NHL Sides Said to Be Making Progress in Labor Talks

The lockout that’s derailed the NHL season since mid-September appears finally to be ending.

A source familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak on the matter confirmed there has been considerable progress, and that a deal is on the horizon, though matters are still sensitive.

Week-long negotiations in New York between the league and the players association, and involving federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh, have led to tangible progress toward a new collective bargaining agreement. The sides have been at odds since Sept. 16, when owners locked out players following the expiration of the old CBA.

Numerous issues have been fought over, from pensions to length of the new agreement to player contracting rights. Pensions are believed to have been sorted out, but there’s still debate over where the salary cap should fall for next season, and what the salary variance should be for the length of player contracts.

Commissioner Gary Bettman issued a drop-dead date for starting a minimum 48-game season on Jan. 19, with training camp to start Jan. 12. That would require players to ratify a deal by Friday.

Players went through voting in favor of another disclaimer of interest, but that was little more than a show of unity giving executive director Don Fehr the power to walk away, essentially dissolving the union and leaving every player free to sue owners for triple damages by having the lockout declared illegal. The threat of doing so worked in 2011 for the NBA players association, which saw basketball’s lockout end at Christmas.

U.S. Wins Gold

Ufa, Russia — The United States won the IIHF Junior Championships of ice hockey yesterday after Rocco Grimaldi scored twice and Vince Trocheck added an empty-net goal for a 3-1 win over Sweden in the final.

Filip Sandberg put defending champion Sweden ahead on power play early in the second period, but Grimaldi then scored twice in a three-minute span to swing the game in the Americans’ favor.

He powered from behind the net to score, and then redirected Jacob Trouba’s slap shot from the blue line midway through second period.

John Gibson made 26 saves for the victory and was named the MVP of the tournament. Niklas Lundstrom had 31 saves for Sweden.

It was the third title for the Americans, who also won in 2004 and 2010.

Earlier, Valeri Nichushkin scored an overtime winner to give Russia a 6-5 victory over Canada in the bronze-medal match.

NFL Football

Panthers Coach Stays

Charlotte, n.c. — Ron Rivera will return as coach of the Carolina Panthers next season following his team’s strong finish.

Panthers spokesman Charlie Dayton said Rivera met with owner Jerry Richardson yesterday morning and was informed that he will return for a third season. Rivera has two years on his current contract.

“He’s going about normal preparations for next season,” Dayton said.

Rivera’s status with the Panthers had been up in the air pending a meeting with Richardson yesterday morning.

Richardson fired longtime GM Marty Hurney after a 1-5 start and informed Rivera at the time Panthers needed to be “trending upward” the rest of the season.

The Panthers went 6-4 from that point out, including four straight wins to close the season.

Browns, Kelly
Meet Again

Cleveland — The Browns have Chip Kelly’s interest. Now they need his signature.

The team met with Oregon’s innovative coach again yesterday and hoped to complete a deal to make him Cleveland’s sixth coach since 1999. The sides met for a reported seven hours in Arizona on Friday and came close to reaching an agreement, but parted company agreeing to talk a second time.

Kelly also met with the Buffalo Bills, and he intended to keep a scheduled meeting with the Philadelphia Eagles, who weren’t going to pursue the 49-year-old when it was learned a deal with Cleveland was near. It’s possible Kelly and his agent, David Dunn, are meeting with the other teams to gain leverage with the Browns.

Kelly nearly jumped to the pros last year with Tampa Bay but decided at the last minute to return to Oregon, where he has been coach since 2009.

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner plan to hire a coach before they seek a general manager to pair with him. The Browns have also promised that their next coach will have final say and control over the club’s 53-man roster, perks that will likely limit their talent pool when looking for a GM or pro personnel director.

College Football

Ole Miss Wins
Compass Bowl

Birmingham, Ala. — Bo Wallace threw three touchdown passes and Mississippi beat Pittsburgh 38-17 in the BBVA Compass Bowl yesterday to complete an impressive turnaround under first-year coach Hugh Freeze.

Ole Miss (7-6) took a five-win improvement over its 2-10 finish in 2011.

Pitt (6-7) struggled on offense as leading rusher Ray Graham was held out with a hamstring injury he suffered in bowl practice. The Panthers fell behind in the opening minutes after quarterback Tino Sunseri threw his first interception since Sept. 15 and trailed the remainder of the game.

Wallace’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Ja-Mess Logan gave the Rebels the 7-0 lead. Wallace added first-half touchdown passes to Randall Mackey, for 27 yards, and Vince Sanders, for 18 yards.

N. Dakota State
Takes FCS Title

Frisco, Texas — Quarterback Brock Jensen ran for three touchdowns, Sam Ojuri scored twice and North Dakota State beat Sam Houston State 39-13 in a title-game rematch yesterday for its second straight FCS championship.

Jensen scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard sneak in the third quarter, and Ojuri had a 2-yard TD run on fourth-and-1 after the Bison (14-1) got the ball with a fourth-down stop.


S. Williams Wins
Brisbane Title

Brisbane, Australia — Serena Williams proved the break between seasons hasn’t hurt her momentum, capturing her 47th career title with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova yesterday in the Brisbane International final.

Williams has won 35 of her past 36 matches, including titles at Wimbledon, the Olympics, the U.S. Open, the season-ending WTA championships and now the first event of 2013.

Defending champion Andy Murray advanced to the men’s final when fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori retired with an injured left knee while trailing 6-4, 2-0 in their semifinal earlier yesterday.

The Olympic and U.S. Open champion will next meet 21-year-old Grigor Dimitrov, who is starting to live up to his billing as a star-in-the-making by reaching his first ATP Tour final with a 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (5) victory over Marcos Baghdatis.

Gasquet Tops Davydenko

Doha, Qatar — Richard Gasquet won the Qatar Open for his eight career title yesterday, coming from a set down to beat Nikolay Davydenko 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3.

Spain Takes Hopman Cup

Perth, Australia — Spain defeated Serbia 2-1 to win the Hopman Cup for the fourth time yesterday. Fernando Verdasco and Anabel Medina Garrigues won the deciding mixed doubles 6-4, 7-5 against Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic.