🏒Joe Thornton Signs With Maple Leafs
The GIST: On Friday, the Leafs signed St. Thomas local Joe Thornton to a one-year deal at the league-minimum of $700K. Welcome to the big smoke, Jumbo Joe!
Whoa! Isn’t Thornton pretty old?: In hockey terms, yes. The 41-year-old played for the San Jose Sharks for 15 years, and left after the Sharks’ miserable 2020 season. Thornton, who has never won a Stanley Cup in his 23-year career, thinks the Leafs have a roster that will help him finally raise the cup. *crosses fingers, knees and toes*
What does he bring to the table?: A veteran presence, for one. Thornton also ranks seventh all-time in assists, with more than a thousand, and is expected to be a big contributor on the power play. Guy still has some game left!
So...no concerns?: Well, not exactly. The Leafs’ top guys are clearly talented, with proven scorers Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and captain John Tavares. Our worry is that Thornton, alongside 37-year-old Jason Spezza, might slow down the third and fourth lines.
- While Thornton brings great veteran savvy, the Leafs still need help defensively and we’re not convinced just how much help he’ll be. The Leafs have made a lot of moves recently, so only time will tell how they all pan out!
🏒Guide to Hockey
The point of the good ol’ hockey game is to have the most goals after three, 20 minute periods of play. Each team has five players (three forwards and two defence) plus one goalie on the ice at a time.
How is it organized?
The most popular hockey league in the world is the National Hockey League, aka the NHL or “chel” if you’re a true “hockey beauty” *rolls eyes*. Teams are divided into the Eastern and Western Conferences and are then further divided by divisions. There are 31 teams (until Seattle’s expansion team begins its franchise in 2021-22) and 82 regular season games.
At the end of the regular season, the top three teams in each division and then the remaining top two teams in the conference, regardless of the division (this playoff format is v. controversial because sometimes one division is stronger than the other, meaning that two of the best teams in the conference may have to play each other in the first round) will move on to the playoffs. This means each division will have a minimum of three and a maximum of five teams in the playoffs. The playoffs consist of four rounds of best-of-seven series (teams must win four of the possible seven games to advance) with a chance to win the coveted Stanley Cup aka “Lord Stanley” in the end.
The best of the best
The 2020 Stanley Cup Champions are the Tampa Bay Lightning! The Lightning claimed the first (and hopefully last) bubble championship and their second Stanley Cup in franchise history, defeating the Dallas Stars in six games. Centre Brayden Point led the Lightning offense with 14 goals and 19 assists (!!!) throughout the playoffs. On the defensive side, defenseman Victor Hedman was awarded the Conn Smythe trophy (the award for the MVP during the playoffs). Other top players in the league include Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins), Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche), Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers) and Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks)
When will the next NHL season start?
COVID-19 paused the NHL regular season in March forcing a four-month hiatus in play. In a normal year, the new NHL season would begin in October...but we all know 2020 is certainly not normal. With the 2020 season wrapping up in late September, the league is targeting January 1st as the potential start date for the 2021 season, although nothing’s set in stone just yet. We'll be waiting for that puck to drop!
All my ladies, let me hear y’all!
The women’s hockey scene has gotten mighty messy as of late. At the end of its 2019 season, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) (one of two professional women’s hockey leagues based in North America at the time) unexpectedly folded due to unsustainable business operations. It consisted of six teams, four based in Canada, one in the US, and one in China, and left a lot of female hockey stars without a team.
Then there’s the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) which has just five teams centralized in the Northeastern US. However, in both the former CWHL and the current NWHL, players get paid next to nothing compared to their male counterparts. Most of the league’s players juggle full-time work and pro-hockey as the league’s average salary is just $15k. To put this in perspective, the lowest amount an NHL team can pay a player is $700k. Can you say #WageGap?
So in 2019, more than 200 of the world’s best female hockey players joined forces to fight for change forming the Professional Women's Hockey Players Association. They are currently boycotting (refusing to play) in the current professional hockey league structure with the goal of creating a viable cross-border league with better working conditions (is health insurance so much to ask?) and better pay. That means no Marie-Philip Poulin, no Hilary Knight and no Brianne Jenner to watch this season. Welp.
But, you can watch them on their Dream Gap Tour this year. It’s a short-term band aid but will hopefully help create a long-term solution. For now, the conversation seems to be at a standstill and the future of women’s hockey hangs in a kind of uncomfortable limbo. Subscribe to The GIST and follow our social channels to stay up-to-date on more of this news.
