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NHL playoffs preview

With the conclusion of the NHL regular season, the most exciting time of the year for hockey fans is finally here. It’s playoff time.

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With the conclusion of the NHL regular season, the most exciting time of the year for hockey fans is finally here. It’s playoff time.

With Covid-19 still existent and the emergence of the vaccine in North America, there are some major changes to the playoffs and format as compared to last year’s playoffs. The first and second rounds of the playoffs will consist of the divisional matchups, and then the respective winners of the divisions will be reseeded based on the team’s regular season points standings to shape up semi-final play. A notable difference from previous NHL postseasons is that there won’t be any conference championships awarded, as the winner of the semi-finals will then meet to play for the prestigious Stanley Cup and be crowned the winner. 

Another change from last year’s playoffs is that the bubble has been burst. The bubble that was setup in the cities of Toronto and Edmonton for last year has been dropped as teams will play in their home arenas for the duration of the playoffs. The playoff teams (except for Canadian teams currently) will also have fans in attendance to add to the playoff atmosphere. However, this home arena format does raise the question of whether or not the Canada-US border will be opened up and how the Canadian government, who have not yet relaxed restrictions to vaccinated individuals, will allow teams to travel across the countries to play.    

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest headlines and storylines that make up each of the first round series of the NHL playoffs. 

North Division

The North Division playoffs consist of 4 Canadian teams starting with the Toronto Maple Leafs facing off against the Montreal Canadiens. This is one of the longest and most fierce rivalries in all of sports. The Leafs championship drought sits at 54 years, which is currently the longest active drought in the NHL and ties the NHL record for the longest time span a team has gone without winning the Stanley Cup. On the quest to end that drought, the Canadiens will be their first challenge. The two rivals will be meeting in the playoffs for the first time since 1979 and it’s shaping up to be one of the most physical and entertaining matchups of this year’s playoffs. 

The electric and high-flying Edmonton Oilers play the undermanned Winnipeg Jets in the second all-Canadian playoff matchup. While taking on last year’s best goalie award winner, Connor Hellebuyck and the Jets, the front-runner for the Hart Trophy -the NHL MVP award- Connor McDavid and the Oilers look for their first championship since the team was led by Wayne Gretzky. McDavid has made a name for himself as a point scorer but will he be able to cement his legacy of one of hockey’s greatest players of all time at such a young age by carrying his squad to hockey’s ultimate prize? We will find out in due time. 

East Division

Arguably the toughest division in the NHL, the East Division features the Pittsburgh Penguins taking on New York Islanders. The Penguins earned the top seed in the division and set up a date with the same Islanders team that swept them in the playoffs 2 years ago. However, the heavily-favoured Penguins still showcase the likes of the two-headed monster Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who have already led the team to 3 Stanley Cup championships, with 2 of them coming in the past 6 years.

The other East division matchup has the Boston Bruins versus the Washington Capitals. Longtime former Boston Bruins captain and 40 year-old Zdeno Chara returns to the playoffs as a member of the Washington Capitals to face his former team, which he won 1 Stanley Cup with. Both teams are hungry for wins after fairly controversial seasons thanks to Capital’s Tom Wilson disciplinary actions, and Taylor Hall’s arrival to Boston.

West Division

Among the 4 teams playing out of the West Division are the Colorado Avalanche and then St. Louis Blues. The powerhouse Colorado Avalanche play the St. Louis Blues in the first round of what is regarded as a tough matchup. The Avalanche finished the regular season with the best record in the NHL and most points, winning themselves a Presidents Trophy. This matchup showcases two of most defensively deep teams in the NHL. Bettors beware, Nathan MacKinnon and the Avalanche have the best odds to win it all this year. 

The Vegas Golden Knights, the league’s second-best team, look to start the journey to earn their first ever Stanley Cup in team history against rookie of the year frontrunner Kirill Kaprizov and the Minnesota Wild. Minnesota has been playing formidable hockey as of late but unfortunately for them Vegas’ goaltending tandem have been standing on their heads and stealing games for their team. Both teams will definitely have to bring their A-games if they want to advance.

