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NFL will hear Adrian Peterson's appeal Dec. 2

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Adrian Peterson's hearing for the appeal of his suspension will be held on Dec. 2. And it will not be in front of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The NFL announced Friday that longtime hearing officer Harold Henderson will preside over the proceedings involving the Minnesota Vikings star running back. Goodell has the authority to decide whether to hear the appeal himself or appoint someone else. Peterson has not played since the opening week of the season while dealing with child abuse allegations in Texas. He was placed on paid leave while the legal process played out, and he pleaded no contest on Nov. 4 to misdemeanor reckless assault for injuring his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch. Goodell suspended Peterson earlier this week for the rest of the season and told Peterson that he will not be considered for reinstatement before April 15 for his violation of the NFL's personal conduct policy. Peterson is appealing the punishment, which the NFL Players Association called "unprecedented, arbitrary, and unlawful." The union had been seeking a neutral arbitrator to oversee the appeal, saying the league "is making up the process and punishment as it goes." Henderson worked for the league as chairman of its powerful Management Council's executive committee for 16 years. He also was a league vice president of labor relations. He led the league's negotiation team, which settled several lawsuits by NFL players and ultimately entered into a new collective bargaining agreement which included expanded free agency and a salary cap. That agreement has been extended several times, most recently through 2021. He regularly deals with NFL team owners, team executives, players, players' union, player agents and attorneys on a variety of matters. Henderson's long history of working for the league did little to assuage the union's concerns about the process. "The NFL should stop attempting to position a former NFL executive as neutral and independent," the union said. "It is disappointing the league office made a decision to ignore the players' request for fairness." The NFL argued that Goodell's right to preside over appeals or choose an official has been part of the collective bargaining agreement since 1993. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said criticism of Henderson is unwarranted given his current position as president of the NFL Player Care Foundation, which is funded jointly by the union and the league; and his experience in hearing 87 appeals, including one from receiver Brandon Marshall that ended with his three-game suspension for a domestic violence incident being reduced to one game. Goodell's punishment of Peterson comes under the new player conduct policy he unveiled in August. That came in the wake of criticism he received for his initial light treatment of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was caught on camera punching his then-fiancee in the face in an Atlantic City casino elevator. Rice was later suspended indefinitely, cut by the Ravens, and recently had his appeal heard by an arbitrator. The new, tougher guidelines call for a six-game suspension for the first assault, battery or domestic violence offense. --- AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL --- AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner, in New York, contributed to this report.

