Canada has an Apps for women’s hockey hostilities with U.S.

Gillian Apps
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There is no legal body checking in women’s hockey. There are no enforcers and certainly no fighting allowed, despite recent U.S.-Canada encounters.

But there is a 48-second YouTube clip titled “Big Hit Worlds 2007” uploaded by former U.S. goalie Chanda Gunn.

The video opens with a two-on-one breakaway in the gold-medal game of the 2007 World Championships in Winnipeg. Barreling Canadian forward Gillian Apps receives the puck 10 feet from the goal, misfires, and her momentum slides into the crease and into the path of Gunn.

“Oh my, [Gunn] lost her mask, and I think she hit her head on the post,” the TSN play-by-play man says. “Gillian Apps is a handful. She’s 6 feet tall, 180 pounds. She goes to the net hard, and you’re about to see what happens if you get in her way.”

The network rolls slow-motion replay after slow-motion replay after slow-motion replay of Apps’ right elbow rising and connecting with the helmet of an unaware Gunn, who was looking 90 degrees to the right. Judgment wavers on intent with each view.

A trainer tends to Gunn, who picks herself up after 10 seconds face down on the ice.

“Gillian Apps just skating hard, just going straight to the net for a potential rebound, and, of course, doesn’t really try and stop,” the female analyst says. “I tell you, that’s got to hurt.”

Gunn was asked if it hurt.

“Not a lot, to be honest,” Gunn said in a telephone interview. “I’m just kidding.

“I’m a goalie. Getting run sucks.”

Apps wasn’t penalized. Gunn finished the game – the U.S. lost 5-1 – and, though she didn’t recall a specific diagnosis, is sure she left Manitoba with a concussion to accompany her silver medal.

It wouldn’t be the last time Apps delivered an American such a parting gift.

Apps, 30, was named to her third Canadian Olympic Team on Monday (full roster here). Canada and the U.S. will play for the sixth time in the run-up to the Olympics in St. Paul, Minn., on Saturday (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN), eight days after they brawled for the second time this fall (video here).

Physicality will be a focus. Canada has an Apps for that, but is she the bad girl of women’s hockey?

“She doesn’t necessarily play within the confines of the rules, which can be labeled as cheap,” Gunn said, choosing her words. “But I don’t think she’s a malicious player.”

Apps, of the affluent Toronto suburb of Unionville, is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, Dartmouth psychology grad and cookbook collector. Her father, Syl Jr., played 10 NHL seasons in the 1970s. Her grandfather, Syl, was a Hockey Hall of Famer, politician and sixth-place finisher in the pole vault at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

The key stat for the family is penalty minutes. Syl had zero for the 1941-42 season (38 games) when he won the Lady Byng Trophy. The Lady Byng is bestowed to players exhibiting “sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of fair play.”

Syl spent less than an hour in the penalty box over his 10-season career broken up by World War II – 56 minutes in 423 games.

His granddaughter played 23 games for the Brampton Thunder of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League in 2012-13, amassing 52 penalty minutes, according to the CWHL website. She led the five-team league.

She had 70 penalty minutes the season before (though the league commissioner said the 2011-12 statistics page is erroneous. It should be more than 70.). The next-highest player had 42.

She had 92 penalty minutes the season before that (and 14 in three playoff games). The next-highest player had 52.

source: Getty Images
Gillian Apps is the all-time penalty minutes leader for Dartmouth and in the CWHL. (Getty Images)

“I prefer not to be in the penalty box,” said Apps, the tallest player on the Canadian national team who was featured in pre-2010 Olympic Nike commercials with Jarome Iginla and Dion Phaneuf swinging the slogan, “Force Fate.” “I think I’m a physical player. I’m one of the bigger players in the game. For me, it’s finding that line between using my size and making sure that I don’t end up in the box.”

Prevailing notion north of the border is Apps is a sufferer for her size. Collisions are inevitable. It doesn’t take Newton to figure the consequences when 6-0, 180, meets 5-4, 150, and who will get sent to the sin bin.

That’s just what happened March 4, 2012, when Brampton hosted the Boston Blades. Apps ran into diminutive American defenseman Caitlin Cahow. How it happened, where it happened, where the puck was and intent are matters of debate.

CWHL teams tape their games, none more vigilantly than Brampton, the league commissioner said. Mysteriously, there was no footage available of this one. Boston asked the league to review the hit for an increase in punishment – Apps had received a game misconduct – the league asked Brampton for video, and the team couldn’t provide any.

Cahow said she lost pieces of her memory. She was bedridden for weeks, off ice for months and credited Dr. Ted Carrick, Sidney Crosby’s concussion specialist, for saving her life in some ways.

“There were days I would wake up and I didn’t know if I could go for a walk, get out of bed and open my eyes,” said Cahow, who was recently named to the White House delegation to Sochi.

Yet she holds no ill will toward her rival. Other Americans aren’t as forgiving.

“Apps is not afraid to muck it up and get in your face and try and intimidate,” said retired U.S. defenseman Angela Ruggiero, now an International Olympic Committee member. “When you get a ref that doesn’t take control of the game, Apps will take control of the game.”

Teammates and opponents agree Apps is quiet on the ice. She never gets the last word.

She’s admired off of it, too, one of the most charitable players on the Canadian national team. Her dad said she’s worked junior hockey camps in the northernmost territory of Nunavut, where average January temperatures are 30 below zero. (Thankfully, these are summer camps).

“I lost my dad [to cancer] in 2007,” Canadian teammate Jayna Hefford said. “I remember getting a card from her, a physical card, which in these days you don’t always get.”

Apps’ gentlemanly grandfather passed away when she was 15, three years after she took up the sport. She was always bigger than the other girls, always adapting to her size and trying to keep from the penalty box. They rarely talked hockey when together. School came first, and she was more or less a straight-A star.

“I think he would enjoy watching her play [today],” Syl Apps Jr. said. “I’ve never seen Gillian maliciously go after somebody.”

Team Russia unveils Sochi Olympic uniforms

Primoz Roglic wins Giro d’Italia over Geraint Thomas

106th Giro d'Italia 2023 - Stage 20
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Primoz Roglic expanded his Grand Tour portfolio by winning the Giro d’Italia on Sunday to add to his three Spanish Vuelta titles.

The former ski jumper became the first Slovenian rider to win the Giro and he did it in dramatic fashion, claiming the lead in the penultimate stage — taking the pink jersey from Geraint Thomas in Saturday’s mountain time trial.

It was the direct opposite of what happened in the 2020 Tour de France, when fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogacar took the lead from Roglic in another penultimate-day mountain time trial.

Riding a pink bike and wearing a pink helmet and pink socks, Roglic took it easy during the mostly ceremonious final stage, a 135-kilometer (84-mile) leg through the cobblestoned streets of Rome that concluded next to the Roman Forum.

Mark Cavendish, who recently announced that he will retire at the end of this season, won the 21st and final stage in a sprint finish.

Roglic, who rides for the Jumbo-Visma team, finished 14 seconds ahead of Thomas and 1 minute, 15 seconds ahead of Joao Almeida in the overall standings.

It’s the smallest finishing gap between the top riders in the Giro since Eddy Merckx won by 12 seconds ahead of Gianbattista Baronchelli in 1974.

Roglic’s time trial victory on Monte Lussari was his only stage win of the race. He was injured after crashing on a wet and slippery descent in Stage 11, one of several falls he had during the three-week race.

It was Cavendish’s 17th career stage win in the Giro, to go with his 34 victories at the Tour de France and three at the Vuelta. The British rider started his sprint early enough that he was ahead of a crash in the final straight involving several competitors.

Roglic has now won all three races he’s entered this year after also finishing first in the Tirreno-Adriatico and the Volta a Catalunya — both week-long races.

Roglic, who excels at climbing, descending and time trialing — won three consecutive Vueltas in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

Before he became a professional cyclist, the 33-year-old Roglic was a competitive ski jumper. He won a gold medal in the team jumping event for Slovenia at the 2007 junior Nordic ski world championships. He stopped jumping in 2012 and took up cycling.

The final stage concluded with six loops of a 13.6-kilometer (8.5-mile) circuit in the center of Rome, taking the peloton past the Baths of Caracalla, the Colosseum, the Vatican and the Circus Maximus.

The 24-year-old Almeida won the white jersey as the race’s top under-25 rider. Thibaut Pinot won the mountains classification and Jonathan Milan won the points classification.

The Tour de France starts July 1, airing on NBC Sports and Peacock.

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French Open: Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk says crowd ‘should be embarrassed’ for booing her

Marta Kostyuk, Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus (left) and Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine before their French Open first round match./Getty

Unable to sleep the night before her first-round match at the French Open against Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, the Grand Slam tournament’s No. 2 seed, Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine checked her phone at 5 a.m. Sunday and saw disturbing news back home in Kyiv.

At least one person was killed when the capital of Kostyuk’s country was subjected to the largest drone attack by Russia since the start of its war, launched with an invasion assisted by Belarus in February 2022.

“It’s something I cannot describe, probably. I try to put my emotions aside any time I go out on court. I think I’m better than before, and I don’t think it affects me as much on a daily basis, but yeah, it’s just — I don’t know,” Kostyuk said, shaking her head. “There is not much to say, really. It’s just part of my life.”

