Ward's days with Steelers are nearing the end

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Ward's days with Steelers are nearing the end

From Comcast SportsNet
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Hines Ward has been an icon for the Pittsburgh Steelers for 14 seasons, but no more, as the NFL team announced Wednesday it was releasing the veteran wide receiver. A four-time Pro Bowl selection, who holds franchise records for receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, Ward, 35, will be released by the organization that drafted him back in 1998. "We had a conversation today with Hines Ward and informed him that we plan to release him of his contract prior to the start of the 2012 NFL calendar year," Steelers President Art Rooney II said in a statement on the team's website Wednesday. "Hines has been an integral part of our success since we drafted him in 1998, and we will forever be grateful for what he has helped us achieve." The MVP of the 2006 Super Bowl will finish his Steelers career with 1,000 catches, 12,083 yards and 85 receiving touchdowns. He helped Pittsburgh to three AFC championships and a pair of Super Bowl wins. The former "Dancing With the Stars" champion -- who spent last weekend working the red carpet at the Oscars -- doesn't appear ready to put away his cleats just yet, however. While saying "this isn't how I wanted this chapter of my career to end," Ward vowed to return for a 15th season next fall. "I do feel that I still have more football left in me and I am looking forward to playing in the NFL, again, this upcoming season," Ward said in a statement. Ward has developed a reputation as one of the league's best blocking wide receivers, a trait that endeared him to the blue-collar fan base of one of the league's marquee franchises. Ward was pretty good at catching passes too, particularly in the postseason. He helped the Steelers to their fifth Super Bowl in 2006 catching five passes for 123 receiving yards and a touchdown in a 21-10 win over Seattle. "He has meant so much to this organization, both on and off the field," Rooney said, "and we appreciate his efforts over the past 14 years." There was just not appreciation to bring Ward, who turns 36 next week, back at 4 million next season. The Steelers are in the midst of a roster-wide salary purge and a youth movement at receiver. By the end of the 2011 season, Ward found himself on the sidelines for long stretches as youngsters Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown turned into quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's favorite targets. Both receivers topped 1,100 yards receiving and combined for 10 touchdowns, while Ward had just 46 catches for 381 yards and two scores. It was the worst reception total since his rookie year (15). Ward took the demotion in stride and relished the role of elder statesmen. Wallace, Brown and Emmanuel Sanders credited Ward for helping mature both on and off the field. All three players hoped Ward would come back for one more go, but understood they were nearing the end of an era. "We all know the direction in which we're going with the receiving corps," Sanders said last month. "But, like I said, Hines is still a great addition, just the knowledge he brings to the room. You can't pay for that. You can't coach that. He just brings that well being of how to be a pro into the room." Now the corner locker he's held for more than a decade is vacant. "Enjoyed playing with mvp86hinesward learned a lot! Was a great mentor for me! You define a "Steeler"," Brown tweeted after the announcement. He may end his career in a different city, but Ward left little doubt where his heart lies. "I gave my heart and soul for (the fans) every down and I will always bleed black-and-gold," Ward said.

After World Cup of Hockey, Patrick Kane joins Blackhawks at training camp

After World Cup of Hockey, Patrick Kane joins Blackhawks at training camp

Patrick Kane’s break from the ice lasted less than a week, his time in Toronto serving as a good preseason primer, of sorts.

And with the season about two weeks away, Kane said he’s about where he needs to be.

Kane and Michal Kempny joined the Blackhawks on Tuesday, two of several players beginning to trickle in from their World Cup of Hockey stints. For Kane, the World Cup didn’t go nearly as long as expected – Team USA was ousted in the preliminary round. But now, the focus is on honing things before the season begins.

“I feel pretty good,” Kane said following the second group’s practice on Tuesday. “I feel like everything’s starting to come around right now for sure. I guess, starting to feel kind of like myself again on the ice, so to speak. It’s good to be back in the locker room here with all the guys and back in a Blackhawks uniform, too. It’s always fun coming back. Feels like home, for sure.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]​

Kane will not play Wednesday, when the Blackhawks face the Pittsburgh Penguins in their preseason opener. How many preseason games he does get is uncertain; but considering Kane’s time in World Cup of Hockey, the Blackhawks aren’t concerned with him getting rusty.

“He’s going to probably want to do it sooner than later, but I think we can be patient because he’s already been playing games,” assistant coach Mike Kitchen said. “Usually the veteran players when you come into a normal camp, they want to play maybe two or three games to just get their timing. For him, he’s already played quite a few games. There’s no reason to get him in right away, so we’ll just kind of bring him along, especially this early into camp.”

Team USA had a dismal showing at World Cup of Hockey, losing all three games in the preliminary round. But Kane said he’s put that behind him.

“It was a situation, looking back on it now, where we lost to a good team in Europe – they’re in the championship now – and I think at that point there’s a lot of noise from the outside that maybe crept in to our locker room a little bit. We needed to beat Canada. You could say they probably outplayed us but we had chances I that game to keep ourselves in it and ended up losing that one and we were out. But you’re playing in the World Cup of Hockey, you’re playing for your country, it’s always an honor to play for the United States. I’ll always remember playing for my country and always want to do it if you get the opportunity.”

BRIEFLY

  • Duncan Keith skated with the second group on Tuesday. The Blackhawks will continue to monitor him. “He’ll probably want to get maybe a couple of [preseason] games just for his timing, especially for a defenseman, too. Just so he’ll able to get his gap control and things like that. I imagine he’ll want to try and get some games, but we’ll just see how his knee’s come along and how he responds,” Kitchen said. “We don’t want to put him in a situation before we have to because it only is preseason. We’ll just have to monitor that.”
  • Scott Darling is scheduled to play the entire game vs. the Penguins tomorrow.

Soldier Field reportedly a finalist to host 2017 MLS All-Star Game

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Soldier Field reportedly a finalist to host 2017 MLS All-Star Game

According to a report from Crain's Chicago Business, Chicago's Soldier Field may be in the running to host next year's MLS All-Star Game.

The report says the city and Major League Soccer are discussing Chicago hosting the All-Star Game, which includes a number of other events in the lead up to the game.

Toyota Park, which is located in suburban Bridgeview, hosted the All-Star Game in 2006 less than two months after the stadium opened. Soldier Field has never hosted the MLS All-Star Game.

The Chicago Fire played in Soldier Field from the team's expansion season in 1998 until Soldier Field renovations in 2002. The Fire moved back to the renovated Soldier Field midway through the 2003 season before heading to Toyota Park.

If Soldier Field hosts the All-Star Game, it would be the first non-MLS venue to host the game since 2010 when Houston's Reliant Stadium hosted the MLS All-Stars against Manchester United.

This year's All-Star Game was in San Jose's year-and-a-half old Avaya Stadium. Arsenal beat the MLS All-Stars 2-1.