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SOCHI: Antoine gives US first men's skeleton medal since '02

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- One year after a giant meteor streaked across Russia's sky, Alexander Tretiakov flashed by.

Accelerating down his home track lined from top to bottom with flag-waving, chanting countrymen, Tretiakov won the Olympic gold medal in men's skeleton on Saturday night, pulling away from the world's top sliders who were no match for his breakneck speed and precise driving.

Tretiakov completed four trips down the Sanki Sliding Center track in 3 minutes, 44.29 seconds, easily beating Latvia's Martins Dukurs (3:45.10), who settled for silver again after having gold slip from his hands four years ago in Vancouver.

Matt Antoine won the bronze, the first skeleton medal for an American man since Jimmy Shea's gold in 2002. John Daly of Smithtown, N.Y., entered the final run in fourth place, but slipped on the starting ramp and had his sled pop from the grooves. He dropped to 15th.

With cries of "Ro-ssi-ya, Ro-ssi-ya," echoing off the mountain and toward the ski resort area down below, Tretiakov won the host nation's fourth gold of the Sochi Games.

And with the performance Tretiakov, the bronze medalist in Vancouver, is set to receive a reward from the heavens.

On Feb. 15 last year, a meteroite zoomed over Russia's Ural Mountains, causing a sonic boom and exploding over the city of Chelyabinsk. A piece of the space rock was recovered by scientists, and fragments of that have been embedded in commemorative medals that a regional government is offering the winners of seven Olympic events staged on the anniversary.

Fitting for the "Russian Rocket."

"This is a very important medal, it's a real medal and I'm happy to win it for my country," Tretiakov said of his Olympic gold.

After two blistering runs on Friday, Tretiakov began the third heat with a 0.56-second lead over Dukurs, who had been reminded of his near miss for gold in Vancouver all week. Dukurs led after three runs in Whistler, but the two-time world champion was caught in the final heat by Canada's Jon Montgomery, another hometown favorite.

Skeleton's best slider for several years, Dukurs, who won six of eight World Cup events this season, had learned the hard way that no lead is safe, and nothing is guaranteed until the last man is across the finish line.

Tretiakov, though, wasn't slowing down for anyone.

Matching his start record (4.47) for the third consecutive heat, he completed his third run in 56.28 seconds, and as Dukurs waited for his turn to go he had to know deep down that the race was over.

Dukurs, who has won 24 of the past 28 World Cup events, managed to trim 0.02 seconds off Tretiakov's margin on his third run, but needing to make up more than a half-second on his last descent was asking way too much.

"I didn't like make up illusions that I will come here and win the gold," said Dukurs, who was trying to win Latvia's first gold at the Winter Games. "I was aiming for four good runs, and what comes out of that, we will see."

Daly and Antoine, good buddies and Olympic roommates, were separated by just 0.04 seconds after the third heat.

But Daly, perhaps feeling the pressure, was out of the medal picture just steps into his final run. His sled jumped from the grooves and skittered sideways. Daly was able to get his sled straightened out, but by the time he did, the bronze was long gone.

After stopping in the finish area, he buried his head in his hands.

"I knew I had to go for it, so I went for it and it bit me," he said. "The blame is totally on me."

Antoine, of Prairie du Chien, Wis., then put together a clean run, finishing in 56.73 seconds to beat Latvia's Tomass Dukurs, Martins' brother, for bronze.

"it's the greatest moment of my life, without a doubt," he said.

Daly and Antoine broke into the sport together, drawn to skeleton for its speed and danger after being inspired by Shea's storybook win in at the Salt Lake City Games.

As thrilled as he was by his medal, Antoine hurt for Daly.

"I didn't see it," he said. "But when I was walking up to the line, I heard all the groans. I knew something bad had happened. ... My heart really goes out to John for the way that ended for him."

SOCHI: Stoch wins Olympic double-gold in ski jumping

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Ski jumper Kamil Stoch completed a gold medal sweep of the normal and large hills at the Sochi Olympics on Saturday despite a mistake on his final jump that nearly made 41-year-old Noriaki Kasai of Japan the oldest-ever Winter Games champion.

The Polish jumper joins Simon Ammann and Matti Nykanen as the only men to win both individual events at the same Winter Olympics.

Kasai took silver while Peter Prevc of Slovenia, who took silver in the normal hill, earned the bronze Saturday.

Jumping last in the first round after the trial round was canceled due to fluctuating winds, Stoch jumped 139 meters and totaled 143.4 points to give him a three-point lead over Kasai, a margin the Japanese veteran whittled down to 1.3 points after the final round.

"I did such a big mistake in the second round, I don't know how I jumped so far," Stoch said. "I was too aggressive. That's why I flew so far, but hey, what the heck? That's why I won."

Kasai, whose first Olympics was at Albertville, France in 1992, now has Olympic medals 20 years apart -- he won his first, a team silver with Japan in the large hill -- in 1994 at Lillehammer, Norway.

Kasai finished eighth in the normal hill last week, but said Saturday he should have done better.

"I took the medal that I didn't take in the normal hill," Kasai said. "Then I felt regret and now I feel happy."

Gregor Schierenzauer of Austria, who won bronze on both the normal and large hills four years ago, finished seventh.

Amman, the defending champion from 2010 -- he also won the normal hill that year in Vancouver -- had a chance to win a record fifth Olympic gold medal. But the 32-year-old Swiss jumper, who has said he will likely retire soon, never looked the part in training or on Saturday and finished 23rd.

"It's hard preparing for three years ... I have to take it easy for the rest of the season," Ammann said. "It's not the greatest feeling right now."

Thomas Morgenstern of Austria, who had a bad crash in early January and was touch-and-go to be fit for Sochi, failed to qualify among the 30 advancing to the final round, finishing in 40th place.

"I had a good feeling on the in-run and the takeoff, but it was strange, there was wind from the front and back," Morgenstern said. "Today I had no luck."

Three Americans who qualified for Saturday's final -- Nicholas Alexander of Brattleboro, Vt., Anders Johnson of Park City, Utah, and Nicholas Fairall of Andover, N.H., didn't make it to the second round. Fairall was 35th, Alexander 48th and Johnson was disqualified -- along with Canadian Matthew Rowley -- for suit violations.

The 7,500-capacity crowd didn't appear to mind waiting while the wind ribbon zipped sideways in alternate directions for a while, forcing the first round to start 15 minutes late. Men with Viking helmets, kids dressed up in bunny costumes and one optimistic local wearing a hat with three podiums -- all flying Russian flags -- added to the atmosphere.

The men return to action on Sunday with training rounds for the team event to be held Monday night. Austria is the defending champion.

SOCHI: Oshie scores four shootout goals as US tops Russia

SOCHI, Russia -- T.J. Oshie brainstormed while he skated to center ice, desperately trying to come up with one last move to end an epic shootout. He had already taken five shots at Sergei Bobrovsky, and the Russians were still even.

Yet Oshie was chosen for the U.S. men's hockey team with just such a situation in mind, and the shootout specialist concocted one last clever goal to silence an arena filled with screaming Russian fans.

Oshie scored four times in the shootout and put the winner between Bobrovsky's legs in the eighth round, leading the United States past Russia 3-2 Saturday in the thrilling revival of a classic Olympic hockey rivalry.

"I was just thinking of something else I could do, trying to keep him guessing," said Oshie, the St. Louis Blues forward. "Had to go back to the same move a couple times, but I was glad it ended when it did. I was running out of moves there."

International rules allow the same player to take multiple shots after the first three rounds of a shootout, and U.S. coach Dan Bylsma leaned on Oshie's array of slick shots and change-of-pace approaches to the net. Oshie scored on the Americans' first shot before taking the last five in a row, going 4 for 6 against Bobrovsky and disappointing a Bolshoy Ice Dome crowd including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"I aged a couple of years in that shootout," Bylsma said. "We had other guys that are capable, but T.J. was the guy who was going well. It seemed like he was going to score every time he went."

Oshie's final shot was a beauty: He threaded a forehand right through Bobrovsky's pads, the puck punching the back of the Russian net emphatically enough to pop the water bottle on top into the air.

"At some point, you think, `Does he have any more moves left?'" U.S. captain Zach Parise said. "But he did a good job. ... That's hard to do, to get in a goalie's head and throw him off a little bit."

Oshie was among the final selections for the U.S. roster, and though the 27-year-old from Warroad, Minn., has never had a 20-goal NHL season, he leads American-born players with seven shootout goals this season.

The U.S. men are only interested in the one that all but wrapped up an automatic berth in the quarterfinals next week.

"I think you're going to see T.J. Oshie become a household name after that display he put on," said David Backes, Oshie's teammate in St. Louis. "The kids will be out on the pond probably in Minnesota right now, throwing a 5-hole on the goalie three or four times in a row."

Cam Fowler and Joe Pavelski scored in regulation for the Americans in the marquee game of the preliminary round. Jonathan Quick made 29 saves and stopped five attempts in the shootout as the U.S. improved to 2-0.

Captain Pavel Datsyuk scored two goals in regulation and another in the shootout for the Russians, who rallied from a third-period deficit in a fast-paced game. Russia also had an apparent goal waved off with 4:40 left because Quick's net came off its moorings.

"The U.S. team is a good team and a good test for us," Datsyuk said. "We played good, but the result is not good."

The shootout finish was entertaining, but the entire game was international hockey at its most compelling - and the third period was a thriller.

Pavelski scored the tiebreaking goal for the Americans on a power play with 10:33 to play, but Datsyuk tied it with 7:16 left during a Russian power play, spurring Putin out of his seat to cheer.

After review, the officials waved off Fedor Tyutin's apparent go-ahead goal because the net was loose, incensing the crowd. Russian coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov and Alex Ovechkin both felt Quick had intentionally dislodged his net earlier in the sequence.

"I don't know what happened there, but definitely was a goal," Ovechkin said. "Nobody touched the net. Their goalie touched the net and put it out. But the referee has to see it and at least give him two minutes, you know?"

Quick claimed he didn't even realize the net had come unmoored.

"You need to catch some breaks to win games," he said.

Both teams had quality chances in overtime, but Bobrovsky denied Patrick Kane on a breakaway in the most hair-raising moment.

