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  • December 9, 2017 11:51 PM GMT

    The most non-traditional hockey journey to one of the sports most history-laden franchises begins officially Wednesday night in Ottawa. Auston Matthews will pull on a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater for his first, real NHL game.The kid from Scottsdale, Arizona, who chose hockey over baseball six years ago, is now charged with being the Original Six teams savior as?the Leafs begin their Centennial season in the midst of a massive yet promising rebuild. At the middle of it all is Matthews, whose path from Arizona to Michigan to Switzerland and now Toronto is something to behold.There are so many things that run through your head, Brian Matthews told ESPN.com this week as his sons big moment approached. Probably a lot of the same stuff that was running through my head at the World Cup and at the draft: memories, emotions, road trips, all of these things that you thought were long lost and forgotten and they come rushing back in. You kind of relive moments that have nothing to do with whats happening at the time -- enjoyment and fun from previous years and how we got here.On Tuesday, young Auston -- along with linemate and fellow rookie William Nylander?-- was the last player to come off the ice at the teams practice facility in Toronto. A rink rat, like hes always been. There were no visible signs that it was the eve of a seminal moment in his young life.Afterward, the 19-year-old center allowed that he has indeed taken time to think what Wednesday night represents for him.Its going to be a dream come true. Its something that you think about ever since youre a little kid. My parents will be there. Its going to be a special moment.Brian and Ema Matthews, like many parents of gifted athletes, are central to the story. Ema lived with Auston last season when he played pro hockey in Switzerland during his NHL draft year, and this season it will be dad living with Auston in his Toronto pad.At some point we wont be there, well just be going to games, said Brian, a chief technological officer for a New Jersey-based manufacturing company. But this seemed to be the best possible plan for this transition.Matthews is still a kid, with enormous pressure on his shoulders, living in a foreign country. The decision to have dad live with his son seems awfully smart at this juncture.The job that his parents have done with him, with the maturity, the respectfulness and the politeness, it just comes out loud and clear, said Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello on Tuesday. We found that out right away when we had the opportunity to sit down with his parents and sisters. And then, spending some time with him, prior to the draft. He certainly has a presence about him, the way he handles himself beyond his age. Right now he just has to not expect too much of himself. He has to grow. Hes still young, [its his] first year in the league, there are a lot of highs and lows.To that end, the Leafs organization is ensuring that Matthews has only hockey to focus on this season. The demands are constant -- everyone in hockey-crazy Toronto wants a piece of young Matthews. But the Leafs, in conjunction with Matthews agent, Pat Brisson, are taking steps to make sure hes not overwhelmed.I have a tremendous respect and relationship with Pat Brisson, said Lamoriello. We talk often. Theres open communication about whats best for [Matthews] future. Everyone is on board.Matthews will be available to the media like any other player at practice and games, but Leafs PR director Steve Keogh will sift through the mountain of other daily requests to ensure that the young player isnt overrun.?Lamoriello believes the Leafs have a head coach who is perfectly suited to bring Matthews along -- and, in a way, protect him, too.Mike Babcock is, day in and day out, just outstanding at doing that, said Lamoriello. And I think thats basically our biggest asset, with the young group that we have.The season of pro hockey in Switzerland last season plus his experience at the IIHF world championships in Russia last spring and at the best-on-best World Cup in Toronto last month have all helped prepare Matthews for the level of competition hell face in the NHL.I think its benefitted me a lot, said Matthews. Just going against older, more mature players who have experience in the NHL and professional hockey for a long time.That Matthews chose the Swiss League last year, a tough test for a teenager, didnt surprise his father.Hes always sought after the best that he can go against, said Brian. It doesnt matter which sport. Hes always looking for another challenge. A big part is that hes willing to take on and accept the consequences; he just wants a shot. So if he gets to go up against the best, whether it was Switzerland or in Mini Mites, or now the NHL, thats all he wants -- that challenge, the ability to face it, to test his abilities, to see what he needs to work on.He knows he has a ton he has to learn, but you have to start somewhere and I think hes just looking forward to just getting it going.It was 31 years ago