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Dave Hyde: A 26-year ghost disappeared as the Panthers celebrated their opening-round playoff win

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Dave Hyde: A 26-year ghost disappeared as the Panthers celebrated their opening-round playoff win

Twenty-six years. Sixteen coaches. Ten general managers, including Dale Tallon twice and one set of brothers, Bryan and Terry Murray.

There were five owners, not counting the group of eight investors briefly fronted by beloved Miami quarterback Bernie Kosar, who said hockey was his, “first and special love” before fading away to the bigger wallet of Alan Cohen.

Cohen faded away after four indifferent seasons, telling people he liked investing in horses more than hockey players because, “They don’t talk back.”

Cliff Viner bought the team. His lasting memory was a quickie divorce in Key West where his ex-wife’s relinquishing of any right to the Panthers was such a talk-story the Panthers released a statement on it all.

Viner divorced the Panthers three listless years later.

Does this help any? Does it begin to explain why Friday mattered? Does it tell of the long and tortured treadmill the Panthers had been skating on for more than a quarter-century?

At 10:43 p.m. on Friday night, Carter Verhaeghe was again the cavalry, scoring in overtime as the Panthers beat Washington, 4-3. That meant the Panthers won a playoff series. That’s no typo. They actually won a series. A ghost went poof.

“I’m not going to lie, it feels amazing,’ said Aleksander Barkov, who is in his ninth Panthers season.

Dolphins fans bemoan not winning a playoff game since 2000. The Marlins haven’t won since 2003. That’s kids’ stuff compared to the Panthers and their 26 years between advancements in the playoffs.

Here’s one story: Pavel Bure led the league with 58 goals in 1999-2000, and was benched in a playoff series where the Panthers were swept by New Jersey. Benched.

“Don’t ask me why,’’ he said then.

Here’s another story: Jaromir Jagr, who was ushered out of the Eastern Conference Finals in 1996 by pesky Panthers like Tom Fitzgerald and Bill Lindsay, joined the Panthers two decades later. I once asked him about that series. He asked me something back.

“Is it true they haven’t won anything since then?” he said

We could go on with these stories. And on. Mike Keenan, as general manager, fired his coach, Duane Sutter, just 26 games into the 2001 season, put himself behind the bench and, later, agreed to terms on a new contract with the one player this franchise needed: Roberto Luongo. Keenan then traded Luongo before the contract was signed.

Luongo was traded back to the Panthers seven years later, part of a building roster that made the playoffs in 2016. All the inner wiring was then dismantled in a manner that only the Panthers could do.

The veteran coach, Gerard Gallant, was fired after a road game in Carolina and left on his own so he had to wait for a taxi to leave the arena. A coach who had no NHL experience, Tom Rowe, was put in charge of running the front office and coaching the team.

The expected happened. The Panthers happened. Disaster happened again. And, again, they allowed people to quit paying attention.

Confession: Just writing this boils my blood a little, remembering stories I filed away long ago. The Panthers had great hockey men like Bill Torrey providing guidance and sustenance – if they wanted that – until he died in 2018.

“I’m not sure anyone’s listening to what I say,’ he said to me once, after one of those lost years. They all blend together by now.

All this explains why you had to be happy watching Friday’s celebration. And you know who deserves to be happiest? The lifers inside that franchise. I see ushers who have been there forever, support staff of the team who give a smile in acknowledgement in passing in the halls.

Randy Moller has worked there for decades, a good and fun-spirited announcer who laughs that his final year playing was 1994-95 – the year before they went to the Stanley Cup Finals. His broadcast partner, Steve Goldstein shouted his trademark, “Let’s go home, baby!” after Verhaeghe’s winning goal Friday.

He reminded me the other day that after he said it one night I mentioned it would be a good signature line for him. He then adopted it as such. Now he closed a series’ winner with it.

Ed Jovanovski, a rookie in the magic of 1996, is now a team broadcaster, giving a history lesson Friday as they showed highlights from that long-ago season. It’s hard to explain to people what it was like in 1996 when hockey took over South Florida – or the passion in 1997 when, say, General Manager Bryan Murray traded center Stu Barnes.

South Florida was irate. He traded Barnes? Why was he breaking up that team? People cared then. Maybe Friday night was finally a step back toward that.

