NHL, players’ union no closer on deal
• The NHL, the players’ association and now even federal mediators agree on one thing: The bickering sides are nowhere near a deal that would put hockey back on the ice.
The league and the union wrapped up two days of talks in New Jersey, with help from mediators, but moved no closer to a solution to save the hockey season that has already shortened. Two members from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service joined the discussions on Wednesday and Thursday but couldn’t bring the sides any closer.
“After spending several hours with both sides over two days, the presiding mediators concluded that the parties remained far apart, and that no progress toward a resolution could be made through further mediation at this point in time,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. “We are disappointed that the mediation process was not successful.”
B.J. Upton signs deal with Braves
• Free-agent outfielder B.J. Upton and the Atlanta Braves finalized a $75.25 million, five-year contract. Upton joins the Braves after spending his first eight major-league seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays. He hit .246 with 28 homers, 78 RBI and 31 steals this year. Upton, who was to be introduced at a news conference Thursday, replaces free-agent Michael Bourn in center field and should provide power from the right side.
• A source says that closer Mariano Rivera and the New York Yankees agreed to a $10 million, one-year contract. Rivera missed most of last season with a severe knee injury.
• The Washington Nationals acquired outfielder Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins for minor-league pitcher Alex Meyer, giving the reigning NL East champions a leadoff hitter and center fielder. Span is a career .284 hitter in five seasons with the Twins.
• Right-hander Felipe Paulino and the Kansas City Royals agreed to a $1.75 million contract that avoided salary arbitration, a cut of $150,000. He opened the season on the disabled list because of a strained forearm, then went 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA in seven starts before tearing a ligament in his right elbow.
• Right-handed reliever Pat Neshek and the Oakland Athletics reached agreement on a $975,000, one-year contract, avoiding salary arbitration. He went 2-1 with a 1.37 ERA in 24 appearances with the A’s after being acquired from Baltimore on Aug. 3 for cash considerations.
• The Tampa Bay Rays re-signed outfielder Rich Thompson to a minor-league contract. The 33-year-old Thompson appeared in 23 games after being acquired from the Phillies in May.
• Reliever Ryan Madson finalized a $3.5 million, one-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels.
• The Chicago Cubs hired Scott Harris as director of baseball operations.
Wondolowski wins MLS MVP award
• San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski was voted Major League Soccer’s MVP after scoring 27 goals to tie the season record set by Tampa Bay’s Roy Lassiter in 1996. Kansas City’s Jimmy Nielsen was voted Goalkeeper of the Year and Columbus forward Federico Higuain was voted Newcomer of the Year.
• Luiz Felipe Scolari, who led Brazil to the 2002 World Cup title, has returned as coach of the national soccer team. Scolari replaces Mano Menezes, who was fired Nov. 23. The 64-year-old will lead the team into the next World Cup in 2014, which Brazil will host.
• David Beckham says he is mulling over “some quite exciting options” as he seeks the final challenge of his career. However, the ex-England captain says a return to his home country is unlikely because “I can’t see myself playing for any other Premier League club” than former team Manchester United.
• Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta are finalists for FIFA’s world player of the year award.
Earnhardt Jr. most popular driver again
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. tied Bill Elliott’s record of 10 consecutive wins as NASCAR’s most popular driver. Earnhardt won the award Thursday at the Myers Brothers Luncheon at The Encore at Wynn in Las Vegas. The award is presented annually by the National Motorsports Press Association.
• Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn shot a 6-under-par 66 to take a 3-stroke lead after the second round of the LPGA Tour qualifying tournament in Daytona Beach, Fla.
• Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic will join Conference USA, leaving the Sun Belt as part of the ever-changing college landscape.
— From wire reports