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Gagarin Cup: Are Afinogenov shooting Vityaz to the sky?

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Most previews I have seen have had Vityaz Podolsk outside the playoffs. The only difference between these previews was how far from the knockouts Vityaz should be.

And, I am not that low a person that I can’t admit that I was myself totally wrong about Vityaz.  I am happy for the team and the whole organization that they finally reached the playoff after all the years of struggling.

Those who have followed the KHL since the start, after it took over from the Russian highest division as the main league, know also Vityaz’ disreputable history very well.

A very dark and ugly tale it was with Darcy Verot as the leader of the pack that had no other intentions than just to destroy the games by starting actual fights with fists and sticks.

Some perhaps thought it was entertaining: “It is Russia” or the more sarcastic “Only in Russia”.

But even the KHL Board saw that awful conduct was not good for the league and its image and gave them heavy warnings.

Since those days, and especially the move back to Podolsk from Chekhov where they were located between the years 2004-2013, it has been an anonymous existence, as a rare fish swimming around deep in the oceans.

Even the habitants of the city of Podolsk in the Moscow Oblast (County) have been acting like the team has not been existing at all.

Only a few, and the closest relatives have attended the games and watched them lose up to 90 percent of the time.

However, like Jaromir Jagr and Sergei Mozyakin, Maxim Afinogenov seems never to age at all; on the contrary, he has been playing this season as if he were twenty again.

Maxim Afinogenov in Buffalo 2005 Image courtesy: Graig Abel

Afinogenov is the new and the true leader of Vityaz with his gained experience and he showed the way throughout the season.

One significant moment where he showed his tremendous skill that can make everybody’s jaws drop to the floor was the away game against Slovan Bratislava. The Slovakian side had then still a chance, the last opportunity to reach the playoffs.

Vityaz with Afinogenov on top crushed instead of the Slovan dreams totally from the very beginning of that game, with skill and efficiency in the scoring.

It was then I realized myself that Vityaz really deserved their playoff spot, without any doubts.

Furthermore, Vityaz showed that ability as well during many games before that, with a great level of skillfulness in every part of the game.

To be even fairer to Vityaz, they have been even more balanced in their performances than Jokerit for example.

For that reason, their coming playoff campaign can be looked at in two ways:

-No one expects them to pass the first round, but they are now a dangerous team with a lot of confidence and enough skill to make the games a nightmare. The opponents should be respectful, or else they will be chewed up.

-If they lose, it was expected and no harm really as they’ve done more than expected this season, reaching the playoffs.

The big question for now: Will Afinogenov shoot Vityaz to the sky? Are the players prepared to sacrifice themselves to reach that point?

Nothing seems to be impossible when it comes to this season’s version of Vityaz Podolsk, as they have been through a magic transformation, from being a notorious bottom team with a bad reputation to a playoff team with skill at every level.

The starting point of all achievement is desire.

-Napoleon Hill

Notable: 

The Gagarin playoffs 2016-17

Image courtesy: www.khl.ru

Arto Palovaara, Sunday Chronicler for Sports Rants Europe. Previously, he contributed for the betting company Betsafe, Svenska fans, Get real hockey and Ice nation UK. He is also an educated archaeologist and life coach who loves literature and history. Not to forget: probably he is the only sportswriter that plays the banjo.

Boxing

25th Annual Muhammad Ali Celebrity Fight Night, A Charity Knockout Event

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Photo Credit: Monica Alvarez

The stars came out last night to give, show support, perform, and to continue to raise money and awareness in hopes of one day find a cure to knockout Parkinson’s disease.

Going back to year number 1, The first ever event was held at the Ritz-Carlton operated on a much smaller scale than today, which is now held at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa.

At the very first Celebrity Fight Night With the help of Phoenix Suns Charles Barkley, Dan Majerle, and the valley of the sun’s very own Louie Espinoza, Tony Baltazar, and boxing champion Michael Carbajal who by the way fought in the ring with over sized boxing gloves.

The ”Puttin on the Fists at The Ritz” first Celebrity Fight Night scored a knockout win and is STILL punching on through today for the Greatest Of All Time, The late great Muhammad Ali.

Last night I was honored to attend and speak to a few of the stars, one was NFL legendary kicker Nick Lowery, Mr. Lowery now spends most of his time at charitable endeavors and advocating for alternative medicine research and is also a spokesman for Kannalife, Inc to raise awareness for CTE and players safety in hopes of one day having intercellular “helmets,” like Kannalife’s CBD and KLS-13019, is so important to potentially treat the brain.

I asked Lowery what is his favorite Ali memory, and Lowery’s response: ” Taking Ali to the NBA All-Star game one year as we sat behind Jay-Z and Beyonce and watching Beyonce wave to Ali, Beyonce spoke to us, she is the sweetest person. Also taking Ali to the locker rooms and watching Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, and all the other all stars turn into children at the sight of seeing their hero the greatest of all time Muhammad Ali walk through the doors, what an experience that was.”

