Openers in Scandinavia
Four National Hockey League (NHL) teams will play their opening games of the season in Scandinavia under the 1,230-game 2009-2010 schedule released on Wednesday by the 30-team North American league. Oct. 2 and Oct. 3, the second and third nights of the campaign, will see Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom and teammate Henrik Zetterberg return home to Sweden to lead the Red Wings against the St Louis Blues at Stockholm. On the same nights, the Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers will meet in Helsinki. The next NHL season will begin on Oct. 1 with four games, including San Jose at Colorado, where the host Avalanche will retire Canadian star Joe Sakic’s jersey No. 19. Other first-night features include Washington at Boston, Montreal at Toronto and Vancouver at Calgary. The Boston Bruins will host the Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park in Boston on New Year’s Day in the annual Winter Classic, an outdoor game that has become one of the NHL’s signature traditions since it began last year. The NHL will take a break in February so top players can compete for their homelands in next year’s Vancouver Winter Olympics. NHL games will end after play on Feb. 14 and games will resume on March 1, the day after the Olympic hockey men’s gold is decided. The season concludes on April 11, with the Stanley Cup playoffs starting three days later.
Bastos price tag US$25.3m
Deposed French champions Lyon on Wednesday agreed to pay rivals Lille 18 million euros (US$25.3 million) for Brazilian midfielder Michel Bastos. The 26-year-old, who was to undergo a medical yesterday, is expected to sign a four-year deal. Bastos scored 14 goals last season and with his accuracy with free-kicks will be seen as the ideal replacement for fellow Brazilian Juninho, who has left for Qatari club Al-Gharafa.
Norton honored with statue
Former heavyweight boxing champion Ken Norton has been honored in his Illinois hometown with a statue in the offices of an organization that provides services to the developmentally disabled. Norton, who lives in California, leaned on a walker as the 1.07m high, 135kg statue was unveiled in Jacksonville on Tuesday. Dozens of people, including three of his sons, were in attendance. Norton, who was in a serious car accident in 1986, compiled a 42-7-1 boxing record from 1967 to 1981. Stephanie Baptist of Pathway Services Unlimited Inc says the man who defeated Muhammad Ali in 1973 has been active in helping the organization meet its mission. “For a small boy of color to come back to a statue and be thought of enough to have a statue of me is unheard of,” Norton said after the ceremony.
Hartson critical after surgery
Former Celtic, Arsenal and Wales striker John Hartson, who is battling cancer, was in a critical condition on Wednesday after emergency brain surgery. The 34-year-old, who had been diagnosed with testicular cancer, underwent neurosurgery to relieve pressure on his brain. A statement from Morriston Hospital in Swansea, south Wales, said cancer was now also present in his lungs. Hartson’s family said in a statement: “His partner Sarah, mum, dad, three children, brother, two sisters and very close friends are all continuing to support John in any way we can. We have been overwhelmed by the support and goodwill from many thousands of football fans, players, clubs and sporting figures and we have drawn strength from this support.”