NHL Top Three: Toronto/Montreal, Laine Lands in Ohio, and the Devils COVID Scandal

Three weeks into the NHL season and teams are beginning to find their right places in the standings. The restructuring of each of the divisions this year makes it difficult to test each teams true potential, as each team plays the same few teams throughout the season, but it’s becoming more and more apparent who will be a playoff contender come May.

With the NHL season ramping up, we’re here to break down three highlights from this week that showcase the exciting things continuing to happen around the league.

Toronto and Montreal Continue to Light Up the North Division

It’s no question that the North Division was the most anticipated division coming into this shortened season. The two teams that had the highest standards set to them prior to opening night were the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens, and they’re certainly living up to those expectations.

Toronto currently has a 7-2-1 record, their two losses coming from the Ottawa Senators and the Edmonton Oilers. Mitch Marner currently leads the team with 14 points in 10 games, trailed by Auston Matthews and John Tavares with 10 points. The Leafs sit at second in the North Division and look to continue their momentum, especially adding notable players Jimmy Vesey, Joe Thornton, and Wayne Simmonds over the offseason.

Likewise, the Canadiens sit at first in the North Division with a 7-1-2 record; their only loss coming from a 2-0 shutout against the Calgary Flames. Players acquired in the offseason have had a huge impact on the team so far; Tyler Toffoli not only leads the Canadiens in goals, but the entire NHL. Anderson has been a key asset as well with 6 goals in 10 games.

While both Toronto and Montreal have been incredible through their first 10 games respectively, they’ve only faced off against each other once, in which Toronto took the win in overtime. Many anticipate their next matchup, which will take place on February 10th at the Bell Center.

Laine Makes his Debut with the Blue Jackets

After a blockbuster trade that sent Pierre-Luc Dubois to Winnipeg and Patrik Laine to Columbus, Laine finally managed to make his debut with the Blue Jackets, sporting their reverse retro jersey. Laine’s been on injury reserve since the beginning of the season, only playing one game with Jets, before being traded. That game, played against the Calgary Flames, Laine put up 2 goals and an assist.

Laine started the game alongside forwards Alexandre Texier and Cam Atkinson. Laine, a one time 44 goal scorer, looks to fill gaps within in the Blue Jackets that they desperately needed coming into this season. Although he went without a point in his Columbus debut, he looks to continue to develop chemistry with his new linemates.

Since going second overall in the 2016, the Finnish forward has played 307 career games, accumulating 140 goals and 110 assists. He’s been key to the Winnipeg Jets and looks to bring that talent and skill to an in need Blue Jackets roster.

New Jersey Devils COVID-19 Scandal

The New Jersey Devils recently announced that they have 14 players in the leagues COVID protocol including:

Jesper Bratt, Jack Hughes, Damon Severson, Ty Smith, Matt Tennyson, Connor Carrick, Aaron Dell, Andreas Johnsson, Janne Kuokkanen, Michael McLeod, Kyle Palmieri, Sami Vatanen, Pavel Zacha, and Travis Zajac.

It’s unclear whether any of these players listed have tested positive for COVID as the league has not disclosed that information. There is a possibility that any of these players had an initial false positive test, but again, the league has yet to disclose any of that information to the public.

The Buffalo Sabres chimed into this situation, stating that the Devils knew about these players needing to be on COVID protocol, but wet ahead with their game anyways. This has led to the Sabres getting shut down by the NHL through February 8th, postponing any of their games during that time period. Taylor Hall and Rasmus Ristolainen, of the Sabres, were added to the COVID protocol list.

The list of teams that have had games postponed due to COVID protocol continues to grow. This then poses the question, are the restructured divisions really working the way the NHL was hoping to? Everyone was impressed with the NHL Playoff Bubbles in both Edmonton and Toronto as there were nearly zero cases throughout the two months.

It’s only been three weeks and we have seen multiple teams from multiple divisions be forced to shut down for days while players remain on protocol. Will there be more postponements next week? Stay tuned here at NHL Top Three and find out!


Believe in the Magic of NBA Christmas Games: It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

We had Christmas games this year as usual, except that they came 3 days into the regular season, which was a little more unusual. You could feel the excitement among the basketball community, and some teams really showed out. In case you missed it, here are the recaps of yesterday’s NBA Christmas Games!

Game 1: (W) Miami Heat vs New Orleans Pelicans [111-98]


Although the Pelicans seem to be an interesting team that can be a lot of fun, the Miami Heat were able to power out some good runs on both defense and offense. On the offensive side, Duncan Robinson shot lights out. He shot 7 threes, leading the board in that area. 21 of his 23 points came from behind the arch, and it helped Miami take control late in the second half. Miami’s defense also helped them keep the Pelicans from regaining their lead. Rookie Precious Achiuwa and Bam Adebayo had a block each, working hard on the defensive side. Goran Dragic also had 4 steals, topping the board. Although Jimmy Butler had to sit out for the second half, the Miami Heat showed that they could close out the game without him.

Although the Pelicans lost, there seems to be some promise with this team. The Pelicans defeated the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, and before Miami’s hot streak during the final stretch, they were giving them a fight. Keep your eye on this team, because they look a lot better than they did last year.

Game 2: (W) Milwaukee Bucks vs Golden State Warriors [138-99]


The Warriors just can’t seem to get any luck this season. With Klay Thompson being out due to injury, Steph Curry can’t do enough with his team to last the whole game. Although they kept up with the Bucks for a small portion of the game, it wasn’t long before the Bucks took full control and put on a show on Christmas day. Khris Middleton led with 31 points, while his teammate Giannis led in rebounding, putting up 13 boards. 

What’s next for the Warriors? Here’s what Steph Curry had to say about his team:

The message is loud and clear for Curry, they need to find a way to win, and they need to find a way to win now.

Game 3: (W) Brooklyn Nets vs Boston Celtics [123-95]


There’s definitely a recurring theme today, and if you don’t see it yet, stay with me and find out what it is.

The new and improved Brooklyn Nets are here to stay. The Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving duo have started out strong, combining for 66 points in a 28 point win over the Boston Celtics. Kyrie Irving had 7 three pointers, including this one from deep:

Many thought that the Celtics would be able to keep up with the Nets, making it a close game but the Nets had other plans. There is no doubt that the Celtics will bounce back, but the rest of the league should be wary about the Brooklyn Nets. A matchup that might interest a lot of viewers will be Nets-Lakers, coming up on February 18, but until then, who will challenge the Nets? Let us know in the comments or on social media @unbenched_

Game 4: (W) LA Lakers vs Dallas Mavericks [138-115]


Mavs-Lakers was an interesting matchup choice. They were able to hang on to the Lakers until the second half, when the Lakers really took off. 

Highlights from the Lakers-Mavs Games/Via NBA

The absence of Kristaps Porzingis is getting more obvious for the Mavericks, and Doncic needs better support if the Mavs want to create some serious impact. Doncic had 27 points, but these numbers won’t be enough until the Mavericks add more star power.

Game 5: (W) LA Clippers vs Denver Nuggets [121-108]


Probably the biggest highlight to come out of this game was a crippled Kawhi Leonard, lying on the floor after an unfortunate elbow to the face by fellow teammate Serge Ibaka. Leonard needed 8 stitches for a mouth laceration, but the team says that he will be okay. 

TW // Blood, Distress

Even though it was less of a blowout than the previous teams that played, the Clippers were able to top the Nuggets. As they did last season, the Clippers have started out strong. The question will be whether Paul George and the rest of the team can step it up in the playoffs when it really matters. Hopefully they won’t be blowing any 3-1 leads anymore. The LA Clippers faced the ghost of Christmas past in the Nuggets, and they passed their test. 

The Christmas games may not have been as tantalizing as they have been in the past, but after everything that the world has endured this year, I am grateful that the NBA can start their season safely.

The team here at Unbenched wish our viewers a happy and safe holidays! Make sure you follow us @unbenched_ on Instagram and Twitter for the latest updates and articles in the sports world. Thank you for all your support throughout the first 6 months of our network! There is more to come in 2021.

Sunday Sprint Week 6

Week 6 is in the books and it provided just enough chaos to make you forget it was the start of bye weeks. From tantrums to upsets and rookie trying to give Bill Belichick a present, it’s all covered in this edition of the Sunday Sprint. 

New York Giants 24- Baltimore Ravens 20

Large leads continue to clip the Ravens wings this season with another blown game late this week. But full credit goes to what Brian Dabboll and the Giants have grown into with this win showing there really isn’t much that’ll phase the Big Blue this year. Sure, Saquon’s slide to seal it at the end probably gave fantasy owners a few extra gray hairs but I’m sure all will be forgiven next week when the star back is set free to steamroll the Seahawks defense. As for the Ravens, they’ll look to get, and see out, a lead over their division rival Browns. 

Indianapolis Colts 34- Jacksonville Jaguars 27

Matt Ryan turned back the clock on Sunday; clear set on rinsing the taste of a shutout out of his mouth that’s lingered since the last time these teams met. Matty Ice was well insulated in the pocket with his offensive line keeping the Jaguars’ claws off of him, allowing him to complete 42 of 58 passes totalling a whopping 389 yards with three touchdowns and no picks. The only thing that could have made this a more vintage Ryan performance would have been a blown 25 point lead but I digress…

New England Patriots 38- Cleveland Browns 15

Bailey Zappe was almost the story of this game until Brenden Schooler tried to gift his head coach with the ball he recovered on the previous special teams play. You can imagine how the sequence between an excited rookie and the ever-stoic Belichick played out (hint: the Patriots special teams coach escorted his player away from the big boss, presumably for his own safety). Back to Zappe though, the rookie racked up an impressive 309 yards through the air alongside two touchdowns. On top of lighting up the stat line, Zappe lit up question marks within Cleveland’s defense and the abilities of defensive coordinator Joe Woods

Cincinnati Bengals 30- New Orleans Saints 26

The Joe Burrow to Ja’Marr Chase connection looked a little too easy in the Big Easy for the game winning touchdown back in Chase’s hometown. The Bengals have seemingly re-found their Super Bowl stripes after a shaky start while the Saints seem to slip further and further away from anything resembling a threatening team. Injuries continue to plague the boys in the Bayou but even when fully healthy this team is becoming hard to predict. 

Pittsburgh Steelers 20- Tampa Bay Buccaneers 18

Nothing says the “Florida Experience” quite like having some old man take his divorce out on you by screaming  while you’re trying to mind your business, right? Brady has escalated from throwing tablets to tantrums when his play fails to stack up to par, and if we’re at that point in Week 6 then heaven help us for the next evolution of Tommy Tantrums when the Bucs miss the playoffs this season. Credit to the Steelers, however, as they managed to completely frustrate the Bucs, and did so with a QB combo of Kenny Pickett and Mitch Trubisky. 

Atlanta Falcons 28- San Francisco 49ers 14

Atlanta attempted half as many passes as they had points…so thank you to the 49ers defense for losing me my fantasy matchup when all you had to do was the bare minimum. 

New York Jets 24- Green Bay Packers 10

There isn’t much that’s more satisfying than watching Ayahuasca Aaron implode after his multiple hissy-fits over lack of help (and then pricing himself out of being able to afford help). I’m also sure it’s nice to see the Jets succeeding for everyone who doesn’t cheer for a team that’s desperately trying to stay out of last in the AFC East and was banking on the Jets’ continued incompetence to accomplish that fact (read: me). 

Minnesota Vikings 24- Miami Dolphins 16

The quarterback injury carousel doesn’t seem to have an off-switch down in Miami with backup to the backup, Skylar Thompson, being forced to leave this contest early due to an injured thumb on his throwing hand. Teddy Bridgewater was back on the sideline so the journeyman QB stepped in for Thompson, but to no avail. The Dolphins’ three game losing streak should absolutely make Fins fans appreciate Tua more, but it really has been Miami’s porous defense that has let them down in the star quarterback’s absence. As for the Vikings, they have quietly moved to 5-1, with the loss coming against the undefeated Eagles. Sure, the wins haven’t exactly come against great teams, but in this league a win is a win and Minnesota is banking them while they can. 

