Goon Hockey Lives; The Golden State Warriors Can't Have People Over

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Today in sports: A nasty hockey brawl at Madison Square Garden won't do much to ease concerns about fighting in hockey, fed-up fans of the Golden State Warriors turn a celebration into an evening of lusty boos, and dissecting Peyton Manning's new contract.

Fighting is off 25% this season in the NHL, which didn't stop Ralph Nader from sending commissioner Gary Bettman a letter imploring him to ban fisticuffs altogether. Nader has a point: bare-knuckle brawling can do damage to players' brains, though the threat posed by a forearm shiver from an opponent while racing to the corner for a lose puck is far more common and just as dangerous. In January, USA Today talked to a handful of current and former general managers who all seemed to think goon hockey would just eventually fade away through the process of (on-ice) natural selection. Players are being asked to do more, stay on for longer shifts: they no longer have the energy to expend on cheap shots, while coaches, eager to maximize the value of every last roster space, are no longer inclined to carry the designated enforcers of yesteryear. That's how it should work, but it didn't last night at Madison Square Garden during a game between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils. The two squads are traditional rivals and players fought during earlier match-ups this year, but within three seconds of the opening face-off last night, three separate brawls broke out.  [The New York Times]

Peyton Manning will formally meet the Denver media today at a 3 p.m. ET news conference after agreeing to a five-year, $96 million contract with the Broncos. What's interesting -- and really should be, considering the uncertain status of Manning's surgically repaired neck -- is how Denver is structuring the quarterback's contract. ESPN NFL business analyst Andrew Brandt reports Manning will make $18 million for the 2012 season, without any injury protection for Denver if he gets hurt. If Manning passes a team physical in March 2013, he'll receive a guaranteed salary of $20 million for the 2013 and 2014 season, though Denver reportedly will be protected from having to pay the full amount if Manning hurts his neck again. For 2015 and 2016, he's also slated to earn $19 million a season. Because of the lack of upfront guaranteed money this year and the lingering uncertainty regarding his shoulder, Brandt suggests Manning may very well have just signed a "one-year, $18 million deal." Other franchises were offering substantially more lucrative packages, but required more of a commitment from Manning. Such an offer reportedly came from the Tennessee Titans, where owner Bud Adams was rumored to be dangling a 30% ownership stake in the franchise if Manning played out his final years in Nashville. [ESPN]

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Whoa: the University of Southern Mississippi has taken away scholarships from five pep band members who chanted "Where's your green card?" at Kansas State University guard Angel Rodriguez during KSU's second-round win in the NCAA men's basketball tournament last Thursday. We were watching the game when it happened, and it struck us as horribly offensive, but not the kind of thing that would actually have repercussions, because how do you single out a few stray voices in a crowd? The five students, who haven't been identified, were also "removed from the band and will be required to complete a two-hour cultural sensitivity training course this week," according to the AP. Meanwhile, Southern Miss athletic director Jeff Hammond deserves credit for leading a cadre of school officials over to the Kansas State hotel immediately following the game to apologize to Rodriguez in-person. (A fact that remains terrific about this story: it addition to being jerks, the hecklers weren't even right: Rodriguez is from San Juan. [AP]

The Golden State Warriors just wanted to retire forward Chris Mullin's jersey without incident on Monday night. It might've even happened, had owner Joe Lacob not grabbed hold of the microphone and decided to say a few words. Lacob only bought the team 20 months ago from Chris Cohan, who eventually stopped attending games in Oakland because of the merciless booing by the team's down-trodden (but allegedly, very basketball savvy) fanbase. While the team hasn't done anything of note under Lacob's watch, this wouldn't have turned into a Regrettable Scene if Lacob had steeled himself for a few boos. Instead, he went to pieces and accused thousands of people of ruining Chris Mullin's special night. Rick Barry -- genuine basketball royalty -- tried to intervene, but even he was powerless. [San Jose Mercury News]


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