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College football rankings: These unranked Preseason AP Top 25 teams could finish in top 10

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College football gets knocked sometimes for its predictability at the top. Look no further than an SEC Championship Game rematch between Alabama and Georgia in last season’s College Football Playoff National Championship for supporting evidence. However, a deeper look at the 2021 season reveals how surprises remain a part of the sport’s fabric, even at the highest levels.

Coming off losing seasons in 2020, Baylor, Michigan and Michigan State began their 2021 campaigns unranked in the AP Top 25. By season’s end, however, the trio was ranked in the top 10 of the final AP poll after playing in New Year’s Six bowl games. Baylor won the Big 12 and the Sugar Bowl; Michigan won the Big Ten and appeared in a playoff semifinal against Georgia; and Michigan State won the Peach Bowl while producing an unexpected Heisman Trophy contender in running back Kenneth Walker III.

The collective success of that group should give some hope to programs beginning the 2022 season on the outside looking in of the preseason AP poll. In fact, the “others receiving votes” category is comprised of so many big names that it wouldn’t be surprising to see a few of them become factors on the national stage — just as the Bears, Wolverines and Spartans did last season.  .

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As the beginning of the 2022 season creeps ever closer, here is a look the five unranked teams with the best chance to finish the 2022 season in the top 10.

With an 11-11 (8-10 in Big Ten) record over the past two seasons and a 2-6 finish to 2021, Penn State was easy for voters to overlook. However, that line of thinking ignores the Nittany Lions’ 5-0 start last fall — which could have been 7-0 had quarterback Sean Clifford not suffered an injury against Iowa

Defensive coordinator Brent Pry’s departure to become Virginia Tech’s head coach would have been cause for concern — he and coach James Franklin coached together for more than a decade — but Franklin hit a home run by hiring Manny Diaz to replace Pry. With offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich in his second season, plus a healthy Clifford back with a loaded group of skill players around him, the Nittany Lions are capable of beating anyone on their schedule. That includes No. 2 Ohio State at home on Oct. 29. The offensive line is the biggest question mark, but if that group can facilitate even a serviceable rushing attack, this can be a top-10 team.

Texas somehow managed a No. 18 ranking in the preseason Coaches Poll — with one first-place vote, no less — which is at odds with the program’s 5-7 record from last season. Clearly, the coaches (or whoever is filing ballots on their behalf) are riding the annual hype wave surrounding the Longhorns. AP voters are taking a more sensible approach, which is to wait and see if this team can put it all together. 

If we assume Texas will lose to top-ranked Alabama in Week 2, then the program’s candidacy for a top-10 finish will likely depend on how it fares against No. 9 Oklahoma (Oct. 8), at No. 12 Oklahoma State (Oct. 22) and vs. No. 10 Baylor (Nov. 26). Wins against two of those three would put the Longhorns in prime position to climb in the polls throughout the season. Texas finished 0-3 against that group last season by a combined 22 points during a brutal October. Those games are more spaced out this season, giving a team that has already proven injury-prone during preseason practice the chance to breathe a bit. With Quinn Ewers officially under center, expectations are that the Longhorns have the key ingredients to compete for a Big 12 title and just its second top-10 finish in the AP poll since 2009. 

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AP voters poured some cold water on one of the top offseason darlings by leaving the Volunteers out of the preseason poll. Trips to No. 17 Pittsburgh, LSU and No. 3 Georgia — in addition to home games against Alabama, Florida and No. 20 Kentucky — could leave this team struggling to improve on last season’s 7-6 mark. But coach Josh Heupel’s high-octane offensive philosophy also makes the Volunteers capable of beating anyone on their schedule. 

Because of how reliant this team is on quarterback Hendon Hooker, and because of how iffy the defense appears, this group qualifies as one of this season’s most unpredictable squads. Then again, the same could have been said about Ole Miss last season. The Rebels also had a second-year coach, questionable defense and a singularly important star quarterback. But they finished 10-3 and ranked No. 11 at the conclusion of the season. The Vols could follow that blueprint if the breaks go their way in 2022.

