Sunday, January 26, 2020

Kobe Bryant Dies In Helicopter Crash

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 NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and three others were killed in a helicopter crash in Southern California on Sunday, his sudden death at age 41 touching off an outpouring of grief for a star whose celebrity transcended basketball.

The chopper went down in Calabasas, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Authorities confirmed that five people died, with no survivors. Bryant, an all-time basketball great who spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, was among the victims, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press.

A different person familiar with the case confirmed that Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna also was killed.

Word of Bryant’s sudden death at age 41 rocketed around the sports and entertainment worlds, with many taking to Twitter to register their shock, disbelief and dismay.

“There’s no words to express the pain Im going through,” tweeted Lakers teammate Shaquille O’Neal, who won three NBA titles with Bryant. “(at)kobebryant I love u and u will be missed. ... IM SICK RIGHT NOW.”

“Man I don’t even know where to start,” tweeted Philadelphia 76ers superstar Joel Embiid. “I started playing ball because of KOBE after watching the 2010 finals. I had never watched ball before that and that finals was the turning point of my life. I WANTED TO BE LIKE KOBE. I’m so FREAKING SAD right now!!!!”

Bryant retired in 2016 as the third-leading scorer in NBA history, finishing two decades with the Lakers as a prolific scorer with a sublime all-around game and a relentless competitive ethic. He held that spot in the league scoring ranks until Saturday night, when the Lakers’ LeBron James passed him for third place during a game in Philadelphia, Bryant’s hometown.

“Continuing to move the game forward (at)KingJames,” Bryant wrote in his last tweet. “Much respect my brother.”

Bryant had one of the greatest careers in recent NBA history and became one of the game’s most popular players as the face of the 16-time NBA champion Lakers franchise. He was the league MVP in 2008 and a two-time NBA scoring champion, and he earned 12 selections to the NBA’s All-Defensive teams.

He teamed with Shaquille O’Neal in a combustible partnership to lead the Lakers to NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002. He later teamed with Pau Gasol to win two more titles in 2009 and 2010.

Bryant retired in 2016 after scoring 60 points in his final NBA game.

“Kobe Bryant was a giant who inspired, amazed, and thrilled people everywhere with his incomparable skill on the court — and awed us with his intellect and humility as a father, husband, creative genius, and ambassador for the game he loved. He will live forever in the heart of Los Angeles, and will be remembered through the ages as one of our greatest heroes,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

President Donald Trump reacted to the reports of Bryant’s death soon after they began to surface, tweeting: “That is terrible news!”

Colin Storm was in his living room in Calabasas when he heard “what sounded like a low-flying airplane or helicopter.”

“Ït was very foggy so we couldn’t see anything,” he said. “But then we heard some sputtering, and then a boom.”

The fog then cleared a bit and Storm could see smoke rising from the hillside in front of his home.

Juan Bonilla of Calabasas said he was working on his roof Sunday morning when he heard a helicopter flying low nearby. He said he thought it was a sheriff’s helicopter on a training mission. He heard nothing amiss with the engine or rotors and said he did not see any mechanical issue with the chopper. It was foggy Sunday morning, but he said visibility didn’t seem to be low at the time of the crash.

Firefighters worked to douse flames that spread through about an acre (.40 hectares) of dry brush, said Art Marrujo, a dispatch supervisor with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said the downed chopper was a Sikorsky S-76.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent a “go team” of investigators to the site. The NTSB typically issues a preliminary report within about 10 days that will give a rough summary of what investigators have learned. A ruling on the cause can take a year or more.

“They will look at man, machine and environment,” said Gary C. Robb, an aviation attorney in Kansas City who wrote a textbook on helicopter-crash litigation.

“They will look at the pilot — was there any indication of fatigue, any indication of a training issue?They’ll scour his or her record,” Robb said. “They will look at this helicopter from stem to stern. They will take the engine to the NTSB metallurgical laboratory outside Washington, D.C., and examine it to see if there was something that malfunctioned in flight.”

Investigators will also consider what role might have been played by weather, terrain, radio towers or bird strikes, he said.

