Chicago Blackhawks parade
(Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)
June 28, 2013

Police Say 2 Million Fans Attend Blackhawks Rally

Chicago police say more than two million people turned out to celebrate the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup win.

Fans clad in the team's colors of red and black started streaming into the city early Friday and by mid-morning they were lined up along the parade route. Later fans streamed into Grant Park, where a huge throng of fans waited for players to speak.

In 2010, Bill Jacobson traveled to downtown Chicago from Crystal Lake to celebrate the Hawks first Stanley Cup championship  in four decades. Jacobson said he is glad he made the trip again.

"More people, more excitement. Feels like we picked up a few more Blackhawk fans along the way. It’s a great team to support that’s for sure," Jacobson said.

Kathy Gormley said the celebration worked out perfectly.

"I’m so happy because Friday is my only day off," Gormley said.

Gormley said her parents first  got her hooked on the Blackhawks, a team she has been following since she was a kid. 

"These games between Boston is probably the best hockey I’ve ever watched on TV. It’s just fantastic," she said.

Blackhawks players signed autographs and shook hands with fans in the park before the rally started.

Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz spent his time during the Stanley Cup victory rally to say thank you.

Wirtz thanked Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, the players and the fans. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced Wirtz before thousands of fans packed into Grant Park.

Another lawmaker, Gov. Pat Quinn took the microphone to declare Friday as Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks Day in Illinois. He presented Wirtz with a declaration.

chicago blackhawks
(Harry How/AP)
June 24, 2013

Chicago Blackhawks Defeat Boston Bruins To Win Stanley Cup

An NHL-record unbeaten streak to start the lockout-shortened season. Three straight victories to clinch the title.

From beginning to end, the Chicago Blackhawks skated away from the rest of the league.

Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland scored 17 seconds apart in the final minutes and the Blackhawks rallied to win Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final 3-2 on Monday night to clinch their second NHL championship in four seasons.

Jonathan Toews returned from injury to add a goal, and Corey Crawford made 23 saves for Chicago. But Crawford was off for an extra skater for the most important goal of the season, when Jonathan Toews fed it in front and Bickell scored from the edge of the crease to tie it 2-2.

Perhaps the Bruins expected it to go to overtime, as three of the first four games in the series did, because they seemed to be caught off-guard on the ensuing faceoff. A shot deflected by Michael Frolik went off the post right to Bolland, who put it in the net and started the Chicago celebration with 59 seconds left in the game.

"It's huge," Bolland said. "Just seeing that puck bounce around there, I knew I just had to tap it in. So it was a huge goal."

The Blackhawks on the ice gathered in the corner, while the Blackhawks bench began jumping up and down. It was only a minute later, when Boston's Tuukka Rask was off for an extra man, that the Hawks withstood Boston's final push and surged over the boards, throwing their sticks and gloves across the ice.

"I still can't believe that finish," Crawford said. "Oh my God, we never quit."

The Bruins got 28 saves from Rask, who was hoping to contribute to an NHL title after serving as Tim Thomas' backup when Boston won it all two years ago. The sold-out TD Garden began chanting "We want the Cup!" after Milan Lucic's goal put the Bruins up 2-1 with eight minutes left, but it fell silent after their team coughed up the lead.

The arena was almost empty — except for a few hundred fans in red Blackhawks sweaters who filtered down to the front rows — when the Chicago players passed the 35-pound Cup around the ice.

Patrick Kane, whose overtime goal in Game 6 beat Philadelphia to win the 2010 championship, was voted the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoffs MVP.

"It was the best year of my life, just playing with these guys," Kane said.

Toews scored his third goal of the playoffs to tie it for the Blackawks at 4:24 of the second of Game 6 — exactly two minutes after teammate Andrew Shaw was penalized for roughing.

"In 2010, we didn't really know what we were doing," Toews said. "We just, we played great hockey and we were kind of oblivious to how good we were playing.

