Posts Tagged ‘Update’

The Birmingham Stallions left town for the first time on Saturday night, after playing all 10 regular-season games in the town for which they’re named. And they managed to win their first ever game in Canton, Ohio.

The Stallions beat the New Orleans Breakers, 31-17, in the second of two semifinal contests.

Quarterback J’Mar Smith completed 17 of 27 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown. He rushed for 48 yards and a touchdown, on seven attempts.

The game was in doubt until the Stallions scored a late touchdown to extend the lead to 14. After scoring the first touchdown of the game, New Orleans led 7-0. The game was tied at 14 in the first half.

For the Breakers, quarterback Kyle Sloter completed 22 of 40 passes for 327 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Tight end Sal Canella caught 12 passes for 154 yards.

The Stallions face the Philadelphia Stars next Sunday, July 3, at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson‘s hearing before the NFL and players’ association’s jointly appointed disciplinary officer is scheduled to begin Tuesday, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The NFL is pushing for an indefinite suspension that would last no shorter than one year, according to Andrew Beaton of The Wall Street Journal. Watson would need to apply to be reinstated after the 2022 season, at the earliest.

On Tuesday, Watson reached settlements with 20 of the 24 women who sued him and accused him of sexual misconduct or sexual assault during massage sessions.

The NFL is likely to base its proposed discipline on a fraction of those women’s testimony, a source told Schefter. The league reportedly wasn’t able to speak to some of the women who made allegations against the 26-year-old.

While disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson’s decision apparently could be made within a week, it might take until the beginning of training camp in late July.

Both the league and NFLPA have the option to appeal the officer’s ruling under revised rules for the NFL’s personal conduct policy in the new collective bargaining agreement. Either commissioner Roger Goodell or an independent ruler would then make a final verdict.

The Viking Raiders returned to WWE TV with a bang on Friday’s SmackDown.

Erik and Ivar attacked New Day members Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods as the pair danced in-ring with Shanky. This, seemingly, signifies the Viking pair’s first heel turn on the main roster – it’s long overdue. The Raiders have been spinning their wheels for far too long since first jumping up from NXT in April 2019.

They’ve been going through a rinse and repeat series of mini-pushes that ultimately go nowhere, and that became tedious. Now, as heels, they’ll hopefully start to dominate the division and work their way back towards those now-Unified Tag-Team straps.

This was a good start.

A few matches against New Day should help prep The Viking Raiders for a title tilt whenever WWE decides to stip the belts from fellow heels The Usos. Alternatively, wouldn’t it be something different if the company decided to cast Erik and Ivar as cold wrecking machines who don’t care who they have to mow down?

The Raiders could certainly do with exorcising the demons of that flopped feud with Jimmy and Jey from earlier this year.

The Philadelphia Stars were the best team in the first iteration of the USFL, winning the league championship in two of the USFL’s three seasons. And now the Stars may win the title in the USFL 2.0 as well.

Philadelphia beat the New Jersey Generals 19-14 today to advance to next week’s USFL championship game.

Although the USFL hasn’t really caught on with football fans, averaging just 715,000 viewers per game on TV and playing in front of largely empty stands in Birmingham, the quality of play has been solid. Today’s game was an exciting, back-and-forth battle that was in doubt until the final minute.

Unlike the regular season, in which every game was played in Birmingham, the playoffs are in Canton, Ohio, which appeared to have a slightly larger crowd than the typical regular-season USFL games.

In next week’s championship game, Philadelphia will play the winner of tonight’s game between the New Orleans Breakers and Birmingham Stallions. Breakers-Stallions kicks off at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

The championship game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 3, on Fox.

The new USFL wrapped up its regular season last week and is now heading to the playoffs, so we now have full regular season TV numbers for them. Ben Fischer goes through those at Sports Business Journal, breaking down how the league’s average TV audience of 715,000 (for 36 of its 40 games across Fox, NBC, USA, and FS1; no numbers were available for its four Peacock-only broadcasts) viewers is ahead of the 556,000 the AAF averaged across 20 CBS, TNT and NFL Network telecasts in 2019 before it folded but behind the 1.9 million the XFL averaged across 20 telecasts on ABC, Fox, ESPN, ESPN2 and FS1 in 2020.

