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Cleveland, Encarnacion close to finalizing deal

Tom Withers, The Associated Press | posted Thursday, Jan 5th, 2017

The reigning American League champions are set to start the new year with a power surge.

One win from a World Series title last season, the Cleveland team is set to finalize a $65 million, three-year contract with free agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion.

Encarnacion, who has averaged 39 homers over the past five seasons, took a physical on Wednesday, one of the final steps to complete a deal agreed upon before Christmas. The team announced a news conference for Thursday at Progressive Field with president Chris Antonetti “regarding a potential new member of the organization.”

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Cleveland aggressively pursued Encarnacion, who also was sought by big-market clubs. Encarnacion hit 42 homers and drove in 127 runs last season for the Toronto Blue Jays, who lost to the team in the AL Championship Series.

Encarnacion’s agreement is the largest in club history, surpassing a 2007 deal with Travis Hafner that added $57 million in guaranteed money through 2012 and a $56 million, four-year contract with free agent Nick Swisher ahead of the 2013 season.

Encarnacion’s signing also represents the second major move in six months by Cleveland, who traded for elite reliever Andrew Miller before last year’s trading deadline. That acquisition helped the team win the AL Central for the first time since 2007 and got them to their first Series since 1997.

Cleveland is hoping Encarnacion can lead the franchise to its first Series title since 1948.

Encarnacion, who turns 34 on Saturday, hit 193 homers over the past five years and has connected for 310 in his big league career. He is expected to split time at first base and designated hitter with Carlos Santana.

Cleveland was in the market for a power bat after deciding not to re-sign Mike Napoli, who helped them get to the World Series. The 34-year-old Napoli set career-highs with 34 homers and 101 RBIs and the club credited his work ethic and leadership in helping Cleveland’s young players.

Encarnacion appears to be a perfect fit for the team, who have been looking for a big bat to compliment one of the majors’ best pitching staffs.

With Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis at the top of the order, and Michael Brantley possibly returning from a shoulder injury, Cleveland has the right table setters for Encarnacion, who has averaged 110 RBIs over the past five seasons.

Encarnacion, who spent eight seasons with Toronto after five in Cincinnati, may cause a significant bump in attendance at Progressive Field, where Cleveland has struggled to draw fans in recent years. Cleveland averaged only 19,650 fans at home last season; only Oakland and Tampa Bay were worse.

Canada advances to WJC final with win over Sweden

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Jan 5th, 2017

MONTREAL — Carter Hart was all set to spend a third straight game on the bench when he was suddenly called upon to save Canada’s gold-medal hopes at the world junior hockey championship.

When Connor Ingram gave up two goals on his first three shots, Hart was thrust into the action and stopped all 28 shots he faced as Canada defeated Sweden 5-2 in their semifinal on Wednesday night.

“I was pretty excited and I was pretty lucky that it was early in the game,” said Hart, who began the tournament as Canada’s No. 1 goalie but lost the starting job to Ingram. “My gloves were still sweaty from warmup so I wasn’t too cold going in there.

“It’s really just matters how you prepare before the game. You prepare like you’re playing.

Coach Dominique Ducharme, who doesn’t usually say in advance who will play in goal, confirmed that Hart will be back in the net when Canada faces the United States in the gold-medal game on Thursday night. Sweden will face Russia for the bronze medal.

“He was ready and he had a great game,” Ducharme said of Hart. “He came in and made a few saves off the bench, felt good and got better and better. He had a perfect night.”

Canada’s plan was to give a physical test to Sweden, which had won its first five games but had yet to face a top-level opponent. The Canadians took the body at every opportunity, which took some of the starch out of the quick-footed Swedes.

It all seemed to be working, except that Sweden took an early 2-1 lead.

Joel Eriksson Ek scored shorthanded at 6:05 with a wrist shot on a rush down his off wing. Canada’s Mitchell got it back when he banged in the rebound of Cirelli’s wrap-around attempt at 7:43, only to see Carl Grundstrom score a soft one when he lost control of the puck on a drive to the net but saw it slide under Ingram at 8:05.