"This time around, we know definitely how much work it takes and how much sacrifice it takes to get back here and this is an unbelievable group. We've been through a lot together this year and this is a sweet way to finish it off."

Boston, needing a win to extend the series to a deciding Game 7, came out aggressively and led 1-0 after one period on Chris Kelly's second goal of the playoffs. The Bruins outshot the Blackhawks 12-6 in the first period but the margin dropped to 18-15 through 40 minutes.

Each team got one of its best players back when Toews and Boston alternate captain Patrice Bergeron returned to the lineup after leaving the Blackhawks' 3-1 win with injuries on Saturday.

Toews scored when he got past Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara along the boards in the neutral zone. Chicago's captain skated up the right side and fired a hard shot from the right faceoff dot that beat Rask between his pads.

It was Toews' second goal in three games. Of Chicago's last 10 goals, Chara was on the ice for nine.

Boston right wing Jaromir Jagr was shaken up in the first period. He returned for the second but left the bench, and Tyler Seguin replaced him on the second line with left wing Brad Marchand and center Bergeron.

The play that led to Kelly's goal began after a faceoff that rookie defenseman Torey Krug rushed in to tip toward a teammate. The puck went to Daniel Paille, standing about 40 feet on the left. He passed to Seguin, who caught the puck with his right glove in the slot and dropped it.

Seguin then passed to Kelly, who scored his second goal of the playoffs 7:19 into the game.

It came just seven seconds after a whistle stopped a scrum in front of the net that followed an extended period of pressure by the Bruins.

Just two minutes after the goal, Chicago had one of its best chances of the period when Frolik skated in with the puck behind the defense and fired a 15-foot drive from the left, but Rask made the save.

Boston had another solid chance at 12:24 when Lucic took a 15-foot shot from the slot that Crawford stopped.

After having no power plays in Game 5, the Bruins had four failed advantages in the first two periods.

With 4:01 left in the first, Shaw was struck in the face by a puck when it deflected off the shaft of his stick after Boston's Shawn Thornton shot it. He lay on the ice before getting up and skating off slowly.

Toews was on Chicago's first shift of the game. Bergeron had left Game 5 with an undisclosed injury after playing just 49 seconds in the second period.

Five of the last nine Cup finals have gone seven games, including in 2011 when the Bruins overcame a 3-2 series deficit and won their first championship since 1972 by winning Game 6 in Boston and Game 7 in Vancouver.

In 2010, Chicago won its first NHL title since 1961 on Kane's overtime goal. As they did this year, the Blackhawks won Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead.

This year's finals have been extremely tight, with three of the first five games going to overtime. Chicago won the opener in three overtimes, then Boston won 2-1 in one extra period and 2-0. The Blackhawks regained home-ice advantage with a 6-5 overtime win in a wild Game 4 in Boston before returning home for Saturday night's win.

Teams that have won Game 5 after splitting the first four have won the Cup 15 of 22 times since the best-of-seven format began in 1939. But the loser of Game 5 the past six times has won four championships, including the Bruins against the Canucks.

Last season, the Los Angeles Kings beat the New Jersey Devils in six games. This season, the Blackhawks beat the Kings in five games to reach the Cup finals, clinching the series on Kane's goal in overtime.

Chicago blackhawks
(Charles Krupa/AP)
June 20, 2013

Chicago Defeats Boston, Evens NHL Stanley Cup Series

So there was another overtime last night in the Stanley Cup series, except this time the Chicago Blackhawks outlasted the Boston Bruins, defeating them 6-5 and tying the NHL championship series.

What happened to the formidable Bruins? Well, lots of things, says ESPN, but start with this: "The impenetrable goaltender who hadn't let one past him in the TD Garden for a stunning 193 minutes, 16 seconds finally gave up a goal — then another, and another, and another and another and another."

Famed Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask apparently had an off night — going from a shutout against the hapless Blackhawks in Game 3 Monday to last night's loss.

