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SKA St. Petersburg are back at it as Gagarin champions of 2017

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At this time of the year, that emptiness strikes one again after a long season has ended. Some compare this feeling with being a balloon that let out all the air, some compare the feeling with something else.

I feel somehow myself an anti-climax, as I feel robbed of an epic final between two of the absolute best teams in the KHL and Europe, and two of the best teams outside the NHL.

Not even near something that resembles a classic strife over the title would we see over 5 games. SKA St. Petersburg were overall too good in their attacking game and Koskinen showed once again that he is really one of the best goaltenders in the world if we look outside North America.

Most of all, SKA’s passing game was smooth and it looked very easy when they entered the Magnitogorsk zone, and they were able to get to shoot easily too.

And, so it was during the whole playoff when they eliminated Vityaz Podolsk, Dynamo Moscow and Lokomotiv Yaroslavl on the way to the title. The two latter teams were supposed to give SKA a fight, but no, they were almost defeated as easily as Vityaz was in the first round.

This version of SKA St. Petersburg was basically a rock steady foundation, perhaps even stronger than when they won the Gagarin Cup for the first time two years ago.

Maybe all depended on a bit of the shift of the coach, from Zubov to Znarok for this season. Nothing wrong with Zubov really as he does have also an amount of know-how of the game.

But Znarok has definitely more integrity and something we could call a “commanding presence”, which Zubov didn’t have really. Not enough for an organization such as SKA St. Petersburg.

Oleg Znarok. Image courtesy: http://www.hokejportal.cz

For the team’s sake, including Kovalchuk who can lose the plot sometimes, it was very important to have a coach as Znarok who won’t tolerate any escape from the plans he has set up or any disrespectful behavior no matter who the players are.

Roman Rotenberg can, therefore, tap his own shoulder and shake his own hand for signing Znarok as the head coach for the team this season. Light up another cigar of victory and smile with a feeling of great relief.

SKA St. Petersburg eliminated Magnitogorsk and their best snipers including the goal king himself, Mozyakin. None were given a chance to shoot as easily on Koskinen’s net as SKA could do themselves at Koschechkin’s.

It looked so smooth and easy as I said and in the fifth game, they were behind by 2-0 with almost half the game played but a quick turn they managed to set up; 2-3 was the score when the second period was over. Magnitogorsk was more or less a defeated team by that turn of SKA St. Petersburg.

If I may mention Magnitogorsk a bit here, their game was a lot stiffer and they had to struggle for every shot they could shoot against Koskinen’s net. From time to time though they could set up a longer play in the SKA zone, but it was far from enough to make the final series to an epic hockey saga.

SKA have now their second title within a quite short time. The foundation of the SKA building is getting stronger by the years as long as Rotenberg is in control of the organization.

It will be interesting to see which players in the future Rotenberg will be able to bring to the team. Datsyuk is about to see his very last days as a hockey player, at least at this level. Kovalchuck has some more years left and then the NHL is attracting some of the players due to the success. I am thinking about Dadonov and Schipachyov for example.

Yet, there is a bigger question lying on Rotenberg’s table (together with the other owners) right after this season: how to evolve the KHL to become a stronger league in the nearest feature?

But, now are SKA celebrating as they should, and they did it in the best way, to show everyone that they were definitely the best team this season.

The integral part of being a star is having the will to win. All the champions have it.

-Betty Cuthbert

20% Off Signed Photos at SteinerSports.com with code PHOTOLUV (1/1/17-3/31/17)

 

 

 

 

 

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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