We know Fred VanVleet has leadership qualities and can play lockdown defense, but is he capable of handling full-time point guard duties?
We know Fred VanVleet has leadership qualities and can play lockdown defense, but is he capable of handling full-time point guard duties?
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All players, coaches and officials involved with the International Ice Hockey Federation women's world championship will be required to quarantine for 14 days when they arrive in Halifax. Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, laid out some of the safety measures that will be in place for the international tournament during a COVID-19 briefing held Tuesday. "We are not giving exceptions," he said. "We are not compromising on the fundamental need for a 14-day quarantine in any way to accommodate this tournament." Players will be travelling from across Canada as well as the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Russia, Switzerland and the United States for the tournament, which takes place May 6-16. Starting Wednesday, 47 players will attend the selection camp for Canada's team, in an event in Halifax that continues to April 22. Strang said public health, Hockey Canada, the IIHF and the federal government are working together to ensure the safety of those involved in the tournament and the public in Nova Scotia. Games are scheduled for the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax and the Rath Eastlink Community Centre in Truro, N.S. Individual quarantine, then team bubbles Players will have to quarantine individually in their own hotel room for an unspecified number of days. After that, they will be allowed to bubble with their team members to work out and practise. They will travel "in a controlled manner" from the hotel to the arena, where there will be a dedicated change room that does not permit exposure to anyone else, Strang said. Once practice is over, they will return to their hotel. The combined individual and team bubble phases will last for 14 days, and they will only be permitted to play against other teams after that two-week period has ended. The players' only interaction with other teams will be at games. Some spectators permitted Spectators will be allowed under whatever gathering limits are permitted at the time. Strang cautioned that the plans are contingent upon epidemiology. "If for some reason, things go completely sideways, we will adjust as necessary, like we did a year ago when we actually, on short notice, actually cancelled the same tournament," he said. "So we have that ability and we'll always put the protection of Nova Scotians first, ahead of any event, including an international hockey tournament." MORE TOP STORIES
We roll along with out countdown of the top 100 prospects for the 2021 NFL draft with No. 23 overall — a route-running specialist with less-than-elite physical tools.
Jamal Murray's dreams of a long post-season run and an appearance for Canada in the Tokyo Olympics were dashed Monday night when he planted awkwardly on his left knee. The Nuggets guard from Kitchener, Ont., is out indefinitely with a torn left anterior cruciate ligament, a big blow not only to Denver but Canada's men's team in its quest for an Olympic berth. "Obviously our mind and our thoughts are with Jamal and his family right now," said Rowan Barrett, general manager of Canada's men's program. "But Jamal is a fighter, and my hope for him is that he'll come back even stronger and even better than before. "If there's somebody that you would bet on to be able to do that, it would definitely be him." The Nuggets announced details of the injury to their star guard from Kitchener, Ont., less than 24 hours after Murray hurt his knee in the final minute of Denver's 116-107 loss to Golden State on Monday. With 50 seconds left in the game, the 24-year-old drove through the lane and made a move to the rim. Television replays show his left knee buckling when he planted. Murray grabbed his knee writhing in pain on the floor for several minutes. A wheelchair was brought onto the court, but the Canadian waved it off, and was instead helped off the court to the locker room. Barrett hadn't been watching the Nuggets game, but his phone began lighting up with text messages from people who had. The messages continued through the evening and into Tuesday morning. "And obviously, we're looking at it on replay and obviously you hope for the best, but when you see (it was a non-contact injury), and he goes down, and he's grabbing it like that, then the lack of pressure walking off the floor," Barrett said. Murray is averaging 21.2 points, 4.8 assists and four rebounds a game this season for the Nuggets, who are fourth in the Western Conference standings. Canada must win its last-chance qualifying tournament June 29 to July 4 in Victoria to clinch a berth in the Tokyo Olympics. Canada's women's team has already qualified. Murray won't simply be missed for his play on the floor. Barrett said Murray has grown into a team leader since he propelled Canada to a silver medal at the Pan American Games in Toronto in 2015, when he was just 18. "On our last (Canadian team) call, Jamal was very vocal. He was telling