That, then, is why Kostyuk has decided she will not exchange the usual postmatch pleasantries with opponents from Russia or Belarus. And that is why she avoided a handshake — avoided any eye contact, even — after losing to Australian Open champion Sabalenka 6-3, 6-2 on Day 1 at Roland Garros.

What surprised the 20-year-old, 39th-ranked Kostyuk on Sunday was the reaction she received from the spectators in Court Philippe Chatrier: They loudly booed and derisively whistled at her as she walked directly over to acknowledge the chair umpire instead of congratulating the winner after the lopsided result. The negative response grew louder as she gathered her belongings and walked off the court toward the locker room.

“I have to say,” Kostyuk said, “I didn’t expect it. … People should be, honestly, embarrassed.”

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Kostyuk is based now in Monaco, and her mother and sister are there, too, but her father and grandfather are still in Kyiv. Perhaps the fans on hand at the clay-court event’s main stadium were unaware of the backstory and figured Kostyuk simply failed to follow usual tennis etiquette.

Initially, Sabalenka — who had approached the net as if anticipating some sort of exchange with Kostyuk — thought the noise was directed at her.

“At first, I thought they were booing me,” Sabalenka said. “I was a little confused, and I was, like, ’OK, what should I do?”

Sabalenka tried to ask the chair umpire what was going on. She looked up at her entourage in the stands, too. Then she realized that while she is aware Kostyuk and other Ukrainian tennis players have been declining to greet opponents from Russia or Belarus after a match, the spectators might not have known — and so responded in a way Sabalenka didn’t think was deserved.

“They saw it,” she surmised, “as disrespect (for) me.”

All in all, if the tennis itself was not particularly memorable, the whole scene, including the lack of the customary prematch photo of the players following the coin toss, became the most noteworthy development on Day 1 in Paris.

The highest-seeded player to go home was No. 7 Maria Sakkari, who lost 7-6 (5), 7-5 to 42nd-ranked Karolina Muchova in what wasn’t necessarily that momentous of an upset. Both have been major semifinalists, and Muchova has won her past four Slam matches against players ranked in the top 10 — including beating Sakkari at the French Open last year. Also out: No. 21 Magda Linette, a semifinalist at the Australian Open, who was beat 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 by 2021 U.S. Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez, and No. 29 Zhang Shuai.

The first seeded man to bow out was No. 20 Dan Evans, eliminated 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 by wild-card entry Thanasi Kokkinakis. No. 11 Karen Khachanov, a semifinalist at the past two majors, came all the way back after dropping the opening two sets to beat Constant Lestienne, a French player once banned for gambling, by a 3-6, 1-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 score in front of a boisterous crowd at Court Suzanne Lenglen. Two-time Slam finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas came within a point of being forced to a fifth set, too, but got past Jiri Vesely 7-5, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7). No. 24 Sebastian Korda, who missed three months after hurting his wrist at the Australian Open, was a straight-set winner in an all-American matchup against Mackenzie McDonald, the last player to face — and beat — Rafael Nadal. The 14-time French Open champion has been sidelined with a hip injury since that match in January.

Sabalenka called Sunday “emotionally tough” — because of mundane, tennis-related reasons, such as the nerves that come with any first-round match, but more significantly because of the unusual circumstances involving the war.

“You’re playing against (a) Ukrainian and you never know what’s going to happen. You never know how people will — will they support you or not?” explained Sabalenka, who went down an early break and trailed 3-2 before reeling off six consecutive games with powerful first-strike hitting. “I was worried, like, people will be against me, and I don’t like to play when people (are) so much against me.”

A journalist from Ukraine asked Sabalenka what her message to the world is with regard to the war, particularly in this context: She can overtake Iga Swiatek at No. 1 in the rankings based on results over the next two weeks and, therefore, serves as a role model.

“Nobody in this world, Russian athletes or Belarusian athletes, support the war. Nobody. How can we support the war? Nobody — normal people — will never support it. Why (do) we have to go loud and say that things? This is like: ‘One plus one (is) two.’ Of course we don’t support war,” Sabalenka said. “If it could affect anyhow the war, if it could like stop it, we would do it. But unfortunately, it’s not in our hands.”

When a portion of those comments was read to Kostyuk by a reporter, she responded in calm, measured tones that she doesn’t get why Sabalenka does not come out and say that “she personally doesn’t support this war.”

Kostyuk also rejected the notion that players from Russia or Belarus could be in a tough spot upon returning to those countries if they were to speak out about what is happening in Ukraine.

“I don’t know why it’s a difficult situation,” Kostyuk said with a chuckle.

“I don’t know what other players are afraid of,” she said. “I go back to Ukraine, where I can die any second from drones or missiles or whatever it is.”

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