A look ahead to top enterprise and feature stories planned globally by AP Sports. New digests will go out each Thursday and Monday and will be repeated on other weekdays. Please note that story plans may change depending on news and other issues.
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Adds: BBO–ADVANCE SCOUTING for Friday, June 30.
THURSDAY, June 28
RALEIGH, N.C. -Rod Brind’Amour came to Carolina in 2000- and never left. He worked his way up from key trade acquisition to captain of a Stanley Cup-winning team to the front office to assistant coach and, now, head coach. Along the way, he became as much a part of North Carolina’s landscape as NASCAR and barbecue – even coaching his son’s T-ball and youth hockey teams in his spare time without drawing much attention. He’s also one of only four coaches in the four major pro sports to earn the top job of the team with which he won a championship as a player. By Joedy McCreary. UPCOMING: 800 words, photos by 3 a.m. Thursday.
BBN–METS MELTDOWN-NOW WHAT?
NEW YORK – With the New York Mets sinking fast toward the bottom of the National League standings, baseball operations were turned over Tuesday to a trio of Sandy Alderson’s assistants when the general manager made the stunning announcement that he was stepping down because his cancer has returned. John Ricco, J.P. Ricciardi and Omar Minaya have decades of front office experience between them, both in New York and elsewhere around the majors. But it might take all three of them to clean up this mess – and time is of the essence. By Baseball Writer Mike Fitzpatrick. UPCOMING: 800 words, photos by noon Thursday.
FRIDAY, June 29
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, Calif. – Buck Showalter receives regular calls from veteran, out-of-work scouts looking for jobs. Longtime baseball men who once hit the road ahead of their clubs to offer detailed insight of upcoming opponents are largely no longer as advance scouting for many teams has turned to technology: video and analytics. Showalter’s Baltimore Orioles don’t have an advance scout working in the ballpark. Same for World Series champion Houston, Minnesota and Oakland. Advance scouting may not be a thing of the past, but the methods have changed dramatically. ”Advance scouting by humans is history,” said Mets scout Shooty Babitt. By Janie McCauley. UPCOMING: 900 words, photos by 2 a.m.
SATURDAY, June 30
SOC–WCUP-WOMEN IN THE BOOTH
MOSCOW – Fox’s Aly Wagner and Telemundo’s Viviana Vila are the first women match analysts for a men’s World Cup on U.S. television. Katy Sparks is filling a similar role in Britain, which led to a flap when former England captain John Terry said he watched a match with no volume. As Beth Mowins and Jessica Mendoza have broken through to become national play-by-play broadcasters, women have become more prominent on sports airwaves. By Ronald Blum. UPCOMING: 1,000 words, photos by noon Saturday.
MONDAY, July 9
NEWTON, Iowa – Venturini Motorsports made history in Chicagoland Speedway in late June when it started three female drivers in an ARCA race – a first for a stock care event. But it wasn’t that big of a shock that team owner Bill Venturini, who once won a title in the series with an all-female pit crew led by his wife and current co-owner Cathy, was behind the move. By Luke Meredith. UPCOMING: 700 words, photos by 3 a.m. Monday, July 9.
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So long, Gordon Howe.
Bye-bye, Robert Hull.
Au revoir, M. Richard.
Those Hockey Hall of Famers and the rest of the players who won an NHL championship from 1954-65 are being stripped off the Stanley Cup this spring to create room for a new layer of names without making the trophy too big to be skated around the ice by the winning captain or checked on an airplane for its next journey.
”People in Saskatchewan are a little upset Gordie’s name is coming off, but that’s the tradition,” said Mike Bolt, one of the Hall of Fame staffers assigned to escort the Cup around the world. ”It can’t get any bigger. … We wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”
Perhaps the most iconic trophy in sports, the Stanley Cup is unique among major prizes because the NHL passes it from team to team instead of producing a new one for every champion. It’s also the only one that includes the name of every player to win it in each season – though the names come and go.
