For longtime Habs haters, to those who shout out typical Montreal when a penalty call doesnt go their way against the Montreal Canadiens, these should be good days.The Habs are mired near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. They canned an assistant coach just hours before the start of a game in an ultimate panic move during the seasons first month. They fired a head coach that had taken them to the conference finals just two years ago. Theyve become a mere shell of their once-and-former greatness on the ice.Its only a matter of time before general manager Pierre Gautier is in the crosshairs himself after the horrendous contract given to the gimpy Andrei Markov and the onerous contract adopted when dealing for Tomas Kaberle. Sure, Kaberle has given them some short-term boost, but that deal with two more years at 4 million per season will end up handcuffing the Habs in the end.So its well-established what a catastrophe the Canadiens have become on ice this year.But whats really troubling about the proud franchise are the public stances that the influential Habs are not taking. There have been several instances where the Canadiens could have used their clout and influence to keep things under control in Montreal, and instead theyve simply let things spin away from them.The Canadiens could have stepped in and quieted the fervor that led to an overflow of 911 calls and a farcical public investigation into Zdeno Chara last year. But instead they let their hockey-as-religion fandom become a frenzied laughingstock. A few well-placed words would have calmed things down rather than incited them particularly when it was clear that Max Pacioretty was going to be perfectly okay.Once again it now appears the Habs are allowing and even condoning another public boondoggle with the biased sentiment against interim coach Randy Cunneyworth and English-speaking coaches everywhere.Lets forget about the fact Montreal has jettisoned French-speaking coaches like Claude Julien and Guy Carbonneau in the past, and has painted itself into the current 1-3-1 trap thats bogged them down. Perhaps this is all just a ruse to grease the skids for Patrick Roy to take over next season.But its all been done in such a clumsy and slipshod manner that it seems very unbecoming of a Canadiens franchise that does everything with class, style and panache. The Habs are allowing usage of the Bell Centre building for a language rally, and thats about as clear an endorsement as youll get for the frivolous language argument taking place in Montreal right now.Its also part of the reason Montreal is such a mess right now.Peripheral, non-sports issues like whether the coach is Anglo or Francophone are taking over the conversation rather than ways to fix a beleaguered, inexperienced defensemen crew.People care more about whether the coachs name is Guy or Pierre than they do about whatever is needed to get the mercurial P.K. Subban back on the right track.The first rule to turning a hockey team around is actually paying attention to details pertinent to the actual hockey team. Everybody knows that hockey is religion in Canada, and Montreal is fanatical breeding ground where Les Habitants seemingly permeate everything.Its almost like the Middle East of hockey in terms of wild-eyed followers, and the team could do plenty to influence those most ardent supporters of the Bleu, Blanc and Rouge. Instead the government, the police, and the rank and file citizens are in accordance with Habs ownership and management in a concert of crazy that keeps tarnishing the teams pristine image over and over again. Cooler heads at the top of these powerful organizations could take action to simmer down the rabid nature of it all, but instead they stoke the flames of controversy and dissent.Montreal is a beautiful city with great, passionate people, but its not all that surprising to know its also a city thats a playoff upset or two away from Habs fans and Montreal hooligans burning police cruisers in the streets. Thats exactly what they did four years ago after beating the Bruins in the first round of the playoffs when the Habs were the No. 1 seed. Thats right . . . the first round.Its time for somebody to grab the city by the scruff and let them know its just a hockey team at the end of the day, and not a political demagogue or religious symbol.Nobody is going to care what language the Habs coach is speaking if they dont start winning some games, and thats really what its all about at the end of the day.Isnt it?
Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car crash in in the Dominican Republic on Sunday morning, according to ESPN's Cristian Moreno. Ventura was 25 years old.
Ventura was 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA for the Royals' 2015 World Series champions and 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA in 32 starts in 2016. The right-hander made his major league debut in 2013 and in 2014 went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA for Kansas City's A.L. pennant winners.