Los Angeles Rams 24- Carolina Panthers 10

It’s one thing when the reigning second place team gets off to a slow start, but when the reigning champs are at risk of going 2-4? The alarm sirens were loud in LA. The Rams trailed the Panthers at the half but managed to pull it together, and thank goodness because falling below .500 would have been one form of pain but to lose to a team who essentially cut their best receiver mid-game? That would have been more than a disaster.

Seattle Seahawks 19- Arizona Cardinals 9 

On the brightside for Arizona is the fact that DeAndre Hopkins comes back next week. The darkside? Your problems run so much deeper than a single wideout. It was the classic case of beating themselves for the Cards, ending 4 trips to the red zone with nothing to show for it and their special teams scored their only touchdown. Yes, Seattle played well but the Seahawks defense would not have stood up to even a mediocre offense. Thankfully for Pete Carroll, he seems to be squeezing the last bit of juice out of Geno “I Didn’t Write Back” Smith and it just remains to be seen just how far that can take them. 

Buffalo Bills 24- Kansas City Chiefs 20

By now we all know that Tony Romo predicted the score of this game before it even started, which means we all have one more thing to add to the list of things he’s better at than playing quarterback. But once we’re done marveling at Romo we can appreciate that the matchup of Allen and Mahomes is one of epic proportions that, presuming their coaches can maintain the team around them even in the slightest, will dominate the NFL schedule as “game of the week” for the next 10 years. It was Buffalo with the edge this time, setting the stage for what many (including Romo) will predict as a rematch of this one up in Orchard Park as the AFC Championship game, which if it is the case promises to be better than the Super Bowl. 

Philadelphia Eagles 26- Dallas Cowboys 17

If the Eagles don’t lose soon the world will implode. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 

That’s all for this week! Week 7 will see the long awaited return of familiar faces and even more opportunities for the veteran figure heads of the league to prove that they’re getting too old for this.

Sunday Sprint Week 5

I am back from my midterm induced hibernation to run through all of Sunday’s NFL action. It was a packed Week 5 from across the pond to state side action being full of upsets, highlights, questionable penalties, and Troy Aikman lifting the curtain on the sport’s veiled sexist tones thanks to his on-air dress comment (are any other of the women in the room tired or is it just me?) Anyways, let’s get into it…

New York Giants 27- Green Bay Packers 22

There’s something special happening in New York and it might be the most surprising part of this NFL season. Daniel Jones entered his fourth season under the guidance of his fourth offensive coordinator in Mike Kafka, his third head coach in Brian Daboll, and his second general manager in Joe Schoen; so while they say dating in New York is hard, apparently playing quarterback there is harder. But in London it all fell into place for Big Blue’s fourth win of the season, and a come from behind effort against an all time great at that. Keeping in the theme of Jones’ lack of continuity, the Giants hit the shuffle button on the scoring with three different running backs carrying the rock into the endzone. As for Green Bay, they’ll look to rebound against another New York team performing well above expectations as they face the Jets in Week 6. 

New England Patriots 29- Detroit Lions 0

I make no secret out of being a Patriots’ fan, but even I wouldn’t have bet on this 2022 roster pitching a shutout against a team that had put up 35, 36, 28, and 45 points in their last four games respectively. Not only did Belichick continue to live in Goff’s head (hello 3 points in that Super Bowl) but he got his own rookie quarterback to perform well-beyond his rep count. Bailey Zappe earned his first career start and yes, the team relied heavily on the run, Zappe threw it 21 times, completing 17 of them, and looked shockingly decent under centre. There’s a reason Belichick is only one win back for second most all time and the way he rallied his troops on Sunday is exemplary of that. 

Los Angeles Chargers 30- Cleveland Browns 28

Some games are won and some are lost, and this one was an example of the latter; Los Angeles did not win on Sunday, Cleveland lost a game that on multiple occasions looked like it was being handed to them. None of these were perhaps as head scratching than when, with the game on the line, Brandon Staley elected to go for it on fourth-and-a-few near midfield. It was clear the coach’s confidence was in his quarterback (take notes Denver) but when Justin Herbert’s pass hit the turf, it appeared as though the Chargers’ chances at a win had also slammed to the ground. But because it was the Browns, the last second field goal, attempted from 54 yards, went wide right. LA wins and Staley skips the hot seat. 

Houston Texans 13- Jacksonville Jaguars 9

I never thought I’d be calling a Jaguars loss an upset but I also never thought Davis Mills would be a starting quarterback so here we are. Golden Boy Lawrence was unable to get anything going on offense, going 25 for 47 and throwing two picks while his defense couldn’t come up with anything to stop breakout rookie Dameon Pierce on the run. Needless to say if nobody in your fantasy has picked up Pierce yet, grab him if you can catch him, I think the Jaguars are still chasing…

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21- Atlanta Falcons 15

There was no roughing the passer on the play. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk. 

Buffalo Bills 38- Pittsburgh Steelers 3

If you ask a guy with a synonym for interception in his last name to throw the ball 52 times you cannot possibly expect things to go well for you…is a lesson Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh coaching staff learned the hard way. Kenny Pickett did only throw one interception (to a depleted Bills secondary) and racked up over 300 yards in his first NFL start but the deck was as stacked against him as it could be given that he was going toe-to-toe with Josh Allen. While the decision making out of the rookie was questionable at times, he made sure nobody would question his heart, getting involved in a secondary scuffle towards the end of the game, proving he’ll fit in just fine in the Black Air Force 1 division for years to come. 

