<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Sports]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.com en-us Thu, 29 Jan 2015 02:32:58 -0600 Thu, 29 Jan 2015 02:32:58 -0600 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[How to Spot Counterfeit NFL Merchandise]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 19:40:42 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/214*120/counterfeit+NFL+merchandise.jpg

Selling counterfeit merchandise is a serious crime, and the Super Bowl is a prime location for these criminals.

In a townhouse development in Glendale, Arizona, a team of federal agents had a sting for illegal merchandise.

"The merchandise has an invoice attached with all of it. And it's very clearly marked. It's coming from China," said ICE New England spokesperson Dan Modricker.

Counterfeit NFL jerseys, along with NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball apparel, were all seized in an early morning search warrant.

How big of a business is this? Federal agents at the Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, or IPR Center, are tasked with cracking down on the $200 billion annual counterfeit network.

Modricker is in town this week for Super Bowl XLIX.

"Our main point of being out here is to educate the consumer. And to make them realize that this isn't a victimless crime," Modricker said.

This haul here, worth about $100,000, is just from greater Phoenix and from the past few days.

So how does a consumer to spot a fake jersey while in Glendale?

"Their main goal is to make money. So they're going to crank these things out as quickly as possible. And so, you'll see that they don't even bother to lift the needle when they go from one letter to the next. So you'll see the cross-stitching from one letter to the next to the next. It's all one seam," Modricker said.

It's not just stitching; there is also shoddy coloring and rip-off holograms. Authorities also warn that some of the material used for this knock-off merchandise can be potentially harmful to your body. Modricker pointed to a pair of fake NFL team earrings.

"When you look at it, you have no idea who made this, what materials they used. I know lead is a lot cheaper than silver. So you don't know what you're putting into your body," he said.

Plus, Modricker says, it's crushing the economy, since up to 1.4 million Massachusetts jobs rely on intellectual property.

One man is in custody facing felony charges in Wednesday's sting. 

Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Australian Open: Sharapova Cruises Into Finals]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 23:28:47 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP80796916905.jpg

Maria Sharapova has reached the Australian Open final for the fourth time, beating fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 6-2 in a lopsided semifinal on Thursday.

The second-ranked Sharapova needed 10 minutes to hold in her opening service game, fending off two break points. She responded to the only service break against her in the first set by winning six straight games to take the match away from the 10th-seeded Makarova, who had only taken one set off her in five previous matches.

She will next meet the winner of the all-American semifinal between top-ranked Serena Williams and 19-year-old Madison Keys.

Sharapova won the Australia Open title in 2008 and lost finals in 2007 and 2012. She opened the season by winning the Brisbane International title.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[NYC Man Among Finalists in $1M Super Bowl Doritos Ad Contest]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 01:53:17 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/dorito+add.jpg

You might see a Doritos commercial during the Super Bowl on Sunday featuring a couple of 20-somethings dancing on a rooftop in Astoria, Queens.

The ad starts in the apartment of Alex Pepper, a 25-year-old dancer and actor. This was his production, so he had an inside track on the starring role. He plays a guy who -- with his friend’s encouragement (and bag of Doritos) -- works up the courage to introduce himself to the neighbor he’s had a crush on.

Watch for yourself, here. It doesn’t end well for the budding lovebirds.

But the real-life ending could be a dream come true for Pepper.

His spot was selected as one of 10 finalists in PepsiCo’s annual Dorito’s Crash the Super Bowl contest, which has already earned him $25,000 and a trip to watch the game at University of Phoenix Stadium this Sunday.

He found out in a surreal phone call from "The Hunger Games" actress Elizabeth Banks.

Alex says the $25,000 is more than he made last year as an actor and dancer. And the whole experience is more than he could’ve imagined when he was sitting on the couch watching Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium last February.

“I saw this contest was happening at last year’s Super Bowl and thought, ‘Oh, that’s really cool. Would love to do that sometime,'” says Pepper.

Two weeks before the entry deadline, he decided that "sometime" should be now. So he called a few friends, asked his girlfriend to shoot with his Nikon D800 camera, and set a budget for the project: $80.

“Low budget,” he laughs. “And a lot of that went to duct tape.”

Duct tape?

Watch the end of the spot -- these amateur video producers managed to pull off a pretty slick industry editing trick. They needed duct tape to make a dummy that would stand-in for actress Morgana Phlaum, the star’s would-be crush.

She agreed to the shoot without hesitation, even after Pepper explained the ending.

“Can I throw you off a roof? And she was like, ‘Okay, yeah, sounds good!’”

Pepper’s resume includes theater and an appearance on NBC’s "Saturday Night Live." And the script was inspired by Pepper’s real-life professional nightmare: accidentally dropping a dancer during a move.

"There’s a lot you can’t control -- the floor lights get in your eyes or something like that -- and we took that idea and turned it into a commercial," Pepper said.

And if it airs as the grand prize winner on Super Bowl Sunday, Pepper will earn $1 million, along with a one-year "dream job" at Universal Pictures.

Worst case scenario? He’s headed to Phoenix with his girlfriend to watch the Super Bowl in person.

"The worst case scenario here is already pretty amazing,” he said.

Voting closes at midnight. You can vote for a finalist here.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe Bryant Out for Rest of Season]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 19:14:20 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Kobe-Bryant-shoulder-injury.jpg

Kobe Bryant underwent successful surgery on a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, the Los Angeles Lakers announced on Wednesday, and the 19-year veteran expects to miss the remainder of the 2014-15 season.

Wednesday's news came with little shock, but it still carried with it great meaning. Bryant had now suffered season ending injuries in three successive seasons. At the end of the 2012-13 season, Bryant ruptured his Achilles tendon. In the 2013-14 season, Bryant lasted only six games before suffering a fracture in his knee. For 2014-15, Bryant completed 35 games and waited until the halfway mark in the season before his shoulder gave out.

The expectation that Bryant would go under the knife and end his season leaked out of the Los Angeles Lakers' offices on Friday, Jan. 23. Later that day, the team sent a news release that confirmed Bryant's torn rotator cuff and specifically made mention of surgery as an option.

The news release also stated that Dr. Neal ElAttrache would examine Bryant on Monday. After Monday's meeting, Bryant decided that surgery would be required. ElAttrache previously performed Bryant's Achilles surgery and also operated on LA Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke's broken collarbone. The world famous surgeon performed both those operations within 24 hours of one another. No surprise, ElAttrache performed Bryant's latest shoulder operation, along with Dr. Steve Lombardo.

Over the weekend, Bryant released a dramatic video that all but confirmed his season had ended and surgery was on the horizon. In a video clip for an upcoming documentary film which placed cameras in the room, Bryant underwent his initial examination with Lombardo. In the clip, Lombardo clearly announced that Bryant's muscle had detached from the bone. Although not explicitly stating that the Lakers' superstar required surgery, the video appeared to show Bryant coming to terms with the severity of his injury.

To ease Bryant's mind on missing the remainder of the season, the Lakers lost their ninth game in a row to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday. The defeat was the Lakers' 12th in the last 13 games, and LA's 34th defeat in 46 contests the season. Currently holding firm as the fourth worst team in the NBA, even a miracle would not save this team.

