The NHL summer is here — in October

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Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

Get ready for another wild week

One day, hopefully, the news will quiet down and we’ll return to some semblance of normalcy. But not this week. And sports is partly to blame because:

This is the biggest week of the NHL off-season.

Under normal circumstances, we’d be in the first few days of the regular season. Instead, it’s summertime in October. A week after Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup, teams are preparing for the draft. It starts Tuesday night and finishes up Wednesday. The Rangers have the No. 1 pick and are expected to take Quebec junior star Alexis Lafreniere. And it wouldn’t be a draft without some big-name players being mentioned in trade rumours. This year, those include Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine and Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau.

Friday is the start of free agency, which will bring us the frenzy of signings usually seen on Canada Day. A ton of quality goalies are about to hit the market, and the top skaters potentially available are Blues defenceman Alex Pietrangelo and Coyotes forward Taylor Hall. The latter’s negotiating rights are reportedly being shopped, suggesting Arizona thinks he plans to sign elsewhere.

Things may look a little different this year, but the goal is still the same and Rob Pizzo breaks down what you need to know going into this year’s draft.  4:01

The NFL isn’t out of the woods yet.

For a minute there, it looked like the season was unravelling. Sunday’s Titans-Steelers game had already been postponed because of an outbreak when news broke Saturday that New England star quarterback Cam Newton had tested positive for COVID-19. Another potential crisis followed when a Saints player tested positive, putting their game in Detroit in jeopardy.

But, somehow, this didn’t get worse. That Saints player re-tested negative and the game went ahead as scheduled. Newton is out indefinitely, but no other Patriots have tested positive and the team flew out to Kansas City this morning to play their rescheduled game tonight. Plus, the Titans finally had no new positive tests today. If the same happens tomorrow, they’ll be allowed back in their facility Wednesday to prepare for Sunday’s home game vs. also-undefeated Buffalo.

Of course, we’ve seen that the coronavirus can sometimes take days to trigger a positive test result after someone is exposed to it. And last week was a troubling reminder that this NFL season will probably always be on the brink of collapse.

Jimmy Butler rescued the NBA Finals.

A Lakers sweep appeared to be in the offing heading into Game 3. L.A. had blown out Miami in the first two games, and the Heat were once again without injured stars Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic. Oddsmakers had the Lakers favoured by 9.5 points.

But Butler threw his team on his back and saved basketball fans from boredom with a truly remarkable performance. He put up a 40-point triple-double to lead the Heat to a 115-104 upset, and he did it without attempting a single three-pointer. The last guy to score 40 in a Finals game without trying a three was massive centre Shaquille O’Neal in 2002. So, yeah, Jimmy played pretty good.

Canadian big man Kelly Olynyk chipped in 17 points and seven rebounds for Miami. Tyler Herro also had 17 and inspired the most memes with this close-up:

Game 4 is Tuesday night and suddenly feels interesting again. Read more about Butler’s Game 3 heroics and watch highlights here.

The Seattle Storm are on the verge of winning the WNBA title.

Maybe league MVP A’ja Wilson can summon a Butler-like performance for the Las Vegas Aces. If not, the Storm look poised to sweep the best-of-five series and win their second title in three years after back-to-back 13-point victories.

Breanna Stewart scored 22 points and Sue Bird followed up her playoff-record 16 assists in the series opener with 10 more dimes in the Storm’s 104-91 win last night. Wilson scored 20, but Vegas doomed itself with 15 turnovers. Game 3 is Tuesday night. Read more about unselfish Seattle’s Game 2 win here.

The second round of the baseball playoffs starts today.

Eight teams are left, and everything will be played in neutral ballparks from here on in. The American League matchups for this best-of-five round are top-seeded Tampa Bay vs. the No. 5 New York Yankees (in San Diego), and No. 2 Oakland vs No. 6 Houston (in Los Angeles). Those series start today. The National League ones open tomorrow. They’re the top-seeded L.A. Dodgers vs. No. 4 San Diego (in Arlington, Texas) and No. 2 Atlanta vs. No. 6 Miami (in Houston).

I know, I can’t believe the Marlins are still alive either. So much so, apparently, that in Friday’s newsletter I wrote the Cubs were in position to sweep the Marlins that night. But it was the other way around, and Miami finished the job. So a Marlins team that went 57-105 last year, and had 18 players test positive for COVID-19 during an outbreak earlier this season, and who called up a 30-year-old former Olympic speed skater with zero big-league experience as one of the replacements… is one series win away from playing for the NL pennant.

In case you missed it…

A few other things from the weekend you should know about:

A pro curling tournament in Ontario shut down after a player got a notification from the COVID Alert app. Organizers decided to cancel the remainder of the men’s playoffs at the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard, which was being played in Waterloo, Ont., after the app advised a player that he’d been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Former Brier champion Glenn Howard and 2014 Olympic gold medallist Brad Jacobs were two of the skips involved in the tournament, which had a $10,000 purse. The women’s event was allowed to finish and six-time Scotties champ Jennifer Jones won it. Read more about the cancellation of the men’s playoffs here.

Canadian Brent Lakatos won the London Marathon men’s wheelchair race. Lakatos is known more for his sprinting. His only Paralympic gold medal came in the 100 metres, and all 11 of his world titles are for distances ranging from 100-800m. But he can stretch it out too. Lakatos won the Berlin Marathon in 2018, and yesterday he took the London title in a sprint (of course) finish. Another Canadian, Tristan Woodfine, met the standard for the Olympic marathon by shaving about two and a half minutes off his personal-best time. Read more about that here and more about Lakatos’ victory here.

A Canadian broke a college record held by one of the NFL’s best receivers. John Metchie III racked up 181 yards receiving on Saturday, which is a single-game record for a sophomore at the University of Alabama. ‘Bama is one of (if not the) premier college football programs, and the old record was held by Amari Cooper, who’s now a star with the Dallas Cowboys. Metchie’s big day included two long touchdown catches — a 78-yarder and a 63-yarder — in the No. 2-ranked Crimson Tide’s 52-24 rout of No. 13 Texas A&M.

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