Oshie started off the shootout with a low shot between Bobrovsky's legs, and the next four shooters missed before Ilya Kovalchuk scored in the third round. Datsyuk and Kovalchuk scored in the fifth and sixth rounds, respectively, but Oshie tied it twice in dramatic fashion.

Datsyuk and Oshie both missed in the seventh, and Quick denied Kovalchuk again before Oshie ended it.

"It was a good game, very interesting," Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin said. "Two, I think, best teams played, and showed OK hockey. But shootouts is lucky."

The arena was packed to overflowing with fans of both nations jovially posing for photos and comparing their colorful sweaters. The Russians waved hundreds of flags, blew horns and banged drums from the first moments of warm-ups.

Although the game had little impact on the medal race in Sochi, the finish woke up the echoes of a U.S.-Russia rivalry best known for the "Miracle on Ice" at Lake Placid in 1980, when a team of American college students stunned the Soviet Olympic team.

The sociopolitical impact of that game is long gone, and the nations have already met three previous times in the Olympics since NHL players joined the games in 1998.

Drummond's 30-25 wins Rising Stars Challenge

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Andre Drummond grabbed everything in sight, even that MVP trophy that came apart.

Drummond had 30 points and a Rising Stars Challenge-record 25 rebounds, leading Team Hill to a 142-136 victory over Team Webber on Friday night.

Coach Nate McMillan said general manager Grant Hill talked to his team before the game about performing like Denver's Kenneth Faried, who had 40 points and 10 rebounds while winning MVP honors last year.

The message got through to Drummond, who grabbed 14 offensive rebounds.

"Drummond had in his mind that he was going to go out and play the game hard," said McMillan, an assistant to Indiana coach Frank Vogel.

"Every rebound that came off the board, he wanted. A few of them he took from his teammates, but I liked his aggressiveness."

Besides an impressive tally of dunks and rebounds, Drummond even managed to make his free throws. A 41 percent shooter during the regular season, the Detroit forward went 6 for 8, including a pair with 29 seconds left after chasing down Bradley Beal's missed free throw to give his team a five-point lead.

He eventually got to hoist the MVP trophy, though not before it fell to the court when a representative from game sponsor BBVA tried to hand it to him. It comes in two pieces, a star on top of the base, and the presenter was apparently unaware when he grabbed it by the top.

"It happened last year, too, so I wasn't expecting anything less," Drummond said. "Usually a slip-up happens every year with the trophy. So I wasn't too shocked about that."

Cleveland's Dion Waiters had 31 points, mostly coming during a 1-on-1 duel with New York's Tim Hardaway Jr. in the second half. Beal finished with 21 for Team Hill, picked by former NBA star Hill.

Hardaway scored 36 points and made seven 3-pointers for fellow former Michigan star Chris Webber's squad. Philadelphia rookie Michael Carter-Williams had 17 points, nine assists and six rebounds.

Portland's Damian Lillard had 13 points, five rebounds and five assists in the victory, making him 1 for 1 during the busiest All-Star weekend ever. Last season's NBA Rookie of the Year will take part in five events, three more on All-Star Saturday and the All-Star game on Sunday.

All-Stars such as Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard and Kyrie Irving watched the game, with Irving leaping to his feet at one point after watching Waiters, his Cavaliers teammate, try to take over the game with about 8 minutes to play.

Waiters had two baskets and then two 3-pointers, one of them when he stepped back after faking a move to the basket that made Hardaway lose his balance. Hardaway answered back with two 3-pointers of his own as the crowd roared.

"We were just trying to do a great job of just getting the fans involved," Hardaway said. "It was kind of dead in there and we just wanted to just start something, a little 1-on-1 battle here and there, and it was great."

Waiters then clinched the duel when he knocked the ball free for a rare defensive highlight in the game, nailing his second straight 3-pointer to give team Hill the lead for good at 126-124 with 2:44 left. Drummond followed with a dunk for a four-point advantage, and Team Webber could never catch up.

The game that began as a matchup of top rookies and later turned into rookies against second-year players now mixes the rosters. That's probably a good thing, since this year's crop of kids is so underwhelming.

Only two of the top 10 picks in the 2013 draft, which has been hindered by injuries, were invited to this game, No. 2 Oladipo and No. 9 Trey Burke.

Players were picked to play on Team Hill and Team Webber, which they wore under their numbers on the back of their jerseys.

Drummond 16 points and 10 rebounds in his first 10 minutes and shot 12 of 21 for the game.

ASU pulls off upset win over Arizona in 2OT

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Jermaine Marshall scored eight of his 29 points in the second overtime and Jordan Bachynski blocked T.J. McConnell's layup attempt with 6 seconds left, sending Arizona State to a 69-66 victory over No. 2 Arizona on Friday night.

With both teams struggling offensively most of the night, Arizona State (19-6, 8-4 Pac-12) turned to Marshall when it counted. He went over 20 minutes without a field goal, but hit consecutive 3-pointers and scored on a drive with 14 seconds left to put the Sun Devils up 67-66.

McConnell then tried to drive the lane, but Bachynski swatted his shot away, leading to Jahii Carson's breakaway dunk.

Arizona State's fans rushed the court, had to be cleared because there was 0.8 seconds left, then poured out of the stands again after Nick Johnson missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

McConnell led Arizona (23-2, 10-2) with 17 points and five rebounds. Kaleb Tarczewski had 13 points and 13 rebounds, and Aaron Gordon had 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Wildcats, who shot 35 percent and went 4 of 14 from 3-point range.

Carson finished with 17 points and six assists. Bachynski had 13 points, seven rebounds and blocked eight shots.

Arizona turned the first desert rivalry game into a rout, racing away from the Sun Devils for a 91-68 win in Tucson on Jan. 16.

A lot has changed in a month.

Arizona lost one of its best players in its only loss of the season when forward Brandon Ashley injured his right foot against California two weeks ago.

The Wildcats managed to win their first two games without the versatile sophomore, against the two Oregon schools last week, but had to rejigger their lineup to compensate for his absence.

Arizona State has been on a roll since that loss, winning five of its past six games to get back into the NCAA tournament picture.

The Sun Devils also had Marshall, their second-leading scorer, back in the lineup after he missed the first game with a groin injury and Bachynski has been playing better after missing all three of his shots in Tucson.

Marshall made a huge difference in the rematch after an ugly start that featured more combined fouls (11) than points (nine) the opening eight minutes.

Marshall scored 12 of the Sun Devils' 19 points in the first half, hitting 5 of 10 shots while the rest of the team 3 for 17.

Arizona led 26-21 at halftime after dominating the glass, outrebounding Arizona State 26-15, including 9-3 on the offensive end.

Marshall continued to carry the Sun Devils early in the second half, scoring on a three-point play on a turnaround shot in the lane and earning a chance at another on a hard drive before missing the free throw.

Then it was Carson's turn.

He had two points on 1-of-5 shooting in the first half, but started to assert himself more midway through the second half, scoring six straight points to put Arizona State up 47-41.

Arizona managed to keep the Sun Devils close despite struggling at the free-throw line, but Carson added a step-back jumper and Bachynski hit a free throw to make it 51-46.

The Wildcats fought back, though, with Aaron Gordon scoring on a three-point play and McConnell on a breakaway lead layup to tie it at 51-all with 49 seconds left.

Both teams had a chance to take the lead at the end of regulation, but got off poor shots to send the game to overtime.

SOCHI: What to watch on Saturday

Here's a look at the compelling events, athletes and storylines of the Sochi Olympics on Saturday, Feb. 15.

Alpine Skiing

Women's super-G, 2 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

This is the final women's speed event of the Olympics and possibly Julia Mancuso's last really great shot at an Olympic medal.

Mancuso won bronze in the super combined and finished eighth in the downhill. A medal in the super-G would give her five total, matching Bode Miller's record for U.S. Alpine skiers.

This has been Mancuso's best discipline since the Vancouver Olympics yet one she has not won an Olympic medal in. Mancuso was the No. 3, 2 and 2 super-G skier the previous three years before her noted struggles on tour this season.

Her biggest competition will come from Olympic super combined champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch, downhill gold medalists Tina Maze and Dominique Gisin and bronze medalist Lara Gut and Liechtenstein's Tina Weirather, who was on crutches earlier this week.

Men's Hockey

Slovakia-Slovenia, 3 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

These two similarly sounding yet not bordering nations will play at the Olympics for the first time, both looking to recover from opening-day defeats.

Slovenia, which features Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar, is coming off a 5-2 loss to Russia on Thursday. Slovakia, which finished fourth at the 2010 Olympics, was trounced 7-1 by the U.S.

Both teams are likely to feed into the "qualification playoff" round rather than an automatic quarterfinal berth out of group play.

Short Track

Men's 1000m final, 5 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

J.R. Celski looks to improve upon his fourth-place finish in the 1500m here, should he make the A final. He finished eighth in the 1000m at the 2010 Olympics and earned a third at a World Cup event in Kolomna, Russia, in November.

The biggest threats will be similar to the 1500m -- Canada's Charles Hamelin, Russia's Viktor Ahn and any South Koreans.

The women's 1500m final will take place 13 minutes before the men's 1000m, but no Americans are expected to be a part of it. US Speedskating has yet to win a medal at these Olympics.

Men's Hockey

U.S.-Russia, 7:30 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

This is probably the biggest event of the Olympics without a medal at stake. The U.S. and Russia (or the Unified Team) will play an Olympic men's hockey game for the fourth time since the Miracle on Ice and for the first time on Russian ice.

Here are their results since 1980:
1988: Soviet Union 7, U.S. 5 (group play)
1992: Unified Team 5, U.S. 2 (semifinals)
2002: U.S. 3, Russia 2 (semifinals)
2006: Russia 5, U.S. 4 (group play)

Jonathan Quick will start his second straight game in goal after stopping 21 of 22 Slovakian shots Thursday.

The winner of this game goes into the driver's seat for an automatic spot in the quarterfinals. The loser still has a shot, too, but it will be tougher.

Speed Skating

Men's 1500m, 8:30 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Shani Davis looks to rebound from a startling eighth-place finish in the 1000m Wednesday, an event in which he had won 2006 and 2010 Olympic gold.

