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Following one of his nine seasons coaching the Winnipeg Jets, Paul Maurice had an idea: Could he be more intentional about the video he showed his players?

Video sessions are one of the most common teaching tools coaches employ. Maurice, now coach of the Florida Panthers, the eighth-seeded darlings of the Stanley Cup playoffs who are one win away from the Cup Finals, wondered how his staff could maximize these meetings. How many times did they have to show a system before it appeared in a game? Could they identify lag time from a teaching moment on video to tangible success on the ice?

Maurice also wanted to quantify something deeper: Was his clip selection affecting players’ psyche and performance?

“What happens if we put the same player on all of our negative clips, even though I know it’s not all on that one player, like I’m picking on him? Or if I kept showing a player just doing good things, because I love that player?” Maurice said. “We wanted to find the cumulative effect of the video we were showing.”

So Maurice and his staff embarked on an offseason project.

“From Monday to Thursday, the whole summer, from 9 in the morning to 1 or 2 in the afternoon, we all got together and reviewed everything,” said Pascal Vincent, then one of Maurice’s Winnipeg assistants. “We were looking for ways to improve.”

The Jets’ staff charted videos they showed the team the previous season and tracked the results in the subsequent games. They labeled each clip in one of three categories: positive clip, teaching clip, negative clip. The analytics department took it from there.

As the data accumulated, the coaches couldn’t help but notice a pattern.

“We realized that we were getting results and seeing more success when we were showing more positive clips,” Vincent said. “Of course, there are many other variables, but that is what the data said. I’ve done a lot of reading on the topic across other walks of life, and it confirmed what I was feeling.”

The feeling has become a massive trend in the NHL: Coaches are finding that it’s more productive to build up confidence through encouragement rather than hitting players with constant criticism. And it’s especially true with young millennials and Generation Z.

“The bully coach, right, wrong or different, has no chance in today’s game,” Detroit Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde said. “It’s the reality of the players today. You still have to hold them accountable, but you have to do it in different ways.”

Call it the Ted Lasso effect. Heck, NHL players are even quoting the fictional soccer coach, known for his extremely upbeat attitude. Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark committed a puck-handling blunder in overtime of Game 5 of Boston’s first-round series, directly leading to Matthew Tkachuk‘s winning goal for Florida. Afterward, Ullmark met a scrum of reporters and cameras at his locker, relaxed, composed, and even smiled at times. “You just have to have the mind of a goldfish,” Ullmark said, a verbatim quote from the TV series.

The popular show is a microcosm for a shift in societal norms, which includes a new emphasis on mental health. Workplaces across multiple industries are adapting as younger generations crave different — and in many instances, less negative — environments than their predecessors. Historically, that contrasted with the high-pressure, demanding nature of professional sports. Not anymore.

“Positive, constructive feedback — maybe people needed it generations before as well,” said Bruins forward Garnet Hathaway, 31. “It just wasn’t mainstream or they didn’t advocate for it. But now, you see it as a way of unlocking even more potential.”

The change in the sport is noticeable, and it’s leading to periods of self-reflection.

“Overall it’s become a more conservative, sensitive world. Kids now grow up not being yelled at so they don’t know how to react to being yelled at,” Colorado Avalanche forward Evan Rodrigues, 29, said. “Growing up, I loved to be yelled at, it got me into the game, it got me focused. Now when someone yells at me I take it differently. I’d rather them come up to me and say, ‘Hey, I know you’re better than that.’ I used to love proving people wrong whereas now I like proving people right.”

That idea feeds into one of Vincent’s tried and true teaching techniques. This season, Vincent served as an assistant coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets, one of the youngest teams in the league.

“Even if a player is struggling, there’s a reason that they’re here [in the NHL],” Vincent said. “So you need to find out what that player is good at, then reinforce it. When you lose your confidence, you go back to the foundations of what you’re good at, and it helps them find it again.”

Many players interviewed for this article pushed back on the idea that coaching has to be all positivity all the time — or that the NHL has fully transformed.

One player on an Eastern Conference team said: “My coach reads me the riot act pretty much twice a week. And I’m fine with it, if I deserve it.”

Another player described a “passive aggressive” style from one of his former coaches, who is still behind an NHL bench. “He’d say mean things about you loudly, while you were in earshot so you can hear it,” the player said. “Obviously because he wanted you to hear it.”

Some in the league see a downside to the uber-positive approach. After the Maple Leafs‘ disappointing second-round loss to the Panthers, a narrative emerged in some circles that Toronto management created an environment where its star players were too coddled, and therefore ill-equipped to handle the adversity of playoff hockey.

