<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Sports]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/sports http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.comen-usWed, 18 Jan 2017 08:42:02 -0600Wed, 18 Jan 2017 08:42:02 -0600NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Jamaican Bobsled Team Crowdfunds for Coach]]> Wed, 18 Jan 2017 05:55:06 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Jamaican+Bobsled+Team.jpg

The Jamaican bobsled team is back for the Olympics. A little strapped for cash, sure, but back nonetheless.

The climatologically challenged team is attempting to crowdfund a salary for a head coach for the next Olympic games in 2018 in PyeongChang, according to a GoFundMe page posted by the team's social media director.

(Correct - the team does not have a coach but does have someone to run its social presence. Kathleen Pulito, a volunteer from upstate New York, reports to Devon Harris, a member of the original team portrayed in the movie "Cool Runnings.")

"We have a really good shot at our women's team bringing home some hardware to Jamaica," Pulito told NBC 4 New York. "People don't quite see value in our brand just yet."

The perennial underdogs' biggest hope is Jazmine Fenlator, who competed for the United States in the 2014 Games before switching to her father's home country. 

Even so, the crowdfunding campaign is off to a slow start, having raised $1,100 of a $60,000 goal. But Pulito said her goal is to get a brand or two interested in the underdog story and go from there.

"Once one good sponsor hops on board, they kind of all jump on board," she said.

Photo Credit: Jamaican Bobsleigh Federation]]>
<![CDATA[David Ross Talks About His New Role With the Cubs]]> Mon, 16 Jan 2017 18:45:17 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000021619638_1200x675_855573059740.jpg Retired catcher David Ross developed quite a following with the Cubs, and his time on the North Side isn't done yet, as the team named him special assistant to baseball operations on Friday. He talks about his new role with NBC5's Mike Berman. ]]> <![CDATA[Obama's 12 Best Jokes During the Cubs' White House Visit]]> Mon, 16 Jan 2017 15:37:46 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-631833486.png The 2016 Chicago Cubs were hot nearly all season long - and at the White House ceremony honoring the World Series champs, President Obama's jokes were on fire.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Butler Uses Heckler as Motivation in Win Over Grizzlies]]> Mon, 16 Jan 2017 15:07:18 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-620893754.jpg

Given how well he’s played this season, Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler likely doesn’t need any motivation to get going for a game, but he got some anyway thanks to a heckling fan on Sunday night.

During the Bulls’ 108-104 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, Butler was being heckled by a fan near the Bulls’ bench, and he apparently used the comments as fuel for an excellent fourth quarter performance.

Here’s a retelling of the story by ESPN Chicago’s Nick Friedell:

“A Grizzlies fan kept yelling toward Butler with the usual fare, that he was watching him, telling people around his section that he was getting into the All-Star’s head. After Butler rained down two consecutive jumpers in the final 60 seconds, giving the Bulls a lead they would not relinquish, he walked back to the bench and stared up at the fan with a bit of a smile on his face.

“How are you going to do that to me?” the dejected fan said.

“I’m sorry,” Butler responded. “I love you man.””

After the game was over, Butler was asked about the interaction with the fan, and he had a very simple response to the motivation he gained during the exchange.

“I love it. That’s the reason you play the game,” he said. “(You) want to feel that pressure and deliver. It feels good.”

Needless to say, the Grizzlies fan yelling at Butler learned one of life’s most important lessons: sometimes when you poke a bear, you get a big swipe from its claws.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cubs Legends, Politicos on Hand for Team's White House Visit]]> Mon, 16 Jan 2017 14:35:31 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-631833596.jpg

For the first time since sports teams began travelling to the White House to celebrate their championships, the Chicago Cubs attended a ceremony at the historic mansion to be honored for their World Series title by President Barack Obama.

Naturally, the usual suspects were around, as players like Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, executives like Theo Epstein, and manager Joe Maddon were all in attendance for the ceremony, but former Cubs players and Washington dignitaries also made the event one of the most highly attended in recent memory.

From the Cubs, a trio of their Hall of Fame greats were in the crowd, as second baseman Ryne Sandberg,  outfielder Billy Williams, and starting pitcher Fergie Jenkins at the ceremony honoring the 2016 squad.

Also in the crowd was fan favorite Jose Cardenal, who can claim one of the most famous people in America as his biggest fan: First Lady Michelle Obama.

“She made sure that Jose Cardenal was here. (He was) her favorite player,” President Obama said during his remarks. “Back then he had a big Afro, and he would wear his cap over the top of it. She used to wear her cap over her Afro too.”

The First Lady, who grew up a Cubs fan in Chicago, was not at the ceremony honoring the team, but she did meet with them beforehand, and the president said that it was a first for her during her time in the White House.

“In the eight years I’ve been here, we’ve hosted at least 50 teams. Michelle has never come to a single event celebrating a champion, until today,” he said. “She came in and shook hands and met everyone and told the story about what it meant for her to be able to see them win.”

Plenty of other politicians were also in attendance, including Chicago mayor (and former White House Chief of Staff) Rahm Emanuel, former Obama adviser David Axelrod, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and a large group of Congressmen from Capitol Hill.

There was even a big-time celebrity sighting, as legendary singer Jimmy Buffett made the trip to the White House for the memorable ceremony.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[8 Top Moments From the Cubs' White House Visit]]> Mon, 16 Jan 2017 15:17:58 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-631834024.jpg

A World Series championship Chicago Cubs team hasn't visited the White House in 108 years. President Barack Obama made sure it was a memorable one.

"Do know, that among Sox fans, I am the Cubs' number one fan," Obama, a lifelong Chicago White Sox fan, said Monday afternoon as he honored the North Side team.

It capped a ceremony filled with honors, jokes, accolades and even a "pardon" from Theo Epstein, president of Baseball Operations for the Cubs.

Relive the historic celebration below, including Obama finding commonality with David Ross, a story about the president catching a staffer at a game instead of in the office, and why he and First Lady Michelle Obama have a divided baseball household.

Obama welcomes the Chicago Cubs to the White House: "I will say to the Cubs, it took you long enough. I've only got four days left."

How much does Michelle Obama actullay love the Chicago Cubs? This much:

That time the Obamas caught a staffer in a Ferris Bueller moment:

Obama proclaims what he and David Ross have in common:

Obama relives the most epic moments of the Cubs' playoff run and compliments Joe Maddon on his outfit:


Theo Epstein offers Obama a "midnight pardon" for being a Sox fan:

The team presents Obama with the one gift every Cubs fan wants:

Obama reveals whether he will wear that Cubs jersey the team just gifted him:

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Photos: Cubs Present Gifts to President Barack Obama]]> Mon, 16 Jan 2017 14:14:33 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-631834018.jpg

The Chicago Cubs attended a ceremony in their honor at the White House on Monday, but they didn’t come empty-handed as they showered President Barack Obama with the “coolest swag” he has received as president.

