Buffalo Sabres up for bidding
BUFFALO, N.Y., Feb. 3 (UPI) -- The NHL got tired of waiting for Mark Hamister and opened the bidding for the financially troubled Buffalo Sabres on Monday.
Hamister, a Buffalo businessman, was given a fourth extension by the NHL last month in his attempt to buy the Sabres, who have filed for bankruptcy protection. but he has been unable to finalize the deal. The league now will look elsewhere, although it left open the opportunity for Hamister to stay in the bidding.
"As of (Monday), the period of negotiating exclusivity granted to the Mark Hamister group for the purchase of the Buffalo Sabres has expired," said NHL Chief Legal Officer Bill Daly. "As a result, the club now is free to purchase the franchise. Mr. Hamister remains welcome to pursue the purchase. Our objective remains to find a purchaser who will maintain the franchise in Buffalo."
Monday's decision opens the opportunity for Rochester billionaire Tom Golisano to re-enter the picture.
During his "State of the Game" address last weekend, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman noted that Golisano's initial proposal also included "comparable public sector support."
Hamister and majority partner Todd Berman were introduced as prospective owners of the Sabres in November and were granted the extensions. The NHL, which also has been dealing with the financial troubles of the Ottawa Senators, said Adelphia Communications, the corporation that formerly owned the Sabres, has been exceedingly cooperative with Hamister and Berman.
The reported price tag of $65 million includes the Sabres, Buffalo Bandits of the National Lacrosse League, the relating companies associated with the two teams, and the rights to HSBC Arena. Hamister apparently was unable to gain approval of a $33 million assistance package from New York State that would be used for arena and other capital improvements.
The Sabres, who joined the league in 1970, have been run by the NHL since June, after John Rigas and two sons were indicted on fraud charges following the collapse of Adelphia Communications. Rigas has been accused of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from Adelphia, leaving the team in financial ruin and despair.
Hamister and Berman both have Buffalo roots, having grown up in suburbs of the western New York city. Both were born and raised in the area and intend to hire similar hockey personnel to run the club.
In 1969, brothers Seymour and Northrup Knox were awarded the expansion franchise and controlled it for the next 30 years. Seymour Knox died in 1996, and Northrup Knox arranged the sale of the Sabres to the Rigas family just before his death in 1998.
The Senators filed for bankruptcy on Jan. 9, about a week before the Sabres. Owner Rod Bryden has submitted an offer for the team.
Dorfmeister captures super-G gold
ST. MORITZ, Switzerland, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- Austrian Michaela Dorfmeister shrugged off her inconsistent form Monday by upsetting the favorites in the super-G at the World Championships.
The 29-year-old, an aggressive, powerful skier, beat American Kirsten Clark by two-hundredths of a second.
Dorfmeister, who was born in Eastern Austria, south of Vienna and far from the Alps, has not had the best of times of late after finishing top of the overall standings in last season's World Cup. She didn't reach the podium until Dec. 13 when she climbed the steps at Val d'Isere.
After a vicious knock on the nose the following week on a training run at Lenzerheide, Dorfmeister skied early on the following day when the conditions were better and posted the best time in the downhill.
Few gave her a real chance of taking the gold medal on Monday, though, including Dorfmeister herself.
"I really have a hard time believing what has happened," she said. "I was not expecting this at all because of my difficult season so far. I was very determined, but also relaxed because I didn't have anything to lose. My focus was more on the downhill."
Dorfmeister, who won silver medals in the super-G at the Nagano Olympics and in the 1999 World Championships, will be among the favorites for the women's downhill on Saturday.
Another skier who surpassed expectations was American Jonna Mendes, who claimed bronze with her first podium finish in any discipline.
The favorites, including Renate Goetschl of Austria and Carole Montillet, had bad days. Austrian Goetschl was eighth while Montillet, affected by the wind which picked up later in the day, was a distant 14th.
Montillet, in particular, struggled on the 2,118-metre long Engiadina course, which has a drop of 550 metres. The aggressive, compact snow created problems for her and other big names, who clearly did not employ the right tactics.
Italy's Karen Putzer, second in the World Cup's super-G standings and a winner in the discipline here in December 2001, had an even worse day. She crossed the line in 24th.
The American women shocked everyone on Monday. Clark is the leader in the World Cup downhill standings, but is seventh in the super-G. She had never grabbed a medal at the Olympics or the World Championships.
American Bode Miller's run in the super-G got him a silver medal in Sunday's men's competition.
Mendes, 23, was an even longer shot. She is 14th in the super-G World Cup table and before Monday had never reached a podium in the World Cup, World Championships or Olympics.
After the first two events, only Austrians and Americans have clinched medals.
Reigning Olympic champion Daniela Ceccarelli of Italy skied out of the course and American Carolyn Lalive continued to struggle in big events when she failed to negotiate the run successfully on Monday.
Peyton Manning expresses his anger
HONOLULU, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- Veteran quarterback Payton Manning of Indianapolis has made his anger clear about the negative comments made by a Colts teammate last week.
