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Jonathan Cheechoo, only 50-goal scorer in Sharks history, retires


Jonathan Cheechoo, only 50-goal scorer in Sharks history, retires

Jonathan Cheechoo, the only player in Sharks history to win an NHL goal-scoring title, officially called it a career and announced his retirement on Tuesday. The Sharks will recognize Cheechoo's career on March 24, prior to puck drop in a game against the Calgary Flames. 

"I have been privileged to be able to reach my goals and to play the game that I love," Cheechoo said in a statement. "Hockey has taken me from Moose Factory (Ont.) to San Jose and many places around the world."

The first member of the Moose Cree First nation to play in the NHL, Cheechoo grew up over 500 miles north of Toronto in Moose Factory. His talent was apparent at an early age, and his community raised $15,000 to send him to tournaments and camps in Toronto to work with professional coaches, according to a 2007 ESPN The Magazine Profile. 

"With the tremendous support of his immediate family and his extended Cree First Nations family, Jonathan completed a remarkable journey from one of North America's remote locations to an elite National Hockey League player," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said in a statement.

San Jose drafted Cheechoo in the second round of the NHL Draft in 1998, and he made his professional debut with the Kentucky Thoroughblades, then the Sharks' AHL affiliate, two years later. In 2002, the 22-year-old Cheechoo made his NHL debut, scoring nine goals in 66 games with San Jose. 

He broke out with 28 more the following season, en route to the Sharks' first appearance in a Conference Final in franchise history. In 2005-06, after a lockout and a big trade, Cheechoo truly burst onto the scene. 

That year, he scored 56 goals, still a Sharks franchise record, and won the NHL's Rocket Richard Trophy as the league's top goal-scorer. 49 of those came in the 58 games after San Jose acquired center Joe Thornton in a trade with the Boston Bruins, with whom Cheechoo developed immediate chemistry. 

Cheechoo scored five hat tricks that season, including one in the season's penultimate game to effectively clinch the goal-scoring title over Jaromir Jagr. That remains most in a single year in Sharks history, as do his 13 multi-goal games. He's still the only player in franchise history to score 50 goals in a single season. 

He followed that up with 37 goals in 2006-07, but injuries began to mount. The following offseason, Cheechoo underwent double sports hernia surgery, and was never really the same. 

His goal-scoring totals declined to 23 in 2007-08, then 12 in 2008-09, as he continued to miss time with injury. In Sept. 2009, Cheechoo was traded to the Ottawa Senators as part of a deal for fellow former 50-goal-scorer Dany Heatley. 

He scored a career-low five goals in his one season in Ottawa, splittig time in the AHL before the Senators released him in the spring of 2010. Cheechoo spent the next three seasons in the AHL, including one with the Sharks' then-affiliate in Worcester, before plying his trade in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) from 2013-2017.

"His hard work and persistence made him one of the most beloved players in Sharks history. Off the ice, you would be hard-pressed to find a more humble and respectful individual. We congratulate him and his family on a fantastic hockey career."

Cheechoo retires as San Jose's sixth-leading goal-scorer (165), eighth-leading scorer (291 points), fifth in power play goals (62), and the franchise-leader in hat tricks.

Sacramento native Rhys Hoskins reaches Home Run Derby semis


Sacramento native Rhys Hoskins reaches Home Run Derby semis

WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper thrilled the home crowd and surely made his father proud, winning the All-Star Home Run Derby on Monday night with an exceptional display of power that carried him past Kyle Schwarber of the Chicago Cubs 19-18.

Harper hit the contest-winning blast in extra time, the reward for hitting two homers at least 440 feet during the 4 minutes of regulation. After he connected with the game winner, the Washington Nationals slugger threw his bat in the air and pointed both index fingers toward the sky as a shower of streamers rained upon the crowd of 43,698.