LSU

When LSU won the 2020 CFP title, it did so with a 64% Blue-Chip Ratio, which is one way that 247Sports measures a program’s overall talent. The metric looks at how many four- and five-star prospects a program signed over the previous four recruiting cycles, and LSU actually has a higher BCR in 2022 (66%) than it did when it won the national title. The Tigers also have a better coach, with Brian Kelly making his SEC debut following a highly successful run at Notre Dame. Joe Burrow isn’t walking through that door to play quarterback, but if Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels can find the promise he showed as a freshman in 2019, then LSU may have what it takes to be a national factor ahead of schedule under Kelly. 

While the schedule makes a top-10 finish challenging, a Nov. 5 game vs. Alabama seems like the only definite loss. Even that one could get weird if it’s a Death Valley night game. Per usual, a high level of variance is possible with this program; games against Southern, New Mexico and UAB look like the only definite wins. As we saw in 2019, however, the upside for this program is as high as it gets. A 10-3 record is just as much within the realm of possibility as a repeat of last season’s 6-7 mark.

Florida

Florida is all the way down at a tie for No. 37 in the AP poll. The Gators received just 14 votes following a 6-7 season and the coaching transition from Dan Mullen to Billy Napier. However, this program is also less than one calendar year removed from taking eventual SEC champion Alabama down to the wire and less than two years removed from winning the SEC East. 

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The Gators have a potential star at quarterback in Anthony Richardson and a track record of popping under first-year coaches. UF’s past seven coaches have led their teams to the top 15 at some point in their first season, and six of those seven coaches had the Gators as high as the top 10. Only Mullen and Galen Hall finished their debut seasons with a top-10 team, but that’s a still an incredible hit rate in a league as tough as the SEC. 

A cross-division trip to No 6 Texas A&M the week after playing Georgia, along with a tough opening stretch against No. 7 Utah and Kentucky, make for a big-boy schedule in 2022, but those quirks also present huge opportunities for Florida to become a surprise player on the national stage.



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NFL Insider Reveals Positive Tua Tagovailoa Update

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(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

 

The Miami Dolphins experienced Murphy’s Law during their Week 4 Thursday Night Football game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

First, their three-game winning streak ended after the Bengals went on a 13-0 run in the fourth quarter.

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Their defeat means that there are no undefeated teams left in the American Football Conference.

Worst yet, Tua Tagovailoa did not look well after getting sacked by Joseph Ossai.

His fingers did not look normal as he was carried off the field in the second quarter.

However, NFL Network insider Mike Garofolo shared some positive news about the former Alabama standout.

Garafolo tweeted, “Tua Tagovailoa will be released from the hospital and will travel home with the #Dolphins, the team tells @KayleeHartung. Very good news there, obviously, though answers are still needed on how this week was handled.”

While Tagovailoa riding the plane with his squad provides some relief, Garafolo’s last sentence is a preview of that game’s repercussions.

The NFL Players Association got the ball rolling by launching an investigation on Tagovailoa’s status.

Their statement reads, “Player health and safety is at the core of the union’s mission…Our investigation into the potential protocol violation is ongoing.”

Negligence plays a part in Tagovailoa’s condition, and certain individuals from Miami’s medical and coaching staff are on the hot seat.

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Tagovailoa Shouldn’t Be Playing

It looked like Tagovailoa was suffering from something beyond the back injury the Dolphins listed him for.

He went down again after a Buffalo Bills player made contact with him during their Week 3 encounter.

Resting him would have been the best decision, considering the short interval between the two games.

But somehow, the Dolphins declared him healthy enough to play.

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A lapse in judgment is in play and the NFLPA would like to know more.

The post NFL Insider Reveals Positive Tua Tagovailoa Update appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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Pride, joy, community: The importance of the Little Native Hockey League – Sportsnet.ca

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“WE’RE STILL HERE. WE’RE STILL FIGHTING. WE’RE STILL PROUD.”

“WE’RE STILL HERE. WE’RE STILL FIGHTING. WE’RE STILL PROUD.”
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For half a century, the Little NHL has been a symbol and celebration of Indigenous unity and joy. Now, after a pandemic-induced hiatus, it’s set for a long-awaited return.