One longtime veteran player in the league said he has noticed a gradual change over the past few years and “it doesn’t sit well with me.” “Not to be the ‘back in my day’ guy, but … it really feels like we’ve become softer as a league,” the player said. “There are some dinosaur practices that need to go. I’d never advocate for mental or physical abuse. But this is professional sports, and it demands a level of accountability and toughness. It’s OK to feel uncomfortable sometimes. It’s OK to be yelled at or called out when you’re not meeting standards. That’s what makes you stronger.”

Former player Ray Ferraro, an 18-year NHL veteran and current ESPN analyst, put it bluntly: “Sometimes you need to be demanding, but not an a–hole. Because the old way certainly doesn’t work.”

Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen, 26, called himself “a younger guy” but said “I don’t mind negative [coaching] sometimes.”

“I think the positive way of seeing is better, but it can’t be all positive; it needs to be a balance,” Rantanen said. “[Colorado coach] Jared [Bednar] does a good job of that. When we don’t play well, he shows it. Even when there’s a game where we fall asleep just for a few plays, he’s going to show it the next day and be mad. And that’s the way it should be.”

After Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, Dallas Stars coach Peter DeBoer said he laid into his players a bit following their loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

“There’s certain pressure points with your team that you have to decide as a coach,” DeBoer said. “Is this a time to be supportive and a calming voice of reason, or is this a time to turn the screws and get into them a little bit? I think you can only go to the latter one so often.”

Coaches have also adapted to another trend younger millennials and Generation Z covet: transparency. Younger players don’t need to agree with what is happening, they just want to know why. Bednar said he has adapted by being clearer with communication.

“The trend, and it makes sense to me now, is that if guys get no information, they’ll go to the negative thought process,” Bednar said. “I always thought if I don’t give feedback on something, then you know you’re doing good. I like my guys to know that: If I’m not coming to you, it’s a good thing.”

But over the past few seasons, Bednar noticed that approach wasn’t always working, especially with younger players. If players didn’t receive any reaction from him, they’d assume the worst, or look to other places for feedback, such as social media, which can get dicey.

“If a guy plays 10 minutes a night generally, then all of the sudden he has a game that’s 7½, he’ll be like, ‘Oh my god, what did I do wrong?’ Then the negative thoughts come in,” Bednar said. “So I try to interrupt that. You have to go out of your way more. Now I try to brush past them in the locker room and just say, ‘Hey, good job last night,’ so they have something, even if I’m not having meetings with them.”

Lalonde said he has made transparency a top priority for the Red Wings.

“I’ve never had a lineup go up until I told the player he’s not in, and exactly why,” Lalonde said. “You have to be honest.”

Lalonde cited an example this season of a game in which he scratched one of his forwards.

“We spent just as much time as a staff putting three or four points together for the guy not in the lineup as we did on game planning the next night,” he said.

Maurice still thinks back to his tape study but isn’t ready to draw any grand conclusions.

“I don’t know if there’s a solid theory for every team,” Maurice said. “Every team is different, every player is different. The most important thing is to understand the human nature aspect of it all.”

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Canadian fires force MLB, WNBA postponements




Canadian fires force MLB, WNBA postponements

Major League Baseball has announced it is postponing games in New York and Philadelphia on Wednesday night because of poor air quality caused by smoke from Canadian wildfires.

A National Women’s Soccer League game in New Jersey and an indoor WNBA game set for Brooklyn were also called off Wednesday amid hazy conditions that have raised alarms from health authorities.

The New York Yankees‘ game against the Chicago White Sox was rescheduled as part of a doubleheader starting at 4:05 p.m. on Thursday, and the Philadelphia Phillies‘ game against the Detroit Tigers was reset for 6:05 p.m. on Thursday, originally an off day for both teams.

“These postponements were determined following conversations throughout the day with medical and weather experts and all of the impacted clubs regarding clearly hazardous air quality conditions in both cities,” MLB said in a statement.

The National Weather Service issued an air quality alert for New York City, saying: “the New York State Department of Health recommends that individuals consider limiting strenuous outdoor physical activity to reduce the risk of adverse health effects.” In Philadelphia, the NWS issued a Code Red.

The Yankees and White Sox played through a lesser haze on Tuesday night.

The WNBA said a game between the Minnesota Lynx and New York Liberty would not be played Wednesday, saying the decision was made to “protect the health and safety of our fans, teams and community.” A makeup date wasn’t immediately announced.

The NWSL postponed Orlando’s match at Gotham in Harrison, New Jersey, from Wednesday night to Aug. 9.

“The match could not be safely conducted based on the projected air quality index,” the NWSL said.

At nearby Belmont Park, The New York Racing Association said training went on as planned ahead of Saturday’s Triple Crown horse race.

“NYRA utilizes external weather services and advanced on-site equipment to monitor weather conditions and air quality in and around Belmont Park,” spokesman Patrick McKenna said Wednesday. “Training was conducted normally today, and NYRA will continue to assess the overall environment to ensure the safety of training and racing throughout the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.”