The six-time All-Star arranged to have his dad, Ron, pitch to him in the annual contest on the eve of the All-Star Game. Harper responded with a performance that drew the loudest cheers of the night at Nationals Park.

It’s been a trying season for Harper, who’s hitting only .214 for the disappointing Nationals. He won a contest that many sluggers avoid, fearful it might wear them out and throw them off.

Harper can only hope this helps him get back into the swing.

The 2015 NL MVP beat Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves and Max Muncy of the Dodgers before trumping the fifth-seeded Schwarber, who put the pressure on with a solid outing before Harper stepped to the plate.

Wearing a headband that resembled the District of Columbia flag and displaying a right sleeve with stars and stripes, Harper trailed 18-9 with 1:20 left before rallying. He homered on nine of his last 10 swings before entering extra time.

Hours before the session, Harper spoke excitedly about having his dad pitch to him in the contest. The 25-year-old said his father “worked his tail off every single day to provide for me and my family” and “now being able to have him throw to me in a big league ballpark is the cherry on top.”

Harper advanced to the final with an astonishing spree of long-ball hitting. He trailed Max Muncy of the Dodgers 12-4 with 2:20 left, then peeled off six homers in 47 seconds before calling a timeout.

Harper returned to hit three more home runs in 22 seconds, the last of them inside the right-field foul pole.

The semifinal matchup between Schwarber and Philadelphia’s Rhys Hoskins was a thriller. After stunning top-seed Jesus Aguilar of Milwaukee in the opening round, the eighth-seeded Hoskins ripped 20 long balls to put the pressure on Schwarber.

Using a late surge, Schwarber pulled one ball after another over the right field wall to squeeze out a 21-20 victory — by far the highest-scoring matchup of the night.

The fans dutifully cheered most home runs during the first round, but they saved their loudest cheers for Harper, the last player to step to the plate.

After Freeman hit 12 home runs over the 4-minute span, Harper unleashed six shots of at least 440 feet and secured the victory with a drive to center long before the clock expired. As the ball cleared the wall, the left-handed hitting Harper walked out of the batter’s box and thrust both arms in the air.

Freeman was the oldest player in the field at 28, and the first Braves participant since Andruw Jones in 2005.

Milwaukee’s Aguilar, the NL home run leader at the break, was eliminated in the opening round by Hoskins 17-12.

Aguilar hit too many balls to straightaway center, where the wall stands over 400 feet from the plate. Hoskins pumped most of his drives into the left-field seats, where it’s 336 feet down the line.

The most thrilling first-round match featured a near buzzer-beater by Houston’s Alex Bregman, who fell to Schwarber 16-15. The difference was the pair of homers that Schwarber hit during 30 seconds of extra time, the reward for hitting two long balls of at least 440 feet.

Bregman — the lone AL representative — appeared defeated with a minute left, but he mounted a late surge and lost when his final swing produced a drive that landed at the base of the center-field wall.

Muncy advanced by defeating No. 6 seed Javier Baez of the Cubs, 16-15. Baez hit the longest shot of the Derby, a 479-footer.

Aaron Rodgers hits fan jumping off a boat in Tahoe in stride with perfect throw


Aaron Rodgers hits fan jumping off a boat in Tahoe in stride with perfect throw

Green Bay Packers quarterback (and former Cal Golden Bear) Aaron Rodgers is known for his downfield accuracy. 

Rodgers has three successful Hail Marys to his name. The first, on Dec. 3, 2015 against the Detroit Lions, kept his team's playoff hopes alive. Another, on Jan. 16, 2016 against the Arizona Cardinals, sent the Divisional game to overtime, and a third came en route to a Wild Card game win against the New York Giants on Jan. 8, 2007. 

At the American Century Championship Celebrity Golf Tournament in Lake Tahoe on Friday, Rodgers added another notch to his belt.

His latest effort won't be confused with the other three, but it's not like any of those receivers landed in a body of water, either. 

The real question? Whether or not that's a catch under the NFL's new rules.