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Posts Tagged ‘Paul M. Banks’

Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team Last season, the Chicago Bulls experienced a dramatically positive growth spurt. A team that actually lost at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the early part of the season grew together and gelled enough to qualify for the postseason. And in those playoffs, they gave the defending World Champion Boston Celtics all they could handle in a physical seven-game series that featured more overtime sessions than any other series in NBA history. It was probably the most exciting playoff series that the professional hardwood has ever seen, but a first round exit is still a first round exit, so 2008-09 was not exactly the most memorable season in Bulls history. But after building some positive momentum last season, what will the Bulls do with it now?

Their sophomore Head Coach Vinny Del Negro is as good a clue as any. Here are some of the highlights of what he’s told the media this preseason

About taking it to the next level…

“The 2nd half of last year I think we started to come into our own a little bit, kind of me feeling the guys out, them feeling me out how we’re gonna play. Now there’s a familiarity…now we just have to improve, you have to put the work in on the practice court and hopefully execute in games.”

On how little you can read into the Bulls 5-2 preseason record…

“Every time you’re keeping score, you always want to win, but sometimes there’s a lot of young players out there and that usually dictates some mistakes and the flow of the game can get changed a little bit when you’re trying to conserve some guys’ minutes, so the rotations aren’t down and that throws guys into different positions sometimes.”

On Tyrus Thomas, and his convalescence…

“He needs to get back in shape, he’s been out a little bit, and get the flow back offensively, defensively, be our shot blocker back there, and make open 15 footers. If he runs the court with his athleticism and gets after it defensively, it’ll give us a big boost. He knows what he needs to do, he just needs to go out and do it consistently.”

On improving the team’s much maligned defense…

“We have to find a way to get stops at key times, but also we need to rebound better defensively. Some times we’re getting key stops, but not getting that basketball, hopefully with a little more size the rebounding numbers will get better.”

The subject on everyone’s mind, the health of Derrick Rose…

“He needs to get back. It is a day-to-day thing. He’s been doing some running and he’s been on the bike. We may have him in shooting drills, but not full-contact drills…It is possible he will not be ready for the opener against San Antonio. I hope he practices tomorrow but it is really day-to-day.

Season tips off October 29th.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ sports-writing at:

-the site he founded The Sports Bank.net

-NBA analysis at Walter Football.com

-“Patrick Kane Chronicles” at Buffalo Sports Daily

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team This not quite safe at work video, captured by John Tsarouchas of Palestra.net/ESPN UWIRE is a MUST WATCH! Fitz gets candid in describing the offensive line, which has not been very good at run-blocking or pass-blocking this season. (Other than pass and though, they’ve been just fine!) And they were especially bad again in Saturday’s win over Miami of Ohio. NU is 4-2, but in order for them to finish with a winning record, they’ll need to get their running game going, and the OL to play much better down the stretch against tougher competition. Hearing this Ozzie Guillenesque, not for the kiddies gem makes listening to 1,000 “we’re just focusing on what we do” and “we’re just focusing on our next game, not looking ahead” type cliches worth the while.

Enjoy by clicking here

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See more of Paul M. Banks’ sports-writing at:

-the site he founded The Sports Bank.net

-NBA analysis at Walter Football.com

-“Patrick Kane Chronicles” at Buffalo Sports Daily

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team So far, the eyes have it, as the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes look a cut or two above the rest of the Big Ten, so if you’re an Ohio State or Iowa fan, watching the game with your alumni groups at the sports bar this fall has been, and should continue to be a lot of fun. Of course, Chicago is filled with alumni of all the Big Ten schools, so read on to see where I ranked yours. Unfortunately, the two home teams, Northwestern and Illinois are pretty far down the list.

1. Ohio State (3-1, 1-0)

Buckeyes post back-to-back shutouts for first time since 1996, and are starting to look like the best team in the conference. Again. Eventually making this year…well, yet another OSU conference title would really suck for ratings. Because it would be BORRRRRRRRRRING!  Where are the 2000 Purdue Boilermakers, 1995 Northwestern Wildcats, and 2001 Illini when you need them?

2. Iowa (4-0, 1-0)

Meet senior linebacker Pat Angerer, could there be a better name for a linebacker? Angerer racked up a game-high 14 tackles and two turnovers to help the Iowa defense limit Penn State to only 10 points. Angerer recorded his first interception of the season and rambled 38 yards to set up the Hawkeyes’ second touchdown of the quart. Later he forced a fumble that was recovered by the Hawkeyes at the 18-yard line.

To read the rest of the power rankings click here

See more of Paul M. Banks’ sports-writing at the site he founded The Sports Bank, NBA analysis at  Walter Football.com and his “Patrick Kane Chronicles” at Buffalo Sports Daily

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team It was the biggest, and most unfortunate, news to hit the Chicago Blackhawks in weeks.

“Adam Burish went into the boards on Sunday night in Minnesota and injured his right knee. When a player like him leaves the ice it is always concerning and unfortunately he suffered an ACL tear. He will undergo a reconstruction as soon as possible and we anticipate a complete recovery. His return will take approximately six months,” reads a statement from Chicago Blackhawks Head Team Physician Dr. Michael Terry.