New York’s NFL teams, the Giants and Jets, both had Wednesday off from offseason workouts. The Giants had been planning to practice inside Thursday, and the Jets say they are also likely to work out indoors Thursday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Yankees place Judge on 10-day IL with toe injury




Yankees place Judge on 10-day IL with toe injury

NEW YORK — For the second time this season, the New York Yankees will need to play without Aaron Judge.

New York placed its superstar slugger on the injured list with a contusion and a ligament sprain in his right big toe, it was announced Wednesday.

Judge does not have a fracture or break in his toe, according to team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad.

“The biggest thing now is trying to get the swelling out of there,” manager Aaron Boone said Tuesday. “He had some improvements today, but now we’ll see where he is in the coming days and then week. But the biggest thing is getting the swelling out of there.”

“I think it definitely could have been worse. Hopefully it’s on the shorter side of things.”

Judge was hurt while making a running catch and crashing into the outfield fence Saturday against the Dodgers and hadn’t played since.

He also spent time on the injured list earlier this season because of a right hamstring strain. When he’s been healthy, Judge has put up MVP-type numbers again, hitting .291/.404/.674 with 19 homers and 2.2 bWAR in 49 games.

New York’s pitching depth also is getting tested.

Nestor Cortes will be placed on the injured list due to a left shoulder injury. Boone mentioned Cortes has struggled to bounce back between starts. He’s expected to miss at least two starts.

Cortes has a 5.16 ERA in 11 starts, striking out 59 batters in 59⅓ innings.

To replace Cortes, New York called up Randy Vasquez from Triple-A. The righty made his major league debut on May 26 against the San Diego Padres, allowing two runs in 4⅔ innings pitched.

Also, pitcher Ryan Weber was diagnosed with a UCL strain and has been placed on the 60-day injured list. The 32-year-old righty has pitched in eight games this season, posting a 3.14 ERA in 14⅓ innings.

In a related roster move, the Yankees recalled outfielder Billy McKinney.

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Why this Stanley Cup is so important to Indigenous players Brandon Montour and Zach Whitecloud




Why this Stanley Cup is so important to Indigenous players Brandon Montour and Zach Whitecloud

LAS VEGAS — For the Florida PanthersBrandon Montour and the Vegas Golden KnightsZach Whitecloud, this year’s Stanley Cup Final carries a significance that goes well beyond both of them trying to help their teams win what would be each franchise’s first championship.

They are also part of the conversation about representation in hockey.

While records have not been meticulously kept, Montour and Whitecloud appear to be the first pair of players who identify as Indigenous to play against each other in a Stanley Cup Final in more than 30 years, based on data compiled by Hockey Indigenous, a Canadian nonprofit organization that promotes the sport among Indigenous people.

“I think it’s obviously pretty crazy. I don’t know the exact number of Indigenous players on the Stanley Cup, but just the league in general, to have that is huge,” said Montour, who is in his third season with the Panthers. “To support not just my reserve and his reserve, but the whole countries of Canada and the [United States] will be watching. The support will be huge for both of us.”

Both Montour and Whitecloud, who did not know each other before the Cup Final, are among 10 players on current NHL rosters who identify as Indigenous. The list also features Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie, Ottawa Senators defenseman Travis Hamonic and Vancouver Canucks defenseman Ethan Bear.

A New York Times story from 2018 suggests that Tony Gingras along with brothers, Magnus and Rod Flett, might have been the first Indigenous players to win a Stanley Cup in 1901 and 1902, when they played for the Winnipeg Victorias. Gingras along with both Flett brothers were Métis, according to The Times.

Since then, there have been numerous Indigenous players who have won a Stanley Cup. They include four members of the Hockey Hall of Fame: George Armstrong, Theo Fleury, Grant Fuhr and Bryan Trottier. Other Indigenous players to win a Cup include Dwight King, Jamie Leach, Reggie Leach, Jordan Nolan and Chris Simon.

Oshie is the most recent Indigenous player to win a Stanley Cup when he helped the Capitals beat the Golden Knights to win the first title in franchise history during the 2017-18 season.

The meeting between Montour and Whitecloud appears to be at least the fourth time two Indigenous players have faced each other in a Cup Final since 1980.

That year, Trottier and the New York Islanders defeated Leach and the Philadelphia Flyers in six games. In 1983, Trottier and the Islanders faced Fuhr and the Edmonton Oilers, but Fuhr did not play in the Final, which the Isles won. A year later, Fuhr did play as he and the Oilers beat Trottier and the Islanders for the title.

Based on information on, the most recent meeting between Indigenous players on opposite teams in the Cup Final came in 1989, when the Calgary Flames beat the Montreal Canadiens. Fleury, who is Métis, played against Shayne Corson, who is also reported to be Métis. ESPN contacted an event management firm that represents Corson to seek clarification but did not receive a response.