If the Lakers miraculously win every remaining game on their docket, they would finish with 48 wins. A season ago, the 2013-14 Dallas Mavericks finished with 49 wins and entered the playoffs with the eighth and final spot. Effectively, these Lakers have already been eliminated from the postseason.

For Bryant, the decision to get surgery should not have been difficult when considering the current standings and the nature of the injury. Ending the season rehabbing an injury should be an unwelcome familiar feeling, but Bryant's contract calls for only one more season. For Bryant's sake and for the sake of the fans, hopefully he can finish his Hall-of-Fame career on a healthy note.

At the moment, Bryant's involvement in training camp in Hawaii, which would be Bryant's last, remains unclear. According to the Lakers, Bryant will be out for approximately nine months and is expected to make a full recovery.

“I expect Kobe to make a full recovery and if all goes as expected, he should be ready for the start of the season,” ElAttrache said in the Lakers' official press release.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[NFL Debuts 1st Anti-Domestic Violence Super Bowl PSA]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 01:52:14 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/footballs.jpg

The NFL will air its first public service announcement against domestic violence as part of its No More campaign during the Super Bowl on NBC on Sunday.

A 30-second ad will air for $4.5 million, but the NFL has already released a chilling 60-second version. The ad is based on a real 911 call a domestic violence victim made in October.

The unsettling video starts out showing a disheveled home, with an unmade bed, books thrown on the floor, a sink piled up with unwashed dishes and a fist-sized punch in the wall. A woman is speaking in a rushed tone with the 911 dispatcher, pretending that she is ordering a pizza.

The dispatcher soon realizes the woman is unable to speak openly in her house because her abuser will hear. The final scene shows a framed picture of a woman torn from the wall and left by the trashcan.

The screen fades to black, and a message appears in white: “When it’s hard to talk, It’s up to us to listen.”

“The goal of the PSA is to activate and engage the vast audience of men and women across America in saying NO MORE to domestic violence and sexual assault,” No More director Virginia Witt told Today.com.

The NFL has faced a number of high-profile domestic abuse allegations involving its players, most notably Ray Rice.

That case inspired many women to speak out on social media using the hashtag #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft and restarted debates about the NFL's history of players accused of domestic abuse.

“Public awareness is the first, essential step toward changing the culture into one where domestic violence and sexual assault no longer happen,” said Witt.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[FAA: Super Bowl Is Strictly a “No Drone Zone”]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 16:34:05 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/drone+123114.jpg

If you are going to the Super Bowl, make sure you leave your drone at home.

The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement Wednesday that the unmanned aircrafts are barred from flying over or near the game.

"Many familiar sounds are associated with the Super Bowl," the FAA wrote. "Cheering fans. Referee whistles. The spectacular halftime show. Booming fireworks. But one sound you shouldn’t hear is the whirring of an unmanned aircraft overhead. The Super Bowl is strictly a 'No Drone Zone'."

The restriction also applies to airplanes, hang gliders, hot air balloons, model rockets and most other flying machines. Violators of the ban could end up in jail for "careless and reckless" operation of an aircraft.

The warning came just two days after a federal government employee said he accidentally crashed a drone on the grounds of the White House. The man, who was off duty at the time, called the Secret Service after the crash and is cooperating with authorities in a probe of the incident.

The New England Patriots are set to take on the Seattle Seahawks live from the University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona on Sunday, Feb. 1, airing on NBC.

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<![CDATA[White Sox Sign Beckham to 1-Year Deal]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 13:57:20 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/White_Sox_22.jpg

The Chicago White Sox have had a busy offseason, and with the team just a few weeks away from reporting for spring training at Camelback Ranch, they made one more addition on Wednesday as they signed Gordon Beckham to a one-year deal.

The deal, which will pay Beckham $2 million, brings back a player that the team traded away last season to the Los Angeles Angels. In 127 games between the White Sox and Angels, Beckham hit nine home runs, drove in 44 RBI and batted .226.

“Adding Gordon improves the depth and flexibility of our roster,” White Sox G.M. Rick Hahn said. “We are thrilled to have him back.”

In order to make room on the active roster for Beckham, the White Sox also announced that they had designated Dayan Viciedo for assignment. The subject of trade rumors throughout the offseason, Viciedo didn’t figure to be a part of the team’s long-term plans despite his 21 home runs and 22 doubles last season.

The White Sox will begin reporting to Glendale, Arizona for spring training with pitchers and catchers arriving on Feb. 19, and the rest of the team will report on Feb. 23.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Feely Calls Out Cutler's Lack of Leadership]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 13:47:36 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/190*120/bears+dolphins+getty9.jpg

The Chicago Bears were an absolute mess last year in the locker room, and one player who joined the team late in the season opened up on Wednesday about the events that took place behind closed doors.

Kicker Jay Feely, who replaced Robbie Gould in the lineup when the veteran kicker went down with a quadriceps injury late in the season, spoke out about the Bears’ lack of leadership under Marc Trestman and Jay Cutler in a radio interview.

“With Trestman, it was a little awkward when he spoke,” he told Mad Dog Radio. “You can have that as a coach if you have a strong locker room and you have leaders in the locker room. If you don’t have leaders in the locker room, you don’t have a coach who inspires, then you have a losing season.”

Trestman’s lack of leadership wasn’t the only criticism that Feely had about the Bears during his time with the team. Cutler was also targeted in Feely’s comments.

“Jay Cutler can win on the field,” he said. “But he would be so much better and the team would be so much better if you’re a leader off the field as well. I never saw him lead verbally.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[PHOTOS: Memorable Halftime Shows]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 11:29:46 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/superbowl-halftime-01-160625501.jpg These performances rocked at the Super Bowl halftime shows. See more photos.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[The 14 Most Heartbreaking Super Bowl Moments]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 14:11:53 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/edt-upsets.jpg The 49-year history of the Super Bowl has seen its fair share of shocking upsets, horrendous blunders and lopsided routs.

Photo Credit: NFL]]>
<![CDATA[Tiger Woods Explains Tooth Incident]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 10:22:08 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tiger+woods6.JPG

Tiger Woods finally explained how he lost his tooth while watching his girlfriend Lindsey Vonn capture her record 63rd World Cup title in Italy a week ago.

The golf champ’s publicist previously told The Associated Press that after the Jan. 19 competition, “a media member with a shoulder-mounted video camera pushed and surged toward the stage, turned and hit Tiger Woods in the mouth.”

“I had my mask on, so no one knew who I was, trying to blend in because there is not a lot of brown dudes at ski races, OK?,” Woods told reporters after playing at the Phoenix Open. “That was the whole idea of why I wore the mask." 

“I was looking down, and all the camera guys are below me on their knees or moving all around, trying to get a picture because she's hugging people, saying congratulations to the other racers as they are coming down,” Woods explained.

“Dude with a video camera on his shoulder, right in front of me, kneeling, stood up and turned and caught me square on the mouth,” Woods said. “He chipped that [tooth], cracked the other one. And so then, you know, I'm trying to keep this [mask on] so the blood is not all over the place. Luckily, he hit the one I had a root canal on.”

Woods said he was in a lot of pain after the incident.

