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Hertl to lead Sharks against Predators in hometown Prague

PRAGUE (AP) — After the San Jose Sharks missed the NHL playoffs for a third straight season, Tomas Hertl is determined to turn things around.

Starting the new season in front of his hometown fans only adds to his motivation.

The Sharks and the Nashville Predators will open the regular season with matches on Friday and Saturday at Prague’s O2 Arena as part of the league’s return to Europe for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m glad I have a chance to play here, it might not happen again,” Hertl said after a training in front of a cheering crowd on Thursday.

The 28-year-old Czech center, who was drafted by the Sharks 10 years ago, recently signed a $65.1 million, eight-year contract to remain in San Jose. And he knows what kinds of expectations comes with that kind of money.

“I want to get San Jose back to the playoffs and I’m ready to do all I can to make it happen,” Hertl said.

New San Jose coach David Quinn hoped the circumstances provide a boost for his team.

“It’s a new season, it’s our opener so there’s a level of excitement unlike the other games you play throughout the season,” Quinn said. “But I think playing with Tomas in his hometown and being able to watch how excited he is certainly should provide a little bit of extra motivation for our guys.”

The Sharks also have Czech defenseman Radim Simek.

It’s the ninth season overall that the NHL comes to Europe as part of its efforts to grow the local fan base in hockey-mad countries like the Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland and others.

The Sharks have contested four previous games outside North America. They faced the Columbus Blue Jackets in Stockholm in two games in 2010 after they played the Calgary Flames for a couple of games in Tokyo in 1998.

Nashville has never played a regular-season game in Europe before. The Predators were set to open the 2020-21 season in Prague against the Boston Bruins before the pandemic scrapped the NHL’s plans.

Friday’s opener in Prague will mark the first NHL game in Europe since the Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres faced off in Stockholm on Nov. 9, 2019.

The Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers were the last NHL teams to play in Prague on Oct 4, 2019.

The league’s 2022 Global Series will be completed in Tampere, Finland, where the defending Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche will face the Blue Jackets in another pair of regular-season games on Nov. 4-5.

The Predators hope to continue a run of eight straight playoff berths, an accomplishment that is tied with Washington for the second-longest active streak in the NHL.

They have added players to the team who could help make it happen, including defenseman Ryan McDonagh from Tampa and right winger Nino Niederreiter from the Carolina Hurricanes. They also signed Filip Forsberg to an extension after he and fellow forward Matt Duchene each tied the franchise record with 38 goals.

“We haven’t been really focused to say we’re better, we’ve got to perform,” Predators coach John Hynes said. “We like the players that we have, we like the additions that we had to our team. … Now, it’s upon us, coaches and players, to put the work in and get to the identity we want to get to and be very consistent in how we play and then, our actions will determine how good we are.”

Duchene finished last season with 86 points, with Forsberg just behind on 84 in 69 games.

“I’m not really worrying about numbers,” Duchene said about his goals for the new season.

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Murray has 25 points to lead Hawks past Bucks in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Dejounte Murray scored 25 points in his Atlanta debut and the Hawks beat the Milwaukee Bucks 123-113 on Thursday in the NBA’s first game in the United Arab Emirates and the Arabian Gulf.

The teams will play another preseason game on Saturday at Etihad Arena.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 19 points. Jevon Carter scored 17 points off Milwaukee’s bench.

Murray added nine assists, eight rebounds and two blocked shots. His backcourt partner, Trae Young, added 22 points with three assists. Murray was acquired from the San Antonio Spurs for three first-round picks in the Hawks’ biggest offseason move.

Murray and Young combined to make 13 of 16 free throws, all in the first half.

The game featured the NBA’s three Holiday brothers. Aaron Holiday had 16 points and Justin Holiday added nine for the Hawks. Jrue Holiday had 12 points for the Bucks.

De’Andre Hunter had 17 points for Atlanta.

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MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

PHOENIX (AP) — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics — who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors — finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years — even before the pandemic — after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.

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Motorcycling-British great Phil Read dies aged 83

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Phil Read, the first motorcycle rider to win world championships in the 125cc, 250cc and 500cc grand prix categories, died on Thursday aged 83, his family said.

Read, who competed in the world championship from 1961 to 1976, was a seven-times world champion and an eight-times winner at the Isle of Man TT races.

His son posted a statement on Instagram announcing the death.

