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Winter Classic to bring Bruins, Canadiens to home of Pats

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) The Winter Classic is coming to the home of the New England Patriots.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman joined officials from the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday to say the Original Six rivals would meet at Gillette Stadium on New Year's Day. The Bruins will be the first team to host the event twice. They also hosted it in 2010, at Fenway Park.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft also spoke at the ceremony, just hours after his impassioned "Deflategate" defense.

Bettman notes that the three organizations are among the most successful in their sports, with 34 championships. The Canadiens have won 24 of those, but the Patriots are the defending Super Bowl champs.

Bettman also says the league has extended the game's title sponsorship with Bridgestone for another five years.

Wed, 29 Jul 2015 19:35:00 +0000
Chiefs safety Eric Berry back at practice after cancer fight

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) There was a moment in the early stages of chemotherapy when Eric Berry was having breakfast with his father, and the enormity of what faced him was so great that he broke down and cried.

For 30 minutes, one of the toughest players on the Kansas City Chiefs wept.

Then, he resolved to beat cancer.

Eight months later, Berry walked triumphantly onto the practice fields at Missouri Western State University, joining rookies and select veterans Wednesday for the start of training camp.

Six merciless rounds of draining, debilitating drugs had rid his body of Hodgkin's lymphoma, but they had also stoked the passion that Berry still harbors for the game.

"It's been a roller coaster," he said, "but I wouldn't change it for the world."

Flanked by his father, James, and his mother, Carol, Berry spoke publicly for the first time since he was diagnosed with cancer last December. He recalled the terror that gripped him when the mass was first found in his chest, and the dark days that immediately followed.

The days he didn't want to get out of bed. The days he struggled to choke down food, all of it tasteless. The seemingly endless trips to the hospital for each round of treatment.

"In the beginning it was hard, it really was," James Berry said. "Those possibilities go through your mind - `What if he can't play again?' You think of those types of things, but then you kick those to the side. And when you looked at Eric you said, `This guy is a fighter."'

Such a fighter that he chose to receive treatment through an IV rather than a PICC line, a semi-permanent catheter that would have prevented him from training.

Between each round of chemo, Berry would squeeze in 10 to 12 workouts, sometimes struggling just to do five push-ups. But he never lost sight of an audacious goal: Be back with the Chiefs by the time their season opens Sept. 13 in Houston.

"Everybody wants you to be strong in this situation," Berry said, "but you can't be strong every day. If you want to be mad today, be mad. If you want to be sad, be sad. But the thing is, don't stay that way. Get it out of your system and go back to work."

Berry passed a battery of tests before he was cleared to practice late Tuesday, but it remains unclear when he'll fully participate in practice. Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder said Berry will be monitored constantly, especially during the early portion of camp.

Veterans report Friday. The first full-squad workout is Saturday.

"One of the things Eric and I talked about was just being honest with us about how you're feeling out here," coach Andy Reid said, "and sometimes that's hard for a player to do, especially with his makeup. He's been great with that up to this point and I think that will continue through."

After all, he's in a much better place than he was eight months ago.

The three-time Pro Bowler first knew something was amiss in November, when he felt oddly out of breath after a couple of games.

When things got worse during a game against Oakland, Berry was put through a series of tests that revealed a mass in his chest. The diagnosis was Hodgkin's lymphoma, a treatable form of cancer that affects about 9,000 people in the U.S. each year.

His treatment began Dec. 10 at Emory University's Winship Cancer Institute, near his home in Atlanta.

And it wasn't easy: "It literally feels like you're dying," Berry recalled, "but you're not really battling chemo, you're battling yourself the whole time. It was me versus me."

The final round of treatment was May 13, followed by a month of recovery.

"He tolerated chemotherapy extremely well," said Dr. Christopher R. Flowers, who directs the cancer institute's lymphoma program. "He achieved a complete response to treatment."

On June 22, a follow-up PET scan showed Berry was cancer-free.

The Chiefs had just finished their mandatory minicamp, so he headed to Florida, where he trained with teammates. Then last week, Berry headed back to Kansas City for another round of testing to make sure he was in football condition.

"It was a battle, every day, to the point where I had to set goals to get out of bed," he said. "But I had a great support system, between my mom and dad being in the trenches with me, day in and day out, making sure I had everything I needed."

The Chiefs are cautiously optimistic Berry will be ready for the regular season, and such a rapid return would not be without precedent: Reid said they looked at case studies involving other athletes, such as Mario Lemieux, in deciding how to proceed.