In a sideline interview Sunday at the Pro Bowl, Manning called placekicker Mike Vanderjagt an "idiot." He made the comment to analyst Lynn Swann.
"Here we are," Manning said. "I'm out at my third Pro Bowl. I'm about to go in and throw a touchdown to Jerry Rice, we're honoring the Hall of Fame, and we're talking about our idiot kicker who got liquored up and ran his mouth off. What has the sports world come to? We are talking about idiot kickers. He has ruined kickers for life. The sad thing is, he's a good kicker. He's a good kicker, but he's an idiot."
When he first heard about Vanderjagt's comments last week, Manning said he did not care about what people said about him.
Statistically, Vanderjagt is the most accurate placekicker in NFL history, but had, for him, a horrible season in 2002, making 23-of-31 field goal attempts for a five-year career-low percentage of 74.2.
Manning seemed to indicate that Vanderjagt's days as a Colt might be numbered.
"When I get home, I'll deal with it," Manning said. "If he is still a teammate, we'll deal with it. That remains to be seen."
In an interview on a cable television sports-talk show last week, Vanderjagt was openly critical of Manning and Coach Tony Dungy.
"I think you need a motivator," he said. "Coach Dungy, he's just a mild-mannered guy. He doesn't get too excited, he doesn't get too down and I don't think that works either. I think you need a guy that is going to get in somebody's face when they're not performing well enough. Peyton and Tony are basically the same guy. They work hard, they mark their Xs and Os and go out and execute. If it doesn't happen, there's nothing we can do about it. I'm not a real big Colts fan right now, unfortunately. I just don't see us getting better (in the future)."
Ankle injury sidelines Weight
SUNRISE, Fla., Feb. 3 (UPI) -- St. Louis Blues center Doug Weight is expected to miss up to 10 days after suffering an ankle injury in the NHL All-Star game.
Weight, who is second in the league with 44 assists, was injured with 16 1/2 minutes left in regulation Sunday. He took a slap shot off the stick of Vancouver defenseman Ed Jovanovski.
On Monday, Weight, 31, underwent an MRI and the results were negative. He was diagnosed with a deep bone bruise and will be sidelined seven to 10 days.
An extended loss of Weight would have been a huge blow to the Blues, who have played all season without injured captain Chris Pronger, a former Hart and Norris Trophy winner. They are 28-15-6-4 and lead the Central Division by two points over the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.
"We've been through so many injuries this year as it is," said defenseman Al MacInnis on Sunday. "We were hoping that we weren't going to have anymore."
Weight leads the Blues and is tied for ninth in the NHL in scoring with 55 points. However, the four-time All-Star is mired in the longest goal-scoring drought of his 12-year career, a 28-game dry spell that dates back to Dec. 5.
Also Monday, the Blues recalled defenseman Christian Backman and center Eric Nickulas from the Worcester IceCats of the American Hockey League.
Backman, 22, has 21 points in 50 games for the Ice Cats this season. The 6-4, 204-pound defenseman, the Blues' first-round pick in the 1998 NHL draft, played in four preseason games with the Blues this season, recording two penalty minutes.
Nickulas, 27, signed as a free agent last summer, has 13 goals and six assists in 25 contests with Worcester. He was named the team captain at the start of the season, and is fourth on the IceCats in goals and tied for first with three game-winning goals.
Nickulas was originally Boston's fourth-round pick in the 1994 NHL draft, and made his NHL debut with the Bruins on Jan. 6, 1999 against Toronto.
Ricky Williams Pro Bowl MVP
HONOLULU, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- Ricky Williams did not make the playoffs, but he was the star of the show in the NFL's Pro Bowl Sunday.
Williams rushed for 56 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries, caught three passes for 18 yards and forced a fumble on special teams to earn player of the game honors as the AFC won the Pro Bowl with a 45-20 whipping of the NFC.
The NFL rushing champion with 1,853 yards, Williams scored on a pair of one-yard runs in the first half and the AFC built a 28-6 lead at the break. He also forced a fumble by Jeremy Shockey of the New York Giants on a kickoff return.
The NFC committed seven turnovers, six of which were interceptions.
Brad Johnson of the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers threw two touchdowns in the fourth quarter but also as intercepted twice.
Donovan McNabb of the Philadelphia Eagles was picked off once.
Safety Rod Woodson of the Oakland Raiders, who tied for the league lead in interceptions with eight, had two of the picks and cornerback Ty Law of the New England Patriots returned one 46 yards for a touchdown.
A week after throwing a Super Bowl record five interceptions against the Buccaneers, Rich Gannon of the Raiders completed 12 of 18 passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns for the AFC. He had won the Pro Bowl player of the game award each of the previous two years.
The NFL's regular season MVP, Gannon hit tight end Tony Gonzalez of the Kansas City Chiefs with an 11-yard touchdown in the first quarter and connected with running back Travis Henry of the Buffalo Bills on a 13-yard scoring play in the second.