🏒The PWHPA, but make it all-Canadian
QUOTE OF THE DAY
It’s almost not fair because we are regarded as professional athletes, but we’re not treated as professional athletes. We established the PWHPA because we want to see true professionalism for women’s hockey.
—PWHPA and Team Canada star Sarah Nurse, on what the organization strives for.
🏒 The background
A quick recap on how the PWHPA works and what it stands for: the association, made up of 125 of the best Canadian, American and European players, was established in 2019 as an answer to the ongoing underrepresentation and underfunding of women’s hockey in North America.
- The goal of the PWHPA is to create a sustainable and successful cross-border women’s league, akin to the NHL. And until that happens, the PWHPA players will not participate in anything less.
- That includes the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL), which has shared a fraught relationship with the PWHPA, though things seem to be improving. For more on the women's hockey landscape, check out this episode of The GIST of It.
To promote the cause, the PWHPA created the Dream Gap Tour, a series of mini-tournaments showcasing combinations of superstars who we usually only get to watch play in the Olympics or World Championships.
🥅 The Tour
The Canadian section of the Dream Gap Tour is the last leg of the PWHPA’s second “season,” after stops in New York City, Chicago and St. Louis. There were supposed to be two Canadian stops, but without a Toronto stop due to COVID-19, there’s just one Canadian leg to rule them all: Calgary.
Three teams will compete to win the first-ever all-Canadian Secret Cup. Each team will play four games — two against each opponent — in the round robin stage, and the two teams with the most points by the end of it will face off in Sunday’s championship game .
- For an extra dose of fun, it’s not just the wins that matter. Teams can earn points if one of their players scores a hat trick, if their goalie records a shutout, or if the team scores five-or-more goals in a single game.
🤝 The teams
Team Sonnet: The Toronto-based team are the favourites to win it all, thanks to a roster stacked with Team Canada's Natalie Spooner, Brianne Jenner, Sarah Nurse, Renata Fast, and the 2018 Olympic All-Star (yup, that’s a thing) Laura Fortino.
Team Scotiabank: The Calgary-based team has a not-so-secret weapon to lead them to the final: goaltender Kristen Campbell. The first goalie to ever make it through the NCAA Frozen Fourtournament without giving up a goal, Campbell was recently invited to Team Canada training camp for the 2022 Olympics. Now’s the chance to see this future superstar in action.
Team Bauer: In a regular year, the Montreal hub would have the strongest roster, but they’ll play for the Secret Cup without one of hockey’s all-time best, Mélodie Daoust, who’s sidelined with an injury. Lucky for them, they still have Team Canada captain Marie-Philip Poulin leading the charge. Helpful to have two GOATs on one team.
🎥 How to watch
Pucks drops today at 5 p.m. ET, with games being played every day leading up to Sunday’s final. The first four games will air on Sportsnet Now and the last two round robin matches, plus the championship game, will be broadcast on Sportsnet. It’s the best game you can name.
🏎Monaco Grand Prix Preview
QUOTE OF THE DAY
I hate Monaco. It’s like riding a bicycle around your living room.
—Former Formula One (F1) driver and three-time World Champion, Nelson Piquet, on the challenges of one of the world’s most difficult racing circuits. He was just mad to never have won the Monaco GP in his 14-year career.
🇲🇨 The backstory
Nestled along France’s Mediterranean coast, Monaco is the second-smallest country in the world (behind the Vatican) and covers less than one square-mile of land (the whole country could fit inside NYC’s Central Park with room to spare). What it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in wealth and glamor.
- Known as the “billionaires’ playground,” Monaco is famous for its high GDP, low taxes, plethora of ultra-rich citizens, movie stars-turned-royals, the Grimaldi family curse, the Monte Carlo Casino and, of course, the Monaco Grand Prix.
F1’s Monaco Grand Prix (GP) is one of the world’s most prestigious sporting events. As one of three races that make up the unofficial Triple Crown of Motorsport — along with the Indy 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans — the Monaco GP actually predates F1 with the first race held in 1929. F1 was formed in 1950.
- For a refresher on all things F1, check out our F1 Sunday Scroll from the beginning of the 2021 season here.
🏎 The race
We know what you’re thinking: “How can a country the size of my backyard fit an entire F1 race track?” And the answer is, it can’t. Instead, the race takes place on the tight, winding roads of Monaco itself.
Before we get further into it, we should lay the cards on the table: the race itself can be incredibly boring. Because of Monaco’s typically narrow European streets, there isn’t a whole lot of room for passing or legitimate racing.
- And the race doesn’t have any special points or trophies up for grabs either. F1 drivers earn points collectively throughout the season, and winning the Monaco GP is worth just as many (25 to be exact) as any other race on the schedule.
What makes the Monaco GP so special?And what makes completing it one of the top accomplishments for any race car driver? It’s the high level of technical skill needed to finish one of the most challenging circuits in all of motorsport.
- F1 drivers are here for a personal challenge, a place in the history books and the ever-elusive bragging rights.
