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Debate over: Former Hart Trophy winner Lindros finally gets Hall of Fame call



TORONTO – The debate is over. Eric Lindros will finally get his plaque in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Passed over six times before, the long-time Philadelphia Flyers captain was announced as one of four nominees for this year’s Hall of Fame induction class, joined by the late Pat Quinn, goaltender Rogie Vachon and Russian winger Sergei Makarov.

“It was six years and it was a bit of time, but I guess you can turn around and say I’m in the Hall forever going forward,” Lindros said on a conference call after the announcement.

Lindros was driving north on Highway 11 in Ontario with his family when he got the call from Lanny McDonald, the Hall of Fame chairman.

He hasn’t stopped smiling since and for good reason.

This was a day that looked more and more unlikely to happen. Lindros was a hotly debated candidate every year for Hall induction, but each year it was revealed that, again, he had not made the cut.

Injuries, and the time they robbed him of, were used by some to justify of his absence from the Hall, though not from the committee, which keeps all deliberations private.

It’s hard to argue against the productivity and dominance of his career when healthy. Lindros posted 1.14 points per game, a mark that ranks 15th among all inactive players (minimum 500 games). All but one of the 14 names above him that list was previously inducted into the Hall of Fame.

“I think there was some times you get thinking back and wondering what if,” said Lindros, who scored 372 goals along with 865 points in 760 games. “But I think when it’s all said and done it’s an honour. It just kind of feels full circle if you can understand that.

“I play hockey a couple times a week just to try to fit in my jeans. To have this honor right here at the end of things when my game is certainly on the downslope is a great feeling and a great honor.

“I’m super happy.”

Lindros could be an awe-inspiring blend of size, speed and sheer force, almost a prototype for the ideal hockey player. Imposing at six foot four and more than 200 pounds, he was often a fearsome force over eight seasons with the Flyers, paired frequently with John Leclair and Mikael Renberg on Philadelphia’s “Legion of Doom” line.

Lindros led the Flyers as deep as the Stanley Cup final in 1997 where they were swept in four games by the Detroit Red Wings.

Troubles with concussions and subsequent friction with Flyers management, which included his captaincy being stripped and a year-long contract dispute, eventually saw him dealt to the New York Rangers in 2001. He landed with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Dallas Stars in his final two NHL seasons, the summation of a career that began most awkwardly.

Prior to the 1991 draft, Lindros made it known that he would refuse to play for the Quebec Nordiques, who held the No. 1 overall pick. The Nordiques drafted him anyway. Lindros held out a full season before a trade to Philadelphia, one that included Peter Forsberg, was worked out.

Speaking more than 20 years after the fact, Lindros said the decision not to play in Quebec had nothing to do with the province, people or culture, but with the Nordiques ownership at the time, which included Marcel Aubut, the now-disgraced former head of the Canadian Olympic Committee.

Lindros led the league with 70 points in 46 games in 1994, winning his first and only Hart Trophy as MVP.

He also won gold for Canada both at the Canada Cup and Olympics, the latter in 2002 on a squad led by Quinn.

Inducted into the builders’ category, Quinn played for nine NHL seasons before spending almost four decades in various coaching and front office roles, both in the NHL and with Hockey Canada.

He served behind the bench of three Canadian clubs, including long and successful stints with the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs. He led the Canucks to the Cup final in 1994, coming just shy of that mark during his time in Toronto.

His 1979-80 Flyers squad was also defeated in the final.

“He was good with handling personalities and getting the most out of his players,” said Lindros of Quinn, playing for him at the Olympics and for one season in Toronto. “I thought he was a real personable coach, but still stern and sharp and an old-school way about him on top of that.”

Quinn twice won the Jack Adams trophy as the league’s top coach and was the chair of the Hockey Hall of Fame at the time of his death in Nov. 2014. He also coached Canada to gold at the world junior championships and 2004 World Cup of hockey.

Kalli Quinn used to ask her father about his chances for induction into the Hall. His response: “You’re crazy.”

“It’s such a huge honor for the family, and we’re so proud of him and we’ve always been proud of him and this is just the icing on the cake,” his daughter said. “It’s kind of surreal and still can’t really believe it’s happening, but we appreciate it so much.”

Like Lindros, Vachon long wondered whether he would get into the hall. He’d given up hope in fact, last suiting up in 1982.

“I sort of resigned myself that I don’t think it’s going to happen after all those years,” he said.