In addition to bringing the World Series trophy and just about every important member of the team, the front office, and the coaching staff, the Cubs also brought some really neat gifts for the departing president. For starters, they brought the customary jersey, with Anthony Rizzo agreeing to share his number 44 with the president:

[[410852655, C]]

That was just the beginning, however. The Cubs also had a couple more unique gifts for President Obama, including a “44” number plate from the iconic Wrigley Field scoreboard (which was designed a national landmark by the National Park Service while First Lady Michelle Obama was a member of that organization):

[[410852625, C]]

The Cubs also presented President Obama with a “W” flag signed by all of the members of the team that made the trip to Washington for the event:

[[410852725, C]]

Finally, the Cubs gave Obama and his family a lifetime pass to the Friendly Confines, and Mrs. Obama should get plenty of use out of it, as she grew up a Cubs fan in the Windy City.

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In response to all the gifts, the president said that while he was still a White Sox fan, he was the “number one Cubs fan” among that group of Chicagoans.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Dexter Fowler Brings President Obama a Special Gift]]> Mon, 16 Jan 2017 13:25:49 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/fowler-dexter-cubs-podium.jpg

What is it with Dexter Fowler and giving unbelievable presents?

The former Cubs outfielder gave each of his teammates the perfect NLCS gift, paid off the layaway accounts of dozens of Chicago-area families, and then outdid himself with a meaningful present for Joe Maddon to celebrate their historic World Series championship. 

Never one to show up empty-handed, you could say Fowler has a knack for picking out just the right thing - and he certainly did not disappoint with his present for President Obama at the White House on Monday. 

Now a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, Fowler posted a video teasing to his "top secret" delivery for the commander in chief on Sunday, revealing a box with a presidential seal and the iconic Jumpman logo. [[410847005, C]]

Then as the Cubs made their way to the White House, fans got a glimpse of what was hidden in that box - and it was awesome.

Fowler brought a custom pair of Air Jordans with the presidential seal and even Obama's signature engraved on the side. [[410846975, C]]

It was a perfect gift (among many from the Cubs, including a lifetime pass to Wrigley Field) for the president, an avid basketball player who even awarded Michael Jordan the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November.

Photo Credit: Associated Press
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<![CDATA['Among Sox Fans, I Am Cubs' No. 1 Fan': Obama Honors Cubs]]> Mon, 16 Jan 2017 19:09:52 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-631831536.jpg

Coming from a Chicago White Sox fan, it may have seemed like President Barack Obama's comments at the White House Monday were proof he has been converted to North Side fandom -- and the Cubs certainly thought so.

"Do know, that among Sox fans, I am the Cubs' number one fan," Obama said as he honored the World Series Champions. 

The visit marked the last event to be held at the White House during Obama's preidency, he said. 

"I will say to the Cubs it took you long enough," Obama said. "I've only got four days left."

Though he may pledge allegiance to the team's longtime rivals, even Obama had to admit he was swept away by the Cubs' 2016 season.

"Even I was not crazy enough to suggest that during these eight years we would see the Cubs win the World Series, but I did say that there has never been anything false about hope," Obama said. "Hope -- the audacity of hope. Yes we can."

In a speech that was saturated with funny anecdotes and sincere appreciation, Obama noted that this World Series win may have meant more to fans than ever before.

"The truth is there was a reason not just that people felt good about the Cubs winning, there was something about this particular Cubs team winning that people felt good about," he said before honoring each player for their achievements in the historic season that ended a 108-year drought. 

In describing what was "widely considered one of the greatest Game 7's of all time," Obama ran through a play-by-play of the gut-wrenching moments that had Cubs fans on the edge of their seats that fateful November night. 
"Suddenly everything has changed," Obama said. "No more black cats, billy goats, ghosts, flubbed grounders – the Chicago Cubs are the champs."

Even though he made sure to honor the World Series champs themselves, he also noted the baseball legends who have made history with the team over the last century. Some of those players were also in attendance Monday, including Billy Williams, Ryne Sandberg, Fergie Jenkins and Jose Cardenal. 
Monday's visit was slightly unusual, as the reigning World Series champions normally make the traditional White House visit during the following MLB season. The Cubs were hoping to get to Washington, D.C., before Obama left office. Though the president is a White Sox fan, he calls Chicago home and rooted for the North Siders since his team didn't make the playoffs.
"I was in my hometown of Chicago on Tuesday for my farewell address and I said sometimes it’s not enough just to change laws, you’ve got to change hearts and sports has a way of sometimes changing hearts in a way that politics or business doesn’t," Obama noted. 
During the event, Cubs president Theo Epstein first pardoned Obama "for all your indiscretions as a baseball fan" and welcomed him "with open arms today to the Cubs' family." The moment marked what he called a "terrific conversion," celebrated with a series of gifts from the champions to the president himself. 
Among the gifts were two jerseys with the no. 44, shared by first baseman Anthony Rizzo. One jersey read "Chicago Cubs," but the second just read "Chicago," in case the president wasn't yet comfortable with displaying full Cubs pride. 
In addition, the president was given a tile from Wrigley Field's historic center field scoreboard, a W flag signed by the team, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley Field.  
"We also wanted you to know that as a new fan you have some catching up to do," Epstein said. 

The president invited the Cubs to the White House in a phone call to Joe Maddon following the team's victory, and with the club all assembled in Chicago for this weekend's Cubs Convention, arranging travel to Washington D.C. was a solution that worked out well for the team to see the president.

While the Cubs' visit to the White House comes just days before President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration, the team will still have a connection to the new administration. Trump has nominated Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts as deputy commerce secretary. Ricketts joined his sister, co-owner Laura Ricketts, brother and co-owner Tom Ricketts, and the team at the presidential reception.

The Cubs are the second Chicago team to visit the Obama's White House. The president also hosted the Chicago Blackhawks after their three Stanley Cup championships since 2010. 

After the ceremony, the Cubs were expected to visit patients at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C., before returning to Chicago, according to MLB officials.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cubs Benched Soler for Lack of Hustle, McLeod Says]]> Mon, 16 Jan 2017 05:10:51 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/jorge.png

One of Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s favorite sayings is “Respect 90,” but on Sunday it was revealed that one player didn’t always live up to the skipper’s expectations last season.

That player was outfielder Jorge Soler, who was traded to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for pitcher Wade Davis earlier this offseason. Soler’s lack of hustle was cited by Jason McLeod, the Cubs’ Senior VP of Player Development and Amateur Scouting, and the comments came during a panel on the final day of Cubs Convention.

“There are a few times throughout the year where a player will get pulled out of the game,” McLeod said. “This is not trying to harp on ‘Georgie’ at all, but he got yanked a couple of times last year for not hustling out to the outfield, for not running down the line.”

Maddon’s “Respect 90” philosophy was debuted when he got to the team before the 2015 season, and the mantra has a simple meaning: hustle out of the batter’s box and down to first base. It’s one of the manager’s few hard and fast rules, and apparently Soler occasionally broke that rule during his time in Chicago.

Even though Maddon publicly defended Soler on several occasions about hustle plays, McLeod used the slugger’s example to show that the organization as a whole takes the “Respect 90” catchphrase seriously.

“It’s constant in the player development plan,” he said. “Every single person in whatever realm of life that you’re in, whatever occupation you’re in, you can control your effort and you can give your best effort and that’s what it’s all about.”

<![CDATA[SD Companies Won't Move Chargers]]> Mon, 16 Jan 2017 19:23:55 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/176*120/Dean+Spanos+vs+Jacksonville.JPG

So the Chargers said they are going to move to Los Angeles. Now they actually have to move to Los Angeles.

