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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!

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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]

MICHAEL REAVES/GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA VIA GETTY

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]

GARY DINEEN/NBAE VIA GETTY

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]

OMAR RAWLINGS/GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA VIA GETTY

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]

ADAM PANTOZZI/NBAE VIA GETTY

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]

BART YOUNG/NBAE VIA GETTY

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.

Premier League Rundown Matchday 22

A matchday of highs and lows for teams around the Premier League. Highs included Manchester City putting a 13-point distance on Chelsea, Norwich City moving up from the bottom of the table, Philippe Coutinho making a dream debut with the claret and blue, and Jack Harrison’s first league hat-trick against West Ham. The lows were Everton continuing their losing streak and sacking their manager, Newcastle seeing their second win fade away in the last three minutes of the match, and United finishing in a draw after having a two goal lead.

Brighton (1) vs. Crystal Palace (1)

An odd series of events occurred in the 33rd minute, Brighton was taking a corner kick from the left side of the pitch. During the ensuing set play, Will Hughes pulled down Joël Veltman in the box. The VAR official called down to the on-field referee to have another look at the play. A penalty was called and it was saved by Jack Butland. Another corner kick was granted to Brighton, it was crossed to the middle of the box and headed towards goal. The keeper and Neal Maupay seem to have gotten to the ball at the same time and Maupay was victorious in the challenge giving Brighton their lead. But, the VAR official called the referee again to have a second look. On further review, Jack Butland had the ball in both hands before Maupay made his run into the keeper. Therefore, the goal was disallowed and a free kick was awarded to Palace. In the 69th minute, Connor Gallagher scored for Palace after a keep-in attempt by Jeffrey Schlupp came right back to him and he hammered it in past the defender and the keeper. An own goal by Palace brought Brighton back in the game and it finished in a draw.

Manchester City (1) vs. Chelsea (0)

A match between the top two teams in the table meant a matchup between two Goliaths. But, City showed why they are at the top of the table. They dominated the first half putting three shots on target to Chelsea’s none. Romelu Lukaku had a great chance to put Chelsea out front early in the second half but Ederson was way out of his goal to meet Lukaku and made a brilliant save. Chelsea wouldn’t have another shot on target for the remainder of the match. Meanwhile, Kevin De Bruyne capitalized on a beautiful run in the middle of the field with an equally beautiful strike into the right corner of the goal. City now has a 13-point lead in the PL and look to have secured their second consecutive title with four months to go.

Norwich City (2) vs. Everton (1)

Everton’s woes continued despite a positive result in the FA Cup. Everton has failed to get a victory in over a month in the PL. Their last victory was to Arsenal on December 6th. Norwich went up by two quickly by an own goal and a first goal in the PL by Adam Idah. Everton had to instantly play catch up. They could only manage a single goal in the 60th minute by Richarlison. A disappointing defeat to a relegation zone team that will lead to questions about the job status of their manager, Rafa Benitez. In fact, a day later, the club sack their manager.

Wolves (3) vs. Southampton (1)

Wolves, on the other hand, have been putting a string of positive results. They have been victorious in three of their last four matches. Which have slowly allowed them to climb up the table, six points away from the top four. Wolves scored once in the first half and set the tone in the second half with their second goal. The Saints answered with a goal by James Ward-Prowse in the 84th minute but a goal in extra time by the Wolves put the game out of reach.

Newcastle (1) vs. Watford (1)

Newcastle had their second victory of the season in their grasp but Watford had other plans. In the second half, Allan Saint-Maximin scored his fifth goal of the season to put Newcastle up front. Watford found their equalizer in the 87th minute. A victory for Newcastle would have put them outside of the relegation zone jumping ahead of Watford. The draw results in both teams maintaining their positions in the table.

Aston Villa (2) vs. Manchester United (2)

United’s positive effort in the match was derailed in the last thirteen minutes of the game by an outstanding debut for Philippe Coutinho. Bruno Fernandes seemed to have found this scoring touch after not having scored a goal in over a month. He scored both goals for United. A substitution a minute after Fernandes’ second goal turned the tide of the match. Philippe Coutinho made an impact in his Villa debut. After his substitution into the match, he assisted on Jacob Ramsey’s goal and scored his own goal in the 81st minute. The draw hurt the Red Devil’s chances of moving up in the table.

