AP Story

NY governor says pro teams can resume training

Leave a comment

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says teams in his state can return to their facilities for training after a pause of more than two months.

”Starting today, all the New York professional sports leagues will be able to begin training camps,” the Democratic governor said during a news conference Sunday.

The New York City area was one of the hardest-hit parts of the U.S. by the coronavirus pandemic, but COVID-19 deaths and new infections in the state have been trending downward.

Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NHL are discussing the resumption of their seasons with their players’ unions.

”I believe that sports that can come back without having people in the stadium, without having people in the arena – do it! Do it!” Cuomo said. ”Work out the economics, if you can. We want you up. We want people to be able to watch sports. To the extent people are still staying home, it gives people something to do. It’s a return to normalcy. So we are working and encouraging all sports teams to start their training camps as soon as possible. And we’ll work with them to make sure that can happen.”

WCHA’s Alabama-Huntsville cuts hockey program

Leave a comment

Alabama-Huntsville is dropping men’s hockey and men’s and women’s tennis as part of budget cuts in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

School officials said athletes in those sports who want to join another team’s roster will be released without penalty and free to transfer immediately. If they choose to stay, their current scholarships will be honored for the duration of their academic careers.

Alabama-Huntsville was one of the only southern schools to have a men’s hockey varsity program. The Chargers won Division II national titles in 1996 and 1998 and were Division II runners-up in 1994 and 1997 before making the move to the Division I level for the 1998-99 season.

Men’s hockey had been the lone Division I sport for Alabama-Huntsville. It competes at the Division II level in all other sports.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

2 Comments

Canada’s NHL teams have offered season-ticket holders rebate or refund options in acknowledgment that no more 2019-20 regular-season games will be played in front of fans in their respective buildings.

In a four-day span May 13-16, all seven teams contacted their season-ticket bases with options and, in some cases, deadlines to make a decision, according to The Canadian Press.

“It has become increasingly apparent, that any possibility will not include any further games being played this season in front of fans at Bell MTS Place,” the Winnipeg Jets said in an email.

That admission may seem anticlimactic given leagues and teams around the world are either playing in empty stadiums, or trying to figure out a way to just resume play during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But season-ticket money is a key element of NHL business. Clubs are loathe to part with it.

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money.

Toronto Maple Leafs season-ticket holders had to declare they wanted their money back by Victoria Day or a credit would be applied to their accounts.

Their Montreal Canadiens counterparts had to make a decision by Friday, while the Vancouver Canucks’ deadline is June 3.

Penguins owners donating money to health outlets

Leave a comment

Pittsburgh Penguins owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle are each contributing $100,000 to assist local health outlets dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The joint $200,000 donation will be split equally between Highmark Health and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The Highmark Health donation is earmarked for creating a mobile COVID-19 testing unit that will focus on under-served populations in the Pittsburgh area.

The donation to UPMC will benefit the UPMC Children’s Hospital Helpers Fund, which supports families and caregivers who are impacted by COVID-19.

Sabres sue U.S. over denial of strength coach’s green card

1 Comment

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Federal immigration officials wrongly denied a petition by the Buffalo Sabres to secure a green card for their British-born strength and conditioning coach, the team argued in a lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Buffalo on Tuesday, U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services misstated facts and arbitrarily failed to follow its own rules in denying permanent residency status to Ed Gannon, an action that potentially subjects the team ”to substantial financial harm and disruption in developing (its) athletes.”

Gannon was hired by the Sabres in 2015 while the team was beefing up its player development staff. He previously spent 10 years as the lead strength and conditioning coach of a professional rugby club, the Leicester Tigers.

The Sabres filed the application for permanent residency on Gannon’s behalf in October. To be granted a green card, Gannon had to demonstrate that he was at the top of his field, and the Sabres argued that he proved his abilities under USCIS’ criteria.

But USCIS denied Gannon’s petition, ruling he did not meet the merits required under EB-1 Extraordinary Ability eligibility. The agency said he relied on solicited letters of support and that he failed to produce unsolicited material – including media reports – reflecting his elite status.

The USCIS said it does not comment on pending litigation.

The denial of Gannon’s petition comes amid efforts by the Trump administration to limit legal immigration. A report last year by the Migration Policy Institute concluded that USCIS had become ”increasingly active in immigration enforcement” and that the agency was intentionally slowing down adjudication of immigration benefits applications.

Last month, President Donald Trump ordered a 60-day hold on green cards in the name of protecting American jobs amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The Sabres’ lawsuit includes a letter written by co-owner and team president Kim Pegula, who said Gannon was hired following a worldwide search.

”We spend tens of millions of dollars each year on world-class athletes,” Pegula wrote.

”We require our head of strength and conditioning to expertly monitor and train these athletes to achieve success on the ice,” she added. ”It is a critical role that we entrust to someone who also has world-class credentials and who can properly take care of our valuable assets.”

In demanding to have Gannon’s petition approved, the Sabres also asked the court to declare that USCIS abused its discretion.

The decision in Gannon’s case could have a broader impact, given that many U.S.-based NHL teams’ training staffs include nonresidents.

Gannon earned a doctorate in applied strength and conditioning for elite athletes at the University of Bath in England. The Sabres argue Gannon is clearly at the top of his field given that he is one of only 31 strength and conditioning coordinators in the NHL, calling it ”a little perplexing” to question his status in the profession.

He also conducted research linking lower-body strength and power as key indicators of an athlete’s readiness over the course of a season. His work has been published and his methods adopted by strength and conditioning coaches in other leagues and overseeing Olympic athletes, the filing said.

The Sabres also allege USCIS was inaccurate in ruling that the letters of reference the team provided came from Gannon’s former and current employers, when instead a majority came from organizations where he never worked.

The team argued that it did not submit media reports about Gannon’s accomplishments because his profession is not usually covered by the media.

The suit cites USCIS’ own adjudicator’s field manual in noting a petition cannot be denied because no published articles were submitted if the candidate meets the minimum three qualifying criteria. The field manual reads: ”Approval or denial of a petition must be based on the type and quality of evidence, not on evidence that you think should be submitted.”