That’s when Ingram got the hook and Hart, who had been so-so in two group stage starts last week, went into the game and shut the door the rest of the way, although he had a hairy moment in the second period when a shot when off his glove but video review showed it didn’t quite make it across the goal line.

“I took it one shot at a time and just worried about stopping the next one,” said Hart. “It was fun to be part of, but now we have to prepare for (Thursday).”

Cirelli, who had two assists in Monday’s quarter-final win over the Czech Republic, had a goal and an assist in the first period. But coming up big in important games is not new for the player who scored in overtime in the 2015 Memorial Cup final for the Oshawa Generals.

“I’m not sure what it is — I just try to play a simple game and create some energy,” said Cirelli, who won a faceoff in the Swedish zone and scored on a high shot to tie the game at 18:33 of the first period.

Julien Gauthier, with a second straight two-goal game, and Dylan Strome also scored for the Canadiams, who are seeking a second gold medal in three years. Sweden is in danger of being shut out of the medals for a third straight year.

“It’s really important — it will be much better to get home to Sweden with a medal,” said Grundstrom.

Canada lost 3-1 to the Americans in group stage play on Dec. 31 and will need to be sharper in the rematch.

The U.S. topped Russia 4-3 in a shootout in the other semifinal.

“We’re playing for the gold medal,” said Ducharme. “We knew we’d be playing against a good team.

“It could have been another team. You don’t get the motivation from who you’re playing against. You’re playing for gold, and just that is enough. We’re going to be thinking about ourselves.”

The U.S. beat Canada the last two times they met in a world junior final; in 2012 in Saskatoon and 2004 in Helsinki.

Grundstrom was the goat as he took a cross-checking penalty while Sweden was on a power play to set the stage for Cirelli’s goal.

Canada charged out for the second period and got a goal from sheer pressure as Gauthier poked at Felix Sandstrom’s pad and the puck went in at 12:02.

Then Sandstrom made perhaps the most spectacular saves of the tournament so far as he robbed Tyson Jost twice from close range at 13:00.

It wasn’t enough to turn momentum in Sweden’s favour however, and Strome scored from the left circle with the teams each down a man at 7:38 of the third.

Sweden had pulled Sandstrom for an extra attacker when 16-year-old Rasmus Dahlin gave up the puck at the blue line and Gauthier scored into the empty net at 18:02.

Aviation expert shocked over allegations of pilot passed out drunk

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Jan 4th, 2017

A veteran aviation safety expert says the case of a pilot allegedly passed out drunk in the cockpit shortly before scheduled takeoff from Calgary is the worst suspected incident of its type he’s heard of.

Calgary police have charged Miroslav Gronych, a 37-year-old Slovakian national, with having care and control of an aircraft while impaired and with a blood alcohol level above .08.

Court documents show Gronych has been released on $1,000 bail and was ordered to turn in his passport. He is also prohibited from flying a plane in Canada while on bail.

He’s set to appear in court on Thursday.

The Boeing 737 operated by Sunwing was scheduled to leave Calgary early Saturday with stops in Regina and Winnipeg before continuing on to Cancun, Mexico. Police allege Gronych, the captain, was found slumped over in his seat and then escorted off the plane.

Edward McKeogh, with Canadian Aviation Safety Consultants, said it’s the worst alleged incident of its type he’s heard of and raise concerns about airport scrutiny.

If he’s found guilty, McKeogh said he hopes “this individual will be sent for some serious counselling and rehab before he is cleared to fly again.”

McKeogh’s company talks to flight crews about safety throughout their careers.

“We don’t talk at all about mixing drinking and flying because that is so obviously a no-no to all responsible people that it need not be discussed.”

It’s against in the law in Canada for a flight crew to work within eight hours of consuming alcohol, according to Transport Canada.

But McKeogh said most airlines have their own rules that go above and beyond that, with most requiring 12 hours between bottle and throttle.

That is the case with Sunwing, airline spokeswoman Jacqueline Grossman said in an emailed statement.

