NHL and union make progress, will meet again soon
NEW YORK — A secret, long-awaited bargaining session has done some good in the NHL labor fight — so much so that the sides already have plans to get back to the bargaining table soon.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and players’ association special counsel Steve Fehr met for long stretches Saturday in an undisclosed location, marking the first time the sides had gotten together for talks in more than two weeks.
“We had a series of meetings over the course of the day and had a good, frank discussion on the most important issues separating us,” Daly told The Associated Press in an email Sunday morning. “We plan to meet again early in the week.”
Daly and Fehr hadn’t met since Oct. 18 when both sides rejected offers, but a series of phone conversations this week did enough to produce a new round of talks. It is unclear how long they were together on Saturday, but the discussions lasted well into the night.
“I agree with what Bill said. Hopefully we can continue the dialogue, expand the group, and make steady progress,” Fehr said Sunday in a statement.
There is a sense of urgency now because nearly two months of the season and the prized Winter Classic have already been called off. The hope of a full season being played is already gone, and if a deal isn’t reached soon, the NHL could be looking at its second lost campaign since 2004.
The lockout reached its 50th day Sunday, but a glimmer of optimism emerged. There have already been 327 games canceled — including the outdoor Winter Classic that was wiped out Friday.
Ian Poulter rallies to win HSBC Champions in China
SHENZHEN, China — Ian Poulter showed he can be a star even when playing only for himself.
One month after leading an improbable European rally in the Ryder Cup, Poulter won for the first time this year. He closed with a 7-under 65 Sunday to come from four shots behind and win the HSBC Champions for his second career World Golf Championships title.
It won’t overshadow what he did at Medinah in the Ryder Cup — five straight birdies to pick up a crucial point in fourballs and winning his singles match to complete a 4-0 week. Even so, it was important to the Englishman that the year not pass without a victory of his own.
“I’ve only been one season without a victory and I certainly didn’t want to go another one,” Poulter said after his two-shot win at Mission Hills. “As well as I’ve played this year, it would have been a disappointment personally to have gone that year without winning.”
Phil Mickelson (68), Jason Dufner (64), Scott Piercy (65) and Ernie Els (67) tied for second. Lee Westwood and Louis Oosthuizen shared the 54-hole lead, but each shot a 72 in the final round to tie for sixth.
Irish lucky ref didn’t call penalty on missed FG
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Coach Brian Kelly concedes Notre Dame got lucky when officials didn’t notice the fourth-ranked Fighting Irish used two players wearing the No. 2 when Pittsburgh missed a 33-yard field goal in the second overtime on Saturday.
The Irish (9-0) won 29-26 in the third overtime, but Pitt kicker Kevin Harper should have been given a second chance because Irish cornerback Bennett Jackson and wide receiver Chris Brown were both on the field wearing the same number. Kelly said Sunday it was a coaching mistake. He says he became aware of it after the play.
It was one of several lucky breaks the Irish got in keeping alive their national championship hopes. Kelly says he doesn’t believe teams are lucky. Instead, they are fortunate to find ways to win.
Grand Forks complex tops 5 million mark for guests
GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Officials with the Ralph Engelstad Arena complex in Grand Forks say more than 5 million people have attended events at the facility since it opened.
The milestone mark was reached Saturday at the hockey game between the University of North Dakota and Boston College.
Arena officials say the complex averages nearly 447,000 event guests per year. It includes people attending events at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the Olympic Arena and the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
The Ralph Engelstad Arena is named for a UND alumnus, benefactor and former goaltender on the school’s hockey team who became wealthy as a property developer and casino owner.
The main arena in the complex, which is home to UND hockey, opened in October 2001 at a cost of more than $100 million.
Ferrer ends qualifier’s run to win Paris Masters
PARIS — David Ferrer ended the amazing run of Polish qualifier Jerzy Janowicz 6-4, 6-3 at the Paris Masters on Sunday, clinching his first Masters title and winning a tour-leading seventh trophy of the season.
The 69th-ranked Janowicz eliminated five top-20 ranked players, including No. 3 Andy Murray, to reach the final. Ferrer’s seven titles is one more than Roger Federer, who did not defend his title in Paris.
The fourth-seeded Spaniard lost his three previous Masters finals — twice to Rafael Nadal and once to Murray. This time he didn’t have a Grand Slam winner in front of him and never looked in real danger, although he did lose his serve early in the second set.
In the fourth game of the match, the entertaining Janowicz hit a booming serve of 150 mph and drew cheers from the crowd at the Bercy arena when he followed up a drop shot with a spectacular volley winner.
In the second set, Ferrer saved two break points and broke Janowicz again to take control of the match at 4-2.
Kentucky fires football coach Joker Phillips
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky football coach Joker Phillips knew after Saturday’s embarrassing loss to Vanderbilt that keeping his job would be tough. The end came a day later.
Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart announced Phillips’ firing Sunday in an open letter on the Wildcats’ web site. The letter stated Phillips would be let go, effective at the end of the season, but athletic department spokesman DeWayne Peevy later said the coach’s status for the final two games was still to being determined.
“We, as coaches, are measured on results,” Phillips said in a statement. “We didn’t get the results we had worked and hoped for, therefore change is needed. In my current 10-year stay at Kentucky, we’ve had some memorable moments as an assistant, coordinator and head coach. We’ve had the opportunity to coach some fine young men and I am grateful to have had the privilege of watching them grow as players, as students and as people.”
The Wildcats lost their eighth straight game on Saturday, a 40-0 home loss to Vanderbilt. It was their worst loss to the Commodores in 96 years. Kentucky (1-9, 0-7 Southeastern Conference) is on the verge of going winless in the conference for the first time in school history.
Kentucky plays Samford on Nov. 17 before closing the season against SEC rival Tennessee.