<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Sports]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.com en-us Fri, 31 Oct 2014 13:06:35 -0500 Fri, 31 Oct 2014 13:06:35 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[New Zealand Rugby Team Hits Chicago]]> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 12:19:02 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000009486142_1200x675_350512195709.jpg 10/30/14: Maybe the scariest thing in Chicago this Halloween is from New Zealand. The All-Blacks rugby team, which performs a terrifying Haka dance (seen here) before their games. Cam Wallace, the chief sales officer for New Zealand Air -- the team's partner -- explains the significance of the dance.]]> <![CDATA[Morin, Shaw Among Blackhawks Celebrating Movember]]> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 12:10:13 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/177*120/456992758.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks know a thing or two about growing facial hair each spring, but several players will be taking their follicular talents to November as they help raise money and awareness for prostate and testicular cancer.

That’s because seven players will be participating in Movember, a month-long event to raise money and awareness for men’s health issues. Forwards Daniel Carcillo, Jeremy Morin, Andrew Shaw, Ben Smith and Kris Versteeg will join defenseman David Rundblad and goaltender Corey Crawford in growing mustaches for the annual event, and the team is asking fans to join in on the fun.

Fans can visit the team’s “Movember” page to pledge their support, promise to grow a mustache, or most importantly of all, to donate money to the cause. Donations will help in the fight against prostate and testicular cancer, as well as to raise awareness for mental health issues in the community.

The group of players represents an entirely new crop from last year, as guys like Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad participated in the 2013 edition. Odds are strong that with players like Crawford and Carcillo in the mix that this year’s team should put up a more impressive effort.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Michael Jordan Takes Shot at Obama's Golf Game]]> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 02:49:38 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/obama+golf+swing-640.jpg

Michael Jordan took a shot at President Barack Obama’s golf game in a recent interview.

When Back 9 Network’s Ahmad Rashad asked Jordan who he would want to play golf with, Jordan said he would like to play with Obama. He then changed his mind. "He’s a hack," he said. "It would be all day playing with him."

"I never said he wasn't a great politician. I'm just saying he's a s----- golfer," Jordan said in the interview.

The president has been known to take time out of his schedule for the occasional golf game. He’s even played a round of golf with Tiger Woods before.

According to Golf Digest, Jordan is a 3-handicap. Obama, on the other hand, has never revealed his handicap.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Giants World Series Victory Parade]]> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 13:02:33 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/giants-front-.jpg

Thousands of San Francisco Giants fans lined up in the wee hours of Friday morning, hours before the 2014 World Series victory parade was set to begin.

Despite some rain, hardcore fans packed Market Street before dawn, all vying for the best spot to catch a glimpse of MadBum, Panda and Pence as they float by when the parade formally begins at noon.

Hearty San Franciscans, and even guests from beyond, didn't seem to mind hoisting up their umbrellas and hunkering down in rain coats to watch their beloved baseball team bask in the glory of their third World Series win in the last five seasons.

Many fans had the same attitude as Louis Magana, one of the chauffuers driving the Giants in the parade: “It doesn’t matter. We’re driving the Giants. The Giants won. It doesn’t matter if it’s snowing, thunder. It doesn’t matter at all.”

City officials expected one million people to come out for the event.

BART and Muni added extra service for hundreds of thousands of extra riders heading into the city. Friday morning, BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said there were 10,000 extra morning riders. Police are also adding extra patrols.

Giants Parade Tips: Getting There By Car, BART or MUNI

The parade will start at Steuart and Market streets, travel along Market Street before making a right turn onto McAllister Street. It will end with a celebration at the Civic Center Plaza and City Hall.

Street closures:

  • McAllister Street (between Larkin Street and Van Ness Avenue)
  • Grove Street (between Larkin Street and Van Ness Avenue)
  • Civic Center Plaza and streets around and adjacent to City Hall

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is encouraging people ride public transportation to and from the celebration.

Parking is expected to be limited and traffic congested. For a better celebration experience, BART, Caltrain, Golden Gate Transit, AC Transit, SamTrans and ferries will offer expanded services.


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<![CDATA[Blackhawks Beat Senators 5-4]]> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 21:54:21 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/185*120/458130852.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks coughed up a third period lead, but thanks to two points from Marian Hossa (including a third period goal that represented the 1000th point of his NHL career) and a shootout goal by Patrick Sharp they were still able to emerge with a 5-4 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night.

Jonathan Toews scored twice in the game for the Blackhawks, and Kris Versteeg scored his second goal of the season as they opened up their two-game road trip with a victory.

Despite some early pressure by the Blackhawks, it was Ottawa that got on the board first. Cody Ceci fired a transition pass up the ice to Mark Stone, and when Curtis Lazar put a shot toward the goal, Stone was able to redirect it in between Scott Darling’s leg pads, and the Senators seized a 1-0 lead less than three minutes into the contest.

The Blackhawks responded well to the goal as they continued to press the tempo, and they got a power play as a result. Andrew Shaw made a silly mistake and was sent to the box to end that man-advantage situation, but Chicago still got a couple more chances on goal in the ensuing 4-on-4 action. Duncan Keith’s centering pass to Ben Smith was tipped up as it crossed the ice, and Craig Anderson made a nice glove save to keep his team in front.

After another unsuccessful power play in the middle stages of the period, the Blackhawks continued to get chances, and they eventually scored to tie things up. With Toews crashing the net, Hossa ripped a shot in toward Anderson. The puck found its way through a sea of skates onto Toews’ stick, and he forced it across the goal line to make it a 1-1 game with about eight minutes remaining in the period.

Four minutes later, the Blackhawks took the lead on a spectacular goal by Versteeg. Erik Karlsson made a nice play to deny Versteeg on his initial rush, but the forward didn’t give up. Making a nifty move to get around Karlsson, Versteeg got in alone on Anderson and made a nice deke before popping the puck into the open net to make it a 2-1 lead for the Hawks.

As the second period got underway, the Hawks kept giving the Senators chances, and the home side happily obliged by scoring to tie things up on an early power play. After receiving a pass from David Legwand, Clarke MacArthur made a smart decision to drive through an open seam to the net, and he was able to force a shot past Darling to tie things up at 2-2 just under three minutes into the frame.

With the period wearing on, both sides continued to trade quality scoring chances. Jeremy Morin and Bryan Bickell looked to have a sure goal a few minutes after the MacArthur tally, but Anderson was able to make an excellent save. MacArthur then fed a pass in front of the net to Bobby Ryan, but the winger’s deflection sailed just wide. Versteeg then pushed a pass across to a streaking Morin at the other end, but Anderson once again kicked out his leg pad to make an excellent stop.

Late in the period the Blackhawks got another power play, but they were once again unable to capitalize. Keith fired a high shot off Anderson’s blocker early in the sequence, and Seabrook whistled in a tough shot as well, but the Hawks were kept off the board as the game remained tied through two periods.

Early in the third period, some sloppy puck-handling by the Blackhawks cost them a goal. Bryan Bickell was the guiltiest of the parties involved, blindly passing the puck into the middle of the ice. It ended up directly on Ryan’s stick blade, and the sniper lived up to his reputation by ripping a shot past Darling to give Ottawa a 3-2 advantage.

After killing off two straight penalties, the Blackhawks finally were able to right the ship and tie the game with 12:30 remaining in the contest. Seabrook got things started when he hit a low slap shot toward the net, and it bounced off of Toews’ skate. While it was unclear whether Toews hit the puck with a kicking motion, that argument was rendered moot as the captain was able to tap a shot in with his stick to tie things up at 3-3.

