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Bluelines: The Dark Side of Canada's Summit Series Victory

Stan Fischler shares an interesting story on the 1972 Summit Series, his thoughts on Montreal's newest captain, a major change in Canadian media, ads on NHL jerseys, how the Caps became good after a horrific start and so much more.
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MUTINY -- THE DARK SIDE OF CANADA'S SUMMIT SERIES VICTORY

It wasn't quite as dramatic as Hollywood's "Mutiny On The Bounty, " but Team Canada's triumph over Mother Russia a half-century ago only happened after the winners survived some intra-team nastiness that could have destroyed the Comeback Kids' ultimate triumph.

Make no mistake, there was a mutiny -- what else do you call it when NHL stars walk out on the team? -- and after a nasty exhibition in Sweden even Team Canada's doctor nearly got punched out by one of his players.

I just started digging into this messy morass after my buddy-author (Guardians Of The Goal) George Grimm told me he had emailed Team Canada left wing Vic Hadfield to find out why the Rangers sharpshooter said bye-bye to coach Harry Sinden after the team had jetted to Moscow and Vic, disgustedly, returned home.

Unfortunately, Hadfield -- an old pal of mine from his Rangers days and thereafter -- is in ill health and couldn't answer Grimm's query.

"But, wait a second," I told George, "he wrote a book, 'Vic Hadfield's Diary -- From Moscow To The Playoffs.' The answer should be there."

Sure was.

Plus, plenty of knockout stuff that either has been forgotten or omitted among the current non-stop celebratory stuff. For instance, in his September 18, 1972 diary entry, Hadfield discussed the nasty aftermath of the two angry, Swedish exhibition games in which the hosts were not very hospitable.

Hadfield: "Even our own team doctor got into the act. He is Dr. Jim Murray of Toronto, and he was quoted as saying he was ashamed to be a Canadian and associated with Team Canada. He scolded Dale Tallon, who was cross-checked from behind, then went after the Swede. who did it.

"Tallon turned on Dr. Murray in the dressing room and said, 'Get the hell out of here before I punch you in the nose.' Dr. Murray complained about Tallon to Alan Eagleson, who is acting majordomo for Team Canada."

As Hadfield described it, the atmosphere in the Team Canada camp was toxic; filled with "criticism and dissension." And this before the outfit landed in Moscow.

"You could see it all come to a head," Vic added.

The team reached Russia two days later and on September 22 all hell broke loose again: only this time it was all about Hadfield and his unmitigated disgust with coach Harry Sinden. Here's Vic's incendiary diary entry:

"I've had it with Team Canada. I've got my bags packed and I'm headed home. I'm tired of the deceit, the lies, and the broken promises. I made this decision after our first practice at the Sports Palace yesterday morning. We were skating around, just limbering up and getting used to the rink when Harry Sinden called us to center ice. 'We'll start out with some line rushes,' he said."

Sinden then called off eight forward lines -- none with Hadfield -- and then told Vic, "Stand by the boards while the rest practice." After a half-hour of ignoring Hadfield, Sinden suggested that Vic take some shifts at center. Hadfield pointed out that he was a left wing not a center and should be practicing on the left side.

According to Vic's diary, Sinden shot back: "If you don't like it, you can take off your equipment." Instead, Hadfield waited until the practice ended and took a 25-minute solo skate. He then confronted Eagleson about his dilemma and was told that even if Team Canada were losing 9-0, "Everyone would get a chance to play at least one game in Moscow." Here's how Hadfield chronicled his walk out:

"After a couple of more hours of waiting around it became obvious that Eagleson and Sinden were giving me a fast shuffle. All I wanted from them was an indication on whether or not I was going to play in Moscow. When I didn't get it, I asked Eagleson to book me on the next fight home."

Before leaving, Vic met with some teammates who said they couldn't figure out why Sinden had boycotted him at practice. Vic then noted in his diary:

"They said they would have done the same thing if Sinden treated them that way. That's when I learned I wasn't the only unhappy player on Team Canada. Ten others said they were ready to quit for various reasons. When I got down to the hotel lobby, Richard Martin and Josh Guevremont where there. They had their bags packed and were joining me on the trip home.