“The flight home was a joke," Woods said. "I couldn't eat, couldn't drink until he fixed them, put the temporaries on. I couldn't have anything touch it. Even breathing hurt, because any kind of air over the nerve, the tooth that was still alive, was cracked.”

When asked if the cameraman felt bad about the incident, Woods said, “He didn’t care.”

Vonn won a super-G competition, breaking a 35-year-old record of 62 World Cup wins with a flawless run down the Olympia delle Tofane course.

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Wholesome, Less Racy Super Bowl Ads Expected]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 10:36:32 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/super-bowl-commercials-AP322500772403.jpg Advertisers are spending record amounts of money on this year's Super Bowl commercials, hoping to score big with sports fans and consumers. After a string of domestic scandals in the NFL, analysts say expect to see more hopeful, positive ads.]]> <![CDATA[Ernie Banks Statue Moves to Daley Plaza]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 08:59:10 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/219*120/ernie+banks+daley.jpg

Ernie Banks moved downtown Wednesday morning.

The bronze statue of the iconic Chicago baseball player who died last week at the age of 83 was moved to Daley Plaza Wednesday morning. 

The move to Daley Plaza is intended to allow fans to honor and remember Mr. Cub, according to the Chicago Cubs.

"I'm glad that this is not just a memorial in his passing," said Rev. Jesse Jackson. "He loved to go out and stand by the statue and just take pictures, that was a big deal to him."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Bnks' widow were seen putting a wreath at the base of the statue as they reminisced about the impact Banks had on the city.

"Even when he was done playing the sport that he loved, he was never done engaging kids not only in sports but in their mind in what they could do," Emanuel said.

Banks was the first player in Cubs history to be honored with a statue at Wrigley Field in 2008. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977 and played for the Cubs for 19 seasons.

"Ernie Banks' legacy extends far beyond his Hall of Fame states. He was beloved by generations of people for the way he played on the field and -- more importantly -- for the kind and warm person he was off the field," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. "We are bringing Ernie's statue to Daley Plaza to honor not just one of the best ballplayers of all time, but a great man who made our city proud from the day we first met him in 1953."

Banks' family attorney, Mark Bogen, announced Sunday that the Cubs player passed away after suffering from a heart attack on Friday.

Bogen also shared another way that fans can remember Banks via a Facebook page called Ernie Banks Remembered that was created for fans to celebrate Banks' legendary life.

<![CDATA[Super Bowl Preview: Seahawks v. Patriots]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 08:55:35 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/brady-wilson-2.jpg Just ahead of Super Bowl XLIV, here are five things you may not know about the history behind the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks.

Photo Credit: Getty images]]>
<![CDATA[Lynch at Media Day: "I'm Here So I Don't Get Fined"]]> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 16:07:24 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/marshawn-lynch-media-day.jpg

Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch constantly repeated "I'm here so I don't get fined'' for five minutes before leaving the podium at Media Day.

About 200 reporters crowded around the former Cal Bear’s podium for at least 15 minutes before he arrived. But Lynch wouldn't answer any questions.

He set a timer on his phone, caught a bag of Skittles tossed from the crowd and stopped to pick up a reporter's recorder off the floor before he walked away.

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<![CDATA[Madhouse Enforcer vs. Alex Quigley: And the Winner Is...]]> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 14:55:57 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/181*120/462199130.jpg

Before the NHL All-Star Game took place in Columbus over the weekend, Alex Quigley agreed to take on James Neveau in a fantasy draft showdown.

As the week before the game unfolded, both teams were racked with injuries. Team Quigley lost Pittsburgh Penguins stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and they also lost goaltender Jimmy Howard to injury. Meanwhile, Team Madhouse Enforcer lost two goaltenders as Sergei Bobrovsky and Pekka Rinne each missed the game, and defenseman Erik Johnson also sat out for the event.

The Madhouse Enforcer team even lost a player during the festivities in Columbus, as Tyler Johnson ended up not participating in the Skills Competition or the game itself, and he wasn’t replaced by the NHL, meaning that we were short a man throughout.

Despite those many obstacles, the competition had to carry on. Which contestant would win a free lunch on the tab of the loser, and more importantly, the bragging rights to go along with it? Here’s how things shook out.

Skills Competition: Team Madhouse Enforcer

The Madhouse Enforcer team breezed to victory in the Skills Challenge, buoyed by some huge performances out of Patrick Kane and Ryan Johansen. Both players were part of the successful relay team that won that event, and Kane’s win in the accuracy challenge aided the cause as well.

Goals Scored in ASG: Team Madhouse Enforcer

Just like the game itself, the Madhouse Enforcer side came out with a 17-12 victory. Team Quigley did have John Tavares aiding the cause with four goals in the game, but Jakub Voracek’s hat trick helped the Madhouse Enforcer crew take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.

Assists Registered in ASG: Team Quigley

In a 30-22 victory, Team Quigley picks up their first win of the competition. Three different players picked up four assists for the squad, with Jonathan Toews, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Patrice Bergeron carrying the Quigley side to victory.

Goals Allowed in ASG: Team Quigley

In a weird bit of luck, Team Quigley ended up with all three goaltenders on Team Toews, and Team Madhouse Enforcer had the three goaltenders on Team Foligno. Needless to say, the Quigley side proved victorious, as Marc Andre-Fleury and Brian Elliott each allowed seven goals in a losing effort, meaning things are tied up at 2-2 going into the final category.

Owning All-Star Game MVP: Team Madhouse Enforcer

When we say that Madhouse Enforcer is the people’s champion, this win is what we will be referring to. Our team happened to have Ryan Johansen on it, and despite the fact that he was on the losing side in a game that wasn’t close, fans voted him as MVP anyway. Team Quigley’s John Tavares was likely a much more deserving candidate, as was Jonathan Toews, but the people have spoken, and Quigley is no match for the will of the hockey-viewing public.

<![CDATA[Seahawks' Big Task: Stop Gronkowski]]> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 14:08:18 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP326652112586.jpg

This week’s Sports Illustrated cover features the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom secondary. Cornerback Richard Sherman stands front and center with a big smile, flanked by big-hitting strong safety Kam Chancellor, nickel corner Jeremy Lane, free safety Earl Thomas and corner Byron Maxwell.

All look relaxed and confident. And why not?

In 2014, the Seahawks had the No. 1 defense in the NFL overall and were the top-ranked group against the pass. As they head into Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX matchup against the New England Patriots in Glendale, Ariz., they know they’ll present Tom Brady and the Patriots with the best defensive unit they’ve seen all year.

But one Patriot has the Seahawks very concerned: tight end Rob Gronkowski.

At 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, Gronkowski is not only bigger than most tight ends, but also is more athletic, runs better routes and has better hands than most. And, his chemistry with Brady is strong. Gronkowski is Brady’s go-to receiver, especially in crucial situations. Other teams have trouble blanketing him.

In two playoff victories, Gronkowski has 10 receptions for 136 yards and two touchdowns. This, after he had 82 catches for 1,124 yards and 12 TDs in 15 regular-season games.

If the Seahawks want to win a second straight Super Bowl, they’ll have to contain Gronkowski and limit the damage he can do. But that’s difficult. He’s bigger than most corners and able to outmaneuver most safeties.

Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus wrote this week that Gronkowski may be “the single most dominant and unstoppable offensive weapon in the game.” He said the Seahawks’ defense of him will be one of the key matchups.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said this week that Gronkowski has “all of the elements that you’re looking for from a big-game tight end.” He added that he’s been spending plenty of time watching film of Gronkowski, searching for the best way to neutralize him.

The Seahawks may employ a variety of coverages on "Gronk," with several players assigned to him, depending on situations. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner is faster than most, and may help, but he’s six inches shorter than Gronkowski. Carroll said outside linebackers K.J. Wright (6-foot-4) and Bruce Irvin (6-foot-3) also are “pretty tall and long” and could be in the mix.

But the No. 1 Seahawk assigned to limit Gronkowski Sunday will likely be super-athletic safety Kam Chancellor, whom Carroll calls “about as big a strong safety as you can find.”

Wright told reporters in Arizona that he’s confident Chancellor – selected All-Pro this season along with his safety mate Thomas – can do the job.

“Our best against their best,” Wright said. “Of course I’ve got my money on Kam. He’s an All-Pro, he’s the captain of our defense. I expect him to win every battle.”

Chancellor is 6-foot-3 and 232 pounds, known for his ability to hit, support the run defense with ferocity and leap over tall buildings (or at least the line of scrimmage in attempts to block kicks).

Chancellor told the Boston Herald he’ll be up for the task.

“He’s definitely a big, physical guy,” Chancellor said. “But it’s just big on big. You play big on big.”

Chancellor says the Seahawks have great coaching and game planning and prepare players to succeed. Sunday should be no different. He’s confident Seattle can do what it needs to do to slow Gronkowski.

“One thing we do is practice fundamentals,” Chancellor told the Herald. “We practice man coverage. We practice defense. So any situation they throw at us, any situation that occurs, we’re prepared for it and we’re ready for it.”



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Bears Bites: Ex-Bears DC Finds New Job ]]> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 09:40:13 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/185*120/135992107.jpg

In this edition of Bears Bites, we play catch-up on several days’ worth of headlines involving the Chicago Bears, and we also take a look at some of the biggest storylines surrounding the upcoming Super Bowl in Glendale, Arizona.

-We start out with the whereabouts of a former Bears coach, as ex-defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has been hired as secondary coach at the University of Alabama. [CBS Chicago]

-Think that the Bears are going to find a replacement for Jay Cutler in the upcoming NFL Draft? Don’t put all your eggs in that basket. [Chicago Tribune]

-Ernie Accorsi, the consultant that helped Ted Phillips and George McCaskey through the process of hiring Ryan Pace and John Fox, spoke on a Chicago radio show about how Fox’s failures in the Super Bowl could actually end up being a positive thing. [ESPN Chicago]

-Unlike Marc Trestman and Lovie Smith, whose first batch of assistant coaches were mainly newbies who had never held such high-profile jobs, Fox is hiring a staff full of experienced and well-respected coaches in Chicago. [CSN Chicago]

-As Vic Fangio tries to transform the Bears’ defense from a 4-3 system to a 3-4, he is going to run into some pretty tough challenges. [Daily Herald]

-If the NFL finds the New England Patriots innoncent of wrong-doing in “Deflate-gate,” Patriots owner Bob Kraft is demanding an apology from the league. [Shutdown Corner]

-Kent Sterling wrote an interesting rebuttal to Kraft’s statement, calling it a “self-righteous hissy-fit” and saying that it was an example of an NFL owner playing hardball with Commissioner Roger Goodell after he was weakened by the Ray Rice scandal. [KentSterling.com]

-The Seattle Seahawks may have the 27th-ranked passing offense in the NFL, but there’s more than just numbers in play when Russell Wilson is on the field. [Chicago Tribune]

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[McNeill Scores Hat Trick as West Wins AHL All-Star Classic]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 23:53:21 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/168*120/108248873.jpg

A day after their stars roamed the ice in Columbus at the NHL All-Star Game, the Chicago Blackhawks saw two of their top prospects shine at the minor league level in the AHL All-Star Classic in Utica, New York.

Mark McNeill, who was the Blackhawks’ first round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, ended up with a hat trick in the contest. T.J. Brennan, the defenseman that the Blackhawks acquired in the trade that sent Nick Leddy to the New York Islanders just before the season began, also had a huge night, with a goal and four assists to his credit as the Western Conference All-Stars beat the Eastern Conference squad by a score of 14-12.

After Brendan Shinnimin got things off to a quick start for the East with a goal just three and a half minutes in, McNeill tied things up less than four minutes later. Just skating through the slot as Ryan Murphy got the puck at the point, McNeill left his stick blade on the ice and was rewarded when Murphy’s shot deflected off his stick and past Connor Hellebuyck to tie things up at 1-1.

The Western All-Stars scored two more goals to build up a 3-1 lead, but Shinnimin scored again to trim the lead to 3-2 late in the first period. With only seconds remaining however, Brennan jumped into the rush along with Ty Rattie and Phil Varone, and they broke into the offensive zone on a 3-on-0 breakaway. Varone made a nifty pass by kicking the puck over to Brennan on the other side of the ice, and the IceHogs’ defenseman then flipped a one-timer pass to Rattie in the middle. Rattie ended up potting the goal with just six seconds remaining in the period, and the West went into the intermission with a 4-2 lead.

Unfazed by the late goal, the East came roaring out of the gate in the second period as they scored four goals in the first five and a half minutes of the frame to take a 6-4 lead. Just like he had when the East got off to a hot start in the first, McNeill quashed the rally with a goal of his own, grabbing a rebound off his own shot and depositing the puck past Philipp Grubauer to make it a 6-5 game with about 12 minutes to go in the period.

After Charles Hudon scored his second goal of the game to tie things up at 6-6 nine minutes into the period, Brennan scored just 37 seconds later to give the West the lead back. Pinching in on a play once again, Brennan got the puck in near the goal crease and fired home a quick wrist shot to make it a 7-6 contest.

Ultimately, the Western Conference team scored six goals in a row to grab firm control of the game. Brennan picked up a secondary assist on Hudon’s third goal of the game, and at the end of two periods the West led by a score of 10-8.

The Western team maintained that edge throughout the third period, and McNeill ultimately got the game-winning goal with about six minutes remaining. After the puck pinballed around in front of the goal, McNeill picked up the loose puck and pushed home a shot, making it a 13-10 game and helping his team to the win.

McNeill and Brennan will have a few days off to rest and recuperate before the second half of the IceHogs’ season begins on Friday night with a tilt against the Chicago Wolves. The IceHogs are currently in the top spot in the Midwest Division, leading the Milwaukee Admirals by three points.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ernie Banks’ Visitation, Memorial Service Set]]> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 07:29:34 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Ernie-Banks-Chicago-Cubs.jpg

Visitation and memorial services were announced Monday for Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks, who died Friday after suffering a heart attack days before his 84th birthday.

A public visitation will take place Friday from noon to 8 p.m. at the Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut, according to a news release issued by the team.

