U.S. women’s hockey pioneer Ruggiero, 31, retires



Angela Ruggiero, the Simi Valley native who played on four U.S. women’s Olympic medal-winning teams and is considered one of the greatest in the sport’s history, officially announced her retirement today after 16 seasons.

Ruggiero, who turns 32 on Jan. 3, played more games — 256 — in a Team USA uniform than any other ice hockey player in the country’s history and compiled 208 points, including 67 goals.

She currently works as a U.S. representative on the International Olympic Committee.

“I feel honored and privileged to have represented the USA program over the past 16 years,” said Ruggiero in a statement on the USA Hockey website.

“USA Hockey will always be a part of me and I will cherish the experiences and memories with this team. Thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way. I am now looking forward to my next career, as well as continuing my work representing the athletes of the world through my roles on the International Olympic Committee and the United States Olympic Committee.”

Ruggiero won a gold medal in 1998 as an 18-year-old, the youngest member of the squad. Four years later, it was a silver medal as she was named the tournament’s top defenseman.

In 2006, the U.S. team won a bronze and she tied for the lead among tournament defensemen with six points and was named the tournament’s top defenseman for a second time.

The 2010 Olympic team won silver.

Ruggiero was the top-ranked female hockey player in the world by The Hockey News in 2003 and represented Team USA in 10 IIHF Women’s World Championships, winning nine medals.

The Harvard grad and four-time All-American also played one game with her brother, Bill, in a men’s Central Hockey League game in 2005 — the first female non-goalie to play in a professional hockey game in North America.

“For some players it’s safe to say that once the player retires, he or she will be inducted to a Hall of Fame — Angela Ruggiero is one of those players,” Ren Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, was quoted on the USA Hockey site. “She has not only been the best defenseman in the last 15 years, Angela Ruggiero has defined this era of women’s hockey.”

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said that “someone as dedicated and hard working as Angela” representing athletes in the Olympic movement now means “the ‘athletes’ voice’ is in safe hands. We congratulate her on an exceptional career on the playing field.”

“I remember being on the ice with her for her first shift in a Team USA uniform,” said former teammate and Hockey Hall of Famer Cammi Granato. “I was taking the draw and I looked back and there was Angela with a huge smile, so excited to play. And that never changed throughout her career. She lit up the lockerroom with her infectious laugh and spirit, and on the ice always played with the strength and edge that made her so dominant.”

More on Ruggiero: http://angelaruggiero.com/ and on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/AngelaRuggiero

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Play It Forward: Dec. 26-Jan. 1 on your sports calendar

Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:


Red Bull No Limits 2011: World record distances attempts in a snowmobile and motorcycle, downtown San Diego, Saturday at 8 p.m.:


It takes a leap of faith to do what Levi LaVallee and Robbie Maddison do in the name of collecting a paycheck. Mind if we watch? A year ago at this time, LaVallee was reclining in a hospital near Fontana. He was practicing for his planned world record snowmobile distance jump at Auto Club Speedway, went head over machine (see video above), and ended up with a cracked pelvis, broken ribs, broken vertebrae in his back and a dazed look on his face. So, the Red Bull annual New Year’s Eve event was canceled. But after three months in rehab, the seven-time Winter X Games medalist who once did a double backflip on his machine has got back on up his contraption and wants to try again, this time over San Diego’s Embarcadero Marina Park. There’s a 300-foot water gap and his plan is to break his own mark of 361 feet.


At the same time, Maddison (right), an Aussie living in Temecula, will try to exceed his record of 391 feet on a motorcycle — he’s pushing it to the 400 foot mark. “Jumping long distances is a passion of mine, and I’m excited to come back for New Year’s Eve and sail over San Diego Harbor,” said Maddison, who started this annual event in 2007 by jumping his cycle 322 feet over a football field in Las Vegas. The next year, he jumped onto – and off – the 96-foot-tall Arc De Triomphe at Paris Las Vegas. “It’s not all about getting the world record to me, it’s more about understanding this feat and the commitment ahead to achieving what most would consider an impossible jump,” Maddison said. So now we have the first Red Bull event where two guys will jump at the same time, right after the Chick-Fil-A Bowl ends. Unless someone chickens out.