The Hall of Fame hockey player was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1993, went through a similar course of treatment and returned to finish his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

There is plenty of work ahead for Berry.

But on a warm, humid morning in northwest Missouri, as he trotted out of the locker room, he had already surpassed nearly all expectations.

"At the beginning, you kind of put football aside. Your mind goes to, `Hey, we're hoping and praying he can be healthy and live a good life,"' Reid said. "Anything else is icing on the cake."

---

Online: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Wed, 29 Jul 2015 21:11:00 +0000
Michel Platini confirms he will run for FIFA president

GENEVA (AP) Michel Platini has launched his campaign to succeed Sepp Blatter as FIFA president, aiming to give the scandal-hit governing body "the dignity and the position it deserves."

Platini, the UEFA president and a FIFA vice president, wrote to member federations in Europe on Wednesday saying he will stand in the election and is counting on their support.

The FIFA election is on Feb. 26 and would-be candidates must apply by Oct. 26.

"There are times in life when you have to take your destiny into your own hands," wrote Platini, who turned 60 last month. "I am at one of those decisive moments, at a juncture in my life and in events that are shaping the future of FIFA."

Platini has for years been the obvious candidate to succeed Blatter, his mentor in FIFA politics. But a rift between the long-time allies deepened when Blatter broke a promise to leave office in 2015.

The former France great chose last year not to oppose Blatter, who won a fifth presidential term on May 29. Four days later, Blatter announced his resignation plans under pressure from American and Swiss federal investigations of corruption implicating FIFA.

"However, recent events force the supreme governing body of world football to turn over a new leaf and rethink its governance," Platini said.

Platini chose to run after getting encouragement from some of his fellow FIFA vice presidents last week in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Five of the six confederation leaders, including Platini, were there for the 2018 World Cup qualifying draw with only the North American regional body missing.

Platini then traveled to Philadelphia for the Gold Cup final on Sunday, and briefed CONCACAF leaders on his plans. They included FIFA executive committee colleague Sunil Gulati, the U.S. Soccer Federation president.

The U.S. body was among the five FIFA members which nominated Prince Ali bin al-Hussein to challenge Blatter two months ago. The Jordanian prince was publicly supported by Platini but Blatter had pockets of support across Europe in a 133-73 victory.

Platini met the prince in the south of France last week and discussed the FIFA election.

Though not the first would-be candidate to launch a formal bid, Platini is the most serious contender in the contest so far.

Another former FIFA vice president, Chung Mong-joon of South Korea, has suggested he will run after stating last week that he doubted Platini was serious about wanting the job. Former Brazil great Zico and Liberia federation president Musa Bility have said they want to seek the five nominations required to be a candidate.

Diego Maradona also said he wants the FIFA job, although the colorful former Argentina great is unlikely to be taken seriously.

The most detailed manifesto by any recent presidential hopeful was issued by Jerome Champagne, the former FIFA international relations director whose exit in 2010 was engineered with Platini's support.

However, Champagne did not take part in the last election after failing to get the five nominations required by a January deadline.

Wed, 29 Jul 2015 11:41:00 +0000
Cardinals name woman to training camp coach position

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals have hired Jen Welter to coach inside linebackers through their upcoming training camp and preseason.

The Cardinals say Welter is believed to be the first woman to hold a coaching position of any kind in the NFL. Welter played running back and special teams in 2014 for the Texas Revolution of the Indoor Football League, becoming the first woman to hold a non-kicking position for a men's professional sports league.

"I am honored to be a part of this amazing team," Welter said on Twitter on Monday night.

Welter coached linebackers and special teams for the Revolution last season, becoming the first woman to coach in a men's pro football league. Her general manager with the Revolution was 2015 NFL Hall of Fame inductee Tim Brown.

Welter played linebacker for more than 14 seasons in the Women's Football Alliance, mostly with the Dallas Diamonds, where she helped the team win four championships. Welter holds a master's degree in sports psychology. A rugby player at Boston College, she also earned two gold medals on Team USA at the International Federation of Football Women's World Championships in 2009 and 2013.

A news conference was scheduled for Tuesday to introduce Welter and Levon Kirkland, a former Pro Bowl linebacker who is the inaugural participant in the Bill Bidwill Coaching Fellowship established to give recently retired NFL players a chance to coach in the league. He will work with outside linebackers for the next two seasons.

