The centre of the sports universe is… Tampa Bay?


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Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

Tampa Bay and Los Angeles are on a roll

As if we’re not envious enough of their weather right now, those are also the two hottest locales in pro sports. The Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup three weeks ago, and last Sunday the Los Angeles Lakers captured their 12th title since the franchise moved to Southern California in 1960.

Now, one of them is about to add a baseball championship after the L.A. Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays earned spots in the World Series over the weekend. The Rays escaped a potentially historic collapse in the American League Championship Series with Saturday’s 4-2 win over Houston, which had rallied from a three-games-to-none deficit to force the deciding Game 7. Last night, the Dodgers completed their comeback from down 3-1 in the National League Championship Series with a 4-3 victory in Game 7 vs. Atlanta.

The Dodgers and Rays will now square off in an unusual, neutral-site, limited-spectator Fall Classic starting Tuesday night in Arlington, Texas. With L.A. and Tampa Bay having each already won a pandemic-time title in a sequestered environment, the winner of the World Series can call itself King of the Bubbles. Hey, better than Queen of the Ashes.

For the moment, though, we’ll give Tampa Bay the slight edge in North American sports supremacy because it’s doing a little better in football. Tom Brady and the Buccaneers knocked off unbeaten Green Bay yesterday to improve to 4-2 and tighten their grip on first place in their division. The 1-4 L.A. Chargers had a bye while the Rams took a humbling 24-16 primetime loss to NFC West rival San Francisco. The Rams are still 4-2, but all four of their wins have come against teams from the NFC East — a punchline of a division with a combined record of 5-17-1.

Cody Bellinger slugged the L.A. Dodgers into the World Series on Sunday. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images )

Quickly…

Famous hockey broadcaster Mike “Doc” Emrick retired. America’s answer to Bob Cole is best known for his more-recent work as NBC’s main NHL play-by-play guy. The 74-year-old, who has called 22 Stanley Cup finals and also spent 21 seasons as the voice of the New Jersey Devils, began his career in hockey media 50 years ago when he reported on a game at Pittsburgh’s old Civic Arena. As Emrick noted in a farewell video released today by NBC Sports, that was back when there were only 14 NHL teams, scoreboard clocks hadn’t even gone digital and Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull and Bobby Orr still played. Hull and Howe now have sons in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and Emrick was honoured by the institution in 2008 with its Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to hockey broadcasting. Like Cole, who also shut it down after 50 years in 2019, Emrick brought a distinctive voice to his calls. Cole had the smoother-sounding pipes and just the right touch of folksiness. Emrick’s calling card was his descriptive language. To him, a player didn’t simply pass the puck. He lobbed it. Squibbed it. Whipped it. Ladled it. Pitchforked it. As this 2018 piece by NPR’s Victoria Whitley-Berry notes, a fan once recorded 153 ways in which Emrick described how the puck was moved. In a single game. Read more about his illustrious broadcasting career here.

Chase Claypool had another good game. A few days after we anointed him potentially Canada’s greatest NFL player following a four-touchdown performance, the Steelers rookie avoided the Buzzer curse by running in another TD and making four catches for a team-high 74 yards receiving in yesterday’s 38-7 blowout of Cleveland. Pittsburgh (5-0) is one of three unbeatens left in the NFL, and Claypool is the team’s leader in receiving yards (his 335 put him way ahead of veteran JuJu Smith-Schuster’s 194). Speaking of Canadian receivers on good teams, Alabama sophomore John Metchie III made his third TD catch of the season in the second-ranked Crimson Tide’s 41-24 win over No. 3 Georgia on Saturday.

A (technically) Canadian golfer won a PGA Tour event. Yes, Jason Kokrak was born in North Bay, Ont., 35 years ago. But only because his Canadian mom was visiting at the time. The family returned home to the States shortly after that. So, besides maybe a nod to our health-care/baby-delivery system, it’s tough for Canadians to take any credit for Kokrak’s winning the CJ Cup tournament yesterday. We did, however, nearly get a legit win on the S̶e̶n̶i̶o̶r̶s Champions Tour as Mike Weir finished second to Phil Mickelson. Both guys recently turned 50 and are apparently enjoying the weaker competition on the 50-and-over circuit.

And finally…

On this date in 1957, Maurice Richard became the first NHL player to score 500 regular-season goals.

The Rocket did it in 863 games, which is the ninth-fastest ever. Only Wayne Gretzky (575 games, lol), Mario Lemieux (605), Mike Bossy (647), Brett Hull (693), Alex Ovechkin (801), Phil Esposito (803), Jari Kurri (833) and Bobby Hull (861) were quicker.

The 500-goal club currently has 45 members. Only two are still active in the NHL: Ovechkin (who’s up to eighth all time with 706) and Patrick Marleau (25th at 562). The closest to joining next is Sidney Crosby, who’s at 462.

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