This is the first edition of ChiCitySports.com’s weekly national sports coverage. We will be covering sports around the United States and Canada, as well as the English Premier League. In the off-season, relocation, CBA negotiations, trades, and free agency will be the major topics of focus, while in the regular season and playoffs coverage of players and teams that are hot or slumping will be preeminent.
National Football League – The NFL-to-LA saga continues as the Minnesota Vikings have agreed to a new deal to stay in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Rumors have suggested that the new front-runners are the San Diego Chargers, St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Buffalo Bills. The Chargers would just have to pay $22 million to leave San Diego. The Rams have submitted a stadium renovation proposal that, if accepted, would keep them in St. Louis through 2025. It is noteworthy that the Rams play one regular season game a year in London, largely due to their owner’s sporting empire spanning three cities that includes the Rams, Arsenal (EPL), Colorado Avalanche (NHL), Colorado Rapids (MLS), Colorado Mammoth (NLL), and Denver Nuggets (NBA). The Jaguars have ranked near the bottom of the NFL in attendance, finishing just ahead of the Chicago Bears at 25th of 32 teams, but the Bears oversell Soldier Field’s capacity, while the Jaguars have averaged just 92.8% capacity. Possibly the most likely candidate, the Oakland Raiders, face a stadium lease that is expiring in 2013 and have also contemplated moving into the 49ers’ new stadium in Santa Clara when it opens in 2014. Probably the NFL’s preferred relocation candidate, but they would have to meet some strict criteria to opt out of their stadium lease that extends through 2030. According to NFL.com, the Jaguars would have to prove that they have lost money three years in a row, pay a significant fee, and face several penalties agreed to in the terms of the sale of the team to Shahid Khan. The Bills’ owner does not wish to relocate the team from Buffalo, with the exception of the annual game hosted in Toronto. Of the five candidates, three have formerly called Los Angeles home, the Chargers in the 1960’s as part of the pre-merger American Football League, and the Rams and Raiders until the mid-1990’s.
Baltimore running back Ray Rice made a bold promise on the day dedicated to him in Baltimore, promising to bring a Super Bowl title to the city.
Major League Baseball – In a year that has already featured call ups of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout – on the same day – the standings are unlike what anybody would have predicted at the beginning of this young season. The Baltimore Orioles (21-12), Cleveland Indians (18-14), Washington Nationals (20-12), St. Louis Cardinals (20-12), and Los Angeles Dodgers (21-11) are five unexpected division leaders, and many thought that the other division leader, the Texas Rangers (22-12) would be beat out by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (15-19). Conversely, the Boston Red Sox (13-19), Philadelphia Phillies (15-18), and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (15-19) resides in last place of their respective divisions. Only time will tell if these trends continue. Whilst the entire San Diego Padres team has 13 home runs, Josh Hamilton alone already has an incredible 18 home runs.
Canadian Football League – A major step forward for the CFL to return to Ottawa has been taken as the Ontario Court of Appeal unanimously rejected an appeal to the expansion team’s stadium renovation plans. Jeff Hunt, head of Ottawa Sports and Entertainment, has announced that the team is still on pace to be ready to begin play in the 2014 season.
Major League Soccer – After an undefeated 7-0 start to the regular season, Sporting Kansas City has cooled off considerably, losing 1-0 to the Portland Timbers who are last place in the MLS Western Conference, and then 2-0 to the expansion side Montreal Impact. SKC has a tough task at hand Saturday night, as they play the Chicago Fire, who have not lost to an Eastern Conference team since May 21, 2011 at Philadelphia, and have not lost to an Eastern team at home since 2010. Following Kansas City is Eastern Conference standings are the New York Red Bulls, D.C. United, Chicago Fire, and Montreal Impact, with the New England Revolution two points behind Montreal for the fifth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The defending champion Los Angeles are the story from the Western Conference, as they sit in a dismal 7th place in the 9-team conference with a 3-5-1 record and just 10 points. The Western Conference is led by Real Salt Lake, but the San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders FC sit just 1 point back. The Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Colorado Rapids round out the playoffs in the West.
National Hockey League – The Phoenix Coyotes won their first division title since moving to Phoenix from Winnipeg, eliminated the Chicago Blackhawks to win their first playoff series, and then kept on rolling as they eliminated the Nashville Predators and found a local owner to save the team from imminent relocation. However, they will face an extremely hot Los Angeles Kings team in the Western Conference Finals. The Kings eliminated the President’s Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks in five games and swept the second seed St. Louis Blues. In the East, the New Jersey Devils eliminated the Philadelphia Flyers in five games, but have yet to find out who they will be facing in the Eastern Conference Finals, as the first seed New York Rangers and seventh seed Washington Capitals play Game 7 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
National Basketball Association – The New Jersey Nets are no more, having officially relocated to Brooklyn as the Brooklyn Nets. This is the first time Brooklyn has hosted a major league franchise since the Brooklyn Dodgers relocated to Los Angeles in after the 1957 season. The Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets play Game 7 Saturday, while the Memphis Grizzlies host the Los Angeles Clippers Sunday to conclude the Conference Quarterfinals. The San Antonio Spurs swept the Utah Jazz, and the Oklahoma City Thunder swept the Dallas Mavericks. The Miami Heat defeated the New York Knicks in five games, and the Indiana Pacers did the same against the Orlando Magic. The Boston Celtics eliminated the Atlanta Hawks in six games and the Philadelphia 76ers eliminated the Rose-less Chicago Bulls in six. LeBron James of the Miami Heat was officially named 2011-12 NBA MVP.
English Premier League – The English Premier League concludes Sunday morning, and both the championship and the last team relegated have yet to be determined. Manchester City and Manchester United come into the final game of the season tied with 86 points, but City appears to hold an insurmountable tiebreaker advantage over United. City hosts the Queens Park Rangers while United go to Sunderland. The Wolverhampton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers have already been relegated. The Bolton Wanderers sit just two points behind the Queens Park Rangers, who have to face Manchester City, as the hope to avoid being relegated out of the Premier League.
United Football League – Rumors have been circulating the the UFL plans to return for the 2012 season with five teams and no commissioner, but the league website has not been updated in months and the San Jose SaberCats of the Arena Football League reported that the UFL had folded upon signing away one of the league’s star players.
National Lacrosse League – The NLL Divisional Finals will be hosted on Saturday on CBS Sports Network, with the Rochester Knighthawks at the Toronto Rock and the Edmonton Rush at the Minnesota Swarm. The winner of each game will advance to the Champion’s Cup Final.
Arena Football League – Rumors are circulating the the defunct Dallas Desperados franchise could be revived in Nashville, former home of the Nashville Kats, for the 2013 season. The Philadelphia Soul lead the American Conference East division with a 6-2 record, the Tampa Bay Storm lead the American Conference South division with a 5-3 record, the Chicago Rush lead the National Conference Central division with a 6-2 record, and the San Jose SaberCats lead the National Conference West division with a 7-2 record.
Women’s National Basketball Association – The WNBA pre-season is under way, and opening day is set for May 18th, as the Seattle Storm play host to the Los Angeles Sparks.
Major League Lacrosse – The 2012 MLL season has started, and the league is led by an early triumvirate of tied clubs, including the Boston Blazers, Denver Outlaws, and Chesapeake Bayhawks.