Liverpool (3) vs. Brentford (0)

Liverpool found their offence that they seemed to have gone missing in the Carabao Cup semis on Thursday. It took them until the second half to get going but once they started they couldn’t stop. The Reds scored three goals in the second half leading to a three-nil defeat over Brentford. The victory propelled Liverpool over Chelsea for second in the table and reduced the advantage of City to 11 points.

West Ham (2) vs. Leeds (3)

Jack Harrison had his coming-out match at London Stadium. He scored his first professional football hat-trick propelling Leeds to a victory over West Ham. The scoring went back and forth throughout the match and was nearly tied in extra time by Jarrod Bowen but the deflection off his chest went high.

POSTPONED MATCHES

  • Burnley vs. Leicester City
  • Tottenham vs. Arsenal

Finding Your Flare: How Devin Heroux’s Authenticity Changes Sports Reporting

The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games are less than a month away. Canadian journalist, Devin Heroux is heading to China to once again cover the games for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Heroux’s journey to this moment proves what you can accomplish by working hard, taking risks and being authentically yourself.

Heroux is and always has been a storyteller, something most in this industry would relate to. It is the core of what sports journalism is. His love of storytelling was reflected in his post secondary education decisions. Heroux has an ​​english degree from the University of Saskatchewan and a journalism degree from the University of Regina School of Journalism. 

When discussing his earliest experiences in the world of TV production, Heroux said, “I so badly wanted to be part of the production crew and do whatever I needed to do to be a part of that world that I would go and run the teleprompter for the anchor. I thought it was the most important job in the world, I was gonna be the best teleprompter operator.”

Through his work at Shaw TV, Heroux was able to try his hand in various production jobs, helping wherever they needed him and learning the behind-the-scenes side of television. When he would see the talent begin to work, Heroux would tell himself, “this is what I’m going to be doing.”

From that experience, Heroux had the opportunity to do pre and post-game radio for the Saskatoon Blades, university sports coverage and host a Saskatchewan Roughriders show called, Riders to the Max. He was also a sports editor during his time at the University of Saskatchewan. He worked at CBC in Saskatchewan in both Regina and Saskatoon and then at CBC Calgary. While in Calgary, Heroux was a lead live news reporter and did numerous broadcasts a day for three years. He worked in communications for the 2015 Pan Am Games with the Canadian Olympic Committee but decided to return to CBC Saskatchewan shortly after. About a year later, Heroux decided to move to Toronto and for six months, he worked between CBC Toronto local news, CBC Sports and The National. The company then made him a permanent member of CBC Sports. Less than a year after arriving in Toronto, Heroux was heading to PyeongChang to cover the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

A typical day for Heroux starts early, ahead of the news cycle. He checks his emails and messages to make sure he did not miss any breaking sports news. The day will look different depending on if he is travelling or doing work at home. If home, Heroux will have meetings with his bosses and contacts throughout the day. He is also writing stories and doing interviews ahead of the upcoming Olympic Games. If he is at an event, one like the Canadian Olympic Curling Trials which he was at near the end of 2021, it is all about interviews, live-tweeting and getting ready for his show. With the Olympic Games right around the corner, Heroux is working 12-15 hours a day.

When asked about his experience at the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games this past summer, the journalist said, “it was the most rewarding and yet challenging experience of my life. The Olympics at the best of times, outside of a pandemic, are restrictive and challenging to navigate. Throw in a pandemic, with heightened fears, heightened anxiety, and it was hard.”

The Saskatchewan native was the only Canadian reporter to stay in Tokyo for the entire duration of the Olympics and Paralympic games which spanned 51 days. With the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics under a month days away, it will be three consecutive Olympics and Paralympics covered for Heroux. 

Heroux explained what it means to be a journalist covering the Olympic Games. “The Olympics are the pinnacle of an athlete’s career. Covering the Olympics is the pinnacle of a journalistic career,” he said. “It’s no small feat and it is not for the weak. If you are not prepared going into something like this, it will chew you up and spit you out. Every day is like a marathon.”

The tenured journalist’s role at CBC leads to days where he is covering numerous sports in the span of a couple of hours. “There’s no other thing I would rather be doing on a Sunday than covering a curling team breakup and the CFL divisional finals,” Heroux said. “You have to do your homework and you have to be watching everything at all times.”

