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Canada Lifts Vaccination Requirements

from ESPN News Sevices,

The Canadian government confirmed, on Monday, that non-citizens entering the country -- including professional athletes -- will no longer be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 beginning in October.

The Associated Press reported, last week, the decision was imminent.

Removal of the vaccine mandate means unvaccinated Major League Baseball players would be allowed to play in Toronto in the playoffs should the Blue Jays make the postseason.

It would also apply to the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League. Unvaccinated players are currently not allowed to cross the border into Canada.

continued

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Hope In Ottawa

from Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic,

The Ottawa Senators are entering must-watch TV territory.

They’re going to be fun in 2022-23.

Head coach D.J. Smith might pull his hair out on some nights because his team will be on the wrong end of some of these entertaining affairs.

That’s going to be the real challenge for a team loaded up front — how much better they can actually defend.

But either way, the Sens should never be boring this season, and their program overall is very much on the rise.

Priority No. 1 is managing expectations in their market, which appears downright giddy right now. There’s a ton of enthusiasm in that Sens fan base after a summer that’s included signing Claude Giroux and trading for Alex DeBrincat, not to mention locking up more core pieces.

There appears to finally be some hope in Ottawa.

continued ($)

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Sunday Hockey Notes

from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,

- It’s easy to talk about firing Kyle Dubas at the end of the season or, in the more demure way, not re-signing him as general manager. The better question: Who do you replace him with? And who would do a better job? Montreal fired Marc Bergevin after a long run as GM and replaced him with Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes. If there’s a Jeff Gorton out there and available, Toronto would be wise to investigate.

- I’ve never heard a bad word said about Zdeno Chara. Not by those playing with him. Not by those playing against him. It’s hard to find any player who was as universally respected as Chara was. He will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2022. Probably alongside Duncan Keith, who won three Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks and also won two Norris Trophies and, maybe the most important award, one called the Conn Smythe.

- Not sure P.K. Subban, great as he was, electric as he was, so much the personality, did enough to make the Hall of Fame. He did win the Norris and that works in his favour. The only retired Norris winner not to make the Hall is Randy Carlyle. One day in history we’ll look back and see that Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer, Drew Doughty and Victor Hedman only won one Norris, and collectively we’ll shake our heads. And to think, Brad Park never won but he did finish second eight times, usually behind a guy named Bobby Orr.

- In 2004, Jaromir Jagr was the highest-paid player in the NHL at $11 million a season. There was no salary cap then. All these years later, Nathan MacKinnon is the highest-paid player at $12.6 million. No athletes in pro sports have been as underpaid, big picture, as NHL stars. The salary cap hasn’t done a thing for hockey stars but limit their value … By comparison, the highest-paid player in the NBA in 2004 was Shaquille O’Neal at $27 million a year. Steph Curry is the highest paid now at $48 million. Second highest-paid player in 2004 was Dikembe Mutombo at $19.4 million. The second-highest paid player in the NHL today is Connor McDavid at $12.5 million. The second highest-paid player in the NBA today is Russell Westbrook at $47 million.

a few more hockey topics...

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Petr Mrazek Employed A Physiotherapist Over The Summer

from Scott Powers of The Athletic,

Petr Mrazek knew he had to do something different this offseason.

His body hadn’t been holding up. He missed stretches of last season due to a groin injury and was limited to 20 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Plus, there was his age. He turned 30 in February.

Being a goalie, he knew those factors were only going to present more challenges in the future. If he was going to get ahead of it all, he had to treat this offseason differently

“I knew I need to change something,” Mrazek said after Blackhawks practice on Saturday. “With the age, it comes. I feel like the body gets a little sorer, a little tighter. That’s something I had to change, too. I had to change the things and get more flexible, feeling good about myself, feeling good about the body.”

So, he started seeing a physiotherapist back home in Czechia over the summer.

“I spent time with a physiotherapist 4-5 times a week for an hour or two hours working with them, stretching even more than I used to be,” Mrazek said. “Those were things I haven’t done before in the summers. That was something we changed. … I feel like I’m getting back to being flexible like I was younger. The parts of my body that were hurting before the summers and seasons are gone.”

continued ($$$)

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Zdeno Chara Changed The Bruins

from Kevin Paul Dupont Of The Boston Globe,

The most vivid memory of Zdeno Chara’s time with the Bruins undoubtedly will be the night of June 15, 2011, in Vancouver. The bearded Bruins captain, then 34, took the handoff from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and shook the glimmering Stanley Cup vigorously over his head, turning the trophy into an oversized salt shaker to sprinkle grains of joy.

In that one cathartic moment, the franchise’s 39-year championship drought finally came to an end. The days of the Big Bad Bruins, of Orr and Espo, of leather skates and wooden sticks and a dusty, fetid Garden, officially were relegated to a distant corner of the memory vault. All of it certified in that joyful moment some 3,200 miles west of Causeway Street by the towering Big Z.

