• The Canadian Press

    Former CFL star Doug Flutie, Football Canada partner on video game

    OTTAWA — Football Canada and former CFL star Doug Flutie are teaming up.The sport's national governing body announced Thursday it has agreed to a licensing agreement with Canuck Play Inc., a company that produces "Doug Flutie's Maximum Football 2020" video game. Gamers will be able to play as any one of 10 provincial teams in a Canada Cup tournament mode."We're elated that Football Canada could become the first Canadian organization to be an official part of a video game," Football Canada president Jim Mullin said in a statement. "It's key for the growth of our sport that we engage athletes at all levels and gaming is a level of participating in our sport."David Winter, the founder and lead developer at Canuck Play inc., said the agreement will help football in Canada."Part of Maximum Football's mandate is to help grow the sport in Canada," he said. "Partnering with Football Canada allows us to further that goal."The game features Canadian rules. It also allows gamers to create their own teams and players and even customize their controls."Two things were key for us to work with Maximum Football," Mullin said. "The first is that Team Canada plays Canadian football and American football and both those rule options are available to the user."The second reason is that as a national organization we are committed to supporting Canadian innovation around the game of football in Canada.”The game will be digitally released Sept. 25 on both PS4 and Xbox One. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 17, 2020.The Canadian Press

  • Head coach Nick Nurse signs multi-year extension with Toronto Raptors
    The Canadian Press

    Head coach Nick Nurse signs multi-year extension with Toronto Raptors

    TORONTO — It was a post-championship season unlike anything Nick Nurse could have predicted.A No. 2 record in the league despite a slew of injuries and no Kawhi Leonard. An unprecedented four-month layoff due to COVID-19. And then a playoff run in an NBA bubble that felt almost like a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie.Woven throughout were messages of racial and social injustice.Four days after Toronto was eliminated by Boston in the conference semifinals, the Raptors signed their head coach to a multi-year contract extension on Tuesday. And president Masai Ujiri said he was as impressed with what Nurse did off the court as he did on it."Our confidence in Nick just continues to grow, and part of that comes from what we've experienced together," Ujiri said in a statement. "The past two seasons have been unlike any other in our team's history — first, winning our championship, and then navigating a global pandemic and committing long-term to the fight against racism and for social justice."Nick has proved that he can coach on the court and lead in life, and we're looking forward to accomplishing great things in the future."The next step for the Raptors is to sign Ujiri to an extension. Ujiri has one season remaining on his contract and is one of the most coveted executives in the league, but said in April, soon after the league shut down due to the novel coronavirus, that there were more important issues than his contract."No, it's not kind of where our minds are right now. It's a crucial time for the world. Those things will come. Last thing on my mind," he said then. "I miss the game ... concerned for the world."Nurse led the Raptors to their first NBA championship last season, and after Leonard bolted for the Los Angeles Clippers in the off-season, almost no one saw Toronto having a strong season. But Nurse guided the Raptors to a 53-19 record, the second-best mark behind Milwaukee, a franchise-record .736 winning percentage, and a 15-game winning streak, the longest single-season win streak for any Canadian NBA, NHL, MLS, CFL or Major League Baseball team.For a season that exceeded expectations, the 53-year-old earned NBA coach of the year honours in just his second season as head coach of the club.Nurse, who was an assistant in Toronto to Dwane Casey for five season, is 111-43 in two seasons as head coach.The Raptors reached the Eastern Conference semifinals for the fifth consecutive season before losing to the Celtics in Game 7 last Friday in Florida."Toronto has been my home for the past seven years, and I look forward to it being home for many more," Nurse said. "I've watched this franchise grow and reach the pinnacle, and I look forward to the challenge of helping us win another championship."Off the court, Nurse, Ujiri and the Raptors were leaders in messaging around social and racial unrest. Nurse and his staff launched a campaign to encourage the 650,000 Americans living in Canada to vote in the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election. The Raptors arrived at the Walt Disney World bubble in buses with "Black Lives Matter" spelled out in giant block letters.Nurse boosted Black artist and business owner Nadia Lloyd by purchasing her masks and promoting them in Zoom calls with media. He wore more subtle messaging in his Zoom calls, one day donning an orange WNBA hoodie, the next day wearing a shirt that simply said "VOTE."The Raptors were narrowly ousted by Boston in a roller-coaster playoff series, and an emotional Nurse said in his post-game media availability that he'd believed he'd have at least another series before having to reminisce about the season. "It's always sad when a season ends," Nurse said. "That's a special team, a special team."It might not look anything like the same team next season. Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka are free agents. Ujiri might consider a total rebuild."I'm thinking about it right now. I already miss this team. You know what I mean?" Nurse said after the Game 7 loss. "It was a hell of a two-year run with the core group of these guys, but I didn't think that at all here until the game ended."I wasn't thinking about it being over at all. I was really planning on winning this series and getting ready for Miami (and the Eastern Conference Finals) tonight when I got back to the hotel. Now just thinking back again, a hell of a run for this team and some amazing moments and I think everyone should be really proud of them."Nurse came to the Raptors after coaching in the G League with Rio Grande Valley, where he won a championship in 2013, and Iowa, the 2011 champion.The native of Iowa is also head coach of Canada's men's basketball team.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2020.Lori Ewing , The Canadian Press

