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Sunday, March 1

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Blackhawks Thu Feb 26 2015

Kane Injury Creates Opportunity for Some, Headache for Bowman

Chicago BlackhawksAs if the Blackhawks already weren't looking for answers on its power play, scoring woes, defensive positioning, goaltending questions -- you name it -- now Joel Quenneville and Stan Bowman have to deal with the reality of Patrick Kane sidelined for the next 12 weeks with a fractured left clavicle.

With just over 12 minutes left in the first period, Alex Petrovic checked Kane into the boards while going for a loose puck in the Hawks' offensive zone. The hit wasn't anything deliberate or heinous by any means, but it was enough to send Kane, left-shoulder first, into the wall.

After looking into the issue, the league has decided Petrovic will not be disciplined for the hit, nor will there be a hearing to discuss the act that took place Tuesday evening at the United Center, in which the Blackhawks won 3-2 in a shootout. The Hawks will take the extra point, but the thought of being without its leading scorer and, at the time, potential Hart Trophy winner, has the team pulling together even more so now than after losing three straight last week.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Bulls Wed Feb 25 2015

Derrick Rose Injured: What That Means for Him & the Bulls

BullsYesterday was a tough day for Chicagoans. In the bitter cold of night, Chicago watched Twitter explode with Patrick Kane getting injured in Tuesday's game against the Florida Panthers and, to the shock of the entire sports world, Derrick Rose's reported knee pain turning out to be another tear in his medial meniscus in his right knee. The 26-year-old point guard is said to be out indefinitely, and considering this is the same knee that he tore his meniscus in last season and kept him to 10 games, questions about his future as a player is coming in to question just as the future of the Bulls is. So... "What do the Bulls do now?"

Rose's injury problems aren't exactly hidden. The former MVP hasn't played a full season since 2011. One of the inconvenient things about this on the Bulls' end is that the trade deadline has passed, so if they wanted to make a trade for a high caliber player to fill his spot, that ship has sailed. There are rumblings that old 2012-2013 Rose replacement, Nate Robinson, has shown interest to help provide a bit more relief for the current guards.

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Jake Payne / Comments (1)

Blackhawks Tue Feb 24 2015

Darling Gets Another Shot as Blackhawks Fight Through Slump

Chicago Blackhawks You can forget about catching the Central-leading Nashville Predators at this point. Just go ahead and erase the idea of surpassing the best team in the Western Conference right now, which has amassed 87 points and has gone 7-2-1 in its last 10 games.

The focus for the Blackhawks, with 22 games remaining on their schedule, including the home-at-home stint with the Florida Panthers starting tonight, is to remain above water and catch the St. Louis Blues for second in the division.

The panic button has been pressed (again) after the Hawks lost their last three games -- a 3-2 shootout thriller against the Red Wings; a 4-1 loss to the Avs, which produced three goals in just over three minutes in the third period for Patrick Roy's squad; and a 6-2 laugher against the Bruins in front of a national audience -- all during the longest homestand of the year against a set of struggling teams.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Baseball Fri Feb 13 2015

Reactions to the Jackie Robinson West Controversy

The Jackie Robinson West story had many facets when the Chicago-based, all African-American youth baseball team rolled through the Little League World Series to a United States Championship last summer.

And, after the last few days, the club's story has gotten even more frenetic. JRW was stripped of its title on Wednesday.

The news hits home for a lot of people. JRW encompasses many talking points, including the issues and inflated importance of youth sports; the lack of African-Americans in baseball; the chasm between the rich and poor; penalties and the enforcement of rules; and the Chicago vs. everyone mentality. Many opinions have been offered, and here is a sampling of them.

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Mike Chamernik / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Wed Feb 11 2015

Blackhawks Look to Ride Hot Hossa During Homestand

Chicago Blackhawks Marian Hossa headed into St. Louis last Sunday with only 10 goals and 34 points after 52 games played this season, and what surely was a lot of questions about his own play swirling in his head. The 36-year-old Slovak had been mired in a bit of a slump, which coincided with his team's recent play on the longest road trip of the season.

The Blackhawks had been shutout back-to-back games for the first time since 2006 during this "Frozen" trip and the defense was skating on its heels, appearing slower than normal for a team as talented as any in the league. All coach Joel Quenneville needed was a player or two to help ignite the team and the rest would follow suit.

What followed was a takedown of the Blues (two points), a shootout loss to the Coyotes (one point) and a rejuvenated Hossa, who tallied four goals and four points along the way.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Thu Feb 05 2015

Scoring Woes for Blackhawks a Mere Blip on the Radar

Chicago Blackhawks Ease off the ledge, Blackhawks fans. Things might look a little shaky as February begins, but just because Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow to allow for another six weeks of Old Man Winter, doesn't mean your favorite team will continue its recent play into the extension called on by everyone's favorite rodent.

