derby rivalry has ramped up and there’s much on the line this time around. Toronto still has eyes on first in the Eastern Conference after losing hold of the top spot with a recent dip in form, while the Impact is fighting for its playoff life.

    “Anytime you have a derby match it’s going to have that playoff vibe especially this late in the season with everything going on in the standings,” TFC defender Steven Beitashour said after training on Wednesday. “It’s definitely going to have that vibe and we’re excited to play in it.”

    A sellout crowd is expected at Stade Saputo as the rivalry between the two clubs has been taken to the next level ever since Montreal

    Read More »from Canada soccer notebook: TFC-Impact 401 derby gets continental spotlight
  • Making it look easy: Twitter reacts to Auston Matthews' four-goal NHL debut

    Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews had a historical opening night on Wednesday, scoring four goals in his NHL debut against the Ottawa Senators. It’s the first time in the modern era that a player has scored four in his first game, proving that Matthews is indeed a special player.

    Of course, his off-the-charts scoring production had the social media world buzzing all night long. Many took this opportunity to broadcast that they knew Matthews before he was deking around NHL defenders, such as one Twitter user who pointed out Matthews may be able to handle the puck much better than a steering wheel.

    Read More »from Making it look easy: Twitter reacts to Auston Matthews' four-goal NHL debut
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    The Toronto Maple Leafs have among the most championship-starved fans in pro sports -- that goes for the other teams in the MLSE stable, too, though they haven’t had 49 years and counting since their last meal -- but say one thing for the organization: when it comes to pomp and circumstance, they don’t scrimp.

     

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    Take this centennial season’s season-ticket-holders' package. As ever, each one carries an eye-popping price (in 2015, exclusive of those exorbitant license fees, they averaged out to between $41 and $207 a game, according to a 2016 court ruling). But in this season's case, each tells its own story from the days of WW1-era Canada through King Clancy and Keon and up to Auston Matthews. The very thought of tearing these tickets, old-school style, seems almost desecration. In an era of bar-code readers they’re made as much for stowing away with your other keepsakes as they are to get you in the arena while making the MLSE vaults bulge a little more.

     

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    "It is a keepsake. It's

    Read More »from Toronto Maple Leafs' centennial season-ticket packaging catches the eye
  • The Toronto Blue Jays are drawing big audiences but also driving interest in baseball in general.The Toronto Blue Jays are drawing big audiences but also driving interest in baseball in general.
    The fact that Rogers and its wholly-owned subsidiary the Toronto Blue Jays are enjoying the fruits of the team's labours and drawing huge television audiences is an interesting story in itself.

    But while the team's series-clinching win over the Texas Rangers on Sunday averaged a whopping 4.73 million viewers on Sportsnet is impressive, it's kind of what you'd expect for such a big event. That game's audience, for example, peaked at 7 million in the decisive 10th inning -- about the same number that watched Andre DeGrasse and Usain Bolt duel it out in the 200 metres at the Rio Olympics.

    Big events draw big audiences.

    What's really unusual is the way interest in the Jays has driven up interest in baseball. The third most-watched sports event over the holiday weekend, topped only by the Jays' two games, was Monday's series clincher between the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians. 

    That game averaged 1.27 million viewers up against Monday Night Football, which managed to draw only 264,000

    Read More »from The Great Canadian Ratings Report: Blue Jays run sparks huge increase in baseball interest
  • This Friday, Cleveland and Toronto begin the American League Championship Series - the second time in the past five months these cities have faced off. While Cleveland has the edge in basketball thanks to the Cavaliers' 4-2 win over the Raptors in last May's NBA eastern final, it remains to be seen how they'll stack up in baseball - as for a number of other items, here you go, and let the arguments begin.

    TOURIST ATTRACTION

    Hockey Hall of Fame vs. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

    Downtown Cleveland is home to some of music’s greatest artifacts, housed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Want to get a look at some of Jimi Hendrix’s ruffled blouses or Michael Jackson’s famous sequined glove? Then head on down to Cleveland. But want a close-up look at the Stanley Cup or Wayne Gretzky’s rookie jersey, and it’s Toronto and the Hockey Hall of Fame you’re looking for.

    Winner: Cleveland. It’s tough for sweat-stained jerseys to compete with the original Flava Flav Nike jacket and giant clock.

    Read More »from Jocks & Drake & Rock n' Roll: The Cleveland vs. Toronto scorecard
  • The American League Championship Series starts Friday and that can mean only one thing: television viewers are going to be unhappy.