  • Steeler Smith-Schuster impressed with Canadian rookie Chase Claypool
    The Canadian Press

    Steeler Smith-Schuster impressed with Canadian rookie Chase Claypool

    JuJu Smith-Schuster can see Canadian rookie receiver Chase Claypool having a big year with the Pittsburgh Steelers.Pittsburgh selected the six-foot-four, 238-pound Claypool, a native of Abbotsford, B.C. in the second round, No. 49 overall, in this year's NFL draft. Smith-Schuster, entering his fourth year with Pittsburgh as a receiver, said it hasn't taken the former Notre Dame star long to fit into the Steelers' offensive scheme."He's more of a deep threat, a guy who can go down the field, run, and catch the deep balls," Smith-Schuster said recently during a videoconference. "That's something we've been using him as."He's going to fit perfectly into our offensive scheme."Claypool was Notre Dame’s leading receiver in 2019 with 66 catches for 1,037 yards and 13 TDs. He registered 150 career receptions for 2,159 yards and 19 touchdowns but really raised eyebrows at the NFL combine when he posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.42 seconds.Claypool joined former Detroit Lions star Calvin Johnson as the only receivers measuring six foot four and 235 pounds or bigger to run under 4.45 seconds at the combine.Once the Steelers opened training camp, Claypool showed he can do more than just catch the football."One thing I didn't know . . . apparently he was an all special-teams player his sophomore year at Notre Dame," said Smith-Schuster, who's also serving as a spokesman this year for DAZN, promoting its coverage of NFL games in Canada. "That's something he brings to the table playing for us and it's really awesome to see him ball out on offence and special teams."He's a great kid, he's awesome. He's a kid who's willing to learn, to be coached and he goes out there and does what he's supposed to do. He does a lot for our team."The biggest difference this season for Pittsburgh is the return of a healthy Ben Roethlisberger. The 38-year-old quarterback missed most of last season with an elbow injury and the Steelers (8-8) failed to make the NFL playoffs.Pittsburgh was last overall in red-zone TD production (35 per cent) last year and the lone NFL team not to score 30 or more points in a game."Man, Ben is probably the best quarterback I've ever played with," Smith-Schuster said. "He's a pro, he's a Hall of Fame quarterback."He makes our job easier, not just for the offensive side but the defence and everybody else."The 2020 NFL season kicked off Thursday night with the reigning Super Bowl-champion Kansas City Chiefs defeating the Houston Texans 34-20. Pittsburgh opens its campaign Monday night on the road versus the New York Giants.The NFL will be one of the few football outlets for Canadian fans as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced both U Sports and the CFL to cancel their 2020 seasons. But some teams south of the border will have to deal with no fans in the stands, something Smith-Schuster said could impact the Steelers, who have a strong following."It's going to be very different," he said. "Our fanbase is so huge that when we travel to play the (L.A.) Chargers, 90 per cent of the fans are Steelers fans and it's like a home game for us and we have an advantage."This year, though, it's basically going to be even for most every team. It's definitely going to be weird because there's no momentum change with the crowd noise and the excitement. But at the end of the day we're going to go out and play football."Smith-Schuster said the absence of fans — or drastic reductions in the numbers allowed into some stadiums — will provide benefits for those tuning in."For sure, you're going to hear a lot of players talking trash, their real true colours (will show)," he said with a chuckle. "But you may also hear a lot of coaching going on and individual teamwork and all that stuff."Smith-Schuster is confident the NFL has implemented sufficient measures to keep players, coaches and support staffs safe in 2020."We get tested every day and it's very, very professional," he said. "They (NFL) are just doing it the right way."I feel 100 per cent, there's nothing holding me back. I just can't wait to start playing."This year, AFC teams won't have to deal with Tom Brady leading the New England Patriots towards yet another Super Bowl. The veteran quarterback is now in the NFC with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.Smith-Schuster sees both Kansas City and the Baltimore Ravens (who posted an AFC-leading 14-2 record last year) being strong within the conference again in 2020. But he cautions people against looking past Pittsburgh."We're on the rise, man," he said. "We're just staying humble, staying low and when it's our time to make moves we will." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 11, 2020.Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

