Champs for Charity a major success on and off the ice

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Champs for Charity a major success on and off the ice

ROSEMONT Patrick Kane seemingly scored a goal every time the puck touched his stick. The crowd was involved from the start, their traditional cheering of the national anthem resonating through Allstate Arena. Members of that 2009-10 Stanley Cup team were playing off each other just like old times.

And for about three hours on Friday night, participating players and about 12,000 fans focused completely on hockey. And forgot about the lockout.

For those keeping score at home, Team World beat Team Chicago in a 16-15 shootout. But in this Champs for Charity game, organized by former Blackhawks forward Adam Burish and Bill Zito, everybody won. The players got to play a game. Fans got to watch their favorite NHL players for the first time since last spring.

The charity trumped all; the game raised 323,500, which will benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana. And that, players said, was what mattered most.

Were going through a tough time (with the lockout), but like Burish said, its pretty miniscule compared to what some people are going through, Troy Brouwer said. Thats what we were trying to raise money for tonight. To get all the old guys back was fun. To do it for a good cause was even better.

The atmosphere was tremendous, and even better than some players anticipated.

I had no idea (it would be like that), said Jonathan Toews of the crowd, which was in midseason United Center form. It just goes to show you we have some great hockey fans here in Chicago. It doesnt matter if its us guys or the guys who came into town. The people in the building were excited to watch hockey.

Burish who got this game organized in a matter of weeks, was pleased with the outcome.

The biggest thing for me was all these guys deciding to participate. Guys I won a championship with showed up, guys Ive played against showed up. To me, thats what meant a lot, Burish said. They were so giving with their time, doing whatever they could to help, because it wasnt easy. I hope everyone had fun, because I did.

And just playing hockey again felt great.

Thats what we were saying on the bench. We havent been tired like this in a while. This felt good to be tired again, to work again, to get a good sweat again. And having people cheering and screaming was fun again. It felt like we were back in the NHL again.

Patrick Sharp said it had all the feeling of a regular game. Albeit one with a very light feel that included a few fun moments such as goaltender Niklas Backstrom scoring on a penalty shot and coach Ryan Dempster and Daniel Carcillo engaging in a faux fight.

It brings you right back to the regular season and playoffs. And its all for a great cause, he said. Whenever you score a goal you get a good feeling. You play to win and be a part of a team. We were messing around out there but we were still playing hockey. There were a lot of antics going on but it was fun to be a part of a game again.

Unfortunately, its the only game these guys will be a part of here for a while. The NHL lockout drags on, now with games through Nov. 30 gone. But for at least one night, everyone could forget about that and remember what its like to watch some NHL-like hockey.

Tonight was a nice escape, Burish said. It felt like we were playing a real game with NHL players, fans and officials. For a night, it felt like we were back in the NHL again.

Bears hoping to get Kyle Fuller back in DB mix sooner rather than later

Bears hoping to get Kyle Fuller back in DB mix sooner rather than later

Kyle Fuller was one of the seeming fixtures in the Bears’ defense as it transitioned from the 4-3 of old to the 3-4 of Vic Fangio. And he may be again, the Bears hope very soon, as he has begun practicing after months on injured reserve following knee surgery in August.

The Bears could place Fuller on the active roster as late as Saturday after he practiced all three days this week. “He made it three days in practice, no setbacks,” said coach John Fox. “He seems to be adapting pretty well. He has another practice [Saturday] and we don’t have to make a decision until 3 p.m. because of where he is on the roster. We’ll evaluate that after tomorrow.”

Were Fuller to return — restoring one projected 2016 starter to a defense that has been forced to field five different starting secondaries in the span of 11 games — he may be phased back in with a managed number of snaps, as other certain other players returning from injury have been.

But getting Fuller back projects to be an instant upgrade for a defensive backfield among the NFL’s worst at producing takeaways.

“We all play different positions so we’re kind of used to it, people moving in and out over the year,” said Bryce Callahan, who was initially ticketed for nickel duty as the No. 3 cornerback this season but has been pressed into service starting at cornerback in four games.

“It’s always good to get someone like Kyle back.”

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The Bears would need to weigh what workload Fuller could handle vs. roster needs based on only having 46 players active on game day.

“You’re always a little bit cautious because it does affect your roster,” Fox said. “But if you feel like he makes you better, that’s a move you make. Now we’re just working through him medically, durability-wise, and how much he can play.”

Jay Cutler (shoulder) was officially declared out and is headed for surgery on Saturday, ultimately to injured reserve.

Other availability questions include receiver Eddie Royal (toe), guard Josh Sitton (ankle) and safety Adrian Amos (ankle), all questionable. Linebacker Willie Young (knee) did not practice but linebacker Leonard Floyd was able to practice on a limited basis although his status in the concussion protocol will not be known until closer to game time.

White Sox announcer Jason Benetti cracks Crain's 40 under 40

White Sox announcer Jason Benetti cracks Crain's 40 under 40

Crain's Chicago Business released its latest 40 under 40 project and White Sox announcer Jason Benetti made this year's list.

The 33-year-old just finished his first season with the White Sox as play-by-play announcer, working the home games at U.S. Cellular Field (before it was renamed Guaranteed Rate Field last month) alongside Steve Stone as longtime broadcaster Hawk Harrelson saw his workload reduced to mostly road games.

Benetti quickly became a fan favorite among Chicagoans on CSN and other networks in 2016 and his cerebral palsy became more of a backstory, with his work alongside Stone and his affable sense of humor taking center stage instead.

Among other topics, Benetti discussed how he approaches his job of broadcasting for the team he grew up rooting for:

Law school taught me that there are always two sides of the argument. I see it from the Sox prism, but I can’t believe in my heart of hearts that, if the Sox lose, the world’s over anymore. That first game, I was like, “All right, it’s just a game.” And then Avi Garcia hits a homer late in the game against the Indians and I call it like I would call it with a little more. And as the ball cleared the fence, when it was rolling around, I got a slight tear in my eye. And I was like, “What’s that?”

Check out the entire interview with Benetti and the full list at ChicagoBusiness.com.