Heroux credits his time in news reporting as something that helps him in his current role. In news, the stories move quickly and deadlines are short much like the world of sports reporting. Heroux is the perfect example of learning and perfecting the skills of reporting and then applying them to sports.

Heroux’s goal as a journalist has always been to “make the audience feel something” every time they consume his content. This is arguably one of the most important aspects of the job. The goal of a journalist should not simply be to just recite the facts but to make the reader or viewer feel as if they are there experiencing the moment too.

Advice is what everyone in a new space searches for. We are all scared and want to fit in. We want to feel prepared and relieve anxiety. Heroux’s advice to newcomers revolves around being yourself and using your experiences to bring the most to a story. He said, “what sets us apart in our storytelling is our lived experiences that bring us to any moment and any situation we’re about to cover. Be unapologetic in your authenticity and your vulnerability in your storytelling because if you can bring that to any interview you do, you’re going to tell better stories than anybody else. You’re going to get more out of the people you’re talking to.”

This job includes taking risks and putting yourself out there. Heroux pitched an idea for curling coverage to his bosses at CBC ahead of the Scotties and the Brier in 2017. His live tweets and coverage of the events landed well with the passionate curling community and made him a staple in Canadian curling media. Today, Heroux hosts That Curling Show alongside six-time Scotties Champion, Colleen Jones. Their live show covers the latest news in the curling world and often includes current and former players.

The sport media industry continues to evolve to best fit the way viewers want to consume media. Audiences have a variety of options when it comes to content so cookie-cutter coverage is not the best way to hold attention. Heroux reports with what he calls, “his flare” which captivates the audience. It is authentic regardless of what others in the industry may think. With that said, it is important that the basic structure of journalism is still present with facts being articulated in an accurate and timely manner. We also want to create and maintain a safe space where all feel welcome to share their experiences. This is something Heroux mentioned. He also discussed the importance of being on the right side of history and using your voice for good. 

Heroux’s approach has changed sports broadcasting and journalism for the better. He has found his place in the industry and has excelled in storytelling and connecting with various audiences across the country and the world. The industry needs more people like Heroux. One can only hope that the next generation of sports journalists have the same creativity, passion and work ethic as Heroux.

U.S. Figure Skating Selects 2022 Winter Olympic Team

The 2022 U.S. Figure Skating Championships took place this past week in Nashville, Tennessee and the stakes were particularly high for the athletes at this competition. Being an Olympic year, this event served as the final qualifier for skaters to determine who will represent the United States at the Beijing Olympics next month. For the women’s, men’s, and ice dance events, three teams will attend the Olympics, and two teams will go for pairs skating.

The women’s division was the first to complete their competition on Friday night with 25-year-old Mariah Bell becoming the 2022 National Champion. The scores for the women were quite close, with less than 2.5 points separating Bell from Karen Chen’s second-place finish (213.85) and just over 3 points separating Chen from Isabeau Levito in third (210.75). Alysa Liu, a two-time National Champion and favorite heading into this competition had to withdraw from the event due to testing positive for COVID-19. She sat in third place after the women’s short program. Despite being unable to compete, Liu was still selected as a member of the women’s Olympic team alongside Bell and Chen.

The pairs skating and ice dance events concluded on Saturday night. Ashley Cain-Gribble/Timothy LeDuc won gold in the pairs category and were named to the Olympic team. The second pairs spot went to Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier, who were the reigning National Champions going into this competition. Knierim/Frazier were also unable to compete after Frazier tested positive for COVID-19 and the team had to withdraw on Wednesday.

In the ice dance category, Madison Chock/Evan Bates took home their third national title, followed closely by Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue who are also three-time National Champions. Both teams were selected to represent the United States at the Beijing Olympics along with third-place team Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker. Chock/Bates scored 227.37 and with less than a 2 point differential, the second-place team of Hubbell/Donohue earned 225.59 points. The margin between second and third place was much larger, with Hawayek/Baker scoring 205.68.

The men’s division was the last to finish their competition on Sunday afternoon. The five-time reigning National Champion, Nathan Chen, was the clear favorite heading into these championships. The skating superstar did not disappoint, earning his sixth straight national title. It is no surprise to anyone that Chen was named to the Olympic team. Alongside Chen, third-place finisher Vincent Zhou was selected for the Olympics as well as Jason Brown who ended the competition in fourth. 17-year-old Ilia Malinin took home the silver with a stellar performance, but despite his score being over 10 points greater than Brown’s, the selection committee opted to pick Brown to represent the USA due to his dependability and experience. Although the young skater will be missing out on these Olympics, Malinin’s performance shows an extremely bright future for U.S. men’s skating and he is one to watch out for in 2026.