He faced an energized Chicago offense from a group of guys who've been, well, a bit listless recently, until turning things around last night. The Blackhawks' web site says that "Chicago twice led by two goals before Boston drew even in the third period, then led 5-4 with less than eight minutes remaining in regulation before the Bruins scored to force overtime. There were wild sequences that led to highlight-reel saves, fluky bounces that led to goals — and everything in between."

One change that worked powerfully in Chicago's favor was a decision by Hawks coach Joel Quenneville to put captain Jonathan Toews on the same line as wingers Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell, notes the Boston Globe. Toews hasn't scored a goal since Game 5 of Blackhawks' series against the Detroit Red Wings. Last night, he sank a goal in the second period, followed two minutes later by Kane.

"I like that line," Quenneville told the Globe. "They seem to have some chemistry. Scoring certainly helps. Everybody on that line brings something different to the party. Bicks, off the rush, can shoot. Kaner has possession. Jonny gets through."

Winger and high scorer Marian Hossa, unexpectedly scratched from Monday night's game with an undisclosed injury, returned to the Chicago lineup. He had 19 minutes of ice time, an assist and four shots on goal, USA Today says.

For all of Chicago's strength, Boston didn't creep quietly into the night, with two goals from the solid Patrice Bergeron and more from Milan Lucic, Johnny Boychuk and Rich Peverley, according to the Boston Herald.

It might even have gone Boston's way in overtime, Bleacher Report notes. But Chicago goalie Corey Crawford executed a big save, setting up Chicago's next big play as defenseman Brent Seabrook blasted a puck past Boston's Rask, winning the game and tying up the Stanley Cup series.

"There was a lot of our game tonight that was just average," Bruins coach Claude Julien told ESPN, "and average isn't good enough at this stage of the season."

Game 5 is Saturday night in Chicago, and will again be available on NBC at 8 PM ET.

Chicago Blackhawks
(Bruce Bennett, Pool/AP)
June 13, 2013

Blackhawks Strike First In Triple-OT

The Chicago Blackhawks are within three victories of their second Stanley Cup title since 2010 after winning the fifth-longest finals game in NHL history.

Andrew Shaw scored at 12:08 of triple-overtime to give the Hawks a 4-3 comeback victory over the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the series. Michal Rozsival fired a shot from the point that glanced off both Dave Bolland and Shaw before settling into the net.

The Bruins appeared to be in command once Patrice Bergeron scored a power-play goal to give his team a 3-1 lead early in the third period. But Dave Bolland tallied 1:51 later before Johnny Oduya knotted the score with 7:46 left in regulation.

Bruins left wing Milan Lucic scored the game's first two goals and set up Bergeron's power-play tally. Brandon Saad has a goal and an assist for the Blackhawks.

Chicago also got 51 saves out of Corey Crawford, who blanked the Bruins over the final 65:59. Tuukka Rask stoped 59 shots for Boston.

Game 2 is Saturday in Chicago.

The 2013 NHL Stanley Cup logo is seen between the sweaters of the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks.
(Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)
June 12, 2013

NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs Open Tonight

Yes, the NBA finals are well underway, and yes it's mid-June, but tonight marks Game 1 of the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup championship. A strike-shortened season pushed the finals later into the spring than usual.

The Chicago Blackhawks, who just knocked off defending champion Los Angeles Kings, will face the Boston Bruins, the NHL 2011 victors. Chicago will have home ice, which is probably a good thing, as the Chicago playoffs against L.A. were grueling and full of surprises, especially Game 5, which is being called an "instant classic":

"This edition of thrill theater went so long that maintenance crews were arriving for their lobster shift to sanitize the building — no easy task when it's full of people screaming," says Bob Verdi, the Hawks' team historian.

That game lasted about four hours and wasn't settled until the second overtime, when Hawks' talented right winger Patrick Kane scored his final goal (a hat trick), sealing Chicago's victory, 4-3.

Chicago has a lot of momentum going — including winning this year's President's Trophy, a recognition of the fact the team had the best record in the 2013 season — so there's hope in the Windy City that this will translate into an NHL championship, notes the Chicago Tribune (subscription required).

