Lockout dampens year where Kings reign supreme

Updated 28 December 2012
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Lockout dampens year where Kings reign supreme

TORONTO: National Hockey League (NHL) Commissioner Gary Bettman kicked off 2012 toasting the New Year at the lucrative outdoor Winter Classic game, painting a glowing picture of a league whose stock was on the rise.
But as the year draws to a close, a dour Bettman is painting a much gloomier portrait of a league bleeding cash in the midst of a labor dispute with locked-out players that could wipe out the entire 2012-13 season.
At a lavish New Year’s Eve party in Philadelphia, the good times rolled as the NHL celebrated a $ 2 billion television deal, record revenues, attendance and TV ratings along with a feeling that the league had finally arrived on the US sporting scene.
There were still a few nagging trouble spots to consider, like trying to unload the league-owned team in Phoenix, but the problems appeared small as the NHL prepared to open the second half of the season with its signature Winter Classic between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers.
Even as 50,000 chilled fans exited Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park after a 3-2 Rangers win, Bettman was meeting with the media, singing the praises of the outdoor game that has scooped more sports marketing and business awards than Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky in his prime.
More good news followed in March when Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, the face of the NHL, returned to the ice after missing most of two seasons recovering from concussion like symptoms.
Concussions and a lockout have robbed fans of watching one of hockey’s best players in his prime, the 25-year-old Canadian playing in 28 games since absorbing two hits to the head in successive games in early 2011.
The NHL would cap the season in glorious fashion, watching the seeds of the southern expansion planted decades ago finally bear fruit with the Los Angeles Kings beating the New Jersey Devils 4-2 in a best-of-seven series for their first Stanley Cup championship since entering the league in 1967.
After qualifying for the playoffs as the last seed from the Western Conference, the Kings upset the top-three seeded teams, the Vancouver Canucks, St. Louis Blues and Phoenix Coyotes, en route to becoming the first eighth seed to win a Stanley Cup.
A team that played in obscurity for many years, overshadowed by the Staples Center’s more celebrated tenants, the National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, the Kings were suddenly the talk of Tinsel Town.
But in a city built on celebrity, fame is fleeting and there is concern that hard won fans may have already moved on as the Kings’ Stanley Cup banner that was to be raised to the rafters at their home opener in October gathers dust.
In his state-of-the-league address during the Cup finals, Bettman again gushed about the NHL’s success, boasting that teams played to 96 percent of capacity in the regular season, pulling in nearly 21.5 million fans while generating a record $3.3 billion in revenue.
Despite Bettman’s glowing report card, the NHL has not played a game since, owners locking out players in mid-September when the previous labor agreement expired with the two sides demanding concessions from the other.
Having endured four work stoppages in 20 years, including one that wiped out the entire 2004-05 season, frustrated hockey fans are all too familiar with the tedious tug-of-war as owners and players squabble over how to split $3.3 billion in revenue.
While it is not the kind of hockey fight fans are used to seeing on the ice, the lockout has produced a heavyweight scrap between Bettman and NHL Players’ Association chief Donald Fehr.
The standoff between has already cost both sides millions of dollars with 526 regular season games, or 42.8 percent of the season, lopped from the schedule. Among the list of casualties are the All-Star Game and 2013 Winter Classic.
The NHL had been planning to ring in 2013 with a week-long hockey festival in Detroit culminating with an Original Six game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs in front of record crowd of over 110,000 fans at Michigan Stadium.
Instead, the New Year will likely begin with a whimper and plenty of uncertainty that will be felt all the way to corridors of International Olympic Committee headquarters in Switzerland with the NHL’s decision to remain part of the Olympic program a bargaining chip in the ongoing negotiations.


Australia get crucial 1-1 draw with Denmark at World Cup

Updated 21 June 2018
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Australia get crucial 1-1 draw with Denmark at World Cup

  • 38th-minute penalty was set up after Denmark forward Yussuf Poulsen was penalized for a handball
  • Going into the tournament, world No. 36 Australia were the lowest-ranked team in Group C with the others all in the top 12

SAMARA, Russia: Mile Jedinak’s penalty kick gave Australia a 1-1 draw against Denmark and new life at the World Cup on Thursday.
The 38th-minute penalty was set up after Denmark forward Yussuf Poulsen was penalized for a handball following a video review.
Poulsen was also given a yellow card and will be suspended for the team’s final group match against France because of accumulation.
The goal was Jedinak’s second from the spot at this year’s World Cup, and it stopped Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel’s five-match streak of clean sheets for the Danes.
Christian Eriksen scored in the opening minutes for Denmark, which have gone unbeaten in 17 straight international matches.
Going into the tournament, world No. 36 Australia were the lowest-ranked team in Group C with the others all in the top 12.
With a loss to France in the opener, a defeat on Thursday would have made it nearly impossible for the Socceroos to advance to the next stage. Denmark, meanwhile, won their first match against Peru.
Australia lost to 1998 World Cup champions France 2-1 on Saturday in Kazan, with both French goals coming as the result of video technology. But the score did not reflect the Socceroos’ gritty defensive performance.
Australia again took a defensive stand against Denmark, which were back at the World Cup after missing out on the tournament in Brazil.
The Danes were coming off a 1-0 victory over Peru on Saturday in Saransk.
Poulsen, who plays for German club RB Leipzig, scored the lone goal.
It is the fifth World Cup appearance for the Danes, who reached the quarterfinals in 1998.
Australia were also making a fifth trip to the World Cup. The team’s best showing was in the 2006 quarterfinals.
Moments after Mathew Leckie’s header for Australia sailed over the goal, Eriksen sent a left-footed shot over goalkeeper Mathew Ryan’s outstretched arms.
Pione Sisto nearly gave the Danes the advantage just after the halftime break, but his shot went to the right of the goal. Australia added some firepower in the 68th, bringing on 19-year-old Daniel Arzani as both teams scrambled for a winning goal.
Australia lost Andrew Nabbout in the 74th minute with what appeared to be a dislocated shoulder. He was replaced by Tomi Juric.
Denmark’s opening victory over Peru was marred by the loss of starting midfielder William Kvist, who fractured two ribs and is likely to miss the rest of the tournament. He was replaced in the starting lineup against Australia by Lasse Schone.
Denmark’s last loss was in October 2016 against Montenegro, 1-0 in Copenhagen.

GROUP DYNAMICS
The highlight of Group C will be the match between France and Denmark on Tuesday in Moscow. The top finishers in the group will go on to play opponents from Group D, which includes Croatia, Argentina, Iceland and Nigeria.

KEYS TO SUCCESS
Eriksen, who plays for Tottenham in England, has scored in 17 of the national team’s last 20 matches.
During World Cup qualifying, he scored 11 goals for the Danes, third-best in Europe behind Poland striker Robert Lewandowski with 16 and Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo with 15.
Now 26, Eriksen was the youngest player at the World Cup in South Africa. He has 79 appearances for the national team and 23 goals.
He was named man of the match on Thursday.