Blackhawks

ICYMI: The Blackhawks are back, the Bears are in first, and tying up the loose ends of the Cubs' season

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USA Today

ICYMI: The Blackhawks are back, the Bears are in first, and tying up the loose ends of the Cubs' season

With the Cubs' somewhat-surprising (depending on who you ask) early postseason exit, and the Bears enjoying their bye week, all eyes in Chicagoland turned to the United Center this weekend. 

The Blackhawks were back in town, opening at home against Auston Matthews, John Tavares and the new-look Toronto Maple Leafs. Elsewhere, the Cubs were wrapping up their end-of-year media rounds, and the Bulls continued preseason play. Here's a look back at the weekend that was in Chicago sports. 

Blackhawks 

There was meaningful hockey at United Center this weekend, and the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs did not disappoint in Chicago's home opener. The Blackhawks fell in a high-scoring thriller, complete with OT drama and some on-ice beef. Before the puck dropped, the team honored the franchise's all-time leading scorer Stan Mikita, after he died in August. Despite the loss, Sunday marked the third time in three games that the Blackhawks have scored at least four goals. It's been a wild opening week for the 'Hawks, and we recapped what it all means via podcast

Bears

The Bears were on a well-earned if not a little too early bye week, but it's the NFL so the news cycle never really stops. For instance, Akiem hicks was spared a one-game suspension for making contact with an official, but did get hit with a heavy fine. As their "second half" begins, though, there are a few things worth looking for. It was a big week for the Bears' linebackers, as Khalil Mack saw his Madden '19 rating join the exclusive 99 Club

Cubs

Things aren't great on the North Side right now! The Cubs' promising season ended with a whimper, and manager Joe Maddon faced more questions about his job security than he ever has during his tenure in Chicago. There were growing issues about his constant lineup shuffling, which Theo Epstein acknolwedged. Several Cubs players mentioned a lack of urgency in the clubhouse, too. It was an especially tough season for Kris Bryant, but both Bryant and the Cubs are confident that he'll bounce back in a big way next year. 

Other

Jabari Parker's return to Milwaukee didn't really go as planned. The forward went 1-12 in his first return since signing with the Bulls. On the South Side, does it make sense for the White Sox to go after someone like Nolan Arenado? He'll be a free agent in 2020 and though there are some questions to be answered about how he'd fit in their roster, you make it work for a talent like Arenado. 

Former Blackhawks Stanley Cup champion Brandon Bollig announces retirement

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AP

Former Blackhawks Stanley Cup champion Brandon Bollig announces retirement

A former Blackhawks Stanley Cup champion has decided to hang up the skates.

Brandon Bollig officially announced his retirement in an Instagram post after five seasons in the NHL, three of which came in Chicago.

"Thank you to the game of Ice Hockey for the wonderful experience, countless memories and valuable lessons," Bollig wrote. "You’ve made me the person I am today and I’ll be forever grateful. I have officially retired."

Bollig signed with the Blackhawks as an undrafted free agent in 2010, but didn't make his team debut until the 2011-12 campaign. In three seasons in Chicago, he accumulated 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in 125 games and 201 penalty minutes. He also appeared in 24 playoff contests, where he recorded a goal and an assist, and was a part of the 2013 championship-winning team.

Bollig was traded for a third-round pick in the summer of 2014 to the Calgary Flames, where he spent his final two seasons in the league. He signed a one-year, two-way contract with the San Jose Sharks for the 2017-18 season, but never received a call-up and was later traded to the Nashville Predators organization.

Bollig was known for being an agitator and great teammate, sticking up for them on the ice whenever the chance presented itself. But he was also known for being a jokester.

So let's never forget the time he tried to imitate Patrick Kane's viral stickhandling video and send him off into the sunset by reliving it:

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Blackhawks prospects Evan Barratt, Ian Mitchell nominated for Hobey Baker Award

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AP

Blackhawks prospects Evan Barratt, Ian Mitchell nominated for Hobey Baker Award

A pair of 2017 Blackhawks draft picks are up for college hockey's most prestigious honor.

Penn State forward Evan Barratt and Denver defenseman Ian Mitchell are among the 81 players nominated for the Hobey Baker Award, which is annually given to the most outstanding player in Division-1 men's hockey.

Barratt, a third-round selection (No. 90 overall), is tied for second in the nation with 30 points and fourth with 13 goals through only 19 games. He appeared in seven games for Team USA during the 2019 World Juniors, where he scored a goal and ranked second on the team with 25 shots on goal.

Mitchell, a second-round selection (No. 57 overall), leads all Denver defensemen with 18 points and ranks fifth on the team with 0.83 points per game. Two of his three goals this season have been game-winners. Like Barratt, Mitchell also represented his country for the World Juniors. He had three points (one goal, three assists), a plus-6 rating and averaged 15:42 of ice time for Canada.

The Phase 1 fan voting period is officially open and will run through Sunday, March 10. The Top-10 finalists will be announced on March 20. From then until March 31, Phase II voting will be open to determine the Hobey Hat Trick, which will be announced on April 4. 

The winner will be revealed on April 12 during the NCAA Frozen Four Championships in Buffalo, N.Y. Fans can cast their vote at https://www.hobeybaker.com/vote .

Dylan Sikura was named one of 10 finalists last season, and was the first Blackhawks prospect to do so since Tyler Motte in 2016.

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