But a lot of eyes are on Boston, and especially on the skill of the Bruins' goaltender, Tuukka Rask. As puts it, "in stopping 134 of the 136 shots he faced in the Eastern Conference final against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Rask became just the third goaltender to give up two goals or fewer and win all four games in a playoff series."

That's right — in the four game series played between Boston and Pittsburgh, the Penguins scored only two goals. Rask had shutouts in two of those games — and as The Associated Press notes, Pittsburgh was the highest scoring team in the league this year.

Boston even held formidable Penguin stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to zero goals in the series. That's also thanks to top Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara.

So who will win?

Adam Gretz of says Chicago will overcome, because it will push a better defense against Boston than Pittsburgh did: "And isn't likely to have a complete meltdown like the Penguins did in Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference finals."

Ah, but his CBS colleague Brian Stubits says Boston will win because it has Rask, Chara — and an incredible offense. They're "generating more shots right now than any team in the postseason," he says. "In total, in their last nine games, the Bruins have outscored opponents 28-12."

The puck drops at 8 p.m. ET. You can watch on NBC TV and online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

Yankee Stadium
(Jason Szenes /EPA /LANDOV)
June 05, 2013

Reports: 20 Major League Baseball Players May Be Suspended

"Major League Baseball will seek to suspend about 20 players connected to the Miami-area clinic at the heart of an ongoing performance-enhancing drug scandal," ESPN reports.

Players who will be suspended include "Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, possibly within the next few weeks," ESPN adds. "If the suspensions are upheld, the performance-enhancing drug scandal would be the largest in American sports history."

USA Today followed that story with this:

"Major League Baseball has been informed by Tony Bosch, head of the South Florida wellness clinic, that he will testify about his relationship with performance-enhancing drugs and dozens of baseball players, a move that could lead to suspensions for Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and other notable major leaguers, according to a person familiar with the negotiations."

The New York Times has a similar report:

"The head of a defunct South Florida anti-aging clinic suspected by Major League Baseball of providing a number of players with banned substances has agreed to cooperate with the sport's investigators, potentially opening the way for player suspensions, according to a person briefed on the matter.", the league's newssite, is covering the news this way:

"Major League Baseball could be close to a far-reaching conclusion about Biogenesis that would be both historic in scope and a clear demonstration of its commitment to ridding the game of illegal steroids and human growth hormone. ESPN's Outside the Lines reports that Anthony Bosch, founder of the Miami-area Biogenesis anti-aging clinic accused of supplying performance-enhancing substances to a number of highly recognizable players, including Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz and Alex Rodriguez, has agreed to cooperate in baseball's investigation. ...

" 'I've already addressed everything related to the Miami situation,' Braun said [Tuesday night]. 'I addressed it in spring training. I will not make any further statements about it. The truth has not changed. I don't know the specifics of the story that came out today, but I've already addressed it, I've already commented on it and I'll say nothing further about it.'

"Major League Baseball declined to comment Tuesday night."

Rodriguez, who has admitted using performance enhancing drugs in the past, has denied being a patient at Bosch's clinic. He has not played yet this season, due to injuries.

Cabrera, now with the Toronto Blue Jays, was suspended for 50 games last season (when he played with the San Francisco Giants) after tests showed he had elevated levels of testosterone. Of the new reports, he told USA Today that, "I don't know anything about it. ... If they suspend me again, I think that would be a harsh punishment because I already served my sentence. But it's up to them."

Cruz, a Texas Ranger, said Tuesday night that, "I cannot say anything. ... I guess it's part of the process. (The investigators are) doing their job. I don't have any other comment about it."

NPR has not independently confirmed the reports about the possible suspensions.

A related Two-Way post from January: Report: Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera Among Baseball Stars Linked To Doping.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has approved $100 million in bonds to repair the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
May 26, 2013

Indianapolis Speedway Needs Boost, But With Taxpayer Funds?