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T
wo decades on, Kieran Peltier still remembers that day, clear as crystal. He remembers standing on the ice under the arched steel roof of the Sudbury Community Arena, looking out over the hundreds packing the bleachers, an amalgam of family, friends and neighbours, and all the others who’d simply come to add to the chorus of cheers. He can still see their faces, some he recognized from his home, Wiikwemkoong First Nation; some unknown, but familiar still.

He was eight years old, maybe seven. Young enough to leave tears on the ice as the referee tossed him from the championship game. Young enough for the devastation to evaporate the moment he saw his team win it all anyways. He remembers the medal, the weight of it against his chest, the thrill of being able to take it home and marvel at it in solitude.

By the time Peltier had that medal around his neck, he’d already amassed years of cherished moments at that tournament, the annual hockey summit for First Nation youth in Ontario, officially dubbed the Little Native Hockey League, but affectionately known as the Little NHL. And years more would follow, the magnetic pull of that tournament bringing him back, again and again.

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Looking back on it now, the thrill still hasn’t worn off.

“You know, I played triple-A, I got to play some junior-B, I got to play some higher hockey — I played for Team Ontario. But when you step onto the ice at Little NHL… it’s something else,” Peltier says. “It’s almost indescribable.”

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“The founders of it, at the start, really had to fight, fight, fight to keep it going. And they knew the importance of it. Not just the fact of playing hockey. They wanted to bring our people together.”

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More than 200 teams representing First Nations throughout Ontario got a taste of that feeling the last time the tournament was held, a chance to come together, to celebrate, to revel in a collective love of the game. But to truly understand the importance of that shared revelry, you have to trace the history of the Little NHL back to its roots. To the fight to protect that joy.

“The tournament originally started on Manitoulin Island,” Little NHL vice president Chico Ralf says, rewinding back to the inaugural year in 1971. “With everything happening in the world, and happening with our First Nation peoples, it’s a sad thing how it did start.”

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“It was created in response to racism that was being experienced by some of the players in and around the area,” says Marian Jacko, the Little NHL’s president.

Before his days in the big NHL as a player and coach, a teenaged Ted Nolan was one of those players, he and the kids he grew up with barred from taking their talents outside the borders of Garden River First Nation.

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“I got to play some higher-level hockey — I played for Team Ontario. But when you step onto the ice at Little NHL,” Peltier says, “it’s something else.” (Photo courtesy Little Native Hockey League)

“The reason they started it was because a lot of the players, like myself, they said we weren’t good enough to play in the triple-A teams in the cities that we were close to, or double-A teams that we were close to,” says Nolan.

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Adds Jacko: “You would have First Nation players that were eligible to play in tournaments, but what would happen is they ended up either not being able to participate or, if they were, they ended up just sitting on the bench.”

In response, a group of five community leaders came together to create a new tournament, one that opened its doors and granted First Nation youth the chance to play for their communities, to showcase the talent that was being hidden away. “They wanted to have a tournament for our young players that had no place to play,” says Ralf. “Nowhere to go.”

Nolan was 15 when he first got the chance to play in the Little NHL. His sons, Brandon and Jordan — both alums of the big NHL as well — played in the tournament when their time came decades later, too. For all three of them, it was an experience like no other. “We didn’t have to worry about somebody calling us a name or telling us to get back to where we’re from,” says Ted. “It’s one of the best hockey experiences I ever had growing up.”

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“It’s one of the best hockey experiences I ever had growing up.”

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The Little NHL experience has always been about more than just hockey, though. From Day 1, the vision extended far beyond a means of determining which community boasted the most skill. It was about uniting those communities, about celebrating them. And it was with those goals in mind that the tournament’s founders established what they called the Little NHL’s ‘four pillars’ during that inaugural tournament: citizenship, respect, education and sportsmanship.

“The founders of it, at the start, really had to fight, fight, fight to keep it going. And they knew the importance of it,” says Ralf. “Not just the fact of playing hockey. They wanted to bring our people together.”

