Word on the Street: Blackhawks most injured team?

Word on the Street: Blackhawks most injured team?

Friday, March 25, 2011
CSNChicago.com

Blackhawks most injured team in the NHL?

It seems like the Blackhawks have struggled through a myriad of injuries this season, with Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane missing games early in the season, and most recently Jordan Hendry, Dave Bolland and Patrick Sharp. So how does that make Chicago among the most injured teams in the NHL?

According to The Globe and Mail, not exactly. In fact, they are far from it! In a chart that ranks every NHL team based upon games played, man-games lost, and man-games lost per game, the Blackhawks came in 27th out of 30 teams. That makes them among the three least injuried teams in the NHL.

Boston and Carolina rounded out the bottom, with the NY Islanders, Colorado Avalanche, and New Jersey Devils topping the list as the most injured teams. (The Globe and Mail)

So who is the new Cubs announcer?

You read right, the Chicago Cubs have a new public address announcer for Wrigley Field. Andrew Belleson of Arlington Heights beat out nearly 3,000 people for the gig. Belleson comes to the Cubs from the Rockford RiverHawks where he was an announcer and radio broadcaster for five years.

He used to play baseball at Concordia University in River Rorest and is a lifelong Cubs fan. (USA Today)

Metrodome roof on the mend

After the December snowstorm that caused the roof to fail, the work of replacing the Metrodome's damaged roof has begun. Three panels are being stretched and clamped into place.

Insurance is covering most of the replacement cost. The work will continue six days a week in an effort to finish by Aug. 1, ahead of the Vikings' season. (AP)

Robert Redford to throw out first pitch at Wrigley

Mark your calendars, "The Natural" will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Chicago Cubs' opening game April 1 at Wrigley Field. He'll be in town to support his new movie, "The Conspirator," which was financed by Cubs owner Joe Ricketts. He was a pitcher as a kid and even went to the University of Colorado on a baseball scholarship before pursuing an acting career.

During the opening-day festivities against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley, fans will also be treated with Wayne Messer's rendition of the national anthem and Ron Santo Jr. singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." (Chicago Breaking Sports)

Watch: CSN goes 1-on-1 with Illini head coach Lovie Smith

Watch: CSN goes 1-on-1 with Illini head coach Lovie Smith

It's the start of a new era at Illinois.

Lovie Smith has returned to the Land of Lincoln, the one-time head coach of the Bears taking over the reins of the Illini football program.

After several years of losing — and just four bowl appearances in the past 14 years — Illinois gave fans plenty of reason to be excited with this high-profile hire, giving the program instant credibility and a new feeling of optimism by bringing in an experienced NFL winner.

Smith met the media and ceremoniously joined the brotherhood of Big Ten coaches Tuesday during the second day of Big Ten Media Days and talked about his vision, recruiting in his old stomping grounds and his work to turn the Illini around.

CSNChicago.com sat down with Smith for a 1-on-1 interview Tuesday, and you can check out the interview in the video above.

Cubs go into damage-control mode after introducing Aroldis Chapman to Chicago

Cubs go into damage-control mode after introducing Aroldis Chapman to Chicago

About that heart-to-heart conversation Cubs executives absolutely needed to have with Aroldis Chapman over the phone before signing off on a blockbuster deal with the New York Yankees: The Cuban closer had been sleeping on Monday before getting on the call and didn’t remember anything specific about what chairman Tom Ricketts and team president Theo Epstein said in terms of off-the-field expectations.

At least that’s what Chapman expressed through coach/translator Henry Blanco during an awkward welcome-to-Chicago media session in a U.S. Cellular Field dugout before Tuesday’s game against the White Sox, forcing the Cubs into damage-control mode with a player who began this season serving a 30-game suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.

Even allowing for the language barrier, this was a completely tone-deaf performance, because reporters asked Chapman about that phone conversation at least six times, getting versions of “It’s been a long day” and “I just got here” and how the Cubs expect him to help this team win the World Series.

“My confidence right now is coming from within,” Chapman said when asked about facing the backlash. “Everything is going to be fine. I’m just going to be the best person I can be. I understand what I went through. And I’m a better person now.”

