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Pat LaFontaine uniting hockey at every level

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The sport of hockey has always elicited great pride in the culture surrounding the game, but Hockey Hall-of-Famer Pat LaFontaine wanted to enhance the experience for players at all ages.

Named one of the 100 Greatest Players during the NHL’s Centennial anniversary, LaFontaine sought a document that could unite all levels of hockey and serve as a written guideline for the sport moving forward.

“Hockey’s greatest values are the principles and life skills it teaches you,” LaFontaine said in a recent phone interview with NBC Olympics. “The real value of the game is the leadership, teamwork, discipline, sacrifice and the hard work that the game instills. Whatever you do in life, you can look back and say hockey was a vehicle that taught you those life skills and values.”

In recent years, LaFontaine worked tirelessly to gather representatives from all levels of hockey to discuss the state of the game and collaborate on cultural and structural changes to positively impact the sport.

NBCOlympics.com: Full men’s and women’s hockey schedules

The first step was defining their objective.

In early September, the committee revealed the Declaration of Principles – a set of commonly shared beliefs that articulate a vision of delivering the best possible hockey experience for participants and their families.

The Principles are meant to serve as an internal compass to help guide decisions and shift behaviors of hockey organizations, as well as players, parents, coaches, fans, partners and all those who represent and care for the sport of hockey.

“One of the proudest days for me was when the Declaration of Principles was signed,” LaFontaine said. “Because it’s the entire global hockey community coming together to aspire to be better and live to a higher standard. The real value of what the game gives and try to focus on what’s really important.”

As for LaFontaine, there are few former players, especially Americans, who have the background and resume to carry out such an initiative.

LaFontaine represented the United States on the Olympic stage twice (1984, 1998). He is one of a handful of American players to participate in the tournament as both an amateur and an NHLer.

“You couldn’t put a price tag on wearing a USA hockey jersey in a foreign country,” LaFontaine said. “To this day, it is still one of the most memorable experiences in my career.”

The NHL has elected to not participate in the Olympics after playing in the previous five tournaments dating back to the 1998 Nagano games.

NBCOlympics.com: No NHL players promises wild hockey tournament

“It is still this great game of hockey,” LaFontaine said. “It is still this great competition. There is still this pride in where you’re from, representing your culture, your country, your ideals. It is going to be a very unique and special experience.”

The Olympics present an opportunity for players of varied ages with different experience to come together to achieve one common goal.

The Declaration of Principles can play a meaningful role in the 2018 Olympics if any team decides to follow the parameters and use it as a resource to help form a unique connection and bond with a single goal in mind.

Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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Conseslus Kipruto tests positive for coronavirus, canceling world-record bid

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Conseslus Kipruto, the Olympic and world 3000m steeplechase champion, tested positive for the coronavirus without symptoms, which will keep him from a world-record chase on Friday, according to his social media.

The Kenyan was to race in the first in-person Diamond League meet of the year in Monaco on Friday.

“Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities,” was posted. “Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League.

“I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well.”

Kipruto, 25, is the 14th-fastest steepler in history with a personal best of 8:00.12. The world record is 7:53.63, set by Kenyan-born Qatari Saif Saaeed Shaheen in 2004.

Last year, Kipruto won the world title by .01, extending a streak of a Kenyan or Kenyan-born man winning every Olympic or world title in the event since the 1988 Seoul Games. He was sidelined by a stress fracture in his left foot until opening his season extremely late on Aug. 24.

MORE: Trayvon Bromell’s road back through destruction, death

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Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities. Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League on August 14th. I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well. Wish to thank Monaco for all the work they have done and I wish them and my colleagues a wonderful competition. Athletics is back and I will be back as well. Anyone willing to organise a steeple once I can be cleared? @diamondleaguemonaco #nike #quarantine #WR #Kenya

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