Canadiens legend Henri Richard, 11-time Stanley Cup champion, posthumously diagnosed with CTE

Hockey Hall of Famer Henri Richard had stage 3 chronic traumatic encephalopathy at the time of his death in March 2020, the family of the Montreal Canadiens legend announced Wednesday.

“I hope my father’s brain donation and diagnosis will lead to more prevention efforts, research, and eventually a CTE treatment,” said Richard’s son, Denis Richard, in a statement published by the Concussion Legacy Foundation. “I want people to understand this is a disease that impacts athletes far beyond football.”

CTE is described as “a progressive and fatal brain disease associated with repeated traumatic brain injuries,” according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Richard, who won an NHL-record 11 Stanley Cups, died at the age of 84 and was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease at the time. According to the foundation’s press release, 16 of the 17 NHL players studied have been diagnosed with CTE, including Steve Montador, Ralph Backstrom, Bob Probert and Stan Mikita.

Richard retired in 1975, and helmets were not made mandatory by the NHL until 1979.

Richard’s former Montreal teammate, fellow Hall of Famer Ken Dryden, has been asking for the National Hockey League, as well as hockey at other levels, to severely penalize all hits to the head because of the long term damages they cause.

“I played with Henri. We won two Cups together. He fits none of the easy stereotypes, checks none of the easy boxes,” Dryden said in a statement. “Played in a different time, old-time hockey, all the fights? Not Henri. Big hitter? Not Henri. Like Stan Mikita and Ralph Backstrom, he was a great skater, and physical, but he had a playmaker’s mind, and played that way. But all those hits to the head. We have to understand, whatever the sport, a hit to the head is not a good thing.”

Jesper Bratt, Devils agree to eight-year, $63 million contract extension

The New Jersey Devils are keeping one of their best young players for the long haul. On Thursday, the Devils signed star forward Jesper Bratt to an eight-year contract worth $63 million.

Bratt, 24, was set to become a restricted free agent this summer, but New Jersey wanted to make sure he would be in red for many years to come. Bratt’s AAV comes in at $7.875 million per season, which is now third-highest on the team behind defenseman Dougie Hamilton and center Jack Hughes.

General manager Tom Fitzgerald released a statement saying he expects Bratt to be a key part of the Devils’ pursuit of a fourth Stanley Cup.

“It was always a priority to keep Jesper Bratt here long term and both parties are thrilled that a deal was completed,” Fitzgerald said. “I value and commend the commitment Jesper made to this organization. We believe that he is a special player and a key member of our core group of talent who will contribute towards the team’s long-term success, and organizational goal of bringing the Stanley Cup back to New Jersey.”

A sixth-round pick by the Devils in the 2016 NHL Draft, Bratt has blossomed into one of the franchise’s brightest young stars.

This past season, Bratt scored 32 goals and added 41 assists in 82 games played. Bratt did struggle a bit in the playoffs, with just one goal in 12 games, but his postseason shooting percentage should rise above 4% percent as his career progresses.

With Bratt now under contract for the foreseeable future, the Devils can turn their attention to re-signing winger Timo Meier, who was traded to New Jersey this past spring.

How the Golden Knights can repeat as champions next season

The Vegas Golden Knights captured their first Stanley Cup in franchise history by demolishing the Florida Panthers in five games. After coming close to hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup back in 2018, the Golden Knights were able to get the job done this time around.

Now that Vegas has reached the mountaintop of the NHL world, the question becomes: Are they capable of winning it all again during the 2023-24 campaign?

Yes, it’s not an easy task to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Only 16 teams have done it. Most recently the Tampa Bay Lightning pulled the feat off in 2020 and 2021. It’s only been done twice (Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017) over the past 25 years.

According to Caesars Sportsbook, the Golden Knights currently have the second-best odds at +800 to win the 2023-24 Stanley Cup, behind only the Colorado Avalanche. So what exactly do the Golden Knights need to do in order to repeat?

Re-sign Hill, Barbashev
Like any Stanley Cup champion, the Golden Knights are going to be tasked with some difficult decisions. Lucky for Vegas, this is a team that doesn’t have a ton of key free agents that need to be re-signed.

The biggest one lies between the pipes in the form of goaltender Adin Hill. He is slated to be an unrestricted free agent, but the Golden Knights did use several different goalies throughout the 2022-23 season. Still, this Stanley Cup wouldn’t have been possible without the performance of Hill.

