After denied a UK visa twice, Mike Danton signs on with Swedish team

29 Sep

Last season, Mike Danton spent time playing in the Czech Republic and Sweden. While searching for a new team for the 2012-13 season, he was hoping to find a place where life would be easier for his wife and newborn son. That place appeared to be Coventry, England, where the Blaze play in the Elite Ice Hockey League. But because Danton's past included a five-year stint in prison for a murder-for-hire plot his attempt to acquire a UK visa was denied twice, leaving him looking for new options.

On Saturday, Danton announced on his blog that he has signed a contract with Kramfors-Alliansen of Sweden's Division 1, the third highest level of hockey in the country:

Today, September 29, 2012 I signed a contract with the Kramfors Alliance in the Swedish Division 1 league. I am returning to Sweden for another season after my two applications for a UK work visa have been denied. Also, my coach form [sic] last season, Janne Huokko, will be coaching me again this season. I am extremely excited to be able to return back to Sweden where my professional career was resurrected and have another opportunity to share my experience with a younger team. I will be travelling to Sweden on Monday and arriving sometime on Tuesday. I look forward to playing Friday in the teams next game. I would like to thank my agent, Mike Bernier, for arranging this scenario on such short notice. It has been an extremely hectic last couple of months, but I am finally getting an opportunity to play hockey again this season. I look forward to updating all of you in the near future.

So his coach will be Janne Huokko, eh? You might remember him as being the center of the Swedish sex toy incident during a game between AIK and Leksand back in 2008.

Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy

Tags: , , Coventry, , , Janne Huokko, , Mike Danton, , , Sweden, Swedish team, , UK visa
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Homer Bailey tosses Reds’ first no-hitter since 1988, ends Pirates’ bid for winning season

28 Sep

Don't tell Homer Bailey there's nothing to play for now that the Cincinnati Reds have punched their ticket to the postseason and clinched the National League Central division. The 26-year-old right-hander wants to be a part of their postseason rotation, and he made the strongest case possible by no-hitting the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on Friday night.

Bailey was dominant from his first pitch right up until his 115th and final offering, which resulted in an Alex Presley pop up caught by second baseman Brandon Phillips. He allowed only two baserunners — one on Scott Rolen's third inning error and a seventh inning walk of Andrew McCutchen — and tied a career-high with 10 strikeouts.

[Related: A's prospect leaves baseball behind, becomes a monk]

Bailey had to be that good, as Pirates starter A.J. Burnett nearly matched him pitch-for-pitch for his eight innings in what ended up being a tightly-contested 1-0 victory for the Reds. In fact, one of the first things Bailey did in his postgame television interview was thank Burnett for pitching so well and helping him stay sharp and focused throughout.

"I just kept trying to put up zeroes, seeing how A.J. pitched against us all year."

The no-hitter from Bailey is the seventh in major league baseball this season and the first by a Red since Tom Browning tossed a perfect game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sept. 16, 1988. It's also the first time the Pirates have been no-hit since St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson got them on Aug. 14, 1971. This is Homer Bailey's third career complete game in 110 starts, with all three of them coming against the Pirates at PNC Park. His career ERA at the stadium is 1.40.

And in a cruel twist of fate that almost seems fitting, the no-hit loss for Pittsburgh guarantees it a non-winning season for the 20th consecutive year. The Pirates have to win their final six games to avoid yet another losing season.

Talk about punctuating a collapse in spectacular and historic fashion, that's exactly what the Pirates have done in 2012.

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AHL camps poised to start as NHL lockout continues (Yahoo! Sports)

28 Sep
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- American Hockey League training camps open this weekend and Syracuse Crunch coach Jon Cooper is more than ready.
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New Rays ballpark plan has been unveiled, complete with fancy drawings

28 Sep

True story: The first Big League Stew post that ever went out on Yahoo!'s front page featured a new "sailboat stadium" proposal for the Tampa Bay Rays. That was early 2008 and luckily we've been a lot more successful than that ballpark plan. More than four years later, the Rays franchise still plays in the strangely lighted limbo that is Tropicana Field and we still harbor a keen interest in writing about the drawings for proposed stadiums.