Horse racing: Santa Anita meet opener, first post, noon:


The HBO series “Luck,” starring Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte and Dennis Farina around the world of horse racing, was shot all around Santa Anita and will debut later in January — right as the track’s 75th winter/spring meeting gets going. This one runs 79 days through April 22, highlighted by the Santa Anita Handicap on Saturday, March 3.

NBA: Lakers at Sacramento, 7 p.m., Channel 9:

Catch your breath yet? The Lakers have to make a quick trip after Christmas Day to our state capital to play the team many thought might be in Anaheim to start the season. If these Kings were at Disneyland instead, it would have made things much easier.

NHL: Kings vs. Phoenix, Staples Center, 7 p.m., FSW:

Apparently Darryl Sutter is up to speed now on how overtime and shootouts work. The Kings are all over the place this week, starting against the Coyotes — and likely against former Kings goalie Jason LaBarbera, who has replaced starter Mike Smith (groin injury) the last two games.

College football: Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.: Missouri vs. North Carolina, 2 p.m., ESPN2:

North Carolina lost four of its last six and cost their head coach his job. Interim coach Everett Withers tries to hold it together.


NFL: Atlanta at New Orleans, 5:30 p.m., ESPN:

My wife says I snore like Drew Brees does in his new commercials. I’m not losing sleep over the comparison. The Saints QB is 305 yards shy of breaking Dan Marino’s NFL single-single passing record (5,084 yards in 1984), and a win by New Orleans (11-3) gives it the NFC South title.


NBA: Lakers vs. Utah, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., TNT:

The Jazz shipped center Mehmet Okur to Jersey for a 2015 second-round pick the other day as they continue to stockpile young players and draft choices.

College football: Little Caesars Bowl in Detroit: Western Michigan vs. Purdue, 1:30 p.m., ESPN; Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C.: Louisville vs. North Carolina State, 5 p.m., ESPN:

Western Michigan has already played two Big Ten teams. It lost to Michigan and Illinois.


NBA: Clippers at San Antonio, 5:30 p.m., Prime:

How’d the Clippers manage to get so much time off already? Tim Duncan has had enough rest already.

NHL: Kings at Chicago, 5:30 p.m., FSW:

The Blackhawks have won the last seven meetings, including Nov. 26 at Staples Center, 2-1. The Kings better stay on their Toews.

College football: Military Bowl in Washington D.C.: Air Force vs. Toledo, 1:30 p.m., ESPN; Holiday Bowl in San Diego: Cal vs. Texas, 5 p.m., ESPN:

The Longhorns and Bears had one common opponent this season: UCLA. Texas pounded the Bruins by 29 in week three. Cal lost by 18 in week eight. Advantage: Burnt orange.



College basketball: UCLA at Stanford, 8 p.m., FSW; USC at Cal, 6 p.m.:

In the preseason media poll, UCLA was voted the favorite to win the Pac-12, ahead of Cal. Wanna recount?

NBA: Lakers vs. New York, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., TNT:


Which Knick has the highest salary? Carmelo Anthony outearns Amare Stoudemire by $300,869. Not all that much, really, with both are taking in more than $18 mil this season. And they’ve added Tyson Chandler ($12 mil) and Baron Davis ($13 mil).

NHL: Kings at Winnipeg, 5:30 p.m., FSW:

The Thrashers Jets are hovering around .500, second in the Southeast Division, just happy to be back in Canada. It’s the Kings first trip to Winnipeg in … how many years now?

College football: Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando: Florida State vs. Notre Dame, 2:30 p.m., ESPN; Alamo Bowl in San Antonio: Washington vs. Baylor, 6 p.m., ESPN:

Maybe Baylor quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III comes back for his senior season, maybe he’s a first-round draft pick moving up since Matt Barkley is returning to USC.