Vachon won three Cups with the Montreal Canadiens and was the runner-up for the Hart Trophy in 1975. He set eight records during his stint with the Los Angeles Kings, including wins (171), shutouts (32), and lowest goals against average (2.24) in one season.

He later joined the Kings in both coaching and management roles, serving as GM for 10 seasons.

Makarov had his best years in Russia, leading the Soviet league in scoring for nine seasons. He was drafted by the Calgary Flames in 1983 and became the Calder Trophy winner as the league’s top rookie at age 31, a result that led to a future age restriction on the award.
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Up and Coming Sports Stars to Look Out for in 2020



Every year, a raft of exciting new players come onto the scene across all of the major US sports. With the MLS season getting underway and the NFL and MLB drafts not too far away, now is a great time to look at the young sports stars that could have a very bright future ahead of them, and the ones that are already proving they are destined for greatness.

Theo Bair (MLS)

This MLS season is looking like it could be one of the best yet, with David Beckham’s Inter Miami team adding some extra dazzle to the league. Whilst Beckham might be able to attract a lot of new players to his MLS team, there are a lot of young stars on their way through such as Theo Bair at Vancouver Whitecaps. Bair has already made an impact on the first team and after impressing at under-20 and under-23 level for the national team, he has made two appearances for the senior team, well before his 21st birthday. This year could see Bair make a real name for himself in the MLS.

Source: Pixabay

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (MLB)

Montreal-born Vladimir Guerrero Jr has one MLB season under his belt but it looks like the best is still yet to come from him at the Blue Jays. He was heavily backed to take the league by storm but he failed to live up to the hype that surrounded him. Without the pressure of being the top-ranked prospect, this season could see Guerrero play with some weight lifted off his shoulders. He has been working very hard on his fitness over the offseason, something that his manager Montoyo has been quick to comment upon.

Baseball by andrewmalone, on Flickr

Baseball” (CC BY 2.0) by andrewmalone

Connor McDavid (NHL)

McDavid has already established him as a top hockey player but at 23, he has the potential to go on to do so much more. The player was born in Ontario and was the first overall draft pick, showing how much expectation was already on him at that stage but he has gone on to prove that he is one of the best players in the NHL. McDavid could go on to be one the NHL’s best-ever hockey players and this season could be the year that he shows the world, not just the NHL.

Chuba Hubbard (College Football)

The Oklahoma State Cowboys running back has been making the headlines for several years now. He continues to improve and grab more attention for his impressive stats and performances. He was close to being a sprinter and nearly made the Canadian Olympic team before switching over to football. He is passing up the 2020 NFL draft to play his senior season at Cowboys. He should give them a good chance of winning the College Football Championship, though they’re trailing at the seventh spot in the latest American football odds at +2400.00, with Clemson as the current betting favorites.

2020 will definitely be a very exciting time with some of these young stars looking to breakthrough in their respective sports and show the world what they are capable of.

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Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby – and looking to break the Curse of Apollo



Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby with early favourite Justify after watching the race from his sofa in Southern California last year.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s ability to produce Derby contenders year after year is an enviable feat and why his absence a year ago stood out. It was just his second since 2009 and occurred because his lone candidate got hurt.

Baffert will saddle Justify and 30-to-1 shot Solomini in Saturday’s Derby.

Justify is one of the greenest colts Baffert has brought to Churchill Downs. He’s won all three of his starts by a combined 19 lengths. If Justify wins, he’d be the first to do so since Apollo in 1882 without racing as a two-year-old.

“The thing about the Kentucky Derby, you have to have the right horse. It just happens. You can’t force it,” Baffert said. “All of a sudden, you have good horses and you’re there. So I’ve been really fortunate to have some really good horses.”

Baffert’s four victories are tied for second-most in Derby history. He’s finished second three times, too, including in 2012 with Bodemeister, also the last time he had two starters in the same year.

Like Justify, Bodemeister didn’t race as a two-year-old. He set a blistering pace and led the Derby until the final 150 yards when I’ll Have Another overtook him to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

Magnum Moon, the 6-to-1 third choice, also is unbeaten and didn’t run as a two-year-old.

“It’s going to happen,” Baffert said, referring to the curse being broken. “Whether it happens this year or whatever, but it will happen because Bodemeister almost got away with it. But I don’t really worry about that.”

Baffert almost had a third starter this year until McKinzie developed a hind-end issue that knocked him off the Derby trail.

