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Volume 24 No. 159

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The NHL and NHLPA yesterday met with a federal mediator "at an undisclosed location for approximately six hours and plan to meet again" today, according to Katie Strang of ESPN N.Y. Details about the initial meeting "were scarce," but it is "believed both sides spent large amounts of time in separate sessions with a mediator to discuss their bargaining position." The two sides "had not met for a formal negotiation session since last Wednesday, when the NHL rejected the union's latest proposal." Sources said that both sides "are not overly optimistic that an agreement will be reached through mediation" (, 11/28). In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch notes it is believed NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, along with NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr and Special Counsel Steve Fehr, "provided briefs for the mediators assigned" by the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service. The NHL BOG -- preparing to "meet for an update on talks next Wednesday in New York -- will be keeping a close eye on what happens in the mediation process." League sources said that the BOG "will try to come up with a 'drop-dead' date to have a meaningful season during the session next week." Garrioch writes unlike '04-05, when the season "wasn't cancelled until late-February, that won't be the case this time." A source said, "They are loathe to cancel the season and they're getting a lot of heat from sponsors to play, but they aren't going to wait as long as the last time to shut it down" (OTTAWA SUN, 11/29).

LOW EXPECTATIONS: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Rory Boylen wrote, "While we can’t expect any results, immediate or otherwise, from mediation, perhaps the biggest benefit we’ll see is that it will hopefully cut through the nonsense and propaganda." From the start, mediation was "viewed as a last resort in this process, so the fact it's become involved in late-November as the NHLPA tosses around the prospect of blowing it up through decertification seems more troublesome than promising" (, 11/28). In Raleigh, Luke DeCock writes, "Not even federal mediators can broker a peace." This "won't be settled by one side bending." It will "only be settled by one side breaking" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 11/29).

OWNERS AGAIN DENY DISSENSION: In Winnipeg, Ed Tait notes the Jets and the NHL "vehemently denied" a report out of Boston yesterday that suggested Bruins Owner and NHL BOG Chair Jeremy Jacobs "reprimanded a Jets' representative" at a recent BOG meeting. Daly in an e-mail said the story was a "100 per cent complete and total fabrication." Jets Chair Mark Chipman in a statement said, "I was present throughout all BOG proceedings and can categorically state that no such exchange between Mr. Jacobs and either one of our Alternate Governors -- Patrick Phillips or Kevin Cheveldayoff -- ever took place. Any suggestion otherwise is completely false" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 11/29). In the original report,'s Joe Haggerty wrote, "Jets representation at a recent NHL Board of Governors meeting piped up to say it was opposed to engaging in a long, bloody lockout sure to stymie their franchise’s momentum and hurt the game of hockey." Jacobs answered by "reprimanding the Winnipeg representative as one of the 'new kids on the block' and informed him that he would know when he was allowed to speak in the NHL board room." That is the "kind of hawkish, dismissive, bully mentality that's driving the bus for the NHL lockout." It also is "the reason why Bruins fans should hold ... Jacobs personally responsible" (, 11/28). In Winnipeg, Ted Wyman writes, "Those who follow the situation closely know the NHL governors are ruled by commissioner Gary Bettman and a couple of heavyweights, most notably Jacobs, and they are the ones who are pushing the lockout agenda." The moderate voices and "even the moderately dissenting ones might as well be lepers." Wyman: "Heaven forbid anyone express a concern that this asinine lockout might be affecting some franchises adversely" (WINNIPEG SUN, 11/29).

IN DEFENSE OF THE COMMISH: Hockey HOFer Ted Lindsay yesterday "defended the work" of Bettman during the lockout. Lindsay: "One thing that really has bothered me when I'm reading the paper on all of this is the way they're talking about 'that idiot Bettman,' or any of the other stupid adjectives they've used to describe him. They and the fans and the media need to realize that Bettman is doing his job and fulfilling his responsibility to the owners, just like Don (Fehr) is to the players. The players need to respect and understand that. Don't go bad-mouthing Bettman like that" (, 11/28).

MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner said that the union and MLB are negotiating to expand baseball's drug-testing program once again. The focus of the current talks is based around more frequent testing schedules, including the advent of in-season testing for human growth hormone, as opposed to longer suspensions. Weiner yesterday following MLBPA's annual meetings in N.Y. said, "We've had discussions with MLB about some ways to make the deterrent stronger. I would expect that you'll see, before too long, some announcements in that area." He said the eight total positive tests this year, the most since '07, "have caught the attention of both sides and we are trying to address it." Testosterone is a particular focus as several high-profile suspensions have been announced this year, including Blue Jays LF Melky Cabrera, Padres C Yasmani Grandal, and A's P Bartolo Colon. Weiner: "Testosterone appears to be a problem, or the use of testosterone by some players, and there are some things we've talked about to make sure the deterrent on testosterone is as strong as it can be."