Fri, 21 Nov 2014 22:18:00 +0000
Free tickets for Bills-Jets game in Detroit

DETROIT (AP) Are you ready for some free football at Ford Field? Fans are being offered free tickets to the NFL game between the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets on Monday night that was moved to Detroit from snow-plagued western New York. The game was originally scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York, but the league relocated it to the Lions' indoor stadium after a lake-effect storm dumped about 7 feet of snow on the Buffalo area since Monday. The Lions announced Friday that their season-ticket holders and those for the Bills can use Flash Seats - a digital entry ticketing system - for general admission seats to the game Monday night. Fans who had tickets for the game at Ralph Wilson Stadium and travel to Detroit will be admitted with their original tickets. The Bills also announced that full refunds will be given to all original ticket holders and season ticket members, whether or not their ticket is used to enter the rescheduled game. The general public can get tickets beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday via Flash Seats at Detroitlions.com, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at Ford Field's box office. "We are pleased to be hosting the Bills and Jets for their game Monday night," Lions president Tom Lewand said. "While our thoughts are with the people of the Buffalo area during this difficult time, our team at Ford Field will do everything we can to be good hosts to their team this weekend." The NFL has offered fans free tickets in similar situations in the past, including in December 2010 when the Giants and Vikings were relocated to Ford Field after the roof of Minnesota's Metrodome collapsed after a blizzard. Vikings quarterback Brett Favre's streak of 297 regular-season starts came to an end that night because of shoulder and hand issues. A wildfire in Southern California in 2003 moved a game - also with free admission - between the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, because Qualcomm Stadium was turned into an evacuation center for displaced residents. Jets coach Rex Ryan thought the potential of less crowd noise at a neutral-site stadium could help Michael Vick and New York's offense. "Instead of having 70,000 screaming (Bills) fans, I would say it'd be easier," Ryan said. "I don't know who's going to be at the game." Then, he added: "I hope there are a lot of Jets fans." Detroit Sports 105.1 radio, an affiliate of ESPN, called for fans to wear green to the game in support of the Jets - and against Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who was fired last December after five seasons in which he went 29-51 as the Lions' coach. He was carried off the field by the Bills after they beat the Lions in Detroit in October. Using the hashtag GreenMonday, the station wrote on Twitter: "Monday, we all become Jets fans in Detroit to give Jim Schwartz some payback. Wear green and be loud." The Lions, in a partnership with Henry Ford Health Systems, will also be operating a 50/50 raffle when gates open, with proceeds benefiting the American Red Cross of Western and Central New York Disaster Relief Fund. --- AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Sat, 22 Nov 2014 03:48:00 +0000
Ibanez, Cash, Wakamatsu finalists to manage Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Raul Ibanez, Kevin Cash and Don Wakamatsu are the finalists to replace Joe Maddon as manager of the Tampa Bay Rays. Dave Martinez, the Rays' bench coach for the past seven seasons, was among seven candidates dropped Friday. Also cut were Barry Larkin, Doug Glanville, Manny Acta, Craig Counsell, Charlie Montoyo and Ron Wotus. Tampa Bay said interviews with the finalists will be scheduled for the week of Dec. 1. Maddon left the Rays after nine seasons to manage the Chicago Cubs. "The decision on Dave Martinez was especially difficult," Rays President of Baseball Operations Matt Silverman said in a statement. "He's played a key role in our organization's evolution, and he's done all he can to put himself in position to be a manager. In the end, we determined that our clubhouse would best benefit from a new voice that will add to our already strong and cohesive culture." Ibanez, 42, has spent 19 seasons in the major leagues with Seattle, Kansas City, Philadelphia, the Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels and has 305 homers and 2,034 hits. He helped the Royals win this year's AL pennant. The 36-year-old Cash played for Tampa Northside in the 1989 Little League World Series and was a big league catcher for eight seasons with Toronto, Tampa Bay, Boston, the New York Yankees and Houston from 2002-10. He was a major league advance scout for Toronto in 2012 and Cleveland's bullpen coach in 2013-14. Wakamatsu, 51, was the first Asian-American manager in major league history and led Seattle to a 127-147 record in 2009-10. He played in the minor leagues from 1985-96, reaching the major leagues for 18 games with the Chicago White Sox in 1991. Wakamatsu has been bench coach of Texas (2003-06), Oakland (2008), Toronto (2011-12) and Kansas City (2014), and was the Rangers' third-base coach in 2007.

Fri, 21 Nov 2014 23:09:00 +0000
Dallas Stars sign Spezza to $30M, 4-year deal

FRISCO, Texas (AP) Two-time NHL All-Star center Jason Spezza signed a $30 million, four-year contract extension Friday with the Dallas Stars. The deal came nearly five months after the Stars acquired Spezza from Ottawa just before the start of free agency, and keeps the 31-year-old center from becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer. Spezza has 18 points in his first 20 games in Dallas, with his 14 assists tops among the Stars and ninth in the NHL. He has 705 points (255 goals, 450 assists) in 706 career games since being the second overall pick in the 2001 NHL draft by Ottawa. "Jason is a world-class player and his commitment to the organization is a reflection of what we are building in Dallas," Stars general manager Jim Nill said. "The professionalism and production he brings to our group is key for our success moving forward and we value the leadership he brings to our team." The Stars acquired Spezza on July 1 in exchange for right wing Alex Chiasson, left wings Nick Paul and Alex Guptill and a second-round selection in the 2015 NHL Draft. Spezza is in the final season of a $49 million, seven-year contract, so his new deal with the Stars is through the 2018-19 season. In 11 seasons with the Senators, Spezza had at least 65 points in a season six times, and three other seasons with at least 50 points. He was sent to the Stars only a few days after using his no-trade clause to turn down a possible deal to Nashville.