Premier League Rundown Postponed Matchday

The increase of COVID-19 cases in the Premier League has caused multiple games to be postponed. These two games are the first set of re-scheduled games. Both winners climbed up the table with their victories.

Southampton (4) vs. Brentford (1)

Southampton struck early and often in the match. In the fifth minute, one of the best corner kickers in the PL, James Ward-Prowse, made a beautiful kick that only needed a slight change of direction from Jan Bednarek to put the Saints ahead. Brentford responded with a beautiful volley by Vitaly Janelt in the 23rd minute. It was all Southampton from that point on. They scored three more goals and put the match away.

West Ham (2) vs. Norwich (0)

The man of the match absolutely earned his title with his performance in this match. Jarrod Bowen has been steadily putting in impressive performances. On this night, he truly showed how good of a footballer he is. He scored both goals for the Hammers. Once with a brave header to the opposite post, and the second was a redirection in the box. He was all over the ball and could have increased his goal total on the night, including a disallowed goal. The victory over Norwich put West Ham in the top four, two points ahead of Arsenal. 

Who is Lorenzo Insigne?

Lorenzo Insigne has officially signed a four-year contract with Toronto FC. He will start his tenure with the Reds in July. The signing of Insigne is ‘the’ most high profile signing the club has made in its sixteen-year history. Overshadowing the signings of Sebastian Giovinco and Jermaine Defoe. This all begs the question, who is Lorenzo Insigne?

Lorenzo Insigne is a 30-year old Italian winger, who currently plays for top of the table Napoli in Serie A. He began his youth career with Napoli in 2006 and has continued to be part of the club ever since aside from three loans in the early 2010s. After his loans, Insigne put together a string of seasons where his performance and goal-scoring totals have gone up, culminating in his appointment to the captaincy in 2019. The following season, he had his best performance with the first team by scoring 19 goals in 35 matches, putting him in the top ten in league scoring.

He has also performed well on the international stage. He made his debut with the international team in September 2012 for the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Malta. Insigne scored his first goal for Italy in an international friendly against Argentina in August 2013. He has played in three major international tournaments; World Cup 2014, EURO 2016 and EURO 2020. Lorenzo Insigne played an integral part in Italy’s EURO cup-winning squad in 2021. He played all but one match in the tournament, the round-robin match against Wales. He also played every minute of regulation in the final game. He was substituted in the final minute for the eventual participant in the penalty shootout, Andrea Belotti.   

It is unheard of for a player in his relative prime to join an MLS squad. In the past, big name players such as Wayne Rooney, Thierry Henry, David Villa, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and many others have made the move to the MLS long after their best years were behind them. Insigne has chosen to join TFC at the age of thirty when players of similar ages such as Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, and his countrymate Ciro Immobile are continuing to play for European squads. We will find out whether the signing of Lorenzo Insigne will have a positive impact on the club like Sebastian Giovinco or, will the ghost of Jermaine Defoe claim its second victim?

The Big Five: January Transfer Window 2022

The first transfer window of the year in the ‘Big Five’ European Soccer Leagues runs the duration of the month of January. In this window, clubs can choose to buy, sell or loan players to and from other organizations in Europe and other leagues around the world that are open during this period. I will be providing you with an up-to-date list of the high profile deals that occur in the Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A and Ligue 1.

Premier League

  • Vitaliy Mykolenko – Defender (Dynamo Kyiv → Everton) [£17.7m]
  • Nathan Patterson – Defender (Rangers → Everton) [£12m]
  • Hassane Kamara – Defender (Nice → Watford) [£4m]
  • Kacper Kozlowski – Midfielder (Pogon Szczecin → Brighton) [£8m]
  • *Kieran Trippier – Defender (Atlético Madrid → Newcastle) [£12m]
  • Edo Kayembe – Midfielder (KAS Eupen → Waterford) [£4m]
  • *Philippe Coutinho – Midfielder (Barcelona → Aston Villa) [loan]
  • Chris Wood – Forward (Burnley → Newcastle) [£25m]
  • Lucas Digne – Foward (Everton → Aston Villa) [£23m]
  • Anwar El Ghazi – Winger (Aston Villa → Everton) [loan]
  • Chiquinho – Winger (Estoril → Wolverhampton Wanderers) [£2.9m]
  • Robin Olsen – Goalkeeper (Roma → Aston Villa) [loan]

Bundesliga

  • Ricardo Pepi – Forward (Dallas FC → Augsburg) [£14.8m]
  • Marvin Friedrich – Defender (Union Berlin → Borussia Mönchengladbach) [£5m]

La Liga

  • *Ferran Torres – Forward (Man City → Barcelona) [£46.3m]
  • Jesús Corona – Winger (Porto → Sevilla) [£2.9m]

Serie A

  • Michaël Cuisance – Midfielder (Bayern Munich → Venezia) [£3.4m]
  • Silvan Hefti – Defender (Young Boys → Genoa) [£4.2m]
  • Kelvin Yeboah – Forward (Sturm Graz → Genoa) [£6m]
  • Axel Tuanzebe – Defender (Man United → Napoli) [loan]
  • Nani – Winger (Orlando City → Venezia) [free]

Ligue 1

  • Vanderson – Defender (Grêmio → Monaco) [£9.3m]
  • Jens Cajuste – Midfielder (FC Midtjylland → Reims) [£8.3m]
  • Edon Zhegrova – Winger (Basel → Lille) [£5.8m]
  • Sead Kolasinac – Defender (Arsenal → Marseille) [free]
  • Hatem Ben Arfa – Winger (Free Agent → Lille) [free agent]

  • *Marquee deal
  • New daily deals

ATP Cup: Team Canada Into Semifinals

The tennis season is back into play, and the first couple of events are taking place in Australia. The event to start the new year was none other than the ATP Cup, which consists of 16 teams squaring off against each other. Team Canada has been led by the two young guns in Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime. In 2020, they made the quarterfinals, but just last night, they clinched a spot in the semi-finals.

A not-so-smooth start

Team Canada had a bit of a rocky start in the Group Stage against Team USA. After stating that he wasn’t quite ready to play after isolating due to COVID-19, Denis Shapovalov was replaced by Brayden Schnur against John Isner. Isner quickly took care of business, taking the match 6-1, 6-3. He was coming to the net and serving big against the Canadian, who provided a bit of a spark at the beginning of the second set but was ultimately unable to perform a comeback against the American.

Felix Auger-Aliassime tried to even the field against Taylor Fritz but fell in three sets after winning the first one in a tiebreak. The FAA/Shapovalov duo would also fall to Fritz/Isner in doubles later that night.

On their way

FAA knocked off a win against Cam Norrie and the doubles duo were able to get a win against the Brits. Finally, two clutch wins in singles against the Germans was the deciding factor in placing the Canadians in the semi-finals.

The first was Denis Shapovalov, who faced Jan-Lennard Struff for the eighth time in his young career. It was a very close first set, but the Canadian was able to close it out before dropping the second and taking the match 7-6, 4-6, 6-3.

Per Youtube/HL Tennis

Up next was Felix-Auger Aliassime’s win against Alex Zverev. As seen in the rally above, Auger-Aliassime maintained a lot of discipline during this match, taking his time and being patient with his shot selection. Auger-Aliassime also won points on 75% of his first serves, which was crucial in the 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win.

per YouTube/Wild World of Sports

It’s going to take hitting big shots and patience for Canada to continue to succeed at this tournament. They have already improved on their quarter-final results from 2020 and have the chance to make it all the way to the end. It won’t be easy, as they will most likely be facing Russia, and they have one of the best players in the world in Daniil Medvedev. Nevertheless, Canadian tennis is off to a motivating start in 2022.

Sunday Sprint Week 17

Week 17 should be the grand finale but this is the biggest season of all time so this is but the second to last act. Let’s run through the 17th Sunday in the NFL. 

Chicago Bears 29- New York Giants 3

I would like to congratulate you dear reader on finishing your Sunday with more passing yards than the New York Giants. When it was all said and done, Mike Glennon and the Giants amassed -10 passing yards en route to continuing their embarrassment tour of America. Don’t let the 29 points put up by the Bears fool you though, this should still be Matt Nagy’s last season at the helm of the organization, which Justin Fields should be thanking his lucky stars for. And if you missed it, Joe Judge gave an impassioned speech post game defending the Giants organization even though he’s the one actively dragging it through the mud. 