Morin went to the box just a few seconds after the goal, but the Hawks were able to kill off the penalty. Seizing on that successful kill, the Hawks generated more momentum and eventually scored with six minutes to go. When Versteeg won a puck battle in behind the Ottawa net, he was able to muscle a pass to Hossa on the other side of the cage. Hossa quickly jumped out and snuck in a wraparound shot past Anderson’s left skate, and in the blink of an eye the Hawks led by a goal.

Unfortunately for Hossa, his 1000th career point didn’t end up as the difference in the contest. With the Blackhawks scrambling to re-establish their defensive zone coverage, Mika Zibnaejad picked up the puck in the middle of the ice and rifled a shot past Darling to tie the game at 4-4 with two minutes remaining.

Neither team was able to score in the final minutes of regulation, and the Hawks opened up the overtime period strong. Patrick Kane had a couple of good opportunities, but neither of them went in. They did get a power play late in overtime, but nothing evaded Anderson as the Senators forced a shootout.

The first five shooters in the skills competition came and went without anyone scoring a goal, but Patrick Sharp finally ended it on the Hawks’ third attempt. His deke sent Anderson sprawling to the ice, and Sharp simply lifted a shot up over Anderson and under the crossbar to give the Hawks the victory.

Chicago will look to finish off a perfect road trip through eastern Canada when they tangle with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night at 6pm.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[A Homecoming Fit for a King]]> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 12:52:02 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/457402746.jpg

Out in Cleveland they’re talking 70 wins and a championship for the Cavaliers.

Quick reminder I: Only one NBA team has ever won 70 games in a season, and the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls had a guy named Michael Jordan leading the way to a record 72 wins.

Quick reminder II: The Cavs are 0-for-44 in their all-time quest for an NBA championship.

But it’s easy to see why expectations are through the Quickens Loan Arena roof, just off the shores of Lake Erie: On Thursday night, LeBron James will put on a Cleveland uniform in a regular-season game for the first time since 2009-10. 

“This is my first home game,’’ he says in a new Sprite commercial, trumpeting his return to his hometown team.

The ad shows him getting a hero’s welcome as he walks into Akron’s Patterson Park, where he played as a youth. It’s as if he never left Cleveland back in July, 2010, to take “my talents to South Beach.’’ That night he became Public Enemy No. 1, with his once-adoring fans burning his wine-and gold No. 23 jersey and the Cavs’ owner, Dan Gilbert, emasculating the franchise’s all-time greatest player in a venomous email seen ‘round the world.

Now he’s back and the NBA has never seen a homecoming like this one.

The Cavs open the season Thursday at the New York Knicks at 8 p.m. He returns with a new baby in tow, having welcomed daughter Zhuri Nova with his wife last week. James also has two sons.

“They all hated him for leaving, but now it’s a great story because he’s the hero again,’’ NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal said on Monday. “Villain one day, hero the next. Now all is forgiven. That just shows you how fickle fans can be.’’

O’Neal, who played two seasons in Cleveland with James, had an idea that James would be headed back home. It’s not just that LeBron always had it in the back of his mind to return to where he first became a legend, playing for St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. Shaq also saw some basketball logic in James’ decision to leave Miami Heat as a free agent, even after leading the Heat to two titles, in 2012 and 2013, and helping the Heat become only the third franchise in league history to go to four straight Finals.

“When a guy goes to four straight Finals, like LeBron did, you figure everything is good and he’ll be staying,’’ O’Neal said. “But what nobody is talking about is what happened to the Heat.’’

In last June’s Finals the Heat’s vaunted “Big Three’’ was reduced to James trying to go one-on-five and getting obliterated in five games by the San Antonio Spurs. With one-time Finals MVP Dwyane Wade looking calcified, and their top big man Chris Bosh largely ineffective, James found himself trying to outduel the Spurs by himself.

Turns out, he had every reason to head back to Northeast Ohio. But first, he had to hear a very big “I’m sorry’’ from Gilbert, the long-time meddling owner. The two met in secret in Florida before he decided to make the move. Gilbert apologized and James proved to be one forgiving soul.

“You hash it out and move on,’’ the four-time MVP said.

James signed a two-year deal for $42.1 million, with an option to rework his contract next summer. What he went back to was a far cry from what the Cavs have now, as they prepare to take the court for their season-opener against the New York Knicks.

“I didn't envision our team being like this right off the bat," James said during pre-season. “I felt like me coming, we could hopefully add some pieces. Obviously it happened quicker than I thought."

The Cavs have the makings of a championship contender. Kyrie Irving, who was once intent on returning home to the New York area to play for his beloved Knicks, opted to stay when the Cavs gave him the $90 million maximum salary, just before James announced his return. Then the Cavs used their third No. 1 overall pick in the draft in the last four years, Kansas prodigy Andrew Wiggins, and traded him to Minnesota for the Timberwolves' disgruntled All-Star power forward, Kevin Love.

Irving and Love have zero playoff appearances between them and have never had to perform under such lofty expectations, which is probably the reason James refuses to call his new set-up “the Big Three.’’ But they’re bound to benefit from playing with James, who will be seeking his sixth trip to the Finals since 2007 and his third ring. With the King back on his throne, the Cavs had an easy time adding the necessary fill-in pieces for a strong supporting cast. Players with championship pedigree like Shawn Marion, Mike Miller and James Jones ran to play with James. They might be shaky defensively, lacking a big man to protect the rim, but the Cavs should be an offensive juggernaut.

“I don’t see anybody in the East giving them problems,’’ O’Neal said. “Chicago needs to find another scorer to help Derrick Rose. He can’t do it by himself and he’s undersized. The only concern I have about Cleveland is their coach.’’

A veteran of coaching in Russia and Israel, David Blatt, a former Princeton player under legendary coach Pete Carril, has never coached a second in the NBA, not even as an assistant. But he now has the best player on the planet, who still doesn’t turn 30 until December, meaning this is a learning curve that should be relatively easy to negotiate.

Of course, there hasn’t been a champion in Cleveland since the Browns in 1964.

“For LeBron, winning one championship in Cleveland will be the equivalent of winning five titles in Miami,’’ said O’Neal’s TNT teammate, Charles Barkley. “Even if he doesn’t win it this season, you just have to love the fact that LeBron went back home. That’s what I was rooting for and what a lot of people were rooting for.’’

Nowhere more than out in LeBron’s old stomping grounds. He might not win 70 games this season, but no one will be surprised if sometime in June he’s out in front, leading a championship parade.

Longtime New York columnist Mitch Lawrence continues to write about pro basketball, as he’s done for the last 21 years. His columns for NBCNewYork.com on the Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and the NBA, along with other major sports, will appear twice weekly. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch _ Lawrence.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Toews Lists Lakeshore East Condo]]> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 12:38:27 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000009468931_1200x675_349955651625.jpg Captain lists 39th floor condo for $2.25 million as reports fly he's looking for a larger home.]]> <![CDATA[Players and Fans Celebrate Giants' World Series Win]]> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 00:42:05 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP283856501206.jpg Giants fans and players celebrated their team's eighth World Series win, only two years after they last claimed the title.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Maddon Close to Being Named Cubs Manager: Reports]]> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 15:03:41 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/177*120/454725128.jpg

Ever since Joe Maddon resigned as manager of the Tampa Bay Rays last week, the Chicago Cubs have been reportedly courting him to take over the reins of a team that has aspirations of competing for a division title in 2015.