Davis is the two-time defending silver medalist in the 1500m, the reigning world silver medalist and the 2013-14 World Cup leader.

Yet this is a fairly open race among Davis, the Netherlands' Stefan Groothuis, Kjeld Nuis and Koen Verweij and Russians Denis Yuzkov and Ivan Skobrev.

The Dutch have won all three men's speed skating golds so far and will be favored in the final two events, the 10,000m and team pursuit. Only the U.S. in 1932, Norway in 1936 and Eric Heiden in 1980 have swept all the men's speed skating golds, but there were five or fewer events at all of those Winter Games.

Skeleton

Men's runs 3 & 4, 9:45 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

A U.S. man will likely win an Olympic skeleton medal for the first time since Jim Shea's gold in 2002.

John Daly and Matthew Antoine are in third and fourth, respectively, after two of four runs Friday. Russian Aleksander Tretiakov leads Latvian Martins Dukurs by .56 of a second.

Dukurs, the World Cup champion each of the last five seasons, is staring at his second straight Olympic silver medal after he was upset by Canadian Jon Montgomery in 2010. He is .56 of a second behind Tretiakov.

Daly, who was 17th at the 2010 Olympics, is 1.03 seconds behind Dukurs and .26 better than Antoine. Daly has never won a World Cup or World Championships medal, so this could really be the race of his life.

Men's Hockey

Sweden-Latvia, 12 p.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Switzerland-Czech Republic, 12 p.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

These are the final games in Group C. Sweden has already booked a spot in the quarterfinals with 4-2 and 1-0 wins over the Czech Republic and Switzerland. Latvia is the minnow of this group and should pose no threat, even with Henrik Zetterberg out of the Olympics.

The winner of the Swiss-Czech game has a chance at an automatic quarterfinal spot. The Czechs beat Latvia 4-2 on Friday behind two goals from Jaromir Jagr, 41. The Swiss have played two 1-0 games, losing the latest to Sweden on Friday.

Ski jumping

Men's large hill, 11:25 p.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Poland's Kamil Stoch, who won the normal hill Sunday, flew a field-best 136m in training Friday from a lower gate position and appears to be the favorite again here.

Swiss Simon Ammann, the four-time Olympic champion, posted a 132m jump in training after finishing 17th in the normal hill.

David Stern elected to Basketball Hall of Fame

NEW ORLEANS (AP) David Stern is going from the NBA commissioner's office to the Hall of Fame.

The recently retired Stern was elected Friday to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and will be enshrined with the class of 2014 on Aug. 8 in Springfield, Mass.

Stern was on a ski trip to Colorado on Friday with his wife while the NBA was holding its first All-Star weekend without him in charge since 1983. New Commissioner Adam Silver and many other league employees who worked under Stern attended the press conference.

"I wanted to be here for David because I knew he wasn't in New Orleans this weekend. Just to be here to share the experience and then relay it back to him what the feel in the room was," said Silver, who worked under Stern since 1992.

"As I said earlier, while David is a modest guy, I know he was moved by the fact this was all happening so quickly, and he has always told me he doesn't like to reflect back sort of on his life or his career, but this will certainly force him to. And I know this is an emotional moment for him and it's an emotional moment for everybody who has worked with him over these years."

Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, Kevin Johnson and Spencer Haywood are hoping to be part of the class. They were chosen as finalists, with the full class to be unveiled April 7 during the NCAA Final Four.

Hardaway and Richmond were teammates in Golden State and made up the Warriors' "Run TMC" trio along with Chris Mullin, who was elected to the Hall in 2011.

Stern retired on Feb. 1 after exactly 30 years as commissioner, during which he brought the league to its greatest success. Jerry Colangelo, chairman of the Hall of Fame board, said the Hall hopes to have a special spot to display a tribute to Stern.

"He deserves to be recognized in a huge way," Colangelo said.

Stern was elected by the contributors committee. Also directly elected to the Hall of Fame were Lithuania star Sarunas Marciulionis by the international committee, former Indiana Pacers coach Bob "Slick" Leonard by the ABA committee, former New York Knicks player Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton by the early African-American pioneers committee, and former Temple star Guy Rodgers by the veterans committee.

College coaches Eddie Sutton, Nolan Richardson and Gary Williams were also finalists, as were former women's coach Harley Redin and the women's team from Immaculata College, which won three straight national championships.

Melo rules out trade, open to less than max deal

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Carmelo Anthony said Friday he knows "for a fact" the Knicks won't trade him, and said he would be open to staying in New York for less than a maximum contract.

Anthony has said he plans to become a free agent this summer. The NBA's trade deadline is Thursday, but Anthony ruled out any chance the Knicks would move him to avoid the possibility they could lose him for nothing in July.

"I know for a fact I'm not being traded," Anthony said at the NBA's All-Star weekend. "There's two things: I know for a fact I'm not being traded and I'm not going in there and saying I want to be traded."

New York can pay him around $30 million more than any team, but Anthony said he wouldn't insist on making the Knicks do it.

"As far as the money, it don't really matter to me. If I go somewhere else I get paid, if I stay in New York I get paid," Anthony said. "So as far as the money goes, that's not my concern. My concern is being able to compete on a high level, at a championship level coming at this last stretch of my career."

The Knicks aren't doing it now. They are 20-32, one of the league's biggest disappointments after winning the Atlantic Division last season, and are wasting a strong season by Anthony that has him ranked second in the league with 27.3 points per game while also averaging 8.6 rebounds.

The Knicks need plenty more, and it will be tough to get because they are already so far over the salary cap. Not having to pay Anthony all of the more than $120 million he would be eligible for could help.

"I talk to people all the time. I always say if it takes me taking a pay cut, I'll be the first one on Mr. Dolan's step saying, `Take my money, let's build something stronger,"' Anthony said, referring to Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan.

Anthony was traded to New York just after the All-Star game three years ago and has reached the playoffs in each season. But they are currently out of the playoff picture even in the weak Eastern Conference, and Anthony will have to decide if he feels they can put a championship team around him as he approaches his 30th birthday.

"He makes really good decisions and I feel this decision for him will be no different," said the Clippers' Chris Paul, one of Anthony's closest friends in the league.

"I know he loves it there. His family loves it there. Most of all, he loves to play basketball there. I don't know what his decision will be, but whatever he does, I'll support him 110 percent."

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Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney

Girardi had 'no inkling' about Jeter retirement

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Joe Girardi found out about Derek Jeter's retirement announcement the same way almost everyone else did: when the New York Yankees captain posted a letter to the world on his Facebook page this week.

Girardi left snowy New York on Friday and arrived at spring training for his seventh year as Yankees manager, and he spent the first eight minutes of his 20-minute opening news conference discussing Jeter's decision to retire after this season.

"I think we were probably all a little bit taken aback by it," Girardi said. "You're never sure how someone's going to do it, but I had no inkling that that's what he was thinking."

After missing the playoffs for just the second time in 19 years, the Yankees were back in business when pitchers and catchers reported ahead of Saturday's opening workout.

Alex Rodriguez's locker was empty following his season-long suspension. Masahiro Tanaka inherited Mariano Rivera's locker and Shawn Kelley got Andy Pettitte's stall. Scott Sizemore, attending camp on a minor league contract, was assigned Robinson Cano's jersey No. 24.

Position players report next Wednesday, when Jeter holds a news conference at Steinbrenner Field to explain his decision. Girardi has exchanged texts with the 39-year-old shortstop but has not spoken with him.

"This is going to be a guy that's hard to replace in your clubhouse and on your club," he said. "It's the nature of the business where people age and they move on and they go and do different things in their life, and in our life it's a little bit quicker than some of the other working people of this world."

Jeter was limited to 17 games last year after fracturing his left ankle in the 2012 playoffs and breaking it again last spring during his rehabilitation. Girardi said Jeter always told him "I feel great," but that he could sense frustration.

After working out Friday with Brian Roberts at the Yankees' minor league complex, Jeter demurred discussing his decision.

"It makes no sense to do it here and then do it again over there, so I'll do it all over there one time," he said.

And so now Jeter will go on a valedictory tour, much like Mariano Rivera did last year. Jeter is not the type to call attention to himself, making his public announcement before spring training all the more surprising.

"It could have been just watching how Mo did it, and how much fun everyone seemed to have with it with Mo," Girardi said. "He might have said, you know, it's a pretty good way to go out."

Jeter has won five World Series titles with the Yankees but none since 2009, and his final lap of the major leagues figures to set the theme as New York tries for title No. 28. His teammates looked forward to speaking with him after he reports.

"Not really surprised, saddened I guess that he's not going to be around," ace pitcher CC Sabathia said. "You want a guy like that to play forever."

Having witnessed Chipper Jones' final season with the Atlanta Braves in 2012, new Yankees catcher Brian McCann is looking forward to Jeter's last go-round.

"He's been the face of baseball since he broke in," McCann said. "I went through it with one Hall of Famer. I'm going to go through it with another."

David Robertson, inheriting the closer's role from Rivera, hadn't thought Jeter would make his plans known before the season's end.

"But I'm really glad he did," he said. "I think it's going to give the fans a chance to come out this year and see him in his final season in pinstripes."

Robertson's new job is one of many changes for the Yankees, who spent $471 million on free agents, including a $20 million payment to Tanaka's old club in Japan. McCann and outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran are among the many newcomers, and first baseman Mark Teixeira is returning from a wrist injury that sidelined him most of last season. Cano - the Yankees' top hitter - left for a $240 million, 10-year deal with Seattle.

Girardi predicted for the April 1 opener at Houston that Yankees players at every position other than pitcher will be different from opening day last year. The only time that's happened in franchise history was 1947, according to STATS.

"I think it is probably the biggest transition I've been through," Girardi said. "I need to learn a lot of new faces fairly quickly."

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AP freelance writer Mark Didtler contributed to this report.

Stewart returns to racing, undaunted by layoff

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) Tony Stewart is 20 pounds lighter and has a titanium rod in his surgically repaired right leg.

As far as he's concerned, those are the only major changes since he broke two bones in his leg in an August sprint-car crash. So when the green flag drops Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway for his first race since the accident, Stewart believes it will be the same old "Smoke" behind the wheel.

If he had any doubts - and he's insisted he doesn't - they were alleviated by 24 smooth laps in the first of two Friday night practice sessions for the exhibition Sprint Unlimited.

All told, Stewart ran 50 laps - 125 miles - around Daytona.

"There's zero percentage of pain in the car. That was nice," Stewart said. "I thought we would have some kind of ache or pain, but it was like putting on an old pair of shoes again."

Stewart, who does not have a backup driver at Daytona, has not raced in more than six months. It's an unheard of amount of time off for a driver who makes his money racing in NASCAR yet crisscrossed the country cramming 50 or more weeknight events into his year-round schedule.

So he found himself clock-watching Friday afternoon, anxious to put his firesuit back on and head into the garage for the first time this season. A notorious late-arriver to his car, Stewart showed up to the garage stall for the No. 14 Chevrolet almost 20 minutes early. He was in his seat, buckled in and helmet on, with almost 10 minutes to just sit and think about his first few laps.

"Every five minutes, I was looking at the clock. That's a long time to be staring at the clock," said Stewart, who joked he told new crew chief Chad Johnston not to expect to see him at the car so early moving forward. "That's not going to be a habit."

Fans above his garage stall cheered Stewart's arrival, and he was greeted by a sizeable media contingent at the car. Standing quietly in front of the car was his father, Nelson, who said the scene "almost reminds me of when he ran the (Indianapolis) 500 for the first time."

It was a mundane day of practice, but Stewart didn't mind the attention.

"Today in the big picture was just another practice day, but obviously it was a little bigger than normal," he admitted.

So relieved at how smooth it went, the old Stewart quickly returned as he felt the tug from nearby dirt track Volusia Speedway Park.

"If I didn't think that Greg Zipadelli would absolutely kill me, I would probably want to go race at Volusia tonight. It felt that good," he said. "I don't think Zippy would be the only guy - I think the entire organization would probably duct tape me to the flag pole on the front stretch just so I couldn't go."

Instead, walking with a slight limp, he headed inside his team hauler to "do what I always do - eat some animal crackers and have a Coke."

Stewart's layoff was certainly difficult, enhanced by the pain from his broken leg. He had two surgeries for the breaks, then a third to treat an infection. He was flat on his back, confined to the first-floor bedroom of his longtime business manager's house, where he was forced to lay with his leg elevated above his heart. When there was Stewart-Haas Racing business to address, team personnel did it at his bedside.

Stewart required an ambulance to get to his doctor appointments, and when he finally was able to get out of bed, he needed a wheelchair to get around.

And when Stewart - a driver SHR vice president of competition Zipadelli referred to as "Superman" in the days after his accident - finally made an appearance at the race track, it was on a motorized scooter.

Nobody was comfortable seeing the three-time NASCAR champion so restricted. Many wondered if he'd ever be the same.

Not Stewart.

"Right off the bat, the surgeon, the therapists, they've all said, `You're going to have 100-percent recovery,"' Stewart said. "With that, from Day 1, it took the doubt out."

Any questions about getting back into a race car were erased, and Stewart turned his attention to his recovery. He wondered when he'd be 100 percent - doctors have told him it will take a year, and he said this week his leg is only 65-percent healed - and when the pain would subside. He asked doctors if he'd always have some sort of lingering pain, and he threw himself into a tough rehabilitation program.

As he progressed and moved closer to Friday's practice sessions, his SHR team built a module that includes a seat, steering wheel, steering column and pedals so Stewart could sit and hold the pedal down for 20 minutes to simulate the pressure of having his foot on the throttle. New teammate Kevin Harvick ordered Stewart a special pad that hangs off the steering wheel that will prevent his knees from banging into the steering column.

Now his peers wait to see how Stewart will drive. Harvick said they attended a sponsor appearance together this week and when they left, Stewart "was like a crazed lunatic. You could see that look in his eye. He looked at me and said, `I'm ready to ... race!"'

A driver who has excelled in races because of his ability to feel the car, some have wondered if the injury has taken that talent from Stewart. He doesn't believe the broken leg has robbed him of anything.

"When you hear the quote, `It's a seat-of-the-pants feel,' you feel it in your core," he said. "Everything that is processed through your brain is between your core as far as feeling what's going on. Your hands and arm are feeling pressure in the steering wheel. But as far as from your legs down, you're not really feeling that sensation. It's more of what your brain is telling your legs to do.

"If we had to have an area to have an injury, my right leg was probably the one."

Sabathia down to 275 pounds, lightest in years

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) CC Sabathia got up from his chair in the corner of the New York Yankees' spring training clubhouse and looked almost slim - at least for him.

Sabathia was a shell of his former self on the mound last year, and now his body is a fraction of what it once was. A six-time All-Star used to a hefty frame, he didn't have any superstitions about shedding the weight.

"Being a fat guy is a little different than wearing the same glove," he said Friday.

After the worst of his 13 major league seasons, Sabathia reported at 275 pounds, 40 below his high in 2010. He was shaken when a cousin, Demetrius Davis, died of a heart attack at age 45 in December 2012. Sabathia started thinking about his future.

"I'd lose the weight to be around, to be around my family, be around my kids," he said.

Sabathia dropped most of the pounds last year plus an additional 5 during the offseason. Changing eating habits was key for the 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner.

"I just did no carbs and then really worked out, and this offseason I just watched my diet and worked really hard," he said.

Photographs of his appearances during the offseason sparked a flurry of Internet comments. Was his weight loss the equivalent of Samson going for a haircut?

"Yeah, I thought it was hilarious," Sabathia said sarcastically. "I didn't think people cared that much, but whatever."

"Everybody was like mad at me and stuff. That's why when I went on `First Take' I brought a Cap'n Crunch bag, just to let them know I'm still eating," he added. "Just not as much - not two boxes at a time."

Sabathia's ineffectiveness was a weight on the Yankees last year, when the 33-year-old left-hander went 14-13 and set career highs for ERA (4.78) and home runs allowed (28). He gave up a major league-high 122 runs, 45 on the homers, according to STATS.

Not what a pitcher with a 205-115 career record is accustomed to.

"Nobody wants to go through that again," he said. "It sticks with me a lot - just being disappointed in not being able to help this team win. I feel like if I could have been a little better we might have made the playoffs. I blamed myself for a long time in the offseason."

His fastball velocity dropped from 93.9 mph in 2011 to 92.4 in 2012 to 91.3 last year, according to fangraphs.com. Following elbow surgery in October 2012, his fastball average barely topped 90 in the first two months of last season.

"I think not having a normal offseason because he was rehabbing his elbow was part of it," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I can't tell you exactly where his velocity is going to be, but the bottom line for success is not his velocity. Obviously it helps a little, but it's location."

Sabathia went on his diet without supervision, which he now admits probably was the "wrong way." He lacked the stamina he had been used to when he was the Big Man.

"By the fourth, fifth inning I was usually tired," he said.

Sabathia brought up his endurance when he spoke with Yankees head athletic trainer Steve Donahue.

"I felt like `The Biggest Loser' last year," he said, referring to a reality television show about people dieting. "I lost a lot of weight, but I just wasn't physically ready to go out and play."

Michael Sam prompts ADs, coaches to review policy

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze has coached gay players before during his 20-year career.

Though Freeze declined to name the two players he coached before arriving on Mississippi's campus because of privacy, he said there is no exact protocol for how to handle a situation like the one that arose with Michael Sam.

This week, the Missouri All-American defensive end publicly said he was an "openly, proud gay man."

Among the questions facing athletic directors, coaches and administrators in the wake of Sam's announcement is how to teach tolerance and acceptance of gay athletes within the athletic department.

"It does cause you to go back and evaluate," said Troy AD John Hartwell. "One of the first things I did was go back to our senior staff and say, `OK, let's look at our policy. Let's make sure we don't have any issues here."'

Like many of the 10 athletic directors who responded to inquiries by The Associated Press, Hartwell said Troy believes in nurturing diversity and fostering respect for every individual.

"Because at the end of the day, you're going to have teammates that are of a different race than you are, of a different nationality, of a different economic background, possibly of a different sexual orientation - with a whole variety of beliefs," Hartwell said.

Still, football locker rooms lend themselves to being ripe with machismo and bravado, places where jabs involving one's sexual orientation are fairly commonplace - even if meant in a harmless manner.

But the jabs could lead to potential conflicts, as evidenced by the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal. An investigation order by the NFL detailed Dolphins players being the targets of vicious taunts and gay slurs.

Illinois football coach Tim Beckman said if a player did use a gay slur against another teammate he'd first ask the team's "honor council" - a group of 14 players selected by teammates - to address the situation.

Likely, he said, the player insulting a teammate would be told to correct his behavior and given a second chance. If the players' group didn't take what he considered to be appropriate action, Beckman said he'd step in and take steps himself.

"We'd probably give that young man a, `Hey, this is what's being said. If it doesn't change for the betterment of the family, then you're going to be suspended,"' Beckman said.

Said SMU athletic director Rick Hart said in the locker room athletes have to think "Are we crossing that line between bonding (with) teammates and having fun, and kind of ribbing each other to the point where things are hurtful and we need to put a stop to that."

Sam isn't the first football player to declare he's gay.

Freeze, who has coached two players he knew were gay, says, "On the teams we've coached, we always talk about how you treat others.

"In all cases, there is never a time that making someone feel bad is the way to go about it, regardless of what your view is.," the Mississippi coach said. "People deserve respect and we preach that daily. Hopefully that is the way we attack every situation."

Sometimes that's easier said than done.

Last October, several Ole Miss students, including about 20 football players, were reprimanded for interrupting a school-run play "The Laramie Project" with gay slurs. The play was based on the 1998 murder of the gay college student.

The school said all students at the play had to attend an "educational dialogue session."

Indiana has taken a proactive approach.

Last month the school held a gay pride night at a women's basketball game.

"The main thing is to bring it out in the open so that anybody dealing with an issue that needs to be accommodated can bring it forward whether it's an LGBT issue, an eating disorder, which is pretty common in college athletics, so we can try and create an environment that welcomes them," Indiana athletic director Fred Glass said.