NBA: Clippers vs. Chicago, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:

By this date, the Bulls will have played twice as many games at Staples Center than they have on their home court. Truth is, they haven’t been home yet. Their four-game, season-opening roadie ends tonight.

College football: Armed Forces Bowl in Dallas: BYU vs. Tulsa, 9 a.m., ESPN; Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium, N.Y.: Rutgers vs. Iowa State, 12:30 p.m., ESPN; Music City Bowl in Nashville: Mississippi State vs. Wake Forest, 3:45 p.m., ESPN; Insight Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.: Iowa vs. Oklahoma, 7 p.m., ESPN:

Oklahoma was everyone’s preseason No. 1, right? The Sooners still won 10 games. Iowa is back in Tempe for the second year in a row.



College football: Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco: UCLA vs. Illinois, 12:30 p.m., ESPN:

Loser is assured of a losing record to cap a season they’re just as soon forget. Can Mike Johnson outcoach Vic Koenning? We’re not even sure which of the two teams they belong. At least it’s all for a good cause.

College football; Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston: Texas A&M vs. Northwestern, 9 a.m., ESPN; Sun Bowl in El Paso: Utah vs. Georgia Tech, 11 a.m., Channel 2; Liberty Bowl in Memphis: Cincinnati vs. Vanderbilt, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7; Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta: Auburn vs. Virginia, 4:30 p.m., ESPN:

John White IV, the junior out of Torrance, has been the Utes’ top offensive weapon, rushing for 1,404 yards and 14 touchdowns. Utes offensive coordinator Norm Chow bows out after this to coach at Hawaii.

College basketball: UCLA at Cal, 1 p.m., FSN; USC at Stanford, 4:30 p.m., FSW:

How many Bruins fans will leave the football game at AT&T Park after the first quarter and head to Berkley to try to make tipoff?

NBA: Lakers vs. Denver, Staples Center, 12:30 p.m., FSW:

Andrew Bynum can come play now. Will he wake up on time? It’s an early one.

NHL: Kings vs. Vancouver, Staples Center, 7 p.m., FSW:

This time, the Kings get the prime-time appearance, forcing the Lakers to the earlier start.



NFL: San Diego at Oakland and Kansas City at Denver, 1 p.m.:

College bowls take New Year’s Day off – instead, all 32 NFL teams are called to action on the final day of the regular season to finish off any rivalry disputes about who belongs in the playoffs. The AFC West could end in a three-way tie – let’s go to the rule book to see who’s earned it. Other highlights of the final day: Dallas at N.Y. Giants (Channel 4, 5:20 p.m.), Baltimore-Cincinnati, Pittsburgh-Cleveland, Chicago-Minnesota and Carolina-New Orleans.

NBA: Lakers at Denver, 5 p.m., Channel 9:

Mark Stein’s first NBA power rankings have the Nuggets at No. 9 (linked here), just two spots below the Lakers. Perhaps he forget to add a “1” in front of the 9.

NBA: Clippers vs. Portland, Staples Center, 6:30 p.m., Prime:

Brandon Roy has retired, Greg Oden is still out with knee problems and LaMarcus Aldridge had a heart scare. Otherwise, the Blazers and coach Nate McMillan are doing just fine.

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Our healthy curiosity makes us wonder: A Men’s Health cover jinx? Maybe Blake Griffin doesn’t know about it


Neither do we, for that matter. But it could exist.

Wouldn’t that be so Clipper-like. Their prized possession shows off his washboard abs on the cover, explains his exercise routine, and then goes and blows out a (fill-in-the-joint) on a dunk coming off a Chris Paul lob.

Griffin, on the cover of the Jan/Feb issue, says: “Energy is something you can control… In everything you do, you’re going to face people more talented than you. I set myself apart by bringing more energy than they do.”

Other words of wisdom from Griffin in the cover story:

== “I constantly heard that all I do is dunk…And I can understand it. There aren’t SportsCenter clips of me shooting 15-footers.”

