3 Big Sports Stories – March 10, 2017

Barcelona does the unthinkable

When you are going into the second leg of a Champions League round of 16 match, and you won the first game 4-0, all you have to do is not be a colossal choke artist and you are good as gold. That, however, is something Paris Saint-Germain could not manage to do. In what a lot of people are calling the greatest comeback in Champions League history, Barcelona exploded in the second leg of their round of 16 set with PSG and emerged from the pitch with a 6-1 win. It was a result that literally no one could have fathomed, and one that has left the fans of PSG feeling a mixture of shock, despair, and anger with the monumental collapse of their team. Members of the team itself noted that they choked the game away, with players and executives alike throughout the organization making it clear that everyone knew; there was really only one team truly playing in that game. While there were some questionable decisions made by the referees, everyone was well aware that the blame cannot be placed on the officiating in this instance. This shocking meltdown also is beginning to send a message to the sporting world about what we may be in for in other sports, and that just might be a year of shocking comebacks. Prior to Barcelona, the first team in the “Comeback Club” were Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, after the Pats came back from being down 28-3 with just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter. Barca midfielder Ivan Rakitic even likened the massive rally of his club to that of New England against the Atlanta Falcons, noting how that comeback as well as Barca’s just goes to show what truly is possible in sports.

 

Damnation in the Desert

It is quite a shame that for all the great potential that the Arizona Coyotes have in their core group for the future with the likes of Dylan Strome, Max Domi, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jakob Chychrun, and Clayton Keller, that the only time they ever get real mainstream publicity is when the team is in peril with their city. For several years, the city and the team have been at odds with payment allegations, one fan’s tirade at a council meeting and the constant rumors about relocation. However, it seems as though the NHL is finally starting to realize that there is a real problem with the Desert Dogs. Commissioner Gary Bettman and the Coyotes threatened to move the franchise out of Arizona if the Legislature does not approve a $225 million publicly financed new arena in either Phoenix or the East Valley. Despite the fact that the West Valley city financed the 13-year old Gila River Arena specifically for the Coyotes, the league pontificates that it is not economically viable for the team to remain in Glendale. In his three-page letter to state Senate President Steve Yarbrough and House Speaker J.D. Mesnard where he urged them to push through the bill, Bettman stated that “The Coyotes cannot and will not remain in Glendale.” Should the team be moved, there are certainly some viable options, however, the best options likely would be Eastern conference teams, leaving the Western conference with two fewer teams than the East. Quebec City and Hamilton are probably to most viable options right now as they both have arenas that can support NHL teams and have an obvious interest level. Seattle and Portland are both very interesting options as well, with both having deep roots with their Western Hockey League clubs. Hartford is a club that a lot of people would not mind seeing return, however, the city has been unable to get their act together when it comes to getting a solid ownership group and developing an arena. Milwaukee has much of the same issues that Hartford has, however, remains on the list. Other longshots include Saskatoon, Spokane, or maybe even a second or third (depending on Hamilton) Southern Ontario team if a city like London, Kitchener or Oshawa would be willing to renovate their buildings.

 

Nike introduces athletic hijab

After being in development for roughly a year, Nike has finally unveiled their Nike Pro Hijab from Muslim female athletes. According to the company, multiple athletes contributed to the design and making of it, and figure skater Zahra Lari was among those who tested it. The pull-on hijab comes in three colours (black, vast grey, and obsidian) and is made of light, stretchy fabric that includes tiny holes for breathability and an elongated back so it will not come untucked. Nike also announced that the hijab will be available for sale starting next year. Over the past several years, headwear has become increasingly more welcomed and common among athletes. Last summer, fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, a New York native, became the first Muslim American woman to compete for the United States wearing a hijab at the Olympics and finished with the bronze medal. FIFA also got on board in 2014 when they lifted the ban on head coverings, recognizing the Muslim and Sikh players. The U-17 Women’s World Cup last October in Jordan marked the first time Muslim players wore headscarves during a FIFA event.

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