<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Sports]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.com en-us Sun, 20 Apr 2014 21:47:17 -0500 Sun, 20 Apr 2014 21:47:17 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Seabrook Suspended for Game 2 Hit]]> Sun, 20 Apr 2014 15:25:04 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/seabrook-3-7.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks are already trailing 2-0 in their best of seven series against the St. Louis Blues, and their road to a comeback hit a speed bump on Sunday as the NHL suspended defenseman Brent Seabrook three games for his hit on Blues forward David Backes. 

The hit, which occurred in the third period of the Hawks' Game 2 loss Saturday, caused Seabrook to be ejected from the game, and knocked Backes out for the remainder of the contest. His status for Game 3 remains uncertain, but the ban means that Seabrook is out at least until Game 6 of the series. 

Here is what the NHL Department of Player Safety had to say about the hit: 

After the game, Seabrook insisted that there was no malicious intent behind the hit, but the league said that the intent wasn't the suspension-worthy aspect of the hit, rather noting that Seabrook has to be held responsible for knowing that Backes didn't have the puck when he was hit. 

"While it is possible that Seabrook does not initially recognize that Backes never gains possession of the puck, the onus is still on Seabrook to ensure that he does not hit an ineligible opponent," the league office said. "Seabrook skates some distance before making this hit. So he has time to avoid this check completely." 

The NHL opted not to suspend Bryan Bickell for his hit on Vladimir Sobotka in the third period, a play that saw Bickell extend his leg out to initiate a knee-on-knee hit with the Blues' forward. 

 

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<![CDATA[90 mph Fastball Hits Player in Face]]> Sun, 20 Apr 2014 12:59:55 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/041914+DeShields+Twitter.jpg

A player on the Corpus Christi Hooks, a minor league baseball team in Texas, is nursing a nasty bruise after suffering a serious blow to the face. 

On Friday, DeLino DeShields, Jr. was struck on the right side of his face with a fastball traveling 90 miles per hour, fracturing his cheek.  

But he insists he will be back on the field soon.

“I can go right now,” said DeShields.
 
The 21-year-old center fielder was up at bat against the Frisco RoughRiders, when he got hit with the fastball.
 
“The pitch that hit me got on me kind of quick, and next thing you know I was on the ground,” he added.
 
He says he didn’t feel pain, just swelling. He eventually got up and walked off the field on his own.
 
“I am a very strong individual. I have a football mindset. That is what got me to walk off the field yesterday,” said DeShields, who was a 2010 first round pick for the Houston Astros, and is the son of former major leaguer Delino DeShields.  
 
“He is quite a young man. He is quite an individual,” said Keith Bodie, manager of the Corpus Christi Hooks.
 
DeShields even had a message for the pitcher that hit him with the ball.
 
"I said 'tell the pitcher I am good, no hard feelings.' I know it just kind of got away from him. And just tell him i am all right,” DeShields said.
 
DeShields isn't planning to stay off the field for too long. He says he has no fear of facing a pitcher again.
 
“Whatever it takes to get me back on the field I will be ready to go,” he said.
 
“Knowing DeLino he is going to be ready shortly this is not a 6 to 8 week deal,” Bodie added.


Photo Credit: Delino DeShields, Jr. Twitter page]]>
<![CDATA[Fans React To Blackhawks Game 2 Loss]]> Sat, 19 Apr 2014 22:21:13 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000006887174_1200x675_231678531891.jpg Two of the Blackhawks top players could be placed on the bench after what happened during Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. NBC5's Michelle Relerford has fan reaction.]]> <![CDATA[Bickell, Seabrook Could Face Discipline for Game 2 Hits]]> Sat, 19 Apr 2014 22:22:38 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Seabrook+Faceoff.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks are down 2-0 in their best-of-seven series with the St. Louis Blues after losing a 4-3 overtime thriller on Saturday night, but things may be going from bad to worse for them if the NHL decides to discipline two of their key players. 

That's because Brent Seabrook and Bryan Bickell could be under league scrutiny for hits that they delivered during the third period of the game. Seabrook had the more egregious hit, as he nailed Blues captain David Backes with a high hit to the head while the Hawks were trying to kill off a penalty late in the game: 

Seabrook was given a five minute major penalty and a game misconduct for the hit, and could very well be hearing from the league office on the play. As for Bickell, his hit was slightly less catastrophic, but still could elicit a look from the league because of the way he stuck his leg out to make contact with Vladimir Sobotka: 

The question now on everyone's mind is a simple one: will Seabrook and Bickell be skating for the Hawks in Game 3, or will they both be in the press box? The Hawks have had players suspended for hits before, as Andrew Shaw received a ban in 2012 for his hit on Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith, and Duncan Keith also missed a game during last season's Western Conference Final after high-sticking Jeff Carter in a game against the Los Angeles Kings. 

If we had to guess now, the league will probably suspend Seabrook for a game or two. Backes' injury could play a big role in that decision, as will the fact that he was clearly not in possession of the puck when Seabrook hit him. The principal point of contact also appeared to be the head, and that's something that the league has been trying to crack down on in recent seasons. 

As for Bickell, he is more likely to escape punishment simply because of Sobotka's healthy condition. He did stick his leg out on the play, something that other players have been suspended for in the past, but with the burden of proof being higher in postseason discipline decisions, he may escape with just a fine. 

What do you think, Hawks fans? Should the two players be suspended for their actions in Saturday's game, or should they be on the ice for Game 3? 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Blues Stun Blackhawks in 4-3 Overtime Victory]]> Sun, 20 Apr 2014 05:56:33 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/220*120/485640295.jpg

Vladimir Tarasenko scored with less than seven seconds left in regulation to tie the game up, and Barret Jackman scored in the early stages of overtime as the St. Louis Blues knocked off the Chicago Blackhawks by a score of 4-3 to take a 2-0 lead in the teams’ first round playoff series.

Michal Rozsival, Brent Seabrook, and Duncan Keith scored goals for the Blackhawks, and Corey Crawford made 27 saves in a losing effort. Chris Porter and Kevin Shattenkirk added goals for the Blues as they held serve at home for the second consecutive game.

After the Blackhawks failed to score on an early power play in the first period, the Blues slowly started generating some positive momentum on offense, and they got a goal as a result. After Jordan Leopold’s shot from the point was deflected by Seabrook, Chris Porter picked up the loose puck and fired it back towards the net, where Crawford was screened by David Backes. The shot found its way in, and just seven minutes into the game the Blues had a 1-0 lead.

The Blackhawks got another power play in the middle stages of the frame, but they once again were unable to score. They lost several puck battles, and they couldn’t seem to cycle the puck around the zone even when they did hang onto it. In the minutes following the successful kill for the Blues, they got a couple of really good opportunities, as both Kevin Shattenkirk and Steve Ott were denied as their shots rang off the post to keep the lead at just one goal.

Unfortunately for the Hawks, they couldn’t get to the intermission unscathed, as the Blues scored with just two seconds remaining in the period to make it 2-0. Crawford had to scramble around the crease to stop several shots as his teammates were unable to clear the puck, and eventually Shattenkirk got the puck at the point and blasted in a goal when Crawford stumbled in the crease, and just like that the Blues had a two goal lead as the period concluded.

In the first half of the second period, the Blues got a slew of power play opportunities, but thanks to some stellar play by the Hawks’ forwards, they weren’t able to convert. Both Marcus Kruger and Marian Hossa made a couple of really nice stick checks to keep the puck from cycling around at the point, and despite having three power plays, the Blues’ lead remained at two goals.

The Hawks finally started getting some good scoring chances in the later stages of the period, with Patrick Sharp and Hossa both seeming to hit their stride as the frame wore on. Finally, the Hawks were able to get on the board after a great stick check behind the Blues’ net by Kris Versteeg, and when Keith got the puck, his shot from the point found its way past Miller to make it a 2-1 game with less than three minutes remaining in the period.

After the horn sounded for the second period, several players engaged in some post-horn shenanigans, and as a result, the Blackhawks had a power play to begin the third period. They weren’t able to score on that, but just a few minutes later, they were able to tie the game up. After corralling the puck as it rolled along the boards, Seabrook teed off on a one-timer slap shot, and it deflected off of Porter’s skate and over Ryan Miller’s shoulder to tie things up at 2-2.

Just a few minutes later, the Hawks scored again to take a stunning 3-2 lead. This time, it was Rozsival doing the honors, as his shot from the point hit David Backes and skipped past Miller to give Chicago the lead. They almost made it 4-2 when Hossa got two straight chances from in close, but Miller was able to stop both, and the saves proved to be crucial later on in the game.