Anyone who has ever moved before understands what an undertaking this is. You have to pack up the boxes, prepare the furniture, finally address all the junk that’s been accumulating in the garage … it’s not a small endeavor, and that’s just for a house.

The Chargers are moving offices and a practice facility. That means they have to pack up and transport all the tackling sleds, all the computers, all the files … basically 55 years-worth of stuff. For that they will have to hire a moving company.

Finding one, however, has proven to be a problem.

“We were just sitting there thinking about the physical move of the Chargers,” said Ryan Charles, head of sales and marketing for www.HireAHelper.com. “We were thinking we would not want to be a part of that, having been born and raised here and being a lifelong Chargers fan.”

Charles asked the companies within the Hire A Helper network if they would refuse to help the Chargers move and they all said yes. But the movement did not stop there.

“Other moving companies, our peers, might not want to, either,” said Charles, “and wouldn’t it be cool if we all banded together to say that we wouldn’t?”

So Charles started cold-calling his fellow moving companies to float the idea by them. The response was a bit surprising … in a good way.

“The feedback was immediately positive,” said Charles. “I got chuckles, people were laughing, there were guys saying ‘I wouldn’t move them for X amount of dollars.’”

That variable is likely in excess of $100,000, by the way. With all the offices and training equipment, plus the likelihood of having staff and players jump on board, this is a monster payday these companies are turning down to stick to their principles.

As of Sunday night 22 movers based in San Diego had vowed not to move the Chargers north and more are expected to sign on in the coming days. An email is being sent to as many movers as Charles can think of.

“It’s almost like the last line of defense. We were making this last statement of loyalty to the SAN DIEGO Chargers,” said Charles.

But it is not simply the San Diego moving companies that have pledged their resistence. Movers in the Los Angeles area are also joining the cause.

“Once we started hearing the sentiment from L.A., you know, the ‘We don’t want you,’ we thought maybe there are Los Angeles companies who wouldn’t want to move them in to their city. We reached out to them and we have five L.A. moving companies on board that have agreed [to not move the Chargers to Los Angeles].”

Not every moving company in San Diego will take part in this movement but enough will to let the Spanos family know just how disappointed Chargers fans are. Plus, this kind of camaraderie might be the proverbial silver lining.

“It’s an awesome statement of loyalty, that’s for sure," Charles added.

To see all the companies dedicated to not move the Chargers just visit www.wewontmoveyouchargers.com and see the list continue to grow.

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<![CDATA[Opinion: Blackhawks Heading Into Statement Game Against Wild]]> Sun, 15 Jan 2017 16:09:06 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-631417324.png

If there’s one thing that we’ve learned about the Chicago Blackhawks over the course of Joel Quenneville’s tenure with the team, it’s that the regular season always takes a back seat to the postseason, but that accepted theory could face a challenge on Sunday night when they take on the Minnesota Wild.

After all the Wild are the Blackhawks’ main competition in the Central Division, and they’ve been on an absolute roll lately as they’ve gone 16-1-1 in their last 18 games.

In fact, one of their only losses during that stretch came at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have been even hotter than the Wild have been this season.

When looking at the numbers, it’s easy to see why Minnesota is such a formidable club. They are in the top-five in the NHL in both scoring, averaging 3.3 goals per game, and in defense, allowing just 2.1 goals per contest.

Their special teams are just as good, with their penalty killing unit ranked sixth in the league at 84.6 percent, and their power play is converting on nearly 20 percent of their chances as well.

The Minnesota offense is being led by a few familiar faces to Blackhawks fans, as Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle are still thriving even after being dispatched from the playoffs by the Blackhawks on multiple occasions.

A new guy in the rivalry is shining even brighter, as free agent-signing Eric Staal has racked up 39 points in 41 games to lead Minnesota in that category. He is leading the team in both goals and assists, and his scoring touch has helped drive one of the league’s most effective offenses.

Even as Staal and company have shone, their goaltending somehow has been even better. Devan Dubnyk has quietly become one of the most effective goaltenders in the league, stopping 94 percent of the shots he’s faced and posting a stellar 1.77 goals against average in 32 games so far this season.

With all of that firepower and that excellent defense, the Wild are a very tough team to match up against, and Sunday’s game has all the makings of a statement game for the Blackhawks. Not only are they tied with the Wild atop the Central Division at 59 points, but they also are coming off of an embarrassing 6-0 loss to the Washington Capitals that exposed some glaring weaknesses in their defense and some deficiencies in their offense.

With that stage set, the Blackhawks have got to come up with some answers to some tough questions if they are going to prove that they belong on the same ice sheet as the Wild. For one thing, the Blackhawks need to show that they are capable of matchup up with a speedy team, as the Wild have plenty of wingers that can play a very quick transition game.

To that end, the Blackhawks did recall Nick Schmaltz to help shore up the middle of their lineup. He should help provide some speed, as should Vincent Hinostroza. Those two will be critically important during the showdown, and it will be interesting to see how Joel Quenneville deploys his youngsters.

In addition to stifling Minnesota’s speed, the Blackhawks also need to find ways to get to tough areas in front of the net around Dubnyk. Guys like Ryan Hartman and Artem Anisimov will be key in that effort, and Jonathan Toews could also see some action as the big-bodied forward seems to have a knack for creating screens when the situation calls for it.

Finally, the Blackhawks have got to figure out to maintain their defensive positioning without becoming too conservative. That’s always a tough ask for a team, but it’s especially difficult when youngsters like Michal Kempny and Trevor van Riemsdyk are getting minutes. Adding Michal Rozsival should help shore things up a bit, but it will be on the two youngest Blackhawks blue liners to do effective work.

Puck drop at the United Center is scheduled for 6 p.m. Central, and the game can be seen nationally on NBCSN.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cubs Convention: 3 Remaining Roster Questions for 2017]]> Sun, 15 Jan 2017 15:33:58 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-618093562.png

After a few months off following their remarkable World Series victory and celebration, the Chicago Cubs reconvened in Chicago over the weekend to celebrate once again with fans at the annual Cubs Convention.

The party raged all weekend long, as players, coaches, and executives reveled in a job well done, and the team celebrated its first championship in 108 years.

Now as the beer cans are swept away and the banners taken down, the job of strengthening the roster takes center stage once again for the team. How can they improve upon a roster that won 103 games and a title? Which weaknesses still need to be addressed? Which questions still need to be answered?

To get to the bottom of all of those dilemmas, we picked three key storylines for fans to follow as the team takes one more brief rest before reporting to spring training next month in sunny Arizona.

Is a Six-Man Rotation Still in the Cards?

One of the biggest focuses for the Cubs during the 2016 season was in limiting the number of innings their starting pitchers were throwing, and the practice yielded significant dividends in the playoffs. Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks were both positively dominant in the postseason, and Jake Arrieta had a strong World Series as he picked up two victories in the Cubs’ championship run.

This season, things are going to look a little different in the rotation. The main four guys are still around, but Jason Hammel is no longer with the team, and the Cubs are likely looking to replace him with Mike Montgomery as the team looks to add more balance to its rotation.