jokes, he was keeping the levity there with the group and everything," Barrett said. "He has a great spirit to him, anybody who knows him knows he just lights up the room, he's loved by his teammates, and he's a warrior." Murray was one of the first NBA players to express a desire to play for Canada in the qualifying tournament, which had been scheduled for last summer before COVID-19 forced the postponement of the Olympics by a year. Barrett said he preferred not to speculate about the team's guard prospects now. But Canada has some depth at the position with Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, veteran Cory Joseph (Detroit Pistons), plus Europe-based players like Kevin Pangos and Phil Scrubb. Murray became a bona fide superstar for his performance inside the NBA bubble in Florida last summer, averaging 26.5 points and 6.6 assists to push the Nuggets past Utah and the Los Angeles Clippers before they were eliminated by LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference finals. The fight against racial injustice was a major theme of the NBA bubble, and Murray was vocal on that front. During one Zoom availability with the media, he left his shoes alone on a chair and walked away. One bore the image of Breonna Taylor, the other of George Floyd, two high-profile victims in police killings of Black people. "I just wanted it to resonate with you guys," Murray said, when he finally rejoined his shoes in the interview area. "How long was that (his sneakers on the chair)? Two minutes? One of the persons on my shoes had a knee on their neck for eight." Murray has set several scoring records in his young career. His 48-point performance against Boston back in 2018 — when he was just 21 — was the most points scored by a Canadian in a regular- season game. He scored a career-high 50 points this season against Cleveland, becoming the first player in NBA history to reach that mark without a single free-throw attempt. The No. 7 pick out of Kentucky in the 2016 draft now has three career 50-point games, including two in the playoffs. In 2019, Murray signed a five-year contract extension with Denver worth US$170 million, the richest contract for a Canadian NBA player in history. Most athletes take between nine months and a year to return from torn anterior cruciate ligament injuries. Golden State's Klay Thompson, who tore his ACL in the NBA Finals against Toronto in 2019, sat out all of the 2019-20 NBA season. This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 13, 2021. Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press
CALGARY — Canada's world champions in beach volleyball are amping up preparations for the Summer Olympics coming over the horizon. The COVID-19 pandemic kept Sarah Pavan of Kitchener, Ont., and Toronto's Melissa Humana-Paredes apart and docked from competition for much of 2020. The Canadian duo plans to compete in at least five tournaments over the next two months starting Thursday in Cancun, Mexico. The world governing body of volleyball, FIVB, created a hub of three straight World Tour events in Cancun to afford teams the chance to qualify for the Tokyo Summer Games opening July 23. Pavan and Humana-Paredes booked their Tokyo berth when they won the women's world title in 2019. The upcoming tournaments, however, are crucial game reps for a duo that's short on them. "I think Cancun will be a real test for us against every team because it is such a lengthy event, to see where we're really at," Pavan told The Canadian Press. "Other teams are scrambling to accumulate points. Obviously we want to win every tournament we play . . . but to be able to take a very objective approach and just see it as information gathering for Tokyo is definitely a luxury. "We are able to use all of these events to gather information both on ourselves and the things we need to get better at, but also on tactics teams are using against us, or improvements or changes they may have made during COVID." Toronto's Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson also in the Cancun women's field have essentially qualified for Tokyo based on their FIVB Olympic provisional ranking of sixth. Canada can send a maximum of two teams in each gender, but the men have some work to do this spring. Samuel Pedlow of Barrie, Ont., and Sam Schacter of Richmond Hill, Ont., rank just outside the top 18 in the provisional rankings. Calgary's Ben Saxton and Toronto's Grant O'Gorman are also trying to qualify. Pavan, 34, and Humana-Paredes, 28, aren't facing qualification pressure, but they want to recover their game form in the upcoming tournaments. "Do I think we're playing at the level that we need to be in July? Absolutely not," Pavan said. "I don't think we're performing at a gold-medal level right now, but fortunately we still have a few months to be able to hit our stride." The duo intends to compete in World Tour events in Sochi, Russia in May and Ostrava, Czech Republic in early June. They're also contemplating another tournament in Gstaad, Switzerland in early July to avoid six weeks without a match heading into Tokyo. Pavan lives in Hermosa Beach, Calif. Canada's requirement of a 14-day quarantine for travellers arriving outside the country