“When McKinzie got hurt, I wanted to throw up,” he said. “I really think McKinzie would probably be second choice here. We’d really have a 1-2 here.”

Justify cleared the biggest pre-Derby hurdle by drawing the No. 7 post. Jockey Mike Smith can use the colt’s early speed to position him well for the long run to the chaotic first turn. Solomini ended up in the No. 17 post; no horse has ever won from there.

Baffert turned 65 in January, making him eligible for Medicare and retirement at most other jobs. However, he entertains no such thoughts.

“I work hard at it. I just don’t give up,” the white-haired trainer said. “I’m constantly meeting people. They’re sending me horses. If you don’t have success, you’re not going to get those opportunities.”

After a successful run in the quarter horse ranks, Baffert switched to thoroughbreds. He started with one horse.

“After 25 years, I’m finally getting horses that I don’t have to buy,” he said. “The big guys are sending me horses.”

None was bigger than American Pharoah in 2015. The colt swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont to become racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

Baffert has compared Justify to American Pharoah, citing the colt’s imposing physical presence and big stride. Still, Justify has yet to encounter the kind of traffic the Derby’s 20-horse stampede creates and the talent as he’ll run against on Saturday.

“I’d rather have a really talented horse than one who’s seasoned and just on par with the rest of them,” Baffert said.

Early on, Baffert knew Justify had the goods.

“The first time I worked him at Santa Anita, I knew he was a really good horse,” he said. “The track was really deep that morning, and he went around there effortlessly. His first race, he ran incredibly and showed how special he was.”

That kind of intuition is what separates Baffert from his rivals, fellow Hall of Famer trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.

“Bob’s got a great feel for it,” he said.

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Matthews ready to return to Maple Leafs lineup after missing a month



NASHVILLE — The hurtin’ tune that Auston Matthews has been singing for the past four weeks finally can be put in the remainder bin in Music City.

The Maple Leafs’ top centre on Wednesday declared himself set to return to the lineup after recovering from a right shoulder injury.

Wonderful timing, of course, considering the Leafs will take on the No. 1 club in the National Hockey League, the Nashville Predators, on Thursday night.

“In my mind, I think I’m ready to go and taking it as I’m getting ready to play (Thursday),” Matthews said after resuming his normal role, between William Nylander and Zach Hyman, during practice at Bridgestone Arena.

“It felt good, nice to get in all the reps and everything. (Wednesday) was a good step forward in that process, going through the line rushes.”

It seemed probable that the Leafs also will have defenceman Nikita Zaitsev, who missed the past five games as he recovered from an illness, against Nashville. Zaitsev was paired with Jake Gardiner, his regular partner, at practice.

For Matthews, it has been 10 games as a spectator with his latest injury, his third of the 2017-18 regular season after he missed four games in November with a back issue and then sat for six in December because of a concussion.

Thursday will mark four weeks since Matthews was hurt when he was sandwiched by the New York Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck and Adam Pelech in a game at the Air Canada Centre.

A major bonus for Matthews in his recovery has been the fact he has been able to skate though much of his recuperation. That was not the case when he was out with his previous two injuries.

It’s worth noting that Matthews scored two goals versus the Montreal Canadiens upon returning on Nov. 18 from his back injury; in his first two games upon coming back from a concussion, he scored a goal in each.

Mike Babcock said a final decision on the participation of Matthews and Zaitsev against the Predators would be made on Thursday morning, but the Leafs coach was talking as though it would be a rubber stamp.

“This is going to be the best opportunity for (Matthews) because he has been able to skate and compete,” Babcock said. “The other times he was not able to do anything.

“To get him back … it’s still going to be going way faster than he has been practising, so there is going to be an adjustment period, but he’s a good player and he will figure it out.”

Defenceman Morgan Rielly didn’t think Matthews will take long to find his footing. Rielly missed six games in late January/early February with an arm injury, so knows what Matthews could be feeling.

“You’re nervous and you just want to get back into it,” Rielly said. “You play your first shift a bit hesitant, but after that it’s important you get back to yourself.

“It’s never easy, but Auston is one of those guys that I will imagine it won’t take long for him to get back into a rhythm.”

And there’s the trickle-down effect through the forward lines with Matthews in uniform.

“Guys are used to playing with certain players and when everyone is healthy, I think you get better chemistry throughout the entire lineup,” centre Nazem Kadri said. “Certain guys don’t have to play with different guys constantly and it’s just more of a set group, so I think it’s going to help us.”

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