The Blackhawks got back into penalty trouble in the middle stages of the period, as both Keith and Bryan Bickell committed highly undisciplined penalties. Keith picked up a high-sticking minor, and Bickell stuck his leg out to try to hit Vladimir Sobotka. Fortunately for Chicago, they were able to kill off those two penalties, but Seabrook got in on the bad penalty party as he drilled Backes up high, drawing a five minute major and a game misconduct.

The Blues didn’t have much going on the ensuing lengthy power play, but with less than 10 seconds remaining in the game, they were able to tie things up. The Blues got a lot of traffic to the front of the net, and when the Hawks couldn’t clear the puck, Tarasenko snuck in through the slot and fired a shot through traffic and just inside the near post to make it a 3-3 game heading into overtime.

Just three minutes into the overtime period, the Blackhawks went short-handed once again as Jonathan Toews headed to the box for a high-sticking minor. Michal Handzus and Kruger both made several good plays to block shots and jump into passing lanes, but the duo couldn’t finish off a 2-on-1 rush as the Blues avoided a short-handed goal that would have tied the series.

Once again though, it was the Hawks’ inability to clear the zone that did them in. The puck found its way along the boards to Jackman, who rifled in a shot that went right past both Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson and squeezed between Crawford’s pads to give the Blues a 2-0 lead in the series.

The Hawks will look to rebound on Monday night when the scene shifts to Chicago for Game 3. The puck will drop at 7:30pm, and the game will air on CSN Chicago locally and CNBC nationally.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Blackhawks Must Stay Aggressive in Game 2 ]]> Sat, 19 Apr 2014 10:10:21 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/485399229.jpg

In Game 1 of the first round series between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues, both teams laid the groundwork for the type of plan they hope to use to win the series. The Blackhawks displayed their puck possession game and speed in the first two periods of the game, while the Blues slowly got their act together and really started ratcheting up their physicality and speed as the contest wore on.

The Blues eventually won on a goal by Alexander Steen just 27 seconds into the third overtime, but in reality the team had gotten control of the game well before that. As the third period got underway, the Blackhawks began to deviate from the script a little bit, retreating into their shells and letting the Blues dominate possession in the game’s closing minutes. The end result of that conservative play, likely caused by simply wanting to get a win in a road environment in the playoffs, was a Jaden Schwartz goal with under two minutes left that tied the game and sent it to overtime.

While it’s perfectly natural to see a team try to protect a lead in sports, the Blackhawks did it to the point of letting if affect opportunities to slam the door on the game in that third period. Within the first 10 minutes of the frame, Chicago had two different power play chances to grab full control of the contest, but they weren’t able to capitalize on either one of them. Their possessions during both man-advantage situations left something to be desired, and even with one of the Blues’ best defensive forwards in the box when David Backes was whistled for high-sticking, the Hawks still couldn’t get the job done.

All of that being said, the urge to panic that some fans are surely feeling after one game has to be tempered with a couple of key realizations. The first is that Ryan Miller played an excellent game from the second period on, and he was a big part of the reason why the Hawks’ push going into that frame fizzled out. He went from being tentative with the puck to gaining confidence while playing it, and while the Hawks can disrupt that by getting traffic to the front of the net and peppering him with shots, he still has to be given credit for the way he played.

The Blues’ defense also has to be given some props as well. They made some great adjustments to take away the Hawks’ speed and easy zone entries that they were getting early in the game, and as a result the Hawks will have to adjust their own strategy to counteract it. It’s a game of chess on ice, and while the Blues have the upper hand at the moment, the board resets itself after each game, so the Hawks can make different moves and try to force a different result this time.

That, perhaps more than anything else, is what the Hawks have got to do. Their standard game plan is clearly effective judging by their past results, and they have the personnel to pull it off. Where they struggle is when they deviate from that plan and try to play cautiously, because it takes away the very things that make them great. Their speed and ability to hold onto the puck for long stretches makes it virtually impossible for opponents to score, and if they keep attacking even with a one goal lead, they will be in a much better position to win Game 2 and tie this series up heading back to Chicago.

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hawks' Depth Key to Road Success vs. Blues ]]> Sat, 19 Apr 2014 09:33:25 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/450257639.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks are a team that thrives on the scoring depth that they have built over the years, both through the NHL Entry Draft and through free agency, and that ability to roll out four line capable of scoring goals has led them to two championships and made their organization the model by which many teams design themselves.

That depth is especially important in games on the road, as the home team in NHL games gets the right to the last line change during stoppages. That enables coaches to dictate matchups depending on what area of the ice the face-off is in, and smart teams use it to full advantage. A great example off that is what the Detroit Red Wings did in the playoffs last year, splitting Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk during road games (to prevent teams from simply putting out their best defensive line against the formidable duo) and combining them at home when they could dictate the matchup they got to skate against.

In the case of the Blackhawks, their depth is going to be tested in a big way on Saturday afternoon. Not only is the team coming off of a game where they had to play a little over two periods of extra hockey, but they also are playing against a team that thrives on physical play and can at least come close to matching Chicago’s team speed. That is what makes the St. Louis Blues such a difficult team to play against, and it’s part of the reason why quite a few experts have picked them to knock off the Blackhawks in this series.

In Game 1, those depth pieces were largely quiet. With the exception of Nick Leddy, the Hawks were almost entirely reliant on their main stars for their scoring. In a one game situation, that’s obviously not that bad, but if that pattern were to emerge throughout the rest of this series, then it would make it a little bit easier for the Blues to figure out ways of stopping the Hawks from scoring goals.

That means that players like Ben Smith, who had three shots on goal, and Andrew Shaw, who had just one in Game 1, will need to find their way into open ice and make things happen on the offensive side of things. Head coach Joel Quenneville could feasibly switch around some of his line combinations to help that process along, and it will be interesting to see how patient he will be with his team facing the very real possibility of digging themselves an 0-2 hole in this series.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Benny the Bull Stars in New Bud Light Ad]]> Fri, 18 Apr 2014 17:03:54 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Benny_bud_light.jpg

Chicago hoops fans know Benny the Bull is always up for whatever -- just witness his flag-waving stunt atop the Willis Tower Thursday -- but now Benny gets to prove it in a new Bud Light ad.

The Bulls mascot is a featured character in Bud Light's new "Up For Whatever" commercial, designed to show regular guys experiencing an epic night.

The ad, which will run during the NBA playoffs, shows two fans hanging out with NBA legends Alonzo Mourning, Karl Malone, Clyde Drexler and Darryl Dawkins.

But their tour guide around the city is none other than Benny the Bull, who helps direct traffic and rides around town with the two fans.

More proof that Benny is arguably the most popular mascot in the NBA.

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<![CDATA[Flash Survey: Will the Blackhawks Beat the Blues?]]> Fri, 18 Apr 2014 13:42:05 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/flash+survey+new.jpg

We want to hear from you.

The Blackhawks on Thursday night dropped Game 1 of their series against the St. Louis Blues in triple overtime.

Are you still a confident Hawks fan?

 
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<![CDATA[Seabrook's Scoring Ability on Display in Hawks Loss]]> Fri, 18 Apr 2014 13:19:24 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Seabrook+Faceoff.jpg

In what may have been a case of letting a golden opportunity slip through their fingers, the Chicago Blackhawks dropped a 4-3 decision in triple overtime to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night in Game 1 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series.

The two teams won't have much time to focus on the game, as they will battle again on Saturday afternoon in Game 2, but in the meantime, we have our Three Stars from the game here.

Third Star: Patrick Kane

In his first game back since being injured against the Blues in mid-March, Kane started out slowly but gained steam as the contest wore on. He ended up playing 28:31 of ice time, including nearly six minutes of power play time, and he picked up a goal and six shots on goal during the contest.

Kane's goal in the first period came right after the Blackhawks had finished off a penalty kill, and it showed both the excellent defensive discipline of his teammates and Kane's own nose for the net. With Brent Seabrook chasing down the puck in the defensive zone, Kane curled back near the red line and cheated up ice. Seabrook made a nice play to muscle Alex Steen off the puck, and he moved a pass to Jonathan Toews.

The Hawks' captain then found Kane with a long stretch pass across all three lines, and Kane caught it in stride. On a breakaway against Miller, Kane didn't try to do anything too fancy as he fired a quick wrist shot before Miller could get set, and in the blink of an eye he gave his team a 3-2 lead.

The health of Kane's knee is going to be one of the dominant storylines in this series, but in the first game at least, it looked as though everything was A-OK.

Second Star: Corey Crawford

It was hard not to give Crawford First Star honors even though he gave up four goals in the game, including the game-winner to Steen just 27 seconds into the third overtime. At the end of the day though, 48 saves against a Blues offense that was really buzzing in the third period and overtime sessions was an impressive performance despite the outcome, and Crawford deserves credit for the way he played.

