Minority players having big impact in World Cup of Hockey, from scoring to sitting

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The World Cup of Hockey is only a few days old and already players of color are having a huge impact in the best-on-best international tournament – from a brother from France scoring to Big Buff sitting.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, a Philadelphia Flyers forward and Team Europe’s only French member, put a dagger in Team USA in the World Cup opener Saturday, scoring on a neat second-period tip-in in Europe’s 3-0 shocker over the United States.

On a Europe squad stacked with firepower the likes of Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa, Bellemare made the most of his 15 minutes-plus of ice time, registering a goal, one shot, and one hit. He won 36 percent of his face-offs.

While Team Europe basked in its upset victory, Team USA Head Coach John Tortorella faced questions about his decision not to dress Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfgulien for Saturday’s game.

The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Byfuglien is one of the National Hockey League’s best offensive blue-liners, blessed with one of the league’s hardest and most-accurate shots. He was eighth in scoring among NHL defensemen last season with 19 goals and 34 assists.

Dustin Byfuglien

Dustin Byfuglien

He’s the highest-scoring defenseman on a Team USA roster that includes John Carlson and Matt Niskanen of the Washington Capitals, Jack Johnson of the Columbus Blue JacketsErik Johnson of the Colorado Avalanche, Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild, and the New York Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh.

“Well, I have to take someone out, and Buff has been used on defense and forward, along with Kyle Palmieri as a right winger, too, and we made the decision for this game, this was our best lineup,” Tortorella explained after the game. “It’s certainly not a negative thought on Buff, but we decided to go with this lineup tonight.”

 

Don’t know about you, but I think Tortorella might pencil Byfuglien into the lineup when Team USA faces Canada Tuesday night.

Byfuglien and Bellemare are among five players of color participating in the eight-team World Cup of Hockey tourney. Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, whose mother is a former chief of the Ulkatcho First Nation, Toronto Maple Leafs rookie forward Auston Matthews, and Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones are the other three.

Lightning’s J.T. Brown speaks out on Kaepernick protest, questions Tortorella

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Tampa Bay Lightning right wing J.T. Brown  has never been one to shy away from tough situations on the ice.

Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Brown.

Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Brown.

And Brown showed this week that he’s not afraid to wade into tough territory off the ice, either. Via Twitter and in a newspaper interview, Brown questioned the wisdom of World Cup of Hockey Team USA Head Coach John Tortorella’s declaration that he’d bench any player who doesn’t stand for the national anthem like San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has done to protest the treatment of minorities in the United States.

On Tuesday, Brown tweeted “Wouldn’t benching a black man for taking a stance only further prove Kap’s point of oppression? But hey.” His post went viral.

Brown later told The Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith he has “no ill will towards John Tortorella,” who’s the bench boss of the Columbus Blue Jackets during the National Hockey League season.

“He sees the situation through his reality and I see it through mine, as a black athlete in the NHL,” Brown told Smith. “I know I’m not on the United States World Cup roster, but I have had a chance to represent my country on other occasions. My tweet was hypothetical.”

Brown, a Minnesota native, added: “What if I took a stance to promote awareness for one of the many injustices still occurring in our country and was punished despite there being no rule or law against it? My tweet was a response to that question.”

He told The Times that he spoke out because “I don’t want young minorities who love the game of hockey to think that what’s going on in America today is going unnoticed by the hockey community.”

“I love America and thank the military for protecting our freedoms, as well as law enforcement for protecting and serving our communities, but that doesn’t mean I can’t acknowledge that there is still racism today,” Brown added. “I am glad my tweet provoked discussion, because we need to start having a discussion.”

Brown has no intention of sitting out the national anthem a la Kaepernick. Instead, “I will look for more opportunities to positively impact my community and bring awareness to racial issues.”

Brown scored 8 goals and 14 assists in 78 games for the Lightning last season. He was held without a goal but tallied 2 assists in nine playoff games.

Bollers brothers taking different paths toward the same goal – the NHL

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Kyle Bollers’ Twitter bio used to say that he was going to finish what his older brother started – a vow he made to become a professional hockey player after his talented sibling grew tired of the game and quit three years ago.

Now there’s a sibling rivalry going on to see who’ll reach the pros first, Kyle or older brother Cyril Bollers, Jr. They’re each taking distinctively different paths that they hope will lead to the same destination – the National Hockey League.

Kyle, 17, signed with the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League over the weekend after he impressed coaches with his play after he essentially joined the Spirit’s summer team as a walk-on and later out-played and out-hustled Saginaw’s top draft picks in training camp.

“It’s a big jump from where I was last year, a big opportunity for me to show what I have,” Kyle told me recently. “It’s a big step.”

Forward Kyle Bollers begins the 2016-17 season with the OHL's Saginaw Spirit.

Forward Kyle Bollers begins the 2016-17
season with the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit.

Meanwhile, his 20-year-old brother C.J. flew to Sweden over the weekend to resume his career playing for a team outside of Stockholm, stoked by a renewed sense of passion and a greater appreciation for the game.

“He did kind of finish what I started, he just signed with an OHL team. I never did – I had the opportunity, but I never did,” C.J. said of Kyle’s vow. “Now he just has to make it to the NHL before I do, which I’m not going to let him do. We’ve got a little brotherly bet going on to see who does. It will just raise the competition and raise our games a bit more.”

Kyle is rooting for his brother to reach the NHL first but warned that “if he doesn’t, then I’m coming for him.”

Kyle has been trying to leap-frog a lot of players ever since he was passed over twice by major junior hockey teams in league drafts. He played last season for Michigan’s Traverse City Hounds in the U.S. Premier Hockey League, which gives young under-the-radar players a chance to showcase their skills for upper-level leagues and top NCAA hockey programs.

A left wing, Kyle finished fourth on the Hounds in scoring last season with 29 goals and 27 assists in 46 games as a 16-year-old rookie. He notched a goal and 2 assists in seven USPHL playoff games.

Kyle Bollers, left, finished fourth in scoring for the USPHL's Traverse City Hounds last season with 56 points as a 16-year-old rookie (Photo/Jay Johnston/Game Day).

Kyle Bollers, left, finished fourth in scoring for the USPHL’s Traverse City Hounds last season with 56 points as a 16-year-old rookie (Photo/Jay Johnston/Game Day).

When his USPHL season ended, Kyle asked Spirit head scout Ian Meahgher if he could play on the OHL team’s summer squad.

“He eventually ended up being one of our top scorers and earned an invite to main camp,” Spirit General Manager Dave Drinkill said. “In camp, Kyle showed the skill and speed we were looking for when rounding out our forward group.”

Drinkill noted that “Very few players have come as far as Kyle has since being passed over in the OHL draft twice, and being able to earn a roster spot as a free agent invitee is quite the accomplishment.”

But he stressed that Kyle making the team isn’t a happy ending. It’s just a beginning.

“It’s one of those really feel-good stories but, like we told Kyle, ‘We’re not signing you just because it’s a feel-good story,'” he said. “‘We’re signing you because we think you have the ability to be a good hockey player down the road.'”

A lot of hockey people said the same about defenseman C.J. Bollers. The Guelph Storm liked him enough to take him in the ninth round with the 169th overall pick of the 2012 OHL draft.

After quitting the game three years ago, hockey is fun again for C.J. Bollers. He played in a showcase All-Star game in Toronto in June (Photo/AlexD'Addese/TEP Showcase)

After quitting the game three years ago, hockey is fun again for C.J. Bollers. He played in a showcase All-Star game in Toronto in June (Photo/AlexD’Addese/TEP Showcase)

But C.J. never signed with Guelph. A combination of hockey burnout and a bum collarbone took the joy out of the game. Instead of hockey, C.J. wanted to make a go of it in music or acting.

“After breaking my collarbone twice within six months, it kind of got into my head,” C.J. told me. “After that, I felt like I kind of plateaued because I wasn’t on teams I felt I should have been on. I was around the wrong people. They weren’t people with high aspirations in hockey. They were playing hockey to play minor hockey. I kind of developed that same mentality…I kind of felt bad for myself and then I couldn’t get out of that slump for a bit. I just dropped out of the game because I felt there was nothing left for me.”

Coach and hockey dad Cyril Bollers

Coach and hockey dad Cyril Bollers

The move was heartbreaking for his father, Cyril Bollers, head coach of the Toronto Red Wings Bantam AAA team; an associate coach for the Jamaican Olympic Ice Hockey Federation; and director of player development at Skillz Black Aces.

“I think I cried for about two years straight,” the elder Bollers told me. “Couldn’t watch the OHL on TV because he should have been there. I couldn’t watch the NHL draft because he could have been there, or should have been there. I spent a lot of time just driving, thinking, and ending up different places that I don’t know how I got there.”

