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Volume 24 No. 113

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The NHL BOG on Thursday officially approved divisional realignment for the '13-14 season by a 28-2 vote, according to sources cited by Mike Zeisberger of QMI AGENCY. As a result of the realignment, the Panthers and Lightning both will see an increase in the "travel they'll endure from their present situation in the Southeast Division." The teams will now will "be joining a division with northern-based teams" like the Red Wings, Sabres, Bruins, Senators, Maple Leafs and Canadiens (QMI AGENCY, 3/14). The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts notes while the Panthers and Lightning are "not thrilled to be leaving the former Southeast Division," it is expected that they should "boost ticket sales among the snowbirds from Canada and the northern United States." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman: "There were things in this plan that teams liked and some teams don't like." Bettman said it was a "collaborative" process. He added, "From a business standpoint, this is probably real good for both (Florida) teams" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/15). Bettman said the "unique geography of Florida" made this option make the most sense (, 3/14).

Canucks Avalanche Bruins Blue Jackets
Coyotes Blackhawks Canadiens Capitals
Ducks Blues Lightning Devils
Flames Jets Maple Leafs Flyers
Kings Predators Panthers Hurricanes
Oilers Stars Red Wings Islanders
Sharks Wild Sabres Penguins
    Senators Rangers

TRADE OFFS:'s Pierre LeBrun noted some Blackhawks fans "won't be happy to lose Original Six rival" the Red Wings from their division. However, Blackhawks Chair Rocky Wirtz on Thursday said that he is "more than fine with the realignment framework because of the balanced schedule matrix which sees teams play every team in the league at least twice a season." That is an "increase in games between out-of-conference teams." Wirtz: "We lost a couple of games with Detroit but to have Montreal, Toronto, Boston and the Rangers in your building every year I think is a great tradeoff." Meanwhile, Stars President & CEO Jim Lites said the move has "been a long time coming." He noted that when the Stars went to the Pacific Division in '98, it "was supposed to be a temporary move." Lites: "When you have 30 to 40 percent of your road games started two time zones west of you, it makes it hard for your fans to watch on TV. It just makes it very difficult, and it impacted our TV ratings. With this change, it brings some rationality in terms of our schedule and our divisional opponents" (, 3/14). Jets Chair Mark Chipman was asked if it would be appealing to have more Canadian teams in their division. He said, "We are going to play all the Canadian teams. But I think what we've learned in the last couple of years playing in the Southeast is our fans really like seeing all the teams." He added, "It would have been nice, perhaps, to play Edmonton, Calgary more often. But we are going to play them. ... I don't think anybody in the league would say it's absolutely perfect" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 3/15).

NAME GAME: Bettman said that the league will "be sticking with geographic names" for the four divisions. He said they will be "sensible geographic designations." Bettman said that it was "fan-friendly and the easiest way to remember." He said, "We're hoping to use the names that make it easiest to conjure up where the teams are" (, 3/14). In L.A., Elliott Teaford notes on social media, the "Gretzy, Howe, Lemieux and Orr divisions were favorites" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 3/15).

THREE-YEAR PLAN: In N.Y., Brett Cyrgalis notes contrary to earlier reports from the NHLPA, the agreement "will go through 2015-16, with talks for future changes -- an possible expansion -- beginning anew after the 2014-15 season." The NHLPA previously has said that the deal "would only be for two years" (N.Y. POST, 3/15).

Golfer Stacy Lewis has become the "new face" of the LPGA Tour, and the fact that she is a "blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl-next-door with an inspirational story is the stuff of a commissioner's dreams," according to Alan Shipnuck of Lewis is currently ranked No. 3 in the world, and LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said, "There’s no question Stacy has energized the domestic market. She has lifted all boats." Two companies Lewis had endorsement deals with, Pure Silk and Marathon Petroleum, "have stepped up to become tournament title sponsors this year." Marathon President & CEO Gary Heminger said, "Certainly our relationship with Stacy showed us the value of being associated with the LPGA." Lewis recently "re-upped with Mizuno and signed a new deal with Omega watches." Shipnuck noted her ascension in the marketplace is "mirrored by her elevation among colleagues as the gold standard for preparation and maximizing one’s potential" (, 3/12). In California, Larry Bohanan wrote for "one of the few times in the last 20 years or so, the LPGA seems to be a wide-open tour." There is "no single dominant player" on the tour at the moment, although Lewis "seems to be the closest." There is a "lot of talent on the LPGA these days, talent capable of winning pretty much any time that players tee it up." Yani Tseng seemed "poised to be the next long-term top player in the [women's game], and she might be again as early as this year." But as Tseng "searches for her game, the LPGA is a guessing game each week" (, 3/12).