New England Patriots 50- Jacksonville Jaguars 10

Sorry NFL, the Patriots are back in the playoffs after a brief one-year hiatus, and they punched their ticket with an emphatic thumping of the Jags. In the battle of the first and last QB taken in the first round of this past draft, Jones truly showed that sometimes being a “phenom” isn’t enough, it’s just a matter of being insulated in a system built to make a young quarterback successful. One can only imagine the conversation that went down between Jones and Bellichick on the sideline that led to the world seeing a rare Bill smile mid game but I like to think it went something along the lines of The Hoodie asking Mac how happy he was to not have gone first overall. 

Los Angeles Rams 20- Baltimore Ravens 19

It wasn’t a two-point conversion decision that did the Ravens in this week, but it was more of the same heartbreak for the shorthanded Baltimore side. Huntley had the Ravens in a position for an upset until Stafford overcame his own demons to lead the comeback. But in a game that saw OBJ punch an opponent in the bum and two Rams locking horns on the sidelines, there may still be more questions than answers in the City of Angels. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28- New York Jets 24

In case you missed it amid the circus on the sideline, Brady did lead a successful comeback against the low-flying Jets with a backup cast of characters. It was Cyril Grayson who caught the go-ahead game winner and who may be called on moving forward as the Bucs announced they will be moving on from Brown. 

Buffalo Bills 29- Atlanta Falcons 15

We get it Buffalo, you can win a million and one ways (except in the rain against New England).

Cincinnati Bengals 34- Kansas City Chiefs 31

Who Dey? Dey the Kings of the North is Who Dey is. With a hard fought win over Mahomes and the Chiefs the Bengals earned their first division title since 2015 (and this season they look like they might have the talent and coaching to make a run with it). Despite Ja’Marr Chase’s utter dominance this one did come down to a nail biting end as the Bengals took about six stabs at fourth and goal thanks to penalties before kicking a game-winning kick as time expired. 

Tennessee Titans 34- Miami Dolphins 3

Well that was a nice little run for the Dolphins. After becoming the first team in NFL history to have both losing and winning streaks of seven games, Miami rode the expressway to Humble Town to meet the Titans. It got ugly, and fast, as the Titans plunged their swords into the AFC’s lone bye spot atop the division. 

Las Vegas Raiders 23- Indianapolis Colts 20

Against all odds, the fired-our-coach-our-best-receiver-is-a-criminal-and-we-cut-our-best-safety Raiders still control their own playoff destiny. Even with all that happened in the middle of the season, and the Colts getting a lucky break with a change in CDC guidelines allowing their QB to start on Sunday, Vegas just needs to beat the Chargers next week and will have successfully dragged themselves into the playoffs. 

Philadelphia Eagles 20- Washington Football Team 16

If you thought 2022 was going to be any less of a backwards year you can let go of that thought now because there will be two teams from the NFC Least competing in this year’s playoffs. With their win over the Football Team (can we please change that “name” this year??), the Eagles have flown back to meaningful January football, and as long as no more railings break on top of their star-QB, they should get there all in one piece. 

Los Angeles Chargers 34- Denver Broncos 13

The Broncos had three different guys attempt a pass throughout this game so it’s only a matter of time before we see John Elway make his way down from his box seat. As for the other sideline, it was the Herby Show yet again as the sophomore quarterback has his Chargers within striking distance of the postseason. They just need to beat those Raiders we talked about earlier. 

San Francisco 49ers 23- Houston Texans 7

Another rookie QB duel saw the heralded first rounder flash signs of promise in place of Jimmy G. Trey Lance’s two touchdowns and 249 yards kept the 49ers in the race in what has become the wildly unpredictable NFC. The real star of the show though was the kid that ran onto the field for some face time with Kyle Shananhan, but did nothing except startle the coach before being escorted away, presumably to the same Uber ride as Antonio Brown. 

Seattle Seahawks 51- Detroit Lions 29

Better luck next season, Detroit!