But what dad didn’t know was that his son was having second thoughts. After talking to a friend whose soccer career ended because of a devastating knee injury and watching former youth hockey buddies like New York Islanders prospect Josh Ho-Sang,  Montreal Canadiens 2015 draftee Jeremiah Addison and Columbus Blue Jackets farmhand Dante Salituro climb the hockey ladder, C.J. realized he loved the game and missed it.

“Coaches always tell you that you don’t want to be the one who looks back and say ‘What if?'” he said. “Unfortunately, I was that person who had to look back at all my friends grow up, do well, and succeed. Now it’s just my turn to catch up with them and…surpass them.”

C.J. Bollers suited up for Team Jamaica in June as part of his hockey comeback. (Photo/Tim Bates/ OJHL Images).

C.J. Bollers suited up for Team Jamaica in June as part of his hockey comeback. (Photo/Tim Bates/ OJHL Images).

After first telling his mother, C.J. told his father in May that he wanted to return to hockey. Dad’s reaction?

“I got on the phone and the next day he’s on the ice for three sessions,” the elder Bollers said.

C.J. has no illusions about the challenges ahead in shaking off three years of  rust, living in a different country,  and playing on larger European ice surfaces where skating skills are a must to survive.

“I know for a fact that if I put in the hard work, it will take me four or five years to maybe get to the NHL, and then from there maybe a bit more to get to Team Canada,” he said. “It took Joel Ward until he was 26 to get into the NHL.”

As for Kyle’s Twitter bio, he recently amended it to say “me and my brother are going to finish what we started.”

 

 

 

U.S. and Canada rekindle fierce women’s hockey rivalry in Calgary series

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While hockey fans anxiously await next month’s World Cup of Hockey and the start of the 2016-17 National Hockey League season in October, there’s quality hockey underway in Calgary where women’s teams from the United States and Canada are resuming one of the fiercest rivalries in sports.

Forget Flyers-Penguins, Red Sox-Yankees, Cowboys and the Washington football team we shall not name, this rivalry between the world’s two best women’s hockey programs has more snarl, more grudge, more passion than any of them.

U of Wisconsin forward Sarah Nurse is one of Team Canada's captains (Photo/Hockey Canada).

U of Wisconsin forward Sarah Nurse is one of Team Canada’s captains (Photo/Hockey Canada).

There’s little friendly in the friendlies that the U.S. and Canadian Under-22 and Under-18 teams will play in the series, which started Wednesday night.

The series has all the ingredients, including talented players of color and, of course, a Nurse.

Forward Sarah Nurse is one of the captains for Canada’s U-22 squad. The Hamilton, Ont., native led the University of Wisconsin women’s team in scoring last season with 25 goals and 13 assists in 36 games.

She is the cousin of Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse, who starred for Canada in the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, and Kia Nurse, point guard for the 2015 and 2016 NCAA champion University of Connecticut women’s basketball teams. She played for Canada at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Sarah Nurse was the difference-maker in Canada’s 2-1 win over the U.S. Wednesday, scoring the game-winning goal at 19:37 of the second period.

Boston University’s Victoria Bach opened the scoring with a goal at 8:03 in the second. Harvard University Forward Sydney Daniels scored for the U.S. at 02:41 of the third period.

Canada's U-22 team goes up against its U.S. counterpart in Calgary. Sarah Nurse, fourth from the right. Katilin Tse, second row, seventh from the left.

Canada’s U-22 team goes up against its U.S. counterpart in Calgary. Sarah Nurse, fourth from the right. Katilin Tse, second row, seventh from the left.

Joining Nurse on Canada’s U-22 squad is Harvard defenseman Kaitlin

Harvard University defenseman Kaitlin Tse (Photo/Hockey Canada).

Harvard University defenseman Kaitlin Tse (Photo/Hockey Canada).

Tse, who registered an assist on Bach’s goal Wednesday night.  Tse played 32 games in 2015-16 as a freshman for the Crimson, tallying a goal and 10 assists.

She was a member of Canada’s Silver Medal-winning team at the 2015 IIHF Under-18 World Championship and the 2014 Canadian squad that defeated the U.S. in a three-game series in 2014

Like Nurse, she comes from an athletic family. Her older brother, Matthew Tse, plays for Hong Kong’s national lacrosse team.

