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Vikings asst coach tiring of Kluwe's activism

Vikings asst coach tiring of Kluwe's activism

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe has made a name for himself as much for his willingness to take outspoken stands on issues that are important to him as he has for pinning opponents inside the 10-yard line.

He's been celebrated as a champion for gay rights, chastised for his willingness to challenge the NFL establishment and fined for altering his jersey to campaign for the Hall of Fame to enshrine its first punter.

It all appears to be wearing thin with his position coach. When asked about the $5,250 fine that Kluwe incurred for putting ``Vote Ray Guy'' over a patch on his jersey commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Vikings special teams coordinator delivered a sharp rebuke.

``I don't even want to talk about that,'' Mike Priefer said Thursday. ``Those distractions are getting old for me, to be quite honest with you. Do I think Ray Guy deserves to be in the Hall of Fame? Absolutely. But there's other ways of going about doing it, in my opinion.''

The Vikings have generally stood behind their renaissance man, rarely getting in the way when he has tried to use his platform to raise awareness to issues away from the field. Kluwe became an important and high-profile advocate for gay marriage during the election. He's also addressed what he sees as a problem the NFL has with drunken driving in the wake of Dallas Cowboys player Jerry Brown's death and criticized voters for not putting a punter into the hall.

With the Vikings (7-6) trying to chase a playoff spot in the final three games of the season, Priefer thinks it's time for Kluwe to cool it with the activism and concentrate on his job.

``To me, it's getting old,'' Priefer said. ``He's got to focus on punting and holding.''

The timing of Priefer's comments seem a little odd, given that Kluwe is coming off a stellar performance in a victory over the Chicago Bears. Facing dangerous returner Devin Hester, he averaged 45.7 yards on seven punts and twice pinned the Bears inside the 5-yard line.

Kluwe has always taken pride in not being defined by being a football player. He plays in a band, is a voracious reader and throws himself into civil rights discussions. So it's no surprise the pointed words from his coach were met with a shrug.

``All I can do is go out and punt to the best of my ability each game, and that's how I've always approached things,'' Kluwe wrote in an email to The Associated Press. ``If the team ever wants to replace me, they will; I'm under no delusions as to how this business operates. We all get cut eventually.''

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he has had conversations with Kluwe about buckling down as the games get more important.

``We've had some conversations, Chris and I,'' Frazier said. ``Right now he knows the focus has to be on the St. Louis Rams. He's assured me that's where his focus is and we just have to keep moving forward.''

At least one person is thankful that Kluwe has been willing to speak up.

Tracy Call, a Minneapolis advertising executive, helped recruit Kluwe into activism against a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage that Minnesota voters defeated last month. She formed a political group - Minnesotans for Equality - that paid to air a radio commercial where Kluwe urged defeat of the amendment.

``Chris always made it very clear there were times when we could not contact him, including Saturdays and game days,'' Call said. ``When he was on the field, his mind was on the field. He's very focused and I think it's ridiculous to think otherwise just because he expresses opinions.''

Call gave Kluwe huge credit for helping defeat the amendment.

``His message really hit home for a lot of people, a lot of people in the middle who didn't ever tune in on this issue before,'' Call said. ``Frankly, I think we should have a parade for him.''

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Associated Press Writer Pat Condon, in St. Paul, contributed to this story.

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Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter:http://twittter.com/APKrawczynski

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2018 Olympic Hockey Results: U.S. Women back in the gold medal match

2018 Olympic Hockey Results: U.S. Women back in the gold medal match

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- The Americans played their way back into the only women's hockey game that matters: a showdown with Canada for the Olympic gold medal.

The Americans are back in the title game for a third straight Olympics after shutting out Finland 5-0 on Monday in the semifinals. They will face their arch-rival, which beat the "Olympic Athletes from Russia" 5-0 a few hours later, on Thursday. They Americans will be trying to win their first gold since 1998 when women's hockey made its debut in the Olympics.

And yes, the Americans understand the United States-Canada playing for gold is what everyone expects to see.

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"Definitely the rivalry has been there since I think I was born, so everyone's looking forward to that," said 22-year-old Dani Cameranesi.

This will be the third opportunity at gold for six Americans: captain Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight, Gigi Marvin, Kacey Bellamy and twin sisters Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson.

"It's honestly a dream come true," Knight said. "This is the world's biggest stage. This is the game that you want. This is the game we've been dreaming of and to have another opportunity to get back here, it's huge."

Olympic newcomer Cameranesi scored two goals and added an assist to lead the Americans over Finland. Marvin started the scoring, and Lamoureux-Davidson and Knight both scored during a 5-on-3 34 seconds apart in the second period. Maddie Rooney made 14 saves for the shutout.

Finland remains winless in eight games against the Americans at the Olympics. The Finns, ranked third in the world last year, will try to take home the bronze medal for the first time since 2010.

"We're got one thing on our mind, and that's to get a medal," said goaltender Noora Raty, who made 33 saves. "They're the best in the world (U.S. and Canada). We just need to get more girls involved so we have more to choose from."

The Americans opened these games a 2-1 loss to Canada wrapping up pool play.

"This was really a gold-medal preparation for us because they're a darn good team, and we had to be ready to play," U.S. coach Robb Stauber said of Finland.

The Americans wasted no time getting on the board. Captain Meghan Duggan found Marvin alone in the slot, and she beat Raty stick-side for the easy goal just 2:25 into the game.

Finland lost defenseman when she had to be helped off the ice and to the locker room after a knee-on-knee collision with Duggan. She was knocked off balance before crashing face-first into the boards, snapping her head back. When play resumed without a penalty, some fans booed. Savolainen returned in the second period.

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Stauber said the referee immediately came over and said it was a collision. Duggan said she was really happy Savolainen got up and that any decision about a potential suspension was out of her control.

"There's been some other plays that haven't been put into question, and so I can't imagine that there would be any disciplinary action just based on other things that have been let go," Duggan said.

Cameranesi put the United States up 2-0 with 1:22 left in the period, taking the puck away from Susanna Tapani and skating into the left circle before beating Raty's blocker with a wrist shot top shelf.

Lamoureux-Davidson's slap shot from the left circle came with 2 seconds left on the 5-on-3 at 13:21 of the second period, and Knight got her first goal of this tournament by redirecting a shot from Sidney Morin with 5 seconds left on the man advantage for the 4-0 lead. Cameranesi padded the lead as she scored from the slot over Raty's glove off a pass from Hannah Brandt.

"We're super excited to be in this position again," Lamoureux-Davidson said. "We worked four years to put ourselves in position to compete for a gold medal and we'll enjoy this for a little bit, but we know that this isn't what we came here for. We're ready to go to battle in a couple days."

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

Now that pitchers and catchers have reported, the next step in our long journey to Opening Day is the spring training games themselves. Not every game is televised, so get ready to follow along with your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll still be exciting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Bryce Harper homered again, or if Max Scherzer is perfect through 4 innings (spoiler: both of these will happen).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing contracts in the next few weeks. The Nats are always willing to make a big splash, and even beyond the available free agents, have been linked to impact players like J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the roster has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be happening while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for their seasons, so bookmark this page to check on the Nationals spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Nationals 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Braves at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Feb. 26 - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 1 (SS) - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Tigers at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Monday, Mar. 5 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 6 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Nationals at Tigers, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 13 (SS) - Mets at Nationals, 7:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 (SS) - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Mar. 17 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (ESPN2) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Nationals at Mets, 6:10 pm
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 - Nationals at Marlins, 7:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 27 (at Nationals Park) - Twins at Nationals, 4:05 pm