Robb said he has handled many cases involving Sikorsky S-76 crashes and regards the machine as having a good reputation.

“It is generally regarded as a good helicopter with a good safety record,” he said, “but parts fail, parts break. Anything can happen.”

Along with his work boosting women’s sports, Bryant opened a production company and entered the entertainment field in retirement. He won an Academy Award in 2018 for his contributions to “Dear Basketball,” an animated short about his relationship to the game. He also produced content for ESPN.

In 2003, Bryant was charged with attacking a 19-year-old employee at a Colorado resort. He had said the two had consensual sex. Prosecutors later dropped the felony sexual assault charge against Bryant at the request of the accuser.

(Associated Press)

Friday, January 24, 2020

Alouettes Hire Brendan Taman

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The man who was the general manager of the Saskatchewan Roughriders the last time they won the Grey Cup is back in the CFL.

Brendan Taman, who has not had a job since being fired by the Riders midway through the 2015 season, was hired Friday to become a senior player personnel executive with the Montreal Alouettes.

“Brendan possesses a vast knowledge of the CFL and Canadian football, on top of having many years of experience in our league. He will be a great help to our already solid football operations department,” general manager Danny Maciocia said.

“I am very happy to join the Alouettes family,” Taman said. “This team played exciting football last season and I want to help this team become even better in 2020 and for many seasons to come.“

Besides his time in Saskatchewan, Taman has also served as the general manager of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers from 2004 to 2008.  He was hired by the Riders in 2010.

This and That

---Welcome to Friday and the usual assortment of things running through my muddled mind.   As always, these come in no particular order.

--Was anyone surprised to see the Riders were heading to Atlantic Canada?  I think since we found out when the schedule was released that Saskatchewan's game in Toronto which would be played at a neutral site would go in Halifax.  Canada's Team heads to Atlantic Canada.   Riderville takes its brand to a part of the country it has never been before.  It's perfect.  They say a Maritime fanbase could be as wild as what Rider Nation is. There's nothing wrong with that.  We will see it in July.  Lobster rolls and Pilsner.  Bring it on!  I'm guessing many from here will make the trip to Halifax whether they have been there before or not.  Late July in the Maritimes is said to be very picturesque.  Add a Rider game to that and many will be making plans to head East.

--Give Nick Arbuckle and/or his agent some credit.  They know they have the Ottawa Redblacks over the proverbial barrel so they are asking for a lot.   Arbuckle has started six games and he wants a contract similar to the one Cody Fajardo has.   Arbuckle needs to do a LOT more to get into that range, but Ottawa needs a quarterback.   Arbuckle could be the next big thing or he could be the next big dud like Jonathan Jennings.  Hey wait, didn't Ottawa just release Jennings?  Remember when Rider fans lost their mind because management at the time didn't sign him to a contract when they had the chance.

--I don't understand why we need two weeks between the AFC and NFC Championships and the Super Bowl.  We know where the game is going to be played. We know who the teams are.  Lets go!!  Can you see the CFL taking two weeks off between the divisional finals and the Grey Cup.  Of course you can't. We talk about moving the schedule up or playing the Grey Cup on a Saturday.  If the CFL went two weeks between the divisional finals and the Grey Cup, the league would have a riot on its hands in some places.

--The San Francisco 49ers wanted to wear their all-white retro unis that they wore winning one of their Super Bowls in the 90's.  The NFL said no so the Niners will wear their white tops with gold pants.  There was outrage.  First world problems ladies and gentlemen.

--Why are people failing to acknowledge that the 49ers were in the Super Bowl just a few years ago when they lost to Baltimore.  Did the NFL forget about the Harbaugh Bowl?  Did they forget about the power outage at the Superdome? Did they forget about the QB battle that day between Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick? Oh wait!

--Speaking of the Niners, they did in 60 minutes to Green Bay what Conor McGregor did to Donald Cerrone.   Actually that's not fair because the Packers at least did something in the NFC Championship game.