A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, also at Fourth Presbyterian Church, the statement said. The service begins at 10 a.m. and public seating will be limited.

In lieu of flowers, the team is suggesting fans make a donation in Banks’ memory to Cubs Charities, at www.cubs.com/give.

Fans also can honor Banks at Daley Center Plaza this week, where the city will display the statue of Banks that usually resides at Wrigley Field. The statue will be on display from Wednesday morning through Saturday.

Big-name fans of Banks, including President Barack Obama, issued statements after Banks' death was announced.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[5 Key Factors for Super Bowl XLIX]]> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 13:24:14 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/170*120/jussbritt.jpg

Everyone knows the stars who’ll be playing in Super Bowl XLIX, and what kind of impact they can have on the outcome of this Sunday’s matchup between the Seahawks and Patriots in Arizona.

But beyond Tom Brady, Marshawn Lynch, Rob Gronskowi and Richard Sherman there are other lesser-known players, units and factors that could be key. Among these are:

1. Justin Britt, Seahawks right offensive tackle

The rookie from Missouri, a second-round pick, showed great promise his first season. The 6-foot-6, 325-pounder played every offensive snap of the regular season. And, the Seahawks running game ran more often off right guard and right tackle this year, with Lynch often getting big chunks in that direction. But Britt – who missed the NFC Championship Game with a knee injury – has been a liability as a pass blocker. According to the Washington Post, citing Pro Football Focus, Britt ranked dead last as a pass blocker among right tackles in 2014 and was fourth worst among all tackles. If the Patriots see Britt as a weakness – he’s reportedly fit again and will start Sunday – they could scheme to attack him in new and varied ways to exploit his deficiencies, which could be a big problem for Seattle’s passing attack, especially if the Seahawks fall behind.

2. Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer, Patriots offensive tackles

Both blockers are solid, with Solder at left tackle and Vollmer on the right side. But they anchor an offensive line that will be tested by the Seattle pass rush, particularly defensive ends Michael Bennett (seven sacks in 2014) and Cliff Avril (five). For the Pats passing offense to work efficiently, Tom Brady will need time and Solder and Vollmer will need to seal off the outside pass rush, whether it be against Bennett and Avril or blitzing linebackers or defensive backs.

3. Patriots special teams

It was the Seahawks who made big news on championship game Sunday by pulling off a fake-field goal play for a touchdown that started their comeback and then recovering an onside kick. But in a duel of special teams, the Patriots’ units are stronger, and in a game as close as this one is expected to be, that could be the difference in the outcome. The Patriots’ special teams were ranked No. 3 in the NFL in 2014 in the annual special teams analysis put together by Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News, behind only the Eagles and Bills. The Seahawks were 17th. The Pats blocked three field goals and one punt this season. Julian Edelman was fifth in the NFL in punt-return yards and averaged 11 yards per return. Matthew Slater – the son of former Rams Hall of Fame tackle Jackie Slater -- is a four-time Pro Bowler on special teams and a coverage and tackling star.

4. Bobby Wagner, Seahawks middle linebacker

He doesn’t look imposing as NFL linebackers go, at 6 feet and 241 pounds, and he's overshadowed by Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and the overall Legion of Boom defense. But the third-year pro from Utah State was selected first-team All-Pro this season and was NFC Defensive Player of the Month for December. He was a key to the Seahawks defense countering the Denver Broncos’ offense in last year’s Super Bowl and will be the man to counter Brady’s play-calling and audibles Sunday. After missing the first five games of this season, Wagner has been the catalyst to the Seahawks defensive revival. His wide-ranging speed, smarts and ability to rush the passer can destroy even well-designed plays. The Patriots will need to find a way to counter his effectiveness via blocking schemes or misdirection.

5. Turnover and penalty problems of the Seahawks

Seattle is a ball-control offense, with a strong running game. But the Seahawks – who usually take good care of the football – didn’t in the NFC Championship game against Green Bay. They had five turnovers, a problem they can’t repeat against the Patriots, who finished tied for second in the NFL this season with a plus-12 on the takeaway/giveaway charts. Seattle was right behind, tied for fourth at plus-9, so the NFC title game implosion wasn’t usual. But they can’t afford another flood of mistakes. Meanwhile, the Seahawks were the most-penalized team in the NFL, getting flagged 144 times for 1,112 yards while – and here’s the strange part – being the beneficiary of just 80 penalties against their opponents, the lowest total in the NFL.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Patriots Owner Strongly Defends Team]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 22:32:55 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Robert+Kraft1.jpg

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft made a strong defense Monday night of his team's actions and integrity regarding the NFL's investigation into under-inflated footballs being used in the AFC championship game.

At times sounding angry, Kraft said he expected an apology from the league once the Patriots are found to be not guilty of breaking any rules.

"I believe unconditionally that the New England Patriots did nothing wrong in this process that was in violation of NFL rules," Kraft said at the team's first media availability in Arizona.

Kraft also said it "bothers me greatly" that the reputations and integrity of coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady have been "called into question, and by association our team."

He added that in 15 years together with Belichick and Brady, they had never lied to him.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe to Have Shoulder Surgery]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 15:27:34 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Kobe-Bryant-torn-rotator-cuff.jpg

Kobe Bryant is set to have surgery on his torn rotator cuff, the Los Angeles Lakers said Monday.

Bryant's right shoulder was injured in last Wednesday's game against the New Orleans pelicans and neesds surgery to repair it, the team said in a statement.

Bryant was examined Monday morning by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, of the Kerlan Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic, who confirmed that Bryant's rotator cuff was torn and advised him to have surgery to repair it, according to the team. He's scheduled to undergo the operation on Wednesday morning.

While Bryant was expected to miss the rest of the season with the injury, the team didn't confirm that in their statement.

The team said instead that it will provide an estimate for the shooting guard's return following the surgery.

Refresh this page for updates on this developing story.

<![CDATA[Bill Nye Knocks Belichick]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 15:41:58 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Nye-Belichick_SplitScreen_sm.jpg

The cast of "Saturday Night Live" wasn't the only one poking holes in the New England Patriots' explanation for the "deflategate" scandal over the weekend.

Bill Nye offered his expert opinion as “The Science Guy” Sunday, saying coach Bill Belichick's recent account for why his team’s footballs were under-inflated during the American Football Conference championship game against the Indianapolis Colts doesn't add up.

“I’m not too worried about coach Belichick competing with me,” Nye told ABC’s "Good Morning America." “What he said didn’t make any sense."

The Patriots have denied allegations that the team broke NFL rules by intentionally under-inflating the footballs to gain an advantage in their 45-7 victory against the Colts, which clinched their chance to face the Seattle Seahawks in Sunday's Super Bowl.

Belichick said in one news conference that it's possible that climatic conditions and rubbing the balls ahead of last weekend's game affected air pressure.

But “The Science Guy” refuted that claim.

“By rubbing the football, I don't think you can change the pressure," he said. “To really change the pressure, you need one of these: the inflation needle. I can't help but say, 'Go Seahawks!’”

The NFL, which is investigating the allegations that the Patriots were involved in the ball issue, said evidence concluded that the footballs that were under-inflated were used by the Patriots in the first half of the game. But the one used for the second half were in compliance with their policy.

