– Penguins’ F Sidney Crosby’s (concussion) agent, Pat Brisson denied the latest rumors that his client is done for the season. ”Sidney is doing very well, he’s training, he’s going in the right direction. The idea of retiring or shutting him down is not even in our vocabulary. Far from that.” While retirement may not be in the cards yet, his status for the remainder of the season remains in serious doubt, so long as he continues to make no progress.
– The NHL’s planned realignment has been blocked by the players’ union. The plan to change from six divisions to four conferences for next season had been approved in December pending consent from the NHLPA. But in a statement Friday the league said the union would not allow the change to be made. Instead, the NHL will maintain its current alignment and playoff format for the 2012-13 season. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league was unable to address the union’s unspecified concerns with the change.
“It is unfortunate that the NHLPA has unreasonably refused to approve a plan that an overwhelming majority of our clubs voted to support, and that has received such widespread support from our fans and other members of the hockey community, including players. We believe the union acted unreasonably in violation of the league’s rights. We intend to evaluate all of our available legal options and to pursue adequate remedies, as appropriate.”
The off-season relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg forced the NHL to draft a new conference alignment in December. The new plan also addressed teams’ travel concerns, guaranteed home-and-home series for every team and made changes to the playoff format. Shortly after the board of governors approved the plan, commissioner Gary Bettman said the league didn’t need the union to sign off on the plan to make the changes.
– Penguins’ D Mark Letestu (broken right hand) suffered the injury on Thursday and will be out of the next few weeks. Letestu was injured in the third period when hit along the boards by Sharks blueliner Doug Murray. “That’s hockey. You get hit by a big guy and it happens. I must have done it when I put my hand up against the boards to brace myself. I actually didn’t feel it until I got back to the bench. It numbed up and I knew something was wrong.”
– The Flames have acquired F Blair Jones from the Lightning for D Brendan Mikkelson. Jones played 22 games for the Lightning this season, scoring two goals and two assists. Mikkelson played in 86 career NHL games with the Flames and the Anaheim Ducks, recording six assists and 40 penalty minutes.
– The Blue Jackets have placed F Kristian Huselius (LBI) on the IR retroactive to December 6. The club said Huselius is listed week to week.
– In a massive blowout, the Bruins destroyed the Flames 9-0 on Thursday night. Check out the video of the slaughtering:
– Sweden’s Mika Zibanejad (property of the Senators) scored the OT winner midway through the extra session to push Sweden past Russia in the gold medal game at the World Junior Hockey Championships on Thursday. It was Sweden’s first gold medal since 1981. Check out the video of the highlight reel goal:
– Free agent RB LaDanian Tomlinson acknowledged Friday that he is considering retiring this offseason. ”I am contemplating retirement. That’s what I told my coaches and told my agent and everybody. … This is the first time in my playing career that I’ve actually honestly thought about this may be it for me.” LT2, 32, said he’d be open to return, but conceded that it’s possible no teams will want him.
– Citing sources familiar with Jeff Fisher’s thinking, 101 ESPN St. Louis reports Fisher is “on the verge” of becoming the Rams’ next head coach. 101 ESPN’s Howard Balzer notes that “the decision is not final,” but reports that Fisher is expected to choose the Rams over the Dolphins by next week or “even sooner.” The Rams satisfied The Rooney Rule during Friday’s interview with African American Cardinals’ DC Ray Horton, so they can sign a coach to a contract as soon as an agreement is reached. In St. Louis, Fisher is expected to have say in the Rams’ GM search.
– Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers easily edged Saints’ QB Drew Brees to be the Associated Press’ first-team All-Pro quarterback, winning by a 47 1/2 to 2 1/2-vote margin. Lions’ WR Calvin Johnson and Vikings’ RE Jared Allen were the top vote getters, each coming within one vote of being unanimous All-Pros. The Rodgers vs. Brees voting could provide a hint as to the AP’s leanings for NFL MVP. Cardinals’ CB Patrick Peterson was the only rookie voted All-Pro, making it as a returner. Eagles’ RB LeSean McCoy and Jaguars’ Maurice Jones-Drew were the first-team running backs, Patriots’ TE Rob Gronkowski the tight end, and WR Wes Welker was the wideout opposite Megatron.
