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Connor McDavid is having a season for the ages
The Oilers superstar all but ended the races for hockey’s two biggest individual awards last night when he scored a hat trick and added an assist in Edmonton’s 6-1 blowout of Winnipeg. That gave him 12 points in his last four games, and an incredible 81 points in 46 games this season.
With only 10 games left, McDavid has opened up an almost insurmountable 15-point lead over teammate Leon Draisaitl in the NHL scoring race. To put that in perspective, the gap between McDavid and Draisaitl is larger than the one between Draisaitl and the player in 14th place (Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau). Barring a catastrophe (and even that might not matter), McDavid is going to win his third Art Ross Trophy — and his first since going back-to-back in 2016-17 and ’17-18.
McDavid also looks like a lock for his second Hart Trophy. Playing on a weak Edmonton team has hurt his MVP chances in the past (most voters like to see big individual numbers translate to team success), but that’s not really an issue this year. The Oilers rank 12th overall with a solid 28-16-2 record, and they’re pretty much assured of making the 16-team playoffs for the first time since 2017 — when McDavid won the Hart.
McDavid is so far above his contemporaries this season that he needs to be compared to all-time greats. If he maintains his current pace of 1.76 points per game through the end of the season, he’ll become the first player since Mario Lemieux 20 years ago to produce at that high a rate while playing at least 40 games. In the last 50 years, only 12 players have done it: Wayne Gretzky (11 times, lol), Lemieux (8, also lol), Mike Bossy (2), Phil Esposito (2), Jari Kurri (2), Bobby Orr (1), Jaromir Jagr (1), Steve Yzerman (1), Bryan Trottier (1), Pat Lafontaine (1), Adam Oates (1) and Bernie Nicholls (1). Pretty good company.
The list of guys with at least two Hart and three Art Ross trophies is even shorter: Gretzky (9 Harts, 10 Art Rosses — and, no, those are not typos), Gordie Howe (6 and 6), Lemieux (3 and 6), Esposito (2 and 5), Stan Mikita (2 and 4), Bobby Hull (2 and 3) and Guy Lafleur (2 and 3). This also seems like a good time to mention that McDavid is 24 years old.
A Canadian Olympic gold medallist thought he might die from COVID-19. Alexander Kopacz, who won the two-man bobsleigh event in 2018 with pilot Justin Kripps, spent several days in the hospital last week after experiencing severe symptoms. The 31-year-old’s lung problems got so bad that he “was saying goodbye to a lot of people” as he feared the worst outcome. Luckily, a drug helped turn his breathing around and Kopacz is now back at home — though still hooked up to oxygen as he continues to recover. Watch Kopacz talk about his experience and what he’s learned first-hand about COVID-19 here.
The NHL will soon be making almost $1 billion US a year from broadcast rights. A few weeks after signing a reported $400-million US per year deal with ESPN for the bulk of its American rights, the NHL announced today that Turner Sports bought the rest for a reported $225M US per year. Together, that more than doubles the NHL’s current American deals with NBC and Disney, which pay a combined $300M/year and expire after this season. Add the ESPN and Turner money to the $350M US that Rogers pays annually for the exclusive Canadian rights (based on the current exchange rate), and the NHL will be pulling in about $975M US from broadcasters beginning next season. Read more about the Turner deal here.
The Champions League semifinals kicked off today. Awkward: three of the four teams were involved in the ill-fated attempt by 12 of soccer’s richest clubs to essentially overthrow the Champions League and install their own Super League. As the only semifinalist that wasn’t in on the failed coup, Paris St-Germain might be the sentimental favourite over the three Brutuses: Manchester City, Chelsea and Real Madrid. The semis are two-leg aggregate contests. Real Madrid vs. Chelsea began at 3 p.m. ET today, and PSG vs. Man City goes tomorrow. The return legs are next week. A new champion will be crowned after the final on May 29 because Bayern Munich lost in the quarter-finals to PSG, the team it beat in last year’s final.
Let’s talk about Chadwick Boseman’s sports movies. In case you missed it, one of the most shocking moments in Oscars history happened Sunday when Anthony Hopkins upset Boseman for the Best Actor award. Boseman, who died last summer of cancer at the age of 43, had about a 95 per cent chance of winning based on the betting odds, and the fact that the Academy moved Best Actor to the end of the show (after Best Picture) suggests that it thought Boseman was a lock too. The turn of events was almost as improbable as the plot of Draft Day, the 2014 Kevin Costner vehicle in which Boseman plays a linebacker who gets picked first overall — something that hasn’t happened in the real-life NFL draft since 1988. Boseman, as always, is very good, but the movie isn’t really worth watching unless you’ve somehow run out of content to consume ahead of this Thursday’s draft. A better choice might be 42, the 2013 Jackie Robinson biopic starring Boseman. It has its flaws, but it’s a more fitting showcase for a skilled and interesting actor who will be missed.
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