Blackhawks

Egofske set the tone for the Big Dipper

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Egofske set the tone for the Big Dipper

Rich South's George Egofske was a trend-setter, a visionary, a mover-and-shaker, whether he was coaching football or directing all of his school's sports programs or overseeing the Big Dipper Holiday Tournament.

In 1970, while serving as football coach at Rich East, Egofske scheduled his season opener against perennial power Evanston. His players worked hard all summer with one objective in mind: beat Evanston. Egofske was matched against one of the most successful coaches in state history, Murney Lazier, and he was determined to win the moment. He did.

In 1973, Egofske seized another moment. He founded the Big Dipper Holiday Tournament. To steal some glitter from the high celebrated Proviso West Holiday Tournament, he wanted to conduct a community oriented event where teams could enjoy great competition and still be close to home during the holidays.

"It was a great chance to keep the local talent at home and give fans access to it," said Kevin Kelly, a tournament historian who has been involved with the event since 1984.

"When George was involved, it was mostly south suburban schools. Rich South is the only school that has been in the field for every year. Crete-Monee missed only the first tournament."

Egofske, now 81 and retired after serving as Rich South's athletic director from 1973 to the mid-1990s, also was an innovator. In 1983, he introduced the three-point shooting line and the 35-second shot clock to the tournament. And he also introduced a coach's box before the National High School Federation thought of it.

"The Big Dipper is in its 39th year and it has had only three tournament directors -- Egofske, Ron Ray and Mark Hopman," Kelly said. "And each has put his own fingerprints on the tournament."

Egofske brought a Class A team, Watseka, to the tournament. To be more competitive with Proviso West, Ray lured Class A powers Leo and Hales Franciscan and two perennial south suburban powers to join the field. He wooed Bloom away from Pontiac and Thornton away from Centralia. Hopman brought in a major sponsor, McDonald's.

Egofske also brought in Kelly, a Marian Catholic graduate of 1980 who was a sportswriter at the Chicago Heights Star for 15 years before becoming the public relations director and assistant athletic director at Marian Catholic. A figure filbert, Kelly was just what Egofske was looking for in a promoter for the tournament.

Last year was the first year that McDonald's sponsored the event. So it is now called the Rich South Mc-Dipper Tournament. Melvin Buckley, a former Thornwood player who coached at Marian Catholic for two years, owns several McDonald's franchises in the south suburbs, including one directly across the street from the Richton Park school.

This year's opening-round pairings will pit Seton vs. Rich Central, Thornton vs. Leo, Rich East vs. Evanston and Tinley Park vs. Crete-Monee in the upper bracket with Corliss vs. Bloom, Bolingbrook vs. Marian Catholic, Joliet Central vs. Rich South and Lincoln Park vs. Hales Franciscan in the lower bracket.

Kelly recalls many fond memories of past tournaments:

The run that coach Ron Brauer had in the mid-1980s with his Rich Central teams led by Kendall Gill. And their matchups with Phil Henderson and Crete-Monee, which won in 1986 and 1987 with overtime victories over Oak Forest and Tinley Park.

Bloom coming to the Big Dipper in 1993 after a long and successful run at Pontiac. But the Trojans have won only once, in 1995.

Thornton coming to the Big Dipper in 1996 after a long and successful run at Centralia. Thornton has won seven titles, Rich Central nine.

The great St. Laurence teams led by Kevin Boyle and Jim Stack in the late 1970s.

Evanston is returning to the Big Dipper after a long run at Proviso West. The Wildkits, led by Everette Stephens and Mike Cobb, won Big Dipper titles in 1983 and 1984.

The all-time Big Dipper team? How about St. Laurence's Steve Krafcisin, Oak Forest's Phil Collins, Evanston's Everette Stephens, Thornton's Joevan Catron and Shepard's Mike Smith?

That's a pretty good lineup, Kelly agrees, but how about Rich Central's Kendall and Eric Gill, Homewood-Flossmoor's Chris Dillard and Crete-Monee's Phil Henderson and Weldon Williams?

"Now we're getting packed houses on most nights, so much so that we have to bring in more security," Kelly said. "But the tournament is committed to keeping ticket prices at reasonable rates. Sessions are 5 for four games."

That's not to mention the other perks that make the Big Dipper a premier event -- the pre-tournament dinner for coaches and media to announce the pairings and the hospitality room that annually draws raves from coaches, media and officials for its tasty cuisine and specialty items.

Kelly points out all the credit for running a smooth ship in the hospitality room goes to Nancy Adduci, who has served as secretary for all three athletic directors. She is the true MVP of the tournament.

Patrick Sharp hitting his stride in Year 2 as broadcaster

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NBC Sports Chicago

Patrick Sharp hitting his stride in Year 2 as broadcaster

The NHL’s best players competing against each other will be a familiar sight for Patrick Sharp, who will work his first All-Star Game as a broadcaster this weekend in St. Louis. 

The three-time Stanley Cup champ with the Blackhawks was the MVP of 2011’s All-Star contest with a goal and two assists. 

Less than two years after hanging up his skates, Sharp's transition from player to television analyst has been as seamless as everyone expected. In addition to the look and the experience, the 2014 Olympic gold medalist has been a student of his new game behind the scenes.

"I feel a little more settled," said Sharp, who can be seen Friday and Saturday on NBC Sports and NBC covering the NHL All-Star festivities. "Just trying to improve and get better at the job. It's just like playing in the NHL, the first year you ask a lot of questions and you learn as much as you can from the people that have done it before you and that are really good at it. Going into Year 2, nothing really changes; you just want to continue to get better. 