BROADENING HER HORIZONS: In Phoenix, Scott Bordow wrote Michelle Wie has won two LPGA titles, but she "didn't dominate the LPGA Tour and become the crossover superstar that could boost the popularity of women's golf." As a result, Wie's career has been "labeled everything from a disappointment to an abject failure." However, her critics "have it all wrong." Wie "didn't become an inferior golfer," she instead became "a better person" and enrolled at Stanford. Given how many pro athletes "rarely escape the boundaries of their sport, Wie's choices should be applauded, not jeered" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/14).

Grunting in tennis has "become increasingly voluminous on the men's side," and the sounds "reached a guttural crescendo" on Wednesday at the BNP Paribas Open fourth-round matchup between Andy Murray and Carlos Berlocq, according to Ben Rothenberg of the N.Y. TIMES. Murray "complained about Berlocq’s loud, hoarse grunting, which had started several games into the match after an initially quiet start." Many of the top players on the men's side of the game can "be loud grunters depending on the intensity of the moment." But a few lesser-known players, such as Berlocq and Marcel Granollers, are "louder, more abrasive grunters." Their "relative anonymity compared to the famously loud women, such as Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka, has contributed to the perception that this is a problem only in women’s tennis, with the WTA even developing plans to nip grunters in the bud ... at the junior level." The ATP has "made no similar efforts, and no top male players have lodged major complaints as some women’s players have -- until Murray did." Murray regarding complaints by Berlocq that he was taking too long between points said, "If I’m going to be supposedly taking too long between points on one or two points, then grunting that loud for that long is like an extended grunt as well. It’s still making a noise when you’re hitting the ball. It’s annoying." Berlocq said, "I didn’t know that it bothered him. It’s something that always came naturally to me all my life, so I cannot change that." Murray responded to that comment with a chuckle by saying, "Yeah, but that's what all of the real grunters say." Sharapova said that she "didn’t think the men speaking up about grunting would change the debate significantly" (, 3/14).

HEAVY HITTERS: In L.A., Bill Dwyre reports there "was a crowd of 16,100 -- maybe more if they squeezed over a seat or two" -- at Indian Wells Tennis Garden on Thursday for Rafael Nadal's quarterfinal win over Roger Federer. When the match began shortly before 7:00pm PT, there "were perhaps 100 empty seats scattered about." By the first player changeover at 2-1, the "stragglers had arrived." The match was "only the fifth time they had played each other in the United States" (L.A. TIMES, 3/15).'s Peter Bodo wrote while many call for a fifth major, fans "already have one" in the Indian Wells event. The tournament "may not meet all the requirements of a major, but every one of those shortcomings (beginning with the 10-day format and the byes in the draw) are an easy fix." The main stadium is the "second largest dedicated tennis stadium in the world." The site "covers over 50 acres, and the tournament this year is sure to surpass its attendance record of 370,000." Meanwhile, tournament Owner Larry Ellison is "utterly dedicated to continuing the spectacular growth rate established by the original owners of the event" (, 3/14).

The Int'l Boxing Association released rules this week that stated that elite male boxers who “compete internationally no longer will be allowed to use headgear in competition,” according to Shirley Wang of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The AIBA "mandated banning headgear in amateur boxing competition in an effort to reduce concussions and head trauma, a decision that is thought to be a first in the sports world.” The rules go into effect June 1. Removing the use of helmets or headgear “has been discussed as a counterintuitive way to decrease brain injuries, with the idea being that athletes wouldn't use their heads as weapons or hit as hard if they didn't feel as protected.” In boxing, there also is the “belief that headgear makes it harder to see to the side to avoid blows, and makes the head a bigger target.” AIBA Medical Commission Chair Charles Butler said that concussions are not "much of an issue in women and younger fighters who often lack the strength to bring on concussions in competitors, and they should continue to wear headgear to protect themselves from cuts.” Wang notes headgear “was added to amateur boxing in response to health concerns in the 1980s.” But Butler after collecting data “on some 15,000 boxer rounds,” found that in the “7,352 rounds that took place with boxers wearing headgear, the rate of concussion was 0.38%, compared with 0.17% per boxer per round in the 7,545 rounds without headgear.” The IOC has “made no decision yet about the use of headgear in Olympic boxing competition” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/15).