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

Reports: Joakim Noah likely to join Derrick Rose, sign with Knicks

Reports: Joakim Noah likely to join Derrick Rose, sign with Knicks

Multiple reports indicated that former Bulls center Joakim Noah will join Derrick Rose and sign with the New York Knicks.

Both the Washington Post and ESPN report that Noah is very likely to sign in New York, his hometown. ESPN's Marc Stein went so far as to say that other teams have already accepted that Noah is all but a done deal to sign with the Knicks.

And according to Tim Bontemps from the Washington Post, Noah's deal with the Knicks will have "a starting salary somewhere in the $18 million per year range," a large but not insane number considering the league's salary cap explosion this summer.

The Vertical's Shams Charania added that Noah will meet with Phil Jackson and the Knicks when free agency begins Friday night.

Noah would fill a void at center left by the Knicks' trade for Rose, which shipped center Robin Lopez back to Chicago. Noah averaged 4.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in 29 games last season before season-ending shoulder surgery in January. Noah spent the first nine seasons of his NBA career with the Bulls and was named Defensive Player of the Year just three short years ago.

But he fell out of grace with Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg, who opted to bring Noah off the bench for the first time in his career. It was largely assumed that both Noah and Pau Gasol would not return to a Bulls team that missed the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.

Teams can start negotiating with free agents on July 1, and can sign free agents beginning July 6.

James Shields earns first victory as White Sox top Twins

James Shields earns first victory as White Sox top Twins

James Shields received his first standing ovation of the season at U.S. Cellular Field as he headed to the dugout on Wednesday night.

The White Sox starter settled in after another shaky start and his offense kicked it into high gear in a 9-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins in front of 18,571. Shields limited the Twins to a leadoff solo homer in the first inning and pitched into the seventh to earn his first win for the White Sox.

Brett Lawrie, Tyler Saladino and Todd Frazier all homered for the White Sox, who had to pitch themselves out of trouble in a wild ninth to win for the sixth time in nine games. Nate Jones earned a one-out save after Matt Purke and Dan Jennings combined to allow five runs. Purke was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte after the game. A corresponding move will be announced on Thursday morning.

“(Shields) got back into a rhythm,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I think this is the best that he looked as far as just feeling comfortable. He was getting ahead. He started really using his fastball and he located it. I think after that, there was some offspeed stuff and he got guys swinging through it. This was a nice little thing to see. I'm sure it's a breath of fresh air for him.”

For a second it looked as if another stinker was in the cards.

Two pitches into the contest, Shields trailed by a run when Eduardo Nunez ripped an 0-1 changeup for a solo homer.

Shields, who had a 21.81 ERA in his first three starts with the White Sox, two of which resulted in him being booed off the mound at home, found even more trouble. He recorded a pair of outs, but walked Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe singled him to third. But similar to his last start in Boston, Shields took another big step forward and got out of trouble.

Two innings later, Shields made his biggest pitch of the night when he induced a double play off Joe Mauer’s bat after allowing consecutive singles to start the third. Dozier’s bunt attempt resulted in a comebacker and Shields escaped unharmed.

Adam Eaton assisted Shields in a big way in the fifth inning when he easily threw out Kurt Suzuki at home. Suzuki, who started the play on first, was forced home as Nunez nearly caught him speeding into third after hitting a liner off the right-field fence.

But Shields stranded Nunez in scoring position as well as another runner in the sixth. He recorded two more outs before giving way after a Byron Buxton double.

“We know what type of pitcher he is and he went out and did what he’s supposed to do,” Eaton said. “I think the proof is in the pudding. He goes out and throws well. We hit and we are going to be pretty good.”

As he exited, Shields was showered with applause from the appreciative crowd.

He allowed a run and eight hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out five and walking one. Shields threw strikes on 61 of 93 pitches to earn his first victory since May 12th.

“It feels good,” Shields said. “It’s something to build off of.

“It was a tough stretch. It’s nice to get off the schneid there and get a win, but I don’t really focus on that kind of stuff. I’ve been around this game for a long time. My main focus is to win games for this team right now.”

One night after they couldn’t provide for Jose Quintana, the White Sox offense went overboard for Shields. Lawrie’s opposite-field solo homer with two outs in the second inning off Ricky Nolasco tied the game at 1. J.B. Shuck then singled, stole second and scored on an RBI single by Avisail Garcia.

The White Sox never looked back as Saladino’s solo shot in the fifth made it a 3-1 game.

Frazier started a five-run sixth inning with a solo homer -- the team’s 13th consecutive solo homer. Saladino singled in a run with two outs to chase Nolasco and make it 5-1. Tim Anderson’s two-run single made it a blowout and Eaton singled him in to make it 8-1. Shuck added a sac fly in the seventh for the White Sox, who went 5-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

“It was nice,” Frazier said. “It was a little different. (Shields) got out there not worrying about anything. Gave up the homer in the first batter. Nothing really fazed him after that. He has to understand, he’s going to give up runs here and there, and just relax from whatever happens from there. He pitched an exceptional game today.”

Denzel Valentine: Bulls' versatility will 'make us so dangerous'

Denzel Valentine: Bulls' versatility will 'make us so dangerous'

The Bulls are undergoing a "retooling" in their backcourt after dealing Derrick Rose to the Knicks, drafting Denzel Valentine and attempting to re-sign E'Twaun Moore in free agency.

That, combined with Jimmy Butler, the addition of Jerian Grant and an already versatile frontcourt will give Fred Hoiberg plenty of options that Valentine believes will make the Bulls "dangerous" in 2016-17.

"I think that's going to make us so dangerous this year, is we are versatile with our guards," He said on Wednesday night's White Sox broadcast. "And in those three positions I feel like we're going to be able to guard and do a lot of things offensively and throw a lot at you when we're coming down on offense. And the defensive end, too.

"I think we're going to have a really good team this year with all that we have, and I'm glad to be part of the building year, or whatever you want to call it."

On paper the Bulls will have more versatility than a year ago. Valentine is capable of playing either wing position and can handle the ball, though he doesn't project as a point guard. Butler can play and defend four positions, and Grant is capable of playing either guard spot. Bringing back E'Twaun Moore would benefit that versatility greatly, as he's capable of playing on or off the ball.

In the frontcourt, the Bulls will need to replace Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah, neither of whom provided much versatility. Robin Lopez is entrenched at center, which will give the Bulls' stretch forwards Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis more room to roam the perimeter.

Wherever Valentine plays, and however Hoiberg uses him in Year 1, the Michigan State rookie said he's ready to do what's asked of him from a franchise known for winning.

"My job is to just come in, do what I can do best and just work on my game and try to lead as best as I can," he said on SportsTalk Live (in the video above). "I'm not coming in to step on anybody's toes but I'm going to do what I can to lead and be a good teammate and try to win some games."