From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- They walked into a Manhattan hotel, knowing they were running out of time to save their season.After 16 hours of tense talks, the NHL and its players finally achieved their elusive deal early Sunday morning, finding a way to restart a sport desperate to regain momentum and boost its prominence.Ending a bitter dispute that wiped out a large part of the hockey season for the third time in less than two decades, the league and its union agreed to the framework of a 10-year labor contract that will allow a delayed schedule to start later this month.On the 113th day of a management lockout and five days before the league's deadline for a deal, the bleary-eyed sides held a 6 a.m. news conference to announce there will be a season, after all.NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and union head Donald Fehr both appeared drained, wearing sweaters and not neckties, when they stood side by side at the hotel and announced labor peace."We have reached an agreement on the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement, the details of which need to be put to paper," Bettman said. "We've got to dot a lot of Is, cross a lot of Ts. There's still a lot of work to be done, but the basic framework of the deal has been agreed upon."Lawyers will spend the next few days drafting a memorandum of agreement.The stoppage led to the cancellation of at least 480 games -- the exact length of the curtailed schedule hasn't been determined -- bringing the total of lost regular-season games to a minimum 2,178 during three lockouts under Bettman.The agreement, which replaces the deal that expired Sept. 15, must be ratified by the 30 team owners and approximately 740 players."Hopefully, within just a very few days, the fans can get back to watching people who are skating, and not the two of us," Fehr said.Fehr became executive director of the NHL Players Association in December 2010 after leading baseball players through two strikes and a lockout.Players conceded early on in talks, which began in June, that they would accept a smaller percentage of revenue, and the negotiations were about how much lower."It was a battle," said Winnipeg Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey, a key member of the union's bargaining team. "Players obviously would rather not have been here, but our focus now is to give the fans whatever it is -- 48 games, 50 games -- the most exciting season we can."With much of the money from its 2 billion, 10-year contract with NBC back loaded toward the Stanley Cup playoffs in the spring -- and now perhaps early summer -- the league preferred to time the dispute for the start of the season in the fall. Management made its decision knowing regular-season attendance rose from 16,534 in 2003-04 to 16,954 in 2005-06 and only seven teams experienced substantial drops.Flyers chairman Ed Snider told The Associated Press he was glad a partial schedule had been salvaged."I'm thrilled for our fans, I'm thrilled for all of our people that work around our sport that have been hurt by this," he said. "I'm thrilled for the players, for the owners. I'm just sorry it had to take this long. The great thing is, we don't have to look at it for hopefully 10 years, or at worst eight, and that's good stuff."Still, the lockout could wipe out perhaps 1 billion in revenue this season, given about 40 percent of the regular-season schedule won't be played. And while the stoppage was major news in Canada, it was an afterthought for many American sports fans."They could have gotten here a lot sooner," said Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based sports business consulting firm Sportscorp Ltd. "They didn't hear a hue and cry from the fans, especially in the United States, when hockey wasn't played. That's very distressing. That indicates there's a level of apathy that is troubling. In contrast, in the NFL when there was a threat of canceling a preseason weekend, the nation was up in arms."At downtown Detroit's Rub BBQ Pub, manager Chris Eid said he was "ecstatic" when he heard the news. He said the settlement was a big topic of conversation among his afternoon customers."Everyone misses hockey," Eid said.Hockey's first labor dispute was an 11-day strike in 1992 that led to 30 games being postponed. Bettman, a former NBA executive under David Stern, became the NHL commissioner in February 1993. He presided over a 103-day lockout in 1994-95 that ended with a deal on Jan. 11, then a 301-day lockout in 2004-05 that made the NHL the first major North American professional sports league to lose an entire season. The NHL obtained a salary cap in the agreement that followed that dispute and now wanted more gains."It was concessionary bargaining right from the beginning," Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. "As the players, you kind of understand that and you accepted that. As much as you didn't want to, we