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Fast-forward half a century, and that seed has blossomed into something beautiful, and far-reaching. Those first 17 teams doubled, then tripled, the squads from the Manitoulin area soon joined by Moose Factory, then by others from southern Ontario who made the trek north. Fifty teams turned to 100, and then 200.

Now, the tournament’s a yearly staple, a week circled on calendars months in advance, an atmosphere unrivaled for those who’ve been lucky enough to take it in. “The Little NHL is so much more than just a hockey tournament — it’s more of an experience that comes with hockey,” Peltier says.

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Peltier (front row, second from right) with his teammates at the tournament. (Photo courtesy Kieran Peltier)

“What I remember the most is the energy in the arena, the sheer energy. The pride that people feel,” Jacko says of her first time experiencing it, back when her daughters first played. “It’s really something that’s sort of indescribable in terms of the feeling.”

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“Anyone that we’ve ever had there, they always say it’s overwhelming — ‘We’ve never seen anything like it,’” Ralf says. “With First Nation people, we are our own society. We are our own distinct peoples. And that’s why at the Little NHL, when a player comes, you have the parents come, the sisters and brothers, the cousins are coming, the grandparents are coming. … When they come, everyone comes.”

Adds Jacko: “It’s Standing Room Only most of the time, even for the little ones. Because you have grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins — everybody up in the stands watching and cheering on their little one.”

“You know, just for a little tyke game, eight in the morning, you can have a couple hundred people watching,” says Ralf with a chuckle.

You feel it before you even arrive — the pull of that electric atmosphere, the familiar warmth waiting for you through the doors of those arenas, the sounds of those laughs spilling out of the stands onto the ice.

“The spark you feel in the air… you don’t even have to be [there] to feel the energy, you know? You’re driving there, you’re in the vehicle — you can already feel it. You’re amped up, you’re ready to go,” Peltier says. “It’s a week long. By the time you leave there, you’re more tired than you were when you got into it, because you just visit so much, you laugh so much. You’re connecting with everyone. It’s nonstop.

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“Last tournament, there were over 250 teams. So when you factor in the amount of people you want to go watch, you might be at the arena all day. Seven, eight games a day. … You’re almost at the rink for four days straight. But it doesn’t matter, because you’re surrounded by people you care about, by people who care about you, by people who are similar.”

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“The spark you feel in the air, you don’t even have to be there to feel the energy, you know? You’re driving there, you’re in the vehicle — you can already feel it. You’re amped up, you’re ready to go.”

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Those bonds off the ice are the core of all the Little NHL means to the hundreds who’ve made the annual journey. They’re the true reason everyone keeps coming back.

“To us, we look at it not just as a hockey tournament — it’s more like a gathering of our peoples,” Ralf says. “It is such an event, a lot of people don’t understand. Especially the communities in the north. … They actually do fundraising and raise money all year to come to the Little NHL for their one yearly event. That might be the only time that they actually come off their community, just to go to the Little NHL.”

“Sometimes the Little NHL is the only time that families get to see one another,” adds Jacko. “You’ll have families who go a whole year, and the only time they get together is at the Little NHL.”

Amid all those reunions, there’s also some hockey — boys and girls giving their all for their First Nations, sorted into a slew of divisions by age and experience, flying around multiple sheets of ice in multiple arenas.

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For those watching from the stands, it’s unforgettable.

“When my eldest daughter first stepped on the ice wearing that jersey that said ‘Wiikwemkoong First Nation,’ I think that was probably the proudest moment as a hockey parent,” Jacko says. “She was a pretty good hockey player, so she played house league and then she went to developmental stream, then she went to play rep. And, yes, I was proud of her playing at that level and, yes, I was proud of her every time she excelled, and whenever they won a tournament and got a medal.

“But there is a whole other layer of proud when I saw her step on the ice wearing the jersey that had her First Nation on the front. … Seeing her out there representing, and just being so absolutely proud to be First Nation, and just so absolutely proud to be representing her First Nation.”

