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Stu Cowan: New Canadien Shaw Hopes to Earn Fans’ Love With His Gritty Style



It has been quite a summer for new Canadien Andrew Shaw.

First, the Chicago Blackhawks traded the forward to Montreal on June 24 in exchange for two second-round picks at that day’s NHL Entry Draft. Three days later, Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin signed the 5-foot-11, 179-pounder to a six-year, US$23.4-million contract. The Belleville, Ont., native celebrated his 25th birthday on July 20 and then on Aug. 2 announced his engagement to Chaunette Boulerice on Twitter.

Did Shaw splurge on anything special after signing his new contract?

“I bought a house in Montreal,” he said before the start of the Michel Therrien Golf Invitational Tuesday at Le Mirage in Terrebonne. “I think that’s enough for now.”

Shaw and Boulerice will move into their home next month as they prepare for their new life in Montreal’s hockey spotlight.

“We’re both excited to move into it and get settled in,” Shaw said.

“It’s been pretty exciting,” he added. “A lot of big changes in my life for the better. I’m excited for it. … I’m close to home, playing for an Original Six, the Montreal Canadiens. I’m excited for it.”

Bergevin told’s Dave Stubbs this summer that he wants guys “who don’t like to lose” and when they do it hurts and “it gets them inside.” The GM added: “It’s the Chicago culture, that’s what I want.”

There was a time when other teams in the NHL wanted the Canadiens’ culture, but times change. The Canadiens have gone 23 years without a Stanley Cup, while the Blackhawks have won three times in the last seven seasons — the closest thing to a modern-day dynasty. Shaw played on two of those championship Blackhawks teams. In 78 games last season, Shaw posted 14-20-34 totals along with 69 penalty minutes and a plus-11 rating.

While being interviewed on the NHL Network last month, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said one of the Canadiens players told him late last season that the team’s coaches and GM thought they were soft.

Friedman said the player told him: “They think we’re soft mentally, and they think we’re soft physically because of what happened when Carey Price went out.”

Added Friedman: “I think the players expected something huge was going to happen.”

Enter Shaw and then Shea Weber in the blockbuster deal on June 29 that sent P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators.

Shaw and Weber are both tough guys and aren’t a lot of fun to play against. Shaw isn’t nearly as big as the 6-foot-4, 236-pound Weber, but he plays much bigger than his size and with a lot of grit and emotion. Shaw let that emotion get out of control during last season’s playoffs when he was suspended for one game by the NHL and fined $5,000 “for making use of a homophobic slur” directed at on-ice officials. He was also required to undergo sensitivity training.

Shaw knows just how tough the less emotional Weber is to play against, suffering two broken ribs after being cross-checked by the defenceman while standing in front of the Predators’ net during a 2014 playoff game.

“He got me pretty good,” Shaw recalled. “I’ve already let him know I’m glad that I don’t have to play against that again.”

Was there a penalty called on the play?

“No,” Shaw said. “I mean it’s hockey … it happens, right? No hard feelings there.

“He’s the toughest defenceman to play against in the NHL and I’m glad I don’t have to do any net-front battles with him again … maybe in practice,” Shaw added. “But I think it’s going to be huge for the team. He’s a good leader guy, a good team guy. He’s got that experience, too. He’s got that shot from the point that will help both on the power play and even strength as well. He’s just that big, strong man in front of the net that’s going to help out defensively as well.”

Shaw also thinks that Montreal fans who are still be upset about the popular Subban being shipped out of town will eventually fall in love with Weber.

“Trust me, they’re going to love him,” Shaw said. “He’s that player that every Canadian’s going to love … every Canadiens fan’s going to fall in love with him I think the moment they see him on home ice and see how great he is offensively, defensively, how tough he is in front of the net as well.”

Shaw is already feeling the love himself in Montreal. He said during his first trip to the city shortly after the trade he was stopped by a fan who recognized him at his hotel and introduced himself. Shaw is also starting to make friends with his new teammates, teasing Nathan Beaulieu by calling him “Mr. Handsome.”

Shaw’s style of play has been compared with new teammate Brendan Gallagher, which isn’t good news for opposing goalies. And Shaw isn’t afraid to drop the gloves to defend a teammate, leading the Blackhawks with three fights last season.

Shaw and Weber will definitely make the Canadiens tougher to play against — the big question is whether they can help replace the offence Subban generated — and Montreal fans will probably fall in love with Shaw’s agitating style of play.

“I hope they love it,” Shaw said. “I’m going to go out there and work hard and compete and get in people’s faces as well. If they like that style of game, I think I’ll fit in quite well.”

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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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