🏁 The circuit
Every corner on the Monaco track has a name and a story. Here are a few of the most memorable ones:
- Loews Hairpin: A tight 180° turn, also known as the Fairmont Hairpin because of its location by the hotel. It’s the slowest corner in any F1 circuit, with drivers dropping to 30mph (50km/h)...but, uh, that’s still fast.
- Tabac: Named for a tobacco shop along the road (super original), this corner is the site of an infamous wave that covered the track and caused a multi-car pile up during the 1950 event.
- Nouvelle Chicane: Formerly known as Chicane du Port, Italian driver Alberto Ascari entered this harborfront, two-corner combo a little too quickly during the 1955 Monaco GP and ended up...in the harbor.
👍 The highs
Some of F1’s best moments came during the Monaco GP. One of F1’s all-time greats, Graham Hill, earned the nickname “Mr. Monaco” in the 1960s after he won five Monaco GPs in seven years.
In 1982, the event was dubbed “The Race No One Wanted to Win,” when the leader changed four times in the last three laps (exciting!). And the 1992 event, which saw Ayrton Senna battle Nigel Mansell right to the end, is still widely considered the best ever.
- It was Senna who was able to top “Mr. Monaco’s” win streak, with six wins in seven years before his tragic death during a racing accident in 1994.
👎 The lows
It’s not always spectacularly glamorous. The Monaco GP has seen plenty of accidents and has claimed one life: Lorenzo Bandini’s. He was killed after losing control of his car on the 82nd lap (of 100) in the 1967 event.
- In 1966, only four cars finished the race after a string of accidents and mechanical failures, and in 1996, only three of 21 cars made it through the day’s wet conditions to the finish line, marking the fewest finishers in an F1 race on record.
- Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Räikkönen hit a personal low in 2006 when his car failed on his 50th lap. He made the most of it though, walking to his yacht in the marina instead of back to his team’s paddock to watch the rest of the race with his friends. Power move.
🤩 The celebrities
Formula One is one of those sports that non-F1 athletes, like Serena Williams, love to watch, and the Monaco GP is frequented by celebrities and royalty. Here are a few of our favorite celeb appearances over the years:
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback (QB) Tom Brady: Before he tossed the Lombardi Trophy between boats this year, the Super Bowl-winning QB made a touchdown-worthy pass to driver Danny Ricciardo between yachts.
- Game of Thrones: The GoT stars took a break from car-less Westeros to live it up in Monacoin 2018, and
Jaime LannisterNikolaj Coster-Waldau even took a spin around the track.
- Monaco’s royal family: The Monaco GP runs under the patronage of the Monegasque royals, meaning it’s the only F1 trophy presented by legit royalty every year. Fancy.
👀 How to watch
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton will be lookingfor his fourth win of the season and 99th of his career when the Monaco GP starts today at 9 a.m. ET, but Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen will be hot on his tail, chasing his first victory in Monaco. In case you miss it, we’ll let you know who wins in tomorrow’s newsletter.
🏀Everything you need to know about the NBA Playoffs
QUOTE OF THE DAY
I think we might need to poke LeBron in the eye a lot more to hit shots like that.
🔀 The play-in tournament
Before we get into it, let’s review the past week in the NBA. The play-in tournament, which the league first introduced during the 2020 bubble and expanded this season, was held over four wild nights to determine the seventh and eighth seeds for both conferences.
- The teams that finished seventh through 10th in the regular season participated in the play-in, and four made it through: the No. 7 Boston Celtics and No. 8 Washington Wizards in the East, and No. 7 LA Lakers and No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies in the West.
🏀 The set-up
Four rounds, 16 teams, only one winner.The postseason — featuring eight teams from each conference — officially starts today. In the first round, the first seeded team plays the eighth seed, the second seed versus the seventh, and so on.
- Each round is a best-of-seven series, with the first round running over the next couple of weeks, and the second round being announced as teams move on. Stay on top of the ever-evolving schedule here.
After solid regular seasons, the Utah Jazz won the Western Conference title and the Philadelphia 76ers the East, putting them as top seeds in the postseason and the natural favorites to win it all. But not the only favorites…
➡️ Eastern Conference
No. 1 Philadelphia 76ers vs. No. 8 Washington Wizards: This one’s going to be spicy. The Sixers’ Joel Embiid (pronounced jo-ELL em-BEED) and the Wizards’ Russell Westbrook have a long-standing...rivalry? Feud? Basically, they hate each other, and they’ll bring it up any chance they get.
- Embiid and his No. 1 Sixers definitely have the upper hand here, as they swept the regular season head-to-head battle 3-0 over the Wizards, but for their part, the Wizards are not afraid.
No. 2 Brooklyn Nets vs. No. 7 Boston Celtics: Earlier this season, the Nets combined some of the biggest personalities in the league — James Harden, Kevin Durant and former Celtic Kyrie Irving — and while things could’ve gone terribly, the Nets turned things around after a mediocre 2020 bubble season to come within a game of the top spot.
- The Celtics have a lot to prove in this one, especially since they were swept 3-0 by the Nets in the regular season. If they can pull out the win, it’ll be the ultimate underdog story.