Hill became the savior for Vegas after Laurent Brossoit began the postseason with some mighty struggles.
After replacing Brossoit, Hill became a man on a mission. During the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the 27-year-old keeper posted a 11-4-0 record, a 2.17 goals-against-average and a .932 save percentage in 16 games.
The talented netminder also excelled throughout the Stanley Cup Final, as he tallied a 2.40 goals-against-average and won four of his five starts.
Oh yeah, and Hill made the most spectacular save of the postseason when he turned aside Nick Cousins with his goalie stick from point-blank range.

Ain’t no mountain (or Hill) high enough 🎶

Just look at how strong @Adin_Hill’s #StanleyCup Playoffs performance has been so far…

— NHL (@NHL) June 7, 2023
The Golden Knights acquired Hill in exchange for just a fourth-round pick, and Hill made just $2.675 million during the 2022-23 season. Considering the impressive postseason run Hill had, he’s in line for a sizable pay raise. There will certainly be other teams that will be interested in Hill, but the Golden Knights need to make sure they retain his services.

One of the Golden Knights’ other top free agents is center Ivan Barbashev. He was acquired in a trade with the St. Louis Blues during the 2022-23 season and had a good amount of success after joining the Golden Knights roster.

Barbashev, 27, finished fifth on the team with 18 points (seven goals and 11 assists) during the 2023 postseason. He also registered a goal and two assists during the Stanley Cup Final.
Barbashev really thrived in the second-round series against the Edmonton Oilers, when he racked up three goals and three assists.
The talented forward helped open that series in a big way with a two-goal performance in Game 1.
While Vegas does possess a ton of forward depth, re-signing Barbashev certainly needs to be a priority if the Golden Knights want to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Barbashev made $2.6 million a season ago, so a fairly large salary increase is likely in order for him as well.

Now, in addition to Hill and Barbashev, players like Brossoit, Jonathan Quick and Phil Kessel are also going to be unrestricted free agents. However, it’s fairly likely the Golden Knights will let those players walk since they didn’t figure into the equation too much in terms of the team winning it all. The Golden Knights will be able to allocate all their resources into retaining Hill and Barbashev.

Eichel must continue to be elite
When the Golden Knights acquired Jack Eichel back in 2021, it was a move that was expected to put the franchise over the top in terms of competing for a Stanley Cup. That’s exactly what happened. He was one of the top reasons Vegas won a Stanley Cup.

Eichel has showcased his ability as an elite offensive producer over the course of his eight-year professional career. In back-to-back seasons (2018-19 and 2019-20), Eichel recorded 82 points and 78 points, respectively. After a pair of down years in which he was affected by a neck injury, the former No. 2 overall pick compiled the third-highest point total of his career with 66 (27 goals and 39 assists).


— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) April 21, 2023
While it wasn’t the highest number of points he’s recorded in a single season, Eichel really took his game to the next level during the 2022-23 campaign.

Under first-year coach Bruce Cassidy, the Golden Knights’ new system was one built around defense and intensity. With that in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Vegas blue-liners Alec Martinez and Brayden McNabb finished one-two among the league’s top shot blockers.

In addition to the team’s defensemen beefing up their presence, Eichel also became a more productive two-way player in his first season playing under Cassidy.

The Golden Knights star registered new career-highs in both blocked shots (56) and takeaways (47) during the 2022-23 regular season. That didn’t change when the Stanley Cup Playoffs rolled around, as Eichel recorded 30 blocked shots, 25 hits and 19 takeaways in 22 contests.

Eichel has taken his star to the next level and re-established himself as an elite player at his position in his first postseason. If he can continue to lead by example, the Golden Knights definitely have an opportunity to be crowned Stanley Cup champions once again in the near future.

Stay healthy
This might seem like an obvious factor for any team that wants to repeat as champs — in any sport — but it rings so true.

After the Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in 2022, they looked poised to potentially repeat. But they weren’t the same team throughout the 2022-23 season because of injuries. The loss of captain Gabriel Landeskog crushed them. He underwent knee surgery following the 2022 Stanley Cup Final and ended up not playing a single game during the 2022-23 campaign (Landeskog has to have cartilage transplant surgery and will miss the upcoming season as well). In addition to Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar and Artturi Lehkonen missed time this past season.

As they embarked on their 2023 postseason run, the Golden Knights were relatively healthy. Star talent like Eichel, Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone didn’t miss any action throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Stone was limited to just 43 games during the regular season, but he returned for Game 1 of Vegas’ opening-round series against the Winnipeg Jets.

If this extremely talented group can stay healthy, the sky is the limit for what they an achieve.

