Cubs

Toews 'feels good' after skating on own

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Toews 'feels good' after skating on own

Jonathan Toews hit the ice at Johnnys Ice House before the Chicago Blackhawks practice on Thursday. Teammates took notice of their captains return, even if it was for just a solo skate.

We saw him working hard; he looked pretty good, Duncan Keith said. Its so good to see his face all red and sweating and coming off the ice like hes working hard. We havent seen that in a while so its nice to see.

Its only a step, but it was an encouraging one when Toews took the ice for the first time since Feb. 19, his last game before being sidelined with a concussion. While its still tough to put a specific timetable on Toews' return, coach Joel Quenneville said Thursday was a good sign.

Its a big first step seeing him out there, so well see how hes progressing, Quenneville said. Off that, well certainly have a (better) idea that hes closer.

Toews has missed the last eight games with a concussion, and the Blackhawks have gone 4-4-0 without him. But as much as the Blackhawks would love to have their captain back, theres no rush when it comes to health.

You never know with those things, Viktor Stalberg said. Youve seen setbacks with a few guys in the league and for (ours), too. Its great to see him out there. We need him back. Hopefully he makes progress because we need him here.

Niklas Hjalmarsson is also making progress off his concussion, one thats caused him to miss all but one game over the last month he came back against the Dallas Stars on Feb. 23 but later said he knew something was off immediately in that game.

Hes been frustrated at sitting this long.

Its the first time in the last couple of years here Ive been out for a long period of time, he said. Ive had injuries before but Ive been able to play through them. Its real painful to just practice and not play and you see the guys battling on the ice. Hopefully Ill be out there with them tomorrow.

Fellow defenseman Sami Lepisto, however, will not be back anytime soon. Quenneville said Lepisto is out indefinitely after David Perron rolled over the back of his left leg in St. Louis on Tuesday.

Ray Emery will start tomorrow against the Rangers, who play in Ottawa tonight. Martin Biron is slated to start in net against the Senators.

Cubs not working on Anthony Rizzo contract extension this winter

Cubs not working on Anthony Rizzo contract extension this winter

For all the talks of possible contract extensions involving Cubs this offseason, first baseman Anthony Rizzo's name has been mentioned less than other core players.

Well, that's because the Cubs haven't approached Rizzo with an extension, according to ESPN's Jesse Rogers

"The Cubs have informed us that they will not be offering Anthony an extension at this time," Marc Pollack, Rizzo's agent, told Rogers.

Rizzo was seen as a logical candidate to get a new deal this winter. He's the face of the franchise and one of the team's most valuable players on the field and in the clubhouse. Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer didn't comment on specifics, but he said Tuesday the organization is having extension talks with current players.

"We always take the position of not commenting on extensions, but are we having those discussions? Yes," Hoyer said at the Winter Meetings. "People focus so much on trades and free agent signings at these meetings, but all the agents are under the same roofs, also, and allows us to have those kinds of discussions. I'm not gonna specify who or what, but yeah certainly those conversations are ongoing."

If Rizzo isn't part of those discussions, shortstop Javier Báez is left as the most likely Cub to get extended this offseason. Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras have been involved in incessant trade rumors, and according to Rogers, the Cubs haven't approached Kyle Schwarber with a new contract, to this point.

Rizzo is signed through 2020 and the Cubs have a team option on him for 2021 worth $16.5 million. But the Cubs will likely go into next season not knowing if Rizzo will be around after 2021, complicating the long-term picture of the franchise.

Pollack added that Rizzo is open to being a Cub for life, for what it's worth. 

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Mercy! Hawk Harrelson wins Ford Frick Award and joins the Hall of Fame

Mercy! Hawk Harrelson wins Ford Frick Award and joins the Hall of Fame

SAN DIEGO -- The Hawk is in the Hall.

Legendary White Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson was announced as the winner of the Ford Frick Award on Wednesday, sending one of the most colorful characters in baseball history to Cooperstown forever.

Harrelson spent decades behind the mic for the White Sox, never leaving any doubt over how much passion he had for the South Siders. His love for the White Sox and the game in general shone through with every word he uttered, with so many of those words becoming part of baseball’s lexicon.

Be it iconic catchphrases like “You can put it on the board, yes!” and “He gone!” or memorable moments such as “You gotta be bleepin’ me!” and “Under the circumstances, that was the best catch I have ever seen!” everyone in Chicago has a favorite Hawk call. For multiple generations of fans, he was as closely associated with the franchise as anyone.

The Ford Frick Award honors excellence in broadcasting, and while his detractors might label him too much of a homer, there was never an attempt to mask that fact. Hawk’s broadcasts were for White Sox fans, and he accomplished what few broadcasters can claim to accomplish today: Watching his games was like watching the game at the bar, with fellow fans getting all riled up over every play.

There’s a great line from a baseball film that goes, “Baseball’s a game; games are supposed to be fun.” Hawk made games just that: fun. Whether he was going crazy over a White Sox win, his voice cracking while proclaiming that “our kids just will not quit,” or he was seething in anger, decrying one of the men in blue as “a disgrace to the umpiring profession,” he provided a level of entertainment that made games more enjoyable.

For many, being a White Sox fan includes adopting “Hawkisms” -- be they greatest hits or deep cuts -- as part of your daily routine. “Don’t stop now, boys” and “we need help” can be equally enjoyable rallying cries. And they all stem from the Hawk. He’s not just a man. He’s a language all his own.

That’s a Hall-of-Fame impact.

And now he’s been rewarded with this honor, a place in Cooperstown among the greats. For this writer, “deserving” to be a part of the Hall of Fame means being such an integral part of the game that you cannot tell the story of baseball without the person in question. You cannot tell the story of the game without slipping into a Hawk impression. You wouldn’t want to. It’s simply too much fun.

Mercy.

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