The expectation back in June was that the NHL and NHL Players’ Association would have some kind of World Cup announcement by the end of summer, but that’s going to wait a bit longer.

Both sides have an understanding that they will wait to get more concrete details in order, including being able to commit firmly to a regular interval for the tournament, which hasn’t been held since 2004 when Canada beat Finland in the final at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

In other words, while the NHL and NHLPA could have easily announced by now that the event is returning in September 2016, they want to have much more to give than that.

What we know at this point: The World Cup is scheduled to return in September 2016, primarily anchored in Toronto, but there may also be some games in Montreal. That’s still in discussion.

[+] EnlargeTeam Canada at 2004 World Cup
Dave Sandford/Getty ImagesThe World Cup hasn't been held since 2004 when Canada beat Finland in the final at Air Canada Centre.
There likely will be eight countries in the tournament, which is the same as 2004 and 1996. There are six countries fixed: Olympic champion Canada, Russia, the United States, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic. The additional two teams and the manner in which they will be selected hasn’t been nailed down yet. It might be a pure invitational situation where two countries are handed entries, or there could be a play-in tournament for those last two spots. My vote is for the latter, although without question that comes with more logistical challenges. My guess is the play-in part would be overseas for obvious reasons.

What possibly could also be part of a World Cup announcement -- although it depends on the timing of it over the next few months -- is the return of the Premiere Games. The NHL hopes to have regular-season games back across the pond next season, but no firm details are finalized on that front.

Meanwhile, is an Olympic decision tied directly to a World Cup announcement? Not necessarily, and one source even suggested, "probably not." They don’t need to be tied to each other. The NHL and NHLPA can announce World Cup plans for the next few years without having to know exactly what they’re doing on the Olympic front.

I think the NHL and NHLPA would like to make a decision as quickly as possible about whether NHL players will continue to play in the Olympics. But part of the issue is that they’re not sure where the IOC stands with respect to whether the same types of accommodations would be available to NHL players in South Korea in 2018. The standard was set really high in Sochi last February. NHL players who participated raved about the venues, the logistics, the lodging, well, pretty much everything. (The lone exception would be the handling by the IOC of the Nicklas Backstrom doping controversy.) No offense to the Vancouver Games in 2010, but it was the best NHL player experience ever.

Now, I’m not sure that even if the IOC guaranteed the exact same high-level setup in South Korea that NHL owners and commissioner Gary Bettman would vote yes. That’s to be determined. But the NHLPA would almost surely be a yes if the players were guaranteed the same standard as Sochi.

However, where both the NHL and NHLPA are on the same page right now is that they need to at least find out if the IOC can deliver those goods for South Korea, and right now that answer hasn’t been delivered.

There is still much to be determined on the international front; the only thing that's basically assured at this point is that there will be World Cup hockey in two years.

JOHANSEN UPDATE
It’s been a long time since there were actual talks between Ryan Johansen's camp and the Columbus Blue Jackets, but that’s expected to change any day.

Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen and agent Kurt Overhardt each confirmed via text to ESPN.com on Friday that they plan to meet sometime this weekend while both are in Traverse City, Michigan, for the rookie tournament.

It’s believed both sides are about $3 million apart per year on a new two-year deal for the restricted free agent.

NEUVIRTH REFRESHED
The most frustrating season of Michal Neuvirth's career is behind him, and he’s refreshed, re-energized and ready for the challenge in Buffalo this season.

"Super-excited," Neuvirth told ESPN.com this week.

That’s about the exact opposite he was feeling last season. Once seen as the future No. 1 goalie in Washington -- appearing in 48 games with the Caps in 2010-11 and 38 games in 2011-12 -- Neuvirth lost the net to Braden Holtby. But what was obviously tough to swallow last season is that, while Holtby struggled, Neuvirth felt he didn’t get much of a chance to get back in. He appeared in only 13 games with the Caps, and agent Patrik Stefan was working with Caps management behind the scenes to try to get Neuvirth dealt. All the while, his lack of playing time is likely what cost him a chance at an Olympic roster spot for his native Czech Republic.

All in all, a season to forget.

"It was frustrating, but you got to take it for what it is, and I think it made me stronger," Neuvirth said. "You got to go through tough times in your career sometimes. I feel it’s going to make me better and stronger for the long run. I’m just focused now on the opportunity I have here in Buffalo and [will] play the best I can for the Sabres."

The Caps dealt Neuvirth to the Sabres at the trade deadline, where he'll compete in goal this season with Jhonas Enroth, who as the incumbent likely would start the season with just a bit of an edge. But they’re both 26, both eager to prove much, and the sense is both will get a fair chance.

