April 4th, 2019
The GIST's Quote of The Week
“Being uncomfortable and uncertain for where the future leads for women’s hockey means we’re making progress… Personally and selfishly, I’m still in shock my professional hockey career may have suddenly ended on Sunday morning without warning.”
- Toronto Furies forward Anissa Gamble spoke with The GIST about what the CWHL folding means to her and to women’s pro hockey.
Making it Work, Takes a Little Longer
The GIST: Just two days after the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) abruptly folded, the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) announced plans to expand to Canada with a little help from the NHL.
Where are they expanding to?: For now, just Toronto and Montreal. The NWHL’s five teams cover a small area of the U.S. from Minnesota to Massachusetts. The costs of expanding as far as Calgary (despite the Inferno having just won the Clarkson Cup) are likely too high…for now.
So this means some CWHL teams live on?: Not quite. The NWHL won’t be taking over the CWHL teams (Toronto Furies and Montreal Canadiennes) that, until recently, existed in those cities. But it does mean some players might have a professional team to play for when next season rolls around.
Where does the NHL come in?: The NHL has agreed to double their financial support to the NWHL, from $50k to $100k, to make them one of the league’s biggest sponsors. But here’s the fine print: the NHL was already giving $50k to the CWHL, so they’re just reallocating those funds. So yes. They haven’t actually increased their overall support in women’s hockey yet. Meanwhile, the NHL’s current minimum wage is a cool $700k. *cue heavy sigh and eye roll*
Where does that leave things?: Hopeful, but still with A LOT of work to do. The CWHL had 130 players (and countless staff) who are left without a team. So while the addition of two new NWHL teams is a step in the right direction, it still leaves a gaping hole in the professional women’s hockey community.
It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's a Blue Jay Flying Far, Far Away
The GIST: On Tuesday, the Toronto Blue Jays traded away Kevin ‘Superman’ Pillar, a fan-favourite for his spectacular catches, to the San Francisco Giants.
Tell me about the deal: In return, the Giants sent utility infielder Alen Hanson and pitchers Derek Law and Juan De Paula (a 21-year-old prospect), to the Jays.
Was this the right move?: TBD. But the trade all but confirms the Jays are in full rebuildmode. Other familiar faces that are no longer with the Jays since last season include Russell Martin, Marco Estrada, Troy Tulowitzki, Kendrys Morales, Josh Donaldson, Steve Pearce and J.A. Happ. Which probably has you wondering, who TF is on the team? Meet the squad here.
What was the reaction?: Sad. So sad. Pillar was interviewed shortly after the trade was announced and was teary-eyed and emotional AF. Teammate Justin Smoak also choked upwhen he was asked about the deal. Pillar had been with the Jays for six years—his entire MLB career—so it’s hard not to feel for the guy. But as general manager Ross Atkins put it: "We're not in a popularity contest. We're in a contest to win championships."
In other Jays news: Toronto signed outfielder Randal Grichuk to a 5-year, $52.5M USDextension on the same day they traded away Pillar. Gutty, we know. But, it seemed to be the right move as a day later, Grichuk homered twice against the Baltimore Orioles. There’s hope he’ll be a slugger in the realm of Donaldson and Jose Bautista in the years to come. Hey batter, batter hey batter, batter swing.
Locked and Loaded
The GIST: Only three playoff spots in the Eastern Conference and one playoff spot in the Western Conference are left to be decided as the NHL season nears its finale this Saturday.
Lightning in a bottle: Call us crazy, but the Stanley Cup is Tampa Bay’s to lose. The Lightning are just the third team in NHL history to crack the 60 win mark (there are 82 games in an NHL season). They also boast the favourite to win NHL MVP, Nikita Kucherov, who has 125 points this season, has led the NHL scoring race since Dec. 28th, has 29 more points than anyone else on his team and has scored seven game-winners. *insert mind-blowing emoji here*
Next stop, Beantown: On Monday, the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the New York Islanders 2-1 to clinch a playoff spot. The cherry on top was John Tavares scoring the game-winneragainst his former team, his career-high 46th goal. Thatta boy, JT! Toronto’s first-round playoff matchup will be the Boston Bruins, a team they have only beat once in four games this season.