“There’s been a lot of talk of not winning, getting knocked out in the first round,’ Barkov said. “It’s been there … It’s not there anymore.”

For the first time in 26 empty years, there was something tangible to hold. Jonathan Huberdeau, a Panther for 10 years, was able to casually say what no Panther player has said this time of year, what has been a quarter-century in the waiting.

“Now we’ve got to think of the second round,’ he said.

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Tim Anderson’s 3-run homer punctuates the Chicago White Sox’s doubleheader sweep of the New York Yankees

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Tim Anderson’s 3-run homer punctuates the Chicago White Sox’s doubleheader sweep of the New York Yankees

Johnny Cueto was terrific in Game 1 of Sunday’s doubleheader against the New York Yankees.

Michael Kopech was even better in Game 2 as the Chicago White Sox swept the twinbill, beating the Yankees 3-1 and 5-0.

“What a day,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said.

Cueto allowed six hits in six-plus scoreless innings at Yankee Stadium but did not factor in the decision. The Sox gave up a late lead only to respond with two in the ninth for the Game 1 win.

Kopech retired the first 17 batters in Game 2. Rob Brantly broke up the perfect game with a two-out double in the sixth.

“I felt like everything was working today,” said Kopech, who lowered his ERA to 1.29. “The first time this season that’s been the case. It was nice to go out there and feel confident with every pitch I threw.

“I try to be perfect every time and I know that’s never going to be the case, but I feel like if I can hold on to that little bit as deep as I can into the game, then I’ll be in a good position. And I was able to do that for a lot of the day.”

Kopech — who returned from the paternity leave list after the birth Friday of his second son, Vander — allowed one hit with six strikeouts and two walks in seven scoreless innings.

“Kopech made so many great pitches and mixed them up great,” La Russa said. “He had so much command. When you see that, I don’t care how good the hitters are, they’re going to have a tough time.”

The Sox scored five with two outs in the eighth on RBI hits by Andrew Vaughn and Reese McGuire and a three-run home run by shortstop Tim Anderson — his third hit of the game.

“This guy is as good as anybody playing at that position and one of the best players in baseball,” La Russa said of Anderson.

Vaughn came through with two outs, singling to center against Jonathan Loáisiga to bring home José Abreu. McGuire followed with another single, bringing in Adam Engel.

Anderson — who was booed throughout the night by Yankees fans after Saturday’s words with Josh Donaldson and a bench-clearing incident — then homered against Miguel Castro.

“Tim’s going to show up every day ready to play and lead this team,” Kopech said. “And he did that again tonight.”

In the first game, AJ Pollock put the Sox ahead in the ninth with a leadoff homer to left on a 1-0 fastball from Yankees reliever Aroldis Chapman.

“You’ve got to stay short to him,” Pollock said. “He’s got some good velocity, good cut on his fastball, so just trying to hit a line drive and it worked out.”

Vaughn drew a one-out walk, moved to second on a wild pitch and to third on a passed ball before scoring on a double by Engel, making it 3-1. Liam Hendriks struck out two in a perfect ninth for his 13th save.

It was a nice bounce-back performance by the Sox after the Yankees tied the score at 1 in the eighth when Aaron Judge homered to left on an 0-2 sinker against reliever Kendall Graveman.

The Yankees put two on with one out in the inning, but Graveman rebounded to get Donaldson to fly out to center and Aaron Hicks to pop out to third.

“Most times when you do that, (you) lose your concentration and there is another run on the board,” La Russa said of Graveman. “He got the zero afterward, gave us a chance to win.”

Cueto put the Sox in an excellent position early.

“I had good command of all my pitches today and they had very good movement and I was able to locate them up and down the zone,” Cueto, who was receiving fluids in the aftermath of Game 1, said in a statement. “That was the key to keep the Yankees off-balanced today.”

The Sox went ahead 1-0 on an RBI single by Yasmani Grandal in the fourth.

And Cueto kept “dealing,” as Pollock said. He struck out five and walked two in the 95-pitch outing.

“He’s been awesome for us,” Pollock said. “Works fast and has all sorts of pitches to get them off-balanced. Shimmy shake (delivery). It’s awesome to play behind him. It’s great having him out there for the first game of a doubleheader because of the tone he just set for us.”