No moment better symbolized Crawford's day than the second period save that he made on Vladimir Tarasenko. On the play, Niklas Hjalmarsson tried to pass back along the boards to a supporting forward, but he didn't get enough on the pass. Eventually, the puck found its way to the front of the net, where Andrew Shaw blocked the initial shot. Crawford had kicked across the crease to try to cover the post, so when the puck found Tarasenko waiting on the other side, the goaltender wasn't in very good position.

Fortunately for the Hawks, Crawford noticed Tarasenko immediately, and he made a very athletic move to get back across the crease. By the time the young star had snapped off a shot, the goaltender was able to stop it with his arm and cover it up, preserving the Hawks lead and denying Tarasenko a goal that would have shifted momentum firmly onto the side of the home team.

Crawford is known more for his ability to square up shooters and play fundamentally sound hockey than for his ability to improvise, but he definitely showed a flair for the dramatic at times in this game. If he can continue to make those kinds of saves, then it's going to be hard for the Blues to figure out ways to beat him more often than not.

First Star: Brent Seabrook

At times during the regular season, Seabrook has been pilloried for making bad defensive decisions and for taking advantage of his pairing with Duncan Keith when making those poor choices. Whether or not that criticism is fair or not can be argued, but on Thursday, there was no disputing that his performance put the Hawks in a position where they could have won the game.

Seabrook's best moments came in the first period with his team on the power play. On one play Seabrook collected the puck along the boards, and protected it for long enough from St. Louis forward Jaden Schwartz to push it back to the point, where Kris Versteeg cycled it to Nick Leddy for a quick shot opportunity.

That shot ended up going wide of the net, and Seabrook made a nice play to keep Kevin Shattenkirk from gaining possession of the puck to clear it from the zone. That play enabled the possession to continue, and ultimately it paid some serious dividends. After a nice play by Kris Versteeg to skate behind the net to get the Blues' defense moving, Seabrook pinched in from the point and got open in the face-off circle. He received the pass in stride and snapped a shot past Miller to make it a 2-1 lead for the Hawks.

Seabrook may not get the offensive acclaim that Keith does, but he has certainly shown at times this season that he can make things happen when he has the puck on his stick. In Game 1 of this series, he showed some serious hustle and grit too, and when those talents are combined, they make for a matchup nightmare for opponents.

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Golfer Flees Hornet Attack on Course]]> Sat, 19 Apr 2014 08:35:49 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Larrazabal.jpg

A Spanish golfer jumped into a nearby lake to escape a swarm of hornets then continued on despite his stinging injuries.

Pablo Larrazabal was in the fifth hole's fairway during the Maybank Malaysian Open when he swatted away a stray hornet, which then prompted a swarm to attack him. The golfer attempted to fight them off, but had to run to the lake to escape the angry wasps.

“They were huge and like 30 or 40 of them started to attack me big time,” Larrazabal said in a statement to ESPN. “I didn’t know what to do. My caddie told me to run, so I start running like a crazy guy, but the hornets were still there, so the other players told me to jump in the lake.”

The scene could have been reminiscent of Chris Farley's character fleeing a bee attack in the 1995 film "Tommy Boy."

Larrazabal suffered more than 20 stings and had to receive medical attention. He described the encounter as the “scariest moment" of his career.

However, he returned to play his last five holes in a borrowed shirt, reversing his luck by finishing the 14th hole – the same one where he was attacked – with a birdie putt and finishing overall with two under.

He later tweeted out thanks to supporters and joked that golf is a dangerous sport.
 



Photo Credit: Ian Walton/Getty Images)]]>
<![CDATA[Quenneville Fined $25,000 for Gesture Toward Officials]]> Fri, 18 Apr 2014 17:17:40 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/quenneville-1-22.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks didn’t have a lot to cheer about after the first period of their game against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night, eventually dropping a 4-3 decision and giving the Blues a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

During the second overtime of the game however, Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville had one of his most notorious moments on the bench for the team as the officials were discussing a potential delay of game call that could have given the Hawks a 5-on-3 power play. In his attempt to convince officials to make a call, the Hawks coach busted a move and set Twitter on fire in the process:

UPDATE: Quenneville has been fined $25,000 by the league for his actions during the game. At practice on Friday, the coach apologized for his conduct, calling it a "bush league move on my part."

"Disappointed at the call but I'm not... I apologize for my behavior, it wasn't very appropriate at all," Quenneville said.

The disco-style moves to emphasize his feelings on the puck going over the glass were pretty great (and drew plenty of comparisons to Michael Jackson, as well as John Travolta’s character in “Saturday Night Fever”), but it was the little move at the end that drew the most attention. Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times called it “clutch and grab hockey,” but that may not be what the NHL will end up calling it. According to Mark Lazerus, the league office may call it a fine worthy offense:

It seemed like a pretty innocuous gesture, and certainly nothing that was done to show up the officials. That being said, it’s just a fine even if Colin Campbell decides to hit Quenneville in the pocketbook, and at least Hawks fans got some joy out of it. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hawks Miss Golden Chance to Grab Series Lead]]> Fri, 18 Apr 2014 09:45:54 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/485399225.jpg

Of all the axioms and hackneyed "wisdom" that is espoused during the Stanley Cup playoffs, there is one thing that actually holds a lot of truth and should be taken seriously: if another team gives you an opportunity to win, you have to seize it.

For the Chicago Blackhawks, Thursday night’s loss to the St. Louis Blues has to be chalked up as a missed opportunity. The Hawks held the lead from the end of the first period, when Patrick Kane scored on a breakaway following a successful penalty kill, all the way to the end of the third, when Jaden Schwartz tied things up with less than two minutes left to send the game into overtime.

Even during that overtime the Hawks had opportunities to seal the deal. They got two different power plays off of careless penalties by the Blues, but despite a few good chances, neither of them could come to fruition, and ultimately the Blues made them pay as Alexander Steen scored just 27 seconds into the third overtime period to give the Blues the victory.

Before the overtime periods, the Blackhawks had plenty of chances to extend their lead and to really put the Blues away. The visitors did a nice job of controlling the game in the early stages of the second period, holding the Blues to only one shot on goal through the first 13 minutes of the frame, but despite that dominance, they couldn’t quite score against Ryan Miller. To his credit, the Blues goaltender did have a nice rebound period after struggling at times in the first, but even if a goalie is settled in after a rough start, a team has to simply keep coming at him.

The Blackhawks did do that in the second period and in the early part of the third, getting two power plays on a David Backes high stick and a Ryan Reaves tripping minor, but they weren’t able to convert either chance. Then, as so often happens to teams when the stakes are high and a win is in sight, the Hawks tightened up in the closing minutes of the third period. The Blues completely took over the tempo of the game, firing shot after shot at Corey Crawford, and the Hawks seemed content to give St. Louis the offensive blue line at every juncture. Finally, the pressure proved to be too much as Schwartz tied things up late, and after a long stretch of playing on their heels, the Hawks had to face down what turned out to be a lengthy overtime.

It is a fact of life in the playoffs that teams will run into hot goaltenders, and it’s also true that a team can dominate time of possession and the shots on goal category and still not win games. That being said, those factors weren’t the case for the Blackhawks on Thursday night, and if they’re being honest with themselves, they let a golden opportunity slip through their fingers in losing Game 1 of the series. They are by no means finished (anyone suggesting that a team that lost a triple overtime first game of a series is finished should have their punditry card revoked), so they need to bounce back in Game 2 and take advantage of some of the opportunities that they let go by the wayside in the first matchup between the two squads.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Secret Service Threatened to Shoot Mr. Met: Book]]> Fri, 18 Apr 2014 08:11:15 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/mr-met-cohen.jpg

A Secret Service agent once threatened to shoot Mr. Met if he approached the president during a baseball game at Shea Stadium, according to a man who once worked as the baseball-headed mascot.

AJ Mass, who was the Mets’ mascot from 1994 to 1997, said a member of former President Bill Clinton’s security detail told him they’d “go for the kill shot” if he tried to pal around with the then-commander-in-chief at a Mets-Dodgers game on April 15, 1997. The account comes from an excerpt of Mass’ new book, “Yes, It’s Hot in Here: Adventures in the Weird, Woolly World of Sports Mascots,” published on Sports Illustrated’s website this week.

Mass wrote that he had planned to make his way to see Clinton, who was at the game commemorating the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first major-league appearance, calling the photo-op "the holy grail for all mascots."

Before he could make it to the president’s box, Mass wrote, he was stopped by an agent in a dark suit and a businesslike demeanor.

“We have snipers all around the stadium, just in case something were to happen,” the agent told Mass. “Like I said, do whatever it is you normally do. Nobody will bother you. But approach the president, and we go for the kill shot. Are we clear?”