Not all schools have felt the need to address Sam's situation.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said he hasn't discussed the issue with coaches because he doesn't feel there's a need.

"Among student-athlete and coaches, their reaction to this has sort of been, `Why are people treating this like a big deal?"' he said.

He said Notre Dame doesn't have a protocol in place for such issues.

Swarbrick said there is counseling available to students struggling with their sexual identity, but emphasized that "our expectation and our message is whatever differences you encounter in people, it's not going to be an issue. You're going to be respectful. You are going to be tolerant. You are not going to carry prejudice of any kind."

But others are reacting.

Kansas State athletic director John Currie said his university does have a protocol in place to deal with such issues. He also said they discussed Sam's announcement in their regularly scheduled staff meeting earlier this week.

Kansas State's academic services and counselors are trained through the SafeZone program, which is designed "to increase the awareness, knowledge and skills for individuals while addressing the challenges that exist when one wants to advocate for their LGBTQ peers, family members, friends and co-workers."

TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte said what Sam did was brave and will create change.

He compared the announcement to how Bear Bryant's Alabama squad playing USC helped lead to desegregation, and what Billie Jean King's Battle of the Sexes match against Bobby Riggs did for the Title IX push.

Del Conte added it also shows ADs need to be prepared if athletes come to them ready to announce they're gay.

"In today's society, it's more of a media (thing) - are you prepared for the media?" Del Conte said. "And if you're not, let's give you the tools necessary to help you."

Then he pulled out the most recent Sports Illustrated with a picture of Sam on the cover.

Del Conte said, "You'd have to be prepared for that."

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AP Sports Writers Eric Olson in Omaha, Neb., Schuyler Dixon in Dallas, Dave Skretta in Kansas City, Mo., John Zenor in Montgomery, Ala., Charles Odum in Atlanta, David Brandt in Jackson, Miss., Stephen Hawkins in Dallas, Aaron Beard in Raleigh, N.C., and Associated Press Writer Tom Coyne in South Bend, Ind., contributed to this report.

Inquiry says Incognito, 2 others harassed Martin

An investigation into the racially charged Miami Dolphins bullying scandal detailed widespread harassment in the team's locker room that extended beyond the two players at the center of the probe.

The NFL-ordered report stated there was a "pattern of harassment" committed by at least three players and extended to two lineman and an assistant trainer, all targets of vicious taunts and racist insults.

Lawyer Ted Wells released the report Friday, saying guard John Jerry and center Mike Pouncey followed Richie Incognito's lead in harassing Jonathan Martin, who left the team in October. They threatened to rape his sister, called him a long list of slurs and bullied him for not being "black enough."

In a statement emailed by a league spokesman, the NFL did not make any mention of possible punishment stemming from the case. The league only confirmed it had received the report and said it appreciated the Dolphins' cooperation with the investigation. Wells said he does not intend to comment further.

Martin is biracial, Incognito is white, and Jerry and Pouncey are black.

Martin's agent Kenneth Zuckerman said his client feels "vindicated" by the report.

"He feels a great sense of relief," Zuckerman told The Associated Press. "Jonathan Martin is a great man and he's only shown me that he is very honest since the day I met him. He loves football and is eager to get back on the field, regardless of what team he plays for."

Incognito's attorney Mark Schamel released a statement calling Wells' report "replete with errors" and said that Martin "was never bullied by Richie Incognito or any member of the Dolphins' offensive line."

Martin, who has two years left on his contract with the Dolphins, declined interview requests.

Incognito was suspended in November, but Pouncey and Jerry remained starters throughout the season.

The report mentioned another offensive lineman and an assistant trainer who also routinely came under attack from the trio. Neither was identified in the report.

The report chronicled Martin's struggle to deal with a "pattern of harassment," including emotional text exchanges with his parents and a description of him crying in the bathroom after one particularly painful attack.

Martin also told investigators that he "believed that trying to engage in a physical confrontation with these three - whom he viewed as a united group - would only make matters worse."

The inquiry said Martin was taunted and ridiculed almost daily. After Martin left the team, Incognito boasted about "breaking Jmart" in a notebook the linemen used to tally fines and bonuses among themselves. When the investigation began, Incognito asked another player to destroy the book, saying "They're going to suspend me."

The other harassed player was "subjected to homophobic name-calling and improper physical touching," while the assistant trainer, who was born in Japan, was subjected to racial slurs.

"It was not difficult to conclude that the Assistant Trainer and Player A were harassed, but the questions raised in Martin's case were more complex, nuanced and difficult," the report says.

Although Wells concluded that Martin was abused by three teammates, the report said "they did not intend to drive Martin from the team or cause him lasting emotional injury."

Evaluating Martin's claims was difficult, "given his mental health issues, his possible heightened sensitivity to insults and his unusual, `bipolar' friendship with Incognito," the report said.

"Nonetheless, we ultimately concluded that Martin was indeed harassed by Incognito, who can fairly be described as the main instigator."

The report comes about three months after the league hired Wells to investigate the case, which prompted a national debate about hazing and workplace bullying.

"To a great extent, Incognito dictated the culture," the report said. "We doubt that matters would have gotten so out of hand had Incognito not set a tone on the offensive line that made extremely vulgar taunting a typical form of communication."

Dolphins offensive line coach Jim Turner didn't attempt to stop the behavior and even took part in some of the taunting of "Player A," the report said. Several people interviewed told investigators that Turner gave Player A, a male sex doll as a gag gift around Christmas 2012. Turner told investigators he did not remember the incident, but investigators said they did not believe him.

However, the report found no evidence that the Dolphins front office or head coach Joe Philbin was aware of the conduct Martin found abusive.

The 6-foot-5, 312-pound Martin abruptly left the team Oct. 28. He was briefly hospitalized and then joined his family in California and underwent counseling for emotional issues. Incognito was barred from the season's last eight games.

Incognito expressed regrets about the racist and profane language he used with Martin, but said it stemmed from a culture of locker-room "brotherhood," not bullying.

Martin has said he tried to be friends with Incognito. The two players traded more than a thousand text messages in a year's span, and the teasing and vulgar banter went both ways. Martin also participated in the teasing of Player A, although investigators say he was simply trying to fit in with the other linemen.

The report also mentioned Martin having suicidal thoughts.

"Whether or not Incognito, Jerry and Pouncey fully appreciated the effect of their actions on Martin, there is no doubt that, from Martin's perspective, their actions were abusive and hurtful," the report said. "We are not, however, in a position to evaluate Martin's assertion that the abusive conduct of his teammates was, in fact, the exclusive triggering cause of his depression and contemplation of suicide."

The NFL Players Association said it will review the findings closely, confer with players and all relevant parties involved.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said in a statement: "As an organization, we are committed to a culture of team-first accountability and respect for one another."

SOCHI: Miracle remembered on eve of US-Russia clash

SOCHI – Thirty-four years have drifted by, and I’ll bet every month since I have thought at least once about the Miracle on Ice. 

Memories of childhood fade in and out – blurry snippets of playground games and classroom boredom, gasoline lines and Rocky movies, Happy Days sitcoms and disco on the radio – but that one Olympic hockey game, the United States against the Soviet Union in February 1980, stays sharp and colorful and so present it almost feels like I could take a step back and live it again.

We sat in our family room on an old sofa with a couple of springs peeking through, and we stared at a Magnavox 21-inch television that had perpetual static. It was a Friday night. I recall snow. My mother had gone out to play cards, so it was a boys club, with Dad and my two younger brothers sitting there. I was 13.  I knew almost nothing about the game. I knew only that we were in a cold war with the Russians – as boys we would cynically calculate how many times each country could blow up the world with nuclear weapons -- and that our U.S. hockey team had no chance to win.

Then Olympic host Jim McKay came on to introduce the game. And behind him, people were screaming, ‘U.S.A! U.SA!” I remember McKay saying that, although the game had already happened, he would not be the one to reveal the score. In retrospect, seeing all those Americans chanting and celebrating probably should have tipped us off.

Instead, I remember my Dad saying: “I wonder if they kept the score close.”

Related: Catching up with Miracle on Ice icon Mike Eruzione

The story is so familiar – at least our American version of the story. A driven man named Herb Brooks had come up with a plan to play with the invulnerable Russians. It was actually a plan to BEAT the Russians, but even Brooks was too timid to fully believe such a thing was possible. The Russians had won the previous four Olympic gold medals. And the talk was the 1980 team was the best of them all.

Brooks had famously been the last person cut from the 1960 U.S. hockey team, which in the first version of the miracle on ice, beat the Soviets and won gold in Squaw Valley. He watched that gold medal game with his father, and when it ended Herb Sr. told his son, “Well, I guess the coach cut the right guy.”

This bluntness, bordering on cruelty, infused the son. Herb Brooks Jr. was obsessed with an idea: Americans playing the Russian style of hockey, beautiful, fast and loose, brisk passes, lots of possession time, five attackers moving as one. The style didn’t come naturally to him; Brooks had won three national championships at Minnesota while coaching exactly the opposite style (physical hockey, lots of dumping of the puck and chasing after it). But he was convinced the only way to play with the Soviets was to play their game.

He handpicked a team of fast and skilled young players he believed could adapt. And he drove them relentlessly. He had this drill everyone called “Herbies,” a back-and-forth skating nightmare that left even the best-conditioned players vomiting. The long training camp was a never-ending series of Herbies. One night, after a bad loss, they skated Herbies even after the arena had shut out the lights. And mind games. And threats. And insults. Behind his back, they called him “Ayatollah Khomeini.”

Put it this way: A few weeks before the Olympics he called in his captain and future American sports hero Mike Eruzione and threatened to cut him.

“Did you believe him?” I asked Eruzione.

“Sure I believed him,” Eruzione said. “We were more scared of him than the Soviets.”

Those intense feelings, for some, did not fade until Brooks died in a car accident in 2003. One year earlier, Brooks did not join the team for the Olympic torch-lighting ceremony in Salt Lake City. He said that he was invited, but he didn’t think it was right to go. “One of them might push me in,” he said, and it wasn’t entirely clear that he was joking.