--The Connor McDavid special where he talks about his knee injury suffered last year looks to be a must-watch.  That injury was serious as it turned out and is one that doctors originally thought would keep him from playing this season.  One only needs to look atop the NHL scoring race to see what a story this is.

--Tuesday was a great day for baseball in this country as Larry Walker was named to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  What might have been greater was the SpongeBob shirt he was wearing.   Walker needs to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day at Rogers Centre.  He also needs to be saluted in Montreal when the Jays finish off their pre-season at Olympic Stadium.

--Are we tired of the labour situation at the Co-Op refinery yet?

--The Winnipeg Jets are not playing good hockey right now.  They go into the all-star break having lost four in a row.  The chances of them getting into the playoffs appears to be via the wild-card as St. Louis, Colorado and Dallas with Chicago now ahead of them as well.  I heard some chatter on NHL Radio about Paul Maurice and his job security.  I don't see the Jets making any changes, but if they do its not the right move in my mind.

--Can Robyn Silvernagle make it two in a row? We will find out as the North Battleford rink is the favourite as the provincial women's curling championship gets underway.  The road to victory is tougher with 12 teams taking part in the Viterra Scotties instead of 9.  If she can make it and wear the Saskatchewan jacket to the Scotties in Moose Jaw, she will definitely deserve it as there are many good rinks taking part.  I don't know if I would bet against Michelle Englot and her rink.  We'll see!

--That's all I got.  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

This Week In Cougar Athletics

Home Events – Friday
Women's Volleyball vs. Saskatchewan, 6:00 (CKHS)
Women's Hockey vs. Manitoba, 7:00 PM (The Co-operators Centre)

Home Events – Saturday
Women's Hockey vs. Manitoba, 3:00 PM (The Co-operators Centre)
Women's Volleyball vs. Saskatchewan, 6:00 (CKHS)

Away Events – Friday
Women's Basketball - at Manitoba, 6:00 PM (Winnipeg, Man.)
Men's Hockey - at Manitoba, 7:00 PM (Winnipeg, Man.)
Men's Basketball - at Manitoba, 8:00 PM (Winnipeg, Man.)

Away Events – Saturday
Men's Hockey - at Manitoba, 2:00 PM (Winnipeg, Man.)
Women's Basketball - at Manitoba, 5:00 PM (Winnipeg, Man.)
Men's Basketball - at Manitoba, 7:00 PM (Winnipeg, Man.)

Women's Hockey – The Cougars kept rolling last weekend, collecting 2-1 and 2-0 home victories over Mount Royal to stretch their winning streak to six games. The squad has registered 17 of a possible 18 points in January, and over that time span the Cougars have vaulted all the way into fourth place in the Canada West standings. The U of R is back home at The Co-operators Centre this weekend to host Manitoba on Friday night (7:00) and Saturday afternoon (3:00).

Women's Volleyball – After a weekend off from Canada West play, the Cougars are back at it this weekend with a pair of home matches against the Saskatchewan Huskies. The teams will meet at 6:00 PM on both Friday and Saturday at the Centre for Kinesiology, Health & Sport.

Men's Hockey – The Cougars battled back from a 3-0 deficit on Friday against Mount Royal before eventually falling 4-3 in double overtime, then lost 6-1 to MRU on Saturday. With nine out of a 12 possible points so far since the December break, the Cougars have jumped back into the Canada West postseason conversation but need wins this weekend at Manitoba as they come into Friday's game three points back of UBC for the final playoff berth with six games to go. After this weekend's two road games against the Bisons, Regina closes out the conference schedule with two home games against Alberta and a home-and-home with Saskatchewan.

Men's Basketball – Coming off their bye week which followed a pair of home wins over Brandon, the Cougars (7-7) are currently ninth in the Canada West standings with just three weekends remaining in conference play. The U of R will travel east for a pair of games at Manitoba this weekend before finishing off the Canada West slate at home against UNBC and on the road at Fraser Valley.

