It’ll be a September to remember for sports fans

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It’ll be a September to remember

Not to alarm you, but it’s the first day of September. Even though there are still three full weeks of (official) summer left, the flipping of the calendar to this particular page can cause some anxiety. The days are shorter. The nights are longer. School starts soon. Fall is coming. Especially this year, it’s enough to send a chill down your spine.

Luckily, you’re a sports fan. So September always has a lot of interesting stuff to distract you from the sad realization that summer is ending. But you’ve never experienced one like this. Because of all the lengthy pauses caused by the pandemic, a bunch of things have been pushed back into this month — many of them high-stakes, championship-level events. Add those to some of the usual September offerings, and we’ve got a truly wild month ahead. Here’s what we have to look forward to:

NHL: Usually, training camps open in September. This year, the Stanley Cup could be awarded. The NHL initially targeted early October as the latest the Cup final could go. But a lot of series are ending early, and the league seems determined to wrap things up as quickly as possible. The conference finals could start before this weekend, making it quite possible that a champion is crowned by the end of the month.

NBA: Their timeline is a couple of weeks behind the NHL’s, so most of the Finals will happen in October. But Game 1 is scheduled for Sept. 30. In the meantime, the second and third rounds of the playoffs will be chock full of exciting matchups.

WNBA: The shortened 22-game regular season wraps up Sept. 13, and the playoffs will begin shortly after that. They take about a month, so the Finals will likely end in October.

NFL: If you don’t count exhibition games, this is the only league whose season remains untouched (at least for now) by the pandemic. The 2020 schedule kicks off in the customary slot — the Thursday night after Labour Day — with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs taking on the Houston Texans.

College football: Two of the Power Five conferences (the Big 10 and the Pac 12) pushed their seasons back to the spring. But the three anchored in the South (SEC, ACC, Big 12) are hoping to get started in the next few weeks.

Major League Baseball: The last day of the regular season is Sept. 27, and the post-season opens two days later. The Blue Jays have a good chance to make it after the field was expanded from five teams per league to eight, so they’ll be fun to follow over the next four weeks.

Golf: The final tournament of the PGA Tour playoffs starts Friday and ends on Labour Day. Ten days later comes the third men’s major of the season, the U.S. Open, which was pushed back from June. The second women’s major, the ANA Inspiration, runs Sept. 10-13.

Tennis: The U.S. Open started yesterday and runs through Sept. 13. The men’s singles final is that day, and the women’s is the day before. The French Open starts Sept. 21.

Soccer: After a quick turnaround, the new English Premier League season starts Sept. 12.  Canadian star Alphonso Davies plays in the German Bundesliga opener Sept. 18. Spain’s La Liga begins a week before that, and France’s Ligue 1 is already underway. Here in North America, the MLS regular season continues and the National Women’s Soccer League’s fall series starts this Saturday. Learn about the latter by watching this explainer video.

Horse racing: The Kentucky Derby is this Saturday. It’s the second jewel of the Triple Crown this year. The Belmont was held back in June, and the Preakness is in early October.

A busy month lies ahead in sports. (CBC Sports)

Quickly…

It’s a big night for Canadian basketball fans. After getting run over in the opener, the Raptors play Game 2 of their second-round series vs. Boston at 5:30 p.m. ET. At 8:30 p.m. ET, Canada’s Jamal Murray looks to keep his incredible scoring run going in Game 7 of Denver’s first-round series vs. Utah. Murray poured in 50, 42 and 50 points in the last three games. Read more about his Jordan-esque hot streak here, and about how he’s using the spotlight to advocate for racial justice here.

Two more NHL series can end tonight. Last night, Tampa Bay became the first team to advance to the conference finals by beating Boston in double OT. The Lightning needed only five games to eliminate the league’s top regular-season team, and they did it without reigning MVP Nikita Kucherov, who was accidentally high-sticked in the face by Zdeno Chara in the first period. Tampa was also missing Steven Stamkos, who has yet to play in the bubble due to an injury. Dallas could have joined them in the final four last night, but it gave up five consecutive goals in the first 14:27 and went on to lose 6-3 to Colorado. Game 6 is tomorrow night. Tonight, the Islanders can finish off Philly in Game 5 (7 p.m. ET) and Vegas can do the same to Vancouver (9:45 p.m. ET). Get caught up on all the interesting stuff that happened in the NHL playoffs last night by watching Rob Pizzo’s two-minute recap.

Courtney Vandersloot broke the WNBA’s single-game assists record — with a hand from her wife. The Chicago Sky point guard dished out 18 dimes in last night’s 100-77 win over Indiana. The old record was 16, and Vandersloot beat it late in the fourth quarter by finding teammate Allie Quigley, who also happens to be her wife, for a corner three. Vandersloot’s 18th assist also came on a Quigley trey. Speaking of eye-catching boxscores, Canadian Bridget Carleton scored zero points but racked up a career-high 10 assists in Minnesota’s win over L.A., which ended the Sparks’ nine-game winning streak. Read more about last night’s WNBA games here.

And finally…

Today is the 40th anniversary of the end of Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope. It remains one of the most incredible and inspiring athletic feats of all time. Beginning on Canada’s eastern shoreline in St. John’s in mid-April, 1980, Fox ran close to a marathon a day for 143 days. With a prosthetic right leg. But on Sept. 1, after logging 21 excruciating miles to bring his total for the journey to 3,339, Fox was forced to abandon his quest to run across the country just outside Thunder Bay, Ont. The cancer that had cost him his leg had returned and spread to his lungs. Fox died the following June at the age of 22, but his legacy lives on. According to the Terry Fox Foundation, more than $750 million has been raised worldwide for cancer research through the annual Terry Fox Run. This year’s is taking place on Sept. 20 in virtual form. For more info, visit the foundation’s website.

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