Then the agent, who Mass wrote was staring into the mouth of Mr. Met’s head to make eye contact with the man inside, repeated himself.

“Approach the president, and we go for the kill shot,” the agent said to Mass. “ARE-WE-CLEAR?”



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[McNabb Spends Day in AZ Jail ]]> Fri, 18 Apr 2014 05:12:14 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/mcnabb+arrested+mugshot+background.jpg

Former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb has been released from an Arizona jail after serving a one-day sentence for a DUI arrest late last year.

Records released by Maricopa County Justice Court show that 37-year-old McNabb served his time Wednesday and was released Thursday morning.

Court administrator James Vance tells NBC10.com McNabb was stopped on Dec. 15, 2013 in his gray Land Rover LR4 along an Arizona freeway -- Route 101 near East McDowell Road -- on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. He was then arrested for driving under the influence and cited for speeding.

McNabb's blood alcohol content (BAC) was not available for release, but Vance said while the state's legal limit is 0.08, a person could be considered impaired with a BAC of 0.04 or higher.

The former Eagle pleaded guilty on March 27 and nine days of his sentence was suspended in exchange for undergoing alcohol screening and treatment. Vance says that is a pretty standard judgment.

McNabb then reported to the Maricopa County Jail on Wednesday, was booked and served the one day sentence.

Once the alcohol treatment is completed, the sentence will be suspended, Vance says.

NBC10.com reached out to McNabb's attorney, Stephen Benedetto, for comment. We have not heard back.

Our sister station, KPNX in Phoenix, Ariz., obtained a booking mugshot of McNabb from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

McNabb, a six-time Pro Bowler, spent 10 years with the Eagles and took the franchise to five NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl. He currently hosts a show on NBC Sports Radio.

A spokesman for the radio network said, "Donovan has no comment," on the matter.



Photo Credit: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office]]>
<![CDATA[2014 Playoffs: Blackhawks Versus Blues]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 23:46:04 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/hawks_blues_1_blurb_2.jpg Hawks try to knock off their higher-seeded rivals in the first round.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Benny the Bull Waves Flag Atop Willis Tower]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 18:34:41 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Benny_Willis_Flag.jpg Are you ready for the playoffs? Chicago Bulls mascot Benny the Bull waved the team's flag on top of the Willis Tower Wednesday. The stunt was shot by BullsTV and will be incorporated into the "Benny around Chicago" playoff themed video that will be shown in the arena.]]> <![CDATA[Hawks Fans Gear Up For Another Magical Run]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 18:54:38 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/blackhawks_dinosaur_field.jpg

With the Blackhawks getting ready to kick off the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, Blackhawks nation is rallying for another championship run.

Hawks pride is on display outside The Field Museum, where a brachiosaurus skeleton was outfitted with a Jonathon Toews No. 19 jersey.

"There's a framework that the jersey actually hangs on, that they invented that they installed," said exhibition director Ray Leo.

Hockey fans -- and players -- are known to be a superstitious bunch, and players Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad made sure to get their playoff mullets.

"They're very superstitious guys, so it's one of those things that they'll continue on every year during the playoffs," barber Carmelo Preiti said.

"It's flowing a little better, kind of like Billy Ray Cyrus," Preiti said of Kane's 2014 mullet.

Hawks fan Ryan O'Rourke is getting into the spirit as well, getting his mullet on Thursday -- even though his friends chickened out.

"I'm gonna trim it every time they win a series," O'Rourke said.

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<![CDATA[Blackhawks' Road to a Repeat Begins Thursday]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 15:53:20 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/blackhawks+blues+getty+2013.jpg

When it comes to teams like the Chicago Blackhawks who come into every season with high expectations, the regular season is nothing but a warm-up act for the postseason. For the Hawks, the real test begins now.

The team is down in St. Louis getting ready for the start of a playoff run that they hope will result in their second consecutive championship and third title in five seasons. Hoisting the Stanley Cup again would not only give the Hawks those impressive marks over the past several seasons, but would also make them the first repeat champions in the NHL since the Detroit Red Wings won back to back championships in 1997 and 1998.

In many ways, the gauntlet that the Hawks would have to travel through to get to that promised land is even tougher than it was last season. The Hawks had home ice advantage throughout the playoffs last year, and it ended up proving crucial as they closed out their first three series on United Center ice. They won’t have that luxury this year thanks to their third place finish in the Central Division, and starting off the postseason on the road against a team that went nearly an entire season without losing a game in regulation against a Central Division foe is going to be a daunting task.

Helping the Hawks as they prepare for a playoff run is the fact that they have gotten back both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane from injury. Both players missed the final games of the regular season, Toews with an upper body injury and Kane with a leg ailment, but both have been skating since last week and are expected to be in the lineup when the puck drops on Thursday night.

The infusion of talent into the lineup is going to have a ripple effect on the rest of the Hawks, as it will allow Joel Quenneville to tinker with his lines to the degree that he likes to do. Using the team’s full depth to his advantage, Quenneville will try to exploit some of the health issues that the Blues are having at the forward position, as TJ Oshie and Patrick Berglund will both be out of the lineup for St. Louis in Game 1 of the series.

Amping up the speed among his forwards and rolling four lines capable of scoring will make for an interesting challenge for a Blues team that has struggled to score goals lately, and if they can’t adjust quickly to the Hawks’ aggressive style, they could be in for a world of hurt once things get started.

All of that being said, the Hawks know that they don’t have the luxury of cruising into the playoffs on a tidal wave of momentum like they did last year. Chicago had basically steamrolled everyone in their path as they won the 2013 title, losing only seven games in regulation as they romped through the regular season. This season, the Hawks have struggled at times, including a three game losing streak in late March, but they will try to use that experience with adversity to their advantage as they begin the long and arduous slog through the Western Conference on Thursday night.

In all likelihood, this ride will be a bumpier one for the Hawks and their fans if the team is to repeat its successes from a season ago, but if one is being totally honest, playoff hockey is always a grind, so this year will be no exception.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[First Round Matchups: Backes vs. Toews]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:04:39 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/475984677.jpg

With the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues set to square off in the playoffs for the first time since 2002, Madhouse Enforcer is taking a look at some of the key matchups that will help decide the series between these Central Division rivals.

Today’s matchup is one of captains who are recovering from injuries that hampered them at the end of the regular season, as David Backes and Jonathan Toews butt heads.

As the 2013-14 regular season came to an end, the Blackhawks and Blues both looked on as the Colorado Avalanche surged past them and won the Central Division championship. The Blues in particular looked putrid down the stretch, losing their last six games in a row and a slew of players to the injury bug in the process. The Blackhawks also had some serious injuries, with Toews and Patrick Kane missing chunks of time, but they reeled off a four game winning streak before quietly dropping their last two games as they rested starters on their final road trip.

Backes was one of the Blues who missed time during the dwindling days of the season, leaving an April 8th game against the Washington Capitals with a foot injury. There was some worry that the injury could put his status for Game 1 against the Blackhawks in doubt, but he has been practicing with the team and is expected to be on the ice when the game begins.

As for Toews, he missed the final six games of the regular season for the Hawks with an upper body injury that he suffered on a big hit from Brooks Orpik against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Toews has been skating since late last week, and like Backes is expected to be on his team’s top line when the series gets going at Scottrade Center.

Backes’ play down the stretch for St. Louis mirrored the team’s late swoon. In his final five games (including an abbreviated appearance against the Capitals), Backes had just one assist, racked up 22 penalty minutes and only had nine shots on goal. He put up those pedestrian numbers despite playing nearly 20 minutes per game in four of those contests, and his struggles on offense led to a serious power outage for the team’s scoring attack.

When Toews went down with his arm injury, he was certainly cooling off after a red-hot start to the month of March, but he was still contributing despite his struggles. In his final five games, the Hawks’ captain had two assists and 10 shots on goal, but his team did lose four of those five games as they slipped into the third spot in the Central Division standings.

With all of those numbers floating around in our heads, an important question has to be asked as the two teams get ready to face each other with their returning stars in tow: how will Backes and Toews fare as they jump back into the lineup, and will either of them have a big impact on the series, at least at the beginning?

In the case of both players, they will be jumping right back into top line roles for their teams. Backes was skating with Alexander Steen and Steve Ott on Thursday during the morning skate, and if Ken Hitchcock opts to keep that line arrangement going into the contest, then Backes’ role is going to be the same as it always is: get to the front of the net, put shots on goal, and hit anything that’s wearing a white jersey.

Toews will also be on the top line, skating with Kris Versteeg and Brandon Saad as the team prepares to face the Blues, and his role is similar to that of Backes. His defensive skills make him one of the team’s most important forwards, and his ability to pass the puck with the same prowess as he can shoot it makes him a dangerous threat that is hard to game plan against.

