An arbitrator awarded Washington Capitals defenseman Brendan Witt $2.2 million yesterday for the 2004-05 season, up from the $1.75 million he earned last season.

"The award was about where we thought it would come in," Capitals General Manager George McPhee said. "He had a strong case. . . . Brendan and I had a good talk after it was over. There's a mutual respect there."

In 72 games last season, Witt had 12 points, a plus-minus rating of minus-22, 123 penalty minutes and ranked second on the team in minutes per game. A first-round draft pick in 1993, Witt has spent his nine-year career with the Capitals, appearing in 568 games.

"Arbitration is not the best thing to go through," Witt said. "But it's behind us." . . .

The NHL and its players union discussed the finances of individual teams during a five-hour meeting in Newark, N.J., that made no headway toward a new labor agreement. The two sides have agreed to meet in Ottawa on Aug. 25 and 26 and in Montreal on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.

* COURTS: The family of former Kansas City Chiefs star Derrick Thomas is not entitled to any money from General Motors Corp. for the January 2000 crash that killed the nine-time Pro Bowl linebacker, a jury ruled.

Thomas's mother, Edith Morgan, his seven children and their five mothers sued GM, seeking at least $73 million. They claimed Thomas was fatally injured when the roof of his Chevrolet Suburban caved in during the crash.

But the automaker's attorneys said during the month-long trial that Thomas was driving too fast for the snowy conditions, and was ejected from the sport-utility vehicle because he was not wearing his seat belt.

* COLLEGES: The NCAA has denied Jeremy Bloom's request to play football at Colorado while accepting endorsements to support his skiing career.

Bloom is a standout kickoff returner for the Buffaloes.

The decision likely means Bloom's college football career is over unless the NCAA reverses itself on appeal, said university spokeswoman Lindsey Babcock. Coach Gary Barnett said the university has appealed the decision.

Bloom, a world champion freestyle skier, was training with the U.S. ski team in Chile. Phone messages left there were not returned.

* HOCKEY: The Czech Republic moved quickly to replace late coach Ivan Hlinka, turning the national team over to former Olympic captain Vladimir Ruzicka yesterday.

-- From News Services

and Staff Reports