that Wendel Clark went from being taken with the first overall NHL pick by the Maple Leafs to rookie forward with the club just a few months later. Even though Matthews has benefitted from his pro experience during the past year, Clark says that his first official game wearing that Leafs uniform will be something that stands alone.The exhibition games are one thing, and playing in the World Cup certainly helps, but theres still that very first game, Clark said Tuesday. Thats the real kickoff to his career. That first game, the warm-up, putting the sweater on, its really happening now. Its fun.And to think, if the Winnipeg Jets hadnt moved to Arizona some 21 years ago, it might have never happened. Auston Matthews might have never have become a fan of the sport.I think he would have played baseball, it could have been football, it could have been a number of different sports, his father said. But if the Coyotes had not been in our backyard and he hadnt gotten that exposure early on ... I honestly would not give it a big chance as to where he would be from a hockey perspective today without the Coyotes being here. No doubt about that.The kid known affectionately by his family and friends as Papi is ready to take on the NHL. And with that, a franchise with a tortured past is officially set to the turn the page. Al Kaline Jersey . 1, meaning problems for the doping controls at both major international sports events next year. The World Anti-Doping Agency provisionally suspended the Moscow Antidoping Center on Sunday, saying its operations must improve or a six-month ban on the facilitys accreditation will be imposed. Lance Parrish Jersey . The Dutchmans tenure got off to a poor start when referee Guido Winkmann awarded a penalty within two minutes for Niklas Starks clumsy challenge on Alexandru Maxim. http://www.authenticbaseshoptigers.com/ . Parker had 26 points and eight assists and San Antonio beat Toronto 112-99 Monday night. "We won that game because of Tony Parkers aggressiveness," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "His juice; his aggression all night long. Omar Vizquel Jersey . Collaros, 25, was solid last season, posting a 5-2 record as the starter while incumbent Ricky Ray was injured. Collaros also started Torontos 23-20 regular-season finale loss to Montreal — Ray didnt dress because the Argos had already clinched first in the East Division — but was one of three quarterbacks to play that day. Victor Martinez Jersey . Tests earlier this week revealed a Grade 2 left hamstring strain for Sabathia, who was hurt in last Fridays start against San Francisco. Its an injury that will require about eight weeks to heal. He finished a disappointing campaign just 14-13 with a career-worst 4. A roundup of the past weeks notable boxing results from around the world:Saturday at Las VegasVasyl Lomachenko TKO7 Nicholas Walters -- Fight recap Retains a junior lightweight title Records: Lomachenko (7-1, 5 KOs); Walters (26-1-1, 21 KOs)Rafaels remarks: This was pure brilliance from the gifted Lomachenko, who may have only eight professional fights but might be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world as he retained his world title for the first time in stunningly one-sided fashion. In handing Jamaicas Walters, 30, a former featherweight titleholder, his first defeat, combined with a monster fifth-round knockout of Roman Rocky Martinez in June to win the 130-pound belt, Lomachenko is squarely in the conversation for fighter of the year honors. If he wins, he will only add to his growing legend that includes Olympic gold medals for Ukraine in 2008 and 2012 and numerous other accolades. Big-punching Walters is nicknamed Axe Man, but it was Lomachenko who cut him down with ease using a variety of hard punches from both hands and such incredible boxing skills that Walters simply had no prayer to do anything against him.After taking some heavy shots in the seventh round, Walters simply quit, much to the surprise of everyone, including referee Tony Weeks. Coincidentally, Walters quit 36 years and one day after Robert Durans infamous no mas against Sugar Ray Leonard. It was a huge win for Lomachenko, whom Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said could meet Manny Pacquiao at a catchweight in late 2017, and a potential career-killer, at least in terms of HBO interest, for Walters.Also on the card, welterweight contender Konstantin Ponomarev (31-0, 13 KOs), 24, of Russia, who is trained by 2015 Boxing Writers Association of America trainer of the year Abel Sanchez, cruised to a shutout decision win against Silverio Ortiz (35-19, 17 KOs), 33, of Mexico, winning 80-72 on all three scorecards. In another undercard fight, light heavyweight prospect Trevor McCumby (24-0, 19 KOs), 24, of Phoenix, scored two knockdowns and stopped long-faded Donovan George (25-7-2, 22 KOs), 32, of Chicago, at 1 minute, 48 seconds of the first round of their scheduled eight-round fight. George lost his third bout in a row.Saturday at Cardiff, WalesTerry Flanagan TKO8 Orlando Cruz Retains a lightweight title Records: Flanagan (32-0, 13 KOs); Cruz (25-5-1, 13 KOs)Rafaels remarks: Englands