It’s interesting that the USFL wound up in the middle of those leagues. Both the XFL and AAF beat it in premiere audience, and the USFL also saw a big Week 1 to Week 2 slide. But the USFL made it through a full regular season, unlike those past two leagues, and its Fox ownership meant it didn’t have the constant financial doom stories that followed the AAF. It’s also notable to see it surpass the AAF considering that the general sports rating environment we’ve seen in many cases lately is “rises from 2020 and 2021, below 2019 and 2018.”

There are some further significant ratings notes in there also. One is that the lowest-rated game of the season was Sunday’s regular-season finale on FS1, which only averaged 181,000 viewers. That’s not great. But it’s notable that there was a more than 3-to-1 edge for games on broadcast TV versus cable games (1 million average viewers for broadcast counting the Fox/NBC simulcast debut’s 3.1 million, 927,000 without that, 305,000 for cable). There’s usually some level of broadcast audience boost versus cable, both because of broadcast networks being in more homes and because of their increased primacy in program guides, but this is a larger split than what we see in most sports.

One possible explanation for that is that the USFL audience might be more casual than diehard. That’s perhaps especially true in a first season, and especially true in a season where teams’ associated cities were just names (with all games played in one location in Birmingham). That likely decreases the incentive for many to really care about a particular team and seek their games out. And that might change in a second season if they stick with the plans to have actual home games for teams then, which could perhaps narrow that broadcast-cable gap.

The really important part for the USFL’s future is how their broadcast partners feel about those ratings. On that front, Fischer spoke to both Fox executive Mike Mulvihill and NBC executive Jon Miller. And both had generally positive things to say, which is particularly notable from Miller considering that his network (unlike Fox) doesn’t have an ownership stake in the league. Here are the key parts of their comments to Fischer:

Mulvihill said “All we wanted to do is demonstrate that spring football can do viewership at the levels of Premier League, NHL regular season, Formula One or MLS. … We want to show we belong in that category, and I think that happened.”

…“The USFL worked for us on a bunch of fronts,” said NBC Sports exec Jon Miller. “Is it a profitable property? All things put together, I would say yes, it was a profitable property for us.”

Miller said NBC was happy with the product, the play quality, the joint production with Fox and the viewership. “It did what we hoped it would do, and we’re excited to begin planning, once this season is over, to talk about 2023.”

Miller does note concerns about the sparse in-person attendance: empty stands do impact the TV presentation. And some of that’s about all regular-season games being held in Birmingham this year and the city names on the franchises just being branding. But the one-location setup was done as a cost-saving move, and was only intended for one year. And Miller said they anticipated low attendance this year, and are working with Fox to address that for next year.

It’s not necessarily that surprising that Fox is fine with how this has played out so far. All their comments have been about being in this for a while, with stated commitments to fund the league for at least three years and a discussed plan of only selling franchises to local groups five to seven years down the road.  That might have evaporated if the league had been a complete ratings disaster, but it wasn’t; it may not have hit the highest possible heights, but as Mulvihill notes, it drew comparable viewership to some other sports, and let Fox and FS1 program new windows with live sports. So it makes sense that they’re carrying on.

But it’s even more notable that NBC looks like they still want to be involved. As they don’t have an ownership stake in the league, their read on the USFL as a TV property is a more objective one. For them to describe it as “profitable” for them is notable. (Of course, unlike Fox, NBC isn’t funding the league, so this doesn’t mean that the overall league was profitable; it means that NBC got more value out of it than they spent on production costs and/or possible rights fees, and we don’t know exactly what their arrangement there was.) And with Miller showing interest in bringing the USFL back to NBC in 2023, that means this property at least currently works for more than just the network that owns it.