Sunday is the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500, which draws hundreds of thousands of fans to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. While it's an economic boon for the area, the 104-year-old track needs renovations — and just how it's getting the money is rubbing some Hoosiers the wrong way.

When you take in a race at the Speedway, you are seeing it at the world's largest spectator sporting facility. The place is huge, big enough to fit Yankee Stadium and the Roman Colosseum inside. The smells of barbecued turkey legs and Italian sausage fill the air, and souvenir tents line the perimeter.

The centerpiece is the track itself; the 2 1/2-mile, four-turn oval, where cars hit speeds near 230 mph. No matter where you are in the 250,000-seat stadium, you can feel the heat and energy that rises from the asphalt.

But the track is beginning to show its age. From the outside, you can see the stadium's grey concrete walls are starting to fade, and the bleachers inside are sprinkled with rust. The video boards are ancient by today's technology standards, and there are no track lights.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO Mark Miles says the aging infrastructure makes it hard to compete against newer, more modern tracks.

"We are immediately affected by tracks popping up in Ohio and in Illinois and in Michigan," he says. "The bar keeps getting raised, and we have to be competitive."

That's why the state is issuing $100 million in bonds for renovations, money from the taxpayers that's going to the track's owners. At the bill signing ceremony this past week, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence argued the privately owned Speedway's economic impact is worth the investment.

"The motor sports Industry pumps more than $3 billion into the Hoosier economy annually," he said. "And this is an industry in Indiana that contributes more than 23,000 jobs for our state, paying an average wage of nearly $63,000 a year."

But the state's financial package isn't sitting well with some residents. Indianapolis lawyer and political blogger Gary Welsh says tax money should be used on schools, roads and social services.

"There's a variety of basic services that I think should always come first," he says. "And recreational uses that benefit billionaire or multimillionaire sports team owners doesn't come anywhere close to the top of my list of priorities."

Even Speedway booster Pat Everett understands the controversy. Now 71, she fell in love with the track on her first visit in 1964 and has been coming back ever since.

"If there is money to be had, let's look at it very carefully, and I want to see all of that balanced out," she says. "Of course, that's in a perfect world, I understand."

Track officials and others are convinced that once the upgrades are complete, the track will attract a new generation of fans, much as it mesmerized Everett decades ago.


Chief Illiniwek
(John Dixon/AP)
May 22, 2013

Faculty, Student Committee Approves Chief Illiniwek Resolution

A committee of University of Illinois students and faculty on the Urbana campus passed a resolution on Wednesday, re-affirming its stance that Chief Illiniwek is an “inappropriate symbol” for the U of I.

The measure comes in response to a plan introduced earlier this month by the Council of Chiefs to bring the Chief back.

U of I Professor Nicholas Burbules, who sponsored the resolution, said efforts to resurrect the retired symbol have been a distraction for the university community.

“I think a lot of people feel that it would be going back and re-visiting and re-opening some old wounds that really don’t need to be re-opened right now,” Burbules said. “We have much bigger issues challenging us as a campus right now - challenges and opportunities – and I think we should be focusing on how we are going to move forward as a campus together in a unified way.”

Over the years, criticism had grown that Chief Illiniwek was offensive to Native Americans, and in 2007, the U of I’s Board of Trustees ended its appearances to avoid NCAA sanctions.

Burbules said he hopes his resolution, which received unanimous support from the Senate Executive Committee, drums up support for finding a new symbol.

Recent U of I grad Jim Maskeri sits on the committee, and he said he hopes Urbana Chancellor Phyllis Wise directs committee members to search for a new “mascot” or “symbol.” 

However, Maskeri added that the history of Chief Illiniwek should not be forgotten, and he hopes Wise maintains ”the proud tradition and history of the Chief in some way on campus. ”

“I do think that the Chief is an integral part of our history as an institution, and that memory shouldn’t ever be eradicated,” Maskeri said. “I favor a direction of filling the void we currently have because I think it’s toxic to the university community, to our alumni, to our faculty, to our students.”