Outside looking in: Meanwhile, the Montreal Canadiens, Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets are all fighting for the two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference. Montreal grinded out a v impressive 4-2 win over the Lightning on Tuesday, but their loss to the Blue Jackets last week spells trouble.
Why?: Because Montreal and Columbus are tied for points and both have two games left in the season. But, the Blue Jackets hold the tiebreaker (more wins in regulation) meaning the only way Montreal can make the postseason is by pulling ahead of Columbus in points. Stress level 100.
Check it out! We interviewed Ottawa Senator rookie forward, Colin White! And while we released our Thomas Chabot interview first, White was actually the first NHLer we ever interviewed. Get to know White off the ice and learn why White is probably the most relatable NHLer by watching our interview now.
P.S. We’re new to doing interviews so want to hear your feedback. Reply to this email and let us know how you like it!
- The women’s March Madness tournament has its Final Four: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 1 Baylor and No. 2 UConn vs. No. 1 Notre Dame. Friendly reminder that UConn and Notre Dame met in the Final Four last year and it was quite possibly the most exciting basketball game we’ve ever watched—Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale drilled this three-pointer with literally one second left. Notre Dame went on to win the whole shebang. Here’s hoping we’ll see some similar chill-inducing mayhem tomorrow.
In the other matchup, Baylor has quietly become the new tournament favourite, but watch for Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu to put on a show like she did in their Elite Eight win over No. 1 Mississippi State. Damn, girl!
- There must be something in the water with league shutdowns this week. Just two months into its inaugural season, the American Alliance of Football (AAF) is folding suspending operations. Remember that group project you failed in college because all your group members couldn’t get on the same page? Let’s just say this league was a lot like that. The story behind this shutdown has many layers. Get all the deets here.
- For the first time, Augusta National (the PGA’s most famous course, home to the Masters) is hosting a women’s tournament. The course didn’t even allow women to join until 2012, so the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur is a BFD. The tournament teed off yesterday and features 72 amateur golfers including just one Canadian—20-year-old Brigitte Thibault (no Brooke Henderson because she’s a pro golfer). The field will be cut to just 30 golfers by the final round on Saturday, which will also be televised on NBC.
- On Wednesday, Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook became just the second player in NBA history (!!!) to post a 20-20-20 game (20 points, 20 rebounds, 21 assists). Westbrook dedicated his incredible game to Grammy-nominated rapper and close friend Nipsey Hussle, who was shot and killed in LA on Sunday. Hussle was close with several NBA players, part of the LA Gang Rollin 60s (so some poetry in Russell’s 20+20+20=60) and beloved by many.
- Tuesday was Equal Pay Day in the U.S., so it was fitting that LUNA Bar (the company that makes those delicious energy bars) announced they would pledge $31,250 to each member of the U.S. women’s national soccer team (USWNT) to close the pay gap between them and the men’s team. Amazing news, BUT, it’s a big problem that the money isn’t coming from the federation itself—especially since the team sued U.S. Soccer in March for paying them “lip service” about gender equality between the men’s and women’s teams. SMDH.
What’s Up This Week
Today: The IIHF women’s hockey championship kicks off in Finland today. Canada and the U.S. are the favourites, but will have a slightly harder road to the final as this year’s tournament, unlike prior years, features 10 teams and no byes to the semis. You can check results and game times here. Let’s blow the viewership for this tournament out of the water and show there is a true market for women’s hockey!
Friday: Canada’s women’s soccer team (CANWNT) is facing England in a friendly match to prepare for the Women’s FIFA World Cup beginning June 7th. England is ranked No. 4 in the world, one ahead of Canada. Get it, ladies!
Saturday: The NHL season ends Saturday and there will be plenty of dramatic games to watch including the Ottawa Senators hosting the Columbus Blue Jackets at 7 p.m. ET (a game that could decide the Blue Jackets’ playoff fate). Check in on how your team is doing here, then watch the drama unfold.
Friday-Monday: The women’s March Madness Final Four will take place on Friday, with the final set for Sunday. The men’s Final Four will be played on Saturday, with the final set for Monday night. It’s go time! Click here for the women’s schedule and here for the men’s.