Beyond that, the question remains as to whether or not a six-man rotation could be a good strategy to further protect pitchers from throwing too many innings. There are several options to explore if that’s what the team wants to do, even after Tyson Ross reportedly signed a deal with the Texas Rangers, and it will be interesting to see if Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer opt to make a move to add some competition into the race for a starting rotation spot.

Who Will Lead-Off vs. Left-Handed Pitchers?

The Cubs had one of the best lead-off hitters in baseball last season as Dexter Fowler patrolled center field and led off games, but with the remarkable star now in St. Louis, the team has to explore what to do in the top spot in their order.

Against right-handed pitchers, all indications are that Kyle Schwarber will get the first crack at the job, as it will be up to him to set up the offense for Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. Against lefties that question becomes more complicated, and while it’s possible that the Cubs could explore an outside solution to it, it’s more likely that they’ll look in-house instead.

To that effect, there are several players to keep an eye on. Ben Zobrist could be a good guy for the role, as he sees a lot of pitches and could get on base ahead of Bryant and Rizzo, but Joe Maddon is very comfortable with him batting fourth and driving those guys in instead.

Addison Russell could also get a look, although his power numbers and low-ish batting average could signal that he is better suited to the fifth or sixth spot in the order. Jason Heyward and Albert Almora could also get looks there, but unless Heyward has a huge jump in production, he may end up getting stuck in platoon duty and get kept away from left-handed starters.

Which Players Could Come Up Next Season?

While the Cubs seem pretty well set at a lot of positions, there are still plenty of players that could make their way up because of injuries or ineffectiveness next season.

A couple of guys to keep an eye on are Ian Happ, who has some serious pop and can play both second base and left field, and Eloy Jimenez, who is regarded by many to be the team’s top prospect and could one day be a star outfielder for the Cubs.

Either one of those guys could make the jump next season, but there are also a few others to keep an eye on. If the Cubs need some added pop in the lineup, Jeimer Candelario could be an option, although Bryant’s status as a top-tier third baseman could force a position change there. Dylan Cease could also make his way up next year, as the Cubs are seemingly always looking for fresh faces in their bullpen or in the back end of their pitching rotation.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Nick Schmaltz Recalled From Rockford IceHogs]]> Sun, 15 Jan 2017 14:40:01 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-611916344.png

Looking to add some offensive punch into their lineup, the Chicago Blackhawks made a roster move on Saturday afternoon as they recalled forward Nick Schmaltz from the Rockford IceHogs.

Schmaltz, who was sent down earlier this season after spending 26 games with the Blackhawks, has been lighting up the AHL with six goals in 12 games with the IceHogs.

He was on a four-game point streak for Rockford before his promotion, and he’ll be looked to as an offensive catalyst as he’ll be in the lineup for Sunday’s game vs. the Minnesota Wild.

To put things simply, Schmaltz’s arrival could not have come at a better time for Chicago. With Artem Anisimov under the weather (but still playing on Sunday), the Blackhawks may have to get slightly creative with their line combinations, and Schmaltz will allow them to do that.

The expectation is that he will play as a center among the bottom six forwards, but he could get pushed back to the top on occasion as the Blackhawks play a very fast and very talented Wild squad.

One of the big criticisms of Schmaltz’s play during his first stint with the Blackhawks was his unwillingness to shoot the puck. In his final five games, Schmaltz only totaled three shots on goal, and he only had 16 total in 26 games with the Blackhawks.

Needless to say, Schmaltz played with a lot more assertiveness in Rockford, scoring six times in 12 games and giving the Blackhawks all the incentive they needed to bring him back up. Add in the fact that the team just got done with a 6-0 pasting at the hands of the Washington Capitals, and head coach Joel Quenneville had no choice but to give the talented rookie another shot.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Blackhawks' Anisimov In, Campbell Likely Out vs. Wild]]> Sun, 15 Jan 2017 14:25:46 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/ARTEM+ANISIMOV1.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks will face one of their toughest tests of the season on Sunday night as they welcome Central Division rival Minnesota to the United Center, and fortunately for the team, they will have one of their key veterans in the lineup.

That veteran is center Artem Anisimov, who missed Saturday’s practice with an illness. At Sunday’s morning skate, head coach Joel Quenneville said that although Anisimov was still somewhat under the weather, he will be good to go against the Wild.

Quenneville also said that he will bring in a few of his youngest players as the team looks to compete with the red-hot Minnesota squad. Nick Schmaltz, who was brought back up from Rockford on Saturday, will play for the Blackhawks as a center, according to the coach.

Michal Kempny will slot back into the lineup as well, after being a healthy scratch in Friday’s 6-0 drubbing at the hands of the Washington Capitals.

Michal Rozsival will also play again, meaning that Brian Campbell will likely sit out Sunday’s game as the Blackhawks try to keep all of their defensemen sharp.

Sunday’s game has big implications for the top of the Central Division race, as the Wild and Blackhawks are tied for the top spot. Minnesota has played four fewer games than Chicago, and they are red-hot coming into the contest as they have been on a 16-1-1 tear over their last 18 games.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Former Bears Star Devin Hester Likely Retiring From NFL]]> Sun, 15 Jan 2017 14:14:52 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-451167859.png

Saturday night was a turn-back-the-clock performance by Seattle Seahawks kick returner Devin Hester, but according to the legendary return man, it was also likely his last game.

After the Seahawks fell 36-20 to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, Hester seemed to hint that his playing days were done, and the former Chicago Bears star seemed pretty bummed out following the defeat.

“I told my wife this is pretty much my last year,” he told reporters. “The only thing that I left out of this game is walking away without getting a ring. It’s tough.”

Hester made it to the Super Bowl with the Bears in his rookie season of 2006, but he never got closer than that to winning an elusive championship.

In eight seasons with the Bears, Hester had 13 punt return touchdowns and five kick return touchdowns, and his 19 career return touchdowns gave him the NFL record in that category.

After signing with the Seahawks following his release from the Baltimore Ravens, Hester seemed to find his groove again on Saturday, racking up 194 yards worth of kick returns and he had another long one called back because of a holding penalty.

Despite his best efforts, the Seahawks were dispatched from the playoffs by the Falcons, who will play the winner of Sunday’s game between the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys in the NFC title game.

If this is indeed the end of the road for Hester, he’ll be ending a career that many fans and experts alike think should result in his enshrinement in Canton in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

It will be interesting to see whether or not the Bears give him an opportunity to come back and retire with the organization like they did with cornerback Charles Tillman.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cubs Convention Headlines: Arrieta, Ross Steal the Show]]> Sun, 15 Jan 2017 13:24:05 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-621155070.png

The Chicago Cubs threw a huge party over the weekend at the Sheraton Grand as they celebrated their World Series championship at the 2017 Cubs Convention.

The sold-out convention saw massive crowds, hordes of autograph seekers, and mountains of championship gear, but aside from the party itself, the team made some significant headlines along the Chicago River.

Here are the five headlines that fans will be talking about as the convention wraps up on Sunday:

Arbitration Avoided With Arrieta, Rondon

Friday was the MLB deadline for teams to avoid exchanging arbitration numbers with their eligible restricted free agents, and the Cubs managed to sign three of their four eligible players.