Central Division

The underdog Nashville Predators, who just squeaked into the playoffs, face-off against the division champs Carolina Hurricanes. This matchup features two of the most inexperienced teams playing in this year’s playoffs, but the young talent cannot be denied. Carolina boasts offensive, defensive and goaltending depth, so they should be heavily favoured as the favourites to come out on top in this matchup.

Another rivalry matchup: the defending Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning open up their title defence against in-state rivals and long-time foes, the Florida Panthers. The Lightning will have a big boost going into the series as they are slated to get captain Steven Stamkos and 2019 league MVP Nikita Kucherov. The Panthers have had key role players step up and emerge as stars this season, and they’ll be looking to use the playoffs to prove that their success this season was no fluke. The Lightning are focusing on repeating as Stanley Cup champions. The last team to repeat as Cup champions was the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017. The players better keep their mouthguards in when they’re on the ice in this one as a brawl is always brewing in the Battle of Florida.

The quest to crown the champion of the 2020-2021 NHL season has officially begun. So, grow those playoffs beards, dust off your jerseys, and get hyped up, hockey fans. It’s playoff time.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Daily Brief

More than 90 Women Sue the FBI for $1Billion For Mishandling the Nassar Case

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Raisman and Biles
  • More than 90 women and girls, including Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, who were sexually assaulted by the disgraced USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar plan to sue the FBI for $1 billion for mishandling the credible sexual assault complaints. 
  • The FBI agency’s own watchdog found that the FBI disregarded allegations about Nassar, and in a long-awaited report from the US Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General, it was stated that various missteps and cover-ups by FBI agents allowed Nassar’s abuse to continue for more than a year after the case was opened in 2015.
  • The FBI field office took very limited action against Nassar and did not document any investigation or alert other authorities. Also, just two weeks ago, the US Justice Department decided not to prosecute the two FBI agents accused of mishandling the Nassar case. 
  • The plaintiffs’ claim is being filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows people who have been harmed by negligent actions of the federal government to seek recompense for damages. The plaintiffs are all seeking different amounts for damages, but the total claims amount is expected to surpass $1billion. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

Liverpool Fans Tear Gassed by French Police Before Final Match: UK Calls for an Investigation

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  • French police are criticized for firing tear gas and pepper spray at Liverpool fans waiting to get into the stadium in Paris.
  • The French sports ministry has called a meeting with Uefa (the French Football Association), stadium officials, and police to “draw lessons” from the event.
  • French interior minister Gérald Darmanin appeared to blame British supporters, tweeting on Saturday that thousands were without valid tickets and had forced entry while also claiming that some fans had assaulted stewards.
  • However, Merseyside Police said its officers who were stationed in Paris and attended the match “reported the vast majority of fans behaved in an exemplary manner, arriving at turnstiles early and queuing as directed.”
  • Liverpool FC also called for an investigation into the event and said they would be asking fans to contact them directly with their experiences.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Sport

The untold stories of Qatar and the FIFA World Cup

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While many acknowledge deep problems within the host country, one expert says the overly negative attention on Qatar overshadows much of the positive change the games are creating. 

Sports often bring people together, but that doesn’t seem to be happening with FIFA this year.

“Having the world cup in Quatar (sic) just makes me sick and not interested,” said one Twitter user, decrying the alleged abuses against workers who built the stadiums for the World Cup. “Those guys could never afford a ticket to these games, even though they loved the game and worked hard.”

“Give me a free final ticket if Germany played in it, I still won‘t go there. Never,” said another.

Qatar is hosting the World Cup in November, the very first Middle Eastern country to do so. Since Qatar was awarded hosting rights for the sporting event, there have been controversies over the way the country was chosen (including allegations of bribing FIFA) as well as scrutiny of the country’s human rights record (over the country’s alleged treatment of migrant workers and LGBTQ+ rights). 

But while many acknowledge deep problems within the country, some say the overly negative attention on Qatar overshadows much of the positive change the games are creating. 