was a barrier to the teammates crossing the border to practise together. Neither woman felt she could afford the deconditioning that happens during two weeks of isolation too many times. Humana-Paredes headed to California on Jan. 2 to join her teammate and stayed there. She doesn't expect to return to Canada until after the Olympic Games conclude Aug. 8. "I won't be able to go home until after Tokyo," Humana-Paredes said. "That's the mindset I've had to come to terms with. For the majority of the time, I'm in a good head space and happy to be able to train and be with my team and continue to get better. "Sometimes I miss by people back home and than can weigh on me a little sometimes. Last summer was so difficult because there was so much uncertainty. We do have a schedule to look forward to, a routine and things we can plan for and the Olympics are still on." Her boyfriend, Connor Braid of Victoria, is a member of Canada's rugby sevens team bound for Tokyo. Pavan and Humana-Paredes finished second in the Katara Beach World Cup in Doha, Qatar on March 12 in their first major international competition in 18 months. The field didn't include all of the world's best teams, said Pavan, but the result was important for the Canadians' confidence. "We had signed up for the event, but we didn't feel ready and we actually made the final decision to go a week before the event," Pavan said. "We were unsure, but we decided to just use it as a measuring stick. There were some teams that weren't there, but to be able to fight through that event while not being as crisp as we're used to was good." This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 13, 2021. Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press
Toronto FC goes into Wednesday's rematch with Mexico's Club Leon boosted by its first round of COVID-19 vaccinations but still feeling the effects of more mundane soccer injuries. TFC tied 1-1 in Leon last week in the first leg of their Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League round-of-16 tie, meaning it has a valuable away goal in its back pocket. There was another reason to celebrate, with the MLS team posting footage Monday of players getting their COVID-19 vaccinations in Florida. "I felt the same as some of the players, saying 'It's surreal,'" said head coach Chris Armas, who has had his first shot. "That's the word that was used by a few guys. All this talk, all that's going on, I feel like already I'm more protected against the virus. And physically they are — right away the body starts preparing. "Even mentally, you stand a little taller … It's a positive that now we're feeling a little more protected and we ultimately protect others out there as things return back to normal." But there are still more questions than answers about the health of TFC's injury-riddled squad going into the game at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, Fla. "We're banged up," said GM Ali Curtis. "But I think we're in a better position down here in Florida than we were in Leon," he added. "So we feel good about our chances." Armas, who normally likes to keep his cards close to his chest, revealed that Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo will likely be absent again despite some injury improvements. "The guys that have been injured are slowly coming off that list. So we think we're getting stronger each day," he said. "And even stronger tactically." Toronto, playing its first competitive match since Nov. 24, managed the first-leg draw despite missing Pozuelo, goalkeeper Quentin Westberg, defenders Chris Mavinga and Justin Morrow and midfielders Jonathan Osorio and Nick DeLeon. Star striker Jozy Altidore and substitute winger Erickson Gallardo both had to leave the game due to injury. Armas said most of the walking wounded, including Altidore and Osorio, are considered day-to-day. "We're just trying to balance out the risk to reward (ratio) … The question is do we use them for this match with what's at stake," he said. "No excuses here. We are ready and we have enough," he added. The hope is Morrow and winger Tsubasa Endoh may be healthy enough to dress Wednesday. Given Altidore's history of hamstring issues, it would be a surprise if he saw action. The club said last week that Pozuelo had stayed in Florida to have a mild strain re-evaluated. DeLeon was a game-day decision. Westberg was late joining camp for personal reasons. Armas seemed to suggest Alex Bono would start in goal again, citing his play in the first leg. Asked if he had settled on a No. 1 'keeper, Armas said "Well no. We have two. We have two No. 1s." Armas turned to his youth in the first leg, giving starts to 18-year-old Ralph Priso and 20-year-old Noble Okello in midfield with 21-year-old Jacob Shaffelburg on the wing. The Toronto bench included 20-year-old Jordan Perruzza, 22-year-old Griffin Dorsey and 20-year-old Luke Singh, a TFC 2 defender signed to a short-term deal ahead of the match. "You'll see the young players out there again," Armas said. "We believe in them. They're good players." A brilliant 25th-minute volley by Leon's Fernando Navarro was cancelled out by an Andres Mosquera own goal in the 50th minute last week. Toronto withstood a