The big headline was Jake Arrieta, who signed a one-year deal worth a shade under $16 million. The hurler will be an unrestricted free agent after the season concludes, and although the team is going to at least make an attempt to sign him to a longer-term contract, there was a slight lack of optimism when front office members were asked about it.

In better news, the Cubs did sign Hector Rondon and Justin Grimm to one-year deals, avoiding arbitration with both players. Those signings leave only Pedro Strop unsigned, and the two sides will try to come to an agreement before an arbitration hearing before spring training.

Arrieta to Skip White House Ceremony

The Cubs will head from Chicago out to Washington D.C. on Monday, as the champions will visit the White House and President Barack Obama before he leaves office on Friday.

While most of the Cubs will be in attendance, and even guys like Dexter Fowler and Aroldis Chapman will be back for the ceremony, Arrieta will not be one of them, as family issues will keep him away from the West Wing.

David Ross Isn’t Quite Done With the Cubs

While Grandpa Rossy won’t be donning a blue pinstriped jersey next season, he very well could be donning blue pinstripes of a different variety, as he trades in a uniform for a suit as he accepted a job with the team’s baseball operations department.

Ross joins a list of former Cubs that hold front office responsibilities, including Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood, and his continued presence around the team will certainly be welcome news for guys like Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.

Could CSN Chicago Begin Streaming Games Next Season?

One of the big highlights of Saturday’s Business of Baseball panel was Cubs President of Business Ops Crane Kenney saying that the team is in serious discussions with Major League Baseball about streaming games in the Chicago-area on Comcast Sportsnet.

If approved, the Cubs would join the Blackhawks and the Bulls (and likely the White Sox) among teams looking to increase ratings by allowing fans in their home areas to stream games online, and that is great news for fans that have been eager to be able to watch contests while on the go.

Cubs Seeking Ring Bearers

When the Cubs open their home schedule at Wrigley Field, they’ll have plenty of ceremonies to go through, as they unveil their championship banner and give out their World Series rings in what is sure to be a raucous atmosphere.

For that second bit of business, the Cubs are now seeking out 20 dedicated fans to give rings to the players, and they called for nominations on Saturday. Fans are being encouraged to submit 60-second videos nominating a fan for that incredibly important job, and with only a few weeks until pitchers and catchers report to Mesa for spring training, there isn’t a lot of time for applicants to get their faces in front of the Cubs.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chicago Cubs Announce Championship Ring Bearer Fan Contest]]> Sat, 14 Jan 2017 17:06:51 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-621089704.png

The Chicago Cubs made the hopes and dreams of countless fans come true when they won their first World Series in 108 years – but they’re not stopping there.

The team is offering 20 people the chance to present a player or coach with their 2016 World Series championship ring during a ceremony at Wrigley Field through a new contest that is sure to inspire fans to get creative.

The Cubs launched the “Championship Ring Bearer Fan Contest” on Sunday, marking the beginning of a search for “the most loyal and dedicated Cubs fans” to take part in an on-field ring ceremony scheduled for April 12.

To enter, participants must record a video nominating their favorite candidate, then submit it by uploading it to Twitter using the #CubsRingBearer hashtag.

Videos must be 60 seconds or less and include the full name, hometown and age of the nominee. Submitters must be 18 or older and nominees must be at least 13 years of age. Participants have until 11:59 p.m. CST on Feb. 14 to make their case.

A team of judges will then select 20 winners who will each receive two tickets to the April 12 game against the Dodgers at Wrigley Field, and the opportunity to participate in the on-field ring ceremony. 

"It was truly amazing to see Cubs fans show their loyalty, passion and excitement for this team as we completed the greatest journey in all of sports," Cubs’ President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said in a statement. "We were amazed by our fans who embraced old traditions like flying the W Flag and created new ones by crafting inspiring chalk messages on our bleacher walls."

"This Championship Ring Bearer Fan Contest is our way to thank the fans who stood by us for all these years, as well as give them a memory that will last a lifetime."

The team suggests being creative, authentic and having fun while explaining a nominee’s passion for the Cubs. Examples of enthusiasm include game day traditions, length of time as a fan, unique reasons for supporting the team, ability to generate excitement in others and more, according to the Cubs.

For details and a complete list of rules, visit the Cubs’ website here.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Minnesota Wild Apologize After 'Violent' Mascot Skit]]> Sat, 14 Jan 2017 15:18:09 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/nordy+birthday+mn+wild+skit.png

Hockey fans are used to seeing some pretty brutal fights on the ice, but it’s usually between the players – not the mascots.

Not the case at Thursday night’s game between the Minnesota Wild and the Montreal Canadiens. During intermission at Minnesota's Xcel Energy Center, the Wild invited several other NHL mascots to celebrate Nordy’s "birthday."

In attendance were the St. Louis Blues’ Louie, New Jersey’s NJ Devil and the Chicago Blackhawks’ Tommy Hawk – who apparently shoved a birthday cake into Nordy’s face.

Nordy then exacted his revenge when Tommy held up a piñata and a blindfolded Nordy "missed," smacking the Hawks mascot, who fell to the ground. [[410727135, C]]

At the urging of the announcer, he continued to strike Tommy a total of 10 times as he theatrically writhed on the ice.

"Nordy! You hit the piñata! Keep swinging! Keep swinging!" the announcer shouted. "You almost broke it open!"

NJ Devil stepped in to restrain Nordy, who took off his blindfold in time to see a presumably unconscious Tommy dragged off the ice.

"Tommy, that’s what happens when you shove a cake in somebody’s face. Get him to medics," the announcer added.

The reaction of the crowd seemed to be mixed, as was the response on social media after the team tweeted a video of the encounter.

"Good thing to teach kids. Violence to people you dislike is the right thing to do," one response reads, while another called it "obviously a joke and for fun."

"I love the Wild and all but... I'm not really into simulated beatings, man," one fan tweeted, while another wrote, "Oh please. It’s Hockey. It’s a violent sport. Maybe stay home. Ridiculous." [[410727165, C]]

A reporter for the Chicago Tribune decried the "violent" skit, saying it went against the NHL’s attempts to "promote a family atmosphere."

"I was glad I wasn't in the stands with my 7-year-old son having to explain why his favorite mascot was just apparently beaten with a baseball bat," Chris Kuc wrote.

According to the Tribune, the Wild issued a statement Friday saying, "We apologize to anyone offended by the mascot skit Thursday night. It was certainly not our intention."

Photo Credit: twitter.com/NHL
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<![CDATA[Jake Arrieta, Cubs Agree Strike Deal]]> Fri, 13 Jan 2017 17:59:35 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/cubs+arrieta+GettyImages-618480032.png

Jake Arrieta has agreed to a one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs avoiding arbitration.

The Cubs pitcher signed a $15.6M contract with the team he won the World Series with last season, NBC 5's Mike Berman confirms.

Cubs representatives did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cubs Announce New Role for David Ross]]> Mon, 16 Jan 2017 18:45:44 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/david+ross+GettyImages-620135562.png

David Ross developed a cult following as he helped the Chicago Cubs to a World Series title in his final season, but even though his playing days are over, his time on the North Side isn't.

The team announced Friday it has named the retired catcher, lovingly known as "Grandpa Rossy," to the role of special assistant to baseball operations.