Urbana Chancellor Phyllis Wise has said that the Chief is not coming.

Last week, results were released from a disputed 2011 student survey asking students about finding a new mascot to replace Chief Illiniwek. Out of 11,440 students who responded, 15 percent did not want a new mascot, while the rest indicated that they would support a change.

In this photo taken April 5, 2011, Annette Clark places glasses on her paralyzed son, Rocky Clark, in the bedroom at their home in Robbins, Ill.
(M. Spencer Green/AP)
May 20, 2013

Bill Would Require Insurance for High School Athletes

The Illinois House has voted to require that high schools carry insurance in case student athletes are injured.

Schools would have to buy what's called "catastrophic insurance." The legislation would apply to both public and private schools, and the insurance would kick in once an injured athlete's medical expenses exceed $50,000.

Rep. Will Davis (D-Homewood) said his idea was inspired by the case of Rocky Clark. Clark was paralyzed during a football game for Eisenhower High School, in Chicago's south suburbs.

"His school had a catastrophic insurance policy that he lived under for approximately 10 years or so," Davis said.

But this legislation wouldn't have actually helped Clark.

Davis said he initially wanted unlimited coverage, but in order to win support, he negotiated that down to a cap of either $3 million or five years, whichever comes first.

Clark had school insurance for 10 years, but it too ran out, and he died about a year after that.

Critics worry about another cost being imposed on schools, but the measure passed the House on a vote of 71-39 and now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn.


Chief Illiniwek
(Seth Perlman/AP)
May 16, 2013

U of I Mascot Survey Results Released

Results have finally been released from a survey of University of Illinois students about finding a new mascot to replace Chief Illiniwek.

The results were held up a year and a half because of a complaint alleging the referendum interfered with two earlier referenda about re-instating the Chief as the Urbana campus’ official symbol.

In its ruling, a U of I student moot court that took up the case said the two earlier surveys focused on the status of Chief Illiniwek as the "symbol" of the University of Illinois, and did not make any mention of the word “mascot.”

The moot court said it is not uncommon for mascots and symbols to be separate entities, saying while the Chief’s role as a mascot has ended, it remains a symbol of the University.

With that ruling, results from the disputed 2011 survey were released, showing that out of 11,440 students who responded, 15 percent did not want a new mascot.

The rest favor a change, and the largest group among them asked for one of 48 possible mascots that were listed on the ballot, with the Eagle being the top vote getter.

The group Campus Spirit Revival said it hopes the results start a discussion about what it means to find a new mascot.

A pro-Chief Illiniwek group on campus that tried to block the survey could not be reached for comment.

The University, meanwhile, has said that it has no plans to reinstate Chief Illiniwek.

Results from the 2011 Campus Mascot Survey:

Name Votes
No Change 1767
Other Options 1369
Eagle 1071
The Fighting Illini 559
Chef Illini 458
Wolf 452
Illini Wolf 434
Fighting Abes 426
Grand Owl 1 332
Illini Abe 260
Kestrel 234
Dough Boy 230
Illini Pride 223
Honest Abe 2 217
Grand Owl 2 216
Squirrel 206
Kraken 191
Colonel 177
Kraken 3 150
Falcon 147
Big I 146
Corn Guy 138
Blue Bison 2 124
Honest Abe 124
Commander In Chief 121
Deer 114
Sabertooth 111
Fire Chief 106
Dragon Warriors 105
Illinois Abe 105
Werewolf 100
Illini Fire 95
Kraken 2 95
Blue Bison 91
Illini Abe 2 84
White Oak 84
Illinois Boxer 81
Apollo 74
Illini Invaders 58
Illini Tiger 56
Lincoln I Face 55
Ibex 43
Blue Gill 38
Scarecrow 36
Illini Totem 36
Phantom 32
Panther 28
Kites 20
Orange I 19
Illini Wolf 2

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