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Dion Phaneuf honoured to announce retirement with Maple Leafs

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TORONTO — Dion Phaneuf is making it official — and he’s clearly touched that the Toronto Maple Leafs offered the platform to do it.

On Tuesday morning, Phaneuf formally announced he’s retiring from the National Hockey League. That the 36-year-old had already played his last NHL game was pretty evident from the fact he hasn’t not skated in the league since April of 2019. But Leafs president Brendan Shanahan always told Phaneuf he wanted to give the former Toronto captain a proper send off when travel restrictions eased and fans returned to buildings. Now, Phaneuf will get just that when the Leafs host the Nashville Predators tonight.

“I played the most games [of any team he played with] here, I was the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs which was, for me, a huge honour to say the least,” Phaneuf said. “For those reasons, I wanted to come back here. To be able to announce it here is very special.”

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Phaneuf first landed in Southern Ontario as part of an eight-player deal between Toronto and the Calgary Flames in January 2010 that was reminiscent of the time nearly 20 years prior when the same two organizations hooked up for another monster January swap, one that made Doug Gilmour a Leaf.

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At the time of the trade, Phaneuf was among the more high-profile players in the league. The Edmonton native was selected ninth overall by Calgary in the stacked 2003 draft and made a huge splash on the national scene while wearing Canada’s colours at the 2005 World Junior Championship. That team was brimming with talent thanks to an NHL lockout that made guys like Phaneuf, Ryan Getzlaf and Patrice Bergeron available for the tournament. The Canadian kids — including Sidney Crosby — stormed to gold and when the rugged Phaneuf laid out two Russians with one hit right before Canada scored its fourth goal in a final-game romp, commentator Pierre McGuire made Phaneuf a legend by declaring the contact a “Double Dion!”

“I remember the hit, I see it lots still,” Phaneuf chuckled. “People come up to me and mention that.”

While he certainly made an impression on opponents with his physical play, Phaneuf also put the hurt on teams with his offensive game. During his first two years in the NHL, Phaneuf netted 37 goals. The only blue-liner in the league with more tallies during that span was Sheldon Souray, who buried 38. Over that same two-season period, Phaneuf hammered home 29 power-play markers, more than every D-man in the league and all but 16 forwards.

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Naturally, his arrival in Toronto supplied hope to a franchise that was scuffling through some tough years. As it turned out, though, Phaneuf — along with Phil Kessel and the man who traded for both players, GM Brian Burke — became a defining figure on Leafs clubs that only added to fans’ misery. Phaneuf’s worst minute-and-a-half in a Leafs sweater was surely the final stages of the infamous Game 7 meltdown versus the Boston Bruins in the first round of the 2013 playoffs. No. 3 was on the ice for two goals against as a 4-2 Toronto lead evaporated during a galling contest Boston ultimately won in overtime.
Another low came early in the 2014-15 campaign when, following a home-ice win over the Tampa Bay Lighting, a Leafs team frustrated with the way they’d been treated during a preceding rough patch left the ice without giving fans the stick wave of appreciation that had become the standard around the NHL. The incident quickly became known as “Salute-gate” and Phaneuf expressed remorse all these years later for his role in shuffling his teammates off the ice without acknowledging the fans.

“That was under my watch,” he said. “I take responsibility for that and if I could go back [I would] handle that differently. But the fans in Toronto are incredible, unwavering support. Every time I come back people come up to me and thank me for my time here.”

Phaneuf was traded to the Ottawa Senators by a rebuilding Leafs squad ahead of the 2016 trade deadline and was one of the main cogs on the blue line of a Sens team that came within one overtime goal of making the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Despite playing 14 seasons and a total of 1,048 games with Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Los Angeles, though, Phaneuf never did get a chance to raise that chalice.

“For me, not winning will definitely always be one of my regrets,” he said. “But I feel, as a player, I competed, I played hard, I left everything I could out there. I’m proud of the player I was.”

He can certainly feel good about the impact he had on former teammates like Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly, who was just beginning his Toronto tenure when Phaneuf was wearing the ‘C’ here. The two men remain great friends, with Rielly having visited Phaneuf and his family a few times during the off-season in Prince Edward Island.