– Tiger Woods’ ex-wife Elin Nordegen has demolished her new $12M mansion in Florida. Elin bought the 9,000 square foot North Palm Beach home in March, right after she struck a $100M divorce settlement with Tiger. Elin reportedly felt the modest 6 bedroom, 8 bathroom wasn’t large enough. She has hired a high-priced architect to build her dream home, and each worker is required to sign a confidentiality agreement. Elin is living in a nearby mansion inside the private community while the new place is under construction–no word on when it will be complete. Here’s the house before the demolition:
– The Cubs have acquired 1B Anthony Rizzo and RHP Zach Cates from the Padres for RHP Andrew Cashner and OF Kyung-Min Na. Theo Epstein drafted Rizzo when he was with the Red Sox, and the Padres had Rizzo as an expendable asset since the offseason. It’s also the second offseason in a row that GM Jed Hoyer and assistant GM Jason McLeod have acquired Rizzo, who batted just .141 with one homer in 49 games for the Padres but hit .331 with 26 homers and a 1.056 OPS in 93 games at Triple-A. Rizzo should do well in Wrigley Field.
– Angels’ 1B Kendrys Morales (ankle) has begun running on his own body weight and was cleared Friday to “ramp up” some baseball activities, reports Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times. Morales had been jogging on a “de-weighted” treadmill and hitting off a tee in Arizona, but he got some good news this week while being examined by the doctor who performed the second surgery on his ankle last May. The source told DiGiovanna that no restrictions have been placed on Morales as he builds up his daily work.
– Joe Frisaro of MLB.com was told by an industry source that Cuban OF Yoenis Cespedes is expected to be declared a free agent sometime within the next 10 days. Cespedes will need to establish residency in the Dominican Republic fist, and then he can petition MLB for free agent status, with January 15 being the “tentative day” it will all go down. Mike Berardino of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel has reported previously that the latest speculation has Cespedes seeking as much as 8-years/$65M. The Marlins, Yankees, Phillies, Tigers, Cubs, White Sox and Nationals are among the clubs that reportedly have interest.
– Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Cubs, Orioles, Mariners and Red Sox are in on free agent LHP Paul Maholm. Rosenthal added that the Pirates have kept in touch. Maholm held a 3.66 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 26 starts this past season, but his season ended prematurely due to a strained shoulder.
– T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com reports that the Rangers are among the teams interested in OF Brad Hawpe. Hawpe, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery last August, batted .231/.301/.344 with four home runs, 19 RBI and a .645 over 216 plate appearances with the Padres in 2011.
– The Mets have signed INF Ronny Cedeno to a 1-year/$1.1M contract, pending a physical. The Pirates declined Cedeno’s $3M club option for 2012 in late-October after he batted just .257/.306/.351 with two home runs and 31 RBI in 423 plate appearances last season. He’ll be used as a defensive replacement.
– Red Sox’ RHP Bobby Jenks (back) has undergone a second spinal decompression procedure and could miss the start of spring training. Jenks, 30, is in the second year of a 2-year/$20M contract. He appeared in just 19 games last season with lingering back pain.
– The Rockies have acquired 3B Chad Tracy from the Rangers for RHP Greg Reynolds. Colorado also finalized a 1-year/$2M contract with 3B Casey Blake. Tracy, 26, hit .259 with 26 home runs and 109 RBIs for triple-A Round Rock last season. Reynolds was 3-0 with a 6.19 ERA in 13 appearances for the Rockies in 2011, including three starts. He was 6-7 with a 6.81 earned-run average in 19 starts for triple-A Colorado Springs. The 38-year-old Blake batted .252 with four homers and 26 RBIs for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season.
– The Rangers have hired OF Josh Hamilton’s father-in-law as a staff special assistant. GM Jon Daniels said Thursday that Michael Dean Chadwick will fill a support role as an accountability partner for the slugger that was left vacant when Johnny Narron left in November to become Milwaukee’s hitting coach.