MILLER'S LEGACY: Weiner addressed several other topics during his 35-minute session with the press. He said the death this week of initial MLBPA Exec Dir Marvin Miller will likely accelerate to-date-unsuccessful efforts to induct him into the Baseball HOF. Weiner called Miller's exclusion, for years a hotly debated topic, "a travesty." He said, "Marvin adhered to the view that the Hall of Fame didn't matter to him, but it really did. ... But next time, I think they'll figure out a way to get him in. You can't really talk about the history of sports, the business of sports over the last 50 years without talking about the influence of Marvin." Meanwhile, Weiner was bullish on the initial player market, buttressed in part by the historic tide of new national and regional TV money pouring into the game and tweaks to various filing deadlines aimed at defining the talent landscape sooner. "It's early, but we're pretty pleased so far," he said. "So far, so good."

FIGHTING THROUGH IT: Weiner is fighting an inoperable brain tumor and has undergone several rounds of cancer treatment. He has maintained a nearly full work schedule and traveled heavily during the postseason. "I'm doing OK, I'm doing well," he said. "I haven't had any major side effects and for that I'm very grateful."

MLS is "hunting for a new international face to promote abroad," as Galaxy MF David Beckham, "who has been the international face of the league" since joining the team in '07, will retire from the league after Saturday's MLS Cup, according to Frederick Dreier in a special for USA TODAY. Galaxy MF Landon Donovan also has "hinted that his MLS career could be winding down." MLS Commissioner Don Garber said that Red Bulls F Thierry Henry likely "would be the league's international face" after Beckham's departure. But others in MLS "have pointed to" Galaxy F Robbie Keane. Critics of the league's "international ambitions say MLS has become a retirement home for Europe's aging stars who are more interested in marketing their brands than winning titles." Keane said that he was "trying to shoot down that opinion." Dreier notes Beckham and Henry joined MLS in their 30s "after long and lucrative careers in Europe," and both have "stepped into sizable marketing deals in the USA." Keane said that he "consulted Beckham before joining MLS and that his decision took two days to make, even though he'd never been to Los Angeles." Keane added that "extending his personal brand" in the U.S. "was not a factor in his decision." Since joining the Galaxy in August '11, Keane has "seen his celebrity stay largely within the soccer community." But he said that he would "welcome a chance to step into a promotional role for the league, specifically if it means bringing more Europeans into MLS" (USA TODAY, 11/29). In L.A., Kevin Baxter writes, "For MLS, Beckham's departure figures to end one of the most dramatic growth spurts of any league in U.S. professional sports history, one that saw it go from 12 to 19 teams, add 10 new soccer-specific stadiums, more than double its overall attendance and increase worldwide merchandise sales by more than 230%" (L.A. TIMES, 11/29).

EYEING ENGLAND? In London, Simon Rice reports Beckham has "revealed he has a number of offers on the table as he prepares to take the final step in his playing career." Regarding a return to the EPL, Beckham said that it "is unlikely." However, he "refused to rule it out." Beckham: "I've always said I think I would struggle to come back and play in England because I've played for the biggest club in the world, the biggest club in England, Manchester United, and I couldn't see myself playing for any other Premiership team. But you never know. Like I said, we've got some exciting options on the table." Speaking specifically about reported interest from EPL club Queens Park Rangers and French club Paris Saint-Germain, Beckham said that he was "flattered by the praise shown by their respective managers" (London INDEPENDENT, 11/29). 

UEFA is “considering a proposal to double the number of teams in the Champions League from 32 to 64 teams,” according to Simon Rice of the London INDEPENDENT. The idea would “see European football's governing body scrap the Europa League.” UEFA President Michel Platini said, "We're discussing it. We will make a decision in 2014. Nothing is decided yet.” Rice noted UEFA is “looking at changing the existing format of European competitions, with an implementation date of 2015 for any alterations.” The amount of money generated by the Champions League "is a motivating factor while the Europa League, which was re-branded from the UEFA Cup, has struggled to hold the attention enjoyed by its sister competition.” Another proposal “understood to be under consideration is offering a place in the Champions League as a prize for winning the Europa League," which may encourage teams “to take the competition more seriously.” Also being reviewed is the current format “which sees teams finishing third in the Champions League group stage dropping into the Europa League’s last 32” (London INDEPENDENT, 11/28). In London, Oliver Kay writes, “The fixture congestion that comes from the Europa League leaves many clubs deciding that it is not worth the effort if they have to juggle it against the pursuit of the more lucrative Champions League” (LONDON TIMES, 11/29).