Flanagan, a 27-year-old southpaw, made his fourth successful title defense in easy fashion as he absolutely dominated the much smaller Cruz, 35, of Puerto Rico. Cruz, boxings first openly gay fighter, had lost a featherweight world title shot when he got stopped in the seventh round by then-titleholder Orlando Salido in 2013. Although Cruz, a southpaw, was riding a five-fight winning streak entering the bout with Flanagan, he was moving up in weight and was completely outclassed. Cruz, who said he wanted to win the title to inspire the gay community, was basically trying to survive as Flanagan laid a beating on him before dropping him twice in the eighth round. First Cruz hit the mat from a left hook and after the second knockdown, from a right hand at the end of a sustained flurry, referee Steve Gray mercifully stopped the fight at 43 seconds.Saturday at LondonKatie Taylor TKO3 Karina Kopinska -- Fight recap Junior lightweight Records: Taylor (1-0, 1 KO); Kopinska (7-15-3)Rafaels remarks: Taylor, 30, of Ireland, the darling of womens boxing in the United Kingdom, was a hugely decorated amateur, winning five consecutive world amateur championships and an Olympic gold medal in the 2012 London Games. However, she was upset in her opening bout of the 2016 Rio Olympics and elected to turn pro. She signed with Eddie Hearns Matchroom Boxing and mmade her pro debut in a scheduled six-round bout and was very impressive against Kopinska, 27, of Poland.dddddddddddd Despite a poor record, Kopinska had only previously been stopped once and showed tremendous heart against Taylor, although she lost her fourth fight in a row.Taylor pounded Kopinska throughout the fight and bloodied her nose in the third round before bombarding her with a double-fisted attack as she looked for cover in a corner, prompting referee Robert Williams to intervene at 58 seconds.Saturday at Cebu City, PhilippinesMilan Melindo W12 Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr. Wins a vacant interim junior flyweight title Scores: 117-111, 115-113 (twice) Records: Melindo (35-2, 12 KOs); Sakkreerin Jr. (31-5-1, 16 KOs)Rafaels remarks: With 108-pound world titleholder Akira Yaegashi (24-5, 12 KOs) sidelined with a rotator cuff injury and unable to make his mandatory defense on schedule, this interim title fight between the leading available contenders, Sakkreerin, of Thailand, and Melindo, of the Philippines, was sanctioned with the stipulation that Yaegashi will have to eventually face the winner. That means it will be against Melindo, 28, who prevailed after losing two previous shots at full world titles. Melindo has won three in a row, including against Sakkreerin, 23, who had previously lost by ninth-round technical decision in a strawweight world title fight to Katsunari Takayama in 2015.It was a competitive fight with Sakkreerin appearing to be quicker and accurate with his jab. But Melindo, the aggressor, was patient and took control in the seventh round, pinning Sakkreerin along the ropes with an onslaught of punches. They went back and forth in the final few rounds, but Melindo, whose counterpunching was a big factor, hung on to his lead.Saturday at Uncasville, ConnecticutVaughn Alexander W6 Antonio Chaves Fernandes Middleweight Scores: 60-54 (three times) Records: Alexander (7-0, 5 KOs); Fernandes (7-30-4, 2 KOs)Rafaels remarks: In one of the bouts on Main Events inaugural Mohegan Suns Rising Stars Boxing Series at the Mohegan Sun resort, Alexander, 30, of St. Louis, fought for only the second time since 2004 because he went to prison for 12 years for armed robbery and assaulting a police officer. Alexander, the older brother of former welterweight and junior welterweight world titleholder Devon Alexander, was a promising welterweight prospect back then. Now he is a middleweight looking to fulfill the potential he had more than a decade ago. After his prison release, Alexander fought in October and then shut out Fernandes, 37, of Brockton, Massachusetts, in his first bout since signing with promoter Main Events. Alexander appeared in excellent condition and easily outboxed Fernandes, who was there only to survive. It was not much of a fight and not particularly entertaining, but Alexander got in the needed rounds as he continues his comeback.Friday at Brentwood, EnglandBradley Skeete W12 John Thain Retains British welterweight title Scores: 118-111 (twice), 116-112 Records: Skeete (25-1, 11 KOs); Thain (16-3, 1 KO)Rafaels remarks: Skeete, 29, of England, rolled to victory in the first defense of the British title since winning it by unanimous decision from Sam Eggington in March. Skeete won going away but Thain gave him a few issues during the first half of the fight before Skeete found his groove and put his stiff jab to good use, which left the light-hitting Thain bleeding from the mouth and nose and with a cut above the left eye. Thain, 29, of Scotland, who has typically fought at junior middleweight, saw his five-fight winning streak come to an end. Cheap NFL Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale NFL Jerseys Jerseys From China Wholesale NFL Jerseys Cheap NFL Jerseys Cheap Jerseys ' ' '