"In his new role with the organization, Ross will contribute to all elements within the club’s baseball operations department, including major league operations, player development, pro scouting and work within the front office," the Cubs said in a statement. "He will also assist in evaluating amateur players leading up to the draft among additional responsibilities and opportunities throughout the year."

Ross retired from baseball following the Cubs’ World Series championship.

Throughout his final season, he received accolades and gifts from around the game. When asked about his post-season plans he joked that he told Anthony Rizzo he wanted "to get a seat behind first base and heckle him for a few games, just to make sure he’s doing his thing.”

Ross, who won World Series titles with the Cubs and the Boston Red Sox, also said he plans to release a memoir about his 15-year major league career.

The book, titled “Teammate: My Life in Baseball,” will be available in May 2017, and is already available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other sites.

“An inspiring memoir from David Ross, the veteran catcher dubbed “Granpda Rossy,” who became the heart and soul of the Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series championship team,” the promo blurb reads.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[The Internet Roasts the New LA Chargers Logo ]]> Fri, 13 Jan 2017 12:44:27 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chargers-dodgers.gif

When the Chargers organization announced the move to Los Angeles Thursday, they changed their logo on social media, and fans unleashed an all-out blitz.

The letters "LA" in white are connected on a blue background with a lightning bolt shooting to the right of the logo.

The Dodgers logo has always connected the "L" with the "A" on a blue  background.


The NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning quickly jumped on social media to draw its own comparison. The tweet has gone viral.

In a radio interview Thursday, Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos was asked about the logo similarity. He said: "I don't know if this is going to be permanent or if it's going to be the introductory logo into the marketplace. My son is handling all that so I'd have to defer to him."

Check out some of the responses on Twitter:

[[410546775, C]]

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<![CDATA[Reports: Fowler, Chapman Will Join Cubs at White House]]> Thu, 12 Jan 2017 12:52:21 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-620750120.jpg

When the Chicago Cubs visit the White House on Monday, a few familiar faces that have since signed with other teams will reunite with their old teammates in celebration of their 2016 World Series championship.

According to Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago, one of those players will be outfielder Dexter Fowler, who hit a leadoff home run in Game 7 of the World Series for the Cubs. Since the victory, Fowler has signed a free agent contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, but he confirmed via text message that he will be at the White House to meet with his former teammates and President Barack Obama on Monday.

Another former Cubs player will also be in attendance, as Jon Greenberg of The Athletic Chicago is reporting that closer Aroldis Chapman will be at the ceremony. Chapman, who pitched two innings in Game 7 and played a pivotal role throughout he playoff run, signed a free agent deal with the New York Yankees during the offseason.

The Cubs pushed for a quick meeting with the president after their championship, when manager Joe Maddon was invited to the White House during a call with President Obama. The Chicago-area resident wanted the team to visit before his time in the Oval Office expires next week, and with the team all together for Cubs Convention over the weekend at the Sheraton Grand Hotel, the Cubs have taken the opportunity to fly out to Washington for a ceremony with the outgoing Commander-in-Chief.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Details Released on Cubs' Planned Visit to White House]]> Thu, 12 Jan 2017 10:50:44 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-621152150.png

It's official -- the Chicago Cubs are headed to the White House Monday, marking an unusually quick visit for a World Series team as they join President Barack Obama in the final days of his presidency. 

The White House announced the news Thursday though the visit was widely reported just before Obama's farewell speech Tuesday. 

White House press secretary Josh Earnest also confirmed the visit Wednesday and said Obama “is really looking forward to it.”

The visit will take place at 12:05 p.m. CT.

"The visit will continue the tradition begun by President Obama for honoring sports teams for their efforts to give back to their communities," a statement from the White House said. 

The move is slightly unusual. The reigning World Series champions normally make the traditional White House visit during the following MLB season.

The Cubs, who ended a 108-year title drought in Game 7 against the Cleveland Indians, were hoping to get to Washington, D.C., before Obama left office. Though the president is a White Sox fan, he calls Chicago home and rooted for the North Siders since his team didn't make the playoffs.

NBC 5's Mary Ann Ahern first reported the visit on Tuesday.

The president invited the Cubs to the White House in a phone call to Joe Maddon following the team's victory, and with the club all assembled in Chicago for this weekend's Cubs Convention, arranging travel to Washington D.C. was a solution that worked out well for the team to see the president.

While the Cubs visit to the White House comes five days before president-elect Donald Trump's inauguration, the team will still have a connection to the new administration. Trump has nominated Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts as deputy commerce secretary. Ricketts will join his sister, co-owner Laura Ricketts, brother, co-owner Tom Ricketts, and the team at the presidential reception.

The Cubs will be the second Chicago team to visit the Obama's White House. The president also hosted the Chicago Blackhawks after their three Stanley Cup championships since 2010. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chargers Move to LA]]> Thu, 12 Jan 2017 19:40:08 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Chargers-Fan-Sad-GettyImages-630777752.jpg

Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos announced the NFL team’s move to Los Angeles on Thursday, a change that had been discussed for months and dreaded by many in San Diego.

"After much deliberation, I have made the decision to relocate the Chargers to Los Angeles, beginning with the 2017 NFL season," the letter posted to Chargers.com reads.

The move comes after years of failed negotiations between the city of San Diego and the owners of the NFL franchise.

The letter was posted on Twitter by the Chargers main account, which has since been renamed "Los Angeles Chargers."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement more than an hour later describing how the team worked tirelessly to find a way to stay in San Diego.

"As difficult as the news is for Charger fans, I know Dean Spanos and his family did everything they could to try to find a viable solution in San Diego," Goodell said.

The Chargers have been in San Diego for 56 years, since moving from Los Angeles in 1961, and fans began expressing their anger over losing their team.

Here is the entire memo:

After much deliberation, I have made the decision to relocate the Chargers to Los Angeles, beginning with the 2017 NFL season.

San Diego has been our home for 56 years. It will always be part of our identity, and my family and I have nothing but gratitude and appreciation for the support and passion our fans have shared with us over the years.

But today, we turn the page and begin an exciting new era as the Los Angeles Chargers.

LA is a remarkable place, and while we played our first season there in 1960 and have had fans there ever since, our entire organization knows that we have a tremendous amount of work to do. We must earn the respect and support of LA football fans. We must get back to winning. And, we must make a meaningful contribution, not just on the field, but off the field as a leader and champion for the community.

The Chargers are determined to fight for LA and we are excited to get started.

NBC Sports reported Spanos informed Goodell and several owners of his decision after a meeting of the league's stadium and finance committees had ended Wednesday.

Bitter and disappointed fans gathered outside the team's headquarters in Murphy Canyon. One egged the front door late Wednesday as reports of the move surfaced. By Thursday, several fans left their team jerseys on the ground in front of the building. One man said, "I'm done" as he walked away.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and other local officials expressed frustration over the Chargers' decision.

"The Chargers were ultimately never willing to work with us," Faulconer said adding that the team wanted more taxpayer money than officials could spend.

He was informed of the team's decision Wednesday night by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The mayor did not receive a call from Spanos until after the announcement was made public.

County Supervisor Ron Roberts, who was moved to tears at one point, admitted there may have been some missteps by officials in the past but that they always tried in good faith to keep the team in town.