Yes, things currently may not seem fine, considering the team has scored as many goals in the last two games as the entire writing staff at Gapers Block -- zero. And, yes, they've been shutout two games in a row for the first time since 2006. But just as the blades upon which they skate can use a little sharpening from time to time, so too will be their ability to sharpen their skills and glide right back to winning more consistently.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Thu Jan 29 2015

West Coast Swing a Tough Test for Blackhawks

Chicago BlackhawksAfter a nice break at the halfway point of the season, and whatever you wanted to call the display on ice in Columbus for the All-Star game, the Blackhawks laced up their skates for another long swing to the west coast. The last time the team logged this many miles across the Continental Divide, they collected 10 points in six games (5-1-0) and averaged 3.83 goals per game against some of the conference's best.

Coming into the game against the defending champion Los Angeles Kings Wednesday night, the Hawks were riding a warmed up Marian Hossa (one goal, one assist against Pittsburgh), a young Teuvo Teravainen gaining more confidence at the wing and even a few shifts at the dot, and a completely thermal Patrick Kane making a case for becoming the first Hart Memorial Trophy winner since Stan Mikita in 1968.

Unfortunately, for the Hawks, and those who stuck with them on television until the wee hours, the end result was a little too familiar in games that were in hand but squandered in the third period.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Fire Tue Jan 27 2015

Chicago Fire: Pieces Falling Into Place

Chicago FireEven as a hard, gritty snow falls like windblown sand in the faces of earthbound Chicagoans, it grows continually hard to deny that, with every day, spring is creeping ever nearer. For supporters of the Chicago Fire that feeling has accelerated over the past few days with the finalizing of several very large and important moves.

The team and front office have made such strides over the offseason that the air swirling around the coming season has recently been rather sweetly scented with an aroma of cautious optimism, but there were still some stray notes of uncertainty. There was the matter of the team's jersey sponsorship with Quaker, which expired at the start of the 2015 season. Then there was the matter of the lingering, will-they-or-won't-they dance between the club and Wigan Athletic midfielder Shaun Maloney who expressed interest in joining the club only to see negotiations stall. Finally, a television deal had yet to be reached or announced.

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Benjamin Cannon / Comments (0)

Cubs Wed Jan 21 2015

Cubs Gain Great Flexibility and OBP in Fowler Trade

Chicago CubsThe Cubs needed a leadoff hitter. They needed someone to get on base, maybe run a little bit here and there, and most importantly, man the outfield with a history of playing some center. And if they were getting greedy, said player would be on a short contract as to not hold up prospects they like. Dexter Fowler checked every possible box.

The cost: Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily. Straily was the "third" player in the deal that sent Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija to Oakland for Addison Russell and Billy McKinney. Straily pitched a bit at Wrigley last season, but struggled in his seven National League contests, and was among the Cubs glut of back-end starters that might not be good enough to pitch every fifth day. You could trust him for two weeks if a starter got hurt, but you didn't want to lean on him for more than that. On a great team, he's a seventh or eighth starter, and the Cubs were fine sending him out with Edwin Jackson, Jacob Turner, Felix Doubront, Tsuyoshi Wada, and Eric Jokisch all still around to fight for the final rotation and long-man spots.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Tue Jan 20 2015

Blackhawks Hold Team Meeting as Break Nears

Chicago Blackhawks The last 10 games for the Blackhawks haven't necessarily been the best defensively for a team that looked to be on a mission at the start of the season. Going 5-5-0 during this recent stretch might not seem too alarming unless you've watched how each game unfolded along the way.

The team has been playing a little uncharacteristically as of late: a seemingly calmed Dan Carcillo received a six-game suspension after an illegal cross-check on Winnipeg's Mathieu Perrault; Patrick Sharp, channelling his days with the Flyers, got into a scrape with the Stars' Shawn Horcoff, prompting everyone to yell, "Not the face!"; poor defense, allowing too many shot attempts on Corey Crawford, resulted in the Hawks being outscored 33 to 32 during this time frame.

Certainly not time to panic by any means, considering the All-Star break is this coming weekend, but it was deemed necessary by some of the veterans on the team to address a few holes after 45 games played.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Bears Mon Jan 19 2015

Bears Go Safe With John Fox Selection & That's OK

Chicago BearsPicking a coach was the biggest decision Ryan Pace had to make in his professional life. This was his one and only shot to be a general manager in the NFL. If he fails here, there will be no second chance. That's why when a veteran coach with a long history of success and respect became available, Pace didn't hesitate.

In John Fox, Pace gets a guy that he knows won't be a complete embarrassment. That's already a step ahead of his predecessor, and is a great way for Pace to ensure that he won't get fired in a couple years for making a terrible mistake at such an important spot. Is it the best the Bears could do? Obviously that question can't be answered right now, but it's probably safe to say they could've done better.

