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OK, here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:
It’s official: Seattle is getting an NHL team
Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed the worst-kept secret in hockey today. He also said the expansion franchise will begin play for the 2021-22 season. An $800-million US renovation of Seattle’s Key Arena will be done by then (it’s really a rebuild — all they’re keeping is the sloped roof, which is designated an historical landmark). The ownership group says it has already received 32,000 deposits for season tickets — way more than the building can hold.
As expected, the league is putting its 32nd team in the Pacific Division. Seattle gets a natural geographic rivalry there with Vancouver. To make room, Arizona will move to the Central so that each division will have eight teams.
Seattle’s owners are paying a record $650-million expansion fee. That easily tops the $500 million Vegas forked over only a few years ago. Vegas doesn’t get a cut of this, and neither do the players. That means about $21.7 million in the pockets of each of the other 30 owners. If you were one of those guys, would you ever stop expanding? Maybe there’s hope for Quebec City.
Seattle has never had an NHL team — but it has won a Stanley Cup. The Seattle Metropolitans of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association won the Cup in 1917, beating the National Hockey Association’s Montreal Canadiens. The NHL was founded later that year.
The new franchise doesn’t have a name yet. Possibilities include Emeralds, Totems and Sea Lions. But let me suggest (only half-jokingly) something that nods to the city’s musical legacy as the birthplace of grunge: call them the Seattle Sub Pops.
Canada is a little closer to winning its first Olympic basketball medal since… wait, how long?
The Canadian men’s team routed Brazil in a qualifier yesterday to secure a place in the 2019 World Cup. This is Canada’s first time qualifying for the event (formerly the world championships) since 2010. It went 0-5 that year.
Good timing, because the World Cup will serve as the first qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Seven Olympic spots are up for grabs next summer in China. Two of those are earmarked for the top finishers from the “Americas” region. The first will almost certainly go to the United States, leaving Canada to contend with the likes of Argentina and Venezuela for the other one (those are the four Americas teams that have qualified for the World Cup so far). If it doesn’t work out there, Canada will have another chance to make the Olympics via wild-card qualifying.
The World Cup will be a whole different game. Canada qualified without any of its NBAers, and its opponents were in the same boat because the league doesn’t release players during its season. The World Cup, though, happens during the off-season. So it’s crucial for Canada to get commitments from good NBA players like Jamal Murray, Tristan Thompson, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kelly Olynyk and RJ Barrett (the college star will be prepping for his rookie pro season by then).
What about Andrew Wiggins? You can add him to that list, but the former No. 1 pick has shown no desire to play for Canada and has been a disappointment as a pro anyway. He’d make the team, obviously, but it can survive without him now. Canada’s top-end basketball talent is much deeper than it was for the last round of Olympic qualifying.
Canada last played in the Olympic men’s basketball event in 2000. Two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash (Canada’s current general manager) dragged that team to a seventh-place finish, averaging a tournament-high 6.9 assists per game.
Canada’s only Olympic basketball medal came back in 1936. How long ago was that? The games were played outdoors — on a clay tennis court — and James Naismith himself handed out the medals.
A big moment for women in soccer turned pretty sexist. For the first time ever, a Ballon d’Or (soccer’s highest individual honour) was awarded to the top women’s player of the year. But a French DJ managed to spoil the ceremony by asking winner Ada Hegerberg if she knows how to twerk. She gave a quick “Non” and turned away. The DJ later apologized and Hegerberg said she wasn’t upset. But c’mon, man.
Luka Modric was not asked about twerking. He received the men’s Ballon d’Or after winning the Champions League with Real Madrid and leading Croatia on a surprise run to the World Cup final. Modric broke Lionel Messi’s and Cristiano Ronaldo’s iron grip on the award — the last 10 went to one of them.
Urban Meyer is leaving Ohio State. One of college football’s most celebrated coaches made the surprising announcement that he’ll retire after the Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes didn’t make the four-team playoff for the national title, and their season was marred by Meyer’s poor handling of domestic-violence allegations against a former assistant coach. This doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of Meyer. He’s only 54 and also “retired” from Florida back in 2010. He joined Ohio State less than a year later.
The Oshawa Generals aren’t changing their name after GM decided to leave town. The junior hockey team is named after General Motors, which announced plans last week to close its car-making plant in the city near Toronto and lay off its 2,500 workers. Generals owner Rocco Tullio said he understands Oshawa’s anger but hasn’t considered a name change.
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