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Hockey player tells dad he made Olympic team (video)

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Bobby Butler has played for 11 hockey teams in nine years.

Ottawa Senators. Binghamton Senators. New Jersey Devils. Albany Devils. Zagreb. Nizhny.

On Monday, the 30-year-old journeyman forward was named to another team — the Olympic team. When the NHL passed on these Olympics, the path opened for players like Butler.

Then came the moment when Butler broke the news to his dad. At a hockey rink, of course.

John Butler coached Marlborough (Mass.) High’s hockey team for 25 years, including five seasons with Bobby on the squad, before retiring in 2011.

“He told me what it would take,” Butler said in August, according to the MetroWest Daily News in Massachusetts. “He gave me the tools.”

In 2005, Marlborough won its first state title with Butler scoring four goals in the championship game at TD Garden (then still known as the Fleet Center). John was reportedly in tears.

”He’s been on the phone ever since the game ended,” Butler said that day, according to the Boston Globe, which reported that he passed up playing at a prep school to suit up for his dad. “He gets five e-mails every 10 minutes from old Panthers. Everyone knows what this means to him.”

Bobby Butler went on to the University of New Hampshire. He was a finalist for the NCAA men’s hockey player of the year award in 2010. He signed a two-year contract with the Ottawa Senators.

He played 92 NHL games those first two full seasons. Then he started to bounce among NHL teams and between the NHL and the AHL.

After three seasons, Butler moved to Sweden’s top league. Then to Russia’s KHL.

He returned to the U.S. this year, reportedly saying he wanted to spend the rest of his career at home with his wife and two sons.

Butler leads the Milwaukee Admirals — a Nashville Predators affiliate — with 13 goals and 25 points this season.

He will soon return to playing overseas, but he relishes this opportunity.

He played for Team USA at the 2013 World Championship, but in February he will do so at the Olympics for the first time.

“What an honor — I’m still a bit surprised, but I’m certainly humbled by making the roster and excited about the opportunity,” Butler said, according to the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram & Gazette. “Just knowing I was on the list for consideration was an honor, but to actually make the final roster is unreal.”

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MORE: U.S. Olympic men’s hockey roster

Figure skating’s Grand Prix fields look very different this season

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Before Nathan Chen is expected to go for a historic fifth straight U.S. figure skating title in January, he will, in a first, compete against most of his top countrymen later this month.

Fields for the Grand Prix Series, figure skating’s autumn international circuit, were published Thursday. As expected, every top skater entered will compete in his or her home country, or nearest to where he or she trains, and in one of the six events.

Traditionally, skaters compete in two of the six events and are scattered among competitions in the U.S., Canada, France, Russia, China and Japan based on world rankings.

But the International Skating Union restricted travel this season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Skaters are limited to compete locally. And the Grand Prix Final at the conclusion of the Grand Prix Series has been postponed from its scheduled December setting in Beijing.

That means that Chen vies for a record-tying fourth straight Skate America crown in Las Vegas in three weeks against a field mostly made up of countrymen, including Olympic teammate Vincent Zhou and U.S. bronze medalist Tomoki Hiwatashi.

In all, there are eight U.S. men entered in Skate America, 11 women (including past national champions Bradie Tennell and Gracie Gold), six pairs and nine ice dance couples (including U.S. champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue), plus some skaters from other nations who train in the U.S.

Traditionally, a country has no more than three entries per discipline at a Grand Prix event.

GRAND PRIX FIELDS: Men | Women | Pairs | Ice Dance

Sochi Olympian Jason Brown, who trains in Toronto, is entered in Skate Canada the week after Skate America.

Two-time U.S. women’s champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough for the Grand Prix Series until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

All of the reigning Olympic champions are absent from the series.

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan previously announced he wouldn’t compete due to virus-related travel risks. Russian Alina Zagitova extended her indefinite break from competition dating to last autumn, rather choosing to participate in a skating-themed TV series.

Ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada retired. The German pairs’ team of Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot last competed in the 2018 Olympic season.

Instead, the headliners include Chen, the two-time world champion undefeated since placing fifth in PyeongChang. And a deep crop of Russian teenage women, all of course entered in the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow in November.

MORE: Brian Orser reacts to Yevgenia Medvedeva’s coaching switch

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French Open: Karolina Pliskova, top player sans Slam, again exits early

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No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova exited yet another Grand Slam in the early stages, falling to 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in the second round at Roland Garros on Thursday.

Ostapenko, whose only match wins at the French Open before this week came in her title run three years ago, bounced the big-serving Czech 6-4, 6-2.

Pliskova put fewer than half of her first serves in play, while Ostapenko fired 27 winners to 19 unforced errors. Pliskova was on the ropes in her first round, too, needing three sets to get past an Egyptian qualifier.

“Maybe same level as the match before, but of course [Ostapenko] is much better player,” Pliskova said. “Not much to say about this match.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Pliskova is the highest-ranked player of either gender (No. 4) without a Grand Slam title, yet hasn’t made it past the fourth round at a major since the 2019 Australian Open.

She’s played six Slams as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, one shy of Caroline Wozniacki‘s total before she broke through at the 2018 Australian Open and two shy of Simona Halep‘s total before she won the 2018 French Open.

Ostapenko, meanwhile, is having a very different career.

She won the 2017 Roland Garros title, two days after turning 20, while ranked 47th. She hasn’t gotten past the third round of a major since 2018 Wimbledon, including first-round French Open exits the last two years, and is back down to No. 43 in the WTA rankings.

“It’s hard to compare with 2017. As I said, it was like three years ago, and I was much younger, and also I was fearless. Nobody knew me,” Ostapenko said. “The world doesn’t stop with winning only one Grand Slam. Of course I want to achieve more, and I want to be back in top five, top 10.”

She dropped just nine games in four sets this week.

Ostapenko gets 87th-ranked Spaniard Paula Badosa in third round. Badosa dispatched 2018 French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

MORE: Serena Williams ‘struggling to walk’

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