NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin said that he "won't pay the $25,000 fine leveled on him by NASCAR on Thursday after his criticism of the Gen-6 race car" following last Sunday's race in Phoenix. The AP's Greg Beacham noted the fine also left "many of his fellow drivers wondering what they can say about their new cars without incurring NASCAR's wrath." Hamlin reiterated his position later Thursday "in a lengthy Twitter post and said he'll appeal the fine" (AP, 3/7). ESPN.com's Terry Blount wrote Hamlin's fine was for "daring to see the new car as less than perfect." That is the "message to all the drivers from NASCAR's comment police, and this time, it's a step too far." NASCAR has to be "more thick-skinned than this, but apparently, it isn't" (ESPN.com, 3/7).
BOON FOR THE NHL: Chicago-based WSCR-AM's Brian Hanley said the Blackhawks' point streak is the "best thing that could have happened” for the NHL. Hanley: “Everyone in the hockey world is celebrating the fact that they’re leading the highlight shows, they’re leading ‘SportsCenter.’" Yahoo Sports' Kevin Kaduk said, “You can’t buy that sort of press if you’re the NHL or the Blackhawks. This sport needed this.” The Chicago Sun-Times’ Herb Gould said the fact the streak “is in a market like Chicago and one of the Original Six helps a lot.” Gould: “Chicago is a market that can be celebrated by the NHL” (“Sports Talk Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 3/7).
WELCOME TO THE GUN SHOW: USA TODAY's Robert Klemko reports the NFLPA next month at the NRA HQs in Virginia will "host a seminar for members wishing to understand state gun laws, learn to safely fire handguns or apply for ownership in their states -- all of which goes against the NFL's stance that players ought to avoid firearms." The NFLPA said that it is "not encouraging gun ownership," but that it is "recognizing many players own firearms and some are uneducated on the topic" (USA TODAY, 3/8).
THE NEXT BIG THING? In Phoenix, Dan Bickley notes the WNBA Mercury have the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft, where they will select Baylor C Brittney Griner, "merely the most dominant player in college basketball regardless of gender." Bickley: "And the Valley yawns." Mercury Owner Robert Sarver said, "The league thinks that this draft class will be a little bit of a game-changer in attracting viewership. And there's going to be a couple things announced in the next couple of weeks that should help us a lot" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/8).