GoFundMe campaign for Humboldt Broncos surpasses $2 million

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There are now 15 people dead following a bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos, a Saskatchewan junior hockey team, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said on Saturday.

The bus, which was carrying 29 players and coaches, along with the driver, was hit by a semi-trailer as the team was on its way to Nipawin for a playoff game Friday night. Fourteen people were injured.

Among the dead are Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan, team captain Logan Schatz, 20, Adam Herold, 16, Jaxon Joseph, 20,  and radio announcer Tyler Bieber.

“Our thoughts are with the players, families, coaches, team management and all those throughout the community who have been affected by the tragedy involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “The NHL mourns the passing of those who perished and offers strength and comfort to those injured while traveling to play and be part of a game they all love.”

Via the CBC:

Speaking at the news conference on Saturday, RCMP Saskatchewan Assistant Commissioner Curtis Zablocki revealed new details about the crash and the investigation.

He said the male driver of the semi-trailer was not injured and, although he was detained temporarily after the collision, he has now been released.

Zablocki said it was too early to comment on the cause of the collision, but he confirmed the semi-trailer was travelling westbound on Highway 335 when it collided with the bus travelling northbound on Highway 35.

The tragedy hit close to home for many around the hockey world.

“All the best stories are told on the busses, in the locker rooms, in the private areas where it’s just them. It’s contained,” said Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice. “It’s where the friendships are born, the anticipation builds, the quietness of a bus after a tough loss — all things that you go through when you’re playing a sport. It’s so much a part of sporting life, hockey life, especially at that age. To have it end like that, to have it be a part of all of the survivor’s lives now, it’s just an incredibly difficult thing.”

“It’s huge. You look at all the small towns across Saskatchewan, everyone knows everybody, everyone comes to the games. You look at the support the community has to make sure those teams survive. You’re impacted by some of those victims, whether you billeted them, served them at the restaurants, coached them. Everything is so interconnected there. It’s crazy. It’s a huge loss to the community,” said Jets forward Adam Lowry, an alum of the Swift Current Broncos, who lost four players in a 1986 bus crash, including Brent Ruff, brother of long-time NHL head coach Lindy Ruff.

Moments of silence were held around NHL rinks on Saturday night, including in Winnipeg where players from the Jets and Chicago Blackhawks gathered at center ice while wearing jerseys with BRONCOS on the backs.

Sylvie Kellington, a resident of Humboldt, started a GoFundMe page on Friday night to support the families of the victims and the players and staff who were injured as a result of the crash. Support quickly poured in and as of Saturday night there has been close to $3 million given, which includes donations from the Blackhawks, Jets, Los Angeles Kings and Montreal Canadiens, among others.

With files from Scott Billeck and the AP

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Bruins or Lightning: Who wins Atlantic Division title?

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Chances are, the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning will determine who wins the Atlantic Division crown via their two head-to-head games.

First, the Bruins host the Lightning tonight. Next, the Bruins face the Bolts in Tampa Bay on Tuesday (April 3). If one team wins both games in regulation, that could represent a dramatic four-point swing.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

Take a look at the road ahead for each team:

Bruins schedule

47-17-11, 75 games played, 105 points, 44 ROW

Four home games, three road. Two back-to-back sets.

Thu, Mar 29 vs Tampa Bay
Sat, Mar 31 vs Florida
Sun, Apr 1 @ Philadelphia
Tue, Apr 3 @ Tampa Bay
Thu, Apr 5 @ Florida
Sat, Apr 7 vs Ottawa
Sun, Apr 8 vs Florida

Tampa Bay Lightning

51-21-4, 76 GP, 106 points, 45 ROW

Three home, three road. Two back-to-back sets.

Thu, Mar 29 @ Boston
Fri, Mar 30 @ NY Rangers
Sun, Apr 1 vs Nashville
Tue, Apr 3 vs Boston
Fri, Apr 6 vs Buffalo
Sat, Apr 7 @ Carolina

[Want to look at another stretch run? Consider the West bubble races.]