USA Hockey National Women's U-22 team. Kelsey Koelzer. second row, fifth from the right. (Photo/Nancie Battaglia).

USA Hockey National Women’s U-22 team. Kelsey Koelzer. second row, fifth from the right. (Photo/Nancie Battaglia).

Princeton University's Kelsey Koelzer (Photo/Nancie Battaglia)

Princeton University’s Kelsey Koelzer (Photo/Nancie Battaglia)

Nurse and Tse will face Team USA’s Kelsey Koelzer, a forward from Princeton University. The junior from Horsham, Pa., notched 17 goals and 16 assists in 33 games for the Tigers last season and finished second on the team with 8 game-winning goals.

Her game balances with offense and defense: she took 122 shots and blocked 61 pucks last season. The New York Riveters chose Koelzer in the first round of the 2016  National Women’s Hockey League Draft last month.

Defenseman Avery Mitchell is representing Canada

Defenseman Avery Mitchell (Photo/Hockey Canada).

Defenseman Avery Mitchell (Photo/Hockey Canada).

on its U-18 squad. She’s a blue-liner for the Toronto Jr. Aeros of the Provincial Women’s Hockey League.

Mitchell tallied 3 goals and 11 assists in 34 games for the Aeros last season. She collected a Bronze Medal playing for Ontario Blue at the 2015 National Women’s Under-18 Championship in Huntsville, Ont.

She’s committed to play hockey at New York’s Clarkson University in 2017-18. Clarkson has three current and former players on Team Canada’s rosters.

Canada's 2016 Under-18 women's team faces the United States in a three-game series in Calgary. Defenseman Avery Mitchell is the fifth person from the left, back row.

Canada’s 2016 Under-18 women’s team faces the United States in a three-game series in Calgary. Defenseman Avery Mitchell is the fifth person from the left, back row.

 

Sudarshan Maharaj named Anaheim Ducks’ new goaltending coach

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Anaheim Ducks' new goalie coach Sudarshan Maharaj.

Anaheim Ducks’ new goalie coach Sudarshan Maharaj.

Sudarshan Maharaj, whose passion for hockey began when an NHL player who would later become his boss tossed him a puck at a game decades ago, is the new goalie coach for the Anaheim Ducks.

The team tapped Maharaj to replace former NHL netminder Dwayne Roloson, who stepped down from the coaching job earlier this summer.

A native of Trinidad, Maharaj has been with the Ducks organization since the 2013-14 season. He served as a goaltendting consultant working primarily with the San Diego Gulls, the Ducks’ American Hockey League farm team that relocated from Norfolk, Va., last season.

Under his tutelage,  Gulls goaltenders posted a 39-23-8 record, a 2.87 goals-against average, a .906 save percentage, and a spot in the AHL’s Calder Cup Playoffs. John Gibson, one of Maharaj’s former Gulls netminders, is poised to be the Ducks top goaltender for the 2016-17 season.

Maharaj is a veteran coach. He was the New York Islanders goalie coach from 2003 to 2006 and goaltending consultant for the team from 2009 to 2012. He also helped develop that National Goaltending Training Program for Hockey Canada from 2005-07.

In a hockey playing and coaching career that spans more than three decades, Maharaj has coached Montreal Canadiens backup goalie Al Montoya and former NHLers Kevin Weekes, Rick DiPietro, Joey MacDonaldSteve Valiquette, Martin Biron, and Roloson.

Maharaj attended Toronto’s York University and was a member of its 1984-85 championship hockey team. Afterwards, he played professionally in Sweden from 1985 to 1991. He enjoyed playing in Sweden, but living there wasn’t without its racial difficulties, including having his car set ablaze.

“One of the young lads didn’t particularly like the color of my skin, me being in the town, and who I was associating with and all that,” Maharaj told me last year. “So he decided to make a bonfire that night.”

Maharaj is one of hockey’s great six degrees of separation stories. His family moved from Trinidad to Toronto when he was about six years old. He went to his first National Hockey League game at the old Maple Leafs Gardens and stood by the low glass, wide-eyed as the Toronto Maple Leafs skated through their pregame warm-up.

Sudarshan Maharaj, left, gets promoted from the Ducks organization's' goaltending consultant to the full-time goalie coach for the NHL team.

Sudarshan Maharaj, left, gets promoted from the Ducks organization’s’ goaltending consultant to the full-time goalie coach for the NHL team.

As the Leafs left the ice, a player tossed him a puck – a moment that made Maharaj realize that hockey was the game for him.The Leafs player was Bruce Boudreau who became the Ducks’ head coach in 2011-12.

As goalie consultant for the organization, Maharaj helped evaluate, train, and educate goalies for the man who triggered his love for the game decades earlier.

“I told Bruce that story,” Maharaj told me last November. “He was shocked that I remembered. I said ‘Are you crazy? That’s a life-changing moment. It was one of my greatest experiences. My very first hockey game and a Toronto Maple Leafs player dropped a puck for me.’ To this day, if I ever see a young child in the stands I’ll always throw a puck.”

Alas, “Sudsie” and “Gabby” won’t be reunited in Anaheim. The Ducks dismissed Boudreau in April after the team lost a Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 7 for the fourth straight season. He’s now head coach of the Minnesota Wild .

 

 

 

 

 

Black athletes at 2016 Olympics shattering the myth of ‘Sports that we don’t do’

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You’d think ice hockey and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro would be on opposite ends of the sports spectrum.

But, like hockey, the 2016 Summer Games are helping chip away the hard-dying myth that black athletes don’t excel in the so-called non-traditional sports associated more with white players.

Rio has been a splash party, a sabre-rattling, shot-blocking celebration of black athletes who are showing  the world that we are more to sport than football, basketball, and track and field.

From swimmer Simone Manuel adding to the Olympic pool’s water level with her Gold Medal tears of joy to Daryl Homer’s sabre-waving Silver Medal victory dance, it’s been fun – and inspiring – to watch folks thrive in the supposed “Sports That We Don’t Do.”

So what have we learned in Rio?

That black women can swim – and win.

Sugar Land, Texas’ Simone Manuel crushed it in women’s 100 meters on Thursday, becoming the first African-American woman ever to win an individual swimming Gold Medal. She added more Olympic hardware with a Silver Medal in the 50 meter freestyle swim Saturday.

Unfortunately, her feat comes as many Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the United States have shuttered their NCAA swim teams.

North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University discontinued its program earlier this year, leaving Washington, D.C.’ Howard University as the nation’s only black college with an NCAA Division I swim program.

Overall, only 180 African-American women among 12,428 female swimmers and 214 African-American men among 9,715 male swimmers competed at the collegiate level in 2014-15, according to NCAA figures.

Manuel is aware of  her place in history. She told USA Today that “Coming into (Thursday’s) race, I tried to take the weight of the black community off my shoulders as it is something I carry with me being in this position.”

“But I do hope it kind of goes away,” she added. “I am super glad with the fact I can be an inspiration to others and hopefully diversify the sport, but at the same time I would like there to be a day when there are more of us and it’s not ‘Simone, the black swimmer.’”

 

That black women can float –  and do a pretty darn good Dikembe Mutombo “Not in my House” imitation in the process.

Miami, Florida’s Ashleigh Johnson is backstopping the U.S. women’s water polo team, which plays a quarterfinals match against Brazil on Monday.

 

That black women can fly.

Simone Biles. ‘Nuff said.

 

That black men can thrust and parry, too.

Daryl Homer won the first U.S. men’s Silver Medal in individual sabre in 112 years. The Virgin Islands native and Bronx, N.Y., resident also became the first American to medal in fencing since the 1984 Games.

 

That you can be true to your sport and your faith.

Ibtihaj Muhammad arrived in Rio as one of the most decorated women in fencing – ranked seventh internationally, a three-time NCAA All-American (2004,2005, 2006), and the 2012 Muslim Sportswoman of the Year.

She also arrived wearing a hijab, becoming the first U.S. female athlete to compete in the head covering worn by some Muslim women. The 30-year-old Duke University graduate was eliminated in the women’s individual sabre competition, but helped the U.S. women’s team advance to the semifinals Saturday with a 45-43 win over Poland.

 

 

John Saunders, ESPN broadcaster, hockey player, dies at age 61

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I didn’t know John Saunders, the popular ESPN broadcaster who recently passed away,  particularly well. But every time I saw him, it felt like running into an old friend.

We were in Baltimore together in the 1980s- Saunders a popular sports anchor for WMAR-TV and me a reporter for the late, great Evening Sun newspaper. When we saw each other at functions or games, we’d speak a language that few, if any other, black folks in Baltimore spoke: hockey.

