Olympic stock watch: Kingsbury up and down, NHL hopes way down

December 20, 2021
Olympic stock watch: Kingsbury up and down, NHL hopes way down
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This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

Olympic stock watch: It was an up-and-down kind of weekend

Sometimes you’re up. Sometimes you’re down. Sometimes you’re both at the same time. You’ll see what I mean in our regular Monday look at whose stock is rising and/or falling after another busy weekend of winter Olympic sports events:

Up/down: Mikaël Kingsbury

For the second consecutive weekend, the Canadian star yo-yoed from a disappointing result in a World Cup moguls event to the top of the podium in dual moguls the next day. Last week in Sweden, Kingsbury rebounded from an uncharacteristic eighth-place showing in the standard event to win the dual. The variance was less extreme this week in France, where he placed third in the moguls on Friday before taking gold in Saturday’s dual event.

It’s great to see Kingsbury bounce back like this. But dual moguls is a non-Olympic event, and his aura of invincibility in the Olympic discipline has been punctured over the last couple of weeks. After he won the moguls season opener in Finland back on Dec. 3, Kingsbury looked poised to capture his 10th consecutive World Cup title and probably his second straight Olympic gold as well. But he’s now been beaten in back-to-back moguls events by Japan’s Ikuma Horishima, who has emerged as a legit threat to Kingsbury’s throne. They’ll square off next on Kingsbury’s home turf in Mont-Tremblant, Que., which hosts a pair of moguls competitions on Jan. 7 and 8.

Up/down: Christine de Bruin

The Canadian bobsleigh pilot won gold Saturday in the women’s monobob, a newish version of the sport that will make its Olympic debut in Beijing. It was a wonderful surprise by the 32-year-old, who’d never reached a monobob podium before this. But on Sunday, de Bruin produced an unwanted surprise, finishing 16th in the two-woman event. She and brakewoman Kristen Bujnowski opened the season with three consecutive bronze medals, but they’re trending downward after finishing fourth last week.

Two other Canadian pilots had strong weekends in Altenberg, Germany. Cynthia Appiah took silver behind de Bruin in the monobob to jump to first place in the World Cup standings. Justin Kripps won two medals: a silver in the four-man and a bronze in the two-man. The 2018 Olympic two-man gold medallist now ranks in the top three in both events and should be a strong contender for two medals in Beijing. Another gold looks like a tall order, though: Germany’s Francesco Friedrich, who shared the two-man title with Kripps in Pyeongchang, is now a perfect 10-for-10 in World Cup two- and four-man races this season.

Up: Canada’s ski and snowboard cross medal hopes

Back-to-back World Cup ski cross events were held yesterday and today in Italy, and a Canadian came away with the bronze in three of the four competitions. On Sunday it was 2018 Olympic runner-up Britt Phelan in the women’s event and defending World Cup champion Reece Howden in the men’s. Today it was 2014 Olympic champ Marielle Thompson placing third in the women’s, following up her gold-medal performance from last week in Switzerland.

Phelan and Thompson are now ranked third and fourth in the women’s World Cup standings. Howden is just 13th in the men’s, but perhaps trending upward after reaching his first individual podium of the season. Reigning Olympic champ Brady Leman is the top Canadian in the men’s chase at 11th.

In snowboard cross, 20-year-old Canadian Eliot Grondin is up to fourth in the men’s World Cup standings after taking silver on the weekend. Grondin was the runner-up last season.

Up: Marie-Philip Poulin

Shadowing stopped being a thing in hockey around the time Esa Tikkanen retired, but the U.S. women’s national team might want to consider bringing it back just for Marie-Philip Poulin in overtime. The Canadian captain beat them with an OT goal in the 2014 Olympic gold-medal game, did it again in this year’s world title game, and now has rattled off back-to-back sudden-death winners in the pre-Olympic Rivalry Series vs. the Americans. Poulin’s overtime magic on Wednesday and Friday night in St. Louis gave Canada a 4-2 lead in the nine-game exhibition tour.

The series was supposed to continue tonight in Minnesota, but the game was cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns. Next on the schedule are a pair of contests in Alberta in early January.

Way down: The chances of NHL players competing in Beijing

By the sounds of it, the league and the players have pretty much made up their minds. In a joint statement yesterday announcing that the regular season will continue despite the postponement of an increasing number of games (including all cross-border matchups this week), the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association said they’re “actively discussing” participation in the Olympics and expect to reach a final decision “in the coming days.” The deadline for them to withdraw isn’t until Jan. 10, so if an announcement is happening this week it’s likely to say they’re pulling the plug. Wondering who might play for Canada if the NHLers don’t go to Beijing? Read this piece by CBC Sports contributor Vicki Hall.

Canadian Olympic men’s hockey power rankings: Will NHLers go?

Rob Pizzo addresses the giant elephant in the room: whether or not the NHL/NHLPA will pull the plug on the Olympics. 5:34

Quickly…

The NHL shut down more teams, and Canada pulled out of the Spengler Cup. Spoiler: if NHL players do indeed bail on the Olympics, the Canadian men’s roster will likely be restocked largely with guys who play professionally in Europe. Several of them would probably have played in the Spengler Cup, the annual Christmastime tournament in Switzerland that sees a Canadian national team take on a handful of European clubs. But Hockey Canada announced today that, due to the latest wave of the pandemic, it won’t send a team. Also today, the NHL announced it’s shutting down Montreal, Edmonton, Ottawa and Columbus until after the league’s three-day Christmas break. Nearly a third of the league is now sidelined due to the omicron-driven wave, and all cross-border games scheduled for this week are postponed. The NBA has also called off a bunch of games, and team-wide outbreaks are causing havoc with the NFL’s schedule too. Due to postponements, two games are being played tonight rather than just the usual solo Monday nighter, plus two more games on Tuesday night. It’s possible that more sporting events have been postponed or cancelled by the time you read this, so keep up with the latest updates in CBC Sports’ daily COVID-19 news roundup.

Canadian swimmers racked up three more gold medals at the short-course world championships. Olympic and world 100-metre butterfly champion Maggie Mac Neil won gold and broke the short-course world record in the women’s 50m backstroke today in Abu Dhabi. She beat fellow Olympic medallist and world 100m backstroke champ Kylie Masse, who took silver. Sydney Pickrem won gold in the women’s 200m individual medley, while the relay team of Summer McIntosh, Kayla Sanchez, Katerine Savard and Rebecca Smith captured gold in the women’s 4x200m freestyle. With one day of competition left at the short-course worlds, where the pool is half the length of the standard 50m, Canada has six gold medals — tied with the United States for the most in the meet. The six gold and Canada’s total of 12 medals are both national records for the short-course worlds. Watch the final medal races live Tuesday starting at 9 a.m. ET on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem. Read more about Canada’s triple-gold Monday and watch highlights here.

And finally…

Golf gave us the father-son moment we need right now. Heartwarming (or even just non-terrible) news is in short supply these days in sports and everywhere else. So it was great to see Tiger Woods return to (semi)competitive golf over the weekend, about 10 months after the car crash that nearly ended his career. Tiger and his 12-year-old son Charlie placed second at the PNC Championship, a 36-hole scramble tournament in which major champions pair up with a family member. The Woods duo lost to John Daly and his son, who’s a freshman on the University of Arkansas golf team, but Charlie stole the show by bearing an uncanny resemblance to his dad at times. Read more about the event and watch highlights here.

You’re up to speed. Talk to you tomorrow.

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