 The first time the U.S. played the Russians in 1980 – 13 days before the Miracle – they lost 10-3 in Madison Square Garden. It was such an insane mismatch that the actual Olympic game seemed pointless.

Al Michaels was in Lake Placid already to call the Olympics for ABC, but he called that game off a television feed to practice. “All I can tell you is that it was a joke,” he says. “The score was 10-3; it looked like 20-0. That score doesn’t do justice to the game. … I think we all believed the Americans were better than that. But the Soviets were SO good.”

Then, maybe that game was where the magic began. Brooks hinted through the years that the Madison Square Garden game was a bit of a setup, that he did not unleash the open style that they had been working on, and that he did not bother trying to settle down his team when they began to panic.

“Have fun,” he had told his team before the game according to Wayne Coffey’s fantastic book The Boys of Winter, and no player could ever remember Brooks using the word “fun” at any other time.

Whether purposeful or not the blowout did two things:

  • It freed the U.S. team to play with abandon in the Olympic game. There is nothing quite like the freedom that goes with having no chance.
  • It made the Soviets wildly overconfident.

The game itself played out like a dream. There were 8,500 fans crowded into the arena in Lake Placid (including seven-time Olympic gold medalist Eric Heiden and M*A*S*H co-star Jamie Farr), many of them armed with giant American flags. It was a gloomy time in America. There were hostages in Iran, round-the-block gas lines, high inflation and an increasingly cold war with the Soviets that would lead to an American boycott of the Summer Games in Moscow.  The entire nation was ready to explode for something good.

The Soviets scored quickly, and the U.S. team tied the game. The Soviets scored again to make it 2-1 when the game’s pivotal play happened. With the first period running out, American Dave Christian hit a slap shot that the Soviet’s great goaltender Vladislav Tretiak uncharacteristically misplayed, allowing the puck to bounce in front. American Mark Johnson slipped through and slapped the puck past Tretiak for the tying goal. There was one second left on the clock.

There was a huge argument then about whether the goal should count – and lost in the argument was the most shocking move of the entire game. Soviet coach Viktor Tikhonov was so angry about the goal and the way the game was going he removed the great Tretiak from the game. Almost no one noticed it until the start of the next period, when there was a buzz on the American bench.

“Oh my God,” the U.S. players whispered to each other. “They pulled Tretiak.”

It has become popular legend that the pulling of Tretiak changed the whole complexion of the game. And the players do remember feeling a jolt of confidence after it happened. But the reality is that the Soviets utterly dominated the second period, out-shooting the Americans 12-2 and controlling the game more or less for every minute. But the Soviets scored only one goal.

“The way (U.S. goaltender) Jim Craig played in that second period, to me that was the whole game,” Michaels says. “The saves he made that period, some of them were ridiculous. If he lets in even one more goal, it’s 4-2, forget it, the game’s over. But at 3-2, there’s a chance for something.”

Then came the miracle. Johnson scored the game-tying goal, and with about 10 minutes left Eruzione took a shot from the slot that beat goaltender Vladimir Myshkin to give the United States 4-3 lead. The final 10 minutes were glorious and agonizing and wonderful as the Soviets peppered away at the American goalie. One shot by Aleksandr Maltsev hit the post. The final two minutes, the Soviets fired wild shot after wild shot.

“We were panicking,” the Soviets’ young defenseman Sergei Starikov would tell Coffey.

And then, at the very end, Al Michaels made the call: “Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”

And the American team celebrated wildly. Jim Craig was wrapped in the American flag. The team skated around the rink in disbelief. Flags flapped so hard that the entire arena cooled. Herb Brooks went to tunnel to have his own quiet moment.

And in our little house in Cleveland – like in homes all over the country -- we all jumped around like crazy people and did believe.

OK, so that was our point of view. It obviously was different here in Russia. Here, nobody could understand how their great team – the greatest team in the world – could lose to a bunch of American college kids.

“Their team beating our team,” Tretiak would say many years later. “It truly was a miracle. Such a thing will never be repeated.”

Tretiak says that, even then, he could not help but feel admiration for the gritty American team. But he never would understand why he was pulled. “Ask the coach,” he said. Tretiak said he never talked about it with the coach, Viktor Tikhonov. Nobody talked about such things with Tikhonov.

If Herb Brooks was a fierce leader during his time as U.S. hockey coach, Tikhonov was a dictator. He controlled every aspect of Soviet hockey. He made the players live in barracks 11 months out of the year. He made them play exactly the way he wanted them to play. Many have wondered why the Soviets didn’t remove the goalie, play with an empty net and try to attack 6-on-5 in the final seconds of the game. The answer was simple. Tikhonov didn’t play with an empty net.

To an outsider, Tikhonov was the very picture of what was behind the iron curtain. He was grim and severe-looking and seemingly humorless and unapproachable. He had been given the Soviet hockey team shortly after their won bronze at the World Championships in 1977 – the first time in 15 years they had not won gold of silver. His directive was simple: Fix this.

And Tikhonov did fix it the same way Vince Lombardi built the Green Bay Packers and the same way Bill Belichick built the New England Patriots – that is by controlling every single aspect of Soviet hockey. The American players might have despised Brooks, but Tikhonov was such an overwhelming presence in his players’ lives that such mundane feelings as “like” and “dislike” simply didn’t apply.

“He was cold to us,” Tretiak would say. But Tikhonov – marrying the Old Russian style of speed and rhythm with a certain conservatism he carried naturally – built an almost invincible force. At the 1979 World Championships, the Russians beat Czechoslovakia 11-1, then beat Canada 9-2, they crushed Czechoslovakia again 6-1 to win the gold. The 1980 Olympics looked like they would be easy.

Tikhonov was actually ill during those Olympics, though he would never say a word about it. He would come to regret two things. One, he would regret that he could never quite wake up his team after their 10-3 victory over the United States just before the Olympics.  He told them again and again not to be overconfident, not to take the Americans lightly, not to put too much stock in that game. But he could see that his words weren’t sinking in.  “The players told me it would be no problem,” Tikhonov told Coffey. “It turned out to be a very big problem.”

In truth, even he might have been overconfident, which led to his pulling of Tretiak. He was so angry after the goal right at the end of the period that, he said, he let his emotions get the best of him. Anyway LOSING the game never occurred to him. He pulled Tretiak to send a message to his team but he did not think it would matter in the result. “My blood was boiling,” he would say. “It was my worst mistake. It was my biggest regret.”

The rest of the game played out like a bad dream for the Soviets. They would rather not remember. In 2002, when Vlacheslav Fetisov coached the Russian team, we asked him what he remembered from that game. “I don’t remember,” he said. “That was many concussions ago.”

And Tikhonov would say he never saw the game on film. “I saw it once,” he said. “That was enough.”

* * *

Michaels had no idea how big his “Do you believe in miracles” call had become. This is because – and not many people know this – he stayed around after the call to announce the Finland-Sweden hockey game. He says that he and color commentator Ken Dryden did not even have time to talk about the game before having to focus on the next one. When he left the arena, he walked to the hotel and the street was still buzzing. But he still had no idea.

“I remember somebody came up to me in the hotel later and said, ‘that was so great what you said at the end,’” Michaels says. “And I remember thinking, ‘What did I say?’

For weeks and months after the game, Michaels said he would get letters from people. The letters weren’t only about the call. Many of them were heartfelt, tear-stained; people talked about how for the first time in so many years they were proud to be Americans. After a while, Michaels wondered why people kept sending HIM those letters.

And then it occurred to him: He was the one with an address. After the Miracle game, after the U.S. won the gold medal, the team broke apart. Some went to play in the NHL. Some went back to college. Some went to work. There was no more 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, no organization to how much it meant.

So people wrote instead to Michaels, care of ABC on Sixth Avenue.

“I still have many of those letters,” he says. “They were so heartfelt. I’ve often said, that team made it cool to be patriotic.”

* * *

So the United States and Russia play again Saturday, and it has nothing at all to do with 1980. There is no Soviet Union. There is no cold war. Everyone is a professional. The Russian team features Alex Ovechkin, who in his real life is the biggest sports star in Washington.

But it’s still USA-Russia. And there is a player on the Russian team named Viktor Tikhonov. He’s the great coach’s grandson. He grew up in San Jose – his father Vasili was a San Jose Sharks coach – and he sounds utterly like a California guy. Young Viktor is playing for his father, who died six months ago in a horrible fall while trying to fix a broken window screen in his Moscow apartment.

Viktor says that the tragedy has brought him closer to his grandfather. He knows the reputation of Viktor Tikhonov, the ferocious coach who, after the 1980 defeat, led the Soviet Union to the gold at the next three Olympics. He says that he only knows a kindly grandfather. He says he never asked about 1980.

In fact, young Viktor Tikhonov has also never seen that game. He has refused to see the movie “Miracle” about that game.  When asked why, he shrugs. He’s a Tikhonov. The game that still fascinates America all these years later means something very different to a Tikhonov.

SOCHI: Pikus-Pace's long journey ends with silver in skeleton

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Britain's Lizzy Yarnold won the season's first race on a technicality.

The season's last race, there was no argument.

Yarnold won the Olympic women's skeleton gold medal Friday night, a victory that puts the 25-year-old unquestionably atop her sport, probably for years to come. Her four-run time was 0.97 seconds faster than silver medalist Noelle Pikus-Pace of Eagle Mountain, Utah, who entered retirement by exorcising the memory of letting a medal slip away in Vancouver four years ago.

"It won't sink in for a few more days, but I'm over the moon," Yarnold said, as a full moon illuminated part of the Russian night sky. "I'm so proud. I put in all the work for five years and it all worked out."

Yarnold, who also won the World Cup overall title this season, claimed Britain's first gold at the Sochi Games. Her time was 3 minutes, 52.89 seconds, and the final trip down the track was a mere formality, given that she already had a 0.78-second edge over Pikus-Pace and only needed to avoid a giant mistake.

It didn't happen. The fourth run was like all the others — flawless.

She grabbed a British flag, hopped near the finish line, embraced teammate Shelley Rudman and seemed to just never stop smiling.

"Lizzy's been a beautiful bubble of confidence in every one of her races," said Amy Williams, the 2010 skeleton gold medalist from Britain. "I'm so proud of her that we kept the medal in Great Britain and wrote ourselves into the history books."