The Rays still aren't anywhere close to finishing a deal for a new ballpark, but there's now another set of drawings out there. A development company named Echelon LLC unveiled its plan for St. Petersburg's Carillon Park on Friday afternoon. As the Tampa Bay Times writes, the proposed 35,000-seat stadium  "represents the most detailed alternative to Tropicana Field since the team's own waterfront project fizzled in 2008."

But as the paper also notes, this plan is being introduced amid a lot of questions. They're not small either. First off, no one knows if the Rays are even interested in this plan because they've said they want to survey a lot of sites if and when they go out shopping for a new home. Given that this park in St. Petersburg is still on the wrong side of the bridge that every Tampa-side fan wields as an excuse for not attending Rays games, I'm guessing that owner Stu Sternberg and Co. won't put all their chips in this pot just because Echelon was able to get its act together.

There's also the matter of who's going to pay around $600 million for it, if it'll have a fixed or retractable roof or if there are even 35,000 people willing to fill this thing every night. But hey, the pictures are cool — check 'em out here — and some rich developers got a good excuse to hand out hot dogs as we all imagined a Rays future that doesn't involve playing baseball in a dank basement-like setting. You know, just like we dreamed back in 2008.

Want more baseball fun all season long?
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NFL on Yahoo! Sports:

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Tags: , excuse, , , , , Tropicana
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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sends email to fans, tries to explain officiating debacles

28 Sep

With an eight-year labor agreement with the NFLRA in place and ready for ratification by a 51 percent vote by the 121 officials, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell took a moment on Friday to email NFL fans to express "regret" about not being able to reach an agreement sooner and to explain some of the long-term issues (full-time and developmental officials) the league felt were important to obtain in their new agreement with the NFLRA.

[Related: Regular NFL officials return to hero's welcome in Baltimore]

In case you weren't one of the fans to receive this transmission from commissioner Goodell, here is the letter in its entirety, via

To NFL Fans:

The National Football League is at its best when the focus is on the players and the action on the field, not on labor negotiations.

All of us who love the sport appreciate the skills and dedication of the players and coaches. That is why we are focused not just on what happens on the field but what our game will be like in another decade or two. The NFL has always tried to look ahead, to innovate, and to constantly improve in all we do.

We recognize that some decisions may be difficult to accept in the passion of the moment, but my most important responsibility is to improve the game for this generation and the next.

I believe in accountability, not excuses. And I regret we were not able to secure an agreement sooner in the process and avoid the unfortunate distractions to the game. You deserve better.

As a lifelong fan, this wasn't an easy process for anyone involved. I particularly want to commend the replacement officials for taking on an unenviable task and doing it with focus and dedication in the most adverse of circumstances.

Our new agreement gives long-term stability to an important aspect of our game, officiating. More important, with this agreement, officiating will be better in the long run. While the financial issues received the most attention, these negotiations were much more about long-term reforms. For example, beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option of hiring a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year-round, including on the field. In addition, the NFL will have the option to retain additional officials for training and development purposes, and may assign those additional officials to work NFL games.

We are moving forward with the finest officials in sports back on the field. It's time to put the focus where it belongs — on the clubs and players and our magnificent game, with a special thanks to our fans for their passion.

Roger Goodell

[More: Replacement ref insists he made correct call on late Seattle TD]

Because he earns an eight-figure salary to the bidding of billionaires, Goodell is a fairly easy target for fan anger. And the league certainly took the brunt of the criticism for the labor dispute with the referees. After all, the "finest officials in sports" were locked out from performing their tasks by the National Football League. But it's important to remember that all negotiations are a two-way street and that, as Greg Bedard points out in Friday's Boston Globe, the regular referees, who are in danger of being greeted with public displays of affection from the players, deserve just as much of the blame for the stalemate and the shoddy officiating we saw throughout the preseason and the first three weeks of the regular season that resulted from the dispute.

Fortunately, that's all behind us.

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Tags: , dedication, , moment, , , NFL fans, NFL officials, ,
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The Fantasy Freak Show Podcast: Selling RGIII, buying Benson and holding Decker

28 Sep
by in General

After an uncountable number of egregious calls, punctuated by last Monday's screwing in Seattle, a sense of normalcy has finally swept over the league. Ed Hochuli's 'gun show' will finally return to the field this Sunday, ending a nightmarish three weeks which greatly harmed the game's integrity.

On this week's celebratory 'Freak Show,' Andy Behrens and Brad Evans expressed their satisfaction over the NFLRA/NFL agreement. We also unveiled our sleepers, busts and shocker specials from each of this week's remaining games -- plenty of Fred Jackson propaganda included. Additionally, we provided the very latest on busted backs Willis McGahee, C.J. Spiller and Reggie Bush. Plus, will Philip Rivers bounce back in a big way at KC?

Too busy stockpiling bacon? No problem. Listen to the replays (or download them here) below:



Tags: Andy Behrens, Brad Evans, Ed Hochuli, , Freak Show, , normalcy, , Podcast, sense, , The Fantasy Freak Show Podcast, uncountable number
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The 10 things we didn’t know about Gary Bettman, NHL commissioner

28 Sep

How much do you know about Gary Bettman?

You no doubt are aware that he came to the NHL from the NBA in 1993, hired as the first commissioner in League history. That he was born in Queens and went to Cornell. That he pushed for NHL expansion into Southern U.S. markets, while he pushed for the Canadian Assistance Plan to help struggling franchises north of the border. That he's presided over a hat trick of work stoppages. That his middle name is Bruce.

Oh, but there's so much more. Jonathan Gatehouse's new book "The Instigator: How Gary Bettman Remade the League and Changed the Game Forever" is a must-read for any fan that's seen the NHL reshaped during Bettman's reign. ("The Instigator" is released on Monday, Oct. 1.) It's also a treasure trove of anecdotes — some well-known, some previously unknown and some that simply had been lost in the timeline.

Here are 10 things we didn't know about Gary Bettman until we devoured Gatehouse's prose.

1. Gary Bettman's Father And Grandfather Owned a Nut Company

Gary Bettman's father Howard operated a business on Canal Street called the Bettman Nut Company, whose tag line was "Betty Nuts Are Better".

Here's a tin in which Howard Bettman stored his nuts.

2. Gary Bettman Doesn't Stop Talking During Car Crashes

Michael Cardozo, a lawyer who worked with the NBA during Bettman's tenure there, remembers him being one the first people he knew with a cell phone. One night, Bettman was driving back to the New Jersey while in contact with the NBA offices on his mobile. He hit some black ice and started skidding.

Bettman, taking a brief beat away from the conversation, said: "I think you're going to hear a crash in a moment."

There was a crash. And Bettman continued the office chatter.

3. Gary Bettman Threw a Tantrum

The labor negotiations in 1994 were intense. So intense that this happened, according to Gatehouse:

Tempers were fraying. At a session in Buffalo—an easy flight from Manhattan and quick drive from Toronto—Bettman himself threw a tantrum, screaming about the unreasonableness of his opponents before stomping out of the room. One of the NHLPA representatives still wonders to this day whether it was real or a tactic—an attempt to channel the NBA's David Stern, a famed and feared yeller: "It didn't really work. It was almost like he was trying it on for size. It was kind of comical, actually."

Well, that probably depended on the amount of stomping we're talking about here: Angry teacher, frustrated younger sibling or Veruca Salt?

4. Gary Bettman Owns a Cartoon of Himself as a Superhero

Bettman has some cool keepsakes in his office, including a 6,000-piece Lego Stanley Cup and a copy of "Canada's Olympic Hockey History" autographed by Stephen Harper. But he also has "a large poster of the commissioner as a costumed superhero, rendered by Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee."

Wonder if Stan Lee based it on this design from our "Gary Bettman: Portraits in Heroism" contest? Excelsior!

5. Gary Bettman Made Owners Meetings More Than Cocktail Hours

'Twas a time when Board of Governors meetings were unruly affairs held on Bill Wirtz's yacht; the stereotypical 'hard drinks in a smoke-filled room' motif where little was accomplished beyond personality clashes and pettiness.

Enter Bettman, who took the thing from the frat house to the boardroom:

One of Gary Bettman's first innovations as the new NHL commissioner was to place microphones around the board table. The owners now had to wait for the little red light to go on to speak, and more importantly, there was a means to cut them off.

The agendas became more formal, too, with reports, presentations, and brief discussion periods rather than formless crosstalk. And it all unfolded according to Robert's Rules of Order, just like the high school debating club back on Long Island. The format hasn't changed in two decades.