Four months ago at the NFL meetings, Arizona coach Bruce Arians was asked about the possibility of a woman coaching in the NFL.

"The minute they can prove they can make a player better, they'll be hired," Arians said.

Speaking to azcardinals.com on Monday, Arians said: "Coaching is nothing more than teaching. One thing I have learned from players is `How are you going to make me better? If you can make me better, I don't care if you're the Green Hornet, I'll listen."'

"I really believe she'll have a great opportunity with this internship through training camp to open some doors for her," Arians said.

It's the second such barrier to be broken in the NFL this year. The league announced in April that Sarah Thomas would be the first woman to be a full-time NFL official.

In the NBA, Becky Hammon is an assistant coach with San Antonio and served as the head coach for the Spurs' team that won the Las Vegas Summer League championship.

Tue, 28 Jul 2015 02:45:00 +0000
IOC urges US to come up with another bid city for 2024 Games

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) With Boston no longer in contention, IOC President Thomas Bach urged U.S. Olympic leaders on Tuesday to pick "the most appropriate city" as a substitute candidate for the 2024 Games. Two-time Olympic host Los Angeles could fit the bill perfectly, according to several IOC board members.

The U.S. Olympic Committee severed ties with Boston on Monday, finally pulling the plug on a bid that had been hampered by dismal poll ratings, strong local opposition and months of political wrangling.

The USOC now has until Sept. 15 to submit a candidate to the International Olympic Committee and formally enter a race that already includes Paris; Rome; Hamburg, Germany; and Budapest, Hungary. Toronto and Baku, Azerbaijan, are also likely contenders.

The IOC has been consulting with potential bids, including Boston, as part of a new "invitation phase"' for interested cities. The IOC is eager to have a strong candidate from the U.S., which hasn't hosted a Summer Games since Atlanta in 1996.

"For the IOC this was always about an American bid put forward by the United States Olympic Committee,"' Bach said in a statement. "This invitation phase is also an opportunity to determine which city will eventually be chosen by an NOC. We are confident that USOC will choose the most appropriate city for a strong U.S. bid."

IOC officials had just learned of Boston's withdrawal as they gathered for an executive board meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The rest of the IOC membership will be arriving later for a general assembly highlighted by Friday's vote to determine the host city for the 2022 Winter Olympics, with Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, as the two candidates.

"It's always a shame when a national Olympic committee selects a city and then is incapable or unable to bring it to the next stage of the contest," IOC vice president Craig Reedie told The Associated Press. "But I suppose after mature reflection and looking at what's happened, it might be a wise decision."

"Personally, I hope the United States do find another candidate and produce another applicant city for 2024," Reedie said.

Boston had been chosen by the USOC as its bid entry ahead of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington. But the USOC was left with little choice but to drop Boston after Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker declined to commit to the bid.

"It's not (only) bad for the U.S., but it's bad for everybody," IOC board member Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr. told the AP. "Boston was an extraordinary city, very attractive for the Olympic games, a very sporty town. I am very said to hear this."

But he said there was enough time for the USOC to change course.

"I don't think they need to save face," Samaranch said. "They presented what they thought was a great candidate. It's preseason. They have all the right to change the team and make their final adjustments."

After New York failed in a bid for the 2012 Olympics and Chicago lost in the first round of the vote for the 2016 Games, the USOC took steps to try to improve relations with the IOC. Two years ago, the two sides signed a new revenue-sharing agreement, ending a long-running dispute that had helped undermine previous U.S. bids.

The U.S. chances for 2024 had seemed strong, but the Boston debacle caught many by surprise.

"We were all excited when they (Boston) were announced, but it seems to have stumbled since," IOC vice president John Coates said. "But it's better to face up to these things early if you don't have full public support."

Los Angeles hosted the 1932 and 1984 Olympics and now seems poised to enter the 2024 contest. Los Angeles was the only city to bid for the 1984 Games at a time when the Olympics were torn by boycotts and financial problems. The success of those games helped revive the Olympic movement.

"They won't have to build temporary stadiums, which is expensive," Reedie said. "It could be the third-time lucky for LA; it was third-time lucky for London."

London is the only city which has hosted the OIympics three times. Paris, which staged the games in 1900 and 1924, is also aiming for a third Olympics.

Sergei Bubka, the Ukrainian pole vault great who sits on the IOC executive board, said it's important for a U.S. city to be in the running.

"Los Angeles has great history, lots of experience," he said. "Why not?"

Tue, 28 Jul 2015 06:03:00 +0000

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