More powerful and lasting, though, is the Chara legacy here of the last decade-plus, his combination of Herculean work ethic, athleticism, and professionalism that delivered a much-needed culture change that the organization prays can linger for many more years to come.

continued plus more topics...

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The Talk During Training Camps

from Luke Fox of Sportsnet,

A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and less so, and rolling four lines deep. Apologies in advance: We’re still in preseason form.

1. Connor McDavid ($12.5 million AAV) will have held the title of most handsomely paid NHL player for five seasons, when Nathan MacKinnon’s new deal ($12.6 million AAV) knocks him off the peak next season.

MacKinnon’s reign on the top will be short like leprechauns.

Auston Matthews is destined to supplant him after just a one-year run. (And, while we’re playing this game, Connor McDavid should leapfrog Matthews after two seasons, by 2026-27.)...

2. Is it unusual for a cash-flush organization — the same one that doled out millions for Mike Babcock to not coach the team — to not at least give Dubas a short-term extension and save the GM from “lame duck” status?

Yes, it is.

Heck, the Dallas Stars went as brief as one year on Jim Nill’s security cushion.

But as consistent as the Maple Leafs’ regular seasons have been, the optics of rewarding four straight one-and-done postseasons under Dubas would’ve landed awkwardly....

more on the above topics and more notes too...

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One More Long Cup Run For The Bolts?

from John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times,

If this were a movie, the credits would have rolled months ago.

The story of a team’s rise through setbacks and heartbreaks to become back-to-back champions before falling valiantly, maddeningly close to a third consecutive title.

Cue the theme music as they skated off the Amalie Arena ice after Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final against Colorado, never to perform together as a band of mismatched brothers again.

But tell me, what if that wasn’t really the end?

What if the Lightning have a sequel to tell?

It’s not likely. The idea of another Stanley Cup run, that is.

The gap between the Lightning and the rest of the Eastern Conference has been growing narrower over the years and may finally have flipped. The Panthers. The Maple Leafs. The Hurricanes. Oddsmakers say all three teams are more likely to win the conference than Tampa Bay this season.

Realistically, the idea of a team reaching the Stanley Cup final five times in nine years is unheard of in the salary-cap era of the NHL.

continued

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Mullett Arena Reviews

from Michael Traikos of the National Post,

The aptly named Mullett Arena, which immediately conjures up images of long locks of hair flowing out the back of a helmet, has yet to host an actual NHL game — much less has even finished construction — but it’s already getting rave reviews from players around the league.

“I think it will be pretty fun,” said Toronto’s Auston Matthews.

“It’s going to be electric,” said Columbus’ Zach Werenski.

“It’s going to be amazing and unbelievable,” said Arizona’s Clayton Keller, “One of the best places to play in the league, for sure.”

By the sounds of it, you’d think these players were gushing about the possibilities of playing in a 30,000-seat venue, complete with a gigantic video screen and the kind of bells and whistles that would rival the noise and fan experience of seeing a game at the Bell Centre in Montreal. Instead, what has the NHL buzzing these days is a 5,000-seat rink located on a college campus in Tempe, Arizona, of all places.

continued

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On Joe Thornton’s Possible Return To San Jose

via Sheng Peng at NBC Sports Bay Area,

Is the door still open for Joe Thornton to play for the San Jose Sharks?I

New GM Mike Grier didn’t slam it shut, when asked specifically in what capacity that Thornton would be welcome back to the Sharks.

“Things are kind of up to him. I don’t know if he wants to play or not play,” Grier said on the opening day of training camp. “When he figures that out, and his family figures that out, then I’m sure I’ll have a conversation with him at some point.”

Thornton was not on the Sharks’ initial training camp roster, released on Tuesday. There was some thought that San Jose could offer the 24-year NHL veteran, the No. 1 pick of the 1997 Draft, a PTO.

“I think he’s enjoying being a dad and being around his kids and helping coach his kids, and then kind of coming in here and skating with the guys,” Grier said.

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Do The Pittsburgh Penguins Have Another Long Playoff Run In Them?

from Wes Crosby at NHL.com,

Even with Malkin at 36 years old, and Crosby and Letang each 35, Hextall said he remains confident that core can be the catalyst for another deep run. If he's right, it would mark the first time the Penguins won a playoff series since Hextall was hired as GM on Feb. 9, 2021, and their first series win since 2018.

"There's urgency. Every year is a new year," Hextall said. "Like, 'OK, we lost the last two years in the playoffs, since I've been here.' We felt like we certainly could have won both series. But I think that's what gives you the hope that it's still there. These guys are still very good players.

"We felt like this group could still go on a run and do a lot of damage. We're happy with our group. I'm really excited about where we are right now, as a team. The feeling around the room, there's a lot of hunger. … I like where we're at. So it's hard to win in this League. It's hard to win a round in the playoffs. It's certainly hard to win the Stanley Cup, but that's our mission."

more

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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com

 

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