“Sunwing Airlines has a zero tolerance policy on alcohol consumption within 12 hours of duty and any crew member suspected of violating this policy would be removed from duty pending an investigation.”

Grossman said Sunwing employs about 350 Canadian pilots and contracts up to 60 foreign pilots due to the highly seasonal Canadian vacation industry.

Canadian pilots work in Europe under similar arrangements.

“While the vast majority of Sunwing’s pilots are Canadian, it is important to note that all pilots operating in Canada must be qualified to do so,” said Grossman.

Foreign pilots are licensed by the European Aviation Safety Agency and receive a foreign license validation from Transport Canada.

“In addition, all foreign pilots receive training and are approved by Sunwing flight operations training department before being approved to fly Sunwing aircraft.”

As well, Grossman said all pilots must have a minimum number of commercial flight hours on a Boeing 737 aircraft before they’re allowed to fly a Sunwing plane.

Days before the Sunwing incident, another case of an allegedly intoxicated pilot made headlines in Indonesia.

Passengers reportedly became concerned when they heard slurred announcements coming from the cockpit of a plane operated by budget carrier Citilink last Wednesday. An online video shows the pilot appearing to stumble through a security checkpoint.

The pilot has been fired and two executives with the carrier have resigned as a result.

— With files from the Associated Press

Janet Jackson welcomes first child, a son

The Canadian Press and CNN | posted Wednesday, Jan 4th, 2017

Janet Jackson has become a first-time mom at age 50.

The pop superstar and her husband of four years, Wissam Al Mana, have welcomed their son, Eissa Al Mana.

A representative for the singer told People magazine the baby was born Tuesday, and that “Janet had a stress-free, healthy delivery and is resting comfortably.”

Jackson announced last April that she would postpone her Unbreakable world tour amid speculation that she was pregnant. She confirmed the pregnancy in an interview with People in October.

This is also the first child for Al Mana, 42.

Plane clips wing of another aircraft at Pearson airport

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Jan 4th, 2017

A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane clipped an Air France plane while taxiing to its gate at Pearson International Airport on Tuesday evening.

Greater Toronto Airports Authority spokeswoman Natalie Moncur said the collision happened around 6 p.m.

The wing tip of the PIA plane hit the wing tip of the Air France plane, which was parked at a gate at Terminal 3.

No one was injured, and the damage is relatively minor.

Family members in the terminal expressed frustration after waiting hours for the passengers to collect their luggage.

Around 9:30 p.m., Zahid Malik, whose daughter was on the plane from Lahore said he had no idea how much longer he’d have to wait for her.

“I keep calling my daughter,” he said. “She said, ‘We’ll be out in 10 minutes, 20 minutes, half an hour.’

“Every time I speak to her I get different answers. The last time I spoke to her, she said, ‘Nobody knows where we stand.’ I’m just really frustrated to be honest with you.”

Atif Ata said he had been waiting for more than three hours for his brother, whom he would be driving to Milton.

“The immediate concern is at least the people and kids, they should be let out with the luggage,” he said.

The passengers finally picked up their bags after waiting an hour on the plane and another four hours in the terminal.

The Transportation Safety Board has been called in to investigate.

Six in hospital after Gardiner crash

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Jan 3rd, 2017

Six people are in hospital, one of them with life-threatening injuries, after a crash on the Gardiner Expressway on Tuesday morning.

The crash happened near Highway 427 just after midnight. It appears that three vehicles were involved in the collision, and one may have been torn in half.

A limousine rear-ended a car, police told 680 NEWS. Four people in the car were hurt, and two people in the limousine were also hurt. The driver of the third vehicle left the scene of the crash, and police are still trying to track down the car and the driver.

One man, believed to be in his 20s, has life-threatening injuries. He was in the car, not the limousine. Two other people had serious injuries.

Toronto police told CityNews alcohol does not appear to be a factor.

The eastbound lanes of the Gardiner were closed at the 427 but reopened just after 8:15 a.m.

