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By STEPHEN WHYNO

Longtime USA Hockey executive and U.S. Olympic men’s hockey general manager Jim Johannson died unexpectedly Sunday at age 53, shocking the sport less than three weeks before the start of the Pyeongchang Games.

Johannson died away in his sleep at his home in Colorado Springs, according to USA Hockey. His death came in the midst of the most high-profile role in his career: putting together the U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team without NHL players going to South Korea, a position he relished after doing so at several world junior and world championships.

“He had a couple of the greatest days of his life at USA Hockey recently to be able to call all these guys that never thought in their lives they’d play on a U.S. Olympic hockey team, and he got to tell them that they realized a dream,” USA Hockey execute director Pat Kelleher said by phone. “I think that meant as much to Jimmy as it did to any of the players.”

With the NHL out of the Olympics for the first time since 1994, Johannson was excited about putting together a 25-man roster that would include “25 great stories.” He picked Tony Granato as coach and on Jan. 1 unveiled a diverse roster made up of players from European professional leagues, the American Hockey League and the NCAA.

Johannson was proud of the unheralded roster, one that will now try to capture a gold medal for him.

“I think it would be huge,” former USA Hockey executive director Dave Ogrean said by phone. “If we ever had a ‘Win one for the Gipper’ moment, this is it.”

It’s unclear who would be in charge of choosing any potential injury replacements if needed. The U.S. opens the Olympics Feb. 14 against Slovenia.

The talent pool now and in other tournaments is deeper in part because of Johannson, who has overseen the growth of hockey in the U.S. beyond the “Miracle On Ice” in 1980. Retired American-born forward Jeremy Roenick said, “USA hockey is a world power now because of people like Jimmy Johannson.”

The U.S. won 64 medals, including 34 gold, in major international competition during Johannson’s tenure. The Americans in particular became a perennial threat to win the world junior championship, showing the program’s improvement at the youth levels.

Carolina Hurricanes president Don Waddell said Johannson “has been a driving force in making both the USA Hockey men’s and women’s programs into consistent winners, and 2015 gold-medal-winning world junior coach Phil Housley said Johannson “grew our game to new heights.”

“In building the teams that achieved so much success for USA Hockey, Jim Johannson had a sharp eye for talent, a strong sense of chemistry and a relentless pursuit of excellence,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. “As we mourn his loss, we will remember the positive outlook Jim brought to his tireless efforts to advance USA Hockey.”

Johannson, who played for the U.S. at the 1988 and 1992 Olympics, began working for USA Hockey in 2000 after spending five years as the general manager of the Twin Cities Vulcans in the United States Hockey League. He was promoted to assistant executive director of hockey operations in 2007, overseeing the organization’s efforts in fielding teams for international competition.

He played college hockey at Wisconsin and helped the Badgers win the NCAA championship as a freshman. He was selected by Hartford in the seventh round of the 1982 draft and although he never played in the NHL, he was respected and well-liked by those all over hockey.

“We lost a true friend in Jim Johannson today,” Granato said. “He was so compassionate and as loyal a friend as you could have. He was the ultimate teammate. I am deeply saddened and shocked and sorry that he is no longer with us. He was a special human being. Please pray for Jim’s wife and daughter, Abby and Ellie.”

Kelleher said USA Hockey would think about ways to pay tribute to Johannson at the Pyeongchang Games after grieving this loss.

“Today it’s really just trying to help his family as best as we can and really just try and honestly put one foot in front of the other,” Kelleher said. “We’ll have to see what we can do to try and honor him in some fashion.”

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103.4M individuals watched the Tremendous Bowl as Eagles take the “W”

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Super Bowl experiences the smallest audience for television’s biggest yearly event since 2009.

Nielsen says an estimate of 103.4 million watched Super Bowl LII Sunday. The company says viewership was drastically down from last year’s audience of 111.3 million. The all-time record for Super Bowl viewing was 114.4 million for the Seattle-New England game in 2015.

Just 103.4 million watched the Eagles win

Officials say the decline in the NFL’S viewership has been down this season despite a thrilling game that was competitive from beginning to end.

The post-game episode of “This is Us” was seen by 27 million people, which is the most-watched entertainment program after the Super Bowl in six years.

 

 

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Miami Open site at Dolphins’ stadium offers better amenities

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By STEVEN WINE

MIAMI (AP) — While the Miami Open is giving up its picturesque island setting for suburban sprawl, the tennis tournament’s new home will include a 13,800-seat showcase court in the Miami Dolphins’ stadium and 29 permanent outer courts, with the largest seating 5,042 spectators.

IMG, which owns the event, said Wednesday the new site will include more space for players, fans and parking, along with better infrastructure and amenities. The tournament won permission Tuesday from the Miami-Dade County commission to move 18 miles north in 2019 from its longtime home of Key Biscayne.

Construction of the new tennis complex will begin soon and cost more than $50 million, with much of the work done on grounds that had been used for football parking. Total seating capacity will increase to 32,474 from 25,062, including 5,660 at practice courts. Lighting will allow for more night matches.