Of course, there’s still part of the story to be written here, with the USFL playoffs getting underway in Canton, Ohio this week. The semifinals will air Saturday, with Fox broadcasting the Philadelphia Stars-New Jersey Generals game at 3 p.m. Eastern and NBC carrying the New Orleans Breakers-Birmingham Stallions game at 8 p.m. Eastern. The championship game will take place next Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. We’ll see how the ratings work out for those games, and if that adds to the case for both Fox and NBC to again carry the league in 2023.

The Tampa Bay Lightning spoiled Colorado’s party to stay in the hunt for a third straight Stanley Cup title, beating the Avalanche 3-2 on Friday night in Game 5.

Ondrej Palat scored with 6:22 remaining and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 36 shots in front of a raucous crowd hoping to celebrate the Avalanche’s first championship in 21 years. The Cup was all shined up and in the building, too.

It’s heading back to Tampa for Game 6 on Sunday night. The Lightning trail the best-of-seven series 3-2.

Nikita Kucherov and defenseman Jan Rutta also scored for the Lightning. Valeri Nichushkin and Cale Makar had goals for Colorado. Makar’s third-period tally bounced off the skate of Erik Cernak and through the pads of Vasilevskiy to tie it at 2.

It set the stage for Palat, whose shot slipped through the pads of Darcy Kuemper. A brief hush fell over the crowd.

Tampa Bay regrouped after an emotional Game 4 loss at home on a overtime goal from Colorado forward Nazem Kadri. The Lightning felt the Avalanche might have had too many players on the ice on the winner.

A too many players on the ice penalty was called Friday on Colorado with 2:43 remaining. The Lightning went on the power play and made it so that Colorado couldn’t pull Kuemper until around 30 seconds remaining. They weathered the Avalanche’s late barrage.

Just the Lightning showing their championship mettle. They’ve already rallied back from a 3-2 deficit to Toronto in the first round, and climbed out of a 2-0 hole against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals.

Completing this comeback series win would put them in an entirely different category. Only one team has rallied to capture a Game 7 in the final after trailing 3-1 in a series — the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs.

This is a gritty Lightning squad that’s showing no signs of slowing down even against a speedy Avalanche team and even after all the contests they’ve logged. Tampa Bay has played in 67 postseason games since the start of the first round in 2020. That’s basically an entire extra season.

Their resolve has impressed Lightning coach Jon Cooper. His team improved to 3-0 this season when facing potential elimination games.

The Avalanche are trying to capture their first title since 2001. The Avalanche fans were out in full force — both inside the building (an upper-level ticket on game day was going for around $1,500) and outside at a nearby watch party.

Colorado knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Makar said leading into the game this was the “toughest one that we’ve had so far.”

The Avalanche are 2 for 2 in their visits to the Stanley Cup Final. They also won in 1996, which was their inaugural season in Denver after relocating from Quebec.

Soon after Nichushkin tied it at 1-apiece in the second, Kucherov knocked in a goal off the post. The power-play goal was with Alex Killorn in the box for holding, along with J.T. Compher (holding the stick) and Makar (tripping), making for a 4-on-3 situation.

Rutta zapped some of the energy from the crowd with his first goal of the playoffs. It was on a slapshot from the side that slipped through Kuemper.

It bode well for the Lightning — teams that score the first goal when staring at elimination in the final are 55-25.

“If we had our choice, we would just write our name all the way around the circle (of the Cup),” Cooper cracked before the game.

WWE’s value has dropped from $4.995 billion to $4.485 billion.

Obviously, that’s still a staggering amount of money, but the company’s overall value has gone down 10.21% since reports surfaced in The Wall Street Journal alleging sexual misconduct from Vince McMahon towards a female employee.

That 10.21% equates to $510 million.

IndieWire also reported that some metrics have actually gone up for the promotion. This past week’s editions of Raw and SmackDown, for example, had higher ratings for some segments than WWE has experienced lately. That, of course, could have something to do with the ongoing controversy.

WWE announced McMahon for last Friday’s SmackDown ahead of time, but they kept his showing on Raw under wraps until it happened.