Now, according to numerous reports, the team is close to bringing him aboard as manager to replace Rick Renteria. Early reports on Wednesday afternoon suggested that a deal was reached, but numerous reporters pumped the brakes on that story, while still giving hope to Cubs fans: 

Maddon, who led the Rays to four playoff appearances and to the 2008 World Series, resigned as manager of the team after GM Andrew Friedman left to become the President of Baseball Operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Maddon was considered by many to be a shoe-in to follow him to the West Coast, but when news broke last week that he had opted out of his contract with the Rays, the Dodgers decided to stick with Don Mattingly in the dugout. 

The New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies were also rumored to be interested in Maddon, but they quashed the rumor in short order. The Cubs however have not released a statement about the manager, suggesting that they are indeed in hot pursuit of his services. 

Maddon has a long track record of working with young players during his tenure in Tampa Bay, and his methods, while unconventional, clearly have caught the attention of Cubs brass. The manager was the runner-up to Terry Francona when Epstein interviewed candidates with the Boston Red Sox in 2003, and he has also been complimentary of the team and the organization as a whole. 

When asked about the Cubs' young talent before their series against the Rays earlier this year, Maddon weighed in on what he thought the team should do with Javier Baez, who had a bit of a rough season as he tried to get acclimated with the major league game. 

""I wouldn't tell him anything. You can only make them think, which is the worst thing you can possibly do today. If he can turn his mind off and just go play, that'd be the best thing. I'd just tell him to go up there and be himself and play to his strengths. Don't worry about all the data, video and that kind of stuff. It's not gonna help him."" 

Maddon's reputation as a guru for young players also translates to those players from Latin America. That is one of Renteria's big calling cards, but the bilingual Maddon has established a great rapport with players from Latin America, and he doesn't just concern himself with the community on the playing field. His work in his hometown of Hazleton, Pennsylvania to help establish dialogue iin a racially-divided town was profiled in the Tampa Bay Times in 2011

"With help from locals like his sister, his cousin, his cousin's husband and others, he has been planning the Hazleton Integration Project...Maddon was a popular kid around here and has gone on to do good things. People listen when he speaks. 

""We need," he told 560 focused faces, almost all of them white, "to absorb our Hispanic brothers and sisters."" 

With his in-dugout demeanor and his charitable and social work off the field, Maddon has become a fan favorite not just in the Tampa-area, but throughout Major League Baseball. Landing the 61-year old would be a massive coup for the organization, and their aggressive pursuit illustrates how serious they are about landing his services. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Gibson, Ducks Shut Out Blackhawks 1-0]]> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 23:10:42 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/171*120/458011722.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks engaged in a battle of goaltending and defense on Tuesday night, but one mistake was all it took to cost the home side as Devante Smith-Pelly’s short-handed goal in the third period gave Anaheim a 1-0 victory.

The Blackhawks outshot the Ducks by a 38-25 margin, but it wasn’t enough as they lost in regulation for the third time in four games. Scott Darling made 24 saves in his second career start, but he was overshadowed by an impressive shutout effort by Anaheim goaltender John Gibson.

Both teams were slow to get going in the first minutes of the game, and not even coincidental minors to Hampus Lindholm and Andrew Shaw could open things up. Neither team got a shot on goal in the four-on-four situation, and the game remained scoreless as the period hit the midway point.

With about five minutes remaining in the period, the Ducks got their first power play of the night when Corey Perry and Bryan Bickell got tied up. The Ducks picked up three good scoring chances on the man-advantage, with Sami Vatanen firing two shots in on Darling, but the Hawks were able to turn away the chances and keep the game scoreless as the period came to an end.

When the second period got underway, the Blackhawks’ play on both sides of the ice really picked up. Jeremy Morin made his impact felt in the early going, backchecking a puck away from the Ducks in the neutral zone and creating a chance in the offensive end. Brandon Saad also got two great chances when he skated in on a breakaway, but Gibson was able to stop both shots and keep the game tied up.

Even a power play wasn’t enough to get the Blackhawks’ offensive struggles to end, but when the Ducks returned to even strength, the Hawks continued to fire away. Andrew Shaw had a great chance in close that was stopped by Gibson, and Patrick Kane got a rebound chance that barely missed the net. Later in the period, Patrick Sharp chipped in a shot on net that Gibson blocked away, and Trevor van Riemsdyk’s follow-up sailed just wide.

In the third period, Gibson opened things up by absolutely robbing Jonathan Toews on a one-timer. Bryan Bickell put the pass in a perfect spot, but Gibson was able to make the big save when he needed to.

The two teams continued to trade occasional chances until about the halfway point of the period when the Hawks went on the power play. The Hawks got a few good chances on the man-advantage, but everything came crumbling down when Brent Seabrook fell down at the blue line. Smith-Pelley took advantage of the miscue by scoring on the ensuing breakaway, beating Darling and giving the Ducks a 1-0 lead.

With two and a half minutes left in the game, the Blackhawks got one final power play chance, and Darling was pulled for an extra attacker. Despite the man-advantage, the Hawks were able to muster just two shots on goal, and Gibson fought them both off to preserve the shutout victory.
The Blackhawks will look to take their minds off the loss when they head north to take on the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Canseco Accidentally Shoots Own Finger Cleaning Gun]]> Wed, 29 Oct 2014 16:13:55 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/jose-canseco-getty.jpg

Former baseball star Jose Canseco accidentally shot himself in the finger while cleaning what authorities say is a large-caliber handgun in his Las Vegas home Monday afternoon, police told NBC News.

Canseco shot a finger on his left hand, apparently unaware that a bullet was in the chamber, Las Vegas Metro Lt. Mark Reddon said.

"It was a serious hand injury," but not a serious medical injury, Reddon told NBC News. "There was nothing suspicious. There was no alcohol involved, just a misstep with a handgun."

Canseco began his long major league career in the 1980s playing for the Oakland Athletics, before going on to play for the Rangers, Red Sox, Yankees, White Sox and other teams.

He has admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during his MLB career and after retiring also competed in mixed martial arts and boxing.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Michael Jordan Tweets "I'm Back!"]]> Wed, 29 Oct 2014 10:50:14 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/tlmd_michael_jordan_apuesta.JPG

Michael Jordan is trying his hand at social media, and he went all out for his first tweet Tuesday.

In the tweet, which was posted to the Charlotte Hornets official Twitter account, Jordan revived his legendary “I’m back!” announcement, which signaled he was coming out of retirement roughly 19 years ago.

“I’M BACK!” the tweet read, followed by Jordan clarifying that he's "just kidding" then “laughing out loud.”

The tweet comes on the opening day of the NBA season.

As the owner of the Hornets, Jordan, 51, posted a series of tweets with the hashtag #MJTakeover as part of a social media promotion.

A day earlier, Jordan, who faced criticism when the Hornets played one of the worst seasons in NBA history, told ESPN that being an owner is very different than playing.

“You can’t impact the game. You cannot impact the game,” he said. “I played this game for a long time and I always took criticism in a way that’s going to make me better as a basketball player and I could affect the game per se. Here, I can’t do that other than talking to my other employees or coaches or players.”
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Raanta vs. Darling: Who Will Win Blackhawks' Back-Up Battle? ]]> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 15:23:14 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/452324639.jpg

On Tuesday night when the Chicago Blackhawks take on the Anaheim Ducks at the United Center, Lemont-native Scott Darling will make his second consecutive start in net in place of Corey Crawford.

Antti Raanta made two consecutive starts for the Hawks when Crawford was ruled out with an upper-body injury, but he allowed six goals and had trouble controlling rebounds in both games. Darling, on the other hand, allowed just one goal on 32 shots in Sunday’s 2-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators.

