Ference accepting his punishment

566782.jpg

Ference accepting his punishment

PHILADELPHIA Andrew Ference has played in 782 NHL games counting regular season and the playoffs, and hed managed to avoid any form of suspension in the first 11 years of his career.

That all changed Sunday when the NHL tagged Ference with a three-game suspension for boarding New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. The hit knocked the blueliner out of Saturdays game and got Ference thrown out of the game with a five-minute major and game misconduct for charging.

Both Ference and the league agreed his hit wasnt a dirty hit or malicious play during a Sunday morning phone hearing, but it was still a dangerous collision given the speed, strength and competitive levels involved.

It was mutually agreed on the phone that they saw absolutely no intent to injure, which is what I saw as well. We all agreed on that, said Ference, who will return to the lineup for a Feb. 2 home game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Hes not injured. Im very happy about that. So with those things into play the league comes up with a number.

Everybody has opinions, but it doesnt really do any good for the players to have strong ones. Its not going to change anything.

As Ference alluded to, it appears McDonagh is going to be fine after getting checked out by team doctors. But first-time offender Ference was still sanctioned by NHL sheriff Brendan Shanahan for the reckless hit that appeared to fit the exact parameters of the new boarding rules put into enforcement prior to this season.

Shanahan indicated he took into account Ferences spotless 12-year career and the lack of a McDonagh injury, but that still netted the veteran blueliner a three-game suspension and over 36,000 in lost wages. So rather than gather ammunition for a fight he cant possibly win against the league, Ference has opted to take his spoonful of league-mandated medicine and simply wait for his involuntary, unpaid vacation to be over.

There were no injuries, so first and foremost that was a positive, said Ference. As far as opinions on the suspension I think its probably best served for friends and family. It doesnt serve much purpose for me to dole that out right out here. The process happens and they come up with that number, so be it and Ill deal with it.

At the end of the day its Shanahans call and you just deal with it. I gave my full opinion with him. I was going extremely fast trying to win a race to the puck. Once I realized that the race to the puck was lost, I changed course and tried to create a pin situation where you can battle for the puck. But at the initial contact of the pin he loses his balance to the extreme and goes in pretty hard.

Consider it a lesson learned for all involved, and, in all likelihood, the only blemishes one will ever see on Ferences overwhelming personal history of good hockey conduct are one high-speed collision and an equipment malfunction that everyone in Montreal still talks about to this day.

Report: Bulls tell teams they won't trade Jimmy Butler

Report: Bulls tell teams they won't trade Jimmy Butler

The Bulls reportedly weren’t making Jimmy Butler available for a trade last month.

As the trade deadline approaches, it seems that hasn’t changed.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

 

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

The teams that talked to the Chicago Bulls today were told, “Just about everybody on our roster is available, but Jimmy Butler is not.”

The Bulls are not obliged to stand by that, and there’s no indication they’ve assured Butler anything. If they’re offered a package more valuable than Butler, they’ll trade him.

But that’s a lot of value.

Click here for the complete story.

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

PHOENIX - Major League Baseball intends to push forward with the process that could lead to possible rule changes involving the strike zone, installation of pitch clocks and limits on trips to the pitcher's mound. While baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope the ongoing process would lead to an agreement, he said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Union head Tony Clark said last weekend he did not foresee players agreeing to proposed changes for 2017. Under baseball's collective bargaining agreement, management can alter playing rules only with agreement from the union - unless it gives one year notice. With the one year of notice, management can make changes on its own.

"Unfortunately it now appears that there really won't be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA," Manfred said Tuesday during a news conference. "I've tried to be clear that our game is fundamentally sound, that it does not need to be fixed as some people have suggested, and I think last season was the kind of demonstration of the potential of our league to captivate the nation and of the game's unique place in American culture."

Yet, he also added: "I believe it's a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change."

Manfred said while he prefers an agreement, "I'm also not willing to walk away." He said he will send a letter to the union in the coming days and plans to continue dialogue with Clark and others in hopes of reaching agreement.

Clark met with Cactus League teams last week, five at a time over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, before departing Monday for Florida to visit each Grapefruit League club - and proposed rules changes were a topic.

"I have great respect for the labor relations process, and I have a pretty good track record for getting things done with the MLBPA," Manfred said. "I have to admit, however, that I am disappointed that we could not even get the MLBPA to agree to modest rule changes like limits on trips to the mound that have little effect on the competitive character of the game."

Clark saw talks differently.

"Unless your definition of `cooperation' is blanket approval, I don't agree that we've failed to cooperate with the commissioner's office on these issues," he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this offseason we've been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened. I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don't continue, notwithstanding today's comments about implementation. As I've said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open."

Clark added "my understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (2-minute limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of game warning/fine adjustments."

Manfred said he didn't want to share specifics of his priorities for alterations.

"There's a variety of changes that can be undertaken," Manfred said. "I'm committed to the idea that we have a set of proposals out there and we continue to discuss those proposals in private."

MLB has studied whether to restore the lower edge of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level - at the top of the kneecap. Management would like to install 20-second pitch clocks in an attempt to speed the pace of play - they have been used at Triple-A and Double-A for the past two seasons.

Players also have been against limiting mound meetings. The least controversial change appears to be allowing a team to call for an intentional walk without the pitcher having to throw pitches. In addition, MLB likely can alter some video review rules without the union's agreement- such as shortening the time a manager has to call for a review.

"Most of this stuff that they were talking about I don't think it would have been a major adjustment for us," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Manfred said starting runners on second base in extra innings sounds unlikely to be implemented in the majors. The change will be experimented with during the World Baseball Classic and perhaps at some short-season Class A leagues. Manfred said it was a special-purpose rule "beneficial in developmental leagues."

Manfred also said Tuesday that a renovated Wrigley Field would be a great choice to host an All-Star Game and Las Vegas could be a "viable market for us."

"I don't think that the presence of legalized gambling in Las Vegas should necessarily disqualify that market as a potential major league city," Manfred said.