[RELATED: Cubs make business decision to look past Chapman's domestic violence suspension]

Chapman was accused of choking his girlfriend and reportedly fired multiple gunshots inside his South Florida home during that domestic dispute last October, though the Broward County State Attorney’s Office ultimately did not press criminal charges.

Sitting on the same bench the day before, Epstein had strenuously explained the organization’s rationale, answering questions for more than 33 minutes and recognizing that putting Chapman in a Cubs uniform would provoke all sorts of conflicting emotions.

This was a bad look for a franchise that always talks about doing things the right way, being extremely thorough and believing in character. Blanco sat next to Chapman in a difficult spot, as a quality-assurance coach who played 16 years in the big leagues but doesn’t have any professional training as an interpreter.

“It appears that there was something lost in translation,” Epstein said, “or (Aroldis) didn’t have the recollection immediately.”

Chapman is 28 years old and a four-time All-Star lefty who has been in The Show since 2010. Epstein said Chapman felt “nervous” and directed reporters to the one-on-one pregame interview he did later in Spanish with ESPN’s Pedro Gomez, who had also been in the middle of the group scrum.

“I’ve grown tremendously from that time,” Chapman said, according to an ESPN transcript. “I’m with my girlfriend still, with the family, and I feel that I have absolutely changed as a person. I’m working to be a better person.

“(Now I remember) because they just asked me in the previous press conference what the owners asked me. One of the things they did ask me was about being a better person and being a better neighbor to people. And that’s something that I think that I am now, much more so.”

The Cubs used Alex Suarez, an assistant director in player development and international scouting, as their translator during the MLB-approved call, which also included Barry Praver, Chapman’s agent, who also showed up on the South Side for an introduction that went completely off the scripted talking points.

“(The phone call) happened and it was real,” Epstein said. “We talked to him about the incident and made sure that statement (released to the media on Monday) reflected his real feelings.

“Tom laid out the exact same standards that he lays out to everyone in spring training. He said extremely clearly: ‘Look, Aroldis, I tell all the players this in spring training. It’s important that you hear it. And I need to from you on this. We expect our players to behave. We hold our players to a very high standard with their behavior off the field.’

“That’s exactly what he said: ‘We need to know that you can meet that standard.’ And Aroldis said: ‘I understand. Absolutely, I can.’”

Kris Bryant shakes off collision, embraces opportunity to DH

Kris Bryant shakes off collision, embraces opportunity to DH

Kris Bryant knew exactly who the Cubs were facing Tuesday night in the second game of the Crosstown series.

In a way, Bryant had this game circled on the schedule. 

White Sox starter James Shields was on the mound (as a member of the San Diego Padres) as the starting pitcher for Bryant's big-league debut in April 2015.

Bryant finished that day at Wrigley 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.

In the clubhouse before Tuesday's game, a reporter assumed Bryant did not want to face Shields, but the Cubs All-Star third baseman immediately corrected that statement saying he was excited to get another shot at Shields.

Bryant was penciled into the Cubs' lineup as the designated hitter Tuesday after banging his head on Tyler Saladino's knee diving into second base in the ninth inning of Monday's game. 

Bryant was a little shaken up after that play, but stayed in the game for the bottom half of the inning.

"Anything with the head is scary," Bryant said. "I was fortunate enough that it wasn't serious. But after that, I felt fine."

For Tuesday, manager Joe Maddon figured it'd be best to give Bryant a half-day off.

"His head took the brunt of it initially, but he also said he hit his hand on the ground," Maddon said.

[RELATED: Cubs make business decision to look past Chapman's domestic violence suspension]

Maddon originially had Bryant in Tuesday's lineup at third base, but thought better of it and changed his mind and put Tommy La Stella at the hot corner.

Bryant entered play Tuesday 1-for-6 career against Shields, including four strikeouts before striking out three times in four hitless at-bats Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

Bryant admitted DH'ing is a little bit different for him when he's used to the National League game.

"It'd be nice to get out and have fun with it a little bit," Bryant said. "Some of these American League games, it's good for some of us to get a DH here and there.

"It's a little [mental adjustment]. It's tough for us because we don't play DH a lot, so you don't really have anybody to ask here how to prepare for a day like that. But I've done it a couple times. We'll see."