Joel Quenneville has always been a proponent of going with the hot hand, but there’s no chance that he’s looking to replace Crawford with either Raanta or Darling. According to Crawford, he is likely going to travel with the team to Canada for Thursday’s game against the Senators, and if he doesn’t play in that one then he could make his return on Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

With his return imminent, an interesting question is coming up: should the Blackhawks send down Raanta to the Rockford IceHogs instead of Darling? If the process involved Raanta clearing waivers, it’s highly unlikely that the Blackhawks would even attempt it, but the goaltender is actually exempt from that obstacle, and so the Hawks could send him down without fear of losing him to another team.

Another potential benefit of sending him down would be that he could get a lot more playing time than he’s going to get with the big club. Between now and the end of 2014, the Blackhawks have five sets of back-to-back games, which means that Crawford is going to be getting a lot of playing time. Having Raanta down in the AHL playing games with the Rockford IceHogs could benefit him as he continues adjusting to the North American game, and he could work on his technique and rebound control in the process.

Even with those potential benefits, the Blackhawks will likely stick with Raanta as Crawford’s back-up, and rightfully so. Having a player with two career starts serving as Crawford’s back-up is a recipe for disaster, and Darling would benefit more from playing in the AHL than Raanta likely would. He has bounced around quite a bit during his career, playing in a variety of leagues and organizations, and giving him some regular playing time in Rockford will allow the Hawks to better evaluate his talent.

Raanta will still need to work on his skillset, but doing so under the tutelage of Jimmy Waite at the NHL level could still be of benefit to him. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Redskins PR Pulls QB From Interview]]> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 18:29:30 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/165*120/457968826.jpg

Amid the euphoria of the Redskins' 20-17 overtime victory against the Cowboys on Monday, no one can blame quarterback Colt McCoy's exuberance following his exceptional performance

But when ESPN Deportes reporter John Sutcliffe attempted to interview McCoy, Washington senior vice president of communications Tony Wyllie forcibly pulled the quarterback away.

From Dan Steinberg

"No no no, we gotta go guys, we gotta go," Wyllie said, hands on his quarterback, attempting to physically move McCoy toward his destination. But there was resistance from Sutcliffe.

"No means NO!" Wyllie finally shouted, which became the seminal moment for people attempting to make late-night jokes on the internet.

The interview eventually took place.

Wyllie explained the now-infamous moment to ProFootballTalk Tuesday morning. According to Wyllie, McCoy was needed in the locker room for a postgame speech from coach Jay Gruden. Sutcliffe had not set up an on-field interview with McCoy, but still attempted to speak to him. 

Wyllie told News4 he had nothing more to add Tuesday afternoon. "We were just trying to get the player into the locker room so he could hear the post-game speech," he said.

"The guy refused to listen about getting the player in."


Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chicago Billboard Pokes Fun at Lamarr Houston]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 20:29:47 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/lamarr+houston+billboard.jpg

Things aren’t looking up for the Chicago Bears right now and while it’s no laughing matter for the team, a Chicago billboard is making light of their recent woes.

With Lamarr Houston out for the season after tearing his ACL while celebrating a sack Sunday and Matt Slauson out for the season with a pectoral tear, the Bears’ embarrassing defeat became much worse for fans Monday.

But the electronic billboard on the Command Transportation building near Niles Center Road, known for showcasing controversial and oftentimes hilarious sports-related signs, jumped at the opportunity to poke fun of Houston.

The sign, which shows Houston’s back on the field, uses his jersey to read, “Houston, we have a problem.”

The billboard made headlines earlier this year for showcasing a sign during the Winter Olympics that read “Loser Keeps Bieber,” referring to the epic USA versus Canada Winter Olympic hockey matchup.

After Canada won the Olympic gold medal game in Sochi, 1-0, the company immediately followed up with a new billboard that read, “Worst bet ever.”
 



Photo Credit: @CommandSign]]>
<![CDATA[LA Soccer Team Ceases Operations]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 21:03:51 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/lafile-chivas-usa-fans.jpg

Major League Soccer announced Monday that Chivas USA ceased operations and that a new franchise planned for Los Angeles would begin play in a new soccer-specific stadium in 2017.

The league’s Board of Governors unanimously decided to disband Chivas USA as part of a change in strategy for the Los Angeles market, MLS said in an announcement on its site.

“As part of our new strategy for Southern California -- a major hotbed of soccer participation and fan support -- we believe that engaging with a new ownership group which has the resources and local community ties, and a plan for a dedicated soccer-specific stadium, provides us with the best chance for success,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber in the statement.

The ownership group for the new team will be announced Thursday.

The league will play with 20 clubs in the 2015 season.

MLS said it will conduct a dispersal draft of the Chivas USA roster in the near future.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Slauson Out for Season with Pectoral Tear]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 13:32:20 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/167*120/451168849.jpg

A lot of attention is going to be paid to Lamarr Houston and his “blowout” sack celebration from Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots, but the Chicago Bears will be without another one of their big name players for the remainder of the year, as left guard Matt Slauson will miss the rest of the season with a torn pectoral muscle.

Slauson, who signed a lucrative contract extension in January, missed three games earlier in the season with a high ankle sprain he suffered against the Buffalo Bills. He returned for the Bears’ Week 5 loss to the Carolina Panthers, but this latest ailment will keep him out for at least three to four months.

What’s interesting about this injury is that the Bears aren’t just going to stick Michael Ola in at left guard to replace him. In fact, Marc Trestman said during his press conference on Monday that the team is considering putting Jordan Mills at left guard, which would mean that Ola would likely remain at the right tackle spot.

To be honest, that’s a fairly bold strategy, but one that might make plenty of sense. Mills’ mobility has been hampered by a foot injury that he’s been dealing with all season long, and putting him at guard would help take some of the strain off of him. It would also help him with his lackluster pass blocking as well, as he wouldn’t have to focus on going up against talented defensive ends.

Even with that being said, it’s still a tough blow to absorb for the Bears line to lose the guy who was arguably their best lineman last season. Slauson is a fierce competitor and does a nice job in both pass and run blocking, and Jermon Bushrod has really seemed to thrive when Slauson is lined up next to him. It’s going to be a tough adjustment, and one worth looking at moving forward.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Is It Time for Bears Fans to Panic? ]]> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 14:36:41 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/457897090.jpg

The Chicago Bears are heading into their bye week eager to take advantage of time to rest and recuperate, and they’ll need plenty of that after being dismantled in a 51-23 drubbing at the hands of the New England Patriots.
With a week off to clear their heads and a home-heavy schedule the rest of the way, the Bears might be feeling optimistic about their chances to improve on their 3-5 record on the season, but should they be?

To discuss the answer to that question, we’re busting out our handy dandy Panic Meter.