Since both players are coming off of injuries, and since both Hitchcock and Joel Quenneville are trying to juggle lines to welcome players back into the rotation, it’s hard to pick a winner between the two captains if we’re asking which of them has the edge in this series. Backes historically has played Toews hard, using his brute strength to force the Hawks’ leader off the puck, but Toews has generally been able to respond with some serious scoring punch in the face of those confrontations.

If Backes is able to get Toews off his game from the puck drop on Thursday, then he will win this matchup easily. In the more likely event that Toews can withstand the initial burst, he will have a bit of an edge in this matchup of stars.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Toews, Kane Finish Among Top in NHL Jersey Sales]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 11:45:50 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/blackhawks-bruins-G6-4.jpg

Every year, the NHL’s jersey sales list is littered with the league’s elite players, as guys like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin help the league to line its coffers with fresh loot.

This year’s list features two members of the Chicago Blackhawks, as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane both finished in the top five in the league in jersey sales. Toews checked in as the number three selling jersey in the 2013-14 season, while Kane rounded out the top five.

Crosby took the top spot in the league once again, with Pavel Datsyuk finishing just behind him at number two. Ovechkin wound up in the fourth position, with Ryan Callahan, who was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning just before the March trade deadline, shooting all the way up to number six.

Seeing Kane and Toews’ names on the list isn’t much of a surprise, considering how aggressively both the Blackhawks and the league use the two players for marketing purposes. They both have had a great deal of success in their careers, winning two Stanley Cups and each winning the Conn Smythe Award as the playoff MVP (Toews in 2010, Kane in 2013). Most importantly of all, they both have been used by the team to sell the franchise to children, and it isn’t uncommon to see groups of kids all wearing Kane and Toews jerseys as they walk along the concourses at the United Center.

For a full list of the players who finished atop the heap, you can check it out on Deadspin.

 



Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Top Bears Draft Picks: #23 Dan Hampton]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 11:59:12 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/1351078.jpg

As the NFL Draft approaches, Grizzly Detail is counting down the Top 30 draft picks in Chicago Bears history. In order to qualify for this list, a player must have worn a Bears uniform for at least five seasons (sorry Rosevelt Colvin and Wilber Marshall), and players who were selected in lower rounds of the draft will have an advantage in this countdown.

We continue the countdown with an integral part of the defense of the 1985 Bears, as Dan Hampton nails down the #23 spot on the list.

The Details:

Hampton, drafted with the fourth overall pick in the 1979 NFL Draft, was a stellar defensive end out of Arkansas that helped anchor one of the most ferocious pass rushes in league history. Along with Richard Dent and Steve McMichael, Hampton wrought havoc on just about every offense that he played against, racking up 57 sacks and forcing 10 fumbles in his distinguished career. He started 151 games for the Bears, and was named to the Pro Bowl four times. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002.

Career Highlights:

The embodiment of the no-holds barred attitude that defined the Bears of the 1980’s, Hampton sought out opposing quarterbacks with a fervor that could only be described as “zealous.” He truly hit his stride in the middle part of the decade, racking up double digit sack totals in both the 1984 and 1986 seasons. He also forced eight fumbles in that three year span, and he was named as a First-Team All-Pro after the 1984 campaign.

Following his career with the Bears, Hampton has remained active both on the speaking circuit and in the media. He also appears during football season on NBC 5’s Sports Sunday show, breaking down the latest news surrounding the Monsters of the Midway.

Hampton has also been known to ruffle some feathers in the years following his playing career. In 2011 when President Barack Obama invited the 1985 Bears to the White House for the celebration that they never got to enjoy (the Challenger disaster in 1986 thwarted those plans), Hampton refused to go because of his disagreements with the president’s policies. Many of his teammates didn’t agree with the choice he made, but the point remained clear that the “Danimal” prefers to forge his own path rather than treading upon the path that others have cleared.

The Reasoning:

As a Hall of Famer, Hampton does have a persuasive argument to be included higher on this list, but there are a couple of reasons why he settled into the position he occupies. The first and most obvious was that he was a very high draft pick, and therefore is bumped down for the purposes of this countdown. The other reason is that his longevity with the team was hampered a bit by injuries, as he missed significant chunks of the 1982 and 1987 seasons with the Bears.

All of that being said however, Hampton was one of the key catalysts for arguably the greatest defense the league has ever seen, so in spite of those flaws in his resume he is deserving of a spot at or near where he was slotted.

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Madhouse Enforcer's First Round Playoff Predictions]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:56:51 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/game+5-7.jpg

After several days of pundits and fans getting themselves psyched up, the race for the Stanley Cup began in earnest on Wednesday night as the NHL playoffs started. 

Three different series begin on the postseason’s opening night, with the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning opening things up in the East. The Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins will also begin their series, as will the Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks.

With those series set to kick off, and the four more series that begin on Thursday night (including the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks), it seems like it’d be an appropriate time for us to make our full postseason picks, which will either be a brilliant display of prognostication or a wretched failure.

At any rate, we’ll all find out together when the puck drops Wednesday. Here they are:

Eastern Conference First Round:

Montreal Over Tampa Bay, Seven Games

Boston Over Detroit, Five Games

The 2-vs-3 matchup in the Atlantic Division is one of the most intriguing in the playoffs, with the upstart Lightning playing against a Canadiens team that many experts have questioned because of their lack of size all season long. We’re going to go with the Canadiens narrowly in this one, but it’s truly a coin flip series.

As for the Boston-Detroit series, the Bruins have been one of the hottest teams in the league, and the President’s Trophy champions shouldn’t have much of a problem with the Red Wings. Guys like Patrice Bergeron, David Krecji, and Zdeno Chara are eager to prove that they are the top dog in the league, and they should come out with a fire in their belly to start the postseason.

Pittsburgh Over Columbus, Six Games

Philadelphia Over New York, Six Games

Both of the playoff matchups in the Metropolitan Division have the potential to be excellent. The Blue Jackets are coming into the playoffs eager to prove that they aren’t a fluke, and the Penguins have a track record for not playing well on the defensive side of things once the bell rings. That being said, the Penguins have a lot to prove, and it’s hard to imagine that even the most motivated Blue Jacket team could knock them off.

As for the other series, the Flyers have a lot going for them despite not having home ice advantage in the series. Claude Giroux has been playing stellar hockey as of late, and with a strong supporting cast, they should be able to tame the Blue Shirts in the first round.

Western Conference First Round:

Colorado Over Minnesota, Seven Games

Chicago Over St. Louis, Six Games

One of the matchups that a lot of experts and fans have been picking as an upset has been the Colorado-Minnesota series, with the Wild getting a lot of love as they try to knock off the Central Division champions. We don’t really share that optimism, as Colorado’s athleticism and red-hot play as of late should carry the day…..but only by just enough.

In the other series, the Blues are looking like they’ll finally get healthy against the Hawks, but we’re still going to pick the defending champions in this series. The Hawks seem like they’ve finally figured out the way to beat the Blues, using their speed and puck possession while avoiding getting into a battle of physicality, and getting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews back should give Chicago a significant boost.

Anaheim Over Dallas, Six Games

San Jose Over Los Angeles, Six Games

The Ducks are another team that plenty of people don’t think is for real, but against a team like the Stars, they should really shine. The motivation of trying to get Teemu Selanne one more Stanley Cup, and the fact they have two of the most dynamic scorers in the league in Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, should be enough to overcome Tyler Seguin and the upstart Stars.

In the other series, the Sharks have plenty to prove as they take on the 2012 Cup champions. They are a perennial underachiever in the postseason, but with incredible depth up the middle of the ice with guys like Logan Couture, Joe Thornton, and Joe Pavelski, the Sharks could be one of the most dangerous teams in the postseason, and we feel that they will show that in the first round.

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hawks Headlines: Kane Skates on Third Line Tuesday]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 11:32:04 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/466738891.jpg

As the Chicago Blackhawks prepare for the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, we figured it was a good time to give you one last batch of Hawks Headlines to help set the stage for the team’s showdown against the St. Louis Blues, which begins on Thursday night.