understand that the nature of professional sports has kind of changed with the last couple CBAs starting with football and basketball."This deal was reached with the assistance of Scot Beckenbaugh of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, a veteran of the 2004-05 NHL talks, then Major League Soccer's negotiations in 2010 and NFL and NBA talks the following year. Beckenbaugh spent Friday walking back and forth between the league's office and the hotel where players were staying, meeting with each side to set up the final talks."Fans throughout North America will have the opportunity to return to a favorite past time and thousands of working men and women and small businesses will no longer be deprived of their livelihoods," said George Cohen, the FMCS director.Sam Flood, NBC Sports' executive producer, said his production team was "counting the seconds until the season begins." NBC announcer Mike Emrick said players will have more pressure because of the shortened schedule."The effect of even a two-game losing streak will be four," he saidThe NHL's revenue of 3.3 billion last season lagged well behind the NFL (9 billion), Major League Baseball (7.5 billion) and the NBA (5 billion), and the deal will lower the hockey players' percentage from 57 to 50 -- owners originally had proposed 46 percent.This was the third lockout among the major U.S. sports in a period of just over a year. A four-month NFL lockout ended in July 2011 with the loss of only one exhibition game, and an NBA lockout caused each team's schedule to be cut from 82 games to 66 last season.As part of the deal:--Players will receive 300 million in transition payments over three years to account for existing contracts, pushing their revenue share over 50 percent at the start of the deal.--Players gained a defined benefit pension plan for the first time.--The salary cap for this season will be 70.2 million before prorating to adjust for the shortened season, and the cap will drop to 64.3 million in 2013-14 -- the same amount as 2011-12. There will be a salary floor of 44 million in those years.--Free agents will be limited to contracts of seven years (eight for those re-signed with their former club).--Salaries within a contract may not vary by more than 35 percent year to year, and the lowest year must be at least 50 percent of the highest year.--There were no changes to eligibility for free agency and salary arbitration.--The threshold for teams to release players in salary arbitration will increase from 1.75 million to 3 million.--Each team may use two buyouts to terminate contracts before the 2013-14 or 2014-15 seasons for two-thirds of the remaining guaranteed income. The buyout will be included in the players' revenue share but not the salary cap.--The minimum salary will remain at 525,000 this season and will rise to 750,000 by 2021-12.--Either side may terminate the deal after the 2019-20 season.--Revenue sharing will increase to 200 million annually and rise with revenue.--An industry growth fund of 60 million will be funded by the sides over three years and replenished as need.--Participation of NHL and its players in the 2014 Sochi Olympics will be determined later in discussions also involving the International Olympic Committee and the International Ice Hockey Federation.
The 2016 Chicago Fire season will end Sunday and it has been over in terms of chasing a playoff spot for a few weeks, but coach Veljko Paunovic still believes the team has something to play for beyond trying to be a spoiler.
Paunovic wants to see his team avoid finishing last in the league for a second straight year. If the Fire can win at Toronto FC on Sunday, which will be televised on CSN with coverage beginning at 3 p.m., there is a chance the Fire can move ahead of Houston in the standings. The Fire (7-16-10, 31 points) are two points behind Houston, which plays at Colorado as part of the league’s simultaneous kickoffs to close the regular season.
“I think we owe to our job, to our fans, to our club, to everyone in the league professionality and we have to play the game the best we can,” Paunovic said earlier this week. “That’s very important for me. On the other end there is another motivation which motivates me even more. We have the opportunity if we win the game to win that second game in a row, second game on the road this year, but at the same time… we have the opportunity to escape from the bottom in the overall standings.”
Of course, winning on the road against a playoff team won’t be easy. The Fire are 1-13-2 on the road this year and Toronto (13-9-11, 50 points) is playing to get a first round bye in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Toronto just got reigning league MVP Sebastian Giovinco back from injury. Giovinco played all 90 minutes and had an assist in the 2-2 draw at Montreal last week after missing the previous five games. Giovinco did not play when TFC won 2-1 at Toyota Park on Sept. 10.