Canada knocks off Czechs to reach World Junior semifinals

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Jan 3rd, 2017

The Canadians owned the puck most of the night and dominated the shots 41-19, but there were some tight moments in their 5-3 win over the Czech Republic.

The Czechs took the first-period lead and tied it 2-2 in the second before Canada pulled away on a pair of third-period goals from Julien Gauthier to win the quarter-final at the world junior hockey championship on Monday night.

Canada advanced to a semifinal on Wednesday night against Sweden, which breezed past Slovakia 8-3.

“I don’t think I’d use the word scare,” forward Blake Speers said of the win. “We’ve got a lot of confidence in our room and we knew we’d have to score more than one to win the game so, one goal wasn’t really a big deal.

“The big thing for us was not to change anything. Maybe be hungrier on pucks and win a few more battles, but we knew we’d score goals if we stuck to our game plan.”

Speers scored Canada’s first goal of the game on his 20th birthday.

“All I really wanted for my birthday was the win, but it’s nice to get a goal to put the icing on the cake,” he added.

Julien Gauthier, with two, Mitchell Stephens and Thomas Chabot also scored for Canada. All three of them, plus forwards Dylan Strome and Matt Barzal, were members of the Canadian team that was ousted in the quarter-finals by Finland at last year’s world juniors.

Sweden is 5-0 and has been one of the tournament’s most impressive teams.

“Canada-Sweden’s always a big rivalry,” said Strome. “When you play a big country in this tournament, it’s big and Sweden’s no different.

“They play a very North American game and they’re all big and they can skate, so we’ll have to play a good game to have a chance. It feels good. The semifinals is one step further than last year and we’re looking forward to taking the next step after that as well.”

Stephens also had two assists in his first game back after missing two with an undisclosed injury.

“Kudos to the training staff we have here – they got me back on the ice sooner than expected,” said Stephens. “Being off a couple of days helped, but I had to get my legs under me.”

Canada had an 11-4 shot advantage in the first period, but the Czechs caught a break for the only goal at 16:49 when a puck deflected in front of Connor Ingram and looked to going well wide when it struck Slovak referee Jozef Kubus and bounced straight to Kase alone in front of the net. His quick shot went under Ingram’s arm to give the Czechs the lead.

Speers went to the net to redirect Stephens pass behind Jakub Skarek 3:45 into the second frame and Anthony Cirelli won a draw from Michael Spacek directly to Stephens for a quick shot inside the near post at 7:27.

The announced crowd of only 10,215 at the Bell Centre groaned as Tomas Soustal used a toe drag on a rush to get around Noah Juulsen and score at 8:53, but Chabot restored Canada’s one-goal lead when he stickhandled through the defence and scored from the slot at 13:32.

Gauthier scored on a feed from behind the net from Nicolas Roy 3:18 into the third, but Simon Stransky got it back at 5:54 as he swiped Ingram’s big rebound into a open side on the backhand.

Gauthier got another at 6:67 as he banged in Barzal’s rebound.

The Czech game plan was to trap and counterattack, and it worked for nearly half the game.

“We had to play our game, what the Czech national team is best at, and that’s blocked shots and good defence,” said forward Filip Chlapik. “Every guy did an amazing job.

“Probably our best game of the tournament. Too bad we didn’t play that way all tournament because we could have been in a different position.”

The empty seats at the 21,000-seat Bell Centre were a disappointment, but the fans made plenty of noise.

“We were expecting a crowd like Toronto,” said Strome. “We got onto the ice and it was like ‘hopefully people are coming in.’ It did kind of fill out toward the end of the game. And they were still loud. It is the best building in the NHL. It’s loud and crazy even if there is a couple of empty seats.”

Canada routed the Czechs twice before the tournament – 8-0 during their selection camp in Boisbriand, Que., three weeks ago and 5-0 in an exhibition game in Ottawa on Dec. 21.

Defenceman Philippe Myers, who suffered a concussion in the final preliminary-round game against the U.S., did not play. His spot on a pair with Chabot was taken by Kale Clague.

Coach Dominique Ducharme said no decision has made on whether Ingram or Carter Hart will start in goal against Sweden.

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