"There would have been more but the other dissatisfied players -- fellows like Don Awrey, Eddie Johnston and Dennis Hull -- feared being criticized."

Hadfield knew that -- back in Canada -- the mud would hit the headlines but he was ready for the criticism. "A man must have the courage of his convictions," Vic concluded. "I feel I made the right decision."

Postscript: That was not the end of it. Hadfield then claimed that he had been "double-crossed" by Team Canada officials and unfairly ripped by reporters who called him "a quitter." Vic insisted, regarding the media," without learning the facts."

(More Re "The Double-Cross" On Monday.)

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SURPRISE! HERE'S THE 'SURPRISE' TEAM IN THE ATLANTIC

I don't station super-sleuth Al (Beachcomber) Greenberg near the flying fishes and non-Hartford whales for nothing. Large Al is there to scan the Atlantic Division and tell us who's gonna finish high, low and in between.

By the way, Greenberg is already ready to state his lowdown on the Lower Downs. Go, Al, Go!

There has been significant off-season improvement in some Atlantic Division teams but the bottom-feeders still have a way to go before turning heads.

A quick look:

The Price-less Montreal Canadiens are in for another long year despite the acquisition of first overall draft pick Juraj Slafkovsky and veteran sharpshooter Evgenii Dadonov.

Ottawa and Detroit did well in the off-season but whether it was enough to get them back into the playoffs is doubtful. The Sens’ bringing in Claude Giroux and Alex DeBrincat is a major plus. The now very wealthy Tim Stutzle had a breakout season. Cam Talbot sharing the goal with Anton Forsberg gives them a solid duo. The Wings have an excellent nucleus in Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi and young Lucas Raymond. Ben Chiarot is an upgrade on defense and Ville Husso, who enjoyed a good season in St. Louis, is a strong backup in goal to Alex Nedeljkovic.

Buffalo made significant strides last year under coach Don Granato. After a slow start the ship was righted and the Sabres finished strong.

The President’s Trophy-winning Florida Panthers took a step back in the short term because the Matthew Tkachuk for Jonathan Huberdeau trade also cost them MacKenzie Weegar, a super-solid defender.

Tampa Bay will feel the loss of Ryan McDonagh, especially come playoff time, but there are few changes to their core roster and the Bolts will be right up there all season. No surprise here.

Boston has a new voice behind the bench in Jim Montgomery and will benefit by the return of David Krejci but they will, at best, hang on to the fourth playoff spot in the Atlantic, with Ottawa, Detroit and Buffalo giving chase.

So, which team will be the surprise of the Atlantic Division? I cast my vote for the Toronto Maple Leafs, although it should be no surprise. If for no other reason than statistical probability, this team will at long last make a serious Stanley Cup run. It is almost inconceivable that a team with so much star power lost in the opening playoff round for six straight years. Last year’s ouster by Tampa Bay could have easily gone either way. Last season the Leafs set an all-time franchise record with 115 points.

This formidable accomplishment is forgotten in the absence of playoff success. With Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander all coming off personal bests in goals and in the prime of their careers there is much room for optimism. John Tavares is still a point-a-game guy. The team is solid on defense with Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin and T.J. Brodie leading the way. Mark Giordano adds solid veteran presence. Rielly anchored the league’s No. 1 power play last season.

GM Kyle Dubas tweaked his roster but didn’t make panic moves. They enter this season with essentially the same roster. The biggest loss was that of Jack Campbell in goal because the Leafs didn’t have the cap space to offer him a new contract.

An X-factor will be goaltending. With the tandem of Campbell and Petr Mrazek gone, Dubas brought in Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov, neither of whom is coming off of a very impressive season.

The fans have become impatient. (What else is new?) The Toronto media is unrelenting. This will be the year that the Leafs hush their critics.

