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Taking the temperature of non-Olympic sports
Because of the magnitude of an Olympics, it can sometimes feel like the rest of the sports world is put on pause. For a bunch of reasons, that probably wasn’t as much the case for the recently closed Beijing Games.
Still, plenty of us returned to work today with our eyes glazed over from staying up late to watch curling, speed skating and much more over the past three weeks. For those of you who fall in that category, here’s a quick non-Olympic sports catch-up to make sure you’re still in the loop (and not just loopy):
What you missed: The Oilers and Canadiens both fired their coaches and responded with winning streaks. Last-place Montreal even beat up Toronto last night, though it still feels like the Leafs’ season will be solely judged on the playoffs. The Flames are the hottest team in the league, having won 10 straight to take top spot in the Pacific. The Canucks settled somewhere in the middle between their awful start and their own post-coach firing bump. Senators fans are still banking on a bright future. The Jets are just OK.
What’s next: The March 21 trade deadline is less than one month away. The Habs already dealt top forward Tyler Toffoli to the Flames, but they have more to sell off including defenseman Ben Chiarot. Calgary, meanwhile, should continue to be a buyer in a market in which former captain Mark Giordano could be available from the Kraken. Giordano may be a fit in Toronto, where Jake Muzzin struggled before going down with injury last night. The Oilers, as always, need a goalie. They could look to Marc-Andre Fleury from Chicago.
What you missed: The Raptors won eight straight, and are firmly in the playoff mix. They added solid veteran Thaddeus Young at the deadline to supplement their core, which includes first time all-star Fred VanVleet. All-star weekend just wrapped, and if you chose to watch bobsleigh over the dunk contest on Saturday night, well, good choice. Sunday’s game was interesting enough, as Steph Curry hit a ridiculous 16 three-pointers (the most ever in an NBA game) while LeBron James provided the game-winner with a Jordan-esque fadeaway in his hometown of Cleveland. Oh, and the Ben Simmons saga was finally resolved when the 76ers pulled off a bombshell of a trade, sending him to the Nets for fellow disgruntled star James Harden. We can only hope the two meet in a playoff series.
What’s next: The playoff push truly begins. The Raptors are currently seventh in the East, half a game behind the Celtics in sixth. That’s important because the sixth seed gets automatic entry to the playoffs, while Nos. 7-10 are sent to a play-in tournament for the final two spots. The good news for Toronto is that home games are slated to return to full capacity next week. On the court, Pascal Siakam is possibly better than ever, having added decent point-guard skills to what was already a well-rounded game. The biggest question is whether the Raptors can maintain their strong play — VanVleet and Siakam lead the league in minutes per game, and OG Anunoby is fifth.
What you missed: Just this morning, the American women’s team struck a landmark $24 million US agreement with their national federation to receive the same compensation as the men’s side moving forward. The deal marks the end of a six-year legal battle led by star players Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan to secure equal pay for the two-time defending World Cup champions. The men’s team hasn’t so much as reached a World Cup semifinal in nearly a century. Read more about the deal and everything it entails here.
What’s next: The Canadian women are back on the pitch tomorrow night against Spain for their final game of the inaugural Arnold Clark Cup in the United Kingdom. Canada already tied England and beat Germany (their second win ever against the third-ranked club). A win over No. 9 Spain would clinch Canada the title of the invitational event — perhaps a surprising outcome considering key offensive players Christine Sinclair and Adriana Leon didn’t make the trip, while young star Jordyn Huitema missed the Germany game. The men’s team will look to officially punch its 2022 World Cup ticket during its final three qualifying matches at Costa Rica (March 24), vs. Jamaica in Toronto (March 27) and at Panama (March 30).
What you missed: Nothing. The lockout imposed by owners — already the second-longest stoppage in league history — continues. The date for pitchers and catchers to report to spring training came and went, while pre-season games through March 4 were canceled.
What’s next: If you squint closely enough, you could see some reason for optimization. The league and players held a lengthy bargaining session yesterday, where MLB made a proposal that came closer — although not particularly close — to meeting the union’s asks. Still, the sides said those talks were productive, and they were scheduled to be back at the table today. With opening day slated for March 31, about one week remains for a deal to be made that saves the start of the season. Read the latest on bargaining talks here.
Here’s betting you can guess the most-watched Olympic moment in Canada. That would be the women’s hockey team’s gold-medal victory over the US, which garnered 2.7 million viewers across the country on CBC and its partners. It’s probably the moment that will stick as the enduring memory of these Games for Canadians. But it was also just one of 26 medals won by Canada in Beijing. You can relive all of them in this video.
You’re up to speed. Talk to you tomorrow.