New York Jets 40- Miami Dolphins 17

The Jets’ flippered foes floundered once Teddy Bridgewater was forced to exit the game after a single pass attempt due to concussion protocol. This was a ground and pound showdown with all five of New York’s touchdowns being run in as was the case for both of Miami’s. It’s looking like newcomer Skylar Thompson will be the starter for the next little bit in Miami which means we could see some movement in the AFC East standings, especially if the Jets continue to outperform expectations the way they have since Zach Wilson came back. 

Minnesota Vikings 29- Chicago Bears 22

It was really easy to get excited about the Bears after their Week 1 mud fest but man oh man have they made it hard for their fans to hold on to that feeling. Justin Fields looks frazzled snap after snap even with his new yoga breathing technique. As for the Vikings it really is hard to tell if they’re that good or their opponents are that bad, but then again that’s what happens when you play in MID-essota.

Tennessee Titans 21- Washington Commanders 17

The most notable moment from this game came from the press conference which should tell you everything you need to know about what happened on the field. Post-game, Commanders head coach Ron Riveira was asked what the difference was between his squad and the rest of the NFC East, who are all sitting at either 5-0 or 4-1, and he plainly answered “quarterback” which while it was an accurate shot at the Commanders shortcomings, I wouldn’t call it the best move if you were looking to uplift your locker room. But then again, I’m not the one being paid millions of dollars to coach so my opinion is neither here nor there. 

New Orleans Saints 39- Seattle Seahawks 32

If you look at the Saints stat line this week you would not be alone in asking yourself what position Taysom Hill really is. The veteran Swiss army knife finished the win with a completed pass for 22 yards, nine carries for 112 yards and three touchdowns, and no receptions. Now back to the question of what position he plays…tight end. He may be the only tight end in fantasy history to record 33 fantasy points without a single reception. And yes I picked him up in fantasy for Week 6. 

San Francisco 49ers 37- Carolina Panthers 15

This game was the end of the Matt Rhule experience in Carolina and rightfully so. Rhule was 11-27 with the Panthers and even the 11 wins were painful. With the news that Baker Mayfield is likely out for the next week meaning it will be a fresh look Carolina taking on the Rams in Week 6 which presents the perfect opportunity for the defending champs to bounce back or fall further into a pit of despair. When it comes to the 49ers they seem to have fallen back into their rhythm under Jimmy G, who many seem to forget has led them to two of the last 3 NFC Championship games. They’ll look to continue this against the Falcons to take a stranglehold on the NFC West. 

Philadelphia Eagles 20- Arizona Cardinals 17

The liberty bell has yet to strike midnight on the Cinderella run for the Eagles, forcing us to ask if this even is a Cinderella run or are they this good? I for one cannot stomach a world in which the Eagles go undefeated on their way to the Super Bowl therefore I am choosing to believe in this fairytale for a little while longer. 

Dallas Cowboys 22- LA Rams 10

The Cowboys are clearly in no rush to get Dak back but the Rams should be feeling the urgency of their season slipping away…

Baltimore Ravens 19- Cincinnati Bengals 17

This game could likely prove pivotal in deciding the division come December and January but the pressure clearly didn’t phase the best kicker in the league as Justin Tucker drilled the game winning kick about as dead center as possible while triple zeroes hit the clock. Someone far smarter than me did the math and found out that Tucker’s kick would have been good even if the uprights were just half of a yard wide. Wild. 

That was all from this Sunday but come back next week for a smaller slate, as the bye weeks begin, but the matchups promise to be just as explosive.

Sunday Sprint Week 2

We’re baaaaack!! By we I mean me and by me I mean your weekly dose of football sarcasm seasoned with analysis. Did you miss it? If you’re reading this I’ll assume you did so let’s cut the time wasting and get right into what went down on Sunday. 

New England Patriots 17- Pittsburgh Steelers 14

Ever hook up with someone who you think is an 8 but turns into a 3 when the lights go on? Yeah that was this win for the Patriots, not  looker but it got the job done. While it was a defensive battle between the two longest tenured head coaches in the league, it certainly left both with a lot to work on for the rest of the season, namely offensive coherence for both squads. 

New York Giants 19- Carolina Panthers 16

I don’t know what makes less sense, the helmet catch or the fact that a Daniel Jones lead Giants squad is 2-0 in 2022. While I could sit here and point out that they haven’t played the best quality of opposition or that they barely made it out by the skin of their teeth, credit where credit is due to what is clearly an incredibly resilient Brian Daboll group. With the Prescott injury down in Dallas the NFC is up for grabs and we’re in for a hell of a battle. 

New York Jets 31- Cleveland Browns 30

I would say I feel bad for Cleveland collapsing to the Jets but we’ve all seen what the Browns fanbase has been up to so this feels like poetic justice.

Jacksonville Jaguars 24- Indianapolis Colts 0

Matty Ice has gone ice cold since joining the Colts which is awkward given Indy acquired him to win games that were previously unwinnable for whatever reason, like in Jacksonville. Thankfully for the Jaguars, their meeting with the Colts came earlier this season so there’s a chance the sputtering excuse of a football operation gets off the ground before the last week of the season. 

Miami Dolphins 42- Baltimore Ravens 38

I missed the part in science class where the raven devolved to a falcon. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20- New Orleans Saints 10

Brady finally managed to beat the Saints as a Buc but could it have cost him his marriage? Regardless, we seem to be back on track of Bucs’ opponents always being the bridesmaid and never the bride. 

Detroit Lions 36- Washington Commanders 27

Put your hand up if you had the Detroit Lions putting up a combined 71 points through the first 2 weeks of the season on your 2022 bingo card. Now put your hand down, liar. 

San Francisco 49ers 27- Seattle Seahawks 7

No Lance, no problem for the 49ers who were forced to rely on the league’s most expensive backup a little earlier than perhaps expected. Thankfully they did fork over a forklift of money to keep Jimmy G in the Bay area, where he will now start for the remainder of 2022. As for Seattle, Gino Smith came crashing back down to Earth after owning the Broncos in Week 1. The Seahawks made their bed keeping Carroll over Wilson, now it’s time to see how long they lie in it. 