Ironically, Ventura paid tribute to his good friend and fellow Dominican, Oscar Tavares, who was also killed in a car crash in the D.R. in October 2014, by wearing Tavares' initials and R.I.P. on his cap before Ventura's start in Game 6 of the World Series in 2014.
Ventura is the second major league player to die in the past five months. Former Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident in Miami on Sept. 25.
A quick look at the information you need to know about tonight's Patriots-Steelers game:
- Tom E. Curran's game preview
- Fire alarm pulled at Steelers' hotel at 3:40 a.m.
- Brady to fans, teammates, friends: I'm playing today for you
TEAM RECORDS: Patriots 15-2, Steelers 13- 5
GAME TIME: 6:40 p.m. EST
TV ANNOUNCERS: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms and Tracy Wolfson
NATIONAL RADIO NETWORKS: Westwood One
NATIONAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Kevin Harlan, Dan Fouts and Ross Tucker
LOCAL RADIO NETWORK: Anchored by WBZ-FM (98.5 The Sports Hub)
LOCAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Bob Socci and Scott Zolak
ALL-TIME SERIES BETWEEN THE TEAMS: Steelers lead, 15-14
LAST MEETING: Patriots 27, Steelers 16 on Oct. 23, 2016 at Heinz Field
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-- Bill Belichick is coaching in his NFL-record 11th conference championship game. Tom Brady is playing in his NFL-record 11th conference championship game.
-- The Patriots are 8-4 in AFC Championship Games, including 5-1 in games played in Foxboro and 4-1 at Gillette Stadium.
-- The Patriots are 30-19 in postseason games, including 19-4 at home (3-1 at Schaefer/Sullivan/Foxboro Stadium, 16-3 at Gillette).
-- The Patriots' 30 postseason victories are tied with the 49ers for fourth-most in NFL history, behind the Cowboys (34), Steelers (34) and Packers (32).
-- The Patriots' .612 winning percentage in postseason games is third-best in NFL history, behind the Ravens (15-8, .652) and Packers (34-21, .618).
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-- If the Patriots win today they will qualify for their ninth Super Bowl, most in NFL history. They are currently tied with the Cowboys, Broncos and Steelers at eight.
-- If the Patriots win today, Robert Kraft will set an NFL record for most conference championships by an owner (8) in the Super Bowl era. He is currently tied with the Denver Broncos' Pat Bowler at seven.
-- If the Patriots win today, Bill Belichick will move into a tie with Bill Walsh for third place on the NFL list of best postseason coaching winning percentage. Belichick (who would be 25-10 with a victory) and Walsh (10-4) would have .714 winning percentage. Belichick is currently in fifth place, two percentage points behind Joe Gibbs (17-7, .708). Vince Lombardi (9-1, .900) is in first place and Tom Flores (8-3. .727) is second.
-- If the Patriots win today, Belichick will advance to his seventh Super Bowl as a head coach, which would be most in NFL history. He is currently tied with Don Shula at six.
-- Tom Brady (8) needs one more playoff game with three or more touchdown passes to tie Joe Montana (9) for most three-plus TD playoff games since the 1970 NFL merger.
-- Stephen Gostkowski (142) needs 11 points to tie Gary Anderson for third place on the NFL's all-time list of kicking points in the postseason. Adam Vinatieri (234) is first and David Akers (175) is second.
-- Julian Edelman (76) needs nine receptions to tie Andre Reed (85) for sixth place on the NFL's all-time list of postseason receptions. Michael Irvin is fifth at 88, and Hines Ward and Wes Welker are tied for third at 88.
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-- REFEREE: Terry McAulay. UMPIRE: Rich Hall. HEAD LINESMAN: Wayne Mackie. LINE JUDGE: Mark Perlman. FIELD JUDGE: Scott Edwards. SIDE JUDGE: Boris Cheek. BACK JUDGE: Tony Steratore. ALTERNATES: John Parry, Mark Steinkerchner, Rich Martinez. REPLAY OFFICIAL: Mike Wimmer. SUPERVISOR: Gary Slaughter.