No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks vs. No. 6 Miami Heat: Well, well, well. They meet again. For the second straight year, the Bucks and Heat have a date in the playoffs, and the Bucks will be looking for revenge after losing in five to the underdog Heat in the 2020 second round.
- Although the Bucks won their third straight divisional title, the NBA Championship proved elusive. But with two Antetokounmpo (pronounced ah-dedo-KOON-bo) brothers on the roster (Giannis and Thanasis), we have high hopes this year.
No. 4 New York Knicks vs. No. 5 Atlanta Hawks: This matchup might just be the most underrated heading into the postseason. The Knicks have a 3-0 stronghold on the season’s head-to-head record, but the Hawks have been heating up in the past couple of months. This is the series for a pure offense (Atlanta) versus defense (NY) showdown.
⬅️ Western Conference
No. 1 Utah Jazz vs. No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies: The Jazz are the favored team, but the Grizzlies have shown true grit to make it this far. In last night’s final play-in tournament game, reigning Rookie of the Year Ja Morant led Memphis to an overtime win over the Golden State Warriors, and they shouldn’t be underestimated.
- Still, the Jazz finished the season in the top spot despite losing their best player Donovan Mitchell over a month ago to an ankle injury. Lucky for the Jazz (and not for the Grizzlies): Mitchell should be back for Game 1.
No. 2 Phoenix Suns vs. No. 7 LA Lakers: The reigning champ Lakers had to participate in the play-in tournament to make the playoffs, but don’t let that fool you. Superstar LeBron James missed part of the regular season with injury, but he’s back, healthy and fresh off a win over rival Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors.
- Meanwhile, this is the Sun's first playoff appearance in 11 years, so the squad will have to manage the postseason pressures if they want a chance against the very experienced Lakers.
No. 3 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 6 Portland Trail Blazers: This series features two of the best offenses in the league, and we’re a little bit heartbroken that Nuggets star Jamal Murray won’t get to experience it (he’s out indefinitely with a knee injury).
- The Trail Blazers have the longest active postseason streak with eight straight playoff appearances, but we’re giving the Nuggets the edge in this one (between us, they’re our favorites to win it all).
No. 4 LA Clippers vs. No. 5 Dallas Mavericks: The No. 5 Mavs haven’t won a playoff round in 10 years. It’s a bad streak, but we’re betting they finally break it this year, because while the team is under a lot of pressure to win, Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers are under even more.
👀 How to watch
We really hope you didn’t make any plans today, because with four back-to-back games, there’s no time for anything else. The Bucks vs. Miami Heat will start at 2 p.m. ET, followed by the Mavs vs. Clippers, Celtics vs. Nets, and finally the Trail Blazers vs. Nuggets.
- All of today’s games will air on Sportsnet in Canada and on ESPN in the U.S., except the Celtics vs. Nets tilt, which will air on ABC. Get your comfy pants on, it’s game time.
Quick Hits - May 20th, 2021
🏀WNBA: Is it too soon to call the New York Liberty the Cinderella story of the season? After finishing dead last with only two wins in 2020, they’re currently dominating the W with three wins in three games and no chance of slowing down.
- Of course, the herself, Sabrina Ionescu (pronounced yo-NESC-ooo), may have a little (read: huge) something to do with this turnaround.
🥇Olympics: With just 64 days until the Tokyo Olympics, the Games are once again/still in jeopardy. Ahead of a three-day meeting between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Games organizers, Tokyo’s medical body yesterday calling for the Games’ cancellation.
- Less than 2% of Japan’s residents are fully vaccinated, and Tokyo's top physicians are concerned for their already-strained health-care system. Nevertheless, the IOC is confident they can keep the Games “safe and secure.”.
⚾️MLB: are all the rage right now (somebody should’ve told Atlanta Braves pitcher Jacob Webb before he hit NY Met ). On Tuesday, Detroit Tigers pitcher Spencer Turnbull recorded the league’s fifth no-hitter of the season, and last night, NY Yankee Corey Kluber recorded the sixth. Hey batters, you up?
🏒NHL North Division play begins
North Division: The Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets kicked things off last night, and it was not what we expected. A tight match tied until halfway through the third period, the Jets turned on the jets in the last 10 minutes and won Game 1 of the best-of-seven series 4–1.
- And tonight, it’s the one we’ve all been waiting for: the Toronto Maple Leafs (featuring Auston Matthews) and the Montreal Canadiens will finally start their series at 7:30 p.m. ET. Saving the best for last.
East Division: Sidney Crosby played to help his Pittsburgh Penguins tie up the series 1-1 with the NY Islanders on Tuesday, while the Boston Bruins are up 2-1 over the Washington Capitals after last night’s overtime win.
West Division:The league-best Colorado Avalanche are up 2-0 over the St. Louis Blues after last night’s Game 2, and the Vegas Golden Knights and Minnesota Wild are tied up ahead of tonight’s Game 3.
Central Division: . The Carolina Hurricanes lead the Nashville Predators 2-0, and in the most unexpectedly exciting series of the postseason — the all-Florida battle between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers — Tampa leads 2-0.