Bulls

Champs for Charity a major success on and off the ice

925587.png

Champs for Charity a major success on and off the ice

ROSEMONT Patrick Kane seemingly scored a goal every time the puck touched his stick. The crowd was involved from the start, their traditional cheering of the national anthem resonating through Allstate Arena. Members of that 2009-10 Stanley Cup team were playing off each other just like old times.

And for about three hours on Friday night, participating players and about 12,000 fans focused completely on hockey. And forgot about the lockout.

For those keeping score at home, Team World beat Team Chicago in a 16-15 shootout. But in this Champs for Charity game, organized by former Blackhawks forward Adam Burish and Bill Zito, everybody won. The players got to play a game. Fans got to watch their favorite NHL players for the first time since last spring.

The charity trumped all; the game raised 323,500, which will benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana. And that, players said, was what mattered most.

Were going through a tough time (with the lockout), but like Burish said, its pretty miniscule compared to what some people are going through, Troy Brouwer said. Thats what we were trying to raise money for tonight. To get all the old guys back was fun. To do it for a good cause was even better.

The atmosphere was tremendous, and even better than some players anticipated.

I had no idea (it would be like that), said Jonathan Toews of the crowd, which was in midseason United Center form. It just goes to show you we have some great hockey fans here in Chicago. It doesnt matter if its us guys or the guys who came into town. The people in the building were excited to watch hockey.

Burish who got this game organized in a matter of weeks, was pleased with the outcome.

The biggest thing for me was all these guys deciding to participate. Guys I won a championship with showed up, guys Ive played against showed up. To me, thats what meant a lot, Burish said. They were so giving with their time, doing whatever they could to help, because it wasnt easy. I hope everyone had fun, because I did.

And just playing hockey again felt great.

Thats what we were saying on the bench. We havent been tired like this in a while. This felt good to be tired again, to work again, to get a good sweat again. And having people cheering and screaming was fun again. It felt like we were back in the NHL again.

Patrick Sharp said it had all the feeling of a regular game. Albeit one with a very light feel that included a few fun moments such as goaltender Niklas Backstrom scoring on a penalty shot and coach Ryan Dempster and Daniel Carcillo engaging in a faux fight.

It brings you right back to the regular season and playoffs. And its all for a great cause, he said. Whenever you score a goal you get a good feeling. You play to win and be a part of a team. We were messing around out there but we were still playing hockey. There were a lot of antics going on but it was fun to be a part of a game again.

Unfortunately, its the only game these guys will be a part of here for a while. The NHL lockout drags on, now with games through Nov. 30 gone. But for at least one night, everyone could forget about that and remember what its like to watch some NHL-like hockey.

Tonight was a nice escape, Burish said. It felt like we were playing a real game with NHL players, fans and officials. For a night, it felt like we were back in the NHL again.

Bulls Talk Podcast: How NBA Draft combine impacted mock drafts

5-18_wendell_carter_jr._usat.jpg
USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: How NBA Draft combine impacted mock drafts

On this edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gill discuss the NBA Draft and what happened at the NBA combine that shifted most experts mock drafts.

Kendall also explains why a "promise" to draft a player isn’t guaranteed. He also shares his experience on getting drafted by the Hornets and why he initially felt they were the wrong team for him.

North Carolina "News and Observer" Duke basketball beat writer Jonathan Alexander gives us his opinion on Wendell Carter and the other Duke draft prospects including why he thinks Carter will be a future all-star. Also includes an interview with Carter from the draft combine.

Listen to the full Bulls Talk Podcast right here:

Bears coaching upheavals portend inevitable stumbles

Bears coaching upheavals portend inevitable stumbles

Call it a small Bears reality check, if not a full wake-up call, then at least a nudge in the night. And this sort of thing should be expected, not just in OTAs, not just in training camp or preseason, but when it all counts.

And it should serve as a lesson of sorts. Because some of the underlying reasons are worth a little highlighting and patient understanding around a team that has spent its offseason and millions of dollars refashioning an offense, beginning with coach Matt Nagy and coordinator Mark Helfrich, and that offense wasn’t particularly good on Wednesday.

In a sport where the operative cliché is “just get better each and every day,” the Bears didn’t, but as far as their coach is concerned, “there’s two ways to look at it,” Nagy said. “Whether you say on our side, on offense, trying to see a bunch of different looks a defense can give you, is it too much or not? It’s good for us. It’ll help us out in the long run. It’s good for our players and they’ve handled it well. There’s going to be mistakes but they have it on tape to be able to look at. “

This is about more than just a few bad reps or missed assignments. It’s part of the good-news-bad-news reality that a sea change brings to a team.

The good news is that the Bears have a new coaching staff on offense.

The bad news is that the Bears have a new coaching staff on offense.

The Bears defense is predictably ahead of the offense, hardly a surprise, given that most of the core of the top-10 unit has remained in place. That said, you do have to like the attitude of the barely-above-rookie No. 1 quarterback challenging that assessment Wednesday, with a “Who says that?”

This while the offense has myriad moving and new parts, and interceptions, blown plays and such were occurring for an offense that, like Halas Hall, is a massive building work in progress.

“Well, today was a bad ‘build,’ but that’s to be expected,” Helfrich acknowledged. “We’re adding a chunk each day, I thought today was the first day where we had somebody do something that just like, ‘wait, OK’ – a few positions here and there, a few new guys, obviously a few veterans here and there that it’s all new to, hit the wall.”

It’s a “wall” that arguably is inevitable with a coaching change.

Not to make excuses, but….

For a sense of perspective, scroll back to Jay Cutler, who went through offensive coordinators perhaps faster than he went through socks: a year with Ron Turner, two with Mike Martz, one with Mike Tice, two with Aaron Kromer, one with Adam Gase, one with Dowell Loggains, who at least was a holdover from the Gase year. (Whether Cutler’s failure to match potential with production was the cause of or because of that turnover, this humble and faithful narrator leaves to you, the reader).

More than a few current Bears can only dream of that kind of “stability.” And because of that, the 2018 pre- and regular seasons may be bumpier than the optimism surrounding the Nagy hire was anticipating.

Guard Kyle Long, still not practicing full-go while he rehabs from surgeries, is on his fifth offensive-line coach in six NFL seasons. Center Cody Whitehair, who has started every game since the Bears drafted him in the 2016 second round, has had three different line coaches in as many seasons: Dave Magazu for 2016, Jeremiah Washburn for 2017 and now Harry Hiestand. Left tackle Charles Leno was drafted in 2014, making Hiestand Leno’s fourth O-line coach.

And this is the offensive line, the unit that most engenders use of the term “continuity.”

“Each coach brings in a little bit, different techniques,” Whitehair said. “There’s a lot of time for us to hone in and get to know what he’s trying to teach us. But in the end it’s still football.”

Kevin White is entering his fourth NFL season. He is on his fourth receivers coach (Mike Groh, Curtis Johnson, Zach Azzanni, Mike Furrey) and third different season-starting quarterback (Jay Cutler, Mike Glennon, Mitch Trubisky), not including offseason battery mates ranging from Jimmy Clausen, Brian Hoyer, David Fales and Connor Shaw, depending on how much rep time he spent with which unit at various times during his training camps.

“It doesn’t matter,” White said. “Roll with the punches, come here and do my job every day.”

Regardless of how many bosses you’ve reported to.