Fri, 21 Nov 2014 20:22:00 +0000
NHL teams slowly embracing advance statistics

Far removed from punishing hits on the ice, the real crunching in the NHL these days is being done in front offices around the league with the numbers involved in the complex, lengthy calculations of analytics. The "Moneyball" approach popularized in baseball has slowly become as much a part of the NHL as the breakaway. More and more teams are turning to the same kind of analytics that have taken over Major League Baseball when they assess talent, players and performance. Never heard of Corsi and Fenwick statistics? And you call yourself a fan? It's a new era in the NHL and - much like in baseball - there's a still a divide between the new school thinkers and the hockey lifers stewing at the thought that newfangled stats could ever replace gut feel in building a Stanley Cup championship roster. Take Philadelphia, for example. The franchise known for decades as the Broad Street Bullies now has more use for an extra set of pocket protectors than rough-and-tumble goons. "Analytics is where we're going," general manager Ron Hextall said. "You can't overvalue it, but in my mind it's going to become more and more and more valuable, I think in all sports. It's another tool. Why not use every tool available? You still need eyes on hockey players. You need that. I don't think that will ever change, but the analytics, I wouldn't say it's a huge part, but it's going to get bigger and bigger." The Flyers, Toronto, Buffalo, Columbus, the Los Angeles Kings and others are leading the charge in using a new lens at scoping out the way players are judged. The key thought is, there are other ways to scout a player than the traditional means of goals, saves, plus/minus ratio and puck possession time. Here are some of the stats that are becoming part of the lexicon: - Fenwick Percentage: The percentage of unblocked shots (on goal or missed) taken by the player's team; also known as FF%. - Corsi: Named for former Buffalo Sabres goaltending coach Jim Corsi, this stat tracks shot attempts for and against taken by a team or player. It's the sum of a team or player's goals, shots on net, shots that miss the net and shots that are blocked. - League-Wide Success Rate: The league-wide shooting percentage from that area of the ice in the time frame selected. - PDO: The sum of a player's on-ice shooting percentage and on-ice save percentage. Sam Ventura, a 26-year-old Ph.D candidate at Carnegie Mellon, co-founded the analytics blog War On Ice. Ventura has become such a fan of NHL math, he has tinkered with creating his own advanced stats, working on a metric called zone transition times. He used zone information (which zone a hit or shot may come from) and measured how long it took for each team to transition between zones. "Over the long run, we should see the better teams holding the puck in the offensive zones longer and getting the puck out of their defensive zones faster," he said. "That's sort of what I found. The metric I created correlates pretty highly with the number of points in the standings." Ventura's stat could become the next big thing in the NHL. Or it could take years for some teams to adapt. "Hockey's such a free-flowing game that it's hard to determine automatically where each player is at each point of the game," he said. "It's not surprising that hockey has been slower in adopting analytics." The hard-liners agree that fancy math should go the way of Fox's glowing puck. "There are guys that leave people on the ice in bad situations and don't get punished for it in terms of the numbers," Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "What analytics doesn't show for me is when the game's on the line, when games or important situations happen, it doesn't show me who's going to win them." The Sabres were at the forefront of analytics with stats developed by Corsi. He has moved on to St. Louis, leaving the heavy lifting in the front office to Jason Nightingale. The Pittsburgh Penguins hired Jason Karmanos as vice president of hockey operations in June to be their analytics guru. The Blue Jackets turned to Josh Flynn. The Capitals hired Tim Barnes. The Flyers use Ian Anderson. The Maple Leafs hired Kyle Dubas, a twentysomething former player' agent without any previous NHL experience. Teams have largely refused to make the analytics experts available to the media for fear they'll expose classified ideas. Most advanced stats debunk the idea that the oldest stats are still the most reliable. Ventura said he found in his research that hits and blocked shots - bread and butter for many NHL general managers - tend to be overrated. "If you hit someone, that means you didn't have the puck before. Not having the puck is bad," Ventura said. And blocked shots? "Not that it's bad to block shots, but if you have a lot of blocked shots, it means your team rarely has the puck when you're on the ice," he said. There's really no stopping the movement. The Stanley Cup champion Kings serve as a blueprint for finding undervalued players and consistently ranking among the league leaders in FenClose (the percentage of unblocked shot attempts a team takes in a game when the score is within one goal or tied). It's up to a team's stats whiz to convey what's important in clear terms to the guys on the bench. "If I cross the blue line with possession of the puck, I don't need to be a math major to know that the percentage of shots that I get are going to be higher," Trotz said. "Every coach in the league wants to enter the zone with possession of the puck, they really do. And for us, when it gets thrown in a coach's face, you go, `Yeah, I get that."'

Fri, 21 Nov 2014 22:21:00 +0000