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Josh Donaldson of the Toronto Blue Jays hits a solo home run in the third inning during game four of the ALCS against the Cleveland Indians Oct 18, 2016 in Toronto.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

NHL's 100th birthday

The NHL will celebrate its centennial year in 2017. Events are planned across the league and throughout the year, including an outdoor game at Toronto's BMO Field between the Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings on New Year's Day.

The league will also mark the Stanley Cup's 125th anniversary in March, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the league on Nov. 26 and the 100th anniversary of the first NHL game on Dec. 19.

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NHLers at the Olympics

NHL players have taken part at every Winter Olympics since 1998, but participation at the 2018 Games in South Korea is in serious doubt. The International Olympic Committee has said it won't cover the costs for insurance or travel as it has in the past.

The NHL, meanwhile, offered its players' union a scenario in which owners would agree to Olympic participation in 2018, but only if the current collective agreement was extended by three years.

The players rejected that offer, and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said an Olympic decision needs to be made soon.

Vegas Golden Knights take shape

It will be a busy spring and summer for the NHL's 31st franchise with the expansion draft, amateur draft and free agency all set to take place within a two-week stretch in June and July.

The other 30 clubs will submit lists of protected players for the expansion draft, but there should be plenty of manoeuvring as general managers look to protect as many assets as possible.

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The Golden Knights' first draft pick, first training camp, first preseason game, as well as opening night in October, will all be events to keep an eye on.

New-look Toronto Blue Jays

The Jays fell one step short of making the World Series the past two seasons with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion playing integral roles in a powerful lineup. But Encarnacion inked a free-agent deal with Cleveland and Bautista remains unsigned.

The Jays are hoping Kendrys Morales will help pick up some of the offensive slack, while former AL MVP Josh Donaldson becomes an even more important piece.

A strong starting rotation will be led by Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ and Aaron Sanchez.

Can the Toronto Raptors take the next step?

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The Raptors exceeded expectations in 2016 by making it to the NBA's Eastern Conference final before falling to eventual champions Cleveland in six games. Led by the star backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, the Raptors will again look to unseat LeBron James and the Cavaliers. It won't be easy, but the Raptors raced out to a fast start this season and look poised for another deep playoff run.

Raonic on the rise

Milos Raonic continues a steady climb and seems poised for a real breakthrough. The 26-year-old is ranked No. 3 in the world, a career high and the best mark ever for a Canadian tennis player. The towering right-hander with a powerful serve has honed other parts of his game in recent years, and took a big step forward in 2016 by becoming the first Canadian male to reach a Grand Slam final when he lost to Andy Murray at Wimbledon.

De Grasse gets another shot at Bolt

The 2017 world track and field championships in London could be the last chance for Canadian sprinter Andre De Grasse to challenge Usain Bolt. The undisputed fastest man on the planet, Bolt won gold in the men's 100-, 200- and 4x100-metre relay at a third straight Olympics this summer, but continues to hint at retirement. De Grasse finished second behind Bolt in the 200 at the Rio Games, while also picking up bronze medals in the 100 and 4x100 at his first Olympics.

Canada's Stanley Cup drought

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The Montreal Canadiens were the last team from Canada to win the Stanley Cup back in 1993. All seven Canadian teams failed to make the playoffs last spring, but Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton and Calgary look like strong bets to return to the postseason. Led by Carey Price, the Canadiens appear to be the most likely team to end Canada's Cup drought.

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