Offense: 6/10
The Bears’ Week 6 victory against the Atlanta Falcons was a work of art on both sides of the ball, but their offense was especially potent. They racked up 478 yards of total offense, and they dominated time of possession as they racked up 23 first downs and a 27-13 victory.
Over the past two weeks however, the team has taken a massive step back on all counts. Their run game, while effective at times, has largely been abandoned in the early stages of games, and the passing game hasn’t picked up the slack at all. Jay Cutler is making his usual blend of bad decisions and poorly-executed throws, and as a result they’ve looked completely inert against the
Dolphins and Patriots.
With such poor coaching and quarterback play, the panic reading on the offense could be higher, but we’re maintaining it at just a “6” for two reasons: Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte. Both players have shown a lot of resilience in the past two weeks, and while players like Brandon Marshall are grabbing headlines for the wrong reasons, those two are both still grinding it out and could help this offense spark back to life.
Defense: 9/10
It’s pretty easy for a defense to look bad when they’re trying to defend Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (for guidance, imagine a player like Steve Nash trying to defend Dwight Howard in the post in an NBA game), but the rest of the Bears’ defense was equally comical as Tom Brady sliced through them like a surgeon on Sunday afternoon.
Perhaps more worryingly for the Bears than just the fact that Brady was doing such a good job in the passing game was that the run defense was poor as well. Shane Vereen and Jonas Gray helped the Patriots to 122 rushing yards on the afternoon in Foxboro, and whether it was linebackers routinely filling into the wrong gaps or defensive linemen being pushed aside like they weren’t even there, there’s plenty to be concerned about for the Bears.
Adding to the worry are the injuries that keep piling up for the Bears. Darryl Sharpton suffered a hamstring injury in Sunday’s loss, adding to the ailments already being suffered by Lance Briggs and Jon Bostic. Kyle Fuller only played limited snaps before being replaced by Al Louis-Jean, and in the most comical injury of all, Lamarr Houston injured his knee while celebrating a fourth quarter sack.
All of these things put together should be a giant red flag to Bears fans, and unless they can hit a run of good health, they’re in big trouble.
Special Teams: 8/10
Chris Williams broke the 20-yard line on a couple of kick returns in the game, but other than that it was hardly a banner day at the office for the Bears’ special teams unit on Sunday. Pat O’Donnell almost had his first punt blocked thanks to some poor blocking on the right side of the line, and on his second punt he shanked it badly off the side of his foot. It was an unwelcome regression from him, and considering the issues that the rest of the team is having, he had better shake it off quickly.
Overall: 8/10
Fans don’t need to be reminded of this, but this team could easily be staring at a 3-6 record after they head up to Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers in Week 10. Having an extra week to prepare for Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson will be nice, and getting some guys back and healthy could help, but it would take a huge leap of faith to actually pick the Bears to win that contest.
The Bears do have some winnable home games coming up in the second half of the season (Tampa Bay, Minnesota), but they also have to deal with the Detroit Lions twice and have to play the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints. Those are some really tough games, and based on what we’ve seen from the team lately, a 6-10 or 7-9 record at the end of the season isn’t out of the question.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Houston Tears ACL Celebrating Sack in Bears' Loss]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 12:52:16 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/176*120/453358864.jpg

The Chicago Bears will be going into their bye week looking to erase the sting of their loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday, but all Lamarr Houston will have to look forward to is a winter spent lamenting his actions in the game:

Houston, who signed a free agent deal with the Bears in the offseason, was hoping to be an effective run stopper with the Bears, and alongside Jared Allen he was hopeful that his pass rushing ability would come to the forefront as well. Instead, Houston will be known now as the guy who hurt himself celebrating a sack while his team was down by 25 points.

Houston joins a select group of NFL players who have injured themselves while celebrating. Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch is out for the year after tearing his ACL while celebrating a sack in a game earlier this season. Arizona Cardinals kicker Bill Gramatica also tore his ACL during a celebration after making a field goal in a game in 2001.

While some fans are going to point to the fact that “karma” or some other outside force got even with Houston for celebrating in such a silly way at such an inappropriate time, there really is only one prism in which to look at this through: Houston’s injury hurts the Bears’ defense as a whole. Obviously he didn’t mean to tear his ACL when he went to celebrate that sack, but his showboating antics not only ended up ripping up his own knee, but they hurt the Bears’ defensive line depth at a time that they really could use all the help they could get in that area. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Seabrook Slap Shot Caps Blackhawks Win]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 11:52:39 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/166647640.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks ran into yet another hot goaltender on Sunday night when they battled against Ottawa Senators netminder Craig Anderson, but thanks to goals from Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook, they were able to secure a 2-1 victory to snap a two-game skid.

We’ll have more reaction to the Hawks’ victory in the next few days, but for now, we’ll focus on our Three Stars of the game.

Third Star: Brent Seabrook

Seabrook’s primary contribution to the team on Saturday night had been a diving play to break up a 3-on-1 rush by the St. Louis Blues, but on Sunday it was Seabrook’s offensive ability that took center stage as he scored the game-winning goal in the 2-1 triumph.

With the game tied in the second period, the Blackhawks went on a power play and got some great puck movement from their second unit. Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad moved the puck around well near the goal line to start drawing in the Ottawa defense, but despite that they ended up turning it over. The clearing attempt was stopped at the line by Brad Richards, and he fed Seabrook a pass in the middle of the ice. Seabrook’s slap shot evaded Anderson, thanks in large part to a screen by Bryan Bickell, and the Hawks took a 2-1 lead as a result.

The play was a sterling example of teamwork leading to good things for the Hawks, and while Seabrook got the attention thanks to the blistering slap shot he fired at the net, it’s worth giving credit to everyone involved.

Second Star: Jonathan Toews

The Blackhawks’ captain has been off to a solid start so far this season, scoring two goals and dishing out four assists, and Sunday night was no exception to that rule as he helped push an offensive attack that ended up generating 45 shots on net.

Like Seabrook’s goal, Toews’ early second period tally was the result of some great teamwork. Toews got things started in the defensive zone, getting the puck below the goal line and pushing it up the ice to Patrick Kane. Kane then skated it through the neutral zone, allowing Toews and Duncan Keith to join the play on a 3-on-2 rush. Kane passed to Keith as soon as the Hawks got zone entry, and Keith quickly pushed the puck up to Toews.

Instead of firing at the net right away, Toews went to go around the defender on his side of the ice. Anderson drifted a bit in his crease because of this move, and in the blink of an eye Toews wheeled around and popped a wraparound shot into the cage to give Chicago the lead.

Transition passing is a hallmark of the Blackhawks’ game, and so is the strategy of winning puck battles in the defensive zone. Toews did both on the play, and it gave them their first second period goal of the season.

First Star: Scott Darling

We’re suckers for a feel-good story on this blog, and Darling provided the Windy City with a welcome respite from the annoyances of another Bears loss with a 32-save effort in his maiden game in the NHL.

The first couple of periods were relatively easy for Darling, with a couple of exceptions. He did have to make a save on David Legwand when the aggressive forward fought off Marian Hossa for a loose puck, and he also made a nice save on Kyle Turris on a power play, shouldering a puck off the crossbar and over the net.

In the third period however, things got a lot more challenging for Darling. In the final 20 minutes of the game, he faced 16 shots, including four on an early power play, and he stopped all of them. He denied Erik Karlsson twice on low hard shots from the point, kicking out his leg pads and showing solid rebound control. Turris got another chance later in the frame, and Clarke MacArthur joined in on the fun, but they were both rebuffed as well as Darling secured the victory.

