Cubs

Burish's idea develops into Champs for Charity game

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Burish's idea develops into Champs for Charity game

Adam Burish had an idea.

The former Blackhawks winger was missing hockey a lot, missing his 2010 Stanley Cup champion teammates more. For Burish, it was simple: nothing going on right now, so why not get a bunch of players together, including 2010 Cup teammates, play a game and do it for charity?

On Oct. 26, that idea is slated to come to fruition.

Most of the 2010 Blackhawks and other players around the league, including Bobby Ryan, Ryan Suter and Jack Johnson, will play in the Champs for Charity exhibition game on Oct. 26 at AllState Arena. Proceeds from the game will benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana.

It was an idea that Blackhawks players past and present embraced immediately.

You want to be a part of it, said former Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell, who still lives in Chicago in the offseason. For us, its great to be able to be involved with it. Its great of Adam to start it up and lift it off. When Adam has an idea, its always first class. It wont be a legit game with hitting and everything, but its nice to get out there for the cause.

So far, currentpast Blackhawks slated to play are Burish, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, Brian Campbell, Dave Bolland, Jake Dowell, James Wisniewski, John Madden, Troy Brouwer and Kris Versteeg.

Patrick Kane was originally not on the roster, as he was set to sign with a European team. But between the charity game and the hope that NHLNHLPA negotiations will yield a new deal, Kane decided to stay and play in the Oct. 26 exhibition.

When Burish first had the idea, he sent out a mass email to about 25 fellow players. He said he got responses from 10-12 of them in the first hour, so he got on the phone with agent Bill Zito and set the game wheels in motion.

I told Zito, All these guys are in. Lets work on this. They all wanted to help out, have a good game, and it all came together pretty quick, Burish said. We get the best of both worlds: we give back to a good cause and get a game with your best buddies together. Its a no-brainer.

Players were ready to play and give to the great cause.

As busy as we are during the regular season, traveling all over the place, we dont get to do as much hands-on charity work as wed like in Chicago. So playing this game would be a good opportunity to do that, Toews said. Well go out there, have some fun and give the fans what they want.

Ducks winger Ryan was added to the roster late Wednesday. Others slated to play are Al Montoya, Mike Brown, Alex Goligoski, Tom Gilbert, Ville Leino and Jared Boll.

Tickets range from 10, 15, 30 and 60 levels. There are also 100 500 VIP tickets, which include a glass seat, an event jersey, and a pregame meet-and-greet with the players from 6 to 6:45 p.m. All tickets can be purchased now through www.ticketmaster.com.

It was an idea that took shape quickly. And its developing into a game that will bring back 2010 Cup memories, help those who need it and provide that hockey fix.

We want to give fans who are starving for hockey something fun to watch, Burish said. People are going to be excited watching this game. The Ronald McDonald House (charities) are doing this first class. Its going to be as close to a hockey game as is going on anywhere close by. So people can be excited bout that.

Albert Almora Jr. gave another example of his all-around game

Albert Almora Jr. gave another example of his all-around game

Albert Almora Jr. might be in the middle of a breakout season. The 24-year-old outfielder continues to show his impressive range in center field and is having his best year at the plate.

In Sunday's 8-3 win against the Giants, Almora had three hits and showed off his wheels in center to rob Evan Longoria of extra bases. The catch is visible in the video above.

"Defensively, right now he's playing as well as he possibly can," Maddon said.

On top of the defense he has become known for, he is hitting .326. That's good for fifth in the National League in batting.

"He's playing absolutely great," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He's working good at-bats. His at-bats have gotten better vs. righties.

"The thing about it, is there's power there. The home runs are gonna start showing up, too."

There's also this stat, which implies Almora is having a growing significance on the Cubs as a whole:

There may be some correlation, but not causality in that. However, with Almora's center field play and growing accolades at the plate, the argument is becoming easier and easier that he is one of the most important players on the Cubs. That also goes for Almora's regular spot in the lineup, which has been up in the air with Maddon continuing to juggle the lineup.

Bears still see Dion Sims as a valuable piece to their offensive puzzle

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USA Today Sports Images

Bears still see Dion Sims as a valuable piece to their offensive puzzle

Dion Sims is still here, which is the outcome he expected but perhaps wasn’t a slam dunk — at least to those outside the walls at Halas Hall. 

The Bears could’ve cut ties with Sims prior to March 16 and saved $5.666 million against the cap, quite a figure for a guy coming off a disappointing 2017 season (15 catches, 180 yards, one touchdown). But the Bears are sticking with Sims, even after splashing eight figures to land Trey Burton in free agency earlier this year. 

“In my mind, I thought I was coming back,” Sims said. “I signed to be here three years and that’s what I expect. But I understand how things go and my job is come out here and work hard every day and play with a chip on my shoulder to prove myself and just be a team guy.”

The Bears signed Sims to that three-year, $18 million contract 14 months ago viewing him as a rock-solid blocking tight end with some receiving upside. The receiving upside never materialized, and his blocking was uneven at times as the Bears’ offense slogged through a bleak 11-loss season. 

“The situation we were in, we weren’t — we could’ve done a better job of being successful,” Sims said. “Things didn’t go how we thought it would. We just had to pretty much try to figure out how to come together and build momentum into coming into this year. I just think there were a lot of things we could have done, but because of the circumstances we were limited a little bit. 

“… It was a lot of things going on. Guys hurt, situations — it was tough for us. We couldn’t figure it out, along with losing, that was a big part of it too.”

Sims will be given a fresh start in 2018, even as Adam Shaheen will be expected to compete to cut into Sims’ playing time at the “Y” tight end position this year. The other side of that thought: Shaheen won’t necessarily slide into being the Bears’ primary in-line tight end this year. 

Sims averaged 23 receptions, 222 yards and two touchdowns from 2014-2016; that might be a good starting point for his 2018 numbers, even if it would represent an improvement from 2017. More important, perhaps, is what Sims does as a run blocker — and that was the first thing Nagy mentioned when talking about how Sims fits into his offense. 

“The nice thing with Dion is that he’s a guy that’s proven to be a solid blocker,” Nagy said. “He can be in there and be your Y-tight end, but yet he still has really good hands. He can make plays on intermediate routes. He’s not going to be anybody that’s a downfield threat — I think he knows that, we all know that — but he’s a valuable piece of this puzzle.”