The stadium court will use both permanent and temporary seats, with the net located over the 50-yard line. Screens will hide unused football seats.

There will be double the number of parking spaces and suites at the new site. The grounds will feature a “tennis oasis” for fans with the largest video screen of any tournament.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who also owns the stadium, said last spring he was willing to invest in a tennis complex on stadium grounds because he wanted to keep the tournament in South Florida. The Dolphins then reached an agreement with IMG and the county.

“We are extremely excited that the Miami Open, a global entertainment event, will remain in our community,” Ross said in a statement.

“The Miami Open belongs in Miami,” IMG co-president Mark Shapiro said.

A 2015 appeals court decision preventing upgrades to the Key Biscayne complex had left the event’s future in question. There had been speculation the tournament might leave South Florida, with potential sites ranging from South America to China.

“The Miami Open has been a part of Miami’s culture for as long as I can remember,” eight-time Key Biscayne champion Serena Williams said in a statement. “I am thrilled the Miami Open is staying in Miami where it belongs.”

Williams and her sister Venus own small stakes in the Dolphins.

The tournament starts March 19 on Key Biscayne for the 32nd and final time.

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Win some, lose some … a lot in a row for streaky Flyers

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By DAN GELSTON

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Check out all those consecutive Ws of late on the Philadelphia schedule, and the Flyers should seem like a team headed to the playoffs.

But check out all those recent Ls.

With a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday, the Flyers’ six-game winning streak came to an end. Not since the 1966-67 Toronto Maple Leafs has a team followed a 10-game winless skid with seven straight victories but the Flyers were close.

“You can’t win every single game right now,” Flyers forward Jake Voracek said.

Headed into Wednesday’s game against Detroit, Philadelphia is not in the postseason mix, just two points out of the final wild-card spot in the East. The Flyers like to say they aren’t as bad as the team that dropped 10 straight. But they haven’t shown many flashes of becoming a team that can reel off one or two more six-game winning streaks, either.

“If you’re losing, everything comes like a snowball,” said Voracek, who’s third in the NHL with 41 points. “You don’t feel comfortable to go to the third period with a two-goal lead. It’s really tough to do. And then you get scored on and you’re just like, ‘Here we go again.’”

Last season, the Flyers finished 11th in the Eastern Conference and became the first team in NHL history to miss the playoffs despite a 10-game winning streak.

“The results would say streaky, but we have played good hockey over the whole stretch,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “Now it’s about getting results and we got to look at ourselves and put our finger on a couple things we have to do better and that we are capable of doing better.”

Good enough to sneak into the playoffs?

Hakstol, in his third season, was considered on the hot seat during the 10-game skid until general manager Ron Hextall came out with a vote of confidence. Hextall was the one who made the bold decision to hire Hakstol out of college, in part because of his reputation for molding young talent. Hakstol has tried to balance a youthful mix of Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick with a veteran core of Voracek, Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux.

Progress has been incremental. Veteran center Valtteri Filppula said changes to Philadelphia’s neutral-zone system have helped. And the Flyers have been more careful with the puck.

“Make sure they have to come 200 feet to try to get in our zone, which in the long run, it’s a good way to play,” Filppula said.

Brian Elliott, the NHL’s No. 2 star of the week after posting a 1.31 goals-against average in three victories, has been solid in his first season with Philadelphia.

“That’s a real position of strength for our bench and for the guys that are out on the ice,” Hakstol said. “It’s not just the things that you see on a nightly basis on game nights. Brian does such a good job on a daily basis of approaching his day of work. I think that is something guys can feed off of.”

The Flyers are trying to make their way in the toughest division in the NHL, the Metropolitan. Only eight points separate the last-place Flyers, with 14 wins, from the first-place New Jersey Devils. The Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins have 17 wins and 37 points, six points behind the Devils.

The Flyers hope the six-game streak was simply the start of better days ahead.

“I think it’s confidence, swagger, whatever you want to attach to it, is a big part of this game,” Hakstol said. “You can ask anybody, that’s a big part. You can be playing really well, but when you’re going good you just have that as a group you have that mentality that you’re not going to take less than finding a way to win a game.”

STRUGGLING PENGUINS

The return of goaltender Matt Murray from injury has not helped Pittsburgh, which has lost four of five and five of seven. General manager Jim Rutherford already acquired bottom-six center Riley Sheahan to fill a need but could soon be looking for bigger trades to shake things up.

GAME OF THE WEEK

The surprising Devils host the Blackhawks on Saturday in one of the final games before the Christmas break. Chicago took a five-game winning streak into Thursday’s game at Dallas.

LEADERS (through Monday)

Goals: Alex Ovechkin (Washington) and Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay), 23; Assists: Voracek, 33; Points: Kucherov, 46; Wins: Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay), 21; Goals-against average: Corey Crawford (Chicago), 2.11; Save percentage: Crawford, .935.

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