Pace was rushed immediately into the Todd Bowles interview with the ink barely dry on his own contract with the Bears. Maybe if he had more time to prepare, or came back around a second time to discuss the job, Bowles might be the coach. It's also possible that Pace didn't want to risk his own backside with someone who had no prior experience. Can you blame him after taking a look at the dumpster fire he inherited?

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Chad Ruter / Comments (1)

Fire Fri Jan 16 2015

Chicago Fire Take Two at MLS SuperDraft

Chicago FireThere was a time when the annual Major League Soccer SuperDraft meant something, to the league, to its constituent clubs, to its players. But somewhere after 2012 the wheels started to come off and things have shifted. The event had logos designed for it each year that echoed other leagues' All-Star events, and it was even broadcast on television, usually on ESPN2. Since the 2012 SuperDraft the event has been relegated in a sense, falling to ESPN News and ESPN3, with this year's being solely streamed live on YouTube; there hasn't been a new logo for the event since 2013. This is not to be construed as doomsaying, just that the event -- which took place this Thursday in Philadelphia -- felt like a labored gasp from a player allocation system wearing out its usefulness.

The prevailing wisdom regarding player development in soccer is that the academy is king, developing players fit to operate within a system that is tightly plotted from the club technical director on down. This approach is one that has born fruit in the past few years, as MLS clubs' academies have finally begun to see their products come of age and get signed to their club under the auspices of being a "homegrown" player. This gives an even greater sense of accomplishment for clubs, as they have not simply gone and bought the best players in the league, but carefully scouted and developed talent on their own.

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Benjamin Cannon / Comments (0)

Cubs Tue Jan 13 2015

Cubs Fans Outside of Chicago in TV Limbo

Chicago CubsIt took much longer than most people thought it would, but after the Cubs and WGN came to an agreement last week on the remaining 45 games where the Cubs lacked a television partner, the near-term future of watching the team was put to rest. That is, if you live in Chicago.

When I was growing up in rural Shannon, Illinois -- a couple hours west of our fair city -- I became a Cubs fan because of their hats: blue with a red C, matching up perfectly with my favorite colors and the first letter of my name (lay off me -- I was 5). But the only reason I got the opportunity to see them was because of their unique television contract with WGN the superstation. It's how countless people in every corner of the country came to love a team that really wasn't very good.

Fast forward to now, in a day and age where almost every major league team carries a high majority of their games on regional cable networks to guarantee their team's games can be seen by a wide audience, the Cubs are going in the opposite direction because they lack negotiating power.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (2)

Bears Sat Jan 10 2015

Strong Takes on New Bears GM Are Foolish Ones

Chicago BearsThe youngest general manager in football is the leading football man for the Chicago Bears. A fact like that, or anything you've read about the history of 37-year-old Ryan Pace, shouldn't invoke massive amounts of excitement or despair. The only things we truly know about him are the bullet points on his résumé.

You may be impressed by his stoic look, his deep voice, and his command of a press conference, but you shouldn't be. You don't get one of the 32 NFL GM jobs without having an interview presence. Phil Emery looked and sounded impressive his first day too -- preaching the same gospel of Bears football that everyone who sat in the chair before him did.

You may be upset that he lacks previous experience in the role he's taking over, the checkered history of decisions he's been involved in, or his youth in general, but you shouldn't be. General managers who fail in their first job rarely get a second crack at it. The best GMs in the league grow old with the team that hires them because there is no incentive to move elsewhere. And since he lacked the power of making the final call on players in New Orleans, we have no idea what decisions he agreed or disagreed with. There's no data on which to judge him.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (1)

Review Fri Jan 09 2015

Review: 73-0! Bears Over Redskins: The NFL's Greatest Massacre

BearsBook.jpgIt was 28 days before Virginia Halas's 18th birthday, and her father, Bears owner and head coach George Halas, was about to lead his team onto the frigid field of Griffith Stadium in the nation's capital to battle Washington for the league title. The country was at a tipping point and about a year away from entering another World War, while the economic decline of the previous 10 years that crippled so many families was slowly beginning to reverse.

The world was a little different back then, but with the exception of leather helmets and god knows what other flimsy protective equipment was available on the gridiron 75 years ago, the game of football still remains the same today: 11 men on each side of the ball, trying to cross the pigskin across the goal line for six points, all within the span of 60 minutes. That and a little trash talking.

The Bears were 8-3 and already had three world titles under their belt from 1921, 1932 and 1933. Washington was 9-2 and previously had beaten the Bears earlier in the regular season by the final of 7-3. Redskins owner George Preston Marshall made the mistake of running his mouth after the game, calling Halas's crew a bunch of whiners and crybabies. What happened next is captured perfectly in Lew Freedman's new book, 73-0! Bears Over Redskins: The NFL's Greatest Massacre.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

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