Women's Basketball – The Cougars (6-8) enter the weekend 11th in the conference in winning percentage, but have the eighth best RPI in Canada West as they've played one of the tougher schedules to this point. The U of R will play a team similar in both record and RPI this Friday and Saturday, as they'll face Manitoba (7-7) for a pair of games in Winnipeg.

Track & Field (Women's U SPORTS Ranking: No. 6) – The Cougars had a successful outing at the Golden Bear Open over the weekend as two school records went down on the women's side and the teams combined to hit four U SPORTS standards. Joely Welburn's 3905 points in the pentathlon and the women's 4x800 team's time (9:05.02) were both school records and standards, while standards were also hit by the men's 4x800 team (7:40.30) and Amou Madol in the high jump (1.71m). The Cougars will send a small contingent to the Knights of Columbus Games this weekend in Saskatoon.

Swimming (Men's U SPORTS Ranking: No. 9) – Brian Palaschuk led a group of four Cougars competing at the TYR Pro Swim Series over the weekend in Nashville, finishing 13th overall in the 400 IM and 17th overall in the 200 IM. The rest of the Cougars competed at home at the Optimist Prairie Cup, with Brenan Alejado, Bree Crookshanks, and Firas Saidi all collecting two first-place finishes. The Cougars will return to competition on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 at the Colleges Cup Prairies at the Lawson Aquatic Centre.

(Braden Konschuh/U of R Athletics) 

Riders and Argos To Meet in Touchdown Atlantic

The biggest Touchdown Atlantic ever is coming to Halifax this summer, the Canadian Football League (CFL) announced.

Rider Nation will invade Nova Scotia when the Saskatchewan Roughriders face the Toronto Argonauts on Saturday, July 25 in the first-ever regular season game played in Halifax.
The game will be preceded by a three-day “mini Grey Cup festival’ featuring music, parties and tons of family-friendly fun.

“Our league belongs to Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast – and for one fabulous weekend this July, the east coast will be its capital,” said Randy Ambrosie, Commissioner of the CFL.
“We are bringing the football and the fun. We’re inviting everyone in Atlantic Canada to join the party, and everyone in the rest of the country to come for the game and stay for a vacation!”
The CFL unveiled plans to make Halifax feel like a Grey Cup city, except it will be summer and there will be plenty of lobster rolls to go along with the beer.

Ambrosie and a host of other league personnel and local dignitaries shared their vision at a news conference.

The game will be played at Huskies Stadium on the campus of Saint Mary’s University at 5 p.m. AT on Saturday, July 25.

Approximately 6,000 temporary seats will be installed to bring the capacity for the game to 10,000.

The Toronto Argonauts, one of Canadian football’s oldest franchises, will take on the Saskatchewan Roughriders, arguably the CFL’s most popular team with a rabid following that shows up wherever the team plays.

Both teams are “leaning in” to make it a special week; they will arrive days before the game and take part in a series of media events and community visits.

The mini Grey Cup festival that precedes the game will include Riderville, the party for Riders fans that is traditionally one of the most well-attended events at the annual Grey Cup Festival and much more.

Tickets will go on-sale at the end of February and a full list of prices will be announced soon. Fans can sign up for the most up-to-date information and access to priority-purchasing at Ambrosie stressed that the game will be affordable with an average ticket price of approximately $50.
“This is our way of saying the CFL belongs in Atlantic Canada and that Atlantic Canada belongs in the CFL,” Ambrosie said.

The Atlantic Schooners group has been working with the league to bring a CFL franchise to Atlantic Canada and has presented Halifax City Council with a plan to build a new CFL-ready stadium in the city.

“We’re committed to this vision and excited about it,” said Bruce Bowser, a founder and owner of Schooners Sport and Entertainment.

“This is further evidence that the CFL shares that passion and is dedicated to this region.”

The 2020 edition of Touchdown Atlantic will be the first CFL game of any type to be played in Nova Scotia since 2005, when the Argos and Hamilton Tiger-Cats played a pre-season game at Huskies Stadium. Moncton hosted Touchdown Atlantic games in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2019.

“Our friends and fans in Moncton have been wonderful hosts over the years and we’re just as excited to be coming to Halifax,” Ambrosie said. “For us, this has always been about embracing the region and every fan in it.”