Read became Yamaha’s first world champion in 1964 on a 250cc bike and took four more titles with the Japanese manufacturer. He won the 500cc championships in 1973 and 1974 with Italian brand MV Agusta.

A rival of compatriot Mike “The Bike” Hailwood and Italian great Giacomo Agostini, Read retired with 52 grand prix wins and in 2002 was declared a “MotoGP Legend” by series promoters Dorna.

Yamaha paid tribute to him as “truly one of motorcycle racing’s greats”.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond)


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No world ranking points for next 2 LIV events despite MENA deal

The Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) organization released a statement Thursday saying that no world rankings points will be given to LIV golfers over their next two events ,despite the partnership the circuit struck with the MENA Tour.

LIV Golf on Wednesday announced its “strategic alliance” with MENA (Middle East and North Africa), which is recognized by the OWGR.

The deal was completed, ostensibly, in the hopes of LIV golfers being able to accrue world ranking points immediately, circumventing the one-year wait of its direct application to OWGR to receive points.

In its statement, OWGR said it received communication from the MENA Tour on Wednesday of a series of changes, including an outline listing its 2022-23 tournaments. The first two listed happened to be LIV events – Bangkok (Friday-Sunday) and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (Oct. 14-16).

“Notice of these changes given by the MENA Tour is insufficient to allow OWGR to conduct the customary necessary review ahead of the LIV Golf Invitational Bangkok (7-9 October) and LIV Golf Invitational Jeddah (14-16 October),” OWGR posted to its website and social media.

“Only after the review is complete will a decision be made on awarding points to the MENA Tour’s new ‘Limited Field Tournaments,’ defined by the MENA Tour in its Regulations as ‘any MENA Tour-approved tournament, which comprises of a player field of less than 80 players.'”

OWGR recognized the MENA Tour beginning in 2016. MENA was founded in 2011.

LIV sent a letter to OWGR last month urging its inclusion in the points-ranking system. At issue is that OWGR standings are used to determine exemptions for golf’s four major championships and to qualify for the Olympics.

The OWGR board began consideration of LIV’s application for inclusion in a meeting that took place at The Open in St. Andrews in July. The application process can take up to a year.

However, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley are among the OWGR board members.

–Field Level Media


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Lionel Messi says World Cup in Qatar will be his last

BUENOS AIRES (AP) — Lionel Messi has confirmed that the World Cup in Qatar next month will be the last of his career.

The 35-year-old Argentina star will play in his fifth World Cup but is still seeking his first title at the showpiece tournament.

“There’s some anxiety and nerves at the same time … it is the last one,” Messi said in an interview with Star Plus.

It is the first time the Paris Saint-Germain striker has spoken openly about his future after the tournament, which starts on Nov. 20.

Messi did not make it clear whether he would retire from the national team after Qatar.

Argentina won the World Cup in 1978 and 1986. The team will open the tournament on Nov.22 against Saudi Arabia in Group C before facing Mexico and Poland.

“I don’t know whether we are big favorites, but I believe Argentina is a candidate because of its history, which means even more now because of the way we got here,” Messi added. “But in a World Cup anything can happen, all the matches are very difficult. It isn’t always the favorites who win it.”

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup


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Soccer-Messi is counting the days until the World Cup

(Reuters) – Argentina captain Lionel Messi has said he is counting the days until the World Cup and believes his team have a good chance of winning the tournament.

Messi, who will be playing his fifth World Cup in Qatar, told Star+ he is feeling nervous ahead of the tournament but is in positive mood.

Argentina will arrive in Qatar with their confidence high after winning the 2021 Copa America final against hosts Brazil, which Messi believes was a turning-point for his team after several near misses.

“In a World Cup, anything can happen. All the matches are very tough. The favourites don’t always end up winning,” Messi said.

“I don’t know if we’re the favourites, but Argentina is always a candidate because of its history. Now even more so because of the moment we’re in, but we are not the favourites. I think there are other teams that are above us.”

The 35-year-old forward confirmed this would be his last World Cup, adding that he was in good shape physically after a better pre-season than last year when he joined PSG from Barcelona.

Messi’s record with Argentina stands in stark contrast to his success at club level.

Argentina came close to ending their long trophy drought on three occasions but were beaten by Germany in the 2014 World Cup final and by Chile in the 2015 and 2016 Copa America finals.

