Canada’s Olympic skaters — of every kind — are in the spotlight

Canada’s Olympic skaters — of every kind — are in the spotlight

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

Olympic winter is coming

With just over 100 days until the Beijing Games, the Olympic flame was lit on Monday in Athens and handed over to Chinese organizers today.

Activists disrupted proceedings to protest China’s treatment of the Muslim minority Uyghur community, claiming the country is trying to “sportswash” its alleged human-rights violations “with the glamour and veneer of respectability the Olympic Games brings.”

And while that story will persist at least until the flame reaches its final destination at the opening ceremony on Feb. 4, the torch-lighting also marks the unofficial start to the Olympic season.

Canada’s skaters — in three different sports — are in the spotlight this week.

Women’s hockey

Key dates: Games against U.S. women on Oct. 22, Oct. 25, Dec. 20; Games against Alberta junior men’s teams on Oct. 29, Nov. 3, Jan. 10; Olympic tournament begins Feb. 3 vs. Switzerland.

What we know: Three goalies (Emerance Maschmeyer, Ann-Renee Desbiens, Kristin Campbell) have already been named to the Olympic team. They’re currently centralized in Calgary alongside 26 skaters competing for 22 spots. That group has lost three straight blowout games to junior-A men’s hockey teams, including an 8-0 defeat on Monday. But it’s also coming off its first world-championship title since 2012 in August thanks to another Marie-Philip Poulin golden goal.

What we don’t know: Honestly, not a whole lot. The exact mix of skaters is in question. Beyond that, it’s overwhelmingly likely Canada meets the U.S. for Olympic gold on Feb. 17. Historically, Canada’s been more successful at the Olympics while the Americans dominated worlds — but that flipped each of the last times the events were held. Finland, the first country other than the two traditional powerhouses to play for a major championship at 2019 worlds, could throw another wrench in the rivalry.

Men’s hockey

Key dates: NHL breaks after Feb. 5 all-star game; Olympic tournament begins Feb. 10 vs. Germany; Knockout rounds run from Feb. 16-20.

What we know: Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid and Alex Pietrangelo are officially on the team. The rest of the roster will be debated tirelessly until it’s named in January. Canada won gold three of the last four times NHLers have competed, dating back to Salt Lake City in 2002.

What we don’t know: If NHLers will for sure attend, since there’s still an out for the league if the COVID-19 situation worsens. But if all goes as planned, it appears goaltending could be Canada’s biggest weakness, with Carey Price’s status unknown after entering the NHL’s player assistance program and Marc-Andre Fleury struggling in Chicago. Devils goalie Mackenzie Blackwood would be considered if he didn’t have to serve a 21-day quarantine to enter Beijing on account of being unvaccinated. That may leave Blues Stanley Cup hero Jordan Binnington as the top option.

Figure skating

Key dates: Grand prix season begins Friday with Skate America; Skate Canada goes Oct. 29-31; Four Continents championships run Jan. 18-23; Olympic tournament begins Feb. 4.

Watch Skate America on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem beginning Friday at 7:48 p.m. ET.

What we know: The Canadian team has been greatly diminished since its four-medal performance in Pyeongchang, making it a rebuilding cycle of sorts. Two-time national champion Nam Nguyen will compete at Skate America this weekend, looking to secure one of two Canadian men’s Olympic spots. Two Canadian ice dance duos and a pairs team will also skate at the Las Vegas meet.

What we don’t know: How unretired three-time Olympic medallist Eric Radford will look alongside new partner Vanessa James. Whether ice dancers Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, who joined CBC Sports’ Player’s Own Voice podcast this week, can fill the void in Canadian hearts left by the retired Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. If one of the new-look women’s team, featuring three teenagers, can seize the country’s lone Olympic spot. And who will be left out of Beijing between Nguyen, Keegan Messing and Roman Sadovsky?

Speed skating

Key dates: First of four short track World Cups begins Saturday in Beijing; First of four long track World Cups starts Nov. 12 in Poland; Four Continents championships in January.

Watch the Beijing World Cup on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem beginning Saturday at 2 a.m. ET.

What we know: Canada’s long track skaters competed in the national championships last week, where a Canadian record was set by Isabelle Weidemann in the 5,000 metres. Meanwhile, Olympic gold medallist Ted-Jan Bloemen appeared near his top form en route to a track record, while podium contender Ivanie Blondin rebounded to win the mass start after a slow beginning to her trials. Read more about the meet, which was the first step in the process of picking the Olympic team, in this piece by CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux.

What we don’t know: What the short track team will look like, with Olympic spots up for grabs during World Cup season. Pyeongchang three-time medallist and closing ceremony flag-bearer Kim Boutin should head the women’s squad, while five-time medallist Charles Hamelin is back for another Olympic cycle. His would-be heir apparent, Samuel Girard, shockingly retired following the 2018 Games, leaving the rest of the Canadian roster wide open.

Canada’s Isabelle Weidemann sets national record in the 5,000 metres

5 days ago

Ottawa native Isabelle Weidemann skates to a national record in the 5,000 metres with a time of six minutes 46.81 seconds at the Canadian long track speed skating championships. 7:25

Quickly…

Evander Kane received a 21-game suspension from the NHL. The embattled San Jose Sharks forward was found guilty by the league of submitting a fake COVID-19 vaccination card, which is illegal in both Canada and the U.S. Meanwhile, the NHL said it could not substantiate claims of physical and sexual abuse from Kane’s estranged wife Anna after previously clearing him of allegations that he gambled on NHL games in which he played. Sharks captain Logan Couture and coach Bob Boughner both said today they had not spoken to Kane recently. Read more about the suspension here.

A record 18 Canadians are on NBA rosters to begin the season. The number balloons to 22 if you include the likes of Chris Boucher, who was born in St. Lucia but grew up in Montreal and represents Canada internationally, as well as players on two-way contracts. The new season starts tonight, when Steve Nash’s Brooklyn Nets visit the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks before Steph Curry, Andrew Wiggins and the Warriors face off against LeBron James’ Lakers. For a full preview, check out yesterday’s newsletter.

And finally…

Basketball served up two doses of pettiness today. 76ers guard Ben Simmons, who’s made no bones about wanting to be out of Philadelphia, practised with his cell phone in his pocket yesterday, then reportedly refused to participate in a defensive drill today and was consequently suspended by the team for one game. We’ll give that display a score of 4/10 for being the type of pettiness also exhibited by children. On the other hand, the Chicago Sky showed up to their championship parade with the stadium door that Mercury star Diana Taurasi allegedly broke after losing the Finals. Now that’s a perfect 10.

You’re up to speed. Talk to you tomorrow.

Published at Tue, 19 Oct 2021 21:07:00 +0000