The Illinois native wasn’t expected to do much in his first career game, but with 32 saves and a great ovation from the United Center crowd, he will surely remember the victory for the rest of his life.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Blackhawks' Darling Gets First NHL Win Over Senators ]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 11:51:50 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/456093968.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks went into Sunday’s game with a rookie goaltender making his first career NHL start and riding a two-game losing streak, but everything came up roses for them as goals from Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook gave them a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators.
Lemont native Scott Darling made 32 saves to secure his first career NHL win for the Hawks, and Patrick Kane picked up the 500th point of his NHL career in the game. Milan Michalek scored the lone goal of the game for the Senators, a short-handed tally in the second period.
The first period got started with the two teams wearing ruts to the penalty box. In all, there were eight minor penalties called in the period, and each team had a pair of power plays. The Blackhawks ended up outshooting the Senators 17-12 in the period, but in spite of scoring chances like Bryan Bickell’s disallowed goal and Jeremy Morin’s shot off the crossbar, neither team could put a goal on the board.
As the second period got underway, the Hawks once again got a great scoring chance, but this time they were able to take the lead just 21 seconds into the period. With each team at four skaters, Kane joined Toews and Duncan Keith on a 3-on-2 rush, and the puck eventually found its way over to the Hawks’ captain. Skating around the net, Toews took advantage of Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson overcommitting to the right side of the net, and his wraparound goal gave Chicago a 1-0 lead.
The Blackhawks had an opportunity to extend their lead to two goals when Andrew Shaw was hauled down on a breakaway a few minutes later. Unfortunately, Shaw showed why he isn’t relied upon for shootout attempts as his wrist shot was easily knocked away by Anderson to keep the deficit at one goal for the visitors.
About five minutes into the frame, the Blackhawks were on another power play thanks to a Mark Borowiecki penalty, but it was the Senators that ended up capitalizing. When a pass around the boards hit referee Steve Kozari, Brad Richards stayed at the blue line to argue with the official. That left the Senators with an abundance of open ice, and on the ensuing 3-on-1 rush Michalek fired an easy shot past a sprawled out Darling to tie things up at 1-1.
As the period went on, the Blackhawks got two more power play opportunities, and after a Chris Phillips interference penalty, they were able to capitalize. Brandon Saad and Marian Hossa each had scoring chances during the man-advantage, but after Anderson made the saves the Senators tried to clear the zone. Richards made amends for his earlier mistake by keeping the speeding puck in the zone, and Brent Seabrook took advantage of a screen in front by Bryan Bickell to give the Hawks back the lead at 2-1.
Both teams had power plays in the late stages of the period, but neither side could convert. Darling made a good save to conclude the period, but in spite of outshooting the Senators 17-5, they only held a one goal lead on the scoreboard.
In the third period, the Senators were the team that got off to the good start on offense, with Erik Karlsson ripping several shots in on Darling during the late stages of their power play. Darling made both saves and kept his team in front by making four total on the penalty kill.
As the period went on, the Senators continued to fire away at Darling, but most of the opportunities were one-and-done affairs. Kyle Turris ripped a high shot that Darling had to shoulder away , and Clarke MacAarthur had a good chance as well, but to no avail.
With the game clock ticking down, the Senators tried to pull Anderson from the net with about a minute and a half remaining, but they weren’t able to get him to the bench right away. Sharp had a lot to do with that, picking up two high quality scoring chances, and the Senators didn’t do themselves any favors either as they iced the puck with 23 seconds to go in the game. Marcus Kruger and Brandon Saad played an effective game of keep-away to milk the remaining time off the clock, and the Hawks secured a hard-fought victory.
The Blackhawks will next take the ice on Tuesday night when they welcome Ryan Getzlaf and the Anaheim Ducks to the United Center. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hampton: Bears Are Trending Downward]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 10:23:30 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000009412180_1200x675_348345923684.jpg Heading into a Bye Week, Dan Hampton says the Chicago Bears aren't showing signs of improvement.]]> <![CDATA[Patriots Throttle Bears 51-23 ]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 10:48:09 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/bears+patriots.jpg

Tom Brady threw for over 300 yards and five touchdowns, and Rob Gronkowski hauled in three touchdown catches as the New England Patriots sent the Chicago Bears into their bye week with a whimper, securing a 51-23 victory. 
Jay Cutler threw for three touchdowns in the losing effort, but the Bears' defense had no answers for the Patriots, giving up 488 yards as they lost their second consecutive game and third this season against an AFC East opponent. 
The Bears got off to a good start on offense, with Matt Forte rushing three consecutive times for an early first down, but that was all they could manage. Martellus Bennett picked up a holding penalty, and Jay Cutler overthrew Brandon Marshall as the Bears were forced to punt the ball away.

Taking advantage, the Patriots immediately began to slice up the Bears’ defense with a deft mix of passes and runs. Jonas Gray picked up two first downs for the Pats, and Brandon La’Fell caught a first down pass as well. On a first and goal play, Tom Brady found Rob Gronkowski isolated against Ryan Mundy, and the Patriots scored on the ensuing touchdown catch to take a 7-0 lead.
After another unsuccessful Bears drive, the Patriots took over and once again pushed the ball up the field. Gronkowski snared another first down catch, and Gray picked up a first down of his own. As the first quarter came to an end, the Bears made a couple of great stops at the goal line to keep the Patriots out of the end zone, with Brady and Shane Vereen each being stopped short of the end zone.
On the first play of the second quarter, the Patriots went for it on fourth down, but the Bears were able to stuff Gray in the backfield. Fortunately for New England though, a false start flag was thrown, negating the play. Stephen Gostkowski came on and made a chip shot field goal, giving the Patriots a 10-0 lead.
The Bears got the ball back looking to capitalize on the momentum generated from the stop at the goal line, but they quickly yielded it right back as they punted the ball back to New England. Gronkowski responded with two huge first down gains, and when Brady found Tim Wright in the back of the end zone, the Patriots took a 17-0 lead.

After this score, the Bears were able to respond well, and they drove down the field to score for the first time in the game. Matt Forte snared a first down reception to start the drive, and then rushed for another one. On a delicate toss from Cutler over the middle of the field, Forte snared the catch in stride and sprinted into the end zone to make it a 17-7 game.
Gronkowski again gave the Bears fits as the Patriots marched down the field on their next drive, picking up a third-and-long conversion for a first down and then snaring another one with four Bears defenders around him. After Brandon La’Fell caught a pass to make it a first and goal for the Patriots at the two minute warning, Gronkowski hauled in his second touchdown catch of the game to put New England back up by a 24-7 margin.
With the Bears pinned deep in their territory, Akeem Ayers sacked Cutler, and Kyle Long picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on top of it. After the Patriots called timeout, Julian Edelman returned a punt deep into Bears territory, and La’Fell hauled in a touchdown reception on the first play to make it a 31-7 game.
To add insult to injury, the Patriots scored again just a few moments later. Cutler was sacked in the pocket and coughed up the ball onto the Foxboro turf. Rob Ninkovich picked it up and eluded several tacklers on his way to the end zone, and as the halftime whistle sounded the Patriots held a 38-7 lead.
As the third quarter got underway, the Bears’ defense was once again powerless to stop the Patriots, and Gronkowski hauled in his third touchdown catch of the afternoon. This one was a 48-yard scamper that saw him run over Ryan Mundy with ease, and when Gostkowski’s extra point sailed through the uprights, New England extended their lead to 45-7.
Both teams traded unsuccessful drives as the third quarter went on, but the Bears were able to end their offensive ineptitude by putting together a scoring drive. Martellus Bennett made his first big impact of the day on a 34-yard catch to get the drive going, and he finished things off as he made an incredibly athletic catch as he fell to the ground. Dante Rosario snared a catch to nail down the two-point conversion, but the Bears still trailed 45-15. 
After the Patriots were forced to settle for a field goal to make it 48-15 with 10 minutes left, the Bears went down the field and scored again to narrow the gap a bit more. Brandon Marshall made a nice catch for a first down on the drive, and Jeffery ultimately was the one who got the touchdown as he snared a catch just inside the edge of the end zone. Forte caught a bubble screen pass and ran into the end zone to make it a 48-23 game. 
The Patriots got the last score of the game with a late field goal, but the big story on the drive came when Lamarr Houston sacked Jimmy Garoppolo. After the sack, Houston began to celebrate and crumpled to the ground in pain after suffering an apparent knee injury. Houston ultimately was carted off the field, and the clock ran out on the Bears. 
The Bears will have Week 9 to rest and recuperate with a bye week, and then will take on the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Week 10. 
 