“We have to be on top of our performance to play against a team like Toronto and players like Giovinco and other guys,” Paunovic said. “I think they have a very good team.”
In addition to Toronto’s win in Bridgeview, TFC also beat the Fire 1-0 on July 9 in Canada.
“We know what we can expect from them,” Paunovic said. “We know how euphoric they’re going to be, the people, the stands, the crowd and everything.”
The Fire will be without forward Luis Solignac, who will be serving a suspension after being red carded in last week’s win against New England. David Arshakyan, who joined the Fire in August, could see more minutes or get a start in Solignac’s absence. Defender Johan Kappelhof is the only listed injury. Kappelhof is listed as questionable with a hip injury.
The game could also mark the last appearance in a Fire jersey for some of the players. After another disappointing season, more turnover in the roster should be expected. How much change there will be remains to be seen, but in all likelihood at least a couple of Sunday’s starters won’t be back.
Chicago Fire at Toronto FC
When: 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: BMO Field, Toronto, Ontario
In case you didn't know it already, this Wisconsin defense is very, very good.
Iowa doesn't have the most potent offense in the Big Ten, but that shouldn't cloud the impressiveness of another shut-down performance by the Badgers, who kept the Hawkeyes out of the end zone in Saturday's 17-9 win in Iowa City.
Wisconsin allowed just 236 total yards, only 83 on the ground, and limited Iowa to 2-for-13 on third down in the victory, one that moved the Badgers ahead of the Hawkeyes in the Big Ten West Division standings.
The Badgers' offensive production, at least when it came to everything besides points, was impressive, too. At halftime, Wisconsin had 246 total yards, 12 first downs, no penalties and nearly seven minutes more time of possession than Iowa. But the Badgers could only turn three red-zone trips into seven points, missing a field goal in the first quarter and giving away a goal-line fumble right before halftime. That lone touchdown was a pitch from backup quarterback Bart Houston to Troy Fumagalli.
After the Hawkeyes had to settle for a field goal that made it 7-3, Alex Hornibrook hit Kyle Penniston for a huge 54-yard gain down to the Iowa five-yard line. But three plays later, Corey Clement leaped for the end zone and coughed up the ball, a fumble recovered by the Hawkeyes for a touchback. C.J. Beathard then took Iowa down the field, setting up a 47-yard field goal that made it just a one-point game at halftime.
The narrow halftime deficit was a huge victory for the Hawkeyes, who had to settle for that first field goal after a series of mistakes emblematic of their first half. On third and one, a false start erased a first down, and on the next play, a Beathard touchdown pass to Riley McCarron was negated when Kirk Ferentz called a timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty.
Wisconsin finally rediscovered red-zone success midway through the third quarter, Clement punching in a touchdown from a yard out after a 57-yard Hornibrook throw to Quintez Cephus got the Badgers back down to the five-yard line.
But Wisconsin had another missed opportunity not long after, as Andrew Endicott missed his second field-goal try of the game, this one a more understandable miss from 52 yards away. After a battle of the punters for the majority of the second half, Iowa got down to the Wisconsin 21-yard line with about five and a half minutes left, but the Hawkeyes also missed a field-goal attempt, keeping it an eight-point game.
The Badgers marched down the field on a 62-yard drive, Clement's 34-yard dash the biggest play, and sealed the game with a field goal. Not even a massive kick return from Desmond King, which set up another Iowa field goal, could bail out the Hawkeyes.
Clement finished with 134 yards and a touchdown, with Hornibrook completing 11 passes for 197 yards.
Wisconsin's win sent it to 5-2 on the season, the first victory in a while after back-to-back losses to Michigan and Ohio State. Next up is another colossal showdown against Nebraska.
Iowa's loss was its third of the season, dropping the Hawkeyes to 5-3. Next up is a game at Penn State.