"The net is up for grabs," Neuvirth said. "Right now we’ve got two No. 1s. Jhonas is a great goaltender and I like him as a person, I respect him as a goalie. It’s going to be a good competition. We’re going to push each other every day to get better, and I think we’re going to be a good tandem."

In the meantime, Neuvirth goes to camp next week as ready as he’s ever been.

"I’ve been working hard in the offseason, focusing on my core, on my groin and hips, they feel like never before," he said. "I feel a lot stronger and my goal is to play as many games as I can."

As for the last-place Sabres, there’s a sense of renewal all-around after a busy offseason.

"We had some great signings here," Neuvirth said over the phone from Buffalo. "We have good leadership. It’s going to be a hardworking team that plays as a group, a team that never gives up on a loose puck. I think that we’re going to surprise some people this year."

Kipsang, other NYC elites by the numbers

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
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Wilson KipsangAP Photo/Sang TanWilson Kipsang set the world marathon record last fall and makes his NYC debut in November.
As if a star-studded American field wasn't enough, the 2014 TSC New York City Marathon has added men's world record holder Wilson Kipsang to its Nov. 2 lineup.

The New York Road Runners finalized their elite athlete field with the announcement of Olympic medalists and past NYC champions from around the world.

“We’re proud to welcome Wilson, a world-renowned marathon icon; Buzunesh Deba, the ultimate running ambassador for our City; and an unparalleled field to “get their New York on” with every stride they take through the City’s five boroughs, as they lead runners from Staten Island to Central Park,” NYRR CEO Mary Wittenberg said in a press release.

Last fall, Kipsang set the world record of 2:03:23 in Berlin. Earlier this year he won the 2014 Virgin Money London Marathon in a course-record time of 2:04.27. The addition of Kipsang threatens two-time defending New York Marathon champion Geoffrey Mutai’s goal of winning his third consecutive New York City Marathon.

2010 NYC champion Gebre Gebremariam is also entered in the field.

(Read full post)

Six-time Olympic gold medalist Amy Van Dyken-Rouen stopped by the “Today” show on Friday morning to talk about her continued recovery after being paralyzed in an ATV accident in June. Joined by her husband, Tom, the swimming legend explained to Matt Lauer how her competitive spirit has helped her rehabilitation and discussed her increased spirituality.

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But the inspiring Olympic hero didn’t just talk with Lauer during her 30 Rock visit. Van Dyken-Rouen met and posed for pictures with Usher and Andy Cohen during the show.

As mentioned in her interview, Van Dyken-Rouen was heading to her home to Arizona after the show for the first time since the accident. She expressed her excitement for her homecoming on Twitter.

Could there be a more positive and inspiring person? Good luck, Amy. Everyone is rooting for you.

Check out more from D'Arcy and espnW.com.

Reaction: Lolo Jones on 'DWTS' cast

September, 4, 2014
Sep 4
2:16
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Hurdler, bobsledder ... ballroom dancer? Yes, Lolo Jones is taking on another new role, as the three-time Olympian will be a contestant on "Dancing With the Stars."

Here is some reaction to Thursday's announcement:

Rock 'n' Roll Philly boasts stacked field

September, 3, 2014
Sep 3
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Dathan RitzenheinAP Photo/Charlie RiedelDathan Ritzenhein has run for the U.S. on the world stage and will take on the world's best in Philly.
Race organizers for the 2014 Rock N’ Roll Philadelphia Half-Marathon have assembled one of the deepest fields of the fall, including several marathon champions and Olympians.

“Philadelphia is one of the most famous half-marathons in the U.S. and we have a world-class field to match a world-class event,” Elite athlete coordinator Matthew Turnbull said.

Dathan Ritzenhein headlines the American field. The three-time Olympian makes a return to the roads after an injury forced him to withdraw from April’s Boston Marathon. Ritzenhein did not race on the track this summer, and in Philadelphia he will be challenged by 2014 Boston Marathon surprise Jeffrey Eggleston.

Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai will also use this race as a tuneup with his sights are set on a three-peat in the New York City Marathon in November.

Kara Goucher, also returning from injury, leads the field of American women. This will be her first long-distance race since leaving her Nike training group and inking a deal with Oiselle and Sketchers. Goucher's toughest challenger will Deena Kastor, the fastest American woman ever over 13.1 miles, who is looking to extend her road-racing career.

Here’s a look at the field by the numbers:

(Read full post)

Usain Bolt: Let them play cricket at 2020 Games

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
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We've seen Usain Bolt on the soccer pitch. We've seen him "try out" for the New York Giants. Now, he's playing cricket.