== “There were days when I didn’t feel like going through the same routine…But I learned that if you’re positive, any situation can be a chance to improve yourself.”

== “I recently got to talk to Magic Johnson…He said he used to tell individual teammates, ‘Come in before practice and work with me.’ He emphasized that being a leader isn’t about just pushing yourself. It’s also about motivating teammates.”

The full story: http://www.menshealth.com/fitness/blake-griffin-fly-higher. The issue is on newstands next Tuesday so we can find out what goes on poolside with Marissa Miller.

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How Sutter can brand this Kings’ team with a hot iron, or burn himself and GM Lombardi in the process


The Associated Press

Darryl Sutter’s bitter-beer face peering out from behind the Kings’ bench could be the best thing at this moment for a team that’s reached its tipping point.

Or, should Kings’ fans be better prepared for an ending that will leave them feeling bitter all over again, crying in their tipped-over beers after a season that began with all kinds of promises goes sideways into the gutter?

Starting with tonight’s contest against cross-freeway rival Anaheim, the Kings are about reboot things with a well-known grouch who knows a few things about kick starting troubled franchises.

This could go one of two ways fairly quickly.
Continue reading

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Play It Forward: Dec. 19-25 on your sports calendar

Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:



NBA regular-season openers, Sunday: Lakers vs. Chicago, Staples Center, 2 p.m., Channel 7; Clippers at Golden State, 7:30 p.m., ESPN:


Do not open the NBA season until Christmas. That’s the result of the extended lockout, a rush-job to get everyone in training camp and a bizarre set of circumstances that has resulted in Chris Paul wearing a Clippers uniform instead of one for the Lakers on the belated Opening Day. Signals are also mixed as to whether the Lakers should even be dreaming of a Dwight Howard Christmas delivery, but no roster seems safe from chaos at this point. With that, it’s a Route 66 roadmap — 66 games in 120-something days, with all kinds of injuries bound to happen. If only someone was smart enough to schedule a Lakers-Clippers doubleheader at Staples Center to celebrate the holiday. Nonetheless, the two L.A. franchises will work their way up to this anticipated moment with exhibition meetings at Staples Center on Monday (7:30 p.m., FSW and Prime) and Wednesday (7:30 p.m., Channel 9 and Prime). The rest of the Christmas Day docket has a 2011 Finals rematch featuring LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Dirk Nowitzki and Lamar Odom (for real?) when Miami goes to Dallas (11:30 a.m., Channel 7). That’ll be preceded by more starpower with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett against Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire (Boston at New York, 9 a.m., TNT) and followed up by Howard against Kevin Durant (Orlando at Oklahoma City, 5 p.m., ESPN). Shaquille O’Neal also makes his debut — as a TNT studio host. Prepare to be critiqued, Kobe.


NHL: Kings at Toronto, 4 p.m., FSW:


Having lost two of three on the current road trip, six of seven overall, still last in the league in goals scored per game and smarting from surrendering eight goals to Detroit on Saturday, the Kings are supposed to give interim head coach John Stevens one last game in charge before he’s back to an assistant for new head coach Darryl Sutter.

College basketball: USC vs. Texas Christian, Galen Center, 7:30 p.m., USCTrojans.com:

In the eight-team Mountain West Conference, everyone has a record above .500, including the 7-3 Horned Frogs. In the Pac-12, USC (4-7) is one of three who would love to be at least break-even at this point.

NFL: Pittsburgh at San Francisco, 5:30 p.m., ESPN:

The network has been pointing out on its scroll that this is the fourth time that two teams are playing on Monday Night Football with 10-plus wins and at least a .750 winning percentage (and the first time since 1997 — when San Francisco improved to 13-2 and Denver went to 11-4 after the 49ers’ 34-17 win). Actually, the last three times this happened, the game was in San Francisco, and the 49ers won each of them. This year, San Fran (10-3) has already won the NFC West, and Pittsburgh (10-3) is tied for the AFC North lead.


