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THE aftermath of the Washington Capitals’ all-too-familiar early playoff exit has an unfamiliar feeling this time.

No longer could players fall back on learning from the latest loss, in seven games in the second round to the Pittsburgh Penguins, because some if not many of them won’t be back next season. With forwards T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams and defenseman Karl Alzner among the unrestricted free agents and several players set to eat up bigger chunks of the salary cap, changes are coming to Washington after back-to-back Presidents’ Trophies and a decade of playoff failures.

Sidney Crosby #87 and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate.
Sidney Crosby #87 and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate.Source: AFP

Led by Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, the Capitals have made nine playoff appearances in the past 10 seasons and haven’t made it past the second round once.

“Obviously, it’s not working,” Backstrom said Friday on another sombre exit day. “I’m sure the organisation will figure that out and try again.” How much needs to be different is a matter of opinion, and really owner majority owner Ted Leonsis, general manager Brian MacLellan and others in the organisation are the only ones whose thoughts matter. Because of the impending salary-cap crunch and new contracts needed for centre Evgeny Kuznetsov, winger Andre Burakovsky and defensemen Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt, MacLellan made it no secret before the 2015-16 season he saw this as a two-year window. Now it’s over.

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NHL expansion, Seattle NHL team, 32nd franchise, NHL realignment, SuperSonics

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Seattle is getting a National Hockey League team. It will just have to wait a little bit longer to drop the puck.

The NHL Board of Governors unanimously approved adding Seattle as the league’s 32nd franchise on Tuesday, with play set to begin in 2021 instead of 2020 to allow enough time for arena renovations.

The as-yet unnamed franchise will be the Emerald City’s first major winter sports team since the NBA’s SuperSonics left town in 2008.

“Today is a day for celebration in a great city that adores and avidly supports its sports teams and for our 101-year-old sports league,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said.

“Expanding to Seattle makes the National Hockey League more balanced, even more whole and even more vibrant. A team in Seattle evens the number of teams in our two conferences, brings our geographic footprint into greater equilibrium and creates instant new rivalries out west, particularly between Seattle and Vancouver.”

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Gritty: The story behind sports’ greatest mascot, Philadelphia Flyers’ nightmare fuel creation

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The new Flyers mascot had just destroyed the set of the “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”

Within seconds of being unleashed, he headed straight for Questlove’s drum set and started tossing his sticks across the room. As Fallon and Ricky Gervais attempted to dance to Boyz II Men, the bizarre, orange, bearded, googly eyed creature cut in and started an all-out brawl with the two comedians.

Later, as he left 30 Rock in full costume and headed to his chartered helicopter — yes, a mascot for a hockey team had his own helicopter waiting for him — the all-seeing eyes of TMZ had caught wind of his location. They chased him down the street, screaming his name:

“Gritty! Gritty!”

Within three days of his creation, Gritty had become a sensation. But where did he come from? And what the hell is he?

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NHL fight, Tommy Hawk Chicago Blackhawks mascot attacked, video as fan loses fight to mascot

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Not all mascots are warm and fuzzy.

The Chicago Blackhawks released a statement after a video surfaced showing the team’s mascot, Tommy Hawk, body-slamming and punching a fan who provoked him in the concourse of the United Center one night earlier.

In the video, the man appears to try to attack the mascot, who then lifts the man into the air and slams him to the ground before landing several blows while other fans watch nearby.

“We are gathering the facts and will have no further comment at this time, pending our investigation,” the Blackhawks said in a statement published by the Chicago Sun-Times.

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