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“[Dion] could help you understand exactly what’s going on around you, why it’s happening, how to get out of it,” Rielly said. “I think that’s important. I’m grateful for those years.”

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Mitch Marner was drafted by Toronto about nine months before Phaneuf was shipped out and the latter still recalls the way former made him feel welcomed as Marner was boarding a plane during his first big-league training camp in 2015. “I didn’t really know where to sit; I was just head down, nervous, walking onto a plane,” Marner recalled. “Dion was sitting there, called me over and let me sit beside him.”

Phaneuf says it’s flattering to hear young players speak of him in those terms, but notes he was only doing for those guys what the veterans did for him when he was breaking in. Phaneuf, a Los Angeles resident now, was already in Toronto because he spent the weekend taking in the Hockey Hall of Fame ceremonies, having been invited as a guest of inductee Jarome Iginla. Phaneuf said he booked his ticket instantly after being asked by his old Calgary teammate to come. He also recalled being floored by another long-ago conversation with Iginla, when the former Flames captain invited a young kid at his own first training camp to play golf with some of the boys.

“I was so nervous, I hit the first ball 100 yards left,” Phaneuf laughed. “It’s just little things like that that stuck with me that made me more comfortable [and] I tried to do that throughout my career [for other people].”

Phaneuf says he’d love to get back in the game in some capacity down the road, but for now he’s enjoying eating breakfast everyday with his young daughter before he takes her to school. It’s all part of a routine that’s left him very happy, whether living in the moment or looking back at the past.

“For me to stand here and officially announce my retirement, I’m definitely at ease and looking forward to next stage.”

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Drew Timme Q&A: Talking with Gonzaga basketball's All-American senior

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Gonzaga All-American Drew Timme on why he decided to return to school, his quest for the title and more.



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MLB home run record: List of most home runs in a season, single-season leaders as Aaron Judge ties Roger Maris

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Yankees slugger Aaron Judge hit his 61st home run of the season Wednesday night against the Blue Jays to rewrite baseball’s history books. His 61st home run tied him with Roger Maris for the American League single-season record. 

Judge is having a truly historic campaign, as he leads the majors in home runs, runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+, total bases, WAR and several other categories. 

One might have a few questions about that mark, so let’s get down and dirty with the all-time leaderboards. Just the facts here. 

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Most single-season home runs, MLB

1. Barry Bonds, 73, 2001
2. Mark McGwire, 70, 1998
3. Sammy Sosa, 66, 1998
4. Mark McGwire, 65, 1999
5. Sammy Sosa, 64, 2001
6. Sammy Sosa, 63, 1999
T7. Aaron Judge, 61, 2022
T7. Roger Maris, 61, 1961
9. Babe Ruth, 60, 1927
T10. Giancarlo Stanton, 59, 2017
T10. Babe Ruth, 59, 1921

Most single-season home runs, American League

T1. Aaron Judge, 61, 2022
T1. Roger Maris, 61, 1961
3. Babe Ruth, 60, 1927
T4. Hank Greenberg, 58, 1938
T4. Jimmie Foxx, 58, 1932
6. Alex Rodriguez, 57, 2002
T7. Ken Griffey Jr., 56, 1998
T7. Ken Griffey, Jr., 56, 1997
T9. Jose Bautista, 54, 2010
T9. Alex Rodriguez, 54, 2007
T9. David Ortiz, 54, 2006
T9. Mickey Mantle, 54, 1961
T9. Babe Ruth, 54, 1928
T9. Babe Ruth, 54, 1920

Most single-season home runs, National League

1. Barry Bonds, 73, 2001
2. Mark McGwire, 70, 1998
3. Sammy Sosa, 66, 1998
4. Mark McGwire, 65, 1999
5. Sammy Sosa, 64, 2001
6. Sammy Sosa, 63, 1999
7. Giancarlo Stanton, 59, 2017
8. Ryan Howard, 58, 2006
9. Luis Gonzalez, 57, 2001
10. Hack Wilson, 56, 1930 

Fastest to 60 home runs (by team games)