Los Angeles Rams 31- Atlanta Falcons 27

That was much more like it from the defending Super Bowl champions but they left it too close for comfort at the end against a team notorious for being incapable of closing out games. There are currently more questions surrounding the Rams than there are diamonds in their rings and the priceless question becomes how do they produce on the field with pieces from the blinged out lineup having moved on to other teams. 

Arizona Cardinals 29- Las Vegas Raiders 23

Vegas may have raided the Packers crown jewel in Davante Adams but nobody cares about your shiny new piece if you don’t take it out of the house. The Cardinals found a way to lock down Adams, limiting the star to just 2 catches which is his lowest total since 2017 when it was Green Bay backup Brett Hundley tossing him the ball. As for Arizona’s offense, Kyler Murray may not be able to see over his offensive line but he can certainly scramble around them and did just that to force this one to overtime. Guess he’s been doing his homework.

Denver Broncos 16- Houston Texans 9

It’s amazing what happens when you leave your $245 million QB on the field, right Nathaniel Hackett? The Broncos found a way to fall behind to the lowly Texans but stuck with the new face of the franchise long enough for him to cook up a fourth quarter comeback, managing to stave off the most egregious of alarm bells in the mile high. 

Dallas Cowboys 20- Cincinnati Bengals 17

I guess there was no need to rush to conclusions that the Cowboys would be done for as Dak went down, eh? Cooper Rush looked more than capable of holding down the fort in Prescott’s absence, even though he was playing a bumbling Bengals defense that has yet to come down from a Super Bowl high. 

Green Bay Packers 27- Chicago Bears 10

Yup, he still owns them.

Week 3 features a ton of super intriguing divisional matchups that promise to make next week’s Sunday Sprint a war zone, but until then, enjoy the week ahead in the NFL.

5 Things You Missed from the Women’s Euros

If you had a way to reliably watch the Women’s Euros on TV then count yourself lucky because that was a tournament for the ages. But for us Canadians, who despite living in a newly minted “soccer country”, had no national networks pick up this tournament, I’ve got 5 things you missed from the action in England. 

1. Breaking Records for Breakfast

Even if you couldn’t watch these games, a simple Twitter scroll would show you that there was seemingly a new record being broken every day at the tournament. We had the biggest win in tournament history when England beat Norway 8-0 during their group stage. The score may be something to cringe at but Norway has a proud footballing tradition having won the title twice in their history. 

On an individual level Beth Mead is the new leader in group stage goals with five and shares the title of being the only ones to score in all three group games with Germany’s Alexandra Popp. The two women also tied for the most goals ever scored in a Euros with six. Alessia Russo earned the title of Super Sub, eclipsing the previous record for most goals from the bench, finding the back of the net four times on home soil. And England bench boss Sarina Wiegman became the first coach to lift the trophy with two different countries after winning with the Netherlands in 2017. Oh and she secured both titles within a year of taking over the team. 

But the record that speaks the loudest is of course that attendance record for the final between England and Germany at Wembley. With 87,192 fans on their feet from whistle to whistle, the 2022 Women’s Euro Final became the most attended game all-time in Euros history, from both the women’s and men’s side. There were more seats filled for England vs Germany than for any other women’s international game ever, with the previous record for a women’s game being 80,203 at the Olympic final between USA and Japan in 2012, ironically also at Wembley. Prior to this one, the most highly attended European final was back in 1964 for Spain and USSR at 79,115. 

2. Alexandra Popp Makes Her Euros Debut

Remember those records I mentioned Popp setting? They make sense, right? Popp is a legend of the game with three Champions League titles, five Bundesliga titles, and an Olympic gold medal, which is why it makes so little sense that this was her first time on the Euros stage. Injuries kept her out of the previous two editions, and unfortunately sidelined her during the final, but she announced her arrival loud and proud, etching her name into the record books. 

3. Conquering Curses

Recent editions of major tournaments have not seen a more iconic duo than France and getting eliminated at the quarter final mark. The team has been sent packing before the semis in the last three Euros and the last two World Cups. Until this year. Les Bleues drew the Dutch in their dreaded quarterfinal window. It was nail bitingly close to another early French exit while they controlled the run of play but couldn’t convert. Finally in extra time Eve Perisset converted from the spot, sending her squad to the semis. 

4. Shades of 1999

Chloe Kelly was the MOMENT. Her go-ahead extra time goal in the final was aptly celebrated with the Brandy Chastain sports bra celebration and it was poetic. Not only was the youngster’s reaction priceless in and of itself but the ripping off of the shirt just felt like such a beautiful full circle moment for the growth of women’s soccer. When Chastain pulled the same move in 1999 it’s safe to say there were more haters than fans, it was the early days of women’s soccer having it’s stage, and I’m pretty sure they were expected to celebrate like girls. Not any more. Women have their stage. Women’s soccer is the moment. And Chloe Kelly has no haters. 

5. It Came Home

For the first time since the men won the World Cup in 1966, England won a major title. More importantly for the growth of the game, it came home with the Lionesses, a program that has had to fight so hard against its own country for the respect they have long deserved. The serenades of Sweet Caroline said it all when it was all said and done.

Deshaun Watson, the NFL, and Six Games That Could Change the League

What if being a professional athlete didn’t offer you so much protection from the consequences of your actions?

There are few, if any, words to describe the sinking feeling felt by many around the football world when Deshaun’s six game suspension was announced. The discourse that followed ran the gamut from being trauma informed for the victims to the traditional voices of sport that we have heard too many times when it comes to cases of sexual assault allegations in sport. Regardless of where you fall, it’s hard to argue with the gut punch feeling of a penalty that amounts to a mere quarter of play for each of the 24 original plaintiffs. 

Since the initial announcement there have been details discussed, appeals filed, and statements made from all sides so let’s break down how we got here, what happens now, and what could unfold next. 

How He Got Six

Six games would be laughable if it weren’t so plausible in the world of professional football when you consider exactly what allegations we’re dealing with here. Watson’s six game suspension for an alleged pattern of sexual assault is at least 11 games more than Calvin Ridley will serve for betting on an NFL game while it’s an incalculable fraction of the time that Josh Gordon has missed for marijuana use. Whether you think Watson deserved more, less, or six there is no escaping the complete and utter absence of logic used to assess that ruining the lives of over 20 women is a lesser crime than smoking a plant or placing a bet. 

But obviously with a former federal judge handing down this ruling, there would have to be some string of logic somewhere. According to Albert Breer, Judge Robinson’s decision was not based on the 20+ cases filed against Watson, rather it was based on five cases, four of which were plaintiffs. So for Robinson, Watson wasn’t suspended one quarter of football for every plaintiff but was suspended a game and a bit as retribution for each case. 

So how did Robinson only see five cases when it was well reported within the media that we were nearing 30 plaintiffs? 

The way this all unfolded is a result of the arbitration process negotiated between the NFL and NFLPA in 2020 as a way to amend a system that had long been criticized for its inconsistencies and conflicts of interest. Watson’s case falls under the personal conduct policy and is the first disciplinary decision to be actioned through a third party through the agreement.  The league’s personal conduct policy has undergone some revisions over the course of the last few years but has always allowed for penalizing players even if accusations do not lead to criminal convictions. 

Given the facts presented across the five cases that landed on Robinson’s desk, she felt the six games to be appropriate. There really is no way to know what the outcome may have been should she have seen the entirety of the file against Watson, but given after evaluating the five cases she wrote in her report that Watson represented “a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another person, and conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity of the NFL” it likely could have been a different outcome. 

Now What?

The immediate future got a whole lot murkier on Wednesday morning when the NFL announced it would appeal the decision, stating they’re seeking to suspend the quarterback indefinitely. For many the decision to appeal was a no brainer given the severity of the allegations against Watson, but the appeal does open the league up to the potential of Watson playing in Week 1. 

The appeal has to be based on Robinson’s process, meaning the same five cases originally presented to the judge. The league filed their brief on Wednesday afternoon and has said that Roger Goddell will decide on who will hear the appeal. Under the same CBA that put the original case under a third party’s purview, Goddell has the right to consider the appeal himself or appoint someone else to do so. 

Within the brief, the NFL indicated it is seeking an indefinite suspension (which means at least a year), a monetary fine, as well as a treatment plan for Watson to undergo. 

The NFLPA has until Friday to respond to the league’s filing in writing and it’s worth noting that the PA have been reported to be preparing to sue the NFL in federal court should the league appeal Robinson’s decision. Only once the NFLPA’s response is filed will Goddell decide on who will hear the appeal.  

By appealing the third party’s decision the NFL, on the surface, could appear to be undermining a process they only just agreed to on the first chance they had to do it. But beyond the reading between the lines of the CBA and what the NFL appears to feel towards it, their swift decision to appeal Robinson’s decision, and to be seeking as much as they are in terms of penalties, demonstrates a move away from the traditional “boys club” that has historically governed sports like football. Whether this shift will stick or be felt in other aspects of the game remains to be seen, it’s important to remember that a step is a step, even if it’s a baby one. 

But What If..?

Undoubtedly, the NFL’s decision to appeal opens up a lot of what ifs to unpack; the biggest, and most spiral inducing being what if Goddell, or whoever he designates, overturns the six game suspension?

In this case, Watson could (and most likely will) file a lawsuit of his own that would have the union (his camp) seek a TRO (temporary restraining order) to put a stay on the newly extended suspension. This is the scenario that would see Watson play in Week 1, as he would be eligible to play while the case was in court. 
While we can postulate on what the NFL will rule for days and weeks there really is no way of knowing. What can be said though is that Robinson, who levied the mere six games, also concluded that Watson’s “predatory conduct cast a negative light on the League and its players” and given the new decision maker’s financial interest in there being nothing but a positive light on his League, it may be a good time to start preparing for the what ifs.

CFL Files: Homegrown Talent Takes Centre Stage

As we near the halfway point in the Canadian football season the hype just seems to be building south of the border with NFL training camps, so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to shine a light on the best and brightest Canadian ballers this season. Of course we all already know the Andrew Harris’ and the Rene Parades’ of the world, so to keep this list manageable for us all on this Wednesday evening, here are the three breakout Canadians this season. 

3. Kian Schaffer-Baker, WR, Saskatchewan Roughriders

The only thing more on point than Kian Schaffer-Baker’s play this season has been his hair. Saskatchewan’s former fourth round pick announced his presence last season but has been all over the highlight reels this season. Through eight games this year, Schaffer-Baker has racked up 401 yards and three touchdowns which is just 162 yards shy of his total last year, and he’s already eclipsed last season’s touchdown total by one. Saskatchewan has struggled with quarterback this season but the Mississauga native’s presence out wide has been as reliable as a sellout crowd in Regina. 

2. Kurleigh Gittens Jr, WR, Toronto Argonauts

Does he have one of the best names in the CFL? Yes. Is he one of the best wide receivers this season? Also yes. While Gittens Jr did have an impressive 2021 (50 receptions for 605 yards and four touchdowns) his 2022 is shaking up to be even more of a statement. Not only has he already hauled in the rock 31 times through six games, but he has allowed the rest of the Argos’ stars to shine. The way opposing defenses now need to plan to face not only Brandon Banks and Andrew Harris, but also this new kid from Ottawa is no easy task and Eastern Conference leading Toronto are reaping the rewards (I know the East is bad so this doesn’t say as much as it should but anyways). The third year player out of Wilfrid-Laurier is on pace to obliterate his season highs and is shaping up to be a safe bet to win Most Outstanding Canadian at some point over his career. 