Cueto has pitched 12 scoreless innings, the third-longest streak for a Sox starter at the beginning of his tenure with the team since 1974, according to STATS. Ken Brett pitched 17 scoreless innings in 1976 and Jack McDowell went 13 innings in 1987.

Cueto allowed two hits and struck out seven in six scoreless innings against the Royals.

“He’s an artist,” La Russa said. “It’s fun to watch him pitch a game. And that’s what he’s been, an outstanding starting pitcher, because he gives you a different look four times in a game.”

Cueto exited after allowing two singles to begin the seventh. Joe Kelly struck out Marwin Gonzalez, picked off Hicks at second and struck out Jose Trevino to maintain the one-run lead.

“Kelly was just perfect,” La Russa said.

The Yankees got the run in the eighth, but Pollock came though with the big hit in the ninth to give the Sox what La Russa called a “hard-earned” victory.

The Sox made it two-for-two Sunday with more stellar pitching and clutch hitting.

“It just shows we have that in us,” Vaughn said, “and we’ve just got to keep going and keep building off of it.”

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With St. Paul community center ailing, Keith Ellison’s office demands reforms at Cameroon Community organization

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With St. Paul community center ailing, Keith Ellison’s office demands reforms at Cameroon Community organization

With high hopes and no small amount of fanfare, leaders of the Twin Cities’ Cameroonian community pooled their resources in late 2013 and purchased a 57,000-square-foot, two-level office building in St. Paul’s Bandana Square for the bargain price of $200,000.

It was a deal by any stretch of the imagination. The future MinCam Community Center off Energy Park Drive carried an assessed market value of $3 million, at least on paper, though it came with a requirement that the association pay off some $100,000 in outstanding property taxes.

But the community center has been rife with infighting and dysfunction, involving legal action and public accusations of mismanagement.

Last week officials with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office announced they had stepped into the fray as the state’s charity regulator.

The attorney general’s new 16-page “assurance of discontinuance” agreement, signed by a representative of the Minnesota Cameroon Community and filed in Ramsey County District Court, seeks to hold the association accountable for “inattentiveness and governance violations” that have “allowed this important community asset to fall into disrepair,” according to a statement from Ellison’s office.

According to documents from the attorney general’s office, the property tax debt ballooned to $172,000. A broken boiler went unattended for months, causing what some fear is irreparable building damage over the course of a winter. Water mains burst in February 2021. The building’s property insurance lapsed in 2017, and energy bills mounted.

Community center leaders can’t account for all of the funds collected for property tax payments and building repair, according to the attorney general’s office. Questions over who truly leads MinCam — its board of directors, its president, the representative assembly, the general assembly or the community center management team — flared into a legal dispute over who had the right to call elections in the summer of 2020.

Among the requirements imposed under the agreement with the attorney general’s office, MinCam cannot solicit further donations without first registering as a charity with the attorney general’s office, which leaders had failed to do.

MinCam must restructure its leadership so that a singular board controls the business and affairs of the organization. It must also maintain and comply with internal financial management practices developed in consultation with professionals, and adopt a conflict-of-interest, whistleblower and document-retention policy.

“MCC’s directors and officers are further required to properly maintain all books and records of the organization and adopt policies to ensure that funds are properly spent on the purposes for which they were given,” reads a statement from Ellison’s office.

A request for comment was not returned Friday by an attorney for MinCam. The listed phone number for the community center’s was out of service Friday.

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Yankees drop pair of games in doubleheader with White Sox

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Yankees drop pair of games in doubleheader with White Sox

On an uncomfortably hot and sticky day for the Yankees’ and White Sox’s Sunday doubleheader in the Bronx, the home team played two fittingly lethargic games. The Yankees dropped both of them, losing back-to-back games for the first time since April 10 and 11, their third and fourth games of the year.

The second game of the doubleheader saw Tim Anderson get revenge on a fan base that had puzzlingly booed him all game. On Saturday, Anderson was mockingly called “Jackie” by Yankees’ third baseman Josh Donaldson. On Sunday, he hit an opposite field home run to bring the White Sox a 5-0 victory.

Anderson’s three-run silencer left no doubt that the Yankees would go to bed winless, and many of their fans would hit their pillows with a palpable rage over their number one enemy of the day having the nerve to play well amid their hatred.