1. Barry Bonds, 141 games, 2001
2. Mark McGwire, 142 games, 1998
3. Aaron Judge, 147 games, 2022
4. Sammy Sosa, 148 games, 1999
5. Sammy Sosa, 149 games, 1998
6. Babe Ruth, 154 games, 1927
7. Mark McGwire, 155 games, 1999
8. Sammy Sosa, 157 games, 2001
9. Roger Maris, 159 games, 1961

Fastest to 61 home runs (by team games)

T1. Barry Bonds, 144, 2001
T1. Mark McGwire, 144, 1998
3. Sammy Sosa, 149, 1999
4. Sammy Sosa, 150, 1998
5. Aaron Judge, 155, 2022
6. Mark McGwire, 156, 1999
7. Sammy Sosa, 158, 2001
8. Roger Maris, 163, 1961

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Fastest to 62 home runs (by team games)

1. Barry Bonds, 144, 2001
2. Mark McGwire, 145, 1998
3. Sammy Sosa, 150, 1998
T4. Mark McGwire, 157, 1999
T4. Sammy Sosa, 157, 1999
6. Sammy Sosa, 160, 2001

So, as you can see, what Judge is doing in 2022 is truly historic. He has seven games left to pass Maris and set a new American League standard for single-season homer excellence.



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SEC college football picks, odds in Week 5: Arkansas stays tight with Alabama, Georgia takes out frustration

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The calendar will flip from September to October as the Week 5 college football action takes center stage on Saturday, which means that SEC division title races are starting take shape. No. 2 Alabama will head to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to take on No. 20 Arkansas in a battle between SEC foes. It was anticipated this could be a battle of undefeated title contenders, but the Razorbacks’ loss to Texas A&M last week erased that possibility. No. 7 Kentucky will travel to Oxford, Mississippi, to take on No. 14 Ole Miss in a clash of cross-division, undefeated teams that are looking to break through on the national stage. 

There are intriguing games for other reasons, too. Auburn will take on LSU at Jordan-Hare Stadium in a game that could determine the future of Tigers coach Bryan Harsin. The second-year coach was rumored to be on the brink of receiving a pink slip had the Tigers lost to Missouri last week, but they escaped in overtime in one of the sloppiest games of the year. 

What else is going on around the conference in Week 5? Let’s take a spin around the league and make some picks in this week’s edition of SEC Smothered and Covered.

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Hurricane Ian hitting the East Coast has forced changes to SEC games in Week 5. Keep up to date with all of the movement at this link here

Appetizer: Drew Sanders, the double agent?

Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders has established himself as one of the best players in the conference regardless of position. The former five-star prospect out of Denton, Texas, has 31 tackles on the season and is tied for third in the SEC in tackles for loss per game (1.63). He’s also a former member of the Alabama Crimson Tide. 

Could he be a secret agent? Well, not officially, but Razorbacks coach Sam Pittman knows that his star transfer isn’t going to be surprised by anything he sees.

“I would assume, for him, there would be some familiarity with what Bama is doing,” Pittman said. “We’ll try to downplay that as much as possible, because it is about shedding blocks and tackling and doing his assignment.”

This was shaping up to be a battle of undefeated teams prior to last weekend, but a reeling Texas A&M squad and a Hogs’ field goal attempt off the top of the goal post put an end to that plan. It didn’t erase the interest level in this game, though. Pittman’s squad absolutely has to win Saturday’s game vs. the Crimson Tide, otherwise its hopes of winning the West will disappear like a rack of ribs at a tailgate party. 

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Main course: Chris Rodriguez’s impact

Kentucky is typically a juggernaut at developing stud offensive linemen who are effective as run and pass blockers. This year … not so much. The Wildcats have given up more sacks than any other team in the SEC (16) and allowed Northern Illinois to sack quarterback Will Levis five times last weekend. Nothing against the Huskies, but that shouldn’t happen. 

They will get running back Chris Rodriguez back from his early-season suspension this week, though, and he should at least provide more of a threat in the running game to help Levis work off play-action. The preseason All-SEC selection rushed for 1,379 yards and nine touchdowns last season while adding three touchdowns as a receiver out of the backfield. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said Monday that Rodriguez has prepared to make an impact over the last couple of weeks.