Pikus-Pace insisted that this time, she'll retire happy. Simply being in the Olympic race was victory enough; Pikus-Pace revealed afterward that she was dealing with concussion-like symptoms for several days before the race and minimized her training time on the advice of doctors.

"I felt fine and safe sliding but my vision has been going in and out of being able to focus, which slows my reaction time," Pikus-Pace said. "It has been an extremely difficult week but my family, coaches, and prayers of many allowed me to come out and compete the best I can given the situation."

Elena Nikitina of Russia won the bronze, another 0.44 seconds off the pace and just 0.04 seconds ahead of Katie Uhlaender of Breckenridge, Colo., who took fourth for her top Olympic finish.

And afterward, Uhlaender wasn't lamenting coming so close. Instead, she picked up Pikus-Pace's daughter Lacee, gave her an embrace and sang her teammate's praises.

"I couldn't be more proud of her," Uhlaender said. "This is a great last race for us both. Noelle finished fourth last time and now she's on the podium and I couldn't be happier for her."

The Lizzy-vs.-Noelle rivalry was back and forth all season, starting with the World Cup opener in Calgary, where Pikus-Pace crossed the line first and was originally announced as the winner. But Yarnold was awarded the victory after race officials said the American used too much tape on the handle of her sled.

That decision played a huge role in deciding the World Cup title. From there, Pikus-Pace set her sights on closing out her sliding career with an Olympic medal — which is really the only thing that lured her from retirement two years ago, especially since a trip to the podium in Vancouver was lost when she made a mistake in Curve 2 of her final run at the 2010 Olympics.

"This is a dream come true for myself and my family," Pikus-Pace said. "Absolutely unbelievable. I stood up there at the start knowing this was my race and I knew I was just going to go for it."

When she crossed the line Friday night, knowing hardware was hers, she flashed a megawatt smile. Retirement, she said, would be about spending time with her family. She couldn't wait to get started, hopping over the track wall to join her husband and children for hugs and kisses — her first, ever, as an Olympic medalist.

Then she waved to fans.

Waving goodbye, essentially.

Yarnold, she's basically just saying hello.

She announced herself as the next big thing in skeleton two winters ago, winning two of her first four World Cup races. A year ago, she vaulted to No. 4 in the World Cup rankings, and inconsistency kept her from rising even higher.

This season, she figured it all out. World Cup champion. Olympic champion. And her top rival is retiring.

Yarnold covered her face, almost in disbelief, on the flower podium afterward. Pikus-Pace wept softly through her smile and was the last to leave the stand, seeming almost unsure where to go next.

Then she figured it out. She's going home.

Details disclosed in investigations of ex-NFL star

LOS ANGELES (AP) Prosecutors say former NFL safety Darren Sharper, who has been charged with raping and drugging women in California, is under investigation in connection with five more rapes and 11 druggings in other states.

Sharper appeared in Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday but his arraignment was postponed until Feb. 20 at the request of his lawyers.

Prosecutors immediately filed a motion to raise his bail to $10 million and outlined details of other alleged assaults and druggings in Las Vegas, Tempe, Ariz., and New Orleans.

Sharper has not been charged in the other jurisdictions and remains under investigation.

In the bail motion, an investigator described a pattern in which the former football star met women at clubs, lured them to a hotel or apartment then drugged and raped them.

His lawyers said outside court he will be exonerated.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Former NFL safety Darren Sharper has been charged in Los Angeles with drugging and raping two women, prosecutors said Friday.

Sharper appeared in court but a judge postponed his arraignment until Feb. 20 at the request of defense attorneys.

Sharper is facing two counts of rape by use of drugs, four counts of furnishing a controlled substance, and one count of possession of a controlled substance, according to a statement from the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

The complaint alleges the drugs involved were morphine and zolpidem, which is sold under the brand name Ambien.

Sharper was represented by prominent Los Angeles attorneys Blair Berk and Leonard Levine.

"We look forward to the true facts being revealed in this case," Berk said after the brief court appearance. "And we are hopeful Mr. Sharper will be fully exonerated before this case is concluded."

Sharper, 38, played in the NFL from 1997 to 2010, mostly with the Packers.

Prosecutors said he met two women at a West Hollywood nightclub on Oct. 30, invited them to a party and stopped at his hotel room.

He is accused of giving a shot of alcohol to each of the women before they passed out. One woman told investigators she woke up naked hours later with Sharper sexually assaulting her. The other woman awoke and "interrupted his actions," according to the criminal complaint.

On Jan. 14, Sharper met two other women at the same nightclub and invited them to a party. On the way, he invited both to his room and offered them shots before they passed out, prosecutors said.

When they woke up early the next day, one woman believed she had been sexually assaulted, the complaint said. Both women left his hotel and sought medical treatment.

Sharper was arrested on Jan. 17. He was allowed to remain free on $200,000 bail and ordered to surrender his passport. He has not entered a plea.

Prosecutors are seeking to raise bail to $10 million because the Miami resident faces similar investigations in Arizona, Nevada and Louisiana. Superior Court Judge Roberto Longoria did not immediately take up the bail request.

Sharper's lawyers refused to comment on the other investigations.

If convicted in the California case, Sharper could face more than 30 years in state prison.

Sharper was selected All-Pro six times and chosen for the Pro Bowl five times. He played in two Super Bowls, one with the Packers as a rookie and a second with the Saints.

SOCHI: What to watch on Friday

Here's a look at the compelling events, athletes and storylines of the Sochi Olympics on Friday, Feb. 14.

Alpine Skiing

Men's super combined downhill, 1 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Men's super combined slalom, 6:30 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Americans Bode Miller and Ted Ligety could win medals in this event, which starts with one downhill run in the morning and concludes with an afternoon slalom. Miller is the defending Olympic champion. Ligety is the reigning world champion and also won the 2006 Olympic combined (which was one downhill and two slaloms).

If Miller wins a medal, he will move into solo second on the all-time Olympic Alpine medals list with six, trailing Norway's Kjetil Andre Aamodt, who won eight. Ligety seeks his second Olympic medal.

The top international contenders include Croatia's Ivica Kostelic, 34, who is the reigning Olympic and world silver medalist. He is also the older brother of Janica Kostelic, the most decorated female Olympic Alpine skier ever who is retired. Don't lose sight of France's Alexis Pinturault, either. Both Kostelic and Pinturault will be behind after the downhill.

Even speed racer Aksel Lund Svindal has a shot here. He better be faster than Miller, Ligety and Kostelic in the downhill though. Much faster.

Men's hockey

Czech Republic-Latvia, 3 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Sweden-Switzerland, 7:30 a.m. ET  -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

The Czechs and Latvians both lost their openers, so both teams are looking to avoid being the last-place team in Group C.

This is a meeting of three guys who used to face each other in the NHL in the 1990s -- Jaromir Jagr (41, Czech), Petr Nedved (42, Czech) and Sandis Ozolinsh (41, Latvia).

This matchup is for the top spot in Group C after two games. The Swedes are coming off a 4-2 win over the Czechs, while the Swiss blanked the Latvians 1-0 behind Jonas Hiller.

The Swiss have opted not to start Hiller though. Instead, they will go with Reto Berra of the Calgary Flames.

Regardless, Sweden is the favorite here as it hopes to follow a path to its third straight gold at a European Olympics (if we're counting Sochi as a European Games).

Figure Skating

Men's free skate, 10 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

As expected, the top two men in the short program were Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu and Canada's Patrick Chan. Hanyu leads Chan by 3.97 points after breaking his own record with a 101.45-point short program.

Hanyu and Chan are both looking to become their nations' first Olympic men's figure skating champions.

American Jason Brown, is in sixth place but just .98 of a point behind third-place Javier Fernandez of Spain. Brown, who will skate last, could become the youngest Olympic figure skating medalist since Viktor Petrenko in 1988.

The other American, Jeremy Abbott, struggled in his short program for the second straight Olympics and is in 15th, far out of the medal picture.

Russian Yevgeny Plushenko, a four-time Olympic medalist, withdrew prior to his short program with a back injury Thursday.

Women's skeleton runs 3 & 4, 10:40 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Americans Noelle Pikus-Pace and Katie Uhlaender could both win medals here, but gold will be very tough to grab.

Great Britain's Lizzy Yarnold leads by .44 of a second after two of four runs. She's the World Cup season champion and looking to make it two straight women's skeleton golds for Great Britain after Amy Williams' 2010 title.

Pikus-Pace, who had limited training this week due to a back injury, is in second place. She finished fourth in 2010, retired, had her second child and returned for a final Olympics.

Russian Elena Nikitina came from nowhere for third place Thursday, .55 back of Yarnold. Nikitina, 21, has one career World Cup podium and would be the youngest skeleton medalist since 1928.

Uhlaender is .14 behind Nikitina. She is the 2012 world champion and the silver medalist on this track in a World Cup event last year but hasn't been better than sixth in any World Cup this past season, missing time due to post-concussion effects.

The first two runs of men's singles will precede the women.

Men's hockey

Canada-Austria, 12 p.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Norway-Finland, 12 p.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Canada eased into the Olympics by beating Norway 3-1 on Thursday. Austria shouldn't pose any threat, either, in its first Olympic men's hockey tournament since 2002.

The key will be how Roberto Luongo fares in net after Carey Price beat the Norwegians. You have to think the man named starter for the group finale against Finland will be in the driver's seat to stay there for the bracket-round games.

Like Canada, Finland should be able to dispose of Norway. It scored eight times on 52 shots against Austria, making up for Tuukka Rask giving up four goals on 20 shots. Finland matched its highest goal output since 1992.

Canada and Finland will likely be playing for Group C supremacy Sunday.

Freestyle Skiing

Women's aerials final, 12:30 p.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

China is the world's deepest nation in aerials, which shouldn't be shocking given the gymnastics nature of the flipping, twisting event.

It sends the 2010 Olympic silver medalist, 2013 world champion and two other women who have won World Cup events this season into qualification in the early evening.

The top 12 women overall advance to the first round of finals at 2:30. The top eight from there will go to the second final, and the final four to the last final.