1. Nathan Rourke, QB, BC Lions

We all knew this kid would top this list, right? Nathan Rourke took BC’s starting job and put the league on notice; leading the Lions to their thunderous 59-15 win over the Elks. Some may have chalked the beating up to rookie luck or Edmonton’s ineptitude, but the Victoria native has remained a passer teams have to plan for. Rourke sits second in the CFL in overall QB ranking while having played two less games than the leading Zach Collaros. BC’s hometown boy boasts a jaw dropping 79.3 completion percentage, which has him nearly nine full points ahead of Collaros and nearly 15 points ahead of the other most feared veteran QB, Bo Levi Mitchell. There’s no telling how high Rourke’s ceiling is but it’s definitely somewhere way up in the clouds.

Olympic Champion Yuzuru Hanyu Retires

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu announced his figure skating retirement last week. The 27-year-old skater from Japan had a remarkable competitive career, breaking records and earning many world titles.

As with most skaters, Hanyu began skating at just four years old. After skating at a national level from 2004-2008 and winning multiple medals at this level, Hanyu made his international debut at the ISU Junior Grand Prix in 2008. He won gold at the World Junior Championships the following season.

In 2010, Hanyu progressed to senior-level competition and won the silver medal at the Four Continents Championships that same season. He attended his first senior World Championships in 2012, winning the bronze medal behind his teammate Daisuke Takahashi (silver) and Canadian skater Patrick Chan (gold).

By 2014, Hanyu went to his first Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Here, he made history for Japanese figure skating, becoming the first Japanese man to win gold at the men’s single skating event in the Olympics. He also broke a world record at this Winter Olympics by becoming the first skater to earn over 100 points in the men’s short program event.

After his Olympic feats, Hanyu continued to dominate international skating competitions, winning silver medals at the 2015 and 2016 World Championships and taking home the gold in 2017. When the PyeongChang Olympics rolled around in 2018, Hanyu won the men’s single skating gold medal again. Winning back-to-back Olympic gold in this event had not been seen since American skater Dick Button did it in 1948 and again in 1952, making Hanyu’s accomplishment even more remarkable.

Although he attended the Beijing 2022 Olympics, Hanyu, unfortunately, had a couple of falls during his routines and fell just short of the podium in fourth place. He later announced that he had injured his ankle at practice during the Olympics but chose to compete given how important the event is. As a result of this injury, he pulled out of the World Championships that were held in March 2022, even though he had intended to compete.

By July of this year, Hanyu announced that he would retire from competitive skating, stating that “in terms of results, I’ve achieved the things I could achieve. I stopped wanting to be evaluated”. Plagued by a recurring ankle injury and saying that after the Beijing Olympics, he “couldn’t skate because of the pain, ” Hanyu decided to retire. However, he intends to keep skating in professional shows, just not in a competitive manner.

This is good news for fans of the skater, as watching his skating so full of elegance and artistry is always a pleasure.

CFL Files: Takeaways and Tribulations

A week featuring a battle of undefeated teams, two winless squads, and the return of Touchdown Atlantic had way too many highlights for this week’s files to be anything other than a good old fashioned takeaways. From the highs to the lows, there was a big lesson for all teams to take into Week 7. 

Edmonton Elks: No Starter, No Problem

The Elks lined up in front of their third starting pivot of the season, and after watching them pull off the fourth quarter push it doesn’t seem to matter that they have yet to find consistency. The season got off to a rocky start with Nick Arbuckle who was promptly shipped off to Ottawa in favour of Tre Ford who sustained a shoulder injury in the midst of the Battle of Alberta. Enter Taylor Cornellius for the team’s tilt in Montreal and my oh my did he impress. Edmonton fell into a deep hole before the half which given the sheer experience difference between the two team’s quarterbacks should have meant the game was a lock for the home team. Cornellius led the Elks to a roaring comeback, shutting out the Alouettes in the fourth quarter. At this point it’s hard to predict who Edmonton will field on a week to week basis but it’s a pretty safe bet that the team will rally around them. 

Montreal Alouettes: No Time Like Halftime?

Fresh off of a bye week, the Alouettes were taking the field under Danny Maciocia for the first time and the results were, well…predictable. I won’t say there weren’t a myriad of reasons as to why Kahari Jones was let go but it’s hard to imagine that the team’s inability to adjust at halftime wasn’t chief among them. It’s a story we’ve seen time and time again this year where the Als will build themselves a comfortable cushion only to let the other team stage the next comeback of the season in the second half. If Maciocia and his staff can’t figure out how to use halftime to adjust to their opponents as opposed to whatever else has been going on in that locker room then the changes will need to extend far past just the coaching staff. 

Winnipeg Blue Bombers: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

At this point, Winnipeg just needs to keep doing what they’re doing. They’re coming off of back to back Grey Cups and are currently 6-0 on the season so I have no notes. 

Calgary Stampeders: Don’t Panic

Yes, the Stamps lost a close one to the Bombers but there is absolutely no need to press any form of panic, or even discomfort buttons. Bo Levi Mitchell has shown time and time again this season that he still very much has it and the team assembled around him has every ability to win whatever rematch lines up against Winnipeg or whatever other powerhouse might emerge. With Reggie Begelton continuing to establish himself as a bonafide WR1 and a defensive group that settles into their stride more and more every week, this team has all the pieces in place to make a deep run which is why this one loss shouldn’t inspire ANY changes. 

Toronto Argonauts: Run on Star Power

The Argos have been one of the more frustrating teams this season, both managing to look like a threat and a nuisance all at once. One thing that is for sure is that when their stars are rolling the team is truly deserving of top spot in the East. During their trip to the Maritimes, Andrew Harris passed Milt Stegal for fourth all-time in scrimmage yards. Add to that the fact that the connection between Brandon Banks and everyone’s favourite three last name wonder, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, is heating up right on schedule and you have a recipe for success, or at least a consistent level of performance. Where Toronto gets into trouble is when they become too generous with their playcalling, which can be necessary if a defence is all over you but with the talent their stars have, I’d still take them against a double team any day. 

Saskatchewan Roughriders: Get Healthy

Regardless of what happened in the Maritimes, the Roughriders need to focus on getting healthy, both from an IR level and a COVID level. As of publishing this, 13 players and five staff have tested positive for coronavirus. The team, with one anomaly against Montreal, has been as consistent as a beating drum, and it’s not like it was a losing beat so the priority needs to be on getting healthy and continuing what they’ve started to build. 