    Now it's not as if baseball fans need anything more to anger them and add fuel to the many conspiracy theories to which they adhere. After all, most believe that the league, the umpires, the broadcasts and possibly even the hot dog vendors are biased against their team or, in the case of the Toronto Blue Jays, their country as well.

    They also believe that the Jays get inferior start times because of anti-Canadian bias, overlooking the fact that it's simply a matter of an American network seeking the highest ratings in the U.S.

    But logic doesn't always prevail in these matters.

    Witness the flap over Harold Reynolds' ham-handed comment about Canadians' ham hands last year. Diplomats were at the ready before he apologized.

    Add in the fact that TBS will be broadcasting the series between the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland and you have the potential for a

    Read More »from TBS taking heat for its playoff baseball broadcasts as Blue Jays start ALCS
  • The original plan for Vasek Pospisil this week was only to play doubles in Shanghai with Radek Stepanek, the Czech veteran with whom he plans to team up in 2017.

    His ranking having tumbled since he failed to defend his 2015 quarter-final showing at Wimbledon, it didn't appear as though the 26-year-old Canadian would even make the cut for the qualifying in the Masters 1000-level event, the highest level outside the Grand Slams. Worse still, he had been forced out of the qualifying the previous week in Tokyo with a recurrence of back spasms.

    But with injuries and withdrawals, Pospisil squeezed in. And after posting two victories in the qualifying, and two more in the main draw, he's into the third round of the singles and has a date with world No. 1 Novak Djokovic Thursday afternoon on the stadium court.

    "I played very well. It was important to play a very clean match today, because Grigor is playing with a lot of confidence right now. It was a great win for me," Pospisil told the media

    Read More »from Vasek Pospisil feeling like his old self again ahead of a third-round class with No. 1 Djokovic in Shanghai
  • Marco Estrada is starting Game 1 of the ALCS for the Blue Jays on Friday night, but the team says they would have been confident kicking off the series against Cleveland with any of their four starters on the mound.

    Sure, everyone says that, but at least when the Blue Jays say it, the evidence backs it up. Estrada and Aaron Sanchez were All-Stars this season. J.A. Happ won 20 games and his 3.18 ERA is reflective of a great year. Marcus Stroman went through his ups-and-down, but is on a nice roll of late and pitched well in the 2015 postseason, too.

    "All I know is you look back at the last couple of years, how good Marco’s been in big games for us, playoff games, and really two straight years of regular-season games," manager John Gibbons said at a press conference Tuesday. "I think he was the logical choice. We could have gone with anybody and felt good, but he’s been so good in that role, and we’ll just shape it after him."

    The Indians would have felt the same way if their rotation of

    Read More »from Blue Jays, Indians enter ALCS with vastly different pitching situations
  • Today's NHL is bigger and faster than the league he dominated a generation ago, but it's also more systems-oriented, even "robotic," says Wayne Gretzky, and he has doubts if the trailblazing and creative approach he and his fellow Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s employed would fit in to this era.

    In an interview Tuesday night with Peter Mansbridge for CBC's 'The National' on the eve of another NHL season, Gretzky noted that while "the game's better because the players are better," the way hockey is being coached leaves little room for imagination.

    "It's very much more robotic because it's more systematic now," he said. "There's too much at stake, not only for obviously the NHL teams, but junior teams, college teams. If you go to a peewee hockey game here in Toronto probably these coaches are systematic now – you play left wing, you play your position. You play right wing, you play your position.

    "I don't know if a guy like Paul Coffey or myself, we could play in this era because our

    Read More »from Gretzky: 'I don't know if a guy like Paul Coffey or myself could play in this era'
  • Munenori Kawasaki star of post-season celebrations yet again

    Many fans of the Toronto Blue Jays remember infielder Munenori Kawasaki fondly for his jovial celebrations, uninhibited dance routines, and of course, serviceable work as a utility infielder.

    There are a lot of memorable moments from his tenure in Toronto, many of which became viral sensations, perhaps none more so than his antics during last year's multiple champagne-fueled festivities. When the Blue Jays clinched the American League East, Kawasaki didn't hold back, revealing to Sportsnet's Barry Davis that he had a few too many drinks during post-game bash. And who could forget when after the Blue Jays clinched a post-season berth last year, Kawasaki famously declared the celebration a “bush party.”

    Whatever a bush party is, Kawasaki got to experience something like it again on Tuesday night when his Chicago Cubs came back in the ninth inning of Game 4 to beat the San Francisco Giants 6-5 and book their ticket to the National League Championship Series.

    Yahoo Sport’s Jeff Passan

    Read More »from Munenori Kawasaki star of post-season celebrations yet again