– Nationals’ LHP Zechry Zinicola has been suspended 50 games for violating baseball’s minor-league drug program. Zinicola was penalized Thursday after a second violation for a drug of abuse. The 26-year-old was 1-0 with a 1.98 ERA in 21 relief appearances for triple-A Syracuse last season and 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in 11 games at double-A Harrisburg.
– The ongoing saga between Kevin Nash and the Ultimate Warrior continues. Earlier this week, Warrior responded to a tweet from one of his fans asking why he doesn’t dye his hair like Nash and come back for one more run. Warrior said that he’s “not a dickhead who thrives on stealing the limelight from young guys.” Nash fired back with a scathing rant on Twitter, calling Warrior a clown and a “c–t” and challenging him to an MMA-rules shoot fight with $100K on the line. After a day or so went by with nothing back from Warrior, Nash tweeted:
“I knew i would get no response because i know Jim Helwig, in the future when my name comes up pass Jim, puss”
Warrior’s camp has responded to Kevin Nash’s challenge, tweeting the following Friday morning:
“Mr Warrior has filmed a video response to Kevin Nash. Stay tuned. #TeamWarrior”
– Jim Ross was asked on Twitter about the possibility of a match pitting Brock Lesnar against Bill Goldberg at next year’s WrestleMania. Ross responded:
“@Goldberg vs Lesnar at WM29 would be miraculous ie HIGHLY UNLIKELY.”
Goldberg, despite his well-documented negative feelings about WWE and specifically company head Vince McMahon over the years, says he’s interested in the bout. He wrote Friday,
“……I’d do it.”
Goldberg last competed for WWE at WrestleMania XX in a match against Lesnar with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin serving as special guest referee. The match garnered a hostile reaction from the audience due to knowledge that both competitors were leaving the promotion. After Goldberg defeated Lesnar, both wrestlers were laid out with Stone Cold Stunners. Meanwhile, Goldberg still apparently views Chris Jericho in a negative light nine years after the two last worked together. A fan wrote to the former wrestling champion Monday, “Y2J sucks u should have came out there & speared him.” Big Bill responded:
“Would have been my pleasure.”
– WWE star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who is currently filming the movie “Snitch” in New Orleans, is negotiating to star in the upcoming film “Empire State.” Deadline.com reports that The Rock would join Liam Hemsworth in the movie based on a real event in 1982 where $11M was stolen from an armored car in New York. Production is scheduled to begin in April, immediately after The Rock’s match with John Cena at WrestleMania 28.
– Many MMA fans are reacting very negatively towards the news of WWE champion CM Punk escorting UFC fighter Chael Sonnen to the Octagon later this month for his fight at UFC on FOX. As previously reported, Punk accompanying Sonnen to the cage was a deal struck between Punk and Sonnen, not WWE and UFC.
– UK women’s wrestler Britani Knight (real name Saraya-Jade Bevis) made her WWE developmental debut at Thursday night’s FCW show in Tampa. Knight competed in a battle royal under the name Saraya, a play off her mother’s ring name, Sweet Saraya. Knight signed a WWE developmental contract in the fall of 2011 after receiving two tryout matches. At 19 years old, Britani Knight is one of the youngest Divas to be signed to WWE.
– Speaking to Brady Hicks, A.J. explains what makes the WWE Diva with girl-next-door attributes “really, truly unique.”
“I guess it’s just that I’m not an overly girly girl. Kinda like what people see on Smackdown is really me for the most part. I’m pretty sure I’m different from just about every other woman out there. And that is both good and bad.”
“Well, I’ve learned that people have this certain perception of WWE “divas” and what they should and shouldn’t be. I’ve always been the kind of girl who doesn’t really fit those kind of expectations. On the upside, I’m about as down-to-earth as you’re going to get … most of the divas are!”
A.J., who joined WWE three years ago and is now 24 years old, commented on where she hopes to be five years from now.
“Hopefully in five years I’ll be the Divas champion, maybe even headlining shows like Trish and Lita used to. I know I have a long way to go on that one though.”
