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NHL players: Marie-Philip Poulin is world’s best female hockey player

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The U.S. may have the world’s best women’s hockey team, but NHL players believe Canadian Marie-Philip Poulin is the world’s best player.

Poulin received the most votes out of 496 responses in the 2019-20 NHLPA Player Poll, conducted before the season was suspended. The tally:

Poulin: 39.92%
Hilary Knight (USA): 36.29%
Kendall Coyne Schofield (USA): 15.52%
Emily Pfalzer Matheson (USA): 1.41%
Other: 6.85%

Last year, Knight received the highest percentage of votes from 203 NHL players (27.59), edging Poulin (24.14) with Amanda Kessel third (12.81) and Coyne Schofield and Pfalzer Matheson each receiving 5.91 percent.

Why were Poulin and Knight swapped this year? Perhaps Poulin’s Canadian team winning the debut of the NHL All-Star Skills Competition women’s 3-on-3 game on Jan. 24, even though Knight scored and Poulin did not.

Poulin, now 29, scored both goals in the 2010 Olympic final and the game-tying and -winning goals in the 2014 Olympic final. Even before her Olympic debut at age 18, the daughter of Quebec hospital workers was dubbed “the female Sidney Crosby.”

Knight, 30, led last April’s world championship tournament with seven goals as the U.S. won a fifth straight title. Poulin played 4 minutes, 44 seconds, total at the tournament, missing time with a knee injury.

This spring’s tournament, which was to start Tuesday, was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Canada will not send Olympic team if Tokyo Games held in 2020, urges for 2021

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The Canadian Olympic Committee will not send a team to the Tokyo Games if they are held in 2020. The COC “urgently” asked for a one-year postponement, citing coronavirus risks.

The COC called its action “a difficult decision” in a press release Sunday night, four months before the scheduled Opening Ceremony.

“This is not solely about athlete health – it is about public health,” the release read. “With COVID-19 and the associated risks, it is not safe for our athletes, and the health and safety of their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training towards these Games. In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow.”

Earlier Sunday, the IOC said it will take up to four weeks to assess the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the Olympics, including a possible postponement to a later start, but cancellation is not on the agenda.

The IOC has a task force, including the World Health Organization, which has said it is too early to make a decision ahead of the July 24 Opening Ceremony.

IOC President Thomas Bach wrote in a Sunday letter to the global athlete community that, “human lives take precedence over everything, including the staging of the Games.

The COC said its decision was backed by athletes’ commissions, national sports organizations and the Canadian government.

“We are thankful to the IOC for its assurance that it will not be cancelling the Tokyo 2020 Games and appreciative that it understands the importance of accelerating its decision-making regarding a possible postponement,” the COC said. “We also applaud the IOC for acknowledging that safeguarding the health and wellness of nations and containing the virus must be our paramount concern. We are in the midst of a global health crisis that is far more significant than sport.”

The Canadian Paralympic Committee also said it would not send athletes to a Paralympics held in 2020. Those Games are set to open Aug. 25.

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee is “eager to continue to explore alternatives” for the Olympics, its CEO Sarah Hirshland and Athletes’ Advisory Council Chair Han Xiao said after the IOC announcement and before the COC statement.

After Canada’s announcement, the Australian Olympic Committee said its executive board “unanimously agreed that an Australian Team could not be assembled in the changing circumstances at home and abroad.”

The Australian Olympic Committee told its athletes to prepare for an Olympics in summer 2021, but did not say that it would not send an Olympic team if the Games are held in 2020.

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World records fall at speed skating worlds; Dutch reign ends

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The world single distances speed skating championships produced two world records Friday. And, for the first time, a non-Dutch winner of the men’s 10,000m.

Graeme Fish led a Canadian one-two in the 10,000m, clocking 12:33.86 to take 2.44 seconds off silver medalist Ted-Jan Bloemen‘s world record from 2015. Full results are here.

The Netherlands was shut out of the medals altogether in an event it won at all 19 prior world championships.

Fish, a 22-year-old from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, is in his first full season of senior racing at the top international level. He said he was so tired after Friday’s effort that he threw up at the 2002 Olympic oval outside Salt Lake City.

“I did break Ted’s record, but he’s the reason I’m here. He’s taught me everything he knows,” Fish told Dutch broadcaster NOS. “I don’t know if I’m surprised. I think I was capable of it.”

Later, Japan lowered its world record in the women’s team pursuit from 2:50.87 to 2:50.76. Russian Pavel Kulizhnikov and Japanese Nao Kodaira won the 500m events.

The Netherlands, so dominant in recent years, failed to win any of the first six Olympic events between the first two days of the four-day competition. Saturday’s slate includes American Brittany Bowe defending her world title in the 1000m.

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