"I love following hockey and watching games; it makes the job a little bit easier. I don't think I'll ever get fully comfortable on television, but it's been fun and a good transition for me from playing the game." 

The 38-year-old’s bountiful in-depth insight during game broadcasts has come as no surprise to those who know him.

"Sharpie looks like he's really found a career," said Patrick Kane, who often shoots his former teammate a text after catching him on TV. "He does a really good job and he's easy to listen to. He knows who he's talking about, he has really good information. 

"It almost to me sounds like you're just talking to him, like me just having a conversation with him about hockey. He does a really good job of explaining the information and I think he's done pretty well at it."

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews regularly watches his former alternate captain’s commentary as well.

"I think the way he studied the game, the way he understood the game, he obviously has a lot of passion for it," Toews said of Sharp as a player. "I think it's great that our sport has someone like him with his talent level and his career so soon after his playing days to go out there and talk about it and relate some things to the fans that a lot of people, even myself, wouldn't even recognize.

"He does a great job. I think he's more than poised up there too.”

The fact that the former Hawks forward looks like he’d have no trouble skating in today’s NHL adds to his on-air presentation.

“He's still pretty jacked, I'm assuming,” Alex DeBrincat said. “He hasn't gained any weight. You'd assume after your career you'd let go a little bit, but doesn't look like he has.”

“The thing about Sharpie was he was always one of the top-five guys in fitness testing, he was always in great shape,” Kane said. “He was strong, a powerful skater, had a good shot, was able to shoot it pretty good.

"It felt like he could still play. It was just kind of like the opportunity and if he wanted to travel, move his family; so, I wouldn't have been surprised if he kept playing and was successful too.” 

Some of Sharp’s former teammates knew the transition was inevitable.

“Guys that wanted to chirp and make fun of him said he couldn't get there soon enough, he loves the camera,” Toews said with a chuckle. 

Others saw a different path for No. 10. 

“I don't know if we really expected him to do that to be honest with you,” Kane said. “I thought maybe he'd be trying to get in with the team somewhere whether it was scouting or trying to get into the front office. I could see him doing that even to this day. 

“Maybe that's a stepping stone for him maybe in the future. I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the front office at some point because I think he's pretty good at scouting players and knowing a lot about the league too.” 

For Sharp, nothing can compare to the rush of playing in front of a sold-out United Center crowd, but the feeling right before going live on the air comes close. 

“I love it,” the Winnipeg native said. “It's very similar [to playing]. I love having the earpiece in and hearing our producer tell us that we're on in '10 ... 9 ... 8 . . .' Hearing the countdown kind of gives you that adrenaline feeling, the butterflies that you used to get as a player right before the first shift of a game. 

“I kind of miss that stress and anxiety of being a player and putting pressure on myself. I can't really think of too many other things in the game that bring that to us, so this is maybe a close second.”

Despite another career in the game, the four-time 30-plus goal-scorer with the Hawks still goes through what a lot of players do after they exit the ice. 

“The struggles of hanging up the skates and then trying to figure out what's next, I kind of went through that myself, still going through it,” Sharp said. “I miss the game every day. 

“I love being a part of NBC, but there's nothing that's going to replace being a professional hockey player and that's something that I did my entire adult life. I'm thankful that I've got an opportunity to continue working and be in the game, but at the same time I've had struggles just like every other former player. I want to keep my mind occupied and try to fill that void of playing hockey as best I can.”

Sharp joins NBC Sports’ national broadcast team every other week for a Tuesday or Wednesday game during the regular season. He’s frequently an analyst for Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago and come the postseason he’ll be on the national broadcasts full-time.

Whether he’s on TV in Chicago or nationally, Sharp prepares the same way.

“I think when I do more prep, that's when I struggle on the air,” he said. “I feel like I do enough prep just by being the same hockey guy that I've been my entire life. I watch the games, I stay involved, I talk to some players that are still playing that are friends of mine. 

“I don't look at it as doing research and preparation; I just love the game and love being around it and watching different players and teams play. I feel like when I fill my head with stats and things that I want to say on the air, it never comes out quite the way I want it to. So my approach now is just stay on top of the league as best I can and let's go out there on TV and just have a conversation and talk some hockey.”

Patrick had plenty of opportunities to talk hockey and get in front of the camera while with the Blackhawks, which made the transition that much easier.

“I think playing for the Blackhawks all those years we had so many opportunities to do different things with the media. Whether it was those Winter Classic games, we had the cameras following us around every year it seemed for a month of the season; training camp was always answering questions and making up videos,” Sharp said.

“The preparation that I got with the Blackhawks, being a Blackhawk player, it prepared me for life in the media post-hockey. My last game was on a Saturday and I took the week and I had an opportunity to come in and talk with NBC on the following Monday and I did it and I'm glad I did because it's been a fun experience and I like working with that team at NBC.”

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Discussing 2020 White Sox expectations

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Discussing 2020 White Sox expectations

SportsTalk Live is on location at McCormick Place to preview SoxFest 2020. Chuck Garfien and David Haugh join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00 - White Sox manager Rick Renteria joins the guys to talk about the team's big offseason and the expectations for the 2020 season. He also talks about how the team with handle Michael Kopech (4:00) and what Dallas Keuchel brings to the rotation. (6:00) Plus, he explains how guys who turned the corner in 2019 like Lucas Giolito and Yoan Moncada can stay hot in 2020. (15:00)

17:00 - Steve Stone joins the guys to explain how the White Sox rebuild is going according to plan despite not landing one of the top free agents this winter. Plus, he updates his Twitter follower battle with Jason Benetti (23:00) and talks about how he would handle Michael Kopech's return. (25:30)

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below: