University volleyball players get second chance to compete in Canada Games

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Elyse Allard and Jordy McEachern are both members of Team Sask Women’s volleyball for Canada Games. (Brit Dort / CTV News)

Two university volleyball players are getting a second chance to compete in the Canada Games in Niagara, Ont., since being delayed due to COVID-19.

Jordy McEachern is a member of the women’s volleyball team at the University of Regina (U of R) and Elyse Allard plays for the University of Saskatchewan (U of S).

The two women made Team Sask’s 2021 roster for the Canada Games, but the event was cancelled due to the pandemic and pushed to August 2022. The delayed event meant they would no longer be eligible to compete due to their age. However, the games extended the limit to 19 years old to make up for the lost year.

“They kind of came out and were like, ‘Hey, we’re extending the age group’ and I was kind of surprised at first that they were letting first year university students compete in this but I was super happy and was excited to go,” said McEachern.

Now the two will look to bring their post secondary playing experience to the team of 12 athletes.

“It’s the ability to train with more mature athletes and more mature players on the court. You just learn so much more,” said Team Sask assistant coach, Lee Hamilton. “Now when they come into training camp with these athletes, they can really impart their wisdom they learned throughout their first year (of university).”

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Small but mighty: Team Sask. prepares for Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games

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Team Saskatchewan is looking forward to the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games.

Tuesday morning saw Team Sask. announce new team apparel, participating teams and this year’s flag bearer.

“I am very pleased to announce that the opening ceremonies flag bearer is Angel Besskkaystare from Wollaston Lake and competes in the sport of wrestling,” announced Mark Bracken, Chef de Mission for Team Sask.

Besskkaystare has a number of accolades from wrestling with Prince Albert’s St. Mary High School, but that’s not the reason why she was chosen.

“It’s an athlete that wasn’t handed things on a silver platter … who slept on the floor in Prince Albert to further her education … to live her dream of becoming a high level wrestler,” Bracken explained.

“It’s just a message all of our athletes need to hear.” Besskkaystare said she was surprised and honoured by the announcement.

“It was shocking, but I was excited at the same time,” she said. “Because having to lead all Saskatchewan athletes is amazing.”

Besskkaystare grew up in northern Saskatchewan’s Wollaston Lake, her mother moved her to Price Albert four years ago. When she first arrived, she had no friends and found herself crying most days, longing for home.

One day, the wrestling coach came up to her asking if she wanted to join the team. When she went to her first practice, the students were running on the stairs, as Besskkaystare recalled. She says she joined them, and even though she fell several times, she did not quit.

Hesitant to go back the next day, she stepped into the wrestling ring and fell in love with the sport.

Besskkaystare explains that she became comfortable in her own skin, proud of her heritage.

“I had my fair share of injuries… an ankle sprain, a low back injury, and constant pain in my kneecaps,” she explained.

“But looking back, I tell myself, ‘This is how far I’ve come.’”’

With the responsibility of flag bearer on her shoulders, Besskkaystare never thought about the other responsibilities of being an athlete.

“I never thought about being a role model, especially in wrestling,” she said.

“Now I understand because a lot of kids look up to me especially in the high school wrestling and club.”

Besskkaystare leads Team Saskatchewan into the 2022 summer games with championships at the high school, provincial and national levels.

However, wrestling is just one of 19 sports at Canada’s largest multi-sport event, and this year, Saskatchewan will be represented in all of them.

“Out of the 19 sports we have representation in all 19, we’re not a huge province but we have such a great sport system,” Bracken explained.

Week one action includes wrestling, baseball, basketball, beach volleyball, men’s soccer, rugby sevens, mountain biking, swimming, triathlon, tennis and women’s lacrosse and softball.

The second week will feature athletics such as canoe kayak, diving, rowing, sailing, golf, cycling, indoor volleyball, men’s softball and women’s soccer.

“Each of our teams has put in a tremendous amount of work to prepare and be ready for this moment on the national stage,” said Bracken.

“It has not been easy to prepare for an event of this caliber over the past two years as the pandemic has impacted training and competition opportunities for many.”

Team Saskatchewan will be represented by 377 athletes, including eight Paralympic and 8 Special Olympic athletes, heading to the games from Aug. 6 to Aug. 21.

Bracken is confident in the team, boasting that even though it’s a smaller province, Saskatchewan stands right up there with Ontario and Quebec vying for the podiums.

“Our goal is to finish in the top five as a province in terms of medals and flag points,” he said.

“I am confident we can make it happen.”

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Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics and Utah Jazz headline eighth NBA Canada Series presented by Bell

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2022 preseason games will features Raptors vs. Jazz in Edmonton (Oct. 2) and Raptors vs. Celtics in Montreal (Oct. 14)

TORONTO — The National Basketball Association (NBA) today announced that the eighth NBA Canada Series presented by Bell will feature two preseason games in Edmonton and Montreal in October 2022, marking the first time the series will be held since 2019.

On Sunday, Oct. 2, the Toronto Raptors will take on the Utah Jazz at Rogers Place in Edmonton, AB, marking the first NBA Canada Series presented by Bell appearance for the Jazz and the first NBA game at Rogers Place.  The Raptors currently feature 2019 NBA champion Pascal Siakam and 2021-22 NBA Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes, in addition to Quebec-natives Chris Boucher and Khem Birch and Toronto’s Dalano Banton.  The Jazz currently feature three-time NBA All-Star Donovan Mitchell and Canadian forward Nickeil Alexander-Walker.

On Friday, Oct. 14, the Raptors will face the 2022 NBA Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics at the Bell Centre in Montreal, QC, marking the second NBA Canada Series presented by Bell appearance for the Celtics in Montreal (2013) and the league’s sixth game in Montreal since 2012.  The Celtics currently feature three-time NBA All-Star and 2021-22 All-NBA First Team member Jayson Tatum, 2020-21 NBA All-Star Jaylen Brown and 2021-22 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart.

Fans in Canada can register for exclusive presale ticket access at NBA.com/CanadaSeries.  Tickets for both games will go on sale Aug. 19 through Ticketmaster.  In addition to presenting partner Bell, supporting partners of the NBA Canada Series include Hennessy (Montreal), Michelob Ultra, Nike and Tangerine.

The two games will mark the 10-year anniversary of the first NBA Canada Series presented by Bell game, which featured the Raptors and the New York Knicks playing a preseason game in Montreal in 2012.  In total, 14 NBA teams have participated in 14 preseason games across five provinces as part of the NBA Canada Series presented by Bell, drawing a total attendance of more than a quarter of a million Canadians.

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