HOCKEY

Bettman again draws criticism on concussions

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s reluctance to link hits to the head in hockey with a degenerative brain disease found in several deceased former players has reached Congress.

League lawyers filed Bettman’s letter to Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal with U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson, who’s presiding over a class-action concussion lawsuit against the NHL.

Bettman angered many former players last year with comments following the death of former NHL defenseman Steve Montador at age 35. Montador suffered from CTE, a diagnosis that can only be made after death.

In writing to Blumenthal, Bettman maintained a dismissive stance on the issue.

TENNIS

ROGERS CUP: Top-ranked Novak Djokovic survived a scare to beat Gilles Muller 7-5, 7-6 (3) at Toronto, his final event before the Rio Olympics.

Third-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan downed American Dennis Novikov 6-4, 7-5; and fourth-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada beat Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun, 6-3, 6-3.

Venus Williams opened play at Montreal with a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Barbora Strycova. Williams will face Madison Keys in the third round. Keys beat fellow American Madison Brengle, 6-4, 6-3.

Also, fourth-seed Agnieszka Radwanska beat Monica Niculescu 6-1, 7-5; seventh-seeded Roberta Vinci topped Camila Giorgi 2-6, 6-3, 6-4; and Kristina Kucova beat eighth-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.

BASKETBALL

NBA: Dirk Nowitzki signed his contract with Dallas, and a person with knowledge of the deal said it’s worth more than the original agreement.

The 38-year-old star who has spent all of his 18 seasons with the Mavericks signed a two-year, $50 million contract – $10 million more than the deal struck before contracts could be signed.

Nowitzki will be the highest-paid Dallas player at $25 million in 2016-17.

AUTO RACING

DAYTONA 500: The Daytona 500 is moving back to its traditional weekend in 2018.

The Daytona 500 had been held on Presidents Day weekend from 1968 to 2011. But NASCAR officials tweaked the date beginning in 2012, anticipating changes to the NFL schedule that could have put the Super Bowl on the same weekend as NASCAR’s season opener.

Now, with the NFL unlikely to expand its schedule anytime soon, NASCAR’s biggest race is moving back to its original calendar spot.

OBITUARY: Sam Wheeler, a renowned land speed motorcycle racer, is dead after the high-performance bike he was testing at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats fish-tailed, went airborne and crashed at 200 mph. He was 72.

Wheeler, an engineer from Arcadia, California, was known as an innovator and pioneer in the sport.

He spent more than two decades building, fine-tuning and racing a motorcycle on which he reached speeds exceeding 300 mph.