“I have been playing with the national team for a long time now,” Messi said. “There have been spectacular moments, like in 2014, 2015 and 2016 but we didn’t win and were criticised for not being champions.

“We did everything right until the finals.”

Messi said he was heading to Qatar with a positive outlook as the elder statesman in a team full of young talent who ended Argentina’s 28-year wait for an international trophy with their Copa America victory.

“It’s been very hard, but in 2019 a new group with many young people came and won the Copa America. That helped us a lot,” he added.

Argentina face the United Arab Emirates in their final warm-up match in November before playing Saudi Arabia in their opening Group C game at the World Cup on Nov. 22. Mexico and Poland are the other teams in the group.

(Reporting by Janina Nuno Rios in Mexico City, editing by Ed Osmond)


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No. 11 Utah visits No. 18 UCLA in top Pac-12 matchup

LOS ANGELES (AP) — If Kyle Whittingham and his 11th-ranked Utah squad want to make another trip to the Rose Bowl in three months, Saturday’s game against No. 18 UCLA will go a long way in determining that.

The Utes have won four straight since dropping their opener against Florida, but they now begin a challenging part of their schedule. After facing the Bruins, Utah hosts No. 6 Southern California next Saturday before traveling to Washington State on Oct. 27.

If Utah (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12) can win its next three and run the table, it could also be the first Pac-12 school since Washington in 2016 to make the College Football Playoff.

“We’ve talked about that plenty that we didn’t play our best football in Week 1. But since then, I think we’ve taken a step forward every week; this past week included, obviously,” Whittingham said. “If you want to win a championship, that’s got to happen. You’ve got to be on that upward trajectory from Game 1 to Game 12.”

The Bruins are 5-0 for the first time since 2013 and have an eight-game winning streak going back to last season. Their last loss? It was to Utah last November.

UCLA — also 2-0 in conference play — made its case as a possible contender for the conference title game with a 40-32 victory over No. 15 Washington. But Chip Kelly’s crew is also in the middle of a challenging stretch with Oregon looming in two weeks.

With a more experienced squad, Kelly thinks his team knows how to handle the expectations surrounding the most significant game during his five-year tenure in Westwood.

“The ranking is good. I think it’s deserved by those guys and they should be proud of that. But right after you are ranked, there’s really nothing else. You don’t get a trophy. You don’t get anything,” he said. “We’re not the highest-ranked team in this game. We’re playing against an even higher-ranked team and the defending champs in the conference. So I think that’s got everybody’s attention.”

ROLLING UTES

Utah has won the series’ last five games and outscored UCLA 234-99. The Utes have scored at least 40 points in each game and at least 48 in three of them.

THOMPSON-ROBINSON ENCORE?

Dorian Thompson-Robinson was the Pac-12’s Offensive Player of the Week after having 368 yards of total offense and accounting for four touchdowns in the win over Washington.

The fifth-year senior — fourth in the nation in completion percentage (74.3%) and 12th in passing efficiency (171.4) — said he circled this game when the schedule was announced in February. He hasn’t faced Utah since 2019, when he was sacked five times and threw a pair of interceptions in a 49-3 loss.

The two schools did not face each other in 2020 due to COVID-19, and Thompson-Robinson missed last year’s game due to an injury.

Running back Zach Charbonnet is coming off a season-high 124 yards last week. Over the previous two seasons, UCLA is 10-0 when Charbonnet goes over the century mark.

HOMECOMING

Utah cornerback Clark Phillips III, who grew up in Lakewood, California, has four interceptions, tied for most in the nation.

The sophomore picked off three passes against Oregon State last week and returned one for a touchdown. He is one of six active players in the Football Bowl Subdivision with at least three career Pick 6’s.

PICKING UP THE SLACK

With Utah tight end Brant Kuithe lost for the year due to a torn right ACL, the rest of the receiving group needs to continue to elevate their game.

Devaughn Vele has 13 receptions in the past two games and is the only wide receiver with double-digit catches.

The Utes like to establish the run, but Tavion Thomas had only six carries for 13 yards against the Beavers. Thomas is third in the Pac-12 with 67 carries.

KEEP AN EYE ON …

UCLA’s Laiatu Latu. The junior linebacker leads the conference with six sacks and is tied for fifth in tackles for loss with 6 1/2.

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Baseball-Dodgers, Astros on crash course for World Series rematch

(Reuters) – The Los Angeles Dodgers enter Major League Baseball’s new 12-team postseason as the betting favourites to win the World Series but a familiar foe in the equally deep and experienced Houston Astros could very well stand in their way.