Arizona Cardinals 25- Dallas Cowboys 22

It was in the locker rooms of AT&T Stadium that Kliff Kingsbury found out via Twitter that he was out as Texas Tech’s head coach. Safe to say he’s landed on his feet as the young bench boss now finds himself in the conversation for Coach of the Year with his team having clinched a playoff spot. While the Cowboys took issue with the officiating, the Cardinals pulled it together enough to be able to win a close game, something that the team that had been showing up these last few weeks wasn’t a given. 

New Orleans Saints 18- Carolina Panthers 10

In the battle of teams whose quarterback depth chart is just a bunch of question marks, it was the human joystick Taysom Hill who led his team to the win. What we do know is that the Jameis Winston injury is proving to be the biggest loss of the season in terms of what he can do for his team, meaning the Saints should throw enough money around next season to get him to stay (or land a bigger fish). 

Green Bay Packers 37- Minnesota Vikings 10

Did anyone else miss the memo that Aaron Rodgers bought an ownership stake in another NFC North team? 

Has your team clinched a playoff spot? How did your fantasy season play out? Let us know on Twitter!

Premier League Rundown Matchday 21

The top teams in Premier League were duking it out on Matchday 21. The day started with an incredible match between Arsenal and Man City at the Emirates. It took extra time for the Cityzens to claim their eleventh consecutive victory. The day ended with a showdown for the ages was between Chelsea and Liverpool. Both squads were looking to reign in the eleven-point gap between themselves and City. It was an exhilarating match that had the chances going back and forth. It ended in a very City-friendly way with a draw. Manchester City now carries a 10 point lead with 16 matches to go and the African Cup of Nations taking place this month.

Arsenal (1) vs. Manchester City (2)

Arsenal suffered a heartbreaking stoppage time loss to Manchester City. The Gunners struck first with a first half goal by Bukayo Saka. They looked to be in control until a penalty by Xhaka in the 55th minute. City was awarded a penalty kick that Riyad Mahrez scored. A red card was given to Gabriel, which left Arsenal down to ten men. The final dagger came with a 90+3’ goal by Rodri.

Watford (0) vs. Tottenham (1)

Tottenham continued their unbeaten streak under Conte with a victory over Watford. The Spurs out-chanced and maintained possession over Watford throughout the match but it was until stoppage time when Son Heung-min bent his free kick from the side of the box towards goal and Davinson Sanchez managed to get his head on the ball.

Crystal Palace (2) vs. West Ham (3)

West Ham was victorious in a game that looked easy but quickly turned into a nail bitter in stoppage time. The Hammers went out front three nil in the first half off goals by Michail Antonio and two by Manuel Lanzini. But, in the last fifteen minutes of the match, Crystal Palace scored twice and momentum shifted in the Eagles’ favor. In stoppage time, Crystal Palace could not find their equalizer. West Ham took an important victory that keeps them in the hunt for a top four spot in the table.

Brentford (2) vs. Aston Villa (1)

Brentford moved ahead of Aston Villa in the table with a victory over Steven Gerrard’s squad. Danny Ings put the Villans ahead in the sixteenth minute. Just before the half, Yoane Wissa scored a brilliant goal. Late in the second half, Mads Roeslev found himself at the right side of the goal with the ball, his first shot was denied by the keeper but he found his own rebound and made it count the second time.

Leeds (3) vs. Burnley (1)

Leeds extended their distance from the relegation zone with a victory over Burnley. It was a matchup between two bottom of the table teams. Burnley looked to get out of the relegation zone with a victory and Leeds wanted to distance themselves. Leeds scored just before the half to take the lead. Quickly in the second half, Maxwel Cornet scored to level the match. In the 77th minute, Stuart Dallas regained the lead for Leeds. In stoppage time, substitute Daniel James sealed the victory for Leeds.

Everton (2) vs. Brighton (3)

Brighton continued their positive stretch from the holidays to claim a victory over Everton. Everton did not play any of their fixtures during the holidays due to postponements caused by COVID-19. The lack of matchday experience showed when Brighton scored two goals in the first half. Everton found their legs in the second half when Anthony Gordon scored his first goal in the Premier League. Brighton regained their two goal lead when Alexis Mac Allister scored his second. Gordon seemed to think that whatever Mac Allister could do, he could do better. He scored his second goal, keeping the match close. But, they could not get close enough. Brighton took the victory and moved into the top ten.