On Tuesday, the world's fastest man was in Bangalore, where his sponsor, Puma, organized a seven-a-side, four-over match against Yuvraj Singh and more of India's top stars at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. Bolt, who played cricket as a child before taking the world by storm on the track, talked about his visit with cricinfo.com:

video

Bolt added that he thought cricket's inclusion in the Olympics, perhaps beginning in 2020, would be huge for the sport given the Games' large worldwide audience.

Here are some more images from Bolt's first visit to India:

Usain BoltManjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty ImagesTuesday's exhibition cricket match was organized by Puma, which sponsors both Usain Bolt and Yuvraj Singh.

Usain BoltManjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty ImagesAfter Bolt's squad won Tuesday's exhibition cricket match against some of India's top players, Yuvraj Singh got a little revenge in a 100-meter sprint. Bolt recently decided not to formally compete on the track until the 2015 season.






ICYMI: Katie Ledecky's big finish at Pan Pacs

August, 25, 2014
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Here's a recap of Katie Ledecky's record-winning weekend at the Pan Pacific championships in Gold Coast, Australia:

video

Countdown to Rio: Storylines to watch

August, 5, 2014
Aug 5
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Usain BoltPaul Gilham/Getty ImagesThe 2016 Summer Olympics will likely be Usain Bolt's last.

The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are two years out from Tuesday. Here are some early storylines to keep on the radar:

Michael Phelps: Will he or won’t he?

After retiring from swimming following the 2012 London Games, the most decorated Olympian of all-time is back in the pool. But will the 29-year-old Phelps add to his 22-medal total? Since returning to competitive races, he has been careful to say what his Olympic intentions are, so the Phelps Watch continues. In the meantime, he will compete in four events at this week’s U.S. Championships.

Brazil as host

The success of the World Cup boosted some morale within the International Olympic Committee that Rio de Janeiro could host a large sporting event like the Summer Games. A special task force was assembled to keep an eye on the project and address concerns on the preparations. On Monday, a Brazilian newspaper estimated that while only 25 percent of construction is competed, workers remain on schedule.

[+] EnlargeAlan Fonteles Oliveira
Phillippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty ImagesAlan Oliveira won 200-meter gold at the 2012 London Paralympic Games.

Usain Bolt’s treble-treble

The Jamaican world-record holder looks to become the first runner to win three gold medals in three consecutive Olympics. Bolt is carefully mapping out his road to Rio, as a foot injury has sidelined him for most of the 2014 season. He won three gold medals at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow and will use 2015’s edition in Beijing as a lead-up to his final Summer Games. Bolt has also said he aims to better his world record in the 200 meters before retiring.

Kerri Walsh Jennings back for more

After three consecutive beach volleyball gold medals with Misty May-Treanor by her side, Kerri Walsh Jennings looks to make her fifth U.S. Olympic team. She is now partnered with April Ross and has moved to the right side of the sand in the transition. Ross and playing partner Jennifer Kessy lost to May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings in the all-American final at the London Games.

Winning streaks for women

Walsh Jennings isn’t the only woman looking to continue her Olympic winning streak in Rio. In London, Kim Rhode became the first American athlete to win five medals in an individual event in five consecutive Olympics after locking up another gold in women’s skeet. The U.S. women’s basketball team also will vie for a sixth consecutive gold medal and ninth overall. After the U.S. rowing team won its second gold in the women’s event, it won team titles at the 2013 World Rowing Cup in Lucerne and 2013 World Rowing Championships in Chungju, South Korea.

(Read full post)

New Team USA uniforms: Yay or nay?

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
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Heads up, hoops fans: Nike has yet another new Team USA uniform for you to feast your eyes on!

On Friday, the company officially unveiled the U.S. men's national basketball team's gear for the upcoming FIBA Basketball World Cup, which begins Aug. 30 in Spain. Check 'em out:

Kevin DurantNikeKevin Durant, you are the real MVP!


The home and away looks:

USA UniformsNike
USA UniformsNike


So, what do you think of the uniforms? Cast your vote or write a comment below:

SportsNation

Do you like the new Team USA basketball uniforms?

  •  
    82%
  •  
    18%

Discuss (Total votes: 1,886)



Keflezighi returns to New York Marathon

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
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Meb KeflezighiAP Photo/Charles KrupaMeb Keflezighi will attempt to get the rare Boston/NYC double victory this year.
Reigning Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi will run the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon on Nov. 2 as an ambassador for the Team for Kids Charity Program, the New York Road Runners announced on Thursday. The 2004 Olympic silver medalist is the first elite runner announced by NYRR for the 2014 edition of the race.