***

As you can see, the Lightning lead the Bruins by a single standings point, but Boston holds a game in hand (seven games remaining for the B’s, six for Tampa Bay). The Bolts will find themselves rooting for their neighbors in the Florida Panthers, as they’ll take on the Bruins on two occasions, including a make-up game as the lone game on the final day of the season.

(That could be a real wild-card game. Will Florida and/or Boston have anything on the line that late in 2017-18?)

Assuming Florida stays in the East playoff race, Boston only faces one clear non-playoff team in Ottawa on April 7. The Lightning enjoy a friendlier schedule, with the Rangers, Sabres, and Hurricanes all pondering the draft lottery.

But, again, those head-to-head games are key. Will the banged-up but resilient Bruins gain the edge, or will the slightly struggling Lightning flip the switch? Those two games in one week should be awfully fun to watch, and maybe a useful barometer for two contenders heading into the playoffs.

So, who’s most likely to come out on top?

Sports Club Stats gives the Bruins a 55-percent chance, versus 45 for Tampa Bay. The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn provides similar projections (sub required), though the Lightning get a slightly better chance at 47 percent.

Those projections could move erratically, particularly after the two head-to-head matches, though. It might be most fun to throw it out in a poll, then. Vote below and feel free to discuss your stance in the comments.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

New arena plans in Seattle remain on schedule

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SEATTLE (AP) — The aggressive timeline for the renovation of Seattle’s KeyArena remains on schedule with the hope of breaking ground on construction by the end of the year.

Steve Mattson, director of operations for Oak View Group, said Monday that the goal remains to have approval to take control of the arena at Seattle Center by late fall and begin the construction process before the end of 2018.

”Every day we move them along a little bit and we feel really good about where we’re at right now,” Mattson said.

Oak View Group released new renderings of the remodeled arena on Monday, beginning a busy week for the group that is looking to bring the NHL to Seattle for the 2020 season. The group has formally filed for an expansion franchise with the NHL and is kicking off its season-ticket campaign on Thursday.

The new renderings focus largely on the south side of the current building where a new glass-enclosed atrium will serve as the main entrance for the building. The new atrium will be the biggest addition to the arena, but the facility will be gutted and rebuilt seemingly from the top down. It’s all part of a $660 million project that if completed will finally solve Seattle’s longtime arena problem.

Redeveloping the building isn’t easy because of the historical landmark status of the arena’s roofline. That limited what Oak View and architectural design firm Populous could do in creating a big enough footprint for a modern facility without being able to expand outward on three of the four sides of the building.

That’s why the atrium addition is so important to the design. It will be the primary entrance for the building and bring spectators in at the top of the arena. The arena will feature four levels and Populous associate principle Geoff Cheong said the design attempts to embrace the history of the building.

”We’ve talked about the arena maintaining its cherished, humble character within the neighborhood, within Seattle Center … but this is a remarkable, new identity, this south atrium. Its contemporary nature is very transparent and very inviting and a great first impression for residents and visitors to Seattle Center to embrace.”

Canada women beat Russia 5-0, will meet U.S. in hockey final

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Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — It’s part of the routine now, as much a staple of the Winter Games as the medal ceremonies, the doping scandals or the sequins on the figure skating costumes.

The United States playing Canada for the Olympic women’s hockey gold medal.

Jennifer Wakefield scored twice and Shannon Szabados stopped 14 shots on Monday night to lead the Canadians to a 5-0 victory over Russia and earn the four-time defending Olympic champions a spot in another gold medal game.

It will be the fifth time in six Winter Games since women’s hockey was added to the program that the North American neighbors have met in the final. No one else has ever skated away with an Olympic gold medal.

Canada outshot Russia 47-14 but struggled to pull away, scoring just once in each of the first two periods before Wakefield bounced one in off goalie Valeria Tarakanova’s right arm just two minutes into the third and then Emily Clark made it 4-0 just 31 seconds later.

Russian coach Alexei Chistyakov swapped his goalies, but it was too late. The Russians still have a chance for their first Olympic women’s hockey medal ever when they play Finland in the bronze medal match on Wednesday.