Fans should book accommodation early because Halifax is an especially popular destination in the summer months, said Ross Jefferson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Discover Halifax.
“We’re working with the CFL to ensure Touchdown Atlantic feels a lot like Grey Cup Week,” he said.

CFL legend Michael “Pinball” Clemons, the General Manager of the Argonauts, vowed the Double Blue will meet a green wave of Rider fans head on.

“This is a home game for us and we invite fans in Atlantic Canada and our fans from Toronto to join us,” Clemons said. “We love Rider fans, but we love our own fans even more. This is an important year for us and this will be a big game.”

Craig Reynolds, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Riders, said he expects a big turnout in Halifax.

“There is no doubt that our fans are passionate about our team, but they are just as passionate about the CFL and the way football can bring our country together,” he said. “No matter where we are, our fans are there to greet us, and we think the allure of the Green and White alongside the beauty of Halifax in summer will be an irresistible combination.”

Riders’ kicker and Saint Mary’s alumnus, Brett Lauther, called Touchdown Atlantic a dream come true.

“I’ve known the thrill of kicking the winning points on our home field in Regina, but to do that here, in my own backyard, would be just incredible,” said Lauther, a native of Truro, N.S.

Saint Mary’s University is honoured to be a part of CFL history, said Robert Summerby-Murray, the school’s President.

“We’re thrilled to host Touchdown Atlantic. Great events, like great universities, make our region and our country stronger.”


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Riders Make Leonard Signing Official

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The Saskatchewan Roughriders have signed American defensive lineman A.C. Leonard to a two-year contract extension keeping him with the Club through 2021.             

Leonard (6’2 – 250) is entering his sixth CFL season and his fourth with the Riders. The 28-year old re-joined the Riders for the 2019 season after spending 2018 with the Ottawa Redblacks. This past season, he played in in 17 games collecting 44 defensive tackles, nine quarterback sacks, three forced fumbles and 10 tackles for loss.

 Leonard entered the CFL in 2015 with the B.C. Lions as a receiver after spending the 2014 season with the Minnesota Vikings.  He signed with the Riders in 2016 as a free agent where he remained until he signed with the Redblacks. In 73 career games, Leonard has made 160 defensive tackles, 25 sacks and four forced fumbles. The 28-year-old was named an East Division All-Star in 2018.

 The Florida native played two seasons at Tennessee State, also as a receiver, registering 1,174 yards and 11 touchdowns on 85 receptions.

Gritty Is Accused Of Punching a 13-Year-Old

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Police in Philadelphia are investigating a complaint that Gritty, the Flyers' mascot, punched a 13-year-old following a photo shoot at a November event for season-ticket holders, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer report.

Chris Greenwell told the Inquirer that his son, Brandon, playfully patted Gritty on the head after the photo was taken and then walked away. Greenwell said Gritty left his chair, "took a running start" and "punched my son as hard as he could."

A police spokesperson described the incident as an alleged "physical assault" during a photo shoot, adding that the investigation is "active and ongoing," according to the Inquirer.

The Flyers have denied any wrongdoing by their mascot. "We took Mr. Greenwell's allegations seriously and conducted a thorough investigation that found nothing to support this claim," the Flyers said in a statement.

Greenwell provided the Inquirer with documents from a chiropractor saying Brandon was diagnosed with a back bruise.

Greenwall said he reached out to the team in the wake of the alleged incident to request an apology and ask that the team do something special for his son. In an email Greenwall shared with the Inquirer, a Comcast Spectacor official told Greenwall it found no proof that Gritty hit his son, though the official offered to make up for the "bad experience."

After a disagreement over what was said in a follow-up phone call, Greenwall, who said he hasn't hired a lawyer, filed a complaint with police on Dec. 21.

The Flyers unveiled the orange mascot with bulbous eyes to mixed reviews in 2018, but Gritty quickly became a fan favorite and was described as "the toast of the sports world" by ESPN hockey analyst Barry Melrose.