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🏒Sure, it's Christmas once more

December 25, 2020
SOURCE: TSN HOCKEY/TWITTER
SOURCE: TSN HOCKEY/TWITTER

The setup: For the uninitiated, hi, welcome! The IIHF World Junior Championships, better known as the World Juniors, is an annual 12-day international under-20 hockey tournament, where we place the hopes and dreams of all hockey-loving Canadians on the shoulders of 25 teenagers.

The format: The field of 10 teams is split into two groups (A and B), and as the host nation and No. 1 seed, Team Canada is heading Group A. Each team will play four games in the round robin stage, and the top eight teams will move on to the sudden-death playoffs. Games start tomorrow and the champion will be crowned January 5th.

The teams: Not to brag or anything, but Team Canada is the reigning champ and the heavy favorite to win again — even with captain Kirby Dach injuring his wrist in last night’s pre-tournament game. Looking to unseat us are No. 2 Russia and No. 3 Sweden over in Group B, and, of course, Team USA is always looking to spoil our fun.

  • Russia and the U.S. will duke it out tomorrow night at 9:30 p.m. ET, but Team Canada won’t drop the puck until 6 p.m. ET on Saturday against No. 9 Germany. Check out the schedule here.
     
  • Want more World Juniors info? Listen to this week’s episode of The GIST of It.

The women’s tournament: Oh, there isn’t one. Normally there is a severely under-recognized under-18 tournament that runs around this time, but it was cancelled this year. Don’t even get us started...

🏀2021 NBA Season Preview - CAN

December 21, 2020
SOURCE: ASHLEY LANDIS/AP
SOURCE: ASHLEY LANDIS/AP

The setup: The NBA’s regular season is starting tomorrow, just two months later than normal. Thanks to the late start, each of the league’s 30 teams will play a condensed 72-game regular season (10 games fewer than usual), which is being split into two halves.

  • The first half runs from tomorrow to March 4th and the second half from March 11th to May 16th. Only the first half schedule has been released so far, as the league wants to see how well teams can follow COVID-19 guidelines.
  • If all goes as planned, the fan-favorite play-in tournament will start May 18th, followed by the first round of playoffs on May 22nd, and a champion crowned by mid-July.

The favorites: The LA Lakers won the last NBA Championship in October, and odds are they’ll extend their reign with another win after locking down superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. They’ll begin their campaign for back-to-back glory tomorrow at 10 p.m. ET, when they face their crosstown rival and championship contender LA Clippers.

  • The Milwaukee Bucks are still chomping at the bit for a championship, though, and after posting the league’s best regular season record two years in a row, maybe third time’s the charm?
  • And let’s not count out the Brooklyn Nets. With Kevin Durant back in the lineup, we could see a new NBA champ...or at least some new memes.

Canada’s team: The Toronto Raptors may not look like they did in 2019, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have another good shot at glory. With Pascal Siakam hoping to bounce back, OG Anunoby on the hunt for a breakout season and Fred VanVleet out to prove he’s worthy of his giant contract extension, things are looking good for a strong playoff run...even if they’re temporarily calling Tampa Bay home.

*Get game ready: Want to rock your team’s jersey this season? We thought so. And so did our friends at the NBA. Enter here for your chance to win your choice of one of 10 fresh NBA jerseys. Good luck!

🏀🏒

NHL, NHLPA Agree on 56-Game 2021 Season

December 21, 2020
SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES
SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES

⛳️Golf: What’s a girl gotta do to get paid? Oh, just win the CME Group Tour Championship, the LPGA’s final tournament of the year. World No. 1 Jin Young Ko claimed victory yesterday, and with it, a $1.1 million paycheck.

  • Meanwhile, Canadian Brooke Henderson finished tied for seventh with a 10 under par. Not a bad Sunday at the office.

🏀Basketball: If you missed WNBA superstar Liz Cambage as much as we did last season, we’re here to assure you that she’s doing just fine in the land down under. After Cambage opted out of the 2020 WNBA season with medical exemption, she stayed in her native Australia and later played in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL).

🏒Hockey: Okay, we can finally confirm this. The NHL and NHL Players’ Association have agreed to a 56-game season, set to begin on January 13th, and announced the temporary realignment that includes a true North division of all seven Canadian teams (amazing). Let the games begin!

🏈NFL Playoff Field Narrowing

December 21, 2020
SOURCE: NFL ON CBS/TWITTER
SOURCE: NFL ON CBS/TWITTER

The playoff picture: With Saturday’s lopsided win over the Denver Broncos, the Buffalo Bills won their first division title since 1995 (aka when Toy Story was released...yes, the first one), becoming the third AFC team to clinch a playoff spot. Over in the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks clinched their playoff spot with a 20–15 win over the Washington Football Team (WFT) yesterday.

  • That leaves four playoff spots up for grabs in each conference. The AFC has six teams still in the hunt (leaving the New England Patriots out of the race for the first time since 2008), whereas the NFC has a whopping 10 teams vying for a spot. Check out the full playoff picture here.

The highlights: In their pursuit of happiness postseason glory, players across the league gave us their best. Check out our favorite highlights from Week 15:

  • Déjà vu: Tom Brady and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers came back from 24–7 to beat the Atlanta Falcons 31–27. But wait, haven’t we already seen Brady do that?
  • X marks the spot: Three years after scoring his last touchdown (TD), Baltimore Ravens wide receiver (WR) Dez Bryant ditched the wine and finally threw up his X after catching an 11-yard pass for a TD. The Ravens went on to win 40–14 over the miserable Jacksonville Jaguars.
  • Indefensible: Most NFL WRs need two hands to catch a TD. Arizona Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins basically needs only one. His TD helped the Cards get their second consecutive win after a three-game losing streak, beating the Philadelphia Eagles 33–26.

🏀James Harden Has Never Won an NBA Championship

December 18, 2020
SOURCE: MARK J. TERRILL/ASSOCIATED PRESS
SOURCE: MARK J. TERRILL/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The background: Harden has been playing for the Houston Rockets since 2012. An eight-time NBA All-Star, the 2018 MVP has led the league in points per game for the past three years. But despite making the playoffs every season since he was drafted in 2009, Harden has never won a championship.

  • The lack of ultimate glory is a big sticking point for him, and fair enough. It’s hard to be considered one of the GOATs without a championship ring on your finger. Which is why Harden is doing everything he can to get out of Houston.

The situation: After putting up with his diva ways for eight years, the Rockets aren’t letting him go easy. So in pursuit of a trade that hasn’t yet come, Harden has upped the ante. Over the past few weeks, he’s skipped out on practices, broken COVID-19 protocols and gone clubbing (or, what he calls, “just training”).

  • And after missing the team’s first two preseason games, Harden finally showed up for work on Tuesday, but not exactly in game shape (no judgment here, who’s in game shape these days anyway?).

The next step: While Harden seems to be doing everything he can (without breaching his contract, which still has two years remaining) to push the Rockets to trade him, he finally ended a media blackout to speak on his current priorities.

  • “Right now, I’m just focused on being here,” Harden said during media availability after a team practice yesterday. TBH, we’re not buying it.
  • The Rockets are back on the court tonight at 8 p.m. ET and start the regular season against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday. Whether Harden will be there to play his former team is anyone’s guess.