  • The Canadian Press

    Colts, Jaguars meet again with new faces in key positions

    INDIANAPOLIS (7-9) at JACKSONVILLE (6-10)Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT, CBSOPENING LINE – Colts by 7SERIES RECORD – Colts lead 24-14LAST MEETING – Jaguars beat Colts 38-20 in Jacksonville on Dec. 29, 2019COLTS OFFENSE – OVERALL (25), RUSH (7), PASS (30).COLTS Defence – OVERALL (16), RUSH (7), PASS (23).JAGUARS OFFENSE – OVERALL (20), RUSH (17), PASS (16).JAGUARS Defence – OVERALL (24), RUSH (28), PASS (16).STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES – One of three Week 1 rematches from 2019 regular-season finales. … One of two NFL games (Houston-Kansas City) that will include fans this week. … Colts lost five of their final six games in 2019 and have dropped four of the last six in this series. … Indy has lost six straight season openers and seven straight road games in Week 1. ... Eight-time Pro Bowl QB Philip Rivers and Pro Bowl DT DeForest Buckner will make Indy debuts. ... Rivers played previous 16 seasons with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers and beat the Colts on opening day last season. He needs three TD passes to become sixth player in league history with 400, one win to tie Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton (124) for No. 8. Rivers has had his way with Jacksonville, going 7-2 in nine starts and throwing for 2,668 yards with 24 touchdowns and five interceptions. He has 20 TDs and one pick in his last seven games against the Jaguars. He helped the Chargers top 30 points in six of his seven victories against Jacksonville. … WR T.Y. Hilton needs one TD catch to tie Dallas Clark (46) for sixth most in franchise history. ... Third-year LB Darius Leonard needs 16 tackles to reach 300. ... K Rodrigo Blankenship will become first rookie to kick in Colts opener since Mike Vanderjagt (from CFL) in 1998, and first college rookie since Raul Allegre in 1983. Blankenship was part of Georgia’s three consecutive wins over rival Florida in Jacksonville. ... Jacksonville is 2-1 in openers under coach Doug Marrone. … Jaguars have 16 rookies, including four undrafted guys, on their initial 53-man roster. Undrafted rookie RB James Robinson is expected to start. … Gardner Minshew had more wins and the best QB rating (91.2) of all NFL rookies last season. He threw for 295 yards and three touchdowns in last year’s finale against the Colts. He now has two fired head coaches in his corner, with Ben McAdoo serving as his position coach and Jay Gruden as his offensive co-ordinator. Fantasy tip: Indy ran for nearly 400 yards combined in two games against Jacksonville last season, so RB tandem of Marlon Mack and rookie Jonathan Taylor should be a safe bet.___More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFLThe Associated Press