late Leon charge to preserve the tie. "We came out of that match with momentum, internal belief … For us this is a final. And we'll approach it that way," Armas said of Wednesday's match. Leon will be boosted by the return of influential captain Luis Montes, who was suspended for the first leg after being sent off in last year's competition against Los Angeles FC. There is some talk that Leon forward Joel Campbell may not be available due to quarantine issues resulting from recent international duty with Costa Rica. After a slow start that saw Leon win just two of its first 10 league matches (2-6-2) this year, the Mexican side has returned to form. Leon defeated Atlas 3-1 Saturday and currently stands seventh in the standings at 6-6-2. TFC opens the MLS season Saturday against CF Montreal in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. It's been a chaotic pre-season for TFC. The club had to endure a lockdown in Toronto due to nine cases of COVID-19, delaying work at camp. It then had to move its training base to Florida, where is had just two pre-season friendlies. "It hasn't been ideal but we're managing, best we can with it," said Curtis. The TFC-Leon winner will face either Mexico's Cruz Azul or Haiti's Arcahaie FC in the quarterfinals. The Haitian side held the Mexican league leaders to a surprise scoreless tie last week with the second leg set for Tuesday night in Mexico City. Leon won the Liga MX Guardianes title — named in honour of Mexico's health-care workers — in December, defeating Pumas UNAM 3-1 on aggregate after a 12-1-4 campaign. The Champions League winner advances to the FIFA Club World Cup against other confederation champions. --- Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 13, 2021 Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — The 2021 Memorial Cup has been cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions. The Canadian Hockey League announced the cancellation of the major junior championship between the winners of the Ontario Hockey League, Western Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and a host city on Tuesday. The league said in a release that the decision was made due to limitations on travel, border restrictions, and quarantining requirements. “The CHL is committed to the health and safety of our players, their families and billets, our teams, staff and officials, and the communities in which we play. That has driven all of our difficult decisions for the last year as we have dealt with this global pandemic,” CHL president Dan MacKenzie said in a statement. Five WHL teams and three OHL teams are based in the United States. The OHL was scheduled to host the 2021 Memorial Cup in either Oshawa or Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. The 2020 Memorial Cup, scheduled to be held in Kelowna, B.C., was cancelled last year. The CHL says decisions regarding the hosting of the 2022 Memorial Cup will be made at a later date. The QMJHL and WHL have been playing their 2020-21 seasons, though both leagues have had their schedules complicated by positive COVID-19 tests. The QMJHL has its 12 Quebec teams and six Atlantic Canada teams playing in separate divisions. It plans to have a final four with three teams from Quebec and one from the Maritimes before crowning a champion. The WHL is going with exclusive division play for four divisions. Details on potential playoffs have not been released. The OHL has yet to announce its plans for a 2020-21 season. This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 13, 2021. The Canadian Press
Canadian Jevon Holland's decision to bet on himself is about to pay huge dividends. The six-foot, 207-pound junior safety from Coquitlam, B.C., opted out of the 2020 season at Oregon to prepare for the 2021 NFL draft. Despite not playing football last year, Holland is expected to be the first Canadian selected in the draft, which will be held April 29-May 1. "I feel I have confidence in myself as much as I can," Holland told reporters during a recent video conference. "I knew what I was capable of and the level of play I have, especially with the past couple of years. "I feel like I put in the work and so when the situation came to be I decided to go with the opt out. It wasn't really a gamble, I wasn't gambling anything. I knew what the outcome was going to be, what I was going to put down and I went out and I did that." Holland said while NFL officials have asked him about his decision, they haven't dwelled upon it. "They ask what the reasoning behind it was, I tell them . . . and we move on," he said. "It's not like an issue, they're not staying on the topic." Holland is projected as a second-round selection and tops a talented Canadian draft class. As many as six Canucks could be selected, which would break the existing record of four set in 2014. Holland registered 66 tackles, including 4.5 for a loss, and four interceptions in 14 games for Oregon in 2019. He appeared in 27 career contests with the Ducks, accumulating 108 tackles and nine interceptions. At Oregon's pro day, Holland posted 40-yard dash times of 4.46 and 4.48 seconds. He also registered a 35.5-inch vertical jump, a stellar broad jump of 10 feet six inches and 19 reps in the 