From math to Maverick: Getting to know new Blue Jays signee Zac Cook

On a sizzling afternoon in North Texas, Zac Cook cruises down I-35 on his way home from practice with the Texas Stix, a team for whom he coaches. Wearing a pair of orange-tinted sunglasses and a black Stix hat, he’s relaxed and proud, even if the sports he loves is in disarray at the professional level.
Despite the ongoing issues surrounding MLB’s labour negotiations, Cook is feeling relieved and optimistic about his own future. Five days ago, he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays as an undrafted free agent. Regardless of what is going on now, with the global pandemic or otherwise, he’s a professional baseball player.
“Being a free agent has a new meaning now,” Cook, 22, told Blue Jays Nation. “I’m still happy with the opportunity I’ve been given and the way the team has received me, even being a free agent sign.”
On the day of the shortened 2020 MLB Draft, he was in Oklahoma City, Okla. coaching with the Stix. On Sunday, teams were allowed to start signing undrafted free agents, which they did with immense efficiency.
Immediately, he got a bunch of calls …

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Author: Hayden Godfrey / Blue Jays Nation

‘Your heart hurts a different way’: Oceans away from his family, Justin Nicolino starts anew in Taiwan

On an ordinary November afternoon in 2012, Justin Nicolino was shopping inside a Nordstrom Rack in Tampa, Florida. Then a month away from turning 21, he was picking out clothes for a trip to Las Vegas he was planning with his friends Kellen Sweeney, Mike Aviles, and Nick Punto. He was one of the top prospects in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, having been drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft, and was living in Palm Harbor with fellow up-and-coming hurler Aaron Sanchez.
While browsing, he received a call from a Canadian number. Unsure of its origin, he let it go to voicemail. There’s no way he was being cut, he thought to himself. After all, he just finished a stellar season with the Low-A Lansing Lugnuts in which he pitched to an ERA of 2.46 and was named to the Midwest League Postseason All-Star Team. What could it be?
Minutes later, he checked his messages. It was Andrew Tinnish, the Blue Jays’ assistant general manager. Nicolino had been traded to the Miami Marlins in a deal that he was told included some big names. Tinnish told him that his inclusion in the deal was the only way to …

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Author: Hayden Godfrey / Blue Jays Nation

John Tavares talks music and teammates he’d quarantine with on NHL conference call

Earlier this afternoon, John Tavares joined in on an NHL conference call today and spoke about several topics, ranging on the state of the season, deserted island music, and which teammate he’d quarantine with if he had to choose.
When asked about which Leafs teammates he’d most like to be quarantined with, Tavares had a couple of options:

“How much fun they have every day, their ability to turn any environment into something that anyone would enjoy.”@91Tavares talked about the two teammates he’d most want to be quarantined with on today’s @NHL media call.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) March 30, 2020

It’s easy to see why the guy would want to spend time with someone that knows how to keep things light:
“Probably, Mitchy (Mitch Marner) or Justin Holl. The type of energy they bring around the locker room and how much fun they have every day. Their ability to turn any environment into something that anyone can enjoy. They bring that enthusiasm.”
The clip that really seemed to draw some attention on Twitter, though, was Tavares’ music choices when asked for his Top-3 desert island picks:

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Author: Nation World HQ / The Leafs Nation

E.J. Johnston of 3ICE provides us with some more details on his new 3 on 3 league

Seemingly out of the blue on Monday afternoon there came word of a new hockey league coming to fruition in time for Summer 2021. They already had their TV deals in place with both TSN and CBS Sports, an partnership with ASM Global, who operate around 60 arenas in North America with and they had a prized format we’ve all come to love in the past few years, the 3 on 3 format that we all can’t get enough of in overtime.
The league also promises to fill a void of the summer months when hockey disappears from our TVs, but not from our hearts. According to E.J. Johnston, CEO of 3ICE, the plan is that as soon as the Stanley Cup is awarded, 3ICE starts touring. They’ll hit the road for nine Saturdays from June to August, being wrapped up before the start of NHL training camps, or before Saturday sports television transitions to College Football.
It very much seems like this league is going to happen, and reached out to E.J. Johnston to find out more.
According to E.J. the idea of building the league came largely from the success of the new …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Despite interest from the Maple Leafs and Bruins, Justin Williams returns to Carolina

On Tuesday afternoon, Pierre LeBrun reported that both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins made a pitch to free-agent forward Justin Williams while his former club, the Carolina Hurricanes, tried to figure out a contract for the veteran.