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“You know, just for a little tyke game, eight in the morning, you can have a couple hundred people watching,” says Ralf. (Photo courtesy Little Native Hockey League)

The feeling’s much the same in the kids wearing those jerseys down on the ice, says Peltier, who himself donned those same Wiikwemkoong First Nation threads as a kid. “It gives you that sense of pride, of purpose, of belonging, of connection, of unity. … You get to not only represent yourself, but you play for your community. You look up to the kids who are older than you from your community, because they’re often a little bit better. You want to be where they are when you get older. You want to do good by your hometown,” he says. “This is your time to come and showcase yourself, your team, your friends, your family, what you can do. And you do that for your community.”

It’s been years since anyone’s had that chance. After a successful 2019 tournament in Mississauga, the Little NHL’s run was halted in 2020, just as the rest of the sports world was, by the pandemic. Nipissing First Nation was set to host the 49th tournament in March of that year, before the Little NHL’s leadership group made the difficult decision to cancel. Hopes then turned to a return in 2021, but they didn’t come to fruition, the pandemic raging on when the time came. Another new date was set for March 2022, but by January, another wave of COVID-19 was enveloping Ontario, forcing yet another cancellation.

“It was absolutely heartbreaking,” says Jacko of the initial decision to cancel. “Because literally we were getting messages from folks that were already on the road, that people were driving.”

For some communities, the trek to the tournament was a two- or three-day journey. The Little NHL’s executive committee had held out hope as long as possible, but amid the uncertainty of the pandemic’s early wave, Jacko’s leadership team was forced to cancel just days before the opening ceremonies were set to begin. The NBA postponed its own campaign the next day.

“We knew we had to do it. We knew we had to, because we could not risk putting the kids, the community members that were coming, the elders that were coming, the knowledge keepers coming to the tournament — there’s no way we could put them at risk,” Jacko says. “But it was really difficult to get those messages from community members who were saying, ‘I’ve already driven 12 hours’ or ‘I’ve already been on the ice road,’ and then for them to turn around and have to go back home, no tournament.”

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The cancellation of the 2022 tournament proved even more difficult. In the lead-up to the decision, a survey was sent to Little NHL participants to gauge their feelings on whether the event should go ahead, whether they were comfortable making that journey. One reply in particular stood out among the rest. “We had one response, it was a mom,” Jacko remembers. “She was writing on behalf of her son. And she shared that when the tournament was cancelled, she said her son was absolutely devastated. She said that he suffered with mental health, and that the only thing that he ever looked forward to, and was really excited about in life at the time, was the Little NHL. … It really shook us.”

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“Truth and reconciliation is going to mean 101 things to 101 people. For me, what is important is that the Little NHL demonstrates cohesiveness, pride — not just pride in our culture, but pride in everything we are, and who we are, and what we can do.”

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Still, another growing wave of infections and the announcement of a return to tighter restrictions left the team no choice — the tournament was cancelled once again. But the message from that mother stuck in Jacko’s mind, a stark reminder that she couldn’t allow the Little NHL to become another cherished part of the past lost to the pandemic. “It just really speaks to the need for the continuation of the Little NHL. It speaks to the need of having sports, generally speaking, and activities for kids, for their mental health. And it really also speaks to the impact that the Little NHL has on individual players,” she says. “We really sat and thought about that. … It was really sad. And we just said, ‘You know what? It just gives us that extra motivation to keep going with this tournament.’ Because I’m telling you, there were times, when we had to cancel the second time, I was starting to have doubts.

“But this just really reinforced why we have to continue, why we have to have this for the kids.”

This past March, the return of the Little NHL was announced, the 49th iteration finally set to take place in March 2023, hosted by Nipissing First Nation.

For those who’ve waited so long for that return, it’s no mystery what’s been lost in the years since the 2019 tournament last brought everyone together.

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“Connection,” Peltier says. “Connection to ourselves, to other Indigenous people, to other people in general. Connection to culture. That’s what’s missed.”

Also missed is all that the Little NHL means in relation to vital conversations of truth and reconciliation, conversations of resilience, resistance, and preservation. For its connection to that long, hard fight to preserve Indigenous joy.