 

We’d briefly chat about what was going on in the National Hockey League, even talk about the doings of the minor league Baltimore Skipjacks hockey team.

Saunders knew his hockey history because he was part of it. Born in Canada, he was an all-star defenseman in Montreal’s junior hockey leagues. He played for Western Michigan University in the 1970s before he transferred to what’s now called Ryerson University in Toronto.

He played briefly with his brother, Bernie, who went on to play 10 games for the NHL’s Quebec Nordiques, now the Colorado Avalanche, between 1979 and 1981.

Hockey helped lead John Saunders to Ryerson, the place where he fell in love with broadcasting. He developed into one of broadcasting’s best with an easily recognizable voice and easy on-air style that made TV viewers feel as comfortable as their favorite couch.

He was a versatile, knowledgeable presence on-air whether it was anchoring ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” working NCAA college basketball contests, doing WNBA games, hosting Stanley Cup Playoffs coverage, or moderating ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters” show.

“John was an extraordinary talent and his friendly, informative style has been a warm welcome to sports fans for decades,” John Skipper, president of ESPN and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, said in a statement. “He was one of the most significant and influential members of the ESPN family, as a colleague and mentor, and he will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with his loved ones at this extremely difficult time.”

NHL Network analyst and former New York Rangers General Manager Neil Smith – the mustachioed hockey player pictured with John and Bernie Saunders in the Western Michigan hockey photo -took John Saunders’ death especially hard, tweeting that “Life will never be the same” with his passing.

“One of the saddest days of my life today as I grieve suddenly losing my best friend of 42 years, John Saunders,” Smith tweeted.

The cause of Saunders’ death was unknown Wednesday. Although he traveled to Washington last week for the National Association of Black Journalists convention, the Saunders family said in a statement that “John wasn’t feeling well physically in recent days and sadly, he was unresponsive earlier this morning.”

“We appreciate all of the thoughts and prayers for our cherished father, husband, brother and uncle,” his family said.

 

 

In Rio, Nurse family seeks more hardware

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The never-ending sports tour for the Nurse family – one of Canada’s most athletic and competitive clans – continues.

Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse.

Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse.

Kia Nurse, the sister of Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse, looks to up her bragging rights over her big bro by bringing home an Olympic medal from Rio de Janeiro as a member of Canada’s basketball team.

“Obviously we have the goal to go in there and get a medal,” she told Canada’s 570 News. “I think need to play really hard together and peak at the right time. So I see our success as playing our best basketball over the last four years at the Olympics.”

Kia’s one of the Great White North’s best basketball players and one of the best collegiate players in the United States. She helped guide the University of Connecticut’s storied women’s basketball team to NCAA championships last season and in 2015.

She was the Most Valuable Player at the 2015 FIBA Americas Women’s Championship. Richard Nurse describes his tough-as-nails point guard daughter’s game with an almost hockey reverence.

“Besides being extremely skilled, she’s a nasty piece of business,” he once told me.

Darnell is no slouch in the championship department. He was a major factor in Team Canada winning the Gold Medal in the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship.

Kia and Darnell come from a highly athletic family. Father Richard Nurse was a wide receiver for the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats; his wife, Cathy, was a stellar basketball player for Canada’s McMaster University.

Their older daughter, Tamika, played basketball at the University of Oregon and Bowling Green State University. Richard Nurse’s brother, Roger, was a standout lacrosse player in Canada. Their sister, Raquel, was a Syracuse University hoops standout and is married to former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Sarah Nurse, daughter of Roger Nurse and cousin of Kia and Darnell, is a forward on the University of Wisconsin’s women’s hockey team that played in the 2016 NCAA Women’s Frozen Four tournament.

 

 

The Joel Ward hockey story – by writer Joel Ward

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San Jose Sharks forward Joel Ward

San Jose Sharks forward Joel Ward

More often than not, no one can tell your story better than you can.

Catching up on my summer hockey reading, I came across this marvelous piece on the fascinating, deeply moving, hockey and life journey of San Jose Sharks forward Joel Ward in  The Players’ Tribune. The author? Joel Ward. Give the story a read.

Trevor Daley hoists the Stanley Cup one more day – his day with the trophy

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Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Trevor Daley devised the plan years ago. All he needed was the Stanley Cup to hatch it.

Daley accomplished that last month when the Penguins defeated the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup Final, meaning that his plan for what he’d do on his day with the Cup would finally come to fruition.