Australia boasts the defending Olympic champion in Lydia Lassila, one of three non-Chinese women to make a World Cup podium in five events this season.

The U.S. has two-time Olympian Ashley Caldwell and three-time Olympian Emily Cook. Caldwell, back from two torn ACLs, was second at the first World Cup event this season.

NASCAR's Patrick reacts to Petty's criticism

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) Danica Patrick has a two-year-old photo of her in the car at Daytona, on the receiving end of two thumbs up from Richard Petty.

"It's a back shot of his butt sticking out," Patrick said, smiling.

It had been the extent of the interaction between the pair - just a playful sign of encouragement from the Hall of Famer to one of NASCAR's most popular drivers after she won the pole at the 2012 Nationwide Series race at Daytona.

On Thursday, Patrick spent most of her appearance at the Daytona 500 media day brushing off criticism from The King that the only way she could win a Sprint Cup race was "if everybody else stayed home."

She refused to fire back at Petty, a seven-time champion, politely stating that he was entitled to his opinion. Patrick handled the comments much in the same way she dismissed Kyle Petty's remarks last year that "she's not a race car driver."

"It has nothing to do with where it comes from," she said. "The people that matter the most to me are my team, my sponsors and those little 3-year-old kids that run up to you and want a great big hug and say they want to grow up to be like you. That's the stuff I really focus on."

Patrick talked at length about almost every topic but racing for the second straight year to kick off Daytona. She spent her 20-minute session last year answering questions about her new relationship with fellow driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

This year, Stenhouse again was a hot topic, with people wanting to know: What are their Valentine's Day plans?

"I did say to him yesterday, `Hey babe, I feel like I shouldn't be thinking about this because it should be your job, but would you like me to ask someone to make reservations at a restaurant?"' she said.

Odds are, the famous pair won't be asking the Pettys to join them for a bite to eat.

Petty gave NASCAR plenty to chew on last week when he said Patrick only gets attention because she's a woman, but added that publicity is good for NASCAR.

"If she'd have been a male, nobody would ever know if she'd showed up at a racetrack," Petty said. "This is a female deal that's driving her. There's nothing wrong with that, because that's good PR for me. More fans come out, people are more interested in it. She has helped to draw attention to the sport, which helps everybody in the sport."

Stenhouse said he was proud of the way Patrick handled the media glare.

"I would not be happy if it was about me like that," he said. "But I think she's proved she can drive these race cars. She's got a lot to learn. Heck, I've got a lot to learn."

Maybe they'll figure out why the Pettys have been so petty toward Patrick.

"I don't know what their problem is," Stenhouse said. "But, hey, they have opinions and they like to talk."

Dale Earnhardt Jr., long NASCAR's most popular driver, said Petty was a "little rough" on Patrick.

"Danica deals with more criticism than anybody else has ever faced in the sport," Earnhardt said. "She goes by a different set of rules because of her gender, and that's unfortunate. It seems like she's always having to answer to something like that, and that's a pain in her butt.

"And frankly it's just got to get old."

Patrick drew national headlines to NASCAR in her Daytona Cup debut last season when she became the first woman to win the pole and raced up front for much of "The Great American Race." She led five laps and finished eighth.

She never came close to duplicating that Daytona success the rest of the season for Stewart-Haas Racing. Daytona marked Patrick's best finish during a rough rookie year in which she averaged a 26th-place finish. Patrick was 27th in the final Sprint Cup standings.

Her learning curve figures to be steep one. Six-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said Patrick would need at least five years to really get a feel for handling a stock car. Even Patrick, who had one win in her IndyCar career, knows she has plenty to learn. She's winless with one top-10 in 46 career Cup starts and had only one top-five in 60 career Nationwide starts. She'll run the Nationwide race at Daytona the night before the 500.

"Stock cars are not my background," she said. "I've done two full years. One in Nationwide. One in Cup. I still feel like I'm figuring stock cars out, and will for a long time."

Brad Keselowski, the 2012 Cup champion, said he respected Petty's stance on Patrick and added his comments to the mix.

"But I think it's a long ways to go out there and say someone will never win a race," he said. "I wouldn't want my name behind that comment. So I think I would probably give a little more time and see how that one plays out because there are races where I think she can win."

Like Daytona. Or Talladega. Restrictor plate races where just about anything can happen and often lead to unlikely winners.

But at any other track?

"I haven't seen any indications that would make me think anything different than that," Keselowski said.

Enough about The King, let's get back to the boyfriend.

"That's so much more fun," Patrick said. "I haven't really done anything on the race track. What would you ask me if there was no fun things like there are today?"

SOCHI: US men's hockey opens with flourish, hammers Slovaks

SOCHI, Russia -- With just one game to prepare for its Olympic showdown with Russia, the United States men's hockey team decided to cram an entire tournament's worth of hard work and highlights into one spectacular opener.

Paul Stastny scored twice during a six-goal barrage in the second period, and the Americans got off to a roaring start in Sochi with a 7-1 victory over Slovakia in preliminary-round play Thursday.

Ryan Kesler, David Backes, Phil Kessel and Dustin Brown also scored as the U.S. battered Slovakia for six consecutive goals in a 13:51 span, turning what was expected to be a tough matchup into a laugher with their relentless offense.

"I guess you never really expect to beat a team like that 7-1, and you never do it in a tournament like this," captain Zach Parise said. "We just capitalized on the chances we had, moved the puck well and used our speed."

Although their goal celebrations declined from elation to excitement to sheepishness while the score skyrocketed, the Americans answered any lingering questions about their offensive abilities and their aptitude on the big Olympic ice by decimating a Slovak roster studded with NHL players.

"You have to do a lot of skating out there on the big ice, but I think we handled it all right," said Kessel, who led the U.S. with two goals and an assist.

Jonathan Quick made 22 saves in his Olympic debut for the U.S., which hopes to improve on its silver-medal finish in Vancouver despite a roster that isn't thought to have the offensive power of Canada, Russia or Sweden.

In their only warmup for Saturday's game against Alex Ovechkin and the host Russians, the Americans had more than enough potency to leave Slovakia's two goalies battered.

"For the first time on the big ice for most of us, I thought we did pretty well," Stastny said. "Our strengths are our puck possession and our speed, and we were really able to use both of them. All four lines just kind of clicked, and so did our D-men."

Jaroslav Halak stopped 20 shots before getting pulled when Stastny tipped home Kevin Shattenkirk's pass to put the Americans up 5-1 with their fourth goal in 12:04. Peter Budaj replaced Halak, but Kessel and Brown piled on goals in the next 1:47.

Tomas Tatar scored for Slovakia, which traveled to Sochi without high-scoring Marian Gaborik and veteran defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky due to injury. Nobody anticipated such a defensive collapse by a talented roster anchored by Stanley Cup-winning defenseman Zdeno Chara.

Slovakia's last two Olympic appearances have been humiliations: The Slovaks blew a third-period lead and lost to Finland in the bronze medal game in Vancouver, depriving them of their nation's first Olympic hockey medals.

"We're going to be better," said Tatar, the Detroit Red Wings' young forward. "We had a solid first period and then tied it. We've just got to play way better in our defensive zone. I think we're going to be ready to play the next game. We have a lot of talent in our locker room, and we're going to sort it out."

John Carlson opened the scoring for the U.S. in the first period, and Tatar tied it with a nasty wrist shot in the opening minute of the second. Kesler put the Americans back ahead 1:02 later with a one-timer through Brown's screen, and Stastny scored 1:06 later on a fat rebound of Max Pacioretty's shot.

The hits just kept coming, and the U.S. didn't let up until Brown redirected Carlson's pass to make it 7-1, sending the once-boisterous Slovak crowd into frustrated silence at Shayba Arena.

Patrick Kane, T.J. Oshie and James van Riemsdyk added two assists apiece, with the speedy Kane looking particularly comfortable on the wide Olympic ice.

The U.S. had lost to Slovakia in each of the teams' two previous Olympic meetings, giving the game special meaning to Stastny. The two-time U.S. Olympian has a famous Slovak father: Hall of Famer Peter Stastny played extensively for the Czechoslovakian and Slovak national teams alongside his lengthy NHL career.

"It was good to finally get it on the third try," Stastny said.

The Americans' scoring outburst made their goaltending situation seem secondary for a day, but Quick still handled the Slovaks' chances well. U.S. coach Dan Bylsma waited until Wednesday to choose Quick for the first start over Ryan Miller, who backstopped the Americans to silver medals in Vancouver while winning the tournament MVP award.

Quick, who didn't get in a game in Vancouver, emerged as one of the world's top goalies while leading Los Angeles to a Stanley Cup championship in 2012, but he missed seven weeks of the Kings' current season with a groin injury.

SOCHI: Canada men top Norway in Olympic hockey opener

SOCHI, Russia -- Shea Weber and Jamie Benn scored in the second period to help Canada shake off a sluggish start Thursday, leading the defending Olympic champions past Norway 3-1.

Patrick Thoresen redirected a shot in front of the net to pull the Norwegians within a score on a power play 22 seconds into the third. Drew Doughty restored the two-goal lead 1:25 later in the period.

Canada's Carey Price made 19 saves in his Olympic debut. The star-filled team likely will not be tested until facing Finland on Sunday in the third game of the round-robin preliminary round.

Lars Haugen made 35 saves for the Norwegians.

For the second straight Olympics, the Canadians opened against Norway and entered the second period in a scoreless tie.

Canada didn't go on to rout the overmatched team as it did last time with an 8-0 victory. It was in control for most of the game, however.

Weber's slap shot -- perhaps the hardest in the world -- broke the scoreless tie at 6:20 of the second period. Benn scored from the left circle off a slick, cross-ice pass from Patrice Bergeron, who also had an assist on the first goal.

Early on, Canada looked as if its talented players -- all of them in the NHL -- were slowed by jet lag. It had only one more shot than Norway in the scoreless first period.

In the second, the Canadians stepped up the pressure when they had the puck and didn't give up a shot for about 18 minutes in the period.

Canada was so dominant midway through the game that it appeared to be on a power play during even-strength situations. The Norwegians, though, didn't trail by more than a goal until Benn scored.

Norway, meanwhile, has only one player from the world's top hockey league: New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello.

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