-The Blackhawks were running some interesting line combinations in their practice on Tuesday, sliding Patrick Kane down to the third line and keeping Kris Versteeg on the top grouping with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad. The Sharp-Handzus-Hossa line, which found a ton of success last year, was kept together by Joel Quenneville however. [CSN Chicago]

-One noticeable absence from the lineup was Jeremy Morin, who has been one of the team’s hottest players. His exclusion in favor of a guy like Versteeg, who has contributed little since scoring in the Stadium Series game, is a bit of a head-scratcher, but to his credit, the youngster is keeping his chin up. [ESPN Chicago]

-On a positive note, Mike Spellman has an interesting piece about Marian Hossa, and how he continues to dazzle even his teammates with his play at 35 years of age. [Daily Herald]

-Want to know more about the St. Louis Blues’ forward group? Then Sam Fels and the crew at Committed Indian have got you covered. [Real Fans Program]

-Before the season began, we picked Toews to be a Hart Trophy finalist, but as this article suggests, winning the league’s MVP award isn’t indicative of postseason success, and could actually suggest the exact opposite. [Second City Hockey]

-As we’ve alluded to repeatedly, the Blackhawks play a game predicated on speed and puck possession, while the Blues tend to try to get the puck using their raw physicality. Mark Lazerus agrees with us, and discussed the matter with the team. [Chicago Sun-Times]

-Finally, the Blues are getting some good news on the injury front, as it appears that Vladimir Tarasenko is much closer to returning than previously thought. [Chicago Tribune]

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kane, Saad Get Playoff Mullets Once Again ]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:27:19 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/kane-saad-carmelo.jpeg

In what is quickly becoming a rite of spring in the Windy City, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad went into Carmello Periti’s “316 Club” on Tuesday and emerged as changed men.

That’s because the duo once again allowed the Chicago-area barber to style their hair into their playoff mullets. Kane, who has been going to Periti for haircuts since 2009, started the mullet tradition back in 2010, and when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup that year, his distinctive hairstyle was the talk of the town. With his long, curly hair and the racing stripes on the side of his head, Kane’s choice of style may have been unorthodox, but it certainly proved to be a good luck charm as the team won its first championship in 49 years.

Here is what Kane’s hair looks like when he has it styled into the mullet, courtesy of former Blackhawk Adam Burish:

In 2013, the tradition continued as Kane convinced Saad, then a rookie, to join him in their follicle quest. The Hawks once again won the championship with the two players sporting the haircuts, and it appears that they will try to secure the team’s third title in five seasons while rocking the iconic ‘dos.

Hawks fans will get their first opportunity to see the haircuts on Thursday night when the Blackhawks skate against the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

 

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<![CDATA[Cubs Unveil Plans for Wrigley's 100th Birthday Celebration]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 11:22:19 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP110524170393.jpg

Wrigley Field turns 100 on April 23, and the Chicago Cubs are planning a little birthday celebration.

The Cubs host the Diamondbacks next Wednesday, one century after the Chicago Federals opened the stadium, then known as Weeghman Park, against the Kansas City Packers.

To celebrate, the first 30,000 fans will get a replica 1914 Chicago Federals jersey as they enter the park. Cubs plan to wear those same throwback jerseys on the field, and the Diamondbacks get in on the fun with Kansas City Federal League uniforms.

The first 10,000 fans will receive a birthday cupcake from Jewel-Osco. "An elaborate decorative cake" from Carlo's Bakery, the bakery on the TLC show "Cake Boss," will be on display near the Ernie Banks statue on Clark Street until the third inning.

"These birthday gifts aren’t the only reason fans will want to arrive early for the game," the team said. "The sights and sounds at the ballpark that day will reflect the ballpark experience from a century ago, including music, graphics and even elements of the game broadcast."

Historic photos and video tributes will play on the right field video board, and greeters and grounds crews will wear clothing modeled from a century ago.

A marching band takes the field after both starting lineups are announced, and MLB Commissioner Bud Selig joins Wrigley Field icons in a pregame ceremony. Past owners will be recognized, and the Chicago Bears, who played 50 seasons at Wrigley Field, will be honored.

Cubs legends and Hall of Famers are expected to attend and return to their former positions on the field for the pregame celebration: Ernie Banks (SS), Glenn Beckert (2B), Andre Dawson (RF), Ryan Dempster (P), Bobby Dernier (CF), Randy Hundley (C), Fergie Jenkins (P), Gary Matthews (LF), Milt Pappas (P), Lee Smith (P), Billy Williams (LF) and Kerry Wood (P).

Popular throwback food items also will be on offer, including a classic Reuben sandwich and breaded pork chop sandwich. Classic cocktails include a 1910s Weeghman Park Old Fashioned served in limited-edition souvenir glasses.

Harry Caray's wife, Dutchie Caray, leads the 7th inning stretch from the field.

Get more information on the birthday celebration and other birthday-themed promotions throughout the season, head here: wrigleyfield100.com



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Top Bears Draft Picks: Stan Jones and Mark Bortz]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 02:44:20 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/soldier-field-paint.jpg

As the NFL Draft approaches, Grizzly Detail is counting down the Top 30 draft picks in Chicago Bears history. In order to qualify for this list, a player must have worn a Bears uniform for at least five seasons (sorry Rosevelt Colvin and Wilber Marshall), and players who were selected in lower rounds of the draft will have an advantage in this countdown.

We continue the countdown with two very talented offensive linemen, as Stan Jones and Mark Bortz take down the #25 and #24 spots on our countdown.

The Details:

Jones is the first of our players that joined the Bears before the NFL-AFL merger. An All-American at the University of Maryland, Jones was taken in the fifth round of the 1953 NFL Draft by the Bears. He ended up playing for 11 seasons before wrapping up his career with the Washington Redskins. He was primarily a guard in his NFL career before shifting over to defensive tackle in the later stages, and he was an All-NFL selection four different times. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991.

As for Bortz, he was picked even later in the draft, going in the eighth round of the 1983 NFL Draft. He was picked as #42 on ESPN Chicago’s list of the Top 50 Bears of all time in a recent poll, and his longevity with the team was a big part of the reason why. He ended up starting 155 games for the Beas in his 12-year career, and was selected to the Pro Bowl on two different occasions.

Career Highlights:

Jones was a long-tenured lineman in an era when protecting the quarterback was just as crucial as it is today, and it wasn’t just his on-field prowess that earned him acclaim in NFL circles. Jones was also the first player to really embrace the notion that weight lifting could help linemen to increase their leverage at the line of scrimmage, and he was one of the strongest players in the league when he was active. The Football Hall of Fame’s website praises him as “big, quick, disciplined, intelligent, and durable,” and all of those qualities are treasured commodities among linemen.

Bortz had a great run of his own with the Bears, teaming up with guys like Keith Van Horne (#30 on our list), Jimbo Covert, and Tom Thayer to help the Bears to win the 1986 Super Bowl championship. Blocking for guys like Walter Payton and Jim McMahon may seem like a dream job to some, but Bortz did it to perfection, and the fact that he was an eighth round draft pick just emphasizes just how good of a job the team did in scouting him out.

Our Reasoning:

While it’s really difficult to squeeze out statistics and anecdotes about linemen, these two both have a large number of fans and admirers. Both men were picked in the later stages of the draft, thus elevating their status on this, and they could likely go even higher if not for the fact that there are so many players worthy of Top-20 consideration.

 

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<![CDATA[Bears Bites: Bears Waive Cheta Ozougwu Tuesday]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 11:14:37 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/cheta120221326.jpg

In this midweek edition of Bears Bites, we take a look at a roster move the Chicago Bears made on Tuesday, an update on what direction the team could be looking to go in the NFL Draft next month, and where a former Bear ended up signing on Tuesday.

-We start with the news out of Halas Hall on Tuesday that the team had parted ways with defensive end Cheta Ozougwu. In nine career games with the Bears, he had four tackles and a sack. [CSN Chicago]

-Adam Hoge is working his way through some of the things we can expect from the Bears as the offseason continues, starting with some of the position battles that the team will have on their hands. [670 the Score]

-The Bears worked out Louis Nix at Halas Hall this week. The defensive tackle out of the University of Notre Dame is expected to be available when the Bears pick in the 14th slot in May’s NFL Draft. [Chicago Tribune]

-Speaking of players that the Bears could take, safety Calvin Pryor could also be available if the team decides not to take a guy like Ha Ha Clinton Dix in the slot. [Chicago Sun-Times]

-In the same vein, could addressing the safety position mean big things for the Bears in terms of what they could accomplish in the playoffs? [ESPN Chicago]

-Finally, former Bears wide receiver Brandon Lloyd has a new home after sitting out the 2013 season, as he inked a one-year deal with the San Francisco 49’ers on Tuesday. [Shutdown Corner]

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Joakim Noah's Priceless Reaction to Chicago Snow]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 05:56:27 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Joakim_Noah_4-15.jpg

You can excuse Joakim Noah if sometimes he's disconnected from the regular world the rest of us live in.

After all, he's one of the best players in the NBA, and on Monday night he was working -- dropping 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists on the Orlando Magic in the United Center.

So you'll have to excuse him if he wasn't aware of what the rest of us knew -- spring appears to be a tease, and it was indeed snowing in the middle of April.

