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Quebec premier announces plan to boost number of Quebecers in NHL

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MONTREAL — Faced with declining interest in hockey among young people in Quebec, Premier Francois Legault on Thursday unveiled a strategy to increase the number of Quebecers in the NHL — and to boost Quebecers’ pride in their nation.

Legault announced a new committee, led by former NHL player Marc Denis, to find out why there are fewer young Quebecers interested in hockey compared with past generations and why fewer Quebec-born players are reaching the sport’s highest levels.

“It’s a committee of people who like hockey … who know hockey, who want hockey to do better in Quebec,” Legault said.

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The premier said the main goal of the committee is to increase the number of young people playing the game, but he said he was also concerned about the low number of Quebecers in the NHL, a figure the premier put somewhere between 30 and 50.

“Hockey is more than a sport in Quebec,” Legault said, adding the province’s biggest heroes are former NHL hockey players like Maurice Richard and Guy Lafleur and that the sport is a unifying force in the province.

The committee will be expected to submit its recommendations April 1, Legault told reporters in Montreal at the Bell Centre, the home of the Montreal Canadiens hockey franchise, which sat 29th in the NHL standings on Thursday afternoon, with four wins out of 18 games played.

Daniel Beland, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, said Legault’s announcement should be understood in the context of how politics and hockey are intertwined in Quebec. There is a feeling in Quebec, Beland said, that the status of francophones is declining within the Canadiens hockey team — a longtime symbol of Quebecois national pride.

Legault’s interest in getting more Quebecers playing hockey and in the NHL is part of a larger vision to make Quebec more competitive economically in Canada and in North America and in making Quebecers more proud of where they come from.

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“So, it’s not just about hockey,” Beland said, “but hockey and politics in Quebec have long been intertwined and so this is not surprising, and it resonates with voters — especially Legault’s base.”

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The importance of hockey to the Quebecois psyche, coupled with fears that the Canadiens organization isn’t interested in promoting players from Quebec, “make it an issue that Legault wants to talk about ahead of an election.” Quebecers are scheduled to head to the polls next fall.

In May, Legault publicly lamented the absence of Quebec-born players on the Habs’ roster after the team didn’t dress a single Quebecer for one of its matches — a first in the team’s history. While Beland said he thinks Legault genuinely likes hockey, he also thinks the premier wants to let Quebecers know he likes hockey.

“Francois Legault is not only a nationalist, but there is kind of a populist aspect to his discourse,” Beland said. “He wants to be close to the people and hockey is related to not only Canadian identity, but also Quebec identity in a strong way.”

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In the past, there was a feeling that francophone players were treated unfairly by the league and referees, Beland said, such as when Richard was suspended in 1955, leading to riots in Montreal.

Bob Sirois, who played in the NHL between 1974 and 1979, says he would also like to see more Quebecers in the NHL. He said he believes the solution is for Quebec to have its own national team at the world junior championship, an annual tournament for players under 20.

“What will bring more Quebecers into the National Hockey League is visibility, the visibility of our players at the junior level,” he said in an interview Thursday. Having a national team “will give visibility to our 23 best players” at an event where NHL talent scouts are paying attention, said Sirois, a Quebecer who played for the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals.



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The Thunder Continue To Improve Their Postseason Chances

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(Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images)

 

Most people thought that the Oklahoma City Thunder didn’t have much of a chance at greatness in the 2022-23 season.

That was even more true when they lost their rookie player, Chet Holmgren, to injury in the summer.

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And while the Thunder are still far from the top of the Western Conference standings, they are repeatedly impressing fans across the league.

The team has been surging since 2023 started.

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So far in the new year, the Thunder are first in offensive rating, first in net rating, first in points per game, first in three-point percentage, and have the sixth-best record since New Year’s Day.

Yes, they are currently the 12th team in their conference but they are just one game back from being qualified for the play-in tournament.

This last month has been spectacular for OKC.