Also, the City of San Diego would be owed a $12 million termination fee.

The Chargers can provide termination notice anytime between February 1 and May 1 of each year and provide the following termination amount each year:

2017: $12,575,000

2018: $9,760,000

2019: $6,740,000

2020: $3,390,000

That doesn't pay off the remaining bond debt that financed the expansion, according to the NBC 7 Investigates team.

The Chargers' possible relocation has been a hot-button issue for years.

At the center of the problem is the Chargers dilapidated home stadium. Since 1967, the Chargers have played at Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley. Multiple efforts between the Chargers, NFL, city and county officials have failed to provide a stadium solution, either a new stadium or a remodeled Qualcomm Stadium.

Chargers fans expressed their anger even before the move was official. Police had to surround the administrative offices at Chargers Park Wednesday night after one heated fan egged the front of the building.

Dan Wellington filmed himself on social media hurling about a half-dozen eggs at the team’s headquarters.

“Why go? This is such a bad deal," he said. "You're going to have to spend so much to move and you’re not willing to put it here. As a lifelong Chargers fan it’s a total kick in the stomach.”

Another fan also showed up at Chargers Park Wednesday night, saying he was fed up and frustrated.

“I hate you guys, I can't wait to burn everything I own of you guys from shoes, to canopies, to jerseys, to sweaters, to junior Chargers Girl uniforms," Frank Sesma said. "I don’t make that much money and I've dedicated a lot of money and soul to these guys.”

Spanos made no secret he preferred a downtown stadium site and asked San Diegans to keep an open mind regarding a proposed ballot measure.

In November, San Diego voters rejected the latest stadium proposal, a ballot measure that would have raised hotel occupancy taxes to help pay for a proposed $1.8 billion downtown stadium project. Measure C needed a two-thirds vote to pass but it received only 43 percent approval.

The Chargers will play at the StubHub Center in Carson and later join the Rams at their stadium in Los Angeles, which is set to open in 2019. 

Rams Owner and Chairman E. Stanley Kroenke also released a statement regarding to move: 

"We welcome the Chargers and look forward to working with them to provide NFL fans in the region and throughout the world with an unparalleled experience at the LA Stadium and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park. Our mission is to create a year-round global sports and entertainment destination and this is another important step in achieving that goal."

ESPN's Adam Schefter, who cited league sources, first tweeted about the move Wednesdayn night, just hours after NBC 7 SportsWrap reported that the NFL had extended the deadline for the team's decision from Jan. 15 to Jan. 17. 

The team joined the National Football League in 1970 as part of the NFL-AFL merger.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Video: Anthony Rizzo 'Shoots the Puck' at Blackhawks Game]]> Wed, 11 Jan 2017 15:38:42 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rizzo+shoot+the+puck.png

With the Cubs Convention set to take place over the weekend, Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is back in the Windy City and he made his way to the United Center for the Blackhawks’ win over the Red Wings on Tuesday.

Rizzo, who sported a Jonathan Toews jersey during the game, wasn’t just a casual spectator in the arena, as he was invited to participate in the “shoot the puck” competition after the second period.

Shooting right-handed, Rizzo made a valiant attempt at making the puck into the net, but unfortunately his skills on the baseball diamond did not convert over to the hockey rink: [[410436415, C]]

Given the fact that he helped lead the Cubs to their first World Series title in over a century and that he’s the face of baseball in the city, we’re going to cut him a bit of slack for his performance here. [[410437835, C]]

Photo Credit: twitter.com/NHLBlackhawks
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<![CDATA[Cubs to Visit White House, Obama Monday]]> Wed, 11 Jan 2017 19:13:50 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-621152150.png

President Barack Obama will welcome the World Series champion Chicago Cubs at the White House on Monday, just five days before he leaves office.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest confirmed the visit Wednesday and said Obama “is really looking forward to it.”

The move is slightly unusual. The reigning World Series champions normally make the traditional White House visit during the following MLB season.

The Cubs, who ended a 108-year title drought in Game 7 against the Cleveland Indians, were hoping to get to Washington, D.C., before Obama left office. Though the president is a White Sox fan, he calls Chicago home and rooted for the North Siders since his team didn't make the playoffs.

NBC 5's Mary Ann Ahern first reported the visit on Tuesday.

The president invited the Cubs to the White House in a phone call to Joe Maddon following the team's victory, and with the club all assembled in Chicago for this weekend's Cubs Convention, arranging travel to Washington D.C. was a solution that worked out well for the team to see the president.

While the Cubs visit to the White House comes five days before president-elect Donald Trump's inauguration, the team will still have a connection to the new administration. Trump has nominated Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts as deputy commerce secretary. Ricketts will join his sister, co-owner Laura Ricketts, brother, co-owner Tom Ricketts, and the team at the presidential reception.

The Cubs will be the second Chicago team to visit the Obama's White House. The president also hosted the Chicago Blackhawks after their three Stanley Cup championships since 2010. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Biles, Raisman Ditch Leotards for Bikinis in New SI Issue]]> Mon, 16 Jan 2017 14:17:27 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/allysimone.jpg

Get ready to see Simone Biles and Aly Raisman like you've never seen them before.

The two gold medal-winning Olympians are ditching their leotards for slightly more revealing attire. Both women will appear in the next Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

"I am thrilled to include the gold medal-winning, U.S. women's gymnasts Aly Raisman and Simone Biles in this year's Swimsuit issue," said MJ Day, SI Swimsuit editor.

"Aly and Simone represent all that is beautiful and strong and inspiring in women today. Women that are not only elite athletes, that are captivating and impressive in their own professional accomplishments (lots and lots of Olympic gold medals between them), but strikingly sexy and beautiful in front of photographer James Macari's lens. I love seeing them shine in an entirely different way in the Swimsuit issue and being able to share these gorgeous and powerful images with the world."

The swimsuit edition hits newsstands in February.

Photo Credit: Patrick McMullan via Getty Image
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<![CDATA[Steelers Bring High-Powered Offense to Kansas City]]> Fri, 13 Jan 2017 14:30:58 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/SteelersChiefs.jpg

A recovered Ben Roethlisberger brings a Steelers offense doing almost everything right into Kansas City on Sunday for a shot at the AFC championship game.

The Steelers quarterback aggravated an old foot injury last week when an opponent landed on it late in a blowout win over Miami in the Wild Card round, but he expects to be fine against the Chiefs.

The winner of what could well be an entertaining and closely matched divisional round playoff game will probably get to travel to New England to face the Patriots, who face an overmatched Houston Texans team this week.

The Chiefs-Steelers game will be broadcast Sunday on NBC at 8:20 p.m. ET.

Kansas City is trying to atone for a quiet exit from the playoffs last year, and will be looking to get Travis Kelce involved in the game plan. The tight end had a career season and presents matchup difficulties for any defense — especially when that defense also has to account for receiver Tyreek Hill, who caught nine TD passes this season.

Meanwhile, Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston will also be looking to make up for last year against New England, when he was mostly ineffective due to injury. He missed the first 10 weeks of the season this year, but tallied four sacks in five games.

The Steelers’ offense has been unstoppable lately. In winning eight straight games, it has averaged almost 27 points. Running back Le’Veon Bell scored twice last week against the Dolphins and so did receiver Antonio Brown.