Photo Credit: Jim Rogash/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Dan Hampton: Bears "Disgraceful"]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 10:19:09 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000009412062_1200x675_348341827907.jpg Hall of Famer blasts Chicago Bears after their 51-23 loss to New England.]]> <![CDATA[Social Media Erupts Over Bears' Loss]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 10:09:42 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000009412161_1200x675_348341315808.jpg Sports Sunday viewers answer the question: "What would you do to fix this Bears team during the Bye Week?"]]> <![CDATA[Sharp, Versteeg Shine as Hawks Lose to Blues ]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 07:50:38 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/484439389.jpg

Getting off to a good start in a season series against arguably your biggest rival is always nice in the NHL, but the Chicago Blackhawks left the Gateway to the West with a sour taste in their mouths as the St. Louis Blues picked up a 3-2 victory on Saturday night.
The Hawks won’t have much time to shrug off the loss, as they will face the Ottawa Senators at the United Center on Sunday night, but before they do, here were our Three Stars of Saturday’s game.
Third Star: Brad Richards
Richards has gotten a ton of criticism in the early stages of his career with the Blackhawks, but he had a nice game on Saturday, picking up an assist and three shots on goal in the contest.
Even though he only got a secondary assist on Kris Versteeg’s third period goal, Richards played a primary role on the play. After moving the puck up to Patrick Sharp, Richards flew down the ice and went right up the middle of the offensive zone. The move forced a momentary panic by the Blues’ defenders, and when they both collapsed in on Richards, Sharp was able to feed a pass across to Versteeg to set up the goal.
That aggressive play by Richards is a perfect execution of the mantra that Joel Quenneville constantly preaches to his players: get to the front of the net, and good things will happen. His assertive play was a key on that goal, and it is a heartening sight to see him engaged like that.
Second Star: Kris Versteeg
Speaking of guys who are looking to win over Hawks fans, Versteeg has a lot to prove coming into this season, and he made a big step forward in that regard on Saturday as he scored his first goal of the young campaign.
Bouncing around the lineup with several different combinations, Versteeg seemed to find a good landing spot with Sharp and Richards during the game, scoring his goal and drawing a penalty while paired up with them. The penalty was one of several that the Hawks drew because of their penchant for agitating the Blues, as a shove from Versteeg to Steve Ott drew a slash that caught the attention of the officials.
Whether it’s scoring goals or drawing penalties, Versteeg has got to step up his game for the Blackhawks this season as they try to maintain the depth that has brought them so much success in recent years, and Saturday was a good step in the right direction.
First Star: Patrick Sharp 
Sharp has been unquestionably the Blackhawks’ most aggressive offensive player in the early going, and he continued that trend on Saturday night as he picked up a goal and an assist in nearly 20 minutes of ice time.
Sharp’s goal came on a perfectly designed play on a 5-on-3 power play, and it hearkened back to his old role on the team’s man-advantage unit. With Patrick Kane handling the puck in the face-off circle, Sharp snuck behind the defense, and by the time anyone realized he was near the crease, it was too late as he potted a back-door goal to make it a 1-0 hockey game.
Normally, Sharp has been blasting away from the point on the power play this season, but Saturday’s move was a nice little wrinkle to his game. He is a really effective player in that area of the ice, and even though his primary responsibility will remain the point on the power play, he would be well-advised to throw that change-up a little bit more often when the Hawks have the advantage. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Report: Big Clippers Tax Write-Off]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 01:50:26 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_steve_ballmer_clippers_microsoft.jpg

Billionaire Steve Ballmer bought the Los Angeles Clippers in August for $2 billion, but he could write off as much as half of that amount in taxes by 2030, according to an analysis by the Financial Times.

A tax break for owners of sports franchises would let the ex-Microsoft CEO claim about $1 billion of the team's purchase price from the taxable income he makes over the next 15 years, said the report, published Sunday in the London newspaper (paywall, registration required).

Ballmer paid the Sterling family almost four times as much for the Clippers as the previous record NBA franchise purchase, $550 million for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Ballmer bought the Clippers at a tough time for fans, many of whom were distraught at apparently racist comments made by previous owner Donald Sterling on a tape recording. Those comments kicked off a long battle with the NBA that eventually led to a bidding war, which Ballmer won.

The difference between the value of the company's assets and what the purchaser paid for it is the key to the tax breaks Ballmer may be able to take, according to the Financial Times article:

"Under an exception in US law, buyers of sports franchises can use an accounting treatment known as goodwill against their other taxable income. This feature is commonly used by tax specialists to structure deals for sports teams. Goodwill is the difference between the purchase price of an asset and the actual cash and other fixed assets belonging to the team."

Most corporations can't charge for goodwill, but sports franchises are an exception, according to the Financial Times.

Representatives of the Clippers and of Ballmer didn't comment for the Financial Times report. Ballmer didn't immediately reply to an e-mail from NBC4 Sunday afternoon.

]]>
<![CDATA[Best of NFL: Week 8]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 00:51:07 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/457913960.jpg Don't miss the most dramatic images from the eighth week of the 2014 NFL season.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Tie Series Against Royals ]]> Sun, 26 Oct 2014 02:44:47 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/457868870%281%29.jpg

The World Series was slipping away from the San Francisco Giants.

A botched grounder led to a three-run deficit, and they were in danger of falling behind the Kansas City Royals three games to one.

Instead of panic, it was time for some Panda-monium. Pablo Sandoval's single set up Hunter Pence to score the tying run in the fifth inning and the 2012 Series MVP followed with dramatics later in the game.

The San Francisco Giants evened up the World Series 2-2 against the Kansas City Royals, with an 11-4 win in Game 4.

The Giants were down 4-1 in the third inning, but scored 10 unanswered runs the rest of the way. The big blow in the 4-hour game came in the sixth inning, where the Giants scored three runs to take a 7-4 lead.

Sandoval delivered in the sixth with the winning, two-RBI single that put the Giants on top 6-4.

"We're going to battle and scratch and claw,'' Giants second baseman Joe Panik said.

With the World Series tied at two games apiece, the title will be decided at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium next week.

"We never give up, that's the thing,'' said Sandoval, who shook off a stomach bug after starting to feel ill Friday. "We've been doing it all year in these situations. We know how that feels.''

Pence, eyes ablaze, had three hits, three RBIs and a nifty sliding catch in the ninth inning, and Panik hit a two-run double in a four-run seventh.

"We had to win this game tonight no matter what,'' said Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong, who was knocked out of the game in the third inning.

Vogelsong only went 2 2/3 innings, giving up seven hits and four earned runs, but the Giants still have not lost a postseason game Vogelsong has pitched in.

Reliever Yusmeiro Petit (3-0) went three shutout innings to earn the win.

Up next, Giants ace Madison Bumgarner will take on James Shields in Game 5 Sunday night at 5:07 p.m. at AT&T Park.

"This was a great ballgame, I thought, especially the way we came back,'' Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

Showcasing baseball at its exciting best, the game included a sprawling catch by Royals center fielder Jarrod Dyson that left a pair of divots, and the first use of expanded video review in Series history, which became a turning point. Jeff Kellogg's safe call at second base was upheld by replay ump Jerry Meals on catcher Salvador Perez's pickoff attempt of Joaquin Arias, helping the Giants build the pivotal rally.

Four fans in the first row near the Giants dugout wore giant, of course, white panda heads as they cheered on Sandoval, nicknamed Kung Fu Panda and a veteran of the team's World Series titles in 2010 and '12. The switch-hitter batted just .199 right-handed during the regular season but came up with his first two-hit game from that side of the plate since Aug. 25, emphatically tossing his bat after lining a single to center that put the Giants ahead 6-4.

Sandoval said he vomited after batting practice and took medication.

"No one was taking me out of the lineup,'' he said. "I play giving my heart and soul to the team.''

