5 Questions with...Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc

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5 Questions with...Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc

By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of Communications
CSNChicago.com Contributor

October 14, 2009

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the citys most popular personalities on the spot with a new weekly feature entitled 5 Questions with...

Every Wednesday exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weekwell-respected Chicago Blackhawks beat writer for the Chicago Tribunea man who recently became a first-time dad who is currently contemplating when to put his newborn son on skateshere are 5 Questions withCHRIS KUC!"

BIO: Chris Kuc clearly remembers his first Blackhawks game. He grew up in the western suburbs and his father, recently retired veteran Chicago sports broadcaster Jerry Kuc, took him to Chicago Stadium on Feb. 20, 1980 when Tony Esposito and the Hawks downed the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2.

His most vivid memories of the night are Esposito taking a slap shot to the head and collapsing, sending the crowd of 9,322 into a stunned silence. After a few minutes, the Hall of Fame goaltender stood up, received a standing ovation and finished the game.

It was also the night the United States Olympic hockey team defeated West Germany 4-2 en route to a meeting with the Soviet Union and an eventual gold medal. When the score was announced, the crowd broke into a chant of "USA! USA! From that moment, Kuc was hooked on hockey.

He started working at the Tribune while still in high school at Hinsdale South and has been a copy editor, page designer, high school sports editor and now a beat reporter for an Original Six team. He recently made the move from downtown Chicago to the burbs with his wife and newborn son.

1) CSNChicago.com: Chris, the resurgence of the Blackhawks in terms of marketing and team performance over the past two seasons has been nothing short of amazing. Last years team exceeded many critics expectations when they reached the Western Conference Finals. Now, this year, numerous media outlets are picking them to reach or even win the Stanley Cup Finals. Youre around this roster day in and day out, do you think that kind of pressure is too much, too soon for this young team?

Kuc: Nope. Remember, this is a team with Jonathan "Mr. Serious" Toews as its captain. Which I guess makes him "Captain Serious. At 21, Toews has the poise and determination far beyond his years and it rubs off on his teammates. When I was his age, I considered it an accomplishment if I could find my car keys each morning.

The Hawks may be young but they know how to win and have come to expect it game in and game out. There's a good mix of youthful enthusiasm, veteran know-how and the belief great things are just around the corner. I believe it too.

2) CSNChicago.com: The new Blackhawks leadership with Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough and Jay Blunk at the helm has certainly brought this team back to the spotlight by marketing its stars better than anyone in the league. As far as the NHL is concerned, outside of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, the average sports fan isnt really familiar with other players around the league. In your opinion, is the NHL doing enough in terms of marketing its players and the game itself on a national level?

Kuc: It tries, but until the NHL can be seen on a major television network with regularity, it's fighting an uphill battle. Every season there seem to be more and more charismatic young stars, such as the Hawks' Patrick Kane, and the league needs to do a better job of putting their faces into the mainstream. Too many NHL franchises are plodding along in obscurity and the league has to figure out a way to get teams like Nashville, Columbus, Phoenix, Tampa, etc. noticed. I wouldn't be surprised if some of those franchises look at the model the Hawks' hierarchy has developed and follow suit.

3) CSNChicago.com: Youve covered the Blackhawks for a while now and have traveled to all the major cities in North America. Name the city you most look forward to visiting each year and what city visit makes you want to turn the plane around and head back to Chicago?

Kuc: I look forward to visiting Vancouver more than any other NHL city. It's among the most beautiful cities in the world and has a terrific party scene (from what they tell me). I told David Kaplan on "Chicago Tribune Live" recently that it was the most beautiful city in North America and I got smoked for listing it over Chicago. I love my hometown, but Vancouver is just amazing. If you ever go there, make sure you enjoy the view out the plane window on the way in. It's breathtaking.

If I could play a mulligan each season and skip a city, it would be Columbus. Boring and dull. Did I mention it's boring? Oh, and Detroit. I'm getting sick of Detroit.

4) CSNChicago.com: The legendary hockey film Slap Shot still has a huge following some 33 years later after its release in 1976. Explain the phenomenon of why this particular movie has become a sports film classic?