In asking the very same question to R&B Singer Brian McKnight, ”I have so many Ali memories but my favorite was watching Ali knockout George Foreman at home with my dad. The odds were against Ali and Ali being the great fighter that he was he beat the odds and stopped a much younger powerful puncher in Foreman. You know, I am still a big boxing fan today, I enjoy watching Tyson Fury out of the current heavyweights.”

And what did legendary former champion boxer, Micheal Carbajal have to say? ”It’s truly an honor to attend this great event, at the very first one proceeds went to my 9th street boxing gym and now 24 years later it’s still going strong, a great charity”. Mr. Carbajal went on to talk some boxing with me,

Carbajal- ” You see Spence/Garcia?”

Me- ” Yes, it was brutal, what did you think?”

Carbajal- ” Not good for Mikey Garcia at all, but he is still my favorite current boxer, and he beats everybody at 135 pounds if he can make the weight there. Mikey would knockout Lomachenko in 4 rounds at 135.”

Me- ”Wow, you really think that? Both are great technical boxers but I can’t see a 4 round fight between them, so you really think it would only take Mikey 4 rounds to stop Lomachenko?”

Carbajal- ” I KNOW so!”

Special honorees for the evening include fabled American music producer and 27-time Grammy Award-winner Quincy Jones, Arizona State University President Dr. Michael Crow and Dr. Abraham Lieberman, the medical director of the Movement Disorders Clinic at Barrow Neurological Institute and Renee Parsons of the Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation.

“For 25 years, we’ve treated Celebrity Fight Night audiences to the world’s greatest entertainers and this year will be no different as we welcome Barry Manilow,” said Jimmy Walker, Founder of Celebrity Fight Night. “With the help of our celebrity friends and incredibly generous donors, we are once again excited to raise millions of dollars and make a difference in the lives of those who need our support.”

Individual tickets for Celebrity Fight Night start at $1,500 – $10,000.  To purchase tickets or to get more information on the event, please visit www.celebrityfightnight.org, or call (602) 956-1121.

About Celebrity Fight Night
Celebrity Fight Night has gifted more than $86 million over the past 24 years benefiting the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, as well as several other worthy charities.

The black-tie event features a cocktail reception, silent auction, elegant dinner, and an exciting live auction including one-of-a-kind luxury items and experiences. Celebrity Fight Night Foundation is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1994 by Jimmy Walker and supports the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, as well as numerous other charities. For more information, visitwww.celebrityfightnight.org.

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Olympic Cyclist Kelly Catlin Dead at 23

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Olympic track cyclist Kelly Catlin, who competed in the 2016 Rio Janeiro Games, was found dead in her California home this past Friday due to an apparent suicide, according to an announcement from her father, according to Reuters.

“There isn’t a minute that goes by that we don’t think of her and think of the wonderful life she could have lived,” her father, Mark Catlin said, according to VeloNews. “There isn’t a second in which we wouldn’t freely give our lives in exchange for hers. The hurt is unbelievable.”

Catlin, 23, took the silver medal in Rio and was part of the teams who took home the gold in 2016, 2017, and 2018 World Championships.

Catlin had reportedly struggled with mental health in the past and her sister, Christine Catlin, said that Catlin was “a really special person – kind, funny, empathetic, and talented at literally everything she did, per the Washington Post. She just felt like she couldn’t say no to everything that was asked of her and this was her only escape.”

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Kansas City Chiefs

Tom Brady And Pats Play Record 8th AFC Championship Game, Seek 6th Superbowl

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It’s Championship Sunday and one of the NFL staples remain atop the league. The New England Patriots are appearing in their record 8th AFC title game in hopes of competing for a sixth title.

A season that most organizations would be happy with, was one of challenge for the Patriots. Usually a top tier team, they suffered bad losses to the Jaguars, Titans and Dolphins. However, in Patriot fashion along a weak AFC East, the Patriots finished 11-5, won a 10th straight conference title and secured a first round bye.

Kansas City will host New England in the AFC Championship game in what is a rematch from week six. That game featured an offensive clinic ,  As reported by CBS Boston, Brady went 24-35 passing for 340 yards and touchdown in that game; Mahomes went 23-36 passing for 352 yards and four touchdowns. The AFC Championship could very well play out the same way.

The Chiefs will be a tough out, They won their first home playoff game in 25 years last week against the Colts and are riding one of the most prolific offenses in history behind quarterback whisperer Andy Reid and phenome Patrick Mahomes who is arguably the NFLs best young QB.

In what is a David and Goliath matchup, Brady seems to imply they are the underdog. As he told CBS’s Tracy Wolfson, “I know everyone thinks we suck and, you know, cant win games,”.  Will the dynasty continue? Or will Reid and Mahomes hoist the Lombardi?

I’m leaning towards the game plan of Bill Belichick and veteran experience of Tom Brady in this one. I think a Patriot/Saints matchup is in order. Either way, it will undoubtedly be one for the ages.

Game Time: Sunday January 20th at 6:40ET/5:40CT on CBS.

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