“The playing rules are intended to protect the fairness and integrity of our games,” the statement reads. “We take seriously claims that those rules have been violated and will fully investigate this matter without compromise or delay.”

<![CDATA[Boston Hosts Pats Send-Off Rally]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 17:44:07 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/20150126_102348.jpg

It was a Patriots Super Bowl send-off like no other.

After a week of "DeflateGate" distractions, Patriots players and their fans made it clear they plan to channel that negative energy into a win on Sunday.

"We have the greatest fans in all of football," said veteran Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork. "That's the one reason we always play for our city."

The fans here definitely aren't fair weather fans, not only braving the elements Monday, but also sticking with this team through good seasons and bad.

"I was there in '91 when they only won one game, and I used to go home crying and my wife used to say, 'Aw, you always go home crying,'" said Ron Pietruszka, a season ticket holder for 37 years. "But now I'm coming home smiling all the time and she's happy, too, so they say, 'Happy wife, happy life.'"

"Who wouldn't want to be here right now?" asked Louis Chino of Chelsea, Massachusetts. "Us Patriot fans, you see, we out here, it's cold, it's a blizzard coming, but we don't care. Whatever, we celebrate the Patriots and on to victory we go."

Never one to guarantee a victory, Pats quarterback Tom Brady, who's been put through media ringer this past week, had one simple message for fans.

"Thank you guys for all your support, we'll be needing you all next Sunday night," he said. "Go Patriots!"

After the rally, the Patriots quickly hopped on a plane headed to Arizona and Super Bowl XLIX, leaving behind New England and its impending blizzard.

Photo Credit: NECN]]>
<![CDATA[NFL Launches YouTube Channel]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 10:48:04 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/77248493.jpg

Searching for Super Bowl highlights next week after the big game?

They'll be available, legally, straight from the source.

The NFL has protected its video as fiercely as any league, pushing most users to its website or to its broadcast partners.

On Monday, the league and YouTube announced a partnership between two of the most powerful brands in the marketplace, creating an official NFL channel on the video website. Clips will also be directly viewable through simple Google searches.

Content posted daily to the portal by the league will include game previews, in-game highlights, post-game recaps and clips featuring news, analysis, fantasy football advice and other original programming from NFL Network and NFL.com. Highlight packages from the current postseason were already viewable Sunday, and plenty of Super Bowl programming was scheduled to appear throughout the week and after the game.

Game highlights and other content will also be available through Google's search engine, which will display official NFL videos along with related news and information in a box at the top of the page. Kickoff times and broadcast information for every NFL game will be prominently displayed.

Google acquired YouTube in 2006. The tandem previously formed partnerships with the other three major American sports leagues, MLB, the NBA and the NHL. Google has been trying to mine more revenue from YouTube, which is positioned for further growth as consumers continue to shift toward online and mobile viewing and away from live television.

"We continue to see an insatiable appetite for digital video content, and this partnership further expands fans' ability to discover and access NFL content throughout the year," Hans Schroeder, the NFL's senior vice president of media strategy, business development and sales, said in a statement distributed by the league.

Previously, the NFL videos that popped up in a YouTube search weren't sanctioned. The NFL, like many other entities and organizations, has used a YouTube tool called "Content ID" to be able to block unlicensed videos.

Football fans still flocked to the site, of course. Maybe they pulled up one of those "Bad Lip Reading" montages of silly voice-overs accompanying game clips. Or in the hunt for that favorite highlight — "Odell Beckham Jr. one-handed catch," for instance — they found a bunch of shaky camera-phone videos that some New York Giants fan took of the TV screen.

Now those searches will be more fruitful.

The billion-dollar question, then, is whether this partnership will pave the way for eventual live streaming of games through the YouTube site rather than over the air or on cable. Probably not anytime soon, though. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said "the focus is on non-live highlights." He added that "the agreement will provide tremendous exposure for our broadcast partners."

YouTube spokesman Matt McLernon, pointing to the site's past streaming of live Olympic events, said the opportunity is there and the technology is waiting if the league were to decide to do so.

"We would welcome it with open arms if the NFL or any other league" wanted to show live games on the site, McLernon said.

Terms of the deal were not provided. But it's a safe bet that it's worth a lot of money.

The league, citing Nielsen data, said the 2014 regular season reached 202.3 million unique viewers, representing 80 percent of all television homes and 68 percent of potential viewers in the U.S., and NFL games accounted for the entire top 20 and 45 of the top 50 most-watched television shows last fall.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kane, Roenick Take "Best Selfie Ever" ]]> Sun, 25 Jan 2015 19:43:56 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/168*120/457975343.jpg

Patrick Kane is rapidly approaching Jeremy Roenick on the Chicago Blackhawks' all-time scoring list, but the duo have more in common than just the team that they broke into the NHL with. 

That's because Roenick, in his capacity as a television host for NBCSN, made it a point to interview Kane during Sunday night's NHL All-Star Game. As the interview concluded, Roenick did what many people do when they meet Kane: he insisted on taking a selfie.

While we're unsure if this beats Ellen's Oscars photo from last season, it is a nice picture of two guys who have combined for 467 goals and 673 assists while wearing the Hawks' sweater. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Toews Racks Up Five Points as Team Toews Wins ASG]]> Sun, 25 Jan 2015 19:38:47 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/462185766.jpg

Jonathan Toews’ team was beaten in the NHL Skills Competition on Saturday night, but the captain had the last laugh as he scored a goal and dished out four assists in his team’s 17-12 win over Team Foligno in Sunday’s NHL All-Star Game.

John Tavares scored four goals for Team Toews, and Jakub Voracek added three goals and three assists. Patrick Kane and Steven Stamkos each had two goals and an assist apiece in Team Foligno’s loss, and Ryan Johansen thrilled the hometown crowd with two goals and two assists in the game.

The first period saw Foligno’s team get off to a hot start, as Radim Vrbata scored early to make it 1-0. Toews’ club responded well however, scoring two straight goals to seize the lead. Toews picked up his first assist of the evening on the second goal, sliding across a perfect pass to Voracek to make it a 2-1 game.

Over the final 10 minutes of the frame, both teams kept firing away and scoring. Johansen scored twice in the period, including a goal that gave Team Foligno a 4-3 lead. That advantage was a brief one however, as Tavares scored his first goal of the evening with about a minute left to leave the game tied at 4-4 after the first period of play.

The second period got off to a much more aggressive start, as the teams racked up four goals in the first two and a half minutes. Kane picked up the primary assist on Claude Giroux’s goal just 32 seconds into the period, and by the time Stamkos scored at the 2:27 mark of the period, the game was tied once again at 6-6.

As the period wore on, the scoring kept on coming and Toews kept on racking up assists. The captain had two assists in the period, picking up primary helpers for both Rick Nash and Voracek. His team’s big push as the period wore on left them up by a score of 11-9 with 20 minutes to go in the contest.

The final period of the contest featured plenty more goals, and the Blackhawks were right in the heart of everything. Kane scored twice in the period, including on a gorgeous top-shelf tally early on, and he wasn’t alone as Brent Seabrook picked up his first career All-Star Game assist on Tavares’ fourth goal of the evening.