“There’s politics with FIFA and World Cup organizers of Qatar,” said Luv Randhawa, an international singer based in British Columbia, who still hopes to attend his first World Cup this year. “For us as fans, we want to see the best sport.” 

He has conflicting feelings about the “beautiful” stadiums built by migrant workers.

“I look at it in two aspects: I pledge the pride of the people of Qatar for what they’ve done, but I’m also somber about the people who have lost their lives and livelihood because of the building of these buildings that the world is coming to see.”

Umer Hussain, who has a PhD in sports marketing, says while the controversies around Qatar are concerning, they’ve detracted from the positive aspects of the first World Cup since the pandemic.

“One of the goals of FIFA was to grow its own fan base, so that’s why when the FIFA World Cup was awarded to Qatar, it made me very excited,” said the postdoctoral researcher at Texas A&M University. 

He noted this World Cup generated around five million jobs. Qatar also changed some of its laws to support the rights of migrant workers and to prevent wage theft. Muslim women are also being encouraged more to play sports as a result of the Cup, Hussain said.

But he added the media has only been focusing on the negative aspects of the host country. 

As far as allegations of corruption go, Hussain points to the Global Transparency Index, whose Corruption Perceptions Index in 2021 ranked Qatar as less corrupt than the three previous FIFA hostsRussia, Brazil and South Africa. (Russia also faced controversy over alleged bribery and human rights violations.)

Hussain says the negative portrayal of Qatar as a corrupt country reflects historical stereotyping of Arab countries as inhumane. 

“People think … Qatar wanted to take soft power in the Arab world, that’s why they’re holding this World Cup,” Hussain said, noting Qatar has however lost more than it’s gained from this Cup. 

“There has been a lot of damage already done.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Society

Double Olympic Champion: Losing to Trans Women is About Biology – ‘I Feel Let Down’ 

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Screenshot 2022 04 22 at 09.45.26
Nicola, Wikimedia Commons via Wikimedia Commons

Katie Archibald, the double Olympic champion has criticised the International Olympic Committee and other sports bodies for their transgender policies saying they have not only let down female cyclists by underplaying biology but also left trans women like Emily Bridges to face intense scrutiny. 

“It is my opinion that the international governing bodies of several sports have let down transgender athletes, in particular transgender women, with their inclusion policies,” Archibald said in a statement.

According to Archibald, it was wrong for governing bodies to ignore the science that shows trans women who have gone through male puberty have a retained advantage in strength, stamina and physique. She made it clear that she and other females were also being let down by the unwillingness of sports to accept the importance of biology. 

Sadly, this is just an extension of the policies we have chosen to enact in our society without any regard to their consequences. Following the law for some such as trans results in rights being taken from others such as female athletes in sports. 

“These policies have put the athletes, their involvement in sport, and their personal lives under intense scrutiny when all the athletes have done is follow the rules and enter a category they were encouraged to enter.”

“I feel let down by the International Olympic Committee who tell me there should be no assumed advantage for an athlete with a gender identity different to their sex,” she said.

“I read this and hear that my world titles, my Olympic medals, and the champions jerseys I have at home, were all won in a category of people who simply don’t try as hard as the men. That losing to male androgenisation is not about biology, but mindset. They are wrong.

It’s ironic that women had to live under the tyranny of men for so long but now in a so-called liberal society, we are allowing men to become women and oppress women as women. Katie has shown incredible courage to point out something so obvious that our society continues to ignore with no real questions or fair solutions on offer!

She continued: “The retained advantage of people who have gone through male puberty in strength, stamina, and physique, with or without testosterone suppression, has been well documented.

“Cycling’s global governing body, by its president’s own admission, knows this. But they chose to delay action until it became sadly personal for one rider. That wasn’t fair.”

She also expressed deep sympathy for Bridges, who broke the junior men’s 25-mile record before transitioning in 2020, saying she was only following the rules of cycling’s governing body, the UCI, before it decided to block her racing as a woman last month.