- The Stanley Cup was created in 1893. It was named for Lord Stanley of Preston, a Canadian Governor General.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins (that’s Sidney Crosby’s team!) used to have a real-life penguin mascot. Pete, as he was affectionately called, was introduced in 1968 before a game against the Pennsylvania state rival Philadelphia Flyers.
- There are more than 2,200 names engraved on the Stanley Cup (FYI, each team has their names engraved after winning), but only 12 women have made the cut, either as owners or team executives. Let’s get to adding to this tally, shall we?
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Skate Canada International, CANWNT Travel Plans Canceled
⛸⚽️Stop right there: It’s not just football, folks. The pandemic is now putting a stop to even more of our national pastimes. Skate Canada International, which was set for October 30th–31st in Ottawa, has officially been canceled. The event was supposed to be one of six international Grand Prix of the skating season, but now our skating stars must look ahead to January’s nationals event.
- In other relatable news, our women’s national soccer team had their travel plans kiboshed. The still-coachless team was set to head over to jolly old England this month for a pre-planned training camp, but the World No. 8 squad decided to cancel on the advice of public health officials. Way to set a good example, queens!
🎾Keep it rolling: Denis Shapovalov and Milos Raonic (pronounced MEE-LOSH RAUNITCH) missed the memo. Canada’s top tennis stars are still on the road, having traveled from the French and Italian Opens, respectively, to the St. Petersburg Open in Russia, and it seems (knock on wood) to be worth the trip. Both players are through to the round of 16 in the ATP 500 event and will play for a spot in the quarter-finals today. Follow along here.
🏒Here, there and everywhere: A few big names have found new homes since NHL free agency began last week, but luckily, some of our favorites are staying put. The Montreal Canadiens signed Brendan Gallagher to a six-year contract extension and Jake Allen to a two-year extension, and Nick Paul is sticking with the Ottawa Senators for another two years.
🏒NHL Draft and Trades Recap
The GIST: Normally, a fresh NHL season would be just around the corner. Instead, players are being traded and drafted left, right and center (get it?), and the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Stanley Cup boat parade might still be raging. What even is 2020?
The trades: Besties Max Domi and Josh Anderson had their golf games interrupted on Tuesday when they found out they were traded for each other. No, seriously. Anderson is now a Montreal Canadien and Domi has already signed an extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
- The Ottawa Senators found someone to fill their Craig Anderson–sized void: former Pittsburgh Penguins and two-time Stanley Cup winner, goalie Matt Murray. And this is just the start. Free agency starts tomorrow at noon ET, so expect some big names, like St. Louis Blues’ Alex Pietrangelo and Arizona Coyotes’ Taylor Hall, to find new teams quickly.
The Draft: The only predictable moment of 2020 happened on Tuesday night when Alexis Lafrenière was drafted first overall by the New York Rangers. The Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year was the first of 19 Canadians selected in the first round, and while his draft moment was cute, here are our favorite picks:
- Another Canadian, Quinton Byfield, was selected second overall (while rocking a sweet bowtie) by the LA Kings, making him the highest-drafted Black player ever. History made.
- Alex Trebek paid homage to his Ottawa roots by announcing the Senators third overall pick, Tim Stützle. Double jeopardy.
- And finally, the San Jose Sharks used sign language to draft Ozzy Wiesblatt, whose mother is deaf. Let that warm your heart.
🏒Corey Perry Keeps Dallas Stars Alive
The GIST: The NHL is getting their money’s worth this season. Although many assumed we’d have a Stanley Cup champion by now, the Dallas Stars, unlike us, just aren’t ready to give up on 2020 yet.
Why’s that?: Heading into Saturday night’s Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Stars were down 3-1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and though the Lightning have been heavily favored to hoist the Cup this year, veteran Corey Perry’s double overtime (OT) winner proved the Stars are one tough team to beat.
- Even though Perry’s game-winner was, well, messy, it was one of the most jaw-dropping goals of the postseason — considering it saved his team from losing the Stanley Cup.
- The Stars have been the underdog throughout most of the postseason, so they’ll look to keep the chip on their shoulder to try to win the next two games.
And what does Tampa need to do?: Tampa needs to find a way to beat Stars’ goalie Anton Khudobin, and they’ll need to do it without captain Steven Stamkos. After spending seven months on the injured/reserve list, Stamkos rejoined Tampa in Game 3, scored on his first shot (NBD) but then re-aggravated the injury and won’t be playing the rest of the series. Not great.
- History should be on Tampa’s side, though. The Lightning haven’t lost back-to-back games in this postseason, so they’ll be fired up and ready to win the Cup when the puck drops at 8 p.m. ET for tonight’s Game 6.