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🏈Lawyer up

February 24, 2020
Lawyer up

The GIST: While we still have about six months before the NFL regular season begins, off-field drama is heating up as the league and the players’ union get ready to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

What’s a CBA?: The collective bargaining agreement is the legal contract between the NFL and the NFLPA (the players’ association). The last agreement, signed in 2011, is set to expire at the end of the 2020 season, so the league and the union are currently working toward drafting a new CBA that would begin in 2021. The league began the process by laying out proposed terms.

And what is the NFL proposing?: A bit of give and take, it seems. The biggest change from the previous CBA is a 17-game schedule (right now, teams play 16 games over 17 weeks), as well as including one additional team from each conference in the postseason, a shorter preseason and larger team rosters...all of which would seemingly benefit the league and teams over the players.

  • In return, the league proposes to administer less marijuana drug tests, lessen disciplinary action for positive tests, enforce less padded practices and create a way for players to profit from the NFL’s sports betting revenue.

Is this good or bad?: Depends on whose side you’re on. The team owners have already voted to accept the proposed terms, but the players aren’t happy with it. One of the main issues they have is with the proposed revenue share increase: the league is looking to boost the players’ share from 48% to 48.5%, but the players want an even 50-50 split.

  • It's not uncommon for the owners and players to be at odds at this stage of negotiations, but if negotiations take too long or the league refuses to budge on certain terms, we could see a players’ strike (aka not play) next season. No god, please no!

So what’s next?: Apparently the NFLPA’s executive committee is recommending that these proposed terms are not brought forward to the players (who will ultimately vote on the CBA). The committee and the NFLPA’s board of player representatives (made up of 32 active NFL players) are set to meet tomorrow to discuss next steps, and we’ll keep you updated on all the drama.

🏒Back back back back it up

February 24, 2020
Back back back back it up

The GIST: Washington Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin scored his 700th career goal on Saturday, and he wasn’t even the top NHL performer of the weekend. That award goes to 42-year-old Zamboni driver turned Carolina Hurricanes goalie David Ayres, who became the first emergency backup goalie in NHL history to record a win.

I’m sorry, who?: Exactly. Ayres is a Zamboni driver for the Toronto Marlies (the Maple Leafs’ farm team), but with 29 minutes left in Saturday’s game against the Leafs, the visiting Hurricanes found themselves goalie-less after starter James Reimer and backup Petr Mrazek (pronounced M-RAZ-ihk) were both injured during the game. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so the Hurricanes quickly signed Ayers to a one-day contract (for a whopping $500) and stuck him in net. Yes, this actually happened.

  • Ayres, who was watching from the stands with his wife, has been the Leafs’ designated emergency backup goalie for three years, and while he’s previously filled in during some practices, he’d never played a game. Because designated emergency backup goalies aren’t signed to a team, Ayers was able to sub in for any team on the ice, not just the Leafs (even though his helmet suggested otherwise).

And how did he do?: Pretty well, actually! He saved eight of 10 shots over half a game and led the Hurricanes to a 6–3 win (which probably says more about how sh!t the Leafs played than anything else)! And while Leafs fans were pretty devastated, the rest of the sports world (including us!) is obsessed with this feel-good story that couldn’t have happened to a nicer or more lovable person.

  • As much as the Hurricanes aren’t looking to sign Ayres long-term, they will be selling “sherseys” (aka T-shirt jerseys) with Ayres’ name on the back, with the proceeds split between Ayres and a kidney foundation (Ayres received a kidney transplant in 2004 — incredible). Sports, you have to love ’em.

You really do. Now what’s this about Ovi?: Ovechkin became just the eighth player to score 700 career goals, during Washington’s loss (because not everything can be picture perfect) to the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. Not only that, at 34 years old he’s the second-youngest and second-fastest player to ever do so (behind the one and only Wayne Gretzky).

  • The wildest part is that he’s nowhere close to done. Ovi still has a few more good seasons in him, and if he keeps up the pace, he could (though half-glass empty-ers are skeptical) set his sights on the ultimate record: Gretzky’s “untouchable” 894 career goals.

Any other hockey news?: Connor McDavid is back! The Edmonton Oilers’ (and league’s) top player was supposed to be out seven to 10 games with a quad injury, but after missing only six games, he returned last night to play against the Los Angeles Kings.

  • And don’t forget: the NHL trade deadline is today at 3 p.m. ET. Teams won’t be able to trade until the season’s over after then, so follow the NHL’s Trade Tracker (and set your alarm to grab a “coffee”) for all the last-minute action.

🏒A little bit more

February 20, 2020
A little bit more

Hockey: We love International Women’s Day. And this year, March 8th can’t come soon enough. Why? Because for the first time ever, an NHL game will be broadcast and produced by an all-female crew, including former Canadian star Jennifer Botterill serving as the in-studio analyst.