– While strolling Hollywood Thursday night, SmackDown ring announcer Lilian Garcia came across Vince McMahon’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She tweeted:
“Walking around Hollywood & guess who’s Star I came across?! LOL What a coincidence!”
– The official Twitter feed of WWE Games is teasing big news.
“January is SUCH a big month for @WWEGames. And that’s not just because of #WWE12… #cryptictweet”
– The New York Post has published an interview with TNA Wrestling star Kurt Angle discussing his Olympic aspirations. The interview includes discussion of his professional wrestling career, and he explains how he made the transition between the professional and amateur ranks.
“It was a complete career adaptation. It wasn’t a step above, going from amateur wrestling to pro wrestling, it was going from real wrestling to sports entertainment. A lot of people put me up there as far as saying he’s one of the best ever. And I’ve only been wrestling for 11 and a half years. I think that Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker, guys who have put 30 years into it deserve it. Me getting that praise after only 11 years—it’s not fair.”
Though Kurt Angle has not competed inside a WWE ring in over five years, his impact is still seen today. The Olympic Gold Medalist, however, does not appreciate his moves and style being replicated.
“When Jack Swagger copies my ankle lock and Randy Orton does my Angle Slam, it’s disrespectful. I didn’t come up with the Ankle Lock, Ken Shamrock came up with the Ankle Lock but I waited until he retired to do the Ankle Lock. That company has no respect for me.”
Despite his displeasure with WWE grapplers using his moves, Angle is grateful that he has been able to parlay Vince McMahon’s vision for him into a successful career in both WWE and TNA Wrerstling.
“I love Vince McMahon. He came up with the Kurt Angle character. He ran with it and then I was able to run with it. I thank him for the opportunity he gave me. Vince McMahon was one of my best friends, period. Now I’m loyal to Dixie Carter.”
– Early buyrate numbers are in for last Friday’s UFC 141 pay-per-view featuring Brock Lesnar’s loss to Alistair Overeem – and once again, Brock has shown to be a blockbuster pay-per-view draw. Early estimates for the show that featured what turned out to be Lesnar’s final MMA fight drew between 750,000 and 810,000 North American PPV buys, which is even higher than original expectations. Lesnar is one of only 3 people to ever draw over 1 million pay-per-view buys twice in a year. The other two are Manny Pacquiao and Mike Tyson.
– A judge has postponed Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s jail sentence, allowing the undefeated boxer to make a Cinco de Mayo fight against an as-yet unnamed opponent. The ruling by Justice of the Peace Melissa Saragosa to allow Mayweather to begin his 90-day stint on June 1 came with the fighter’s manger and supporters, including rap star Lil’ Kim and R&B artist Ray J, in the courtroom as a defence lawyer cited the economic boost that Las Vegas could get from the bout. Mayweather, meanwhile, waited in the lobby of a nearby building to hear whether Saragosa would make him immediately begin serving the three-month sentence she imposed when the boxing champion pleaded guilty last month to a charge that he attacked his ex-girlfriend while two of their children watched in September 2010.
– Kings’ F Chuck Hayes (dislocated left shoulder) is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. Hayes dislocated his shoulder in a 103-100 victory over Milwaukee on Thursday.
– The Mavericks signed free agent F Yi Jianlian.
– Boston College’ ILB Luke Kuechly will forgo his senior season and enter the 2012 NFL draft. Considered the top inside linebacker prospect for 2012, Kuechly was a two-time first-team All-American and three-time first-team All-ACC pick, starting all three seasons on the B.C. campus. Per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, one NFL scout recently characterized Kuechly as a “Sean Lee starter kit.” Yet to turn 21, Kuechly projects as a mid to late 1st-round pick.
– Arizona State QB Brock Osweiler will forgo his senior season and enter the 2012 NFL draft. Osweiler started only 15 games in college and departed after head coach Dennis Erickson’s exit at ASU. Osweiler completed 412-of-680 passes (60.6%) for 5,082 yards (7.47 YPA), 33 touchdowns and 15 interceptions over his career.