Keflezighi in April became the first American man since 1983 to win Boston, and his 2009 victory in the NYC Marathon was the first for an American man there since 1982.

"I am excited to be running the TCS New York City Marathon for the ninth time. This is a very special race and city for me,” Keflezighi said. "Additionally, I am honored to be a Team for Kids Ambassador and raise funds for the MEB Foundation."

The NYRR also announced that tennis pro Caroline Wozniacki, formerly the WTA's No. 1-ranked player, will be running in New York.

"I can’t wait to trade my tennis racquet for a pair of running shoes and take part in the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon as a New York Road Runners Team for Kids Ambassador," said Wozniacki.

As for Keflezighi, his return to New York offers up some interesting notes.

Meb by the numbers

6 – Only five men have doubled as the Boston Marathon and New York City Marathon champion in the same year. Bill Rodgers accomplished the feat twice, in 1978 and 1979. Alberto Salazar was the last American to do so, in 1982. Kenyans Joseph Chebet (1999), Rodgers Rop (2002) and Geoffrey Mutai (2011) are the most recent.

6 – Keflezighi has finished in the top 10 of the New York City Marathon six times in his career.

9 – 2014 will mark the ninth time that Keflezighi has raced 26.2 miles through the streets of New York.

14 – Since its inaugural race in 1970, there have only been 14 American winners of the New York City Marathon. There has been only one since Alberto Salazar’s third consecutive crown from 1980 to 1982: Keflezighi in 2009.

23 – Just four years removed from his victory, Keflezighi placed 23rd in last year’s NYC marathon. Calf cramping slowed him down to the point where he walked for a few minutes, yet he was determined to cross the finish line.

39 – Keflezighi turned 39 years old on May 5. He was the oldest winner of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in 2012, when he was 36. Geoffrey Mutai was 30 and 32 when he won the NYC Marathon in 2011 and 2013.

What Blake Griffin's absence means for Team USA

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
3:30
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Brian Windhorst explains why Blake Griffin's absence from Team USA's roster for the FIBA World Cup is both a blessing and a curse:

Alan Webb enjoying transition to triathlon

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
12:49
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Alan WebbAndy Lyons/Getty ImagesAfter much track success on the national level, Alan Webb is now focused on triathlons.
Five months into his triathlon career Alan Webb is progressing quickly and, perhaps more important, feeling mentally recharged, according to an update on the U.S. Olympic Committee's site.

Webb, who holds the American record in the mile, has done three individual triathlons since running his last elite track race on February 15 at the Millrose Games. In his most recent, held last July 26 in Magog, Quebec, Webb placed second and was 2 seconds behind 2012 Canadian Olympic triathlete Kyle Jones.

The sprint-distance triathlon was comprised of a 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run. Not surprisingly, Webb had the fastest run time of the day at 14:20, which was four seconds faster than Jones. In fact, Webb was also four seconds faster than Jones on the bike and only one second slower on the swim.

Perhaps showing his inexperience in the sport, Webb lost out in the two transitions where he was four and five seconds slower than Jones.

"One of the exciting things about Alan is probably what we don’t know," Webb's coach, Jonathan Hall, told the USOC. "He’s already competing at a high level, and there’s a huge margin for the unknown and improvement."

After a stellar high school career -- including setting the U.S. prep mile record of 3:53.43 in 2001 -- Webb had wildly fluctuating results during the rest of his time as an elite runner. Highs included winning the 2004 Olympic Trials 1500-meter final and setting the American mile record of 3:46.91 in 2007. He is also one of two men in history to run under 1:44 for 800 meters and 27:40 for 10,000 meters.

But Webb was erratic and often injured as a pro. In the last part of his career, he had four coaches within a span of a few years. He failed to advance from his 5000-meter qualifying heat at the 2012 Olympic Trials. In recent years he often ran slower than when he was in high school, and the frustration was palpable.

At Hall's urging, Webb watched a sprint triathlon last fall and decided it was time for a change.

"I wanted to see growth in myself again," Webb told the USOC. "I finally got to the point where I was comfortable saying that I had given everything I had as a professional track athlete."

Webb told the USOC that he's taking his progression in his new sport as it comes, but said about being on the 2016 Olympic team that "I’d be lying if I didn’t say that was my goal."

