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WHEN Brent Burns packs his bags for road trips, the San Jose Sharks defenseman often leaves something behind: His cosmetic teeth.

“I don’t wear them often,” he said. “I usually find them in a drawer a couple months down the road and put them somewhere safe, forget where that is, and find them a couple months later.” Burns, a happy-go-lucky guy, said he is missing three of his real teeth and a fourth is “hanging on by a thread.” He is holding out hope it won’t join his other missing Chiclets.

“I need that one for corn on the cob,” Burns said with a gap-filled smile.

Missing teeth have been associated with hard-nosed hockey — for better and for worse — for decades, becoming a stereotype of the game even with some players, like Burns, embracing it as a rite of passage or badge of honour. Gordie Howe, Bobby Clarke, Ken Daneyko, Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull — all have grins famous for what’s not there. Chicago’s Duncan Keith had seven teeth knocked out by a puck in the Western Conference final-clinching game in 2011 against San Jose and quipped afterwards: “You’ve got leave it all on the ice.” Many casual fans might assume all players are missing a few teeth — not true — but there is far more interest in keeping the originals than there was in the 1980s, a time Kings coach Darryl Sutter recalls seeing players writing their numbers on coffee cups, putting their teeth in the cups and setting them on a shelf before games.

“The joke was switching teeth around,” Sutter said with a sly grin.

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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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