Online Exclusives

News and notes on the biggest stories in the world of professional sports

During the dog days of summer, a relative veil of silence falls upon the four major professional sports leagues: Major League Baseball (MLB) is in the thick of their season, but the National Football League (NFL) is in pre-season stages; games in the National Basketball Association (NBA) seem far away; and no one wants to think about the cold winter season associated with the National Hockey League (NHL). Although it may be a slower time of year, there are always storylines being played out on the field.

 

MLB:  Races heat up as playoff dreams are in sight

As we enter September, MLB is in its last full month of the regular season, meaning it’s almost playoff time. If you take a quick glance at the standings, one thing is pretty glaring: the American League West is a close race of two juggernauts.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Oakland Athletics are almost neck-and-neck in the division, and hold the two best records in the league. The Angels have a lot of power and a lethal pitching staff, but they also have the best player in baseball, wunderkind Mike Trout.

The A’s made killer midseason trades to lock in their pitching staff by adding a bonafide ace in Jon Lester, and power to their outfield with the return of Jonny Gomes. Watch out for September to be a big month in baseball. 

 

NFL:  Preparation for season kickoff leads to training camp drama in Cleveland

When the air starts getting crisper and the leaves begin to change, you know football season is coming. NFL training camps and preseason are always fun times for new players to make a name for themselves, engage in position battles, and for teams to make surprise cuts.

If there were one camp battle that has captured the attention of the sports world most, it would be the quarterback battle and controversial suspension going on in Cleveland. Brian Hoyer had been tabbed as the starter after two impressive games at the helm of the Browns last season before a torn ACL sidelined him. His competitor is the one and only “Johnny Football” Manziel, who is a former Heisman Award-winning player and one of the more polarizing athletes in today’s world. Johnny is talented but his game doesn’t quite fit into the NFL mold. As the weeks go on, this will be one of the more exciting controversies to play out.

However, the bigger issue in Cleveland is not who is throwing the ball, but whom it is being thrown to. Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon has had a troubled career that has just gotten worse. Gordon was suspended for the year for violating the NFL’s Substance Abuse Policy, leaving the Browns without their number one playmaker. Gordon will now face a tough road getting back onto a team, but the Browns will have a much tougher time moving the football.

 

NBA: Some of the world’s best pros gear up to represent their countries

Just off the tails of one World Cup, we’re gearing up for another, and this time it’s basketball’s turn. The 2014 FIBA World Cup will take place in Spain this year and will feature some of the world’s best pro players wearing their countries’ colours.

The U.S. is undoubtedly the favourite to take home the championship again this year. The stars and stripes are led by the newly healthy former NBA MVP Derrick Rose; the best backcourt tandem in the NBA “Splash Brothers” Steph Curry and Klay Thompson; and some of best young players in basketball: James Harden, Anthony Davis, and DeMarcus Cousins.

The host country, Spain, will be the U.S.’s biggest competitor with their powerful lineup that includes Marc and Pau Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Jose Calderon, and Ricky Rubio. Look for an exciting tournament that will leave you satisfied until the NBA season is underway in October. 

 

NHL: Rumour mill turns as possible expansion teams are on the brink of coming to life

The idea of adding another NHL franchise to the Greater Toronto Area has been flirted with for a long time, but it might actually become a reality. The NHL has reportedly been planning four new franchises in Quebec City, Seattle, Las Vegas, and Toronto or the GTA.

Quebec City makes a lot of sense because it has been a starved market since the moving of the Nordiques in 1995. Seattle is a great location because of the popularity of hockey in the Pacific Northwest, as well as a natural rivalry to be made with Vancouver. Las Vegas is a stretch, but could become an interesting location for a team because there is currently no other professional franchise based in Sin City.

Another Toronto team will be the most difficult to pull off, because of the nearly $100 million profit that the Maple Leafs have to lose. Therefore, the most likely scenario is that the team would be placed in Hamilton, but other less economically sound ideas have included Markham, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Oshawa. Only time will tell with this news, but it is exciting to contemplate nonetheless.