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NHL in denial of concussion death at 35

When Steve Montador, who played in 571 NHL games, died Sunday night in his home, league officials immediately denied death was attributable to brain damage suffered in 2012 when he played for the Chicago Blackhawks.  He retired in 2013, saying he was suffering effects from concussion. Montador last year joined 29 other former NHL players in a concussion lawsuit against the league.

But as reported by Bloomberg News, word was sent out – and accepted by gullible hockey writers – that the well liked defenseman committed suicide.  Not that suicide can’t be a symptom of concussion, as Dave Duerson’s family will attest.  The Toronto Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle tweeted that Montador’s death in Mississauga, Ont., was “believed to be a suicide.”  Mirtle soon retracted that statement, but other Globe and Mail articles referred to “demons he had to deal with” without mentioning the only “demon” the player himself cited, that the concussion put him on “a roller coaster” of “anxiety and depression.”  A police investigation uncovered no sign of suicide or foul play. 


Mariners’ prospect improved but ‘critical’ after beach accident

Victor Sanchez, the Seattle Mariners’ No. 2 pitching prospect, underwent surgery for a double skull fracture caused by a boat as he was swimming off a beach in his native Venezuela.  The 20-year-old righthander was taken to Polyclinic Campano, where he is in intensive care in critical condition.  Hospital reports said he was “fighting for his life” and was hooked up to a breathing tube and ventilator but was able to move his legs.  Doctors were encouraged by a CT scan showing reduction of swelling in his head and neck.  Although overweight at 6-0, 255 pounds, Sanchez was expected to rise from Class AA to AAA this season.  The Sporting News ranks him as the organization’s second-best pitching prospect behind Edwin Diaz.


Snedeker wins ATT with clubs valued at $112

Perhaps golf does not have to be a rich man’s game, after all.  Golf Channel reported that Brandt Snedeker won Sunday’s ATT Pebble Beach National Pro-Am with a set of clubs valued at $112.  His driver was a 2010 TaylorMade Burner SuperFast.  Also four years old were his Bridgestone J-40 irons.  He has been using his Odyssey White Hot XG Rossic Putter since 2005.


Between the Lines: It’s surprising he didn’t toss all his clubs after ranking 86th on the PGA Tour last year.  He had only 3 top 10 finishes and zero wins in 25 events, after ranking 12th in 2013 and first in 2012. 


Kevin Durant apologizes for All-Star rudeness

Oklahoma Thunder guard Kevin Durant used All-Star Weekend to insult the media.  “You guys really don’t know shit,” he said to a throng of reporters.  On Tuesday he apologized, saying, “I had a moment. . . . trying to take up for my teammates, my coach and other guys in the league that gets scrutinized. . . .”  Sources close to Durant said he was upset by media criticism of Thunder coach Scott Brooks.  But there’s concern the usually congenial Durant damaged his “brand” by acting rudely on the Broadway stage.  Deadspin saw him as “turning into Drake right before our eyes,” a reference to a rapper known for offensive language.  Tony Kornheiser on PTI said:  “He planned it out.  He was deliberately churlish.”  As for the apology: “I think someone from Nike said, ‘Do you really want to hurt your marketability?’”


Gruden stops the competition at QB, tabs RG3

Perhaps realizing he had no viable alternative, Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden pulled Robert Griffin III from under the bus and

announced, “We will go into the season with Robert as our No. 1” QB.  This came after Gruden had said there would be “competition . . . until that position is earned.”  Two weeks ago the team mailed a letter to season-ticket holders that described a “nucleus” that did not include Griffin.  But with interception-prone Kirk Cousins the only other veteran QB on the roster and with little available on the free-agent market, Gruden decided to build up Griffin instead of continuing to tear him down.  Washington pundits suspect owner Dan Snyder is pulling the strings here, as Mike Shanahan said happened when he was coaching the team.  Shanahan said on ESPN-980 radio that Griffin, after talking with Snyder prior to the 2012 postseason, informed the coach “what plays were acceptable and unacceptable and that he wasn’t a rookie anymore and wanted to voice his opinion.”