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TORTS ON THE PROWL:

The communique emanating from Philadelphia are encouraging, ominous -- and, why not? -- confusing. The good news is that the Flyers are getting ink all over the place and that will sell tickets. The ominous aspect is that John Tortorella is getting -- why not? -- most of the attention and what he's been saying should make Flyers fans, in particular, wonder what hockey's answer to General George S. Patton has in mind when he's on his soap box telling us the following: "I have major concerns about what goes on there (in the dressing room) before we even step on the ice."

Torts is talking about "situations," as well a "standards" and -- love this word -- "accountability" in the room.

The first thought that comes to my mind simply is this: where's the leader in that room especially with Claude Giroux gone?Is the coach talking about a country-club atmosphere or are there cliques he'd like to delete? 

If John is suffering "major concerns," it also reverberates to me. I want to see the Flyers as we once loved to hate them; not some innocuous brigade wearing a logo that looks like it was borrowed from the Red Wings; which it probably was.

Oh, yeah; the other good news is that Torts is doing what he's getting paid for; big-time! Yap, yap, yapping away. And I never stop loving it.


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A STUNNING JOB CHANGE FOR A STUNNING JOURNALIST

Canadians have known and respected Winnipeg's Sara Orlesky for reporting on almost everything, although hockey has remained her sports passion.

But, now, suddenly and -- to a certain extent -- surprisingly, Super Sara is where we'd least expect her -- on the Jets' payroll. Our Rob Del Mundo tells the story:

For over 15 years TV broadcaster Orlesky has graced the airwaves coast-to-coast in Canada, from Vancouver (The Score) to Toronto (TSN), to Winnipeg where she has been a mainstay on the latter network since 2011.

Starting with the upcoming NHL season, she will be with the Jets as Senior Host and Producer for the hockey franchise’s content team. But why?

“It wasn’t an easy decision but I think it’s important to continue to push yourself and I was excited at the idea of a new challenge,” Orlesky asserts. “I obviously know firsthand how passionate fans are about the team.

"There are a lot of great stories and personalities within this organization that hasn’t had the chance to be showcased yet. I’m looking forward to being a part of the group that gets to do that. I think there is a lot of opportunity to continue to grow in this new role, having been a part of TSN on Jets broadcasts since Day One.”

Indeed Orlesky has become synonymous with the Jets ever since the team was reincarnated as a result of the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers 11 years ago.

After covering the Leafs in Toronto for four years, she capitalized on the opportunity to move back to Manitoba where she delivered the goods for TSN’s Winnipeg bureau, reporting primarily on the Jets and the CFL’s Blue Bombers.

Orlesky: “I took the opportunity to move back to Winnipeg in 2011 largely for family reasons, My daughter was a toddler at the time, and my husband and I wanted to raise her around family. 

"A lot of people questioned my decision to leave Toronto to go to a smaller market, but for us, it was a great decision. Not many people in this industry have the opportunity to cover a team from the get-go and to do it in their hometown no less.”

As a kid, Orlesky attended games at the old Winnipeg Arena, idolizing players like her favourite, Teemu Selanne, while trying to get signatures from the “Jets 1.0” players on the oversized game-day programs. “Obviously access was a lot different back then,” she recalls.

Fast forward to an 11-year tenure on a major sports network in Canada, Orlesky has enjoyed her share of light-hearted episodes. 

“During one of my most embarrassing on-air moments, I 'threw' to play-by-play man Dennis Beyak and I completely blanked on who the analyst was between the benches!”

As for the funniest Jets player? “Anyone who has interviewed Nate Schmidt will say that you can’t go wrong with choosing him!” she chuckles.

Prior to her transition to the Jets 2.0 content team, her last assignment for TSN was the Banjo Bowl, the annual game hosted by the Blue Bombers vs. rival Saskatchewan on the weekend after Labour Day. Amidst all the appreciative and bittersweet goodbyes that included a game-ball gift from Winnipeg's quarterback, she was asked “Now that you’re with the Jets, aren’t you glad you don’t have to worry about the ‘wind machine’ anymore?” The query referred to Orlesky’s gridiron assignments, often resulting in her blonde locks flowing awkwardly as she spoke on camera.

“Don’t let the new job fool you into thinking my ‘wind machine’ is going anywhere!” she concludes. “I swear it doesn’t seem to matter if I’m inside or outside, somehow a wind tunnel always finds me (or maybe I find it).”

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I'M JUST SAYIN'

* New Habs captain Nick Suzuki's boss, Jeff (Connecticut Sub Base) Gorton, says that when he talks to the lad, "I feel like he's 30 years old."

* Wake up, Jeff; that's how he wheedled an eight-year- $63 million contract out of you.

* Marty (I'm No City) St.Louis was given a media pass last season but it's now gone. The upcoming season will determine whether he can weave Montreal magic or not. (I say yes; he's super-smart.)

* Granted, it's none of my business, but how come Brendan Gallagher didn't get the Habs captaincy? He looks to me more like a leader than Suzie.

* Speaking of leaders, Jordan Staal will be starting his eleventh season as "C" man in Raleigh. Jordie is what you call "a captain's captain." The best.

* I'm glad the Devils are giving clever defenseman Thomas Hickey a training camp tryout. I say 60-40 he makes the varsity.

* Definition of "inflation," NHL-style: the Blues have gifted Jordan Kyrou with an eight-year deal at $8.123 mil.

* That's also the definition of "superior agent, who gets a supercut.

* With costly Ryan Reaves fifth on the Rangers right wing depth chart, the Blueshirts general staff has to decide whether it's worth keeping a fighter on the roster just for an occasional bout?

* Vitali Kravtsov and Julien Gauthier give Gerard Gallant more good hockey than Reaves. But nobody patrols his cop beat better than Reaver. (I'd keep Ryan. He reminds me of Louie Fontinato.)

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Yay Boo

YAYS AND BOOS:

YAY TO SAN JOSE'S ERIK KARLSSON FOR SAYING HE WON'T REQUEST A TRADE.

Gee, that's so nice of him.

BOO TO CONNOR MCDAVID FOR SAYING HIS OILS "HAVE A LONG WAY TO GO." What long, pal? Your guys could have made the Final if you had a halfway consistent goalie; and Evan Bouchard learned how to play defense.

YAY TO JIM NILL'S NEW PACT. The able Stars GM has two more years and a good, new coach in not-so-new Peter DeBoer.

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WHO SAID IT? "If I were traded to a contender, it would be like stealing from someone." (ANSWER BELOW.)

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DIDJA KNOW: GOALIE ED MIO TELLS HOW BILL (COWBOY) FLETT RELAXED HIM BEFORE A GAME

Goalie Eddie Mio was one of the most popular hockey players. He became one of Wayne Gretzky's best friends for life, starting with their days as Edmonton Oilers teammates in 1979. Here's how Mio told the tale:

"I'd get very tense before I went out to play goal. But, Cowboy Flett figured out how to relax me one day. I was getting ready to get dressed and found a live mouse in my skate.

"Then, when I tried to put my gloves on there was a snake stuck in one of the gloves!"

BIG QUESTION: SHOULD NICK SUZUKI HAVE TO LEARN FRENCH?

Major francophone party leaders in Quebec are urging the Canadiens' new captain to learn to speak French. "Nick should do it," says one Quebec leader, "because, as captain, his position includes a bond with the Quebec fan base that has supported the team for generations."

Ergo: Yo! Nicky, get yourself a French teacher faster than you can say Maurice Chevalier.

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NOT SO BIG QUESTION: SHOULD PLAYERS WEAR AD PATCHES?

Already, seven NHL teams -- Habs have RBC Bank -- are wearing them. Yes, they will continue to wear them because that's part of the reason Nick Suzuki is getting rich. Hey, one of the names of The Game is making a buck. Teams can make between $5-$10 million annually with patches. Besides, ad patches don't hurt.

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HOW THE CAPITALS WENT FROM AWFUL TO AWFULLY GOOD

Exactly 40 years ago David Poile became general manager of the Washington Capitals. With one gigantic trade, he turned the Caps from abject losers to winners. The Caps book that should now be read to celebrate Poile and the franchise is "The Legends of Landover: Long-Lost Stories of the Washington Capitals" by Glenn Dreyfuss. Good Man Glenn addressed these topics:

WHY WRITE ABOUT AN 8-67-5 SEASON?

"In the first 100 years of NHL hockey, covering 1,506 team seasons, the expansion Washington Capitals of 1974-75 rank 1,506th - last. That's a record deserving of examination, especially the human toll it took on players, coaches, and managers. As winger Denis Dupere said, "If the Zamboni had hit me, it would have been the best thing that happened all season."

WHY THE EXPANSION CAPS WERE SO BAD?

"These days, the NHL provides pre-natal care to new franchises like Vegas and Seattle. But back in 1974, existing teams were allowed to protect any player worth having. A Canadian columnist called those left available, "Little more than a bag of bones." The WHA siphoned off talent, the amateur draft was diluted, and the Caps made personnel mistakes. Grotesque losses were inevitable: 11-1, 9-2, 12-1, 10-3, 8-0, 12-1, 10-2. “I knew it was going to be a bad season,” g.m. Milt Schmidt said, “but not this bad.”

HUMAN STORIES ARE FEATURED, NOT GAME RECAPS.

"Before a game in Montreal, Dave Kryskow asked Habs defenseman Larry Robinson what the "over-under" was. Robinson answered, "Ten." Kryskow responded, "Sounds about right." It was; the Canadiens beat the Caps, 10-0. After a heroic 42-save effort in Atlanta – only three got past him – Goalie Michel Belhumeur kept mumbling the nightly barrage of shots. "45, 42, 59, 43, 45, 60, 42. How long has this got to go on?” Original coach Jimmy Anderson, after a hard-fought defeat: "I went outside the arena and just screamed into the night." These are poignant stories you can't find in box scores."

IT WASN'T ALL GRIM:

'Not at all. In the book, two of the true warriors of '74-'75, goalie Ron Low and defenseman Yvon Labre, explain how they persevered. And there's humor. Bobby Orr helping the Caps score a goal. The 'Stanley Can' victory in Oakland. The missing toupee box. The white pants. Jack Egers pretending to walk a dog through an airport. The quips of Tommy Williams, who said, 'We drank better than we played. The more we played, the more we wanted to drink.'"

USING THE CAPS AS A JUMPING-OFF POINT TO LARGER TOPICS.

"We examine raw racism faced by African-Canadians Mike Marson and Bill Riley, the second and third Black players in NHL history. We show how the NHL costs itself millions of dollars by not fielding competitive expansion teams. We recount rollicking exhibition adventures in Japan, Sweden, and Russia. We reveal disregard for player injuries. We showcase long-forgotten players like Todd Bidner, who played two games, in two cities, in two leagues, in one day!"

TWO EVENTS FROM SUMMER, 1982 ARE HIGHLIGHTED.

"Having bled $20 million in eight seasons, the Caps almost folded, almost merged with the Devils, and almost moved to Saskatoon. (Really!) A "Save The Caps" ticket-selling drive kept the team in D.C. Then we tell how David Poile, at age 32, in his first g.m. job, pulled off an audacious trade. David Poile 'stealing' Rod Langway, Brian Engblom, Doug Jarvis and Craig Laughlin from Montreal is what made the franchise a winner. Poile and his deal is what actually "Saved The Caps.

(NOTE: Glenn priced the book at cost, normally $10, $8.31 right now, so it's available to more readers on Amazon.)

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MANAGERIAL QUOTE OF THE WEEK

The Dallas Stars marched to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020 and last season came close to upsetting Calgary before losing Game Seven in overtime. Our current -- outstanding, if you ask me -- Hockey News Yearbook has Central Division Dallas pegged for fifth. GM Jim Nill has an arresting take on his team. Get this:

'We're a team transferring from a certain core to another core. Those cores are going to come together and make us very effective."

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INTERESTING HOCKEY PEOPLE -- HOW DEBBIE ELICKSEN BECAME A MEDIA ACE  Hockey nut, author, consultant and gal-about-Calgary, Elicksen is a role model for young women on the way up in journalism and book-writing. Starting as hockey intern, Debbie now has published seven hockey books and, no doubt, there will be more to come. Here's Part Two of our exclusive interview.

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LIKING JAROME IGINLA AS PLAYER AND PERSON:

"It was a gift to work with Jarome every day. He is as kind and respectful as he appears on TV. There was never a bad day when he was in your space. He was a power forward who could punch as hard as an enforcer and could score with the best of them. He was probably as close to Cam Neely as you could get. Jarome had this rare quality I have only seen in one other person, Ed Whalen, who used to host Stampede Wrestling and was the voice of the Flames television broadcasts. When Jarome or Ed spoke with you, you felt as if you were the only person in the room. I could go on for days about Jarome."

ADVICE FOR ABOUT GETTING INTO PRINT OR ELECTRONIC JOURNALISM:

"So much has changed since I started. It was SO hard to get published, then to get PAID to get published. The trick is to find a way in any way you can. Like an actor who moves to Hollywood or New York and waits tables or a busker at a train station. It's not easy. Like an athlete, even if you get the job, there are 100 people in line waiting for you to fail so they can take over. BUT, newcomers do have an advantage. They can create their own damn media.They don't need a university education to be a journalist. They just need to know how to write. The only way you learn how to write, is to write.

A REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: 

I interviewed an 18-year-old girl who started a podcast when she was 17. She's killing it and making a name for herself. She has chutzpah and just goes after interviews without fear. She's interviewed business leaders, celebrities, journalists, and she only just finished high school in June. Young women have the entire digital world at their fingertips if the physical world turns them down. Then they can create their own empire and the physical world will wish they were she."

WOMEN IN HOCKEY:

"When I see how many women are covering hockey today, it makes my heart swell with pride. I looked up who was covering the NFL one time and started crying because there were so many. I couldn't ever imagine that even 25 years ago. I also love that women are starting to get the positions once closed to ."

A PERTINENT PERSONAL STORY;

"Jamie Storr once told me in an interview that representation really matters. He's half-Asian Canadian and came into the NHL when there was only Paul Kariya. He ran children's hockey camps and one day an Asian child approached him and told him that because they saw him and Kariya in the league, that maybe it might be possible for him some day. That's how I always felt about women. I never got to be commissioner of the NFL like I hoped, but I was the first female president of a football conference in Canada. So there's that!"

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 LOOKING BACKWARD; WHY THE RANGERS DIDN'T WIN '72 CUP

The simplest answer to this headline is obvious: Because Boston had Bob Orr and the New Yorkers did not.

However, the Blueshirts' Hall of Fame right wing Rod Gilbert told me on two different occasions that It had less to do with Orr and more to do with Rangers GM-coach Emile (The Cat) Francis' strategy."We needed more toughness and Cat didn't give us enough of it," Gilbert told me. "And everybody knows that Orr had the Big, Bad Bruins behind him. And they were big and bad."

Another view came via New York Times' beat writer Gerry Eskenazi who put the rap on The Cat as well.

"The Rangers never won a Stanley Cup during his (Francis') tenure," wrote Eskenazi in a Times obituary for Gilbert. "I often thought that i Francis had allowed Gilbert to break free -- not to play the kind of team-oriented hockey he had so successfully used during the regular season -- the club might have captured a Cup or two."

I covered the Cup-clinching Game Six at The Garden. The match was won by Orr, who pulled off a spin-o-rama around penalty-killer Bruce MacGregor to score the Cup-winner.

Ergo: The B's had Bobby Orr and the Rangers had Bobby Nevin! One was a superstar, and the other was a mighty fine, all-round forward but not a superstar!

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ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT? Leafs defenseman Borje Salming on playing so long with an awful Toronto team.

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