Aaron Judge stepped to the plate in the eighth inning of game one and with one wave of his mighty bat, briefly gave the Yankees some hope. Judge’s solo home run tied the game, incited M-V-P chants at Yankee Stadium, and helped his team get off the mat, but AJ Pollock matched him with a solo shot of his own in the next inning. Pollock’s jack gave the White Sox a late lead that blossomed into a 3-1 Chicago win and, with the game-clinching shot coming off Aroldis Chapman, invited more questions about who the Yankees’ closer should be moving forward.

In addition to giving up a poorly timed home run, Chapman also threw a pitch to the backstop, had to be visited by the training staff after throwing a pitch, and failed to get a single swing and miss on his once untouchable fastball. When he left the game after Adam Engel put an RBI insurance run double into the left field corner, Chapman was serenaded by boos on his way to the dugout, where Judge was waiting for him at the top step with an encouraging pat on the butt.

“He’s not been as fine with his command,” Boone said of the struggling southpaw. “He’s just not quite as sharp as we’ve seen him. He was getting some treatment on his Achilles. When he was moving around, he wasn’t moving around great. But he wanted the ball. Today, to me he didn’t look great on his legs, so I think that was probably an issue today.”

The Yankees started their double dip by getting blanked by Johnny Cueto, a wonderful pitcher who’s also years removed from his prime. Cueto twisted and turned his way through six innings, five strikeouts and roughly one million different wind ups. The Yankees mustered six hits against him — all of which were singles — and got zero runs.

The final two of those singles did knock Cueto out of the game with no outs in the seventh inning. Trailing by one run at the time, the Yankees were very much still in the game. Cueto’s replacement, the fiery Joe Kelly, shut that down fairly quickly.

Kelly struck out his first hitter, Marwin Gonzalez, on four pitches. During the next at-bat, he picked Aaron Hicks off of second base. Hicks tried to make a break for third while Kelly wasn’t looking, likely anticipating that the reliever would start his delivery during the mad dash. Instead, Kelly simply stepped off the mound, realized that Hicks was in no man’s land, and tossed the ball to second base for an easy out. Hicks was the second Yankee to get picked off, joining Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who Cueto picked off of first in the second inning.

“Almost had him timed up,” Boone lamented after the game.

The squandered opportunity in the seventh looked like it would be the Yankees’ best scoring chance of the day, but Judge’s ability to transform things in a single swing changed that pretty emphatically before the White Sox landed their counter punches.

Hicks’ rally-killing pickoff brings more ammunition to the people calling for him to be benched. Entering Sunday’s action, Hicks was hitting .200 with an on-base percentage much higher than his slugging percentage. His 20 hits included just one double and one home run, and in his previous 15 games coming into Sunday, he was in a vicious 3-for-40 (.075) slump. In the first game of the doubleheader, he did go 2-for-4, but also popped up on the infield with the game tied in the eighth inning.

While he’s still taking a lot of walks, and is tied for the team-lead in stolen bases, Hicks is a tough sell for many fans, especially the ones advocating for the Joey Gallo-Aaron Judge-Giancarlo Stanton outfield to be a more regular occurrence.

White Sox’s closer Liam Hendriks, who was very critical of Donaldson in some pregame comments, had no trouble at all during his Sunday outing.

The Yankees cannot relate.

In the second game, White Sox’s starter Michael Kopech skated comfortably through the first five innings. He maintained perfection until Rob Brantly — the catcher who was added to the active roster on Sunday morning and arrived at the stadium during the first game — doubled with two outs in the sixth to become the Yankees’ first base runner of the game. Kopech finished his night with seven eye-popping innings, one hit, and no runs on his ledger.

Luis Severino displayed admirable problem solving skills all night. He allowed hitters to reach base in every inning from the second to seventh, but kept any of them from reaching home plate. His final line showed eight hits in seven innings of work but zero runs. It wasn’t until Jonathan Loaisiga entered in the eighth that the dam finally broke. Andrew Vaughn and Reese McGuire’s two-out singles gave Chicago their first two runs, and Anderson provided the final three off of Miguel Castro.

At the end of the unbearably hot day, the Yankees had two losses, a smarting wound from Anderson and multiple questions about their bullpen, as both Chapman and Loaisiga have been less than stellar all year and did nothing to rectify that on Sunday.

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