225-pound bench press. Holland can also play cornerback and return punts, as well. "I feel I am a versatile player," he said. "You can kind of put me into any system and I'm going to thrive. "I want to be somebody that coaches and my teammates can rely on and understand I'm somebody that's going to make a play when I'm put out there. I'm going to do my job and help my team win." Holland was invited to this year's NFL combine, but the league eliminated in-person workouts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Interviews and psychological testing were done virtually with limited in-person medical exams. Holland comes by his football prowess honestly, His father, John, was a defensive back in both the NFL (San Francisco 1992-93) and CFL (1990, 1993-97 with B.C., Edmonton and Saskatchewan). "I just thought he was always on my case because he was my dad and that's why he did," Holland said. "But, really, he knew what it took to get to that next level, the work ethic I have to have and put in. "Honestly, I'm blessed to have him in my corner supporting me, no matter what." Despite growing up in Oakland, Calif., Holland has never forgotten his Canadian roots and is proud to head up the country's talent pool for this year's draft. The other Canucks who could be selected include Tennessee receiver Josh Palmer (Brampton, Ont.), Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard (Sherwood Park, Alta) and linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga (Calgary), Iowa offensive lineman Alaric Jackson (Windsor, Ont.) and Minnesota cornerback Benjamin St-Juste (Montreal). "Being a Canadian in the NFL process, I feel pride to represent Canada," Holland said. "I feel pride to represent where I'm from because I don't really hear of a lot of people coming out of Coquitlam being in the NFL. "I feel honoured to be the one to rep the community and I've been training with Chuba . . . we've had this conversation. I feel like I'm representing Canada like someone would be in the Olympics." Although he's expected to go early in the draft, Holland said he's far from being a finished product. "There's room to improve," he said. "This is the professional level so you always have to adapt, you always have to improve. "I feel like in order to stay in the league and be in the league you need to take that next step to make sure you can be somebody teams can rely on." This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 13, 2021. Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press
HALIFAX — Nova Scotia's top doctor says plans are in place to stage the women's world hockey championship in the province next month with limited spectators. However, chief medical officer of health Robert Strang adds the province has the ability to cancel the May 6-16 tournament or change plans if the COVID-19 situation becomes a bigger problem in Nova Scotia. Strang says all 10 teams in Halifax and Truro must participate in a 14-day quarantine, which starts as an individual quarantine before expanding to include other team members. It is a similar plan to what has been used at the world junior hockey championship over Christmas in Edmonton and the ongoing curling bubble in Calgary. Unlike those events and ongoing NHL games in Canada, however, the women's worlds will allow limited crowds. Strang says the event will have the same regulations as current junior teams in the province. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Halifax Mooseheads have allowed a maximum 1,500 fans into 10,595-capacity Scotiabank Arena for recent games, while the Maritime Junior Hockey League's Truro Bearcats have had a maximum of 300 fans at recent contests at 3,100-capacity Ruth Eastlink Community Centre. "Whatever the rules are based on where we're at based on the epidemiology for spectators would apply to this tournament," Strang said. The Canadian team starts its selection camp in Halifax on Wednesday and is operating under the same quarantine plan. Strang said the teams won't have exposure to anyone outside their bubbles for the quarantine period. "This is all contingent on epidemiology," Strang said. "If for some reason, things go completely sideways, we will adjust as necessary like we did a year ago when we on short notice cancelled the same tournament. We have that ability and we'll always put the protection of Nova Scotians first ahead of any event, including an international hockey tournament." The 2020 championship in Nova Scotia was cancelled and this year's tournament was postponed from April to May. Nova Scotia reported six new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday and 45 active cases across the province, well below provinces which have NHL teams. Canada is scheduled to open the world championship against Finland on May 6. Russia, Switzerland and the United States are also in the host country's pool. The Americans defeated host Finland for gold at the most recent women's worlds in 2019. Canada didn't reach the final for the first time in the history of the tournament and took bronze. This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 13, 2021. The Canadian Press
The Denver Nuggets are currently 34-20 and in fourth place in the Western Conference.