In her statement Archibald also called on governing bodies of sports such as cycling, triathlon and rowing to come together to develop policies based on science, while also making their sport more welcoming for trans athletes. “But I’d like us to do all this without sacrificing one of the foundational pillars of sport: fairness.”

This is a key point, but it is not just limited to sport, in all aspects of society fairness should be a key consideration before making policies that allow individuals to act in a way that is legal but harmful to other individuals. We choose to ignore this principle at our own peril and decisions made in the past are slowly starting to unravel before us. 

When little 8-year-old boys start to transition and when a male swimmer who ranked 554th in men’s competition, becomes one of the top ranked swimmers in women’s competition, it tells us that this question of fairness should have been asked a long time ago! Not just from IOC but from governments and societies at large!

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Sport

Utah Governor Vetoes Bill Targeting Transgender Athletes

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Utah governor vetoes bill that targets transgender athletes
Utah Reps, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

On Tuesday, a republican-backed bill was vetoed by the state governor of Utah that barred transgenders from competing with girls in sports in schools.

Gov. Spencer Cox said in a statement that while “politically, it would be much easier and better for me to simply sign the bill,” he chose to veto it because he “tried to do what I feel is the right thing regardless of the consequences.”

Mr Cox was the second governor in vetoing the bill as on Monday, Gov. Eric Holcomb of Indiana, a Republican, vetoed a similar bill, saying it would likely have been challenged in court and would not have solved any pressing issue.

The two governors’ actions of vetoing the bill are at odds with steps taken in a number of other Republican-led states where transgender rights have become an imminent issue in a broader U.S. culture war over sexuality and gender identity. Whereas governors in states including Texas, Alabama, Mississippi and Iowa have signed into law bills that ban trans girls from competing in girls’ sports.

In a series of tweets Cox made an emotional plea for compassion toward transgender youth Tuesday in explaining his decision to veto the bill. He said “No other state has done this, and we hoped that Utah could be the first. Unfortunately, that compromise fell apart in the 11th hour of the session.” Regarding transgenders he also tweeted “I am not an expert on transgenderism. I struggle to understand so much of it and the science is conflicting. When in doubt however, I always try to err on the side of kindness, mercy and compassion.”

Also in a letter to the state’s Senate president and House speaker, the governor said he was moved by the data that shows that among 75,000 kids playing high school sports in Utah, only four were transgender, with just one involved in girls sports.

“Four kids and only one of them playing girls sports. That’s what all of this is about. Four kids who aren’t dominating or winning trophies or taking scholarships. Four kids who are just trying to find some friends and feel like they are a part of something. Four kids trying to get through each day,” he wrote. “Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few.”

However Republican legislators plan to override the veto on Friday, as State Senator J. Stuart Adams, a Republican, mentioned in a statement.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Russia-Ukraine

Sanctions Against Russia Leave Chelsea Football Club Up for Grabs

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  • Former Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, was pushed to sell the Club amidst the hard sanctions against Russia.
  • Turkish businessman, Muhsin Bayrak, is set to bid 1 billion pounds for the football club, half of the 2.2 billion pounds he intended to offer Abramovich.
  • The British government will issue a license for the sale, despite not being directly involved in the sale process should they agree with the conditions.

Former Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, was pushed to sell the Club amidst the hard sanctions against Russia. Leaving room for potential buyers to submit bids in hopes of taking the Club at a fraction of the cost now that it was transferred to the government. The British government has set Friday as the deadline for any bids.

Turkish businessman, Muhsin Bayrak, is set to bid 1 billion pounds for the football club, half of the 2.2 billion pounds he intended to offer Abramovich. Strict sanctions connected to Russia’s occupation in Ukraine have hit multiple Russian oligarchs. This has caused an opening in the world market where many top Russian business owners held assets. 

Bayrak also intended on offering Abramovich $400 million of his company’s cryptocurrency and the transfer of certain real estate projects to the Russian billionaire. The Turkish investor is set to meet with Abramovich later this week in Turkey to receive his blessing for any deal. The British government will issue a license for the sale, despite not being directly involved in the sale process should they agree with the conditions.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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