Since it was first donated in 1892 by Lord Stanley, the governor general of Canada, the Cup has grown from a 7-inch-high bowl to a 3-foot trophy more the size of a large wedding cake, with three small layers under the original bowl and five more bands under that that fit about 13 years of champions apiece.
The top one of those bands, honoring much of Toe Blake’s Montreal Canadiens dynasty and three of Punch Imlach’s four titles in Toronto, will be removed in a matter of weeks. It will be flattened and displayed along with two previously retired rings – covering the 1927-40 and ’41-53 championship teams – at the Hall of Fame in Toronto. (In place of the name-by-name listing, teams are engraved on the upper rings).
The process will need to be repeated every 13 years, meaning a player’s name lasts on the Cup a maximum of 65 years.
”I run into some of the older timers, like from the `70s, even the `80s. They’re always like Jaleel Johnson Jersey
, `Hey, Mike. How many years have I got left on the Cup?”’ Bolt said. ”Some guys start doing the math, `Oh, I won’t be around anyway.’ But if you win it when you’re young, you’re going to be around when your name comes off.”
On tour to promote the start of the NHL playoffs on April 11, Bolt stopped at The Associated Press bureau in Boston this week after visiting a children’s hospital and before going to a hockey arena to surprise another group of kids. He dons white gloves and unsnaps the latches to reveal the Cup in its form-fitting, blue velvet travel sanctuary.
The black base is chipped and dinged from years of celebrations by joyous champions. There are also a few misspellings, and one name is crossed out. Still, seeing the trophy remains a thrill for many fans; earning a spot on it is the ultimate goal for every NHL player who has ever laced up a pair of skates.
”That’s the best part of the job, watching the reaction. That’s one of the things that does not get old,” said Bolt, who accompanies the Cup on its travels for the traditional summer tour that allows every player on the winning team to spend a day with it – often in his hometown, no matter where on the globe he grew up.
”I’ve seen grown men cry; they can’t believe they are this close to it,” Bolt said. ”It’s like a celebrity. Everybody’s always happy when the Cup’s around.”
Players like Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull and Maurice ”Rocket” Richard might not have known that their immortality has an expiration date, but modern players realize getting one’s name on the Cup isn’t forever any more.
”We knew it’s going to be there for about 40 years,” said Patrice Bergeron, a member of the Boston Bruins‘ 2011 championship team who is hoping to extend his time on the Cup with another title this year. ”It’s still pretty special.”
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, who also won it all in 2011, was consoled by the knowledge that the band with his name will go on permanent display at the Hall of Fame after it is removed.
”You can’t take away the fact that we won,” he said. ”We’ll still have all the memories.”
VULCANIZED RUBBER SOUL
Fans in Nashville have come up with a way to pass the time while waiting for video reviews. When the referees skate over to check on a Predators goal, the in-house public address system plays the Beatles song ”Let It Be.” Fans sing along, waving their cellphone flashlights as if at a concert.
Referee Tom Kowal worked his last game on Saturday when the Bruins played the Panthers in Boston. When the milestone was noted in the arena, fans gave him an ovation and both teams gave him the customary salute by banging their sticks on the ice or boards. After the final buzzer, the players remained on their ice to shake hands with him.
Kowal, who worked 1,094 regular-season games and 12 in the playoffs over 18 years, is the third and last official to retire this season, according to the NHL Officials Association. Thirty-year linesman Shane Heyer worked his last game on Friday, and referee Dave Jackson hung up his skates after 25 years in Los Angeles on Thursday.
LEADERS (Through Tuesday’s games)
Points: Connor McDavid (Edmonton), 103. Goals: Alex Ovechkin (Washington), 46. Goals-against average (minimum 40 games): Marc-Andre Fleury (Vegas), 2.14. Save percentage (min. 40 games): Fleury, .931.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Tantalizing matchups with postseason positioning and outright berths at stake in the final week of the season include Pittsburgh at Columbus on Thursday and Womens Vinny Curry Jersey