How to watch World Cup warm-up online, TV channel, live stream info, start time, roster

Team USA will conclude its preparations for the 2023 FIBA World Cup on Sunday with a friendly against Germany in Abu Dhabi. This is the last of five tune-up games for the Americans, who have so far made easy work of their competition, winning every game by double digits.

They’ll be looking to do the same against Germany, though this figures to be a slightly tougher test than many of their previous contests. Germany is ranked No. 11 in the world by FIBA, and features a number of NBA players, including Dennis Schroder, Franz Wagner, Mo Wagner and Daniel Theis.

Team USA has been in fine form during their preparations for the World Cup, and most recently dispatched a Giannis Antetokounmpo-less Greece by 22 points. Anthony Edwards led the way in that game with 21 points, and has now led the Americans in scoring in three of the four friendlies. The Timberwolves star has emerged as the go-to scoring option for this team.

Another encouraging sign for the Americans in the win over Greece was that they shot 11-of-26 from 3-point land. Outside shooting has been an issue during these friendlies, but they finally started to knock down some shots on Friday. Let’s see if they can keep that trend going against Germany.

Team USA has had an easy time during these friendlies. Puerto Rico was overmatched, and both Slovenia (Luka Doncic) and Greece (Giannis Antetokounmpo) were missing their star players. Only Spain has truly tested them, but even that resulted in a 10-point win. Germany should provide a challenge somewhere between Spain and Slovenia/Greece. Expect Team USA to win by 12-15 points.

How to watch USA vs. New Zealand, live stream, TV channel, FIBA World Cup dates

Team USA basketball is less than a week away from the official start of the FIBA World Cup and wrapped up its exhibition games on a high note. The Americans fell behind against Germany early on Saturday, but Anthony Edwards helped power them to an impressive comeback win with some dynamic scoring down the stretch. The Minnesota Timberwolves guard poured in a game-high 34 points on 11-of-21 shooting. Team USA’s offense erupted for an 18-0 run in the fourth quarter to secure a 99-91 victory.

Edwards wasn’t the only player showing up late on offense. Tyrese Haliburton and Austin Reaves scored 16 points apiece. While Germany’s Franz Wagner scored 17 and Dennis Schroder notched a 16-point double-double with 10 assists, Jaren Jackson Jr. was a major deterrent around the rim with six rejections. Team USA has overcome its greatest test yet ahead of its first official matchup of the tournament against New Zealand on Saturday, Aug. 26.

Here’s everything you need to know about Team USA’s upcoming schedule.

Anthony Edwards’ 34 points help Americans survive major scare in final World Cup tune-up

Team USA survived a major scare on Sunday in their final tune-up ahead of the 2023 FIBA World Cup. After trailing by as much as 16 in the second half of their friendly against Germany in Abu Dhabi, Team USA closed on a dominant 22-5 run to secure a 99-91 victory and finish this warm-up series with a perfect 5-0 record.

After generally cruising through their first four exhibitions, Team USA looked a bit sluggish and out of sync early on. The offense, often forced to play in the halfcourt, was stagnant, Dennis Schroder was doing whatever he wanted and Germany was shooting the ball well from downtown.

The Germans took control late in the second quarter and pushed their lead to as much as 16 late in the third after a bucket by Johannes Voigtmann. That high point was short-lived, however, as Tyrese Haliburton and Austin Reaves led a big American run to cut the deficit down to four heading into the fourth.

Then, it was Anthony Edwards time. The rising star for the Minnesota Timberwolves scored 14 of his game-high 34 points in the fourth quarter, matching the Germans’ total as a team by himself. His 3-pointer with 5:18 to play tied the game, and his free throws and mid-range jumper a few minutes later essentially sealed the win.

Edwards’ brilliant performance on Sunday further solidified his status as Team USA’s best player. As head coach Steve Kerr put it during his post-game press conference, “he’s, unquestionably, the guy.” Edwards led the team in scoring in four of the five friendlies, and averaged 18.8 points.

Team USA has been drawn into Group C for the World Cup, along with Greece, Jordan and New Zealand, and will begin play on Aug. 26 in Manila, Philippines — the site of all three of their group stage games. They must finish in the top two in their group to advance to the second round of the tournament.

As with any major international tournament, there is major pressure on the Americans to win the gold medal, but it is even greater this summer because of their poor showing in the last World Cup. Back in 2019 in China, the Americans limped to a seventh-place finish, their worst-ever showing in the event and the first time without a medal since 2002. Team USA last won the World Cup in 2014 and is tied with Yugoslavia for the most titles all-time with five.