Lost in the torrent of runs was the earlier fit of pique by Bochy, who threw his hat to the dugout floor when his team botched a third-inning grounder. The mood was different by the eighth, when former Journey singer Steve Perry sprinted to the front row of the second deck behind home plate and led the crowd of 43,066 in a sing-along of "Lights.''

The outlook seemed far different in the third , when ominous, dark clouds formed over the bayside ballpark, and the Royals burst ahead 4-1 against Vogelsong with the pitcher's help. He failed to step on first while covering and trying to catch Brandon Belt's throw on Eric Hosmer's tapper. Orange-clad fans quieted, and there even were scattered boos.

"I thought we had the situation right in the palm of our hand,'' Royals manager Ned Yost said.

But Petit settled the NL champions with his scoreless relief.

"The way Petey threw tonight saved our bullpen. He was our MVP tonight for me,'' San Francisco pitcher Jeremy Affeldt.

Yost stayed with starter Jason Vargas into the fifth, removing him after Panik's leadoff double. Royals relievers had been 7-0 in the postseason, but Yost couldn't get to his hard-throwing HDH triad of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland.

Jason Frasor and Danny Duffy combined to allow the tying run in a two-run fifth. And Brandon Finnegan, the first player to appear in the College World Series and World Series in the same year, allowed Sandoval's two-run single and Brandon Belt's RBI's single in the sixth.

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<![CDATA[Giants Edged by KC, Down 2-1 in WS]]> Sat, 25 Oct 2014 00:12:24 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/457810112.jpg

Sparkling defense, a stingy bullpen and just enough timely hitting. That same winning formula of fundamental baseball put the Kansas City Royals on top in the World Series.

The San Francisco Giants were edged by the Kansas City Royals 3-2 in Game 3 of the World Series and are now down 2-1 in the best of seven.

Down 3-0 in the sixth inning, the Giants rallied for two runs on a Michael Morse double and a Buster Posey groundout, but the Royals bullpen shut out the Giants for the final three innings.

But Jeremy Guthrie outpitched fellow Series newcomer Tim Hudson and four Royals relievers combined on four hitless innings, as Kansas City beat the San Francisco.

"This is the way our games have gone all year,'' said Royals manager Ned Yost, who made several lineup changes that paid off. "I'm getting really good at protecting a one-run lead because a lot of times that's exactly what we have to deal with.

"But I have the necessary tools to be able to do that. It's not me doing it. It's the guys that we put out there that are doing it. We have the type of pitchers in our bullpen that can accomplish that,'' he said.

Alex Gordon hit a run-scoring double and Lorenzo Cain made two slick grabs in right field as the Royals backed Guthrie with nifty glove work. All night long, Kansas City looked perfectly comfortable playing in the tricky territory at unfamiliar AT&T Park.

Eric Hosmer had a sixth-inning RBI single on the 11th pitch of his at-bat against lefty Javier Lopez. It was the first World Series hit for Hosmer _ on his 25th birthday.

Cain drove in the first run with a groundout after Alcides Escobar's leadoff double in the first.

Game 4 is Saturday night, with right-hander Ryan Vogelsong scheduled to pitch for the Giants against lefty Jason Vargas.

"We've got to keep grinding. It's going to be a tough series,'' said Royals center fielder Jarrod Dyson, added to the starting lineup in Game 3.

Yost moved Cain from center field to right in place of Nori Aoki for a defensive boost in the expansive outfield at AT&T Park. Cain chased down Buster Posey's slicing line drive in the first for a pretty catch from his knees, then snagged Travis Ishikawa's sinking liner in the second.

Gordon was moved up from sixth to second in the lineup and came through with his RBI double following Escobar's single in the sixth.

On a night that began with a remembrance of late Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, Kansas City produced just enough offense even without designated hitter Billy Butler. The Series shifted to AT&T Park and National League rules for three games.

The Giants had their six-game home winning streak in the World Series snapped. The unbeaten run dated to the 2002 wild-card club of Barry Bonds and Co. that lost in seven games to the Angels.

The Royals seemed unfazed by the fanfare and tough conditions in improving to 5-0 on the road this postseason. Of the first 56 times the World Series was tied 1-all, the Game 3 winner went on to win in 37 of those instances and four of the last five.

A cast of Giants Hall of Famers were celebrated on the field in a star-studded pregame featuring a "Play Ball!'' chant by Huey Lewis.

Pinch-hitter Michael Morse hit an RBI double with none out in the sixth to chase Guthrie. Yost turned it over to his fantastic bullpen, and Kelvin Herrera immediately walked Gregor Blanco.

With the hard-throwing Herrera clocking 99-101 mph on the radar gun, Joe Panik had a tough time attempting a sacrifice bunt. His high-bouncing grounder still did the trick to advance both runners, and Buster Posey pulled the Giants to 3-2 on a groundout.

Then, the Royals shut down San Francisco the rest of the way.

"I don't know if there's a better bullpen, because that seventh, eighth and ninth inning, and you get a tough go when you're facing those guys,'' Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "Hopefully you get some runs early, but Guthrie did a great job on us.''

Herrera worked 1 1-3 innings, rookie Brandon Finnegan got two outs in his World Series debut, and Wade Davis pitched a 1-2-3 eighth. Greg Holland got three quick outs for the save.

The four hitless innings of relief were the most in the World Series in 22 years.

"Our bullpen's been lights out. We've got 100 percent confidence in (those) guys getting their job done,'' Dyson said. "From an offensive standpoint, we're just trying to put runs on the board and get them in position.''

Guthrie, who attended nearby Stanford, retired 10 straight during one stretch and combined with Hudson to retire 20 in a row. That was the longest Series streak since the Yankees' Don Larsen and the Brooklyn Dodgers' Sal Maglie retired the first 23 batters during Larsen's perfect game in 1956, according to STATS.

"What a gutsy performance,'' Royals teammate James Shields said. ``He went out there and pitched his heart out. He did a phenomenal job.''

As a gorgeous Bay Area afternoon turned into a breezy night along the water, the 39-year-old Hudson left in the sixth to a rousing ovation from the orange towel-twirling sellout crowd.

Hudson waited 16 years for his first World Series chance only to watch Escobar hit the game's first pitch for a double. Escobar scored on Cain's groundout, and Hudson settled in nicely after the second. The right-hander retired 12 in a row before Escobar's one-out single through Hudson's legs in the sixth. Gordon followed with his RBI double.

GUTHRIE'S MARK

In a quirky stat, Guthrie became the fifth starting pitcher in World Series history to not record a walk or a strikeout through five innings and the first since Hall of Famer Greg Maddux in Game 2 of the 1996 Series for Atlanta against the Yankees.

UP NEXT

Royals: Vargas, an 11-game winner who pitched the ALCS clincher against Baltimore, attended Game 1 of the Giants' 2010 World Series at AT&T Park against Texas with his wife as a fan.

Giants: Vogelsong is the only pitcher to yield no more than one run in his first five postseason starts. That run ended in the NL Championship Series when Vogelsong allowed four runs in three innings of a no-decision against St. Louis. ... Bochy said he and pitching coach Dave Righetti discussed going with ace lefty Madison Bumgarner in Game 4 on short rest if trailing something they know he can handle physically despite his heavy workload.

The Giants will look to even up the series tomorrow with Ryan Vogelsong taking the hill.

Full Giants coverage here.



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<![CDATA[Top Figure Skaters Performing in Suburbs]]> Fri, 24 Oct 2014 18:03:02 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000009394232_1200x675_347545155993.jpg Skate America is bringing the top U.S. figure skaters to the north suburbs this weekend, and a local athelte is among them. LeeAnn Trotter reports.]]>