Chelsea (2) vs. Liverpool (2)

In a brillant end-to-end match, the result was a draw. Liverpool showed that their lack of goals in their fixture against Leicester was a fluke. They came out swinging with two goals in the first twenty six minutes. The Stamford Bridge faithful were eerily quiet watching their team falling down the table. In the last few minutes before the half, the Blues had other thoughts. An unlikely goal scorer in Mateo Kovacic scored off a brilliant volley to start the comeback then four minutes later Christian Pulisic leveled the match just before the half. In the second half, it was all about the keepers. Both Édouard Mendy and Caoimhin Kelleher made their share of brilliant saves to keep their teams in it. The result of the match helps Man City to stay ten points clear of Chelsea in second.

Manchester United (0) vs. Wolves (1)

United dominance in the previous match may be considered a mirage after their defeat by the Wolves. The Wolves controlled the game in the first half, out chancing United with 14 shots on goal.  The Red Devils seemed to have woken up in the second after the substitution of Bruno Fernandes. He hit the woodwork and took the free kick on Ronaldo’s disallowed goal. In the 82nd minute, Joao Moutinho took the misplaced Phil Jones header and caressed it into the bottom corner. After another disappointing performance, United is watching their season come apart at the seams. They are five points off fourth-place Arsenal with only one game in hand.

POSTPONED MATCHES

  • Leicester City vs. Norwich City
  • Southampton vs. Newcastle

Premier League Rundown Matchday 20

The final matchday of 2021 was filled with bounce backs from the Boxing Day fixtures. West Ham had a dominant performance over Watford, Crystal Palace kept a clean sheet after being kept off the scoresheet, Leicester was victorious after being double up and Man United showed their offensive prowess they lacked against Newcastle.

Southampton (1) – Tottenham (1)

Shorthanded Southampton continued their positive week with a draw against red hot Tottenham. The Saints struck first with a goal by James Ward-Prowse. Harry Kane scored on a penalty just before the half to even the score. Kane almost brought the Spurs ahead with a goal in the second half but it was overturned by VAR when he was deemed offside.

Watford (1) vs. West Ham (4)

The Hammers bounced back from their defeat on Boxing Day with a dominant victory over Watford. The Hornets went out in front early after not having played in 18 days. After Watford’s goal, West Ham took over the game by scoring the next four goals including a goal that was disallowed due to a missed penalty.

Crystal Palace (3) vs. Norwich City (0)

Crystal Palace keeps a clean sheet against bottom of the table Norwich City. The Eagles did all of their scoring in the first half and Vincente Guaita kept a clean sheet the rest of the way. 

Leicester City (1) vs. Liverpool (0)

Liverpool failed to keep pace with League-leading City with a defeat at the hands of Leicester City. The Reds were not without their chances in the game. Mo Salah was awarded a penalty in the 14th minute after he was hauled down in the box. His subsequent penalty kick was saved by Kasper Schmeichel and his header afterwards hit the bar. Leicester struck gold on their only shot on goal when Ademola Lookman awkwardly fired it past Alisson. Liverpool could not find the back of the net the rest of the way.

Chelsea (1) vs. Brighton (1)

Chelsea gave up a goal in extra time to draw with Brighton. Romelu Lukaku scored in his second straight match after his bout with COVID-19. In stoppage time, Danny Welbeck beat two Chelsea defenders to head the Cucurella cross into the goal, providing Chelsea with their third draw in four games.

Brentford (0) vs. Manchester City (1)

Man City’s goal surge was slowed down by Brentford in a one-nil defeat. Phil Foden scored in the 16th minute off a cheeky no-look deflection from a De Bruyne cross. City scored a second goal that was reversed by VAR for an offside.

Manchester United (3) vs. Burnley (1)

Manchester United made positive strides under Rangnick to finish 2021 with a victory over Burnley. Ralf Rangnick made his displeasure about the match against Newcastle known when he made six changes to the starting XI. It seemed the chances made a difference when United scored their fastest goal of the season by Scott McTominay in the eighth minute. They showed signs of dominance in the game by scoring two more goals off an own goal and a goal by Cristiano Ronaldo. Burnley responded quickly after the third goal when Aaron Lennon squeezed a goal past De Gea in the opposite corner.

POSTPONED MATCHES

  • Arsenal vs. Wolves
  • Leeds vs. Aston Villa
  • Everton vs. Newcastle