They have beaten the likes of the Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Denver Nuggets, Cleveland Cavaliers, and others.

Their latest victory came on Saturday night when they decimated the Houston Rockets, 153-121.

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The importance and power of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander cannot be stressed enough, he has been leading the team in multiple ways.

So far this season, Gilgeous-Alexander has averaged 31 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 5.6 assists.

On Saturday night, he had yet another stunning game with his 42 points.

Of course, he has been getting a lot of serious help from Josh Giddey (16.2 points, 8 rebounds, and 5.9 assists), Lugentz Dort (14.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.3 assists), Jalen Williams, and others.

The Thunder have a packed week ahead, facing off against the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, and New Orleans Pelicans.

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Can their impressive January lead to an impressive February too?

The post The Thunder Continue To Improve Their Postseason Chances appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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MLB Analyst Defends Padres Fans From Criticism

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From 2011 to 2019, the San Diego Padres had a losing record every single year, with no exception.

But around the end of last decade, you could already tell that the Padres, after their long rebuild in which they had no direction or purpose, were starting to do things the right way.

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They hired the right people to lead the baseball department, they dramatically improved their farm system, and they started spending like a team that wants to compete.

Since 2020, they have been very competitive.

They made the playoffs that year but fell in the first round.

They missed the postseason in 2021 but were in contention for much of the year, and made it again last year and reached the NL Championship Series.

They are getting closer and closer to the first World Series title in franchise history.

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As you probably can imagine, interest from fans just wasn’t there in the middle of last decade.

They had been losing for years, and they would lose for a few more.

Now, fans are very much involved and engaged in everything that has to do with the franchise.

We can see a notable difference in fanfest attendance.

Some people have criticized fans for being there during the good times.

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An MLB analyst, however, is downplaying that notion and pointing out to the logical fact that when there is interest by the ownership, there will be interest from fans because the on-field product will be attractive.

“Some folks will say bandwagon. I’m gonna go with, this is what happens when you have an owner who is all in. The past few years, there’s never been a question of whether or not the Padres have been all in on winning a championship,” Jared Carrabis tweeted.

The Padres brought in shortstop Xander Bogaerts this offseason, plus Nelson Cruz and the re-signing of Robert Suarez.

Last year, they traded for Juan Soto and Josh Bell.

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A few years back, it was Manny Machado.

You can tell that Padres ownership wants to win and acts like a team that wants to win.

Fans, obviously, are becoming more and more interested.

It’s how the business works and there is nothing wrong with that.

The post MLB Analyst Defends Padres Fans From Criticism appeared first on The Cold Wire.

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Max Muncy Discusses His Health For 2023

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Max Muncy has been a key contributor for the Los Angeles Dodgers over the past five seasons.

Unfortunately, he struggled mightily in 2022, hitting just .196 and missing nearly 30 games due to injuries.

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Still, he managed to hit 21 home runs during the regular season and help the Dodgers win a franchise record and MLB-best 111 games.

Now, he prepares for his sixth season in Dodger Blue.

We are now just one week away from pitchers and catchers officially reporting to spring training.

This afternoon, Muncy stopped by MLB Network and had a chat with Alanna Rizzo, where he discussed his offseason training regimen and his health heading into 2023.

The two-time All-Star discussed his familiarity with the third base position, a position he’ll be seeing much more of with Justin Turner now departed.

Muncy said that he believes he’s much more familiar with the position now and feels like its an easier position to play if done so consistently as opposed to once a week.

The veteran slugger believes that he made several important strides at the position and is prepared to make more improvements in 2023.

He also discussed how injuries have bogged him down over the past few seasons and provided an update on his health as the 2023 season approaches.

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Muncy discussed his elbow injury at the end of the 2021 season and how it carried over into 2022.

He expressed his frustration over having to continue making adjustments with it in order for his swing to be where it needed to be.

However, he stated that he feels healthy and that the elbow is back to 100%.

The post Max Muncy Discusses His Health For 2023 appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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