Unlike other major league sports, each player on a Stanley Cup-winning team gets to have the championship trophy for a day to do whatever. Phil Pritchard, the Hockey Hall of Fame’s white-gloved Keeper of the Cup, accompanies the trophy on a summer-long journey through Canada, the United States, Russia, wherever a championship player resides.

“I’m going to bring the cup back home to where I grew up and around my neighborhoods that I grew up around playing hockey,” Toronto native Daley told Texas’ SportsDay earlier this month. “I can’t wait. Like I said, I’ve been thinking about that day for a really long time. Now that it’s come true it’s amazing.”

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Trevor Daley, center, brought a friend with him to a local ice rink - the Stanley Cup (Photo/Phil Pritchard/Hockey Hall of Fame).

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Trevor Daley, center, brought a friend with him to a local ice rink – the Stanley Cup (Photo/Phil Pritchard/Hockey Hall of Fame).

Daley took Stanley on a mini whistle-stop tour of sorts during his Cup time that stretched Friday into Saturday. First stop: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, where he played major junior hockey for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League before the Dallas Stars made him their second round pick in the 2002 NHL Draft.

Then it was on to home town Toronto for some public and private quality time with Lord Stanley’s trophy.

The Penguins’ Stanley Cup victory capped a bittersweet 2015-16 season for Daley. He was traded from the Stars to the Chicago Blackhawks before the season began, then dealt by the Hawks after 29 games to the Penguins.

Sitting on the dock of the bay, Trevor Daley and the Stanley Cup watch the tide roll away (Photo/Phil Pritchard/Hockey Hall of Fame).

Sitting on the dock of the bay, Trevor Daley and the Stanley Cup watch the tide roll away (Photo/Phil Pritchard/Hockey Hall of Fame).

He skated with a heavy heart as his mother, Trudy Daley, battled cancer. Her dying wish was to see her son hoist the Cup. Penguins team captain Sidney Crosby made sure that happened, handing Daley the Cup first even though Daley missed the San Jose series because of a broken ankle.

He was all smiles as he skated briefly and gingerly with the 123-year-old, 35-pound trophy that has the names of 2,000 Cup-winning players and coaches inscribed on it.

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Trevor Daley and son with the Stanley Cup in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. (Photo/Phil Pritchard/Hockey Hall of Fame).

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Trevor Daley and son with the Stanley Cup in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. (Photo/Phil Pritchard/Hockey Hall of Fame).

“She was pumped, she was excited,” Daley told SportsDay. “She got to see my son out there on the ice with me too so she was really excited about the whole situation. She said before the game …’It’d be nice if they win this for you tonight so you can come home and see me soon.'”

A week later, Trudy Daley passed away at age 51.

Trevor Daley and Lord Stanley hanging out at the firehouse on Daley's day with the Stanley Cup (Photo/Phil Pritchard/Hockey Hall of Fame).

Trevor Daley and Lord Stanley hanging out at the firehouse on Daley’s day with the Stanley Cup (Photo/Phil Pritchard/Hockey Hall of Fame).

She didn’t live to see her son’s day with the Stanley Cup. But, as part of a plan he devised so long ago, Trevor Daley’s family, friends, and others he encountered along his hockey journey had a chance to bask in Lord Stanley’s silvery glow.

“The day after he won the Stanley Cup, he called me and said ‘the Cup is coming home,’” Ryan Land, who organized a Cup-viewing for Daley at The Spice Route bar in Toronto, told The Toronto Sun. “Two weeks later, he called me with a date and said ‘plan me a Stanley Cup party and here’s what I want to do.”

Trevor Daley introduced the Stanley Cup to his old neighborhood playground (Photo/Phil Pritchard/Hockey Hall of Fame).

Trevor Daley introduced the Stanley Cup to his old neighborhood playground (Photo/Phil Pritchard/Hockey Hall of Fame).

When the names of the 2015-16 Penguins players are added to the Cup, Daley will join the small fraternity of black players with their names immortalized on the trophy:  goaltender Grant Fuhr (Edmonton Oilers –  1985, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990),  goalie Ray Emery (Chicago Blackhawks – 2013), defenseman Johnny Oduya (Blackhawks – 2013, 2015), wing Dustin Byfuglien (Blackhawks – 2010), and netminder Eldon “Pokey” Reddick(Oilers –  1990).