“It’s a cool experience for a lot of our youth in our communities. … It’s about sending a message to a lot of those kids that this is possible,” said Whitecloud, who is in his third full season with the Golden Knights. “Dreaming and going after your dreams are attainable. That’s the most important part for me. It’s being able to get to this point but also, being a role model in terms of saying this is possible with hard work, dedication and that doesn’t stem from just hockey. … Whatever your passion is in life, go get it.”

Montour, who is Mohawk from Six Nations of the Grand River, has been one of the Panthers’ best players this season. He finished the regular season with 16 goals and 73 points, shattering his previous career highs of 11 goals and 37 points in 2021-22.

In the postseason, Montour is leading the Panthers and third in the NHL in average ice time at 27:29 per game. His six goals are tied for third on the Panthers, while his nine points are the most for a Panthers defenseman.

“You see players like myself come from the same town as you or little towns where all of us came from, it just gives that sense of hope,” said Montour, who grew up in Oshweken, Ontario. “When I was a kid, I was in the same situation trying to watch and follow the footsteps of my heroes and guys I looked up to. To be in that spot, obviously, is huge and you take that in a full serious note and enjoy playing for all of them.”

Whitecloud, who grew up in the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, about 30 miles west of Brandon, Manitoba, expressed a similar sentiment. Growing up close to Brandon, he saw players who reached the NHL, both those who were from there or who played for the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings.

Keegan Kolesar, Whitecloud’s Vegas teammate, is from Brandon, and Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon played for the Wheat Kings before becoming their coach, GM and owner prior to reaching the NHL.

But Whitecloud said there were no hockey players who came from the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation who went further than juniors. He said his dad was among them, but the numbers were few from the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, which has a population of 2,500.

Whitecloud said his dad has always been his hockey role model and continues to have a passion for the game. It’s what led to Whitecloud working his way to the Golden Knights, signing as an undrafted free agent after two seasons at Bemidji State University. He spent two seasons playing for Vegas’ AHL affiliate before he became a full-time NHL player during the 2020-21 season.

Jennifer Bone, who is chief of the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, told ESPN there is an immense sense of pride in that community watching Whitecloud. She said there is a sign that welcomes people when they enter the community that reads, “Home of NHL player Zach Whitecloud of the Vegas Golden Knights.”

“When we had a watch party last week, we gave away T-shirts at the school and there are cars driving around with flags on their window and people have flags outside their homes,” Bone said. “They are really supportive and people are being fans of Zach. … It’s like, ‘Wow, he is in the Stanley Cup playoffs’ and the success he has had over the past few seasons and the limited number of First Nation who have achieved that in hockey makes it more inspiring for our community members.

“Just having that and having him and Brandon Montour in the Stanley Cup Final just shows the representation of Indigenous people and showcases the talent that they have.”

Like Montour, Whitecloud has made significant contributions to the Golden Knights’ playoff run. The biggest came in Game 1 of the Cup Final, when he had the winning goal in a 5-2 Vegas victory. Whitecloud is averaging just under 19 minutes per game but has paired with Nicolas Hague to create a defensive partnership that has logged the most 5-on-5 ice time of any Golden Knights pairing in the playoffs.

Bone said the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation will continue to have watch parties. The nation’s website features a graphic that includes a picture of Whitecloud and words such as “Ambassador,” “Role Model,” “Trail Blazer” and “Warrior.”

The Six Nations of the Grand River also will host watch parties for every game of the Stanley Cup Final, according to the community’s official website, with Chief Mark B. Hill issuing a news release that said Montour “represents Six Nations of the Grand River with pride.”

Bone said she received a phone call from Hill days before the Cup Final in which they talked about the significance of seeing two members of their communities represent what it means to be Indigenous on hockey’s biggest stage.

“Jordin Tootoo was one of the role models for me, and Micheal Ferland and some of those guys,” Whitecloud said. “People that look like me that got to those levels. That was always cool, but I was never the player that was first picked for teams or was always praised for being that person. I was fine with that. I think that’s a big part of why I am where I am today. I genuinely played the game because I love it.”

Bone was not able to attend the Game 1 watch party but said more than 100 people did, which she said is a strong number for their community events.

While she was talking about the watch parties, Bone said she had thought about what would happen if the Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup and what it would mean for Whitecloud to have his day with the Cup in their community.

“It would be a huge event for us and a huge celebration,” Bone said. “Zach returns to the community during the summer months, and he was here for an annual power celebration. Him visiting and spending a few hours with people is a big deal. There was a line of people wanting photographs, autographs or have him sign whatever memorabilia and meet with him and have a chat with him. It’s definitely going to be a huge event if that happens.”

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