So he runs his B.O.G. meetings like an AM political talk radio host controls his callers. Nice.

6. Gary Bettman Wants His Owners To Shut Their Yaps

Jimmy Devellano, you are not alone.

Before the last lockout in 2004-05, Pat Quinn of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Pierre Boivin of the Montreal Canadiens and Tim Leiweke of the Los Angeles Kings were docked "significant amounts of money" for predicting when the lockout would end. Former Atlanta Thrashers owner Steve Belkin was fined $250,000 for informing a Boston newspaper that the NHL was going to use replacement players.

And now you know why the owners aren't squawking to the press.

7. Gary Bettman Is a Telemarketer

According to Gatehouse, Bettman keeps a contact file that's "stuffed with the names and numbers of anyone with money who has ever expressed even a passing interest in the sport" and makes dozens of "cold calls" every month to potential NHL investors and owners.

Keep it up, sir, and one day you'll get those Glengarry leads.

8. Gary Bettman's Biggest Embarrassment Might Be John Spano

Spano was a 33-year-old who claimed to own 10 companies around the world. In 1997, he made a deal to buy the New York Islanders for $165 million. Then things got hinky: He missed payments, wired $5 instead of $5000 and so on. Spoiler: He was broke. Bettman considers it an embarrassment he wishes he could take back, telling Gatehouse:

"We learned from that, and we have better ways of checking now. We use private investigators to probe people's backgrounds—have they been arrested, have they done anything they shouldn't, talk to their references and neighbours, so you know what you are getting. And we use forensic accountants to dig in and make sure the money is really there."

And yet 'Boots' Del Biaggio still happened.

9. Gary Bettman Once Sounded Like a Duck

Anaheim was awarded an expansion franchise the day before Bettman was announced as the new commissioner on Dec. 11, 1992.

The next March, Bettman took part in a press event to officially christen the team as the "Mighty Ducks." As part of the event, Disney head Michael Eisner gave Bettman and Los Angeles Kings owner Bruce McNall duck calls, like a hunter would use before blasting mallards out of the sky with a rifle.

The trio tooted them in unison, in what Eisner called the quack heard 'round the world."

Eisner resigned as CEO three years later.

10. Gary Bettman Was Locked In The Canucks Dressing Room During Gretzky's Record-Breaking Night

We'll just let Gatehouse take this one, from the March 23, 1994, Los Angeles Kings game at the LA Forum, in which Gretzky passed Howe:

The magic moment didn't come in the first period. Still, Bettman followed through with plans for a live, between-periods TV interview in a studio down at ice level. By the time it finished, just before play was to resume, he was in desperate need of a washroom. The nearest at hand was in the visitors' dressing room.

But while the commissioner was using the facilities the Canucks departed for their bench, padlocking the door behind them. Bettman didn't have his cell phone with him, so for long minutes he screamed and pounded on the door, hoping to attract someone's attention. He got lucky. A Vancouver trainer returned to the room to sharpen a skate and set him free.

The commissioner made it back to his seat just in time to see Gretzky snap a Marty McSorley feed past the Canucks' Kirk McLean at 14:47 of the second period. (Vancouver went on to win 6—3, spoiling the party.)

Oh, if only Bettman had been stuck in the actual bathroom and had a wireless mic like in "The Naked Gun". Gretzky scores, ceremony begins, disembodied Bettman voice intones:

"Wayne, they used to call you 'The Great One' (FLUSHES TOILET) but now you're the 'Greatest One'! (HAND DRYER BLOWING) ..."

• • •

So those are 10 things we learned about Gary Bettman. If you have any Gary Bettman Facts you'd like to share, please do so in the comments or on the Twitter with a #GaryBettmanFacts hashtag.

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Tags: contact, father, , , , , Nut,
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Fister fans 9 in a row, Tigers increase lead (Yahoo! Sports)

27 Sep

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Doug Fister throws against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning of a baseball game in Detroit, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

DETROIT (AP) -- Doug Fister was breezing along after striking out nine straight batters and setting an American League record.

Tags: , American League record, , Doug Fister, Fister, increase, , , , , straight batters, Tigers increase,
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