Ultimately though, the game belonged to Team Toews, and the captain made one last emphatic goal late in the period as he scored on a top-shelf deke move off a pass from Ryan Suter to extend the team’s lead. Brent Burns did add one late tally for Team Foligno, but it wasn’t enough as Team Toews secured the victory.

The game capped off an exciting weekend in Columbus, and set the stage for next year’s game, which will be held in Nashville.

<![CDATA[Blackhawks Place Versteeg on LTIR]]> Sun, 25 Jan 2015 17:06:49 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/484439329.jpg

With a long road trip coming up and Daniel Carcillo still serving a suspension, the Chicago Blackhawks made a roster move on Sunday as they placed Kris Versteeg on long-term injured reserve and recalled forward Dennis Rasmussen from the Rockford IceHogs.

Versteeg, who was injured during the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, hasn’t played since the injury, but it’s unclear exactly when his injured reserve designation is retroactive to. The designation means that he has to miss a minimum of 10 games, and he’s already missed nine total.

As for Rasmussen, he signed with the Blackhawks in the offseason after previously playing in the Swedish Hockey League. In 44 games with the IceHogs this season, he has eight goals and eight assists. His goal total is currently tied for third on the team.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ernie Banks Died After Heart Attack: Attorney]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 16:27:29 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/ErnieBanks2014.jpg

The family of Ernie Banks announced in a press conference Sunday that the famous Cubs player died after suffering a heart attack.

Banks' death was caused by the heart attack, according to Mark Bogen, the family attorney. Funeral arrangements are currently being made.

Banks passed away on Friday at the age of 83, just seven days before his next birthday.

Bogen also announced that a Facebook page has been created for fans to celebrate Banks' legendary life. The page, called Ernie Banks Remembered, was created shortly after Banks passed away.

Banks' family is currently working with the Chicago Cubs and Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office to create a public memorial for Mr. Cub, Bogen said.

Liz Banks, the wife of Ernie Banks, was present at the press conference, but Bogen delivered the news and did not take any questions.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Kane Bests Toews in Skills Competition ]]> Sat, 24 Jan 2015 21:10:08 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/175*120/462102216.jpg

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews has two Stanley Cups and two Olympic gold medals, but he’s now 0-for-1 as a general manager as his team fell to the team captained by Nick Foligno by a score of 25-19 on Saturday night in the NHL Skills Competition.

Toews’ teammate Patrick Kane, who is playing on Foligno’s squad in the All-Star Game, ended up winning the shot accuracy portion of the event, hitting all four targets in just 13.529 seconds to secure the victory.

The evening started out with the fastest skater competition, and Team Foligno jumped out to a lead that they would never relinquish as they won all five available points. Jonathan Drouin of the Tampa Bay Lightning put up the best time as he skated around the ice sheet in 13.103 seconds, and in the blink of an eye Foligno’s bunch led 5-0.

The next event was the breakaway challenge, and Foligno’s team took advantage of the home crowd to secure the victory and the available point. Ryan Johansen did most of the heavy lifting for the team, exciting his home crowd by donning an Ohio State football jersey and then having a kid score against Corey Crawford to earn the fan vote title.

In the accuracy shooting event, Foligno’s team did finally relinquish a point as Ryan Getzlaf won his heat, but in the final showdown, Kane bested his teammate Toews. Kane nailed his first three targets and then missed on his next two attempts, but finished off his run in 13.529 seconds. Toews had a chance to better his teammate as he hit his first three targets as well, but the fourth proved to be elusive as he hit the post three different times before finishing off the event with his team trailing 10-1.

In the skills challenge relay, Team Toews continued to struggle. They did come close in the event, but Team Foligno triumphed thanks to some slick stick-handling by Kane. Their time of 1:37:929 was just over a second better than Toews’ time, and Foligno’s group carried a 12-2 lead into the hardest shot competition.

In the first round of that competition, Brent Seabrook went up against Alex Ovechkin, but he couldn’t pull out the victory for Team Toews. Ovechkin put up matching 101.4 MPH shots, and Seabrook’s best blast came in at only 98.6 MPH to fall just short. Shea Weber did win the event for Toews’ team with a blistering 108.5 MPH shot, but it only carved a small chunk out of Folingo’s huge lead as his team still led by a 15-4 margin going into the final event.

In the final event of the evening, Foligno’s team saw Toews’ bunch surge, but they were able to stave off the advance and triumph in the end. Seabrook was the only Blackhawk to shoot on his shootout attempt, and when the dust settled Team Foligno won by a 25-19 margin.

Despite the setback, Toews and company will have a chance for redemption on Sunday night when they take on Team Foligno in the All-Star Game. The contest will begin at 4pm Central time, and will air on NBCSN.

<![CDATA[Blackhawks to Play Wild in 2016 Outdoor Game ]]> Sat, 24 Jan 2015 13:18:00 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/475965333.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks are one of the NHL's biggest draws, and they will be thrust into the spotlight again next season as they will take on the Minnesota Wild at TCF Bank Stadium as part of the NHL's Stadium Series. 

The game will take place on Feb. 21, 2016, and will be the fourth outdoor game in Blackhawks history. The Blackhawks will be playing in an outdoor game for the third consecutive season, while the Wild will be heading outdoors for the first time in team history. 

The NHL also announced two other outdoor contests on Saturday afternoon, as the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins will compete in the Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 1. The Detroit Red Wings will also play their third outdoor game in team history on Feb. 27, 2016, against the Colorado Avalanche at Coors Field in Denver. 

Photo Credit: NHLI via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[World Cup of Hockey to Take Place in 2016]]> Sat, 24 Jan 2015 12:45:05 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/bettman-gary.jpg

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was full of news on Saturday afternoon at his press conference in Columbus, and arguably the biggest story is that the league will conduct an eight-team World Cup of Hockey tournament in 2016.

That tournament, which will take place in Toronto, will feature six teams from North America and Europe, and will also feature two All-Star teams. One team will be comprised of players 23 years of age and younger, and the other will feature players from European teams that did not qualify for the tournament.

The tournament will begin on Sept. 17, according to Bettman, and could potentially last through Oct. 1. The final will be a best-of-three series, and all games in the World Cup will take place at the Air Canada Centre.

As for the impact that staging the tournament will have on the NHL’s Olympic participation, Bettman said that no decision has been made on whether or not the league will send players to South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Bettman also said that the tournament format will likely change by the time the 2020 incarnation rolls around. In that tournament, the league hopes that eight national teams will participate, and there could potentially be a qualification tournament for the final two spots in the field.

<![CDATA[Kane, Toews Square Off in Accuracy Shooting Event]]> Sat, 24 Jan 2015 11:26:28 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Kane+Toews.jpg

Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will be going up against one another in the NHL All-Star Game on Sunday night, but the duo will also be competing head-to-head in the Accuracy Shooting competition at the Skills Competition on Saturday night at Nationwide Arena.

Kane will be joined by several of his teammates in the event, including team captain Nick Foligno, while Toews will have fellow centers John Tavares, Patrice Bergeron and Ryan Getzlaf trying to help his team win the event.

