The Rangers are hoping the return of fans to Madison Square Garden will help turn around a rough season. While they treated fans to a win against the Bruins last Friday, they did so without star forward Artemi Panarin. Earlier in the week he requested a leave of absence.

A story emanating from Russia said Panarin attacked a young woman in Latvia after a game a decade ago. It’s likely an unfounded allegation. The only person backing the story was Andrei Nazarov, a former coach of Panarin’s in the Kontinental Hockey League. Nazarov is an ally of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. Panarin is one of the Russian athletes who have been critical of Putin and is an unabashed supporter of his political nemesis, Alexei Navalny.

It is doubtful Panarin will be returning to Russia anytime soon unless he wants to play for the Siberian Express. He does, however, have to worry about both his family and in-laws who are still living in the former USSR.

You can’t blame anyone for thinking CBS Sports was trying to create a sequel to the terrific 2007 Coen Brothers movie, “No Country for Old Men,” and calling it “No Country for Old NFL Quarterbacks.”

In 2020, CBS parted ways with Forest Hills High School alum Ian Eagle’s longtime partner, former Chargers QB Dan Fouts. Last week, the Tiffany Network let go of Rich Gannon, who was an NFL signal caller for 17 seasons. Fouts and Gannon are fine analysts who possess dry wit and are able to convey their deep knowledge to viewers.

Monday represents the 50th anniversary of the biggest boxing match of my lifetime, when Muhammad Ali met Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden for the heavyweight championship of the world.

Both men were undefeated but that wasn’t the main storyline. Ali was stripped of his title belt in 1967 after refusing induction into the U.S. Army by claiming to be a conscientious objector. In 1970, the Supreme Court ruled Ali was within his rights and he was allowed to resume his career. Meanwhile, Philadelphia’s Joe Frazier became the champ, which set the stage for March 8, 1971. Frank Sinatra was credentialed as a photographer for Life magazine while Burt Lancaster served as a color commentator for the fight, which was shown at movie theaters. Cable TV only existed in the sticks at the time. The fight lived up to the hype as it went the 15-round distance with Frazier winning a unanimous decision. They would meet twice more with Ali winning both bouts, including 1975’s “Thrilla in Manila.”

Boxing hasn’t been the same since.

See the extended version of Sports Beat every week at qchron.com.

Mets President Sandy Alderson got off a good quip when asked if he would attend free agent Yoenis Cespedes’s workout for teams at his ranch in Fort Pierce, Fla. “We’ll rent horses and ride out there,” he replied indicating his lack of interest in the mercurial former Mets outfielder.

Sid Rosenberg, who hosts a morning talk show on WABC (770 AM), has returned to his sports broadcasting roots with “Sid’s Sports Sunday,” which airs Sundays from noon to 2 p.m. Rosenberg, who grew up in Brooklyn, was a longtime fixture at WFAN.

Like most people, I admire the talents of Kenan Thompson, who is the longest-tenured member of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” As a reward for his years of service, NBC gave him a Tuesday night sitcom, “Kenan,” in which he stars as a widowed morning TV host in his native Atlanta.

During a Zoom press conference hosted by NBC to promote the show, Thompson admitted “Kenan” was on its third production team. He did not seem overly ebullient about the show and stressed he isn’t leaving “Saturday Night Live.”

Thompson is both an honest and perceptive guy. “Kenan” is formulaic and he doesn’t appear comfortable having to carry a show which in many ways comes off as an imitator of CBS’s current sitcom “The Unicorn.”

He deserves better material.

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