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A patch from the second year of the tournament. (Photo courtesy Little Native Hockey League)

“You know, truth and reconciliation is going to mean 101 things to 101 people,” Peltier says. “For me, what is important is that [the Little NHL] demonstrates cohesiveness, pride — not just pride in our culture, but pride in everything we are, and who we are, and what we can do. Our ability to come together, and our willingness to come together.”

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It’s also a bridge, he says, to bring others together.

“You don’t have to just be Indigenous to get to go watch the Little NHL, to go participate in the events. You can go there and you can be there and you can participate in everything that’s going on. … Doing that, it promotes awareness,” Peltier continues. “You hear it often, people saying, ‘We’re still here. We’re still fighting. We’re still proud. We’re still a strong people.’ And we are. With things like this, it amplifies that. And it does it in a way that maybe is not so formal, or so scary, to approach.”

And so all eyes turn to March 2023, to the journey towards a reunion years in the making. For all those who take part, the Little NHL’s alumni can already predict what they’ll see.

“It’s going to be a lot of cheering, a lot of happy faces, I’ll tell you that,” Ralf says.

“Indigenous people will say it — we’ve said it once, we’ll say it a million times — we love to laugh. It’s medicine for us. It’s probably ingrained in our DNA,” Peltier says. “When I think about what I miss most about Little NHL, it’s getting to reconnect with all those people and share those laughs.

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“So, I think one of the best things will just be everybody getting that chance to reconnect. And I know for a fact, once that happens, everyone’s going to laugh.”

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Courtesy Little Native Hockey League (3); Courtesy Kieran Peltier; Courtesy Little Native Hockey League (2)

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How to watch UNLV vs. New Mexico: TV channel, NCAA Football live stream info, start time

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Who’s Playing

New Mexico @ UNLV

Current Records: New Mexico 2-2; UNLV 3-1

What to Know

The UNLV Rebels and the New Mexico Lobos will face off in a Mountain West clash at 11 p.m. ET Sept. 30 at Allegiant Stadium. UNLV will be strutting in after a victory while New Mexico will be stumbling in from a defeat.

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The Rebels had a touchdown and change to spare in a 34-24 win over the Utah State Aggies last week. The team accrued 27 points in the first half and coasted on those for the win. UNLV QB Doug Brumfield was slinging it as he passed for one TD and 217 yards on 31 attempts in addition to punching in two rushing touchdowns.

UNLV’s defense was a force to be reckoned with, as it collected five interceptions and one fumble. DB Nohl Williams picked up that interception and then proceeded to rub salt in the wound by taking it back the other way for a touchdown.

Meanwhile, the night started off rough for New Mexico last week, and it ended that way, too. They were completely outmatched by the LSU Tigers on the road and fell 38 to nothing. New Mexico was down 31 to nothing at the end of the third quarter, which was just too much to recover from. QB Miles Kendrick had a memorable game, but not in the way you want to be remembered: he passed for only 47 yards on seven attempts.

The Rebels are the favorite in this one, with an expected 14-point margin of victory. They have been consistent moneymakers against the spread when favored (2-0), so they might be worth a quick bet.

UNLV is now 3-1 while the Lobos sit at 2-2. Two defensive stats to keep in the back of your head while watching: UNLV enters the contest having picked the ball off nine times, good for second in the nation. New Mexico is not quite as good, but they are no chumps, either: they enter the game having picked the ball off six times, good for 11th in the nation.

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How To Watch

  • When: Friday at 11 p.m. ET
  • Where: Allegiant Stadium — Paradise, Nevada
  • TV: CBS Sports Network
  • Live Stream: CBSSports.com or fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.)
  • Watch on your Phone: CBS Sports App
  • Watch on Connected TV: CBS Sports App on Roku and Fire TV
  • Ticket Cost: $18.00

Odds

The Rebels are a big 14-point favorite against the Lobos, according to the latest college football odds.

Bettors have moved against the Rebels slightly, as the game opened with the Rebels as a 16-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

See college football picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

UNLV have won two out of their last three games against New Mexico.

  • Nov 06, 2021 – UNLV 31 vs. New Mexico 17
  • Oct 06, 2018 – New Mexico 50 vs. UNLV 14
  • Nov 17, 2017 – UNLV 38 vs. New Mexico 35



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