“For Chris, it was just a matter of managing him while he was out. Just getting him the reps that we needed to. The last week or two, as I mentioned last week, he was getting reps with the first and second team — mainly the second team or different quarterbacks just to make sure he wasn’t totally removed from practicing our plays, along with staying in shape, being on the scout team, doing whatever was necessary for staying in good shape.” 

Dessert: Do or die for Bryan Harsin

Reports surfaced last week that Harsin could be fired as early as the day after the Missouri game if his team lost to the visiting Tigers. That didn’t happen; Auburn used a Missouri missed field goal at the end of regulation and a walk-off touchback in overtime to escape with a win. Or a “non-loss,” considering how sloppy the game was. 

In essence, it was the worst possible scenario for all parties. Harsin’s incredibly ugly win against Missouri the week after getting blown out by Penn State made it impossible for the powers-that-be to get rid of him last Sunday, which also gave him another week to “coach back into” his job if he can figure things out. Could that start this week against LSU? Harsin’s Tigers are nearly double-digit underdogs, which suggests that there isn’t much faith in him surviving beyond this weekend. Even if he does, Georgia looms next weekend prior to the bye week. 

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Simply put, Harsin needs to dominate LSU and upset Georgia to stay employed. Otherwise, those who staged the attempted coup in February will likely get their way and move into a new era of Auburn football.

Picks

Straight up: 38-8 | Against the spread: 19-21-1
*Previous picks were made on Instagram since SEC Smothered & Covered starts in Week 3

No. 7 Kentucky at No. 14 Ole Miss

Featured Game | Ole Miss Rebels vs. Kentucky Wildcats

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The Rebels have settled on Jaxson Dart as their No. 1 quarterback, and he will provide a nice complement through the air and on the ground to a rushing attack that is second-to-none in the conference (280.75 YPG). That will wear down a Kentucky defense that isn’t as deep or consistent as it has been in previous years. The Rebels defense, which is third in the SEC in tackles for loss per game (7.0), will keep Levis in third-and-long situations — leading to an Ole Miss cover. Pick: Ole Miss (-6.5)

No. 2 Alabama at No. 20 Arkansas

Featured Game | Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

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The 17.5-point spread is interesting, due in large part to the hook. If a 17-point Bama win cashes an Arkansas ticket, I’m all in for the Hogs. Alabama has played one-score games in four of its last five true road tilts, and the combination of Hogs quarterback KJ Jefferson and running back Raheim Sanders will bust enough big plays to at least keep this game close into the fourth quarter. The Crimson Tide will win it by two touchdowns when all is said and done but won’t get the cover. Pick: Arkansas (+17.5)

Featured Game | Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Texas A&M Aggies

The Bulldogs are home favorites over a ranked Aggies team for good reason. Opposing quarterbacks are completing just 44.4% of their passes on third downs (17th nationally), which sets up well against an Aggies team that will be without star wide receiver Ainias Smith. Texas A&M topped Arkansas essentially because of a fumbled punt return and a freak fumble recovery/scoop-and-score, but even those won’t save them in the land of the cowbells. Pick: Mississippi State (-3.5)

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LSU at Auburn

Featured Game | Auburn Tigers vs. LSU Tigers

Auburn’s offensive line has been a disaster this year, and now its quarterback position is an unmitigated disaster. Meanwhile, LSU’s defense has given up just 39 plays of 10 or more yards this season (tied with Georgia for third in the SEC). It’s going to make Auburn put together multiple sustained drives, and that’s unlikely considering Harsin forgot that running back Tank Bigsby exists during the majority of the Missouri game. The visiting Tigers will win by double-digits. Pick: LSU (-9)

No. 1 Georgia at Missouri

Featured Game | Missouri Tigers vs. Georgia Bulldogs

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The Bulldogs have to be embarrassed after Kent State stayed within 10 points into the fourth quarter last week, and they’ll take it out on Missouri on Saturday night in Columbia. The Tigers average a league-worst 5.62 yards per play, and the way to hang with the Bulldogs is to capitalize on shot plays. Coach Kirby Smart’s crew will take out its frustration on Missouri and win by at least 30 points. Pick: Georgia (-28)

SEC teams vs. FCS opponents

*No lines have been published

Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 5, and which top-10 favorite will go down hard? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread — all from a proven computer model that has returned more than $3,100 in profit over the past six-plus seasons — and find out.

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