Horse Racing

Miller: Soldier Field renovations were short-sighted

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Miller: Soldier Field renovations were short-sighted

What better city to host a Super Bowl than Chicago. The city boasts some of the best hotels and finest restaurants, not to mention the incredible shopping available to Super Bowl travelers.

Chicago has more to offer than New York, which will prove to be a logistical nightmare when Met Life Stadium, located in East Rutherford, N.J., hosts the Super Bowl in 2014. Weather aside, have you ever tried to pass through the Lincoln tunnel or cross the George Washington Bridge on a good day in New York City? Mayor Bloomberg will really be praying for good weather, because theres no guarantee for snow removal if state workers elect to protest state contracts again. The city that never sleeps came to a screeching halt with only a foot of snow a little over a year ago.

It sounds good to play the Super Bowl in the elements, but cold weather is problematic. When Pontiac, Mich., hosted the Super Bowl in 1980, cold weather hit record lows all week leading up to the game. All together now: How cold was it? It was so cold the San Francisco 49ers team bus broke down traveling to the game. The team walked the last quarter mile to make the game on time. The only comfort for the 49ers was the cozy environment of the Pontiac Silverdome, because the Cincinnati Bengals were a team geared to play in cold weather.

When Ted Phillips signed on as the Bears' new president, following Michael McCaskey, his No. 1 priority was securing the Bears a new home at Soldier field. Phillips accomplished the goal very early in his tenure, but was it shortsighted for the city of Chicago? Discussions of a new domed stadium or retractable roof was pretty much off the table as costs would have supposedly been driven close to the dreaded billion-dollar mark. The rebuild cost rests somewhere between the 650-700 million range. There is still fallout over such a short sighted project.

In 2009, former mayor Richard Daley said the city had the right to charge amusement taxes on the sale of personal seat licenses for Bears games. Of course, seat license owners filed suit. The tax has risen from 7 percent to 9 percent since the Bears first sold PSLs prior to the 2003 season. (Source: Media Ventures) Dont mention naming rights to Daley, he went after the Chicago Bears for that too.

New Chicago mayor Rahm Emanual told the Chicago Sun-Times Dec. 8, 2011, the Chicago taxpayers are not an ATM machine and they cannot afford to be the financial backstop for Soldier Field bonds whenever the hotel tax falls short of rosy growth assumed a decade ago.

Doesnt everyone remember what was sold to taxpayers concerning the Soldier Field project? It was to attract new civic, cultural, religious and educational gatherings. The events of Sept. 11, 2001 pretty much destroyed hotel tax revenues, then a market crash in 2008 demolished it further. Old Soldier Field could not have come down faster with a wrecking ball than the financial destruction new Soldier field has weathered. But for all those explanations, taxpayers are currently on the hook for only a 5 million contribution per year.

Rahm Emanuel is right to cozy up to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in hopes of Chicago hosting a future Super Bowl. He realizes Chicago hotels and restaurants would finally be footing the bill for the smallest capacity, unroofed, cold weather outdoor stadium ever built. Emanuel does have a catchy slogan to promote though, as I believe, new Soldier Field was dubbed the eyesore on the lake shore.

HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet

HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet

In the latest edition of HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet, NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan makes his picks for the weekend.

Kap made his picks with the help of Eddie Olczyk this week.

Reasons to be optimistic about a Blackhawks turnaround

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USA TODAY

Reasons to be optimistic about a Blackhawks turnaround

It's mid-November, and the Blackhawks are on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. It's unfamiliar territory for Chicago, which is accustomed to seeing its team as a perrenial Western Conference favorite and Stanley Cup contender.

Since starting the season 3-0-1, the Blackhawks are 6-8-1 in their last 15 games and haven't won more than two in a row yet. It's a little concerning.

But there are reasons to be optimistic about a potential turnaround.

Let's start with the obvious concern: The offense.

If you take away the first two games in which they combined for 15 goals, the Blackhawks would rank 27th in the league in goals per game (2.59). They also went through a stretch where they scored only two goals or fewer in nine of 12 games.

Since then, the Blackhawks have erupted for 15 goals in three games and they're continuing to generate shots at a high rate.

In their last nine contests, the Blackhawks are averaging 38.9 shots per game and rank fifth overall at 34.6. The problem on offense has never been the quantity of shots, it's the quality. They're slowly starting to get both.

And the weird part is? Patrick Kane has four goals in his past 17 games, Duncan Keith has zero goals in 19 games this season, Brandon Saad has one goal in his last 13 and Jonathan Toews has two goals in his last 14, one of which was an empty netter. Those are Chicago's top four horses who are struggling collectively to get on the scoresheet.

Their individual track records suggest they won't stay dry forever.

The Blackhawks' recent offensive hot streak is being spearheaded by role players such as Artem Anisimov (eight goals in his last nine games) and Alex DeBrincat (six goals in seven games this month), the latter of whom has emerged as a darkhorse candidate for the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie. While it would be unfair to expect him to continue scoring at a goal-per-game pace, DeBrincat's emergence shows he's starting to get comfortable in the NHL and we're seeing exactly what he can bring to the table.

The biggest reason the Blackhawks are staying afloat while the offense figures itself out is the elite goaltending they're getting from Corey Crawford.

Chicago is giving up 33.8 shots per game, which is fourth-most, yet Crawford is making an early case for the Vezina Trophy, sitting at fifth with a 2.26 goals against average and tied for second with a .930 save percentage, including two shutouts.

If there are any doubts about Crawford coming back down to earth, he had a 92.99 save percentage at even-strength last year and 93.32 in 2015-16. Through 16 appearances this season, he's actually a bit below that at 92.47, according to naturalstattrick.com.

Now, in the previous two seasons, the Blackhawks averaged 31.4 and 30.8 shots against, respectively, but the point remains the same that you can consistently count on Crawford playing at a high level.

Did we mention the Blackhawks have the sixth-best penalty kill percentage (82.9) dating back to Oct. 29, 2016? That's a great combination, especially when you have one of the league's best goaltenders to bail you out at times.

Ultimately, the Blackhawks' success hinges on their star players playing like it. Once they get going, the rest will follow. The question is, when will that happen?