Daytona qualifying creates ‘mayhem’

Jeff Gordon won the pole (209.293 mph) for Sunday’s Daytona 500 (Fox, 1 p.m. Eastern), with Jimmie Johnson completing the front row.  But it was the most contentious pole battle in the 56-year history of the race.  The format was changed this year to a system of group elimination, having cars racing by fours to make the pole chase more entertaining.  But of course, that leads to crashes.  Denny Hamlin, one of NASCAR’s top stars, was eliminated early and called the new format “mayhem.”  Former Cup champion Tony Stewart, called it “complete embarrassment.”  NASCAR vice president Steve O’Donnell said the change was made “to avoid the pit road chicanery and blocking by drivers.”   As O’Donnell was speaking, Gordon left the room after grinning and yelling, “Great format, Steve.”

The qualifying was completed Thursday night, with defending Daytona champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning one of the two Budweiser Duel races.


New Leaf finds a team full of ‘negative energy’

Olli Jokinen’s first impressions of the Toronto Maple Leafs were not encouraging.  “The one thing I notice being here two days is a lot of negative energy,” he said.  That might not be surprising considering the team has lost 15 of its past 16 games.  But Jokinen, 36-year-old center, said, “You’ve got to find a way to have something to play for.”  Interim coach Peter Horachek attributed the negativism to Sunday’s trade of popular teammates Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli that brought Jokinen from Nashville.  For Jokinen it was almost a first-to-worst transfer.  But incredibly enough, Toronto’s record is not as bad as its divisional rival, Buffalo.  The Sabres have won 2 of their past 7 games in what the Buffalo News wrote “passes as a hot streak.”


Harbaugh says 49ers fired him

Although the San Francisco 49ers gave the impression that Jim Harbaugh was “resigning” to be head coach at his alma mater, Michigan, Harbaugh said otherwise in a podcast with Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury-News.  The coach said that after the 49ers lost 17-7 to Seattle with two weeks remaining in the season, “I was told I wouldn’t be the coach anymore.”  He said his relationship with Jim Tomsula became awkward near the end, causing him to wonder if the D-line coach already knew he would be succeeding Harbaugh, that the subsequent job search was a sham.


Winston ahead of Mariota as Combine begins

Entering the NFL’s Scouting Combine in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, draft analysts were switching from Marcus Mariota to Jameis Winston as the likely No. 1 pick, held by Tampa Bay.  Both Mike Mayock and Mel Kiper listed the often troubled Florida State QB as No. 1 because of his powerful arm and NFL-style play.  Mariota’s running tendencies and narrow 6-4 frame could make him more injury prone than Winston, who is also 6-4 but  perhaps heavier than desired.  A photo circulating through cyberspace showed him with a pot-belly.    


Mississippi St. team has emergency landing

A plane carrying the Mississippi State men’s basketball team was heading home after a game at Missouri when passengers tweeted they had heard a loud boom.  Then the voice of a flight attendant saying they had “lost an engine” and would be making an emergency landing in St. Louis With only one of its two engines functioning, the plane landed safely.  But because of strong winds a replacement plane could not be sent.  The Bulldogs rode a bus the rest of the way to Starkville.


LeBron sees D-Rose returning to MVP form

After watching Derrick Rose score 30 points on his Cleveland Cavaliers heading into the NBA All-Star Game, LeBron James said, “It just showed what he’s capable of doing.  He went back door on one play . . . dunked the ball. . . . When D-Rose is feeling good, he’s attacking, and that’s what he did to us.”  The Chicago Bulls’ poinr guard is regaining form after two knee surgeries in two years.  James cited “transition, getting to the rim, up-and-unders, reverses.  He’s shooting that two-foot pull-up, one-hander.  That’s the MVP and All-Star that we all have grown accustomed to loving.”


Knoblauch disses Pettitte for using HGH

Andy Pettitte’s former teammate, Chuck Knoblauch, took a shot at the Yankees pitcher, who is going to be honored in the upcoming season.  “Congrats to 46. Yankees retiring his number.  Hopefully they don’t retire it like his HGH testimony.”  Pettitte admitted to using human growth hormone on two occasions in 2002, but he claimed it was to treat an arm injury and not to enhance performance.


Between the Lines:  There could be some envy here.  Knoblauch’s induction into the Minnesota Twins’ Hall of Fame was canceled when he was charged last summer with assaulting his ex-wife.

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