Kuc: Beyond the fact Paul Newman was terrific as Reggie Dunlop, I believe the Hanson brothers putting on the foil and trying to listen to the anthem is what makes the movie a classic. Great stuff.

5) CSNChicago.com: Congrats on being a new dad Chris. Hows the adjustment to fatherhood been for you so far and, speaking of dads, hows your dad, veteran and recently retired sports broadcast journalist Jerry The Cooker Kuc, doing these days?

Kuc: So far, so good with my son Adam. He came into the world at 8 pounds, 15 ounces so he seems destined to be a defenseman. I keep putting things in his left hand with the hopes he'll become the left-hander the White Sox need in a couple of decades.

My dad is doing well and living the retired life in Southern California. I bet there are still reporters in press boxes across the nation who miss smelling the smoke from his pipe.

BONUS QUESTIONCSNChicago.com: Outside of your regular visits to Comcast SportsNet for Chicago Tribune Live, anything else you want to plug? Whats the latest

Kuc: I'm big on the radio in Western Canada. Those guys talk so much hockey they turn to me every other day to fill dead air, it seems. I recently interviewed some Hawks for a piece about pond hockey that will run in a Tribune special section about things to do in winter so keep an eye out for that. Between blogging, Facebooking, tweeting and finding the occasional moment to write for the paper, I really don't have much else going on.

Kuc LINKS:

Chicago TribuneChris Kucs Icing blog

Chris Kuc on Facebook

Chris Kuc on Twitter

Blackhawks Notes: Coaching changes and Marcus Kruger’s status

Blackhawks Notes: Coaching changes and Marcus Kruger’s status

Coach Joel Quenneville didn’t mince words. Finding out his good friend, former assistant coach Mike Kitchen was fired not long after the Blackhawks’ postseason ended, frustrated him.

“That day, I was not happy. I was a little disappointed,” Quenneville said on Thursday. “We lost a great coach and somebody I had been working with for a long time. It was tough and we’ve moved on now, but I wasn’t excited at the moment.”

In moving on the Blackhawks have revamped their coaching staff, adding another old friend and teammate of Quenneville’s in Ulf Samuelsson and a former member of his St. Louis staff in Don Granato. Quenneville said Samuelsson will take over Kitchen’s responsibilities while Granato will handle a number of tasks.

“Whether he’s pre-scout, helping Kevin [Dineen], helping Ulfie, helping me. He’s helping the young guys like Stan [Bowman] said,” Quenneville said. “We have input with all areas and all coaches and it’s a fun thing, drawing up practices or talking to guys, preparing meetings and evaluating performances. But I think he’s excited to be a part of that as well and Ulfie, he’ll be doing something he’s been doing and he’s excited to work with some of our defense as well.”

As far as the Blackhawks’ defensive style, Quenneville doesn’t foresee it changing.

“I think there are some areas how it ended or after a playoff series, there’s always some tweaks we like to do in games, in playoffs or in series," Quenneville said. "It’s obviously disappointing. But I think there’s a lot of positive things we accomplished last year and how we played without the puck, I don’t think that was too much of an issue.

"But we have a defense that can play both ways and we still want offense from our defensive part of our game. That’d be one of our strengths. But when it’s time to defend, how we want to play in our own end without the puck is something that’ll be very close to how we play.”

Kruger’s situation

There’s been plenty of talk regarding Marcus Kruger, and whether or not he’ll remain with the Blackhawks. Whatever the future holds for the center, general manager Stan Bowman wouldn’t say on Thursday.

“Yeah, there have been a lot of these rumors around, but Marcus is no different than any other player. I’m not going to comment on rumors out there, but people are stating it as if it’s a fact,” Bowman said of Kruger being at the center of trade rumors. “There’s a lot of speculation, but it’s not fair to the players for me to be commenting on what’s been rumored out there. I don’t really have anything to add on that front.”

Trevor van Riemsdyk was Vegas’ selection in Wednesday night’s expansion draft. But a source said it’s still possible the Blackhawks trade Kruger to the Golden Knights.