Blackhawks

McLaughlin looks ahead to 2013

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McLaughlin looks ahead to 2013

Lane Tech's Jack McLaughlin is a mix of contradictions. He is a North Sider who is a White Sox fan. He wears No. 24 because of Joe Crede, not Willie Mays. He is a pitcher with pinpoint control, not an overpowering fastball. And though he understands that baseball is his future, he won't disavow a commitment to his friends and teammates to play football."I always loved playing football and I made a commitment to both sports," he said. "I started at quarterback last year and the team looks to me to lead them. I plan on sticking with my commitment. It's a matter of honor. But I know my future is baseball."Lane Tech coach Dean Stavrakas appreciates McLaughlin's loyalty."He is one of the finest young men I've had the privilege of coaching. But if he really works hard this winter, he will be the best known name in Chicago as a senior," he said.Stavrakas wants him to beef up and skip football this fall. The thought of one of the best baseball players in the state running with a football against 300-pound linemen and 225-pound linebackers is a scary proposition."He wants to do it," the coach said. "I've been talking to him about not doing it. He should spend the off-season conditioning and trying to get a shot at a Division I college and the major leagues. Colleges are looking at him. If he threw 90 miles per hour, that would open eyes, too."McLaughlin doesn't register 90 mph on a radar gun yet. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound right-hander averages 82-84 mph. He plans to pitch every weekend this summer for Academy Elite. His goals are to add 6 to 7 mph to his fastball and add another pitch, maybe a slider or sinker, to his fastball, curveball and changeup."I want to add something that goes down and in to a right-handed hitter but looks like a fastball," he said. "I love the feeling of just making kids look terrible while I'm pitching. I like to dominate. I love when the ball is in my hand and everyone is looking at me to make a pitch. I like being the center of attention."McLaughlin can't wait for the 2013 season. Lane Tech closed its 2012 campaign with a 21-14 record, losing to Simeon 2-1 in for the Public League championship, and to Maine West 7-1 in the regional opener. Considering the Indians got off to a 3-9 start, they finished in a blaze of glory.Next year? McLaughlin returns with 20 other underclassmen, including designated hitter Mike Henry, center fielder Matt Delaney and first baseman Walter Nolan-Cohn.But 2012 could have been better. McLaughlin said the 2-1 loss to Simeon "summed up the whole year. There are no words to explain it. We worked hard all season for that game. But we just didn't pull it off," he said."I was happy with my performance. I gave my team a chance to win. But I tip my hat to (Simeon pitcher) Shane Brown, who pitched a great game, too. I have one regret, a 3-ball, 2-strike changeup in the first inning against Blake Hickman. I left it high and in and he hit it to left for a run-scoring double. It turned out to be the difference in the game."Next year's goal is to qualify for the state finals for the first time since 2001. With a new 4 million baseball stadium scheduled to be opened for the 2013 season, there is renewed excitement at Lane Tech. As a senior, McLaughlin hopes to re-establish the winning tradition and regain the respect that the program once commanded."I hope to attract interest (from college and major league scouts) over the summer," McLaughlin said. "I began to realize what my potential was last year, when I lost 2-1 to New Trier in the sectional semifinal. They were seeded No. 4 and we were seeded No. 14. They had Charlie Tillson, who was a major league draft choice. He was my only strikeout of the game."McLaughlin made an error on Tillson's bunt in the first inning. Tillson stole second and third and scored on a fly ball."They had no respect for us at all," McLaughlin said. "We stuck with them the whole game. Their pitcher is at Illinois. I was a sophomore and held my own. It said to me that I can do this at a high level. With our great tradition, teams should have more respect for us."McLaughlin finished with a 7-6 record and a 1.78 earned run average with
69 strikeouts and only 13 walks in 66 23 innings."He doesn't throw hard. The key is his control, down and in and down and away on everything, rarely high," Stavrakas said. "He has command of his fast ball, curveball and changeup. He can throw any of them at any time for a strike. If only he'd stop playing football and concentrate on baseball..."McLaughlin is listening.

It's official: Blackhawks-Bruins to play at Notre Dame Stadium in 2019 Winter Classic

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USA TODAY

It's official: Blackhawks-Bruins to play at Notre Dame Stadium in 2019 Winter Classic

It’s official: The Blackhawks are headed back outdoors.

The NHL announced that the 2019 Winter Classic will be held at Notre Dame Stadium, featuring the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1.

"The Blackhawks and Bruins, two of our most historic franchises, will be meeting outdoors for the first time at the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "Notre Dame Stadium, with its capacity approaching 80,000, will provide an ideal setting for this ground-breaking event and will host the largest live audience ever to witness a game by either of these teams."

"The Chicago Blackhawks are honored to be participating in this marquee event at an iconic venue like Notre Dame Stadium," Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough said in a statement. "The University of Notre Dame has strong alumni roots in both Chicago and Boston, and, with an established rivalry between the Blackhawks and Bruins, fans will be treated to an exciting game in a unique atmosphere. We appreciate the invitation to the game and look forward to what will be a great day for both franchises and the National Hockey League."

It's the sixth time the Blackhawks will be playing outdoors, and their league-leading fourth Winter Classic. The Blackhawks are 1-4-0 in outdoor games, and are winless in three Winter Classic games.

Chicago's only outdoor win came against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2014 Stadium Series Classic, a 5-1 victory at Soldier Field.

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

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USA TODAY

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

The wait to find out which players have their options picked up or declined by the Fire might still be a couple weeks, but the first news of a player move in the Fire's offseason came via Twitter.

Defender Joao Meira announced he won't be returning to the club in 2018.

Meira signed with the Fire just before the start of the 2016 preseason after being out of contract in Europe. The Portuguese center back signed a one-year deal with a club option for the second year.

After he played 28 matches with 26 starts in 2016, the Fire picked up his option. He became even more of a fixture at center back in 2017, beating out Jonathan Campbell for the other starting spot alongside Johan Kappelhof. Meira played in 30 regular season matches and made 27 starts, finishing fourth on the team in minutes played (2,412).

That Meira won't be back isn't a major surprise for a few reasons. First, he was out of contract. He was one of two players, along with Bastian Schweinsteiger, on the Fire's roster that the team had no control over for 2018. On top of that, the 30-year-old had made it clear that he wanted to be closer to his home and family in Portugal.

Meira's departure leaves a gap at the center back position for the Fire. Kappelhof, who enters the third year of a three-year guaranteed deal in 2018, and Campbell, who will likely have his club option picked up, enter as the only healthy center backs in 2018. Christian Dean was added in August via trade, but is coming off a broken foot, an injury that has plagued him before. His status for the start of the 2018 season is unclear.

Grant Lillard, a potential homegrown signing and a senior at Indiana, could compete for time at center back next season. He is one of the top rated players in the country for the Hoosiers, which are the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. While Lillard could step in from a numbers perspective and would add size to the Fire's back line (Lillard is 6-foot-4), he wouldn't be able to replace Meira's ability on the ball. Meira wasn't as effective of a defender as Kappelhof, but was arguably the best passer among the Fire's center backs and helped alleviate pressure at times.

This also opens up an international spot on the Fire's roster. The Fire went over the alloted total last season, but were able to put John Goossens and Jorge Bava on the disabled list to clear room. Meira's exit gives a bit more flexibility in that department.