Should both clubs reach the final round it would offer the Dodgers a chance at vindication given they lost the 2017 World Series to an Astros team whose triumph that year was called into question over a sign-stealing scandal.

The postseason kicks off on Friday and marks the debut of a format that includes two more teams than last year and features a best-of-three format for the opening wild-card round during which the higher-seeded teams will host each game.

The Dodgers, defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves, Astros and New York Yankees all earned first-round byes as they finished the regular season as the two division winners with the best record in their respective leagues.

Los Angeles, who won the World Series in 2020, solidified their status as the team to beat in the National League (NL) when they acquired sensational hitter Freddie Freeman from the Braves in March and have lived up to expectations.

POWERFUL PUNCH

The Dodgers pack a powerful punch and have scored more runs than any other team in the regular season (847) while giving up the fewest (513) and for their efforts have home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

Coming off a franchise-record 111 wins in the regular season, the Dodgers will face either the New York Mets or San Diego Padres on Tuesday in the first game of their best-of-five division series.

The Dodgers won nine division titles in the last 10 years but their only World Series triumph in that span came in the shortened 2020 campaign and the players know a championship this year would carry more weight in the eyes of some critics.

“2020 was something incredible, but we get some criticism for the shortened season,” Dodgers left-hander Julio Urias said via the team’s website. “But winning another one in Los Angeles would be incredible. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish.”

In other NL action, the St, Louis Cardinals will battle the Philadelphia Phillies in a wild card series with the winner moving on to face the Braves.

The Astros, who lost in the World Series in 2019 and 2021, have perhaps the best pitching staff in baseball led by 39-year-old Justin Verlander who had more wins (18) than anyone in the American League and the lowest ERA (1.75) in MLB.

The AL’s top-seeded Astros await the winner of the wild card series between the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners while the Yankees, powered by slugger Aaron Judge, will face either the Cleveland Guardians or the Tampa Bay Rays.

Judge enters the postseason on a high after becoming the AL’s new single-season home run king having launched his 62nd of the year on Tuesday to break the record he had shared with Roger Maris.

Following the four division series, the league championship series and World Series will be best-of-seven games affairs.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)


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Indonesian police to charge 6 people in soccer disaster

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian police said Thursday they are bringing criminal charges against three officers and three civilians for their roles in the deaths of 131 people when police fired tear gas inside a soccer stadium, setting off a panicked run for the exits in which many were crushed.

National Police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo said the suspects include the head of PT Liga Indonesia Baru, which administers the country’s top professional soccer division and is responsible for ensuring that stadiums have a proper operating certificates. He said the stadium in Malang city did not meet the requirements for certification and had not been properly verified.

Prabowo said charges are also being brought against the chief executive of the match, the chief security officer and three police officers.

The charges include negligence leading to death or serious injury and violations of Indonesia’s sports law and ethical code for officials. Maximum penalties range up to five years in prison.

He said the Malang police head of operations is believed to have known that FIFA, the international soccer governing body, has advised against the use of tear gas in stadiums.

“However, he did not prevent or prohibit the use of tear gas when securing the match,” Prabowo said in a televised news conference.

He said the two other police officers had ordered their subordinates to fire the tear gas. There were 11 officers who actually fired the gas, causing widespread panic as spectators tried to escape, he said.

There were delays in unlocking Gates 3, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, where many fans were crushed.

“The gates should be opened five minutes before the match ends. When they were opened, the openings were only 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) wide, and the gate stewards were not in their positions,” Prabowo said.

According to recommendations by FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation, exits at stadiums must be unlocked at all times during a game for safety purposes. Those rules don’t necessarily apply to domestic or national leagues but nevertheless are a safety standard, as is the recommendation against the use of tear gas as a crowd-control measure.

About 42,000 Arema FC fans attended Saturday’s match, in which Arema was defeated 3-2 by Persebaya in its first at-home loss to its rival in 23 years. Following the defeat, angry fans rushed into the infield, prompting police to fire the tear gas.

“In our investigation, we found there was no emergency plan to handle special cases as is required in the Football Association of Indonesia’s 2021 security and safety regulations,” Prabowo said.

The Football Association of Indonesia has banned Arema from hosting any matches attended by its supporters in Malang until next year.


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