While the Hurricanes continue to work on a contract for Justin Williams, complicated by the 35 and over rules and bonuses and their cap situation, word is the Maple Leafs also made a pitch to Williams this week. Also heard that the Bruins inquired.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) January 7, 2020

Despite the interest from Toronto and Boston, Williams in unsurprisingly headed back to Carolina. Williams spent his last two seasons with the Hurricanes and captained the team in 2018-19 to a breakout season. After getting eliminated in the Eastern Conference Finals last year, Williams chose to take the first part of the 2019-20 season off to determine his future. It always seemed he would go back to Carolina, but it wasn’t automatic given their salary cap situation.
Williams became known as Mr. Game 7 throughout his career as a result of his clutch play in series-clinching playoff games. He’s tied with Glenn Anderson for the NHL’s all-time record …

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Author: Cam Lewis / The Leafs Nation

Five most anticipated games for the Toronto Raptors in 2019

With the NBA schedule released on Monday afternoon, we look ahead to some of the most interesting matchups for the Toronto Raptors in 2019. Now that the NBA schedule has been released, it feels like the leagues, so-called, “dead period” is finally coming to an abrupt halt. The start of the season, though so far […]
Five most anticipated games for the Toronto Raptors in 2019 – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Thomas Valentine / Raptors HQ

The NHL Needs its Own Kawhi Saga, Badly

The date on this glorious Tuesday afternoon is July 9th, 2019.
We’ve officially reached the dog days of the North American sports calendar, my friends; the MLB regular season won’t return from its annual All-Star break for another three days, NFL rookies won’t report to training camps until, at the earliest, July 17th, and the CFL is, uh, still a league, I guess.
And standing above them all in its towering glory is the NBA: the greatest reality show of all time.
Kicking off the June 30th free agency period with a game of musical chairs so chaotic it, at one point, caused Adrian Wojnarowski to tweet six different times within a span of 45 seconds (It happened. I saw it with my own two eyes), the NBA has managed to dominate both the Twittersphere and the news cycle at large for practically the entire summer thanks to a dizzying display of player movement and off-court intrigue.
It’s stunning, really. There is truly no such thing as a dull moment.
But the mayhem on Canada Day Eve was only the beginning. As the NBA world slept soundly at 2 am this past Saturday morning, Kawhi Leonard detonated a nuclear …

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Author: Mike Stephens / The Leafs Nation

Let’s assign each Toronto Raptor an Avenger comparison

In the spirit of a casual Friday afternoon, and on the eve of the second round of the playoffs for Toronto, let’s assign each Raptor a corresponding Avenger. A couple of weeks ago, our guy Josh Kern came to me with an idea to assign Game of Thrones characters to each of the Toronto Raptors. It was the type of idea we’d done before — both for Star Wars and the X-Men — but I’m not as well-versed in HBO’s hit show so I was a bit cool towards the idea. I regret this now because, well, it would have been fun to see Josh try to do it (and because of my craven SEO instincts).
In any case, now it’s Friday, on the eve of the tense second round of the NBA playoffs, so let’s cut loose.
In that spirit, and since everyone is in the process of trying to see, why not find appropriate comparisons for the Raptors as Avengers? I happened to see Avengers: Endgame earlier this week — with some thoughts on it here (spoiler alert: it’s not bad) — and it set my mind turning. Also, again, it’s Friday, and we …

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Author: Daniel Reynolds / Raptors HQ

LGD: Finish this series, please

It’s now up to the Leafs to end this series Sunday afternoon and not have to go back to Boston to try and depend on one game to win.
The last remaining Canadian team, the Leafs will hopefully last longer than just a couple days past the Jets and Flames’ elimination.
It’s been 15 years since the Leafs have been able to get out of the first round, but they just might be able to do the thing and make history in several hours.
If the Leafs were to win the series in six or seven games, they will face the surprising Columbus Blue Jackets in what might be a highly-entertaining series. As we already know — after defeating the historic Lightning team — this Columbus team is full of surprises and anything can happen.
The Leafs

Leafs lines at morning skate
Hyman-Tavares-MarnerJohnsson-Matthews-Kapanen Marleau-Nylander-Brown Ennis- -MoorePetan
Rielly-Hainsey Muzzin-Zaitsev Gardiner-Dermott Rosen-Marincin Holl-Ozhiganov
Andersen Hutchinson
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) April 19, 2019

The Leafs will be going with the same lineup as Friday night. Both Zach Hyman and Patrick Marleau were possibly out for this afternoon’s match but both will be playing.
The third line of Marleau-Nylander-Brown were increasingly impressive throughout Game 5. Without a lot …

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Author: Thomas Williams / The Leafs Nation