College basketball: UCLA vs. UC Irvine, Sports Arena, 7:30 p.m., Prime:


Since Ben Howland tossed Reeves Nelson off the squad, the Bruins basketball team has won three in a row, the women’s volleyball team won a national title, and the football team found a new head coach. Although, even with Nelson, that recent 48-point route over UC Davis would have been just as easy.

College football: Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburgh Bowl: Florida International vs. Marshall, 5 p.m., ESPN:

Somehow, Thundering Herd coach Doc Holliday should have his 6-6 team in the Holiday Bowl.


College football: Poinsettia Bowl: TCU vs. Louisiana Tech, 5 p.m., ESPN:

Gary Patterson’s 10-2 squad justifiably qualified for the Fiesta and Rose Bowl games the last two seasons, but it missed out on a third straight BCS appearance because its final overall ranking was 18th — it needed to be at least 16th. Before leaving the Mountain West for the Big 12, they’ll hop over to San Diego. At least they could have played this on an aircraft carrier.



NHL: Kings vs. Ducks, Staples Center, 7 p.m., FSW:

If not for the Ducks, the Kings would have sunk to the bottom of the Pacific Division. One thing’s certain: The two guys who started as head coaches for these two teams when the season began aren’t there any longer. The Kings’ 3-2 loss to the Ducks on Dec. 6 came on that ugly shot that Bobby Ryan put past Jonathan Quick with 48.8 seconds left, giving Bruce Boudreau his first win as Anaheim’s coach. The Ducks have won only one other time in the eight games since Boudreau took over on Dec. 1.


College football: Las Vegas Bowl: Arizona State vs. Boise State, 5 p.m., ESPN:

On ESPN.com’s AccuScore forecasting software, the predicted outcome was a 47-28 Boise State win, with Kellen Moore throwing for 367 yards and three TDs. So that’s that.

College basketball: USC vs. Kansas, Galen Center, 8 p.m., FSW:

Ranked No. 12 with a 7-2 mark coming into the week, the visiting Jayhawks are getting a team-high 17.8 points and 11.4 rebounds from 6-foot-9 junior forward Thomas Robinson. Kansas’ only two losses so far are to Kentucky (No. 2 at the time) and Duke (No. 6 then), but they’re hot off a win over No. 2 Ohio State on Dec. 10.

NFL: Houston at Indianapolis, 5:20 p.m., NFL Network:

The 2012 Super Bowl will still be here in the Lucas Oil Stadium inflatable tent, no matter how perfectly horrible the Colts could have finished. Now, with one win, they’re just uninteresting.


NHL: Kings at San Jose, 7:30 p.m., FSW:

The Sharks’ coach with the most games behind the bench in franchise history? Darryl Sutter (434, plus 42 more in the playoffs). Wonder if they’ll recognize him.

College basketball: UCLA vs. Richmond, Sports Arena, 7:30 p.m., Prime:

Last call before the Pac-12 schedule begins. Anyone suffering from arachnophobia?



NFL: N.Y. Giants at N.Y. Jets, 10 a.m., Channel 11:

They haven’t meet officially in the regular season since Week 5 of 2007, when the Giants took a 35-24 decision. That was so pre-Sanchez it’s not even funny. The Giants have won the last four meetings when it counts. This is one of 13 NFL games played on a Saturday because, you know, they can’t do it on Sunday morning..

College football: Hawaii Bowl: Nevada vs. Southern Mississippi, 5 p.m., ESPN:

If a player from either school complains about having to fly to Honolulu and play on Christmas Eve, take away their goodie bags.


NFL: Chicago at Green Bay, 5:20 p.m., Channel 4:

The Bears lost the first meeting back in Week 3 by just 10 points, despite rushing for a total of 13 yards on 12 attempts. Reports are that there’s an “outside” chance that Jay Cutler could come back to play here on Christmas Day. The Packers (13-1) could have made this a perfect day if they’d just woke up in Kansas City.

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