World Cup litmus test for 2016 Olympics

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15
11:42
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With the World Cup in the rear-view mirror, Rio now looks ahead to the 2016 Summer Olympics. Rio 2016 director of communications Mario Andrada says the World Cup provided insight into some of the challenges of hosting an event like the Games:

PhelpsChristian Petersen/Getty ImagesMichael Phelps will race again in two weeks at a Grand Prix meet in Charlotte, N.C.

MESA, Ariz. -- Michael Phelps finished 42nd in Friday's 50 freestyle heats and did not qualify for the evening final. But that wasn't bad considering he was swimming the butterfly stroke in that event.

Why did Phelps swim the fly stroke in a free race? It's unusual, but not unheard of. The racing schedule didn't present a desirable event for Phelps on Friday, especially since one of the options was the 400 IM.

"I'm not ready for a 400 IM. I don't think I will ever be ready for that race again," Phelps said. "I will not swim the 400 IM, that I guar-an-tee you. So do not ask that question."

To that comment, coach Bob Bowman asked humorously, "Is that kind of like, 'I will never ever swim again after London?'"

With limited options, Phelps and Bowman decided to use the 50 free as a chance to work on the swimmer's signature fly stroke. They were pleased with the results. Phelps bettered his split time from Thursday's 100 fly final by seven-tenths of a second (24.06).

Asked whether his emphasis on shorter distances here was an indication of his future strategy in his return to competitive swimming, Phelps replied, "It's a good starting point, just to get some races under my belt. The schedule today wasn't really ideal for what I should swim at this moment."

Because Phelps did not qualify for the evening finals -- now that would have been a story -- the 50-free heat wrapped up his racing at the Arena Grand Prix. He is next entered in the Charlotte Grand Prix in two weeks, and Bowman said they would approach the meet with the same style, swimming one or two days.

Phelps appeared to greatly enjoy the experience. He repeatedly said he was having fun, and his expression, demeanor and engaging press conferences indicated that was indeed the case.

"I don't know what it was like here last year, but I know it is more exciting when you have the excitement level we had here," he said. "With kids that are cheering, with people packing the stands every single session, the tickets selling out in a handful of hours after I said I was coming back -- it's pretty special.

"I can't thank people enough for supporting me and cheering me on. It is pretty special to see the excitement on a lot of kids' faces. That is something that is amazing, just being able to have them around and have them enjoy a swim meet."


MESA, Ariz. -- Michael Phelps couldn't wait to get back in the pool and compete again.

After his 18-month retirement from competitive swimming, Phelps worked his way past a multitude of cameras to the starting area Thursday. Then he stepped up on the starting block earlier than he normally does, feeling antsier before a race than he has since he probably was 10 years old. And once he was on the block and could hear the crowd buzz, he actually smiled.

And this was not at an Olympic or world or U.S. championship event. It was a Grand Prix meet. And just the morning heat in the 100-meter butterfly, at that.

"I was just so excited to swim," Phelps said after winning his qualifying group. "It was strange. I was probably up to the block a little too early, but I was just so excited to get in and race. You're going to hear this word come out of my mouth a lot -- this was fun.

"I felt like I was a summer-league swimmer today. I was so excited to get out of the block. I felt like I should have my heat and lane written on my hand in case I forget it."

Well, in case he did forget, he would have had plenty of people to point him in the right direction. Phelps' first competitive race since retiring after the 2012 London Olympics drew a sellout crowd to the outdoor pool at Mesa's Skyline Aquatics Center on a sunny, 90-degree day. And there were nearly as many reporters and camera people on hand, as well, for Phelps' return to competitive swimming in the 100 butterfly.

There was so much attention, Phelps said rival and teammate Ryan Lochte joked that the two Olympic medalists should just mess around and advance to the C final and see which race got the most hype. "I said, 'No, let's try to get into the big final,'" Phelps said.

They did. Right after Lochte swam a 52.94 in the 13th heat, Phelps swam the top qualifying time of 52.84 in the final heat. He was second after the first 50 meters, then took control in the final 50 and won easily. The final is this evening, tentatively scheduled for 9:18 p.m. ET.

"I could tell when he came in and I saw him warm up that it was going to be good, that he's feeling good, that he was into it," coach Bob Bowman said. "He's got one race under his belt and he made the nationals qualifying cut."

True. Because Phelps had officially retired after the 2012 Olympics, his time re-qualified him for the U.S. national standard. Asked when he last had to swim a qualifying time for the U.S. team, Phelps thought a bit and said, "When I was 13?"

When a reporter later asked about his goals and the 2016 Rio Olympics, Phelps shrugged it off. "Hey, I just made the national cut! One step at a time!" he said. "Nah, I have a race tonight and that's all I'm concentrating on right now."

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