Sports Briefs

Posted: Sunday, September 16, 2001

Aces to play Gold Kings at Sports Center

The Anchorage Aces professional hockey team, members of the West Coast Hockey League, will play the Colorado Gold Kings in a pair of exhibition games at the Soldotna Sports Center.

The games are slated for Oct. 5 and 6 with the puck scheduled to drop at 7 p.m.

"We're excited to expose the new-look Aces to the city of Soldotna," Aces head coach Butch Goring said. "We know that we have a lot of fans on the Kenai Peninsula. We're excited to see them and have a chance to evaluate our new team at the same time."

Ticket information will be released this week. For more information about the Anchorage Aces, visit their Web site at or call (907) 258-ACES.

NFL leaning toward 16 games

NEW YORK -- The NFL is leaning toward keeping a 16-game schedule but reducing the playoff field to make up for the postponement of this weekend's games after the terrorist attacks.

Under the plan, this week's schedule would be played the weekend of Jan. 5-6, which was slated for wild-card games. The postseason then would begin the following weekend with eight playoff teams instead of 12 -- there would be just one wild-card team from each conference instead of three.

League and team officials and others closely connected to the NFL, speaking on condition of anonymity, said discussions were continuing. Another plan was still under consideration, they said, but the league seemed to be leaning toward the 16-game plan for two reasons: continuity, and so players are paid for an entire season.

The second option would simply erase the games scheduled for this weekend. That would mean 30 teams would play 15 games this season and the San Diego Chargers, who were scheduled to be off this week, would play 16.

Under that scenario, the 12-team playoff format would not be reduced.

Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher said Tampa Bay general manager Rich McKay, chairman of the competition committee, told him Saturday both plans still were under consideration. The committee's decision will be an important factor in commissioner Paul Tagliabue's decision.

Fisher favors having all teams play 16 games.

''If we play everything, then everything will work itself out,'' he said.

Others around the league noted that rarely under the 12-team playoff format have the fifth- and six-seeded teams advanced very far in the playoffs. Last season, for example, all four of the lowest seeds were eliminated in the wild-card round.

In fact, the last time a fifth- or sixth-seeded team reached a conference championship game was after the 1996 season, when Jacksonville upset Buffalo and Denver to reach the AFC title game. The Jaguars lost to New England in that game.

League officials cautioned that Tagliabue was still weighing many factors.

Last week, many around the NFL believed the commissioner had decided to let the games go on this week. However, a vote by NFL Players Association representatives not to play had a strong effect on Tagliabue. On Thursday, he announced the games were off.

The NFLPA is considering having players donate one game's paycheck to victims of Tuesday's attacks.

Michael Johnson bids farewell with victory

YOKOHAMA, Japan -- Michael Johnson ran the final race of his great career Saturday, anchoring his team to victory in an exhibition relay and taking a farewell lap in a gold convertible.

''Even though it was my last race, I still have to go out there and execute,'' said Johnson, who turned 34 Thursday. ''There are no emotions during the race and I just tried to make sure that I did what needed to be done to win.''

The Swedish Relay at the Yokohama Super Track meet featured legs of 100, 200, 300 and 400 meters.

Johnson broke away during his 400-meter leg, comfortably ahead of Japan's Jun Osakada. Johnson's team -- which also included Namibian Frankie Fredericks and Americans Terrence Trammell and Shawn Crawford -- was timed in 1 minute, 47.93 seconds.

Twelve foreign athletes scheduled to take part in the meet, including five Americans, did not arrive because of the terrorist attacks in the United States.

Johnson was coming off his Goodwill Games performance in which he anchored the U.S. 1,600-meter relay team to the gold medal.

''It's been great to be here,'' he said. ''I thank everyone for all their support over the years. The Japanese fans have been great to me.''

Following the race at International Stadium Yokohama, Johnson took his victory lap to say goodbye to his Japanese fans.

Johnson, the world-record holder in the 200 and 400, is the only man to sweep those events at the same games and the only man to repeat as Olympic 400 champion.

''I've had a long career,'' Johnson said. ''It's been 10 years and I'm proud of the fact that I've been consistent over the years and it's just a result of God-given ability and hard work.''

Japan was second in 1:48.27 and Australia was third in 1:48.36.

In other events, Italy's Fiona May won the women's long jump, leaping 21 feet, 5 1/2 inches to edge Russia's Lyudmila Galkina.

''I was so tired at the end but the fans got behind me and that really helped,'' May said.

World-record holder Javier Sotomayor of Cuba won the high jump at 7-7. He beat Nathan Leeper of the United States and Viatcheslav Voronin of Russia.

Shawn Crawford of the United States won the 100 meters in 10.17 seconds. He was .01 seconds ahead of Nobuharu Asahara of Japan. Fredericks was third in 10.23.

Gregory Haughton of Jamaica won the 400 in 45.2 seconds. Antonio Pettigrew of the United States was second in 45.46.

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