Marie Philip-Poulin and Rebecca Johnston also scored for Canada, which has won 24 in a row at the Olympics since losing the gold medal game in Nagano in 1998.

The United States advanced to the gold medal game with a 5-0 victory over Finland earlier Monday.

The Americans won the Four Nations Cup, third only to the Olympics and world championships in importance, beating Canada in three of the first four games in a Pyeongchang tuneup tour. But Canada has won the last four, with a 2-1 victory in the pool play finale on Thursday.

None of it matters, really.

The gold medal match is the game these two have been looking forward to since Canada rallied from a two-goal deficit and beat the Americans in overtime in Sochi four years ago.

And it’s the only thing right now that can help the 10 American holdovers from that team ease the pain of their 2014 collapse.

More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org

Seattle group formally files for NHL expansion franchise

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SEATTLE (AP) — The group looking to bring professional hockey to Seattle has taken the next step in the pursuit of an NHL franchise.

The Oak View Group and its prospective NHL ownership group, led by billionaire David Bonderman and filmmaker Jerry Bruckheimer, submitted its expansion application with the National Hockey League on Tuesday.

”We are excited for the next steps in the process and our continued partnership with the City of Seattle,” Oak View CEO Tim Leiweke said in a statement.

The expansion application has been expected for weeks and is the next step in Seattle’s ongoing hope of bringing an NHL franchise to the largest market in the United States without a professional winter sports franchise. The filing also included a $10 million deposit. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan also tweeted her excitement about Oak View’s filing with the NHL.

If Seattle is successful in its expansion bid, the new franchise would bring the league to an even 32 teams with 16 in each conference. A new team would also yield a hefty expansion fee – in the neighborhood of $650 million.

The expansion application is a procedural step that was necessary to validate Oak View’s intent on making Seattle the next NHL market. Seattle’s application will be reviewed and ultimately the league’s executive committee will make a recommendation to the full NHL Board of Governors. The timeline for that is unknown.

The expansion franchise process is running concurrent with a $660 million remodel of KeyArena being privately financed by OVG. The group has an aggressive timeline for construction that could have the renovated building open in time for the 2020-21 NHL season.

The first test in how willing Seattle is to embrace the NHL will arrive in the coming weeks and months when the prospective ownership group begins a season-ticket drive, the same way the league tested Las Vegas. Any NHL team in Seattle would find a completely different landscape than a decade ago when the Sonics and NBA moved to Oklahoma City and the city lost its winter sports outlet.

Seattle’s skyline is filled with as many construction cranes as snowcapped peaks in the surrounding mountains. Amazon has taken over an entire section of the city, joined nearby by satellite offices of Google and Facebook. The amount of wealth now in the Seattle market is part of the reason Oak View CEO Tim Leiweke has regularly called Seattle ”a brilliant marketplace” and one of the most enticing expansion opportunities in pro sports history.

Seattle has become a city of transplants due to the booming local economy. A hockey franchise would provide those newcomers a team to rally around, much like what happened when the Sounders of the MLS arrived in 2009.

But finding a foothold in Seattle will be an examination of how starved fans are for another team. Basketball is embedded in the DNA of the region thanks to 41 years of the SuperSonics until 2008 and a lengthy history of producing NBA talent.

While the ownership group for the potential NHL franchise appears set, there remains some concern about having the new arena ready by the 2020 season. OVG and the city reached agreement on a memorandum of understanding for the arena in December. Councilmembers praised the agreement for including benefits for the city, including $20 million in cash and in-kind contributions to nonprofit organizations and another $40 million to help improve transportation in the area around Seattle Center.

The MOU was the first step in a process that will include an environmental review. The city still needs to finalize several key documents with the developer, including the lease and other agreements.

Under the MOU, Oak View Group would be responsible for regular facility upgrades for the life of the 39-year lease agreement. Should those upgrade requirements be met, there are two eight-year lease extensions that will be activated, and carry the entire life of the lease agreement to 55 years.