“I went into the boards goofy. It was one of those goofy plays, I was helpless,” said Burish to a very large crowd of reporters after the team’s practice on Tuesday. Fellow forward Patrick Kane, certainly no stranger to recent heightened publicity, spoke about his fallen teammate:

“Obviously, I know if I was looking forward to the year and something like that happened to me, I’d be devastated, so I’m sure he feels the same way. I talked to him a little bit, it’s tough for him. I’m sure he’s pissed off, and it’s just a bad break, hopefully he can get back as soon as he can.”

Last season’s deep playoff run, coupled with the star power of young goal-scorers such as Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp etc. helped the Blackhawks lead the National Hockey League in average attendance (22,247) per game. In order to duplicate that success at the box office this season, it would help to have their army of high-scoring forwards at full strength.

“They’ll be fine. That’s the least of my worries. It’s such a good and deep team. For training camp, I’m sure if you ask the coaches, they don’t even know who to put in the lineup, there’s so many guys, that won’t be an issue on this team.” Burish is the team’s best enforcer, and according to Chicago Magazine, the city’s 26th most eligible bachelor. Click here to read what he said about hockey groupies at the Fan Convention in July.

And it’s Burish’s sense of humor that keeps the mood light and positive in the locker room. “He’s very good for the locker room, he’s the disc jockey for one, He likes to joke around. Myself personally I really enjoy that, so he’s going to be missed around the locker room more than anything,”

Kane said in describing what Burish’s effect on team chemistry. Kaner also articulated what the team will miss from Burish on-the-ice. “He sacrifices his body for everyone on the team and you can see that when he’s blocking shots, penalty killing, taking hits to make plays, that’s just the way he plays and when you play like that, you’re bound to get hurt sometimes. He’s a great player for us, a key part of the organization and the team, and the fans love him too.”

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at The Sports Bank, Washington Times, Walter Football.com

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

On Wednesday at the United Center, in conjunction with LifeSource, Chicagoland’s Blood Center, the Blackhawks organization held a very successful blood and bone marrow drive. The turnout was good, especially when considering the fact it was held on a workday morning. Lifesource officials said over the phone that 94 new units of blood were donated, with 47 new people entered into the bone marrow registry. A volunteer on-site told me that about half were donating for the first time.

Those who donated also got to take in a Blackhawks practice at the United Center; with training camp running concurrently with the drive. The need for blood and bone marrow is a cause that hits close to home with Blackhawks General Manage Stan Bowman.
“My wife Sue and I feel that it’s our responsibility to educate others on the ease of joining the National Bone Marrow Registry and donating blood,” the Hawks GM said. Bowman was first diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in February 2007 at the age of 33 before having a reoccurrence of the disease 10 months later. He underwent a stem-cell transplant, which required doctors to take blood from his bone marrow and separate the cells, before replenishing the blood. Since that treatment, Bowman has been cancer free.

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“I realize how fragile life is and am fortunate to be in remission, but I certainly don’t take it for granted,” Bowman added. “There are a great deal of people fighting cancer and other illnesses each day that so desperately need a bone marrow transplant or blood transfusion. I would like to encourage our passionate and supportive Blackhawks fans to participate in this great event,” Bowman stated before the drive. He was also on hand for the event, and his wife donated blood. Towards the end of the drive, he appeared on the UC Jumbotron to thank those attended.

This reporter registered to donate, but was rejected due to a prior condition. Bowman and I share more than just a keen interest in hockey. Like Stan, I have fought and conquered Hodgkin’s disease- twice. And in a remarkable instance of coincidence, I received my own stem cell transplant, 6 years to the exact date of Bowman’s. Since 2003 I have been in remission, and living a life healthy enough that I was even able to swim in the Triathlon last month. I wholeheartedly agree with Bowman’s statements and I am very pleased his organization held this event.

For more information, or to give blood and/or bone marrow in the future please visit lifesource.org or click here.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at The Sports Bank, Washington Times, Walter Football.com

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

This past weekend, the University of Illinois Fighting Illini got some measure of redemption from their week one DISASTER in St. Louis. The Illini responded from their 37-9 thrashing at the hands of Missouri to rout FCS opponent Illinois St. 45-17 in Champaign. Granted it was against a lower tier team predicted to finish near the bottom of their vastly inferior conference, but the Illini did without the services of arguably their three if not best, most important, players: QB Juice Williams, WR Arrelious Benn, and LB Martez Wilson. Williams, a Chicago native who’s been tutored by another Chicago product and star quarterback, Donovan McNabb contributed just one series before getting hurt. His injury is not supposed to be extremely serious and his return is key, for the Illini to have a legitimate leader.

Williams spoke about what he learned from working with McNabb. “Keep your head…a majority of quarterbacks know that when things start going on around them, people start talking, things start to tank. It’s just the quarterback mentality to let everything go and just stay focused and go from there,” Williams stated.

His top-flight receiver in a highly heralded corps is Arrelious “Rejus” Benn, a projected top ten pick in the NFL Draft. But his stock is falling because Rejus has been a total non-factor so far. The Illini receivers have been extremely hyped, and if Benn isn’t 100% healthy then other players like Jeff Cumberland, Jarred Fayson, and Tight End Michael Hoohoomanawananuii (have fun with trying to pronounce that) will need to step up big time. illinois

Illini Head Coach Ron Zook also needs to realize who his starting tailback is. It should be Daniel Dufrene, with Jason Ford as