On defense, Pittsburgh’s linebackers turned in an impressive performance against Miami, led by 38-year-old stalwart James Harrison, who has 1.5 sacks and set the tone for his younger teammates.

Players to Watch

-- Pittsburgh LB Ryan Shazier spent last week eluding Miami’s blockers and causing havoc against the Dolphins, and could easily be just as disruptive against the Chiefs.

-- Pittsburgh LB Lawrence Timmons had eight solo tackles, including two sacks, against the Dolphins.

-- Kansas City QB Alex Smith is coming off a strong season finale and he and his line will have had a week to rest and recover before taking on the Steelers’ defense.

-- Kansas City LT Eric Fisher will be key to helping the Chiefs protect Smith and give him time to find Kelce, Hill and others. 

<![CDATA[4 Blackhawks Named to NHL All-Star Game]]> Tue, 10 Jan 2017 12:20:33 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/blackhawks+kane+toews+GettyImages-493068540.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks will be well-represented at the NHL All-Star Game later this month, as four players, including Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, were named to the Central Division team.

Toews and Kane will be joined by two more of their Blackhawks teammates as well, as defenseman Duncan Keith and goaltender Corey Crawford will also be making the trip out to Los Angeles for the contest.

The Blackhawks' four All-Stars are the most of any team in the NHL, with the San Jose Sharks having the second-most with three.

The Minnesota Wild will have two All-Stars this season, as defenseman Ryan Suter and goaltender Devan Dubnyk both made the squad. Patrik Laine, Nathan MacKinnon, Tyler Seguin, and Vladimir Tarasenko round out the forwards for the Central Division, and P.K. Subban is the other defenseman.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Carli Lloyd Wins FIFA Best Player Award]]> Mon, 09 Jan 2017 14:03:35 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-631342200.jpg

Carli Lloyd of the United States has won her second straight FIFA's best woman player award.

Lloyd beat Olympic gold medalist Melanie Behringer of Germany and five-time winner Marta of Brazil.

Lloyd says "I honestly was not expecting this."

Germany did win the women's coaching awards as Silvia Neid earned her second FIFA prize. She also won the 2010 award.

Neid beat two previous winners: Pia Sundhage of Sweden, the Olympic silver medalist, and last year's winner, Jill Ellis of the United States.

Photo Credit: FIFA via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cristiano Ronaldo Wins FIFA Best Player Award ]]> Mon, 09 Jan 2017 13:53:11 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-631342524.jpg

Cristiano Ronaldo received FIFA's best player award for the fourth time on Monday, after Portugal and Real Madrid won both major European titles in 2016.

He beat runner-up and great rival Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann to complete a sweep of top individual awards.

"2016 was the best year of my career," Ronaldo said in Portuguese in his acceptance speech, which he began by exclaiming "Wow, wow, wow."

Ronaldo got 34.54 percent of total voting points in a 23-candidate ballot. Messi received 26.42 percent, and third-place Griezmann got 7.53 percent. Voting was by national team captains and coaches, selected media, and fans online.

Ronaldo's fourth FIFA award closed the gap on five-time winner Messi, the runner-up to each Ronaldo victory, who did not attend the ceremony.

Ronaldo's 2016 trophy haul included the European Championship, Champions League, and Club World Cup, plus individual best player awards from UEFA and France Football magazine.

Messi's Barcelona won the Spanish league and cup double, though he captained Argentina to lose the Copa America final.

Griezmann's France and Atletico Madrid lost both finals to Ronaldo's teams.

Ronaldo's coaches for club and country were beaten by Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri, who earned the men's coaching prize for a stunning English Premier League title.

"What happened last year was something strange. The God of football said Leicester must win," said Ranieri, who was in his first season at the unfashionable provincial club widely tipped for relegation.

Ranieri collected his trophy from Diego Maradona, who earlier Monday played in an exhibition match with other retired greats at FIFA headquarters.

Like Ronaldo, Carli Lloyd of the United States won a FIFA player prize for the second year in a row.

Lloyd won despite Germany midfielder Melanie Behringer playing on the Olympic gold medal-winning team. Five-time winner Marta was runner-up and Behringer was third.

"I honestly was not expecting this," Lloyd said. "I know Melanie did fantastic in the 2016 Olympics."

Germany did win the women's coaching prize as Silvia Neid earned her second FIFA prize, after also winning the 2010 award. Neid beat two previous winners: Pia Sundhage of Sweden, the Olympic silver medalist, and last year's winner, Jill Ellis of the United States.

The Puskas Award for best goal was won by Mohd Faiz Subri, who scored with a wildly swerving long-range free kick for Malaysian club Penang.

A players' vote organized by international union FIFPro gave a World XI of: Manuel Neuer (Germany, Bayern Munich); Dani Alves (Brazil, Barcelona/Juventus), Sergio Ramos (Spain, Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Spain, Barcelona), Marcelo (Brazil, Real Madrid); Toni Kroos (Germany, Real Madrid), Andres Iniesta (Spain, Barcelona), Luka Modric (Croatia, Real Madrid); Messi, Luis Suarez (Uruguay, Barcelona), Ronaldo.

The First FIFA fan award was chosen by fans and was made to supporters of Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund, who joined in singing the English club's anthem "You'll Never Walk Alone" before a Europa League quarterfinal. The other nominees were Iceland fans at Euro 2016, and Dutch club ADO Den Haag, whose fans brought soft toys to children supporting rival team Feyenoord.

FIFA made its Fair Play Award to Atletico Nacional, the Colombian club which was scheduled to host Chapecoense in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final on Nov. 30.

After most of the Brazilian team died in a plane crash flying to the match, Atletico Nacional asked the South American soccer confederation to present the title and trophy to Chapecoense.

Photo Credit: Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Charles Tillman Pens Heartfelt Letter on Chicago's Violence]]> Mon, 09 Jan 2017 13:12:27 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-138145189.png

Former Bears cornerback Charles Tillman may not patrol the field in Chicago anymore, but the explosion of gun violence in the city has certainly caught his attention.

In an open letter posted to Twitter over the weekend, Tillman discussed his emotions following the funeral of NFL coach Bruce DeHaven, and what it means to him to help try to curb the violence in Chicago:

“Dear Chicago,

Yesterday I was in Orchard Park, New York celebrating the life of NFL special teams pioneer, Bruce DeHaven. As I sat there in the church pew, I marveled as I listened to all these amazing people talk about the life and legacy of a great man. There’s only one thing in life that is certain and it’s death; and how you live your life will determine your legacy.

When it’s all said and done, what do you want your legacy to be? What’s that dash going to represent on your tombstone? In our current state, the legacy of Chicago isn’t looking too good. Our city is great and I’m proud to call it home, but I’m saddened and hurt that we are only nine days into the New Year and we already have well over 50 shootings.

You have no idea how your influence affects others around you. People are always watching, especially our youth. So I challenge each of us to have a more peaceful and unified 2017. It starts at home by loving each other a little more and teaching respect for one another despite our differences. Let’s get Chicago’s legacy back to what it use to be.”

This isn’t Tillman’s first comment on the gun violence issue, as he also had a lengthy discussion with Chicago Bulls star Dwyane Wade about the epidemic late last year.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>