  • This is a huge step in the right direction, but there are still rumblings online that this is a PR stunt. Is it? Maybe. But will it encourage more permanent female producers and broadcasters? You bet your bottom dollar.

Curling: The Scotties Tournament of Hearts — which decides the best women’s curling team in Canada — has provided some of the most dramatic sports moments of the week. No, seriously. The most dramatic came on Monday when Team Canada coach (and father of skip Chelsea Carey) Dan Carey literally told an umpire to “shut up.” Yikes.

  • And then there’s Olympic champion Jennifer Jones, who has won more games than any other Scotties skip (aka captain) in history. She almost didn’t qualify this year, but has now clinched a spot in the championship round. Don’t call it a comeback. Check out the full results here.

NHL: Like viewers of The Bachelor’s hometown visits this week, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens are looking for answers — and fast. At the beginning of the season, the Leafs were considered a top contender for the Stanley Cup, but they now find themselves fresh off a pair of v. ugly 5–2 losses and barely holding on to a playoff spot. Welp.

  • Meanwhile, the Habs (short for les Habitants) are much further back in the standings and just lost again to the league-worst Detroit Red Wings. Things are not going according to plan.

🏒Jill of all trades

February 20, 2020
Jill of all trades

The GIST: The NHL is getting in on trading — and we don’t mean Pokémon cards. The trade deadline is Monday at 3 p.m. ET.

Remind me what the trade deadline is: It’s the last time in a season that teams are able to trade eligible players. That said, to make things complicated, teams can still make trades after the deadline, but those players are NOT eligible to play for their new team for the rest of the season or in the playoffs, so most teams don’t bother.

And what’s the point of the trade deadline?: Basically it’s to keep the competitive balance among teams by ensuring they’re locked and loaded before the playoffs start in April. So up until 3 p.m. ET on Monday, expect some trade activity as playoff-contending teams try to add some top talent for their playoff push.

Cool. Who’s been moved so far?: The blockbuster trade of the season happened back in December, when the New Jersey Devils shipped their superstar forward, Taylor Hall, to the Arizona Coyotes in a five-player deal. And although there’s been a lot of movement, no real “big fish” have been traded yet. Looks like teams are waiting to catch trade ’em all.

So who might be next?: Rumor has it (sing that to the tune of Adele) the biggest star on the trading block is New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider. The Rangers might extend his contract to keep him in the Big Apple for a few more years, but since the Rangers are in rebuild mode and Kreider is a free agent after this season anyway, we wouldn’t be surprised if the Rangers were desperate enough to make a last-minute move.

It’s (not) handled

February 20, 2020
It’s (not) handled

The GIST: The MLB’s sign-stealing scandal looked like it was over, but now there are more plot twists than Betty and Jughead’s cases on Riverdale.

Quick, remind me how this started: In January, the Houston Astros were found guilty of illegal sign-stealing — using technology to decipher signals from the opposing team’s catcher, pitcher and coaches to predict the next pitch — during their 2017 championship-winning season. The MLB fined Houston $5 million (which, although it is the largest allowable fine in baseball, it seems like chump change to us), gave one-year bans to the now-fired manager and general manager and revoked a few important draft picks.

Got it. Then what?: Last week, an exposé revealed that the scheme began with one of the MLB’s most famous and now-retired players, Carlos Beltrán — the so-called “Godfather” of sign-stealing — when he joined the Astros in 2017. We also learned that the Astros’ executives not only knew about the sign-stealing, but also had an intern (c’mon guys) create an Excel spreadsheet called “Codebreaker” (double c’mon guys) to help keep track of everything.

Woah. So, what’s the latest?: League commissioner Rob Manfred has, of course, come under intense scrutiny for how he chose to handle (or not handle) the crisis. Manfred didn’t penalize any players involved, didn’t revoke Houston’s 2017 World Series title and didn’t take away second baseman José Altuve’s 2017 American League (AL) MVP Award.

  • On top of all that, things got worse on Monday when Manfred referred to the World Series trophy as “a piece of metal”...yeah that actually happened.

Jeez. What are people saying about this mess?: You better believe that athletes (even those in other sports) and fans are not happy about it. And, boy, have people let Manfred know how they feel.

  • Even the usually soft-spoken New York Yankee outfielder Aaron Judge made it known that he felt “sick to his stomach” about the Astros’ actions and specifically Altuve, who narrowly edged him out for the AL MVP Award that year. NBA star LeBron James also sounded off, taking to Twitter to express his disgust. Yeah, you and us both.

What’s The GIST’s take?: Like a lot of people, we feel cheated. It’s not just scandals that create trust issues with baseball, it’s also the messy, and arguably unfair, way they’re handled that ruins the integrity of the sport — a sport that’s been so widely loved for more than a century. If this off-season is any indication of what this regular season will be like, hang on to your hats, because it will definitely be a rollercoaster.