Noah was informed of that fresh piece of weather news while telling reporters post-game that we're in the midst of the best time of the year because it's not cold anymore and the sun is starting to come out.

"Are you serious? Nah... that's bull__," Noah told the Chicago Sun-Times and other reporters with an incredulous look on his face.

It just goes to show, you can make millions of dollars a year and be a mainstay on Sportscenter highlights, but when it comes to bad weather -- you're just as miserable as the next guy.

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<![CDATA[Madhouse Enforcer Presents: The Blackhawks Awards]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 12:41:07 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/465835581.jpg

To say that the 2013-14 season was an up-and-down year for the Chicago Blackhawks would be an understatement. From the rollicking party at the United Center as they raised their championship banner in October to the throes of losing Jonathan Toews to injury and dropping three straight games in late March, the team has run the gamut of emotions as the year has gone on.

Now, the team is expecting to have all hands on deck as they prepare to take on the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs. Before they get started with their "second season" however, it seems appropriate that we reflect a bit on the season that was, and hand out some postseason awards to several of the team’s most important players.

The Stan Mikita Sportsmanship Award: Ben Smith

When Mikita came into the league, he was one of the angriest and most aggressive players on the ice. He racked up penalty minutes like they were going out of style, and he developed a reputation as a player on the edge. According to his autobiography “I Play to Win,” Mikita had a change of heart about his play after his young daughter, watching him sit in the penalty box, said “Mommy, why does Daddy spend so much time sitting down?” After that, Mikita won the Lady Byng trophy, given to the “player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability,” in two consecutive seasons.

In honor of Mikita’s legacy of playing hard without racking up the penalty minutes, we decided to award Smith with our Mikita Award. He turned into one of the Hawks’ best two-way players this season, scoring 14 goals and adding 12 assists while only picking up one minor penalty in 75 games this season.

The Bobby Hull Offensive Player of the Year Award: Patrick Sharp

Hull is one of the greatest offensive players in NHL history, and while Sharp is likely never going to get to the goal-scoring marks that the Golden Jet did in his career, he did have an excellent season in 2013-14, earning him the Hull Award.

Sharp racked up 34 goals this season, marking the fourth time that he’s eclipsed the 30-goal plateau. His 44 assists were also a career high, as were his 78 points, and he also fired a remarkable 313 shots on goal this season to set a career high in that regard as well. He had 10 power play markers and 15 assists on the man-advantage as well.

The Pierre Pilote Defensive Player of the Year Award: Niklas Hjalmarsson

Before Bobby Orr came into the league and revolutionized the defenseman position, it was guys like Pilote that manned blue lines and grabbed a lot of attention in the NHL. The Hall of Famer was one of the most defensively responsible players to ever man the blue line, and he also could pitch in on offense too, scoring 80 goals and adding 418 assists in his NHL career.

Despite Duncan Keith’s excellent season offensively this year, we opted to give Hjalmarsson the Pilote Award because of his outstanding play this season. The Swedish defenseman has allowed head coach Joel Quenneville to give Keith and Brent Seabrook a lot more rest in recent seasons, and his four goals and 22 assists also mean that he isn’t a slouch on the offensive side of things either.

Now, we’d hand the award to Hjalmarsson, but he’s a little too busy holding something much more precious:

The Al Secord “Underrated Performer” Award: Andrew Shaw

During the Blackhawks Renaissance in recent seasons, the team has been celebrating all of the legends that turned it into the storied franchise that it is today. One of the players who deserves to get more attention than he gets is Secord, who eclipsed the 40-goal plateau three times with the Blackhawks while also racking up 2093 penalty minutes in his career.

While we aren’t foolish enough to argue that Shaw is on his way to being the next Secord, he certainly had a big impact on the Hawks in multiple areas. He picked up 20 goals this season for the team (one of five guys on the team to do so), and his constant presence in front of the net helped the Hawks’ power play out considerably.

The Jeremy Roenick Most Exciting Player Award: Jonathan Toews

When Roenick burst onto the scene for the Blackhawks in the late 80’s and early 90’s, he took the team and the league by storm with his penchant for scoring tons of goals and delivering a slew of bone-crushing hits. Roenick eventually was traded by the Blackhawks over contract demands, but while he was in the Windy City, he was unquestionably the star attraction for the team.

That same thing can be said of Toews. While guys like Patrick Kane definitely have a ton of flash to their games, Toews still brings plenty of magic to the ice, as he did on this goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stadium Series game at Soldier Field:

The Jamal Mayers Press Box Award: Sheldon Brookbank

During the Hawks’ 2013 Stanley Cup run, Mayers would only hit the ice during practices while other veterans were taking rest days. He didn’t get to play much for the team, but he did get his name engraved on the Cup, and was one of the first guys to hoist the trophy after the team won it in Boston.

This season, it was a neck and neck race to see which Hawk could rack up the most healthy scratches, but in the ned it was Brookbank who narrowly prevailed. He was scratched from the lineup 34 times this season, with Michal Rozsival (28) and Mike Kostka (25) not far behind. In total, 20 Blackhawks ended up as healthy scratches at one point or another, while only four players (Sharp, Seabrook, Nick Leddy, and Brandon Bollig) played all 82 games for the Hawks.

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Blues vs. Blackhawks: A History Lesson]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 12:37:03 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/blackhawks+blues+edit.jpg

When running down the list of the most intense NHL rivalries, there are a few that immediately come to mind. Whether it’s the Chicago Blackhawks’ long-standing feud with the Detroit Red Wings, the often-violent clashes between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers, or the Original Six battles waged between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins, there are plenty of teams with plenty of enemies in this league, and the vitriol between the sides is very well.

It may not get the amount of attention that rivalries like the Battle of Alberta (Flames/Oilers) get, but the rivalry between the Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues has historically been just as heated and hard-fought as any of the others. The teams have played 330 times between regular season and playoff battles, with the Blackhawks holding the edge in victories at 163-125. Those regular season games, especially in the early 1990’s, tended to be violent affairs, and the infamous St. Patrick’s Day Massacre game in 1991 was one of the most legendary:

 

 

That battle personified the heated pitch the rivalry took during a decade stretch that saw the two teams tangle in the playoffs five times in a six year span. The Blues drew first blood winning in the Norris Division semi-finals in 1988, but the Blackhawks struck back to win three series in a row by a combined margin of 12-6. The Blues got the last laugh in the 1993 divisional semi-finals, sweeping the Blackhawks 4-0. It was that series that caused Chicago goaltender Ed Belfour to go on his infamous smashing spree as he destroyed a television and a hot tub in the visiting dressing room, but despite the anger hitting its peak, the rivalry subsided a bit as the two teams would go nine years without a playoff matchup.

The two teams would finally meet again in 2002, but the result was just about the same as the Blues won the series four games to one. The Blackhawks drew first blood with a 2-1 win in Game 1, but the Blues swept the remaining games, including back to back shutout wins at the United Center. The Blues would end up going on to lose in the second round to the Red Wings, as they cruised to their third Stanley Cup title in six seasons.

Both teams went through lean spells during the early part of the new millennium, but the long and storied rivalry is finally heating back up again as both sides are looking to have a prolonged run of excellence. The Hawks certainly have had the better of the exchange in recent years, winning two Stanley Cups, but the Blues are knocking on the door as they’ve established a team identity reminiscent of that group from the early 1990’s, which was led by antagonists like Al MacInnis and goal scorers like Brett Hull.

Whether or not they will have the same success against the Blackhawks as that group remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: these two teams do not like each other, and there is plenty of reason to suspect that this chapter in their storied rivalry will be just as intense as any of the others.

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<![CDATA[First Round Matchups: Hitchcock vs. Quenneville]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 12:19:06 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/quenneville-1-22.jpg

With the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues set to square off in the playoffs for the first time since 2002, Madhouse Enforcer is taking a look at some of the key matchups that will help decide the series between these Central Division rivals.

Today’s matchup is one taking place on the benches, as Joel Quenneville and Ken Hitchcock match wits.

It isn’t often that you get two of the winningest coaches in NHL history to go up against each other in a playoff series, but that’s exactly what’s going to happen this week when the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks tangle in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville, who is currently in third place on the all-time wins list among coaches at 706, will be facing off with Ken Hitchcock, the Blues boss who is currently in a tie for seventh place on the list at 648 victories. Both coaches have won Stanley Cups (Quenneville has two with the Blackhawks in 2010 and 2013, while Hitchcock won with the Dallas Stars in 1999), and both have a very well defined strategic aim to their game plans.

For Quenneville, it’s all about taking advantage of the depth of his team and about encouraging defensive responsibility among his forwards. Guys like Ben Smith and Brandon Saad have been critical in both areas this season, and thanks to Quenneville’s emphasis on aggressive defense and puck possession, the Hawks are always a difficult team to play against.

As for the Blues, they employ more of a physical style of defense over raw speed, but just like the Hawks, they can get the transition game going quickly thanks to their quick-handed blue liners and skilled two-way forwards. Players like David Backes and Alex Pietrangelo are critical to that strategy, and their ability to execute it has helped mold the Blues into a serious Cup contender over the past several seasons.

One of the big knocks on Hitchcock has been his lack of success in the playoffs since back-to-back Cup Final appearances with the Stars. From 2000 on, Hitchcock has coached three different teams, won five playoff series, and been eliminated in the first round three different times including last season. He has also missed the playoffs twice and been fired three times over that span, so his lack of recent success isn’t exactly a check mark in his favor.

In Quenneville’s case, his recent run with the Hawks has been dotted with some disappointments, like the 2011 and 2012 postseasons where the Hawks ended up losing in the first round in consecutive years, but he has at least made the playoffs in six straight years with the team, and done so with an ever-rotating cast of characters thrown together because of salary cap constraints. The two championships have definitely helped his standing as a coach, but the work he has done with constantly changing personnel, and getting them to buy into his system, has been impressive.

All of that being said though, the Blues are clearly a time that buys into Hitchcock’s philosophy, so the notion that there is a wide gulf between the two tacticians is not a valid one. The Blues don’t have the Hawks’ playoff successes in recent years, but they have been a solid team for several seasons now, and they are a team that could very well break out this year as the playoffs begin.

That does remain to be seen, and since it’s irresponsible to evaluate matchups on hypotheticals, we will give the edge to Quenneville, albeit by a smaller margin than some others may.

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bulls Beat Magic In Home Season Finale]]> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 22:03:21 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Dunleavy_4-14.jpg Joakim Noah had 18 points and 10 rebounds and eight assists, Mike Dunleavy scored 22 points and the Chicago Bulls pulled away late for a 108-95 victory over the Orlando Magic Monday night.

With one game left in the regular season, the Bulls are fourth in the Eastern Conference playoff race and looking at a first-round matchup with Brooklyn. To catch Toronto and finish third, the Bulls would need to win the season finale at Charlotte on Wednesday and have the Raptors lose at New York

Kyle O'Quinn led Orlando with 20 points on 9-for-11 shooting, and Andrew Nicholson added 19. Rookie Victor Oladipo was limited to 10 points after scoring a career-high 35 points against the Bulls earlier in the season.

Jimmer Fredette had 17 points for Chicago.

With guard D.J. Augustin missing the game with an undisclosed personal issue — he wasn't in the United Center — the Bulls' rotation was a bit off in the first half.

Fredette was the first player off the bench and he showed the rust of not playing much since being picked up at the beginning of March.

Still, the Bulls used a run of 10 straight points early in the second quarter to open up a 38-26 lead and took a 57-44 halftime lead. Noah led the way with 11 first-half points, and Carlos Boozer added 10. Rookie Tony Snell had nine points in 6½ minutes in the second quarter.

The Magic stayed close, pulling within 67-64 with just under three minutes left in the third.

Dunleavy, though, hit a 3-pointer to stop Orlando's momentum. Soon after, Fredette capped the third-quarter scoring with a pair of free throws to make it 81-70 heading into the fourth.

The Bulls quickly thwarted any hopes of a Magic comeback by opening the final quarter with a 13-7 to make it 94-77 with about seven minutes to go.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Top Bears Draft Picks: #27 Donnell Woolford ]]> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 20:11:01 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Donnell-Woolford.jpg

As the NFL Draft approaches, Grizzly Detail is counting down the Top 30 draft picks in Chicago Bears history. In order to qualify for this list, a player must have worn a Bears uniform for at least five seasons (sorry Rosevelt Colvin and Wilber Marshall), and players who were selected in lower rounds of the draft will have an advantage in this countdown.

We continue the countdown with our Number 27 selection, which goes to one of the best cornerbacks in Bears history, Donnell Woolford.

The Details:

Woolford, who was the 11th overall pick in the 1989 NFL Draft out of Clemson, was a one man wrecking crew on the Bears’ secondary during the early part of the 1990s. In eight seasons with the team, he started in 111 games for the Monsters of the Midway, intercepting 32 passes and returning one for a touchdown. He also picked up three sacks and 536 tackles in his Bears career, and was rewarded with a Pro Bowl appearance in 1993 for his efforts.

Career Highlights:

Unquestionably, Woolford’s 1992 season was the best of his career. He blossomed into a tremendous athlete that season, picking off seven passes (good for 4th in the NFL) and also forced two fumbles. Add to that the 94 tackles he had (just shy of his career high of 101, which he achieved in 1993), and the season is one of the most well-rounded by a Bears’ cornerback in recent memory.

Woolford’s interception total of 32 was a Bears team record until Charles Tillman broke the mark in 2012.

Just like other former Bears players who have been on this list so far, Woolford is still active in the Chicago community. In addition to occasional TV appearances to discuss the Bears, he is also the chairman of the Greater Chicago Flag Football League. The league is “committed to providing the most exciting, fun and safe experience” for kids in the community, and Woolford has partnered up with former Bears running back Adrian Peterson to push the league forward.

Our Reasoning:

The cornerback position is one of the most under-appreciated spots on a team’s defense. While pass rushers get plaudits for sacks and linebackers are known for bruising hits and athletic plays, cornerbacks are at their best when they aren’t noticed. That means they are adequately covering their assigned opponents, and quarterbacks can’t find them open down the field.

Woolford definitely fit that bill for the team, and is worthy of a spot in the Top 30. He may not have the pinache of some of the ’85 Bears or the legendary status of a guy like Tillman, but he was a consistent and solid player for the team for many years, and he made his position look easy for the team.

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Top Bears Draft Picks: #26 Curtis Conway]]> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 16:50:17 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Curtis+Conway+getty.jpg

As the NFL Draft approaches, Grizzly Detail is counting down the Top 30 draft picks in Chicago Bears history. In order to qualify for this list, a player must have worn a Bears uniform for at least five seasons (sorry Rosevelt Colvin and Wilber Marshall), and players who were selected in lower rounds of the draft will have an advantage in this countdown.

We continue the countdown with our Number 26 selection, which we used to draft former Bears wide receiver Curtis Conway.

The Details:

Taken seventh overall in the 1993 NFL Draft by the Bears out of USC, Conway came into Chicago and immediately began to key an offensive turnaround for a team that historically has relied upon its defense for success. In seven seasons with the Bears, Conway racked up 329 receptions, 4,498 career yards, and 31 touchdown catches in 92 games with the team. He ended up finishing his career with stints with the San Diego Chargers, New York Jets, and San Francisco 49’ers, where he retired after the 2004 season.

Overall in his career, Conway had 8,230 yards receiving, 52 touchdowns, and 594 receptions with four teams.

Career Highlights:

Conway saw his biggest career successes in the 1995 and 1996 seasons with the Bears, with his spark plug in that first campaign being the emergence of Erik Kramer onto the scene. In that first season, Conway snagged 12 touchdown passes in 16 starts, and racked up 1037 yards receiving on the year, making him one of only 10 players in Bears history to pick up over 1,000 yards receiving in a season.

The very next year, Kramer only started four games, but Conway didn’t miss a beat with Dave Krieg under center. He set a career high in receptions with 81 that year, and set a new career high in receiving yards with 1049. He became only the third Bear in team history to have back-to-back 1000 yard seasons (joining Marty Booker and Brandon Marshall), and his athleticism was the marvel of the league as the Bears’ offense surged.

Nowadays, Conway is known mostly for his personal life. He is married to former professional boxer Laila Ali, who is the daughter of legendary fighter Muhammad Ali. He also took a job in the fall of 2013 as an analyst for the Pac-12 Network, a logical move for a guy who finished fourth in receptions (49) and third in receiving yards (764) during the 1992 season with the USC Trojans.

The Reasoning:

Conway was a tough player to knock down the list for us, but a few things worked against him. Conway did have some good success after a relatively brief stint with the Bears (seven seasons), so it’s hard to define him as just a Bear. His career high in receiving yards came in 2001 with the Chargers, as he racked up 1,125 of them. He also suffered a bit of regression in his final seasons in Chicago, only playing in nine games during a 1999 season in which he had 44 receptions. He also missed nine games in 1997.

Even still, Conway was a jolt of electricity when he arrived on the scene in Chicago, sparking an offense that hadn’t exactly been a pillar of greatness in recent seasons. That alone is enough to get him a spot on the list, even if it seems a little bit low to some.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>