NHL cancels games through Dec. 14, All-Star game
More than a third of the NHL regular season and two of its marquee events have now been called off.
The league announced its latest round of cancellations on Friday — Day 69 of its labor lockout. All games through Dec. 14 were wiped out, and this time All-Star Weekend, scheduled for Jan. 26-27 in Columbus, Ohio, was lost, too. The New Year’s Day outdoor Winter Classic already was scratched.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said losing the All-Star festivities is “extremely disappointing.”
“We feel badly for NHL fans and particularly those in Columbus, and we intend to work closely with the Blue Jackets organization to return the NHL All-Star events to Columbus and their fans as quickly as possible,” Daly said in a statement Friday.
The Blue Jackets said fans holding tickets to the game, the skills competition, and other events during that weekend could receive refunds.
Harbaugh expects QB Alex Smith to be cleared
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Jim Harbaugh expects Alex Smith to be medically cleared to play by Saturday.
Still, the 49ers coach did not announce Friday who will start at quarterback at New Orleans in two days.
Harbaugh said it serves no purpose to his team and organization to let anybody know what his plan at quarterback is for Sunday’s game against the Saints.
Harbaugh also refuted reports earlier this week that he already has told Smith and Colin Kaepernick that Kaepernick will continue as the team’s starter after making his first NFL start during Monday’s rout of the Chicago Bears.
The coach said his stance on the quarterback situation is unlikely to change before the 49ers (7-2-1) meet the Saints (5-5) in a rematch of last year’s NFC divisional playoff game won 36-32 by San Francisco.
Smith had started 28 consecutive games for the 49ers before he suffered a concussion during the team’s 24-24 tie with St. Louis on Nov. 11. Smith practiced all of last week in a noncontact black jersey, but the team declared him out Monday morning for the Bears game later that evening after he was evaluated by team medical director Dr. Dan Garza.
Status of Bears QB Jay Cutler remains uncertain
LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The status of Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler going into the weekend remains uncertain because of a concussion, although coach Lovie Smith said Friday he is optimistic about Cutler’s return.
Cutler, who missed Monday night’s 32-7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, is listed as questionable against the Minnesota Vikings. Whether he plays in Sunday’s game at Soldier Field hinges on passing a test from an independent neurologist Saturday.
It’s possible Cutler’s injury report status could change before the game.
“He’s looking better,” Smith said of Cutler after Friday’s practice. “The last phase of his evaluation will be tomorrow and then we’ll be able to let you know from there.”
Cutler on Friday went through a second straight limited practice session. He hasn’t had a full practice yet this week. Backup Jason Campbell, who is suffering from a rib injury, went through his first full practice Friday.
Cutler’s play impressed his teammates.
“He looked good,” running back Matt Forte said. “He should play, I think.”
Regardless of which quarterback plays, he’ll be protected by a completely revamped offensive line. The Bears gave up six sacks against San Francisco, including 5½ to defensive end Aldon Smith, and it led to second-year right tackle Gabe Carimi getting benched. He’ll be replaced by Jonathan Scott, who played previously for Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Detroit.
McIlroy, Donald, Warren tied for lead in Dubai
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Rory McIlroy shot a 5-under 67 Friday and was tied for the lead with Luke Donald and Marc Warren after two rounds of the season-ending Dubai World Championship.
McIlroy, the top-ranked golfer, has already won the money titles on the European and PGA tours. He was one stroke in front at 11-under 133 with Donald (68) and 189th-ranked Warren (67).
Sergio Garcia, playing for the first time since laser eye surgery, matched the course record with a 64 to leave him four shots behind.
McIlroy’s round could have been even better, but he missed several makeable putts on the front nine and an eagle putt roll past the hole at No. 14.
Brazil coach Mano Menezes fired
SAO PAULO — The Brazil football federation fired coach Mano Menezes on Friday, a controversial move that pleased many Brazilians who had been calling for his dismissal but worried others who believe the change comes too close to the 2014 World Cup.
Federation director Andres Sanchez, who made it clear that he didn’t agree with the decision to fire Menezes, said the decision was made by president Jose Maria Marin after a meeting in Sao Paulo on Friday.
“The president believes that the national team needs to go in a different direction and for that he needs a new coach,” Sanchez said. “The president wants new methods and new planning for the national team next year.”
World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who is without a job, is one of the names touted to replace Menezes, but Sanchez said he doesn’t think negotiations for a new coach are under way just yet.
Sanchez, as the federation director, is in charge of the national team. Though he disagreed with the firing, Sanchez said the president was being “brave” and called it a “bold” move to make the change.
UEFA reschedules Europa League match in Israel
NYON, Switzerland — A Europa League match postponed in Israel this week for security reasons will be played in Haifa next Wednesday.
UEFA said on Friday that Hapoel Kiryat Shmona will host Athletic Bilbao at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium with an 1800 GMT kickoff.
Neither team can advance to the last 32 following a 1-1 draw between group rivals Sparta Prague and Lyon in the Czech Republic on Thursday.
Emirates wants FIFA changes before new sponsorship
LONDON — Emirates airlines wants evidence FIFA is eradicating corruption and the scandal-hit organization’s public image is improving before renewing its sponsorship.
The Dubai-based carrier’s $195 million, eight-year sponsorship of world soccer’s governing body expires in 2014.
Emirates senior vice president Boutros Boutros said Friday the airline has yet to see enough progress since FIFA President Sepp Blatter instigated a reform drive to prevent a repeat of scandals that have damaged the credibility of the organization in recent years.
“So far they talk a lot about them, but we are yet to see,” Boutros Boutros said. “They look serious about it and we are optimistic. We hope they will work on it and do what the public want ... we are waiting until after 2014 to evaluate.”
Asked if Emirates will ensure FIFA is no longer perceived to be a tainted organization before agreeing on a new deal, Boutros responded: “Definitely.”
FIFA’s reputation was rocked by claims of bribery and vote-rigging in the presidential election campaign last year and the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests in December 2010.
By wire sources