Blackhawks

Proviso West adds eight more teams to holiday tournament

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Proviso West adds eight more teams to holiday tournament

Who's next? Who will be the last eight teams fill out the 32-team field for the 2012 Proviso West Holiday Tournament? Chicago Public League? Chicago Catholic League? Downstate? Out-of-state?

"We added eight suburban teams. Now we can focus on non-suburban schools...city, private, Downstate and out-of-state," said tournament director Joe Spagnolo after announcing eight new schools that marks the first expansion of the state's premier holiday basketball event since it went from eight to 16 teams in 1962, a year after it was founded by then athletic director Walt Sawosko.

"We never have had an out-of-state team, either from Indiana or Missouri or Iowa or Wisconsin. And we wouldn't invite a prep school. We like to have geographic balance. For example, in the Public League, we'd like to have two from the north, two from the south and two from the west. We have three now--Morgan Park, Von Steuben and Brooks. We like the first group of teams we have gotten."

Downers Grove South, Glenbard East, Maine South, Nazareth Academy, Oswego, St. Charles East, Stevenson and Wheaton Academy will participate in next December's inaugural six-day, 32-team event.

They will join this year's 16 teams--Proviso East, Proviso West, Benet, St. Patrick, New Trier, Brooks, Fenwick, Glenbrook North, Hillcrest, Hinsdale Central, Morgan Park, Morton, Homewood-Flossmoor, Rockford Auburn, St. Joseph and Von Steuben.

Downers Grove South and Maine South played at York last month. St. Charles East and Wheaton Academy played at Glenbard West, Oswego and Glenbard East played at Bloomington, Nazareth played at Hinsdale South and Stevenson played at Wheeling.

"We had to wait until other tournaments were over before officially making this announcement," Spagnolo said. "We didn't solicit teams. We talked in the summer that if we expanded and an opening came up, would you be interested? But we didn't want to take too many teams from any one tournament, not more than two."

Spagnolo said he received letters and inquiries from several schools over the summer. He knows some desirable schools are committed. Simeon coach Robert Smith has made it clear that his team will play at Pontiac "for as long as they will have us." De La Salle will play in Florida. And Blue Island Eisenhower is leaving Hinsdale South for Centralia.

He said the response to Proviso West's new 32-team, six-day format has been largely positive. "People like the the atmosphere and the idea of seeing different teams. We ran the idea before our workers because we made the final decision, the ones who have to take the brunt of the expansion, and we got few complaints. They are all basketball fans," Spagnolo said.

But who will he persuade to fill the last eight spots? Possibilities are Farragut, which was a great attraction in the mid-1990s when future NBA star Kevin Garnett and Ronnie Fields were there, St. Rita, Orr, North Chicago and Crane.

In fact, the addition of the GarnettFields team was a stroke of luck. In 1994, Collins dropped out and Proviso West was looking for a team and ended up getting Farragut at the last minute, before Garnett made his decision to transfer from South Carolina to Farragut for his senior year.

"Sometimes you get a diamond in the rough," Spagnolo said. "You don't want to move too quickly to fill the last few spots because something can open up or kids transfer at the last minute. Summer basketball has turned into free agency. There always are diamonds in the rough that come up in the summer."

He said he plans to announce a few more schools before the state tournament begins, then complete the 32-team field during the summer. He has gotten interest from out-of-state schools in the past so he isn't in a big hurry to fill the last few spots.

Meanwhile, Spagnolo has forged ahead to make preparations for the 2012 tournament. He already has filled all 183 officiating assignments for the six-day, three-officials-per-game, 61-game event.

"Traditionally, we are the first holiday tournament to announce our assignments (on Jan. 1), before anyone else," he said. "It gives other tournaments an opportunity to contract their officials."

And he is in the process of renting two wooden portable floors, portable scoreboards, NBA baskets and seating for 1,000 spectators for the 18 consolation games that will be played in the adjacent fieldhouse. All first-round and championship round games will be played in the main gym.

His biggest fear? Now that the tournament has been expanded from four to six days, there is more chance of being affected by bad weather. The tournament will start on Saturday, Dec. 22 with play continuing on Dec. 26-29 and the championship being conducted on the afternoon of Monday, Dec. 31.

Niklas Hjalmarsson gets standing ovation from United Center crowd in Chicago return

Niklas Hjalmarsson gets standing ovation from United Center crowd in Chicago return

Niklas Hjalmarsson played for the Blackhawks for 10 years and won three Stanley Cups with the team so his return to the United Center was a big deal.

The defenseman, now with the Arizona Coyotes, made his return to Chicago in Thursday's game. The Blackhawks had a tribute video for him during the game and the crowd gave him a standing ovation after the video.

He was teary-eyed after getting the warm reception.

Hjalmarsson was traded by the Blackhawks to the Coyotes for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin after the 2016-17 season. He played against the Blackhawks on Oct. 21 and again on Feb. 12 last season, but both games were in Arizona.

Injuries limited Hjalmarsson to 48 games last season and he missed Arizona's only trip to the United Center last season, which came in December.

Watch the video above to see Hjalmarsson's tribute and reaction.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Corey Crawford is BACK, are the Bulls legitimate playoff contenders?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Corey Crawford is BACK, are the Bulls legitimate playoff contenders?

Mark Lazerus and Hub Arkush join David Kaplan on the panel.

The guys discuss Corey Crawford’s return and what it means for the team’s playoff chances.

Khalil Mack misses practice again. The guys debate if it would be better to leave him out vs. the Patriots.

The latest on the MLB playoffs with controversy in Houston and gamesmanship by the Brewers.

Will Perdue and Kendall Gill join the panel to discuss Kris Dunn’s absence from the opener and the team’s playoff chances this season.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below.

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