Kane will also participate in the Skills Challenge Relay event, as he will do the stick-handling portion of the timed competition.

The three other Blackhawks players who are in Columbus for the All-Star Game will also compete in Saturday night’s festivities. Corey Crawford will serve as the goaltender in the breakaway challenge for Team Toews as he looks to stop the best efforts of Alex Ovechkin, Claude Giroux, and Ryan Johansen in the event.

Duncan Keith will also be participating in the Skills Relay for Team Foligno, taking one-timer shots at the net. Brent Seabrook will round out the Hawks’ participants in the events, as he tries to take on Shea Weber and Dustin Byfuglien in the hardest shot competition.

At the end of the evening, all players involved in the game will participate in the NHL Shootout, as they try to score as many goals as possible in a two-minute round.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA["Mr. Cub" Ernie Banks Remembered]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 16:26:52 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Ernie-Banks-Chicago-Cubs.jpg

Ernie Banks is a Chicago legend who touched many lives, both on and off the field. He embodied the spirit of the Chicago Cubs and united fans as an unwavering point of pride for the team.

Fans across the country and in Wrigleyville are mourning the loss of "Mr. Cub," who passed away Friday at the age of 83. Here's what some of his big-name fans are saying.

President Obama and Michelle Obama: "He was beloved by baseball fans everywhere, including Michelle, who, when she was a girl, used to sit with her dad and watch him play on TV. And in 2013, it was my honor to present Ernie with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Somewhere, the sun is shining, the air is fresh, his team's behind him, and Mr. Class -- 'Mr. Cub' -- is ready to play two."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel: "Ernie Banks was more than a baseball player. He was one of Chicago's greatest ambassadors. He loved this city as much as he loved -- and lived for -- the game of baseball. This year, during every Cubs game, you can bet that No. 14 will be watching over his team. And if we're lucky, it'll be a beautiful day for not just one ballgame, but two."

Gov. Bruce Rauner: "Ernie Banks was a trail blazer who helped break down barriers, a veteran who served his country with honor, a respected community leader and the greatest Chicago Cub of all time. While we mourn him here, there's no doubt that up in heaven, 'Mr. Cub' is lacing up his cleats an asking Saint Peter if they can 'play two.'"

Sen. Dick Durbin: "'Mr. Cub' was so much more than a great hitter and Gold Glove fielder. His infectious love for the game of baseball was matched only by his passion for the people of Chicago ... His positive, hopeful Cub view of life filled every room and every baseball diamond he ever touched."

Tom Ricketts, chairman of the Cubs: "Words cannot express how important Ernie Banks will always be to the Chicago Cubs, the city of Chicago and Major League Baseball. He was one of the greatest players of all time. He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I've ever known."

John McDonough, president and CEO of the Chicago Blackhawks: "Ernie was an illuminating superstar who was personable, humble and selfless. He was also the greatest player to ever wear a Cubs uniform. He loved the Cubs, Wrigley Field and the city of Chicago. The Friendly Confines were always a bit friendlier when he was around. I will miss him."

Jesse White, Illinois Secretary of State: "I was honored to learn many things from him while I was in the Cubs organization. And I am proud to have had the opportunity to work with him throughout the years in our joint efforts to help others. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and to his friends. I was privileged to have played baseball with him, and to call him my friend. Ernie Banks -- Mr. Cub -- will be missed."

Rev. Jesse Jackson: "He was not only a great baseball player, but beyond his talent as a shortstop and eventually a first baseman, was his character, his eternal optimism -- "let's play two today" -- and his personality was a racial bridge builder. He treated all people with dignity and respect. He never stopped reaching out to bridge the racial chasms."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Foligno vs. Toews: How Each Team Should Line Up Sunday]]> Sat, 24 Jan 2015 08:43:14 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/179*120/462023210.jpg

On Sunday night, two teams comprised of the NHL’s best players will compete at Nationwide Arena as Team Toews will battle Team Foligno in the NHL All-Star Game.

While there is still plenty of drama yet to unfold as All-Star weekend continues, we thought it would be fun to submit our suggested lineups for what is sure to be an interesting night full of offensive fireworks.

Team Toews:

Seguin-Toews-Voracek Getzlaf-Tavares-Tarasenko Nash-Bergeron-Forsberg Elias-Johnson-Seguin*

Weber-Suter Seabrook-Faulk Ekblad-Giordano

On the offensive side of things, it’s tough to resist the temptation to put the NHL’s two leading scorers on the same line. Centering them with a two-way threat like Jonathan Toews makes it an even more enticing situation, so we went with that as the top line.

The second and third lines in this scenario are far from easy to deal with, too. Vladimir Tarasenko is a speed demon with a nose for goal, and playing with an excellent center like John Tavares and a savvy veteran like Ryan Getzlaf could make for some highlight reel goals.

As for that third line, it features the man who snubbed Columbus, as Rick Nash steps up and plays on the wing. Filip Forsberg adds a huge dimension of speed to that line, and Patrice Bergeron is the ideal stopper for a third line.

On the defensive side of things, the allure of a reunion between Shea Weber and Ryan Suter is impossible to ignore. We were tempted to go with Brent Seabrook and Mark Giordano on the second pairing, but we decided to split the vets and have Aaron Ekblad and Justin Faulk skate with guys who have been around the block before.

* = Team Toews is short one forward due to the NHL not replacing Sidney Crosby on the All-Star roster. Until a replacement is named, we decided Tyler Seguin was an ideal guy to double-shift. 

Team Foligno:

Kane-Stamkos-Kessel Foligno-Johansen-Ovechkin Giroux-Kopitar-Vrbata Ryan-Nugent-Hopkins-Girgensons

Doughty-Burns Keith-Byfuglien Shattenkirk-Ekman-Larsson

Once again, the top line is an absolute horror show for an opponent, as Patrick Kane, one of the most gifted passers in the league, gets to throw passes out for two of the premier snipers in the NHL in Steven Stamkos and Phil Kessel. Uniting the Columbus Blue Jackets duo of Ryan Johansen and Nick Foligno was a given, and giving them Alex Ovechkin on the second line seems like a really smart idea.

Our favorite line of this group is the third line. Claude Giroux is one of the most underappreciated players in the NHL, and pairing him up with an equally-underrated Anze Kopitar could be a master stroke. It was tempting to put Bobby Ryan on that line, but we’re comfortable with Radim Vrbata there and having Ryan anchor that fourth line.

On defense, there wasn’t a harder decision than whether to put Duncan Keith or Drew Doughty on the top pairing. We opted for the alternate captain in this instance, but Keith gets a lovely consolation prize in playing with the beefy and physical Dustin Byfuglien.

That third pairing is nothing to sneeze at either, as Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Kevin Shattenkirk are both tremendously talented youngsters with a penchant for moving the puck smoothly and quickly.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Life and Times of Ernie Banks]]> Sat, 24 Jan 2015 08:18:58 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/ernie_banksP11.jpg Ernie Banks is a baseball legend, the first African American to play for the Chicago Cubs and the first black manager in Major League Baseball. He is known for his skills at bat and in the field, as well as his sunny, positive attitude and love for the game. Click to see pictures from throughout this memorable figure's life.

Photo Credit: AP]]>