The company’s value fell from $4.995 billion to $4.823 billion within 24 hours of allegations surfacing against Vince and John Laurinaitis. By Friday, that number had dropped to $4.647 billion, and it continued to plummet towards the $4.485 billion figure.

It’ll be interesting to see if things stabilise soon, or if that number will keep dropping. WWE definitely won’t see it as a plus that value has gone down over $500m, that’s for sure.

The Ottawa Senators have signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Capital Commission (NCC) and other investors to build a downtown arena at LeBreton Flats, the team announced Thursday.

“Today’s announcement marks a significant move towards our long-term vision, a downtown arena at LeBreton Flats. We believe that this development will have a major impact on both the Nation Capital Region and our franchise, one that will help to shape the future of the city. We thank the NCC for their collaboration and look forward to working alongside them as we take the next steps on this exciting journey,” the Senators’ statement read.

Several steps remain before finalizing the deal, including working on a lease deal for the land by January.

The Senators were given preferred bidder status to build an arena at LeBreton Flats in 2016, but the agreement fell apart as negotiations between late owner Eugene Melnyk and business partner John Ruddy soured, resulting in ongoing lawsuits.

Securing a bid for the new arena was believed to be one of Melnyk’s final acts before he died in March, according to Postmedia’s Bruce Garrioch.

The Senators’ current arena, the Canadian Tire Centre, is located in Kanata, approximately 25 minutes from the downtown core of Ottawa.

With signing season around the corner, the Nashville Predators and superstar pending unrestricted free agent Filip Forsberg appear to be at an impasse in contract negotiations.

The two sides have made little progress on a new deal since Nashville’s elimination from the playoffs in May, and they remain far apart in both money and contract structure, sources told Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli.

The Predators have begun to look into options to replace Forsberg through trades or free agency, Seravalli added.

General manager David Poile said the parties have discussed max-term deals.

“He’s not signing with us for anything less than eight years,” Poile said, according to NHL.com’s John Glennon.

“We’re still talking, still talking a lot. We just don’t have it done,” Poile added. “We’ve got a deadline coming up here in July. So I wish it was done; I said that two months ago. It’s disappointing.

“I’m sure (they’re disappointed) because they feel we should be offering something different. We feel that we’re in a good spot. We’ve just got to keep working to get this done.”

Forsberg is set to earn a considerable raise from the $6 million he’s made the past six seasons after burying a career-high 42 goals and 84 points in 69 games in 2021-22. The soon-to-be 28-year-old has played his entire 10-year career in Nashville after the Predators acquired him via trade from the Washington Capitals.

In May, Forsberg said his goal is to sign an extension with Nashville.

The Preds have over $21 million in cap space this offseason, according to Cap Friendly.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have yet to engage in notable contract negotiations with two key pending unrestricted free agents, according to TSN’s Chris Johnston.

“Their two most significant players that could hit the market, Jack Campbell and Ilya Mikheyev, what stands out to me is that they haven’t actually really done any negotiating at all with those players,” Johnston said on Tuesday’s edition of “Insider Trading.”

“Certainly, there’s ongoing dialogue, there’s been discussions with the camps of those guys, but no numbers exchanged. No real back-and-forth there.”

The Leafs are permitted to sign either player to an extension at any time. Campbell and Mikheyev can sign elsewhere once free agency opens July 13.

Mikheyev is looking to make something in the $4-million to $5-million range on his next contract, according to Johnston. His previous deal paid him $1.645 million annually, but he’s coming off a career-high 21 goals this past season.

Campbell made $1.65 million over the past two seasons but is due for a raise as well. He made the Atlantic Division All-Star team after a terrific start to the 2021-22 campaign and finished the year with a 31-9-6 record, five shutouts, and a .914 save percentage.

The 30-year-old had an .897 clip in the playoffs as the Leafs faltered in the first round once again.

Toronto has approximately $7.8 million in cap space to work with at the moment, according to CapFriendly.