Hamilton Tiger Cats: You Chose the Wrong Guy…We Think…

The fact of the matter was someone had to win this game between the league’s two winless teams and there was a 100% chance the winning quarterback would be named Evans. Dane and rookie Caleb squared off in what should have been a matchup between Dane Evans and the one he was kept over; Jeremiah Masoli. But with Masoli sidelined it was Evans vs Evans and for the first time this season Dane looked dynamite. His 342 yards and two touchdowns were a lovely stat line and were certainly indicative of most of his game, it was the things that don’t make the stat line, like ruining a full-field drive with a string of incompletions, that still have fans questioning Hamilton management for the QB they chose to keep. At this rate only time will tell if Dane Evans really is the future face of the Tiger Cats but last week was a step in the right direction. 

Ottawa Redblacks: Try Again Later

Need I say more?

CFL Files: Welcome to the Chopping Block

It only took four weeks for our first firing of the CFL season, and almost shockingly it didn’t come from two of the league’s winless teams. Granted, it was the one win Montreal Alouettes who dropped the first axe, having it fall on head coach Kahari Jones. While the firing could not have come as a complete shock given the sputtering incoherence the Alouettes displayed through four games, Jones’ impact on the team over the course of his tenure may have led some to think he had earned himself a longer rope. But alas, someone has to be the first to lose their job every season…and someone has to be the second and third and fourth so with that here are three CFL figures who could find themselves on the chopping block this season. 

Vernon Adams Jr, QB, Montreal Alouettes

Sticking in Montreal for this one, it’s hard to imagine that Vernon Adams Jr is feeling comfortable with the current situation in the QB room. It’s clear that he had fallen out of favour after Week 1, throwing all of four passes in Week 2 and only getting a look in Week 4 when the game was long out of reach. The Alouettes have a bye through Week 5 and after Trevor Harris looked questionable in the team’s pummeling at the hands of the Roughriders, it’s a toss up as to who we’ll see under centre for Montreal in Week 6. What is clear is that should Adams get the starting role back, his rope will be even shorter than that of his former head coach. 

Paul LaPolice, HC, Ottawa Redblacks

I should probably have prefaced the whole article this way but I’ll say it here, I mean all of this with no disrespect and I do believe everyone involved are talented individuals. With that being said, the Redblacks have yet to win a game and the schedule does not get any easier moving forward, with the Roughriders on deck for Week 5 and the equally desperate Tiger Cats in Week 6. With the team staring down an almost certain 0-4 and a potential 0-5 start, it’s not a stretch to think that firing the head coach could be seen as a way to jolt some life into the team. I do think there’s some extra grace here for LaPolice as it’s not only his first year with the team but his starting QB Jeremiah Masoli is also in his first season in the nation’s capital. Only time will tell if and what the turning point will be for these Redblacks. 

Dane Evans, QB, Hamilton Tiger Cats

This can’t be a surprise to anyone, can it? Including Evans on this list hurts a little but given how emotional he was following his turnover that led to the team’s most recent loss to the Elks. But facts don’t care about feelings and the facts are that Evans has not looked good for Hamilton since officially being given the reins to the team this offseason. Through four games he’s thrown just 99 completions, five touchdowns, and a whopping eight interceptions, leading those loyal to the Hammer to question what management saw in Evans that made them keep him over Masoli. Ironically both Evans and Masoli are under centre for the league’s two winless teams but unlike Evans, Masoli has yet to out and out cost his team a game. Like the aforementioned Adams Jr, Evans and company are on a bye through Week 5 but the Week 6 matchup with former teammate Masoli could likely be a make or break for the TiCats QB (and a rough one to watch for Hamilton fans). 

Week 5 is a shorter one with only three games, featuring a reignition of the Battle of Alberta, the rolling Roughriders look to keep it going against the lowly Redblacks, and closing with a clash of high fliers in Winnipeg and BC.

ISU Votes to Increase Minimum Competition Age for Skaters

In a historic decision, the International Skating Union (ISU) voted to increase the minimum age for skaters to compete from 15 to 17. The rule change was passed by the ISU Congress earlier this month in response to the Kamila Valieva doping controversy which occurred at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

Valieva, the 15-year-old Russian skater who was a favourite to win the women’s gold medal, had tested positive for a banned substance in December of 2021. However, this result was only revealed to the public in February 2022 after she had already helped the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) athletes win the team gold medal. This sparked intense debate about whether Valieva should be allowed to continue competing or not for the remainder of the Olympic games.

Due to her young age, she was held against a different, more protected set of rules than older athletes, and therefore the Court of Arbitration for Sport decided that she was allowed to compete despite the failed drug test. This decision led to very mixed reactions amongst those in the skating world and also prompted an evaluation of the minimum age limits in the sport. Valieva ended up finishing in 4th place after a very uncharacteristic free skate filled with falls.

 After witnessing this event and the intense scrutiny and pressure placed on the back of a young girl, many have come out and spoken about the need to protect these young athletes both physically and emotionally by keeping them out of senior-level competition until a later age. Clearly, the ISU agreed with these sentiments, as the vote to increase the age limit was overwhelmingly positive. This new rule will be introduced in a staggered manner. 15-year-olds will still be able to compete in senior competition next season, with the minimum age being 16 for the 2023-2024 season, and then 17 the year after. By the 2026 Milano Cortina Olympics, the new rule will be fully in place. This change affects not only figure skating but also synchronized skating and speed skating.

Former skater and 3x Olympic medalist Kaetlyn Osmond commented on the ISU’s decision, saying “with the ISU raising the age to 17, I think it is one of the best things that could be a part of the sport.” She further spoke about attending her first Olympic Games at age 18 and being burnt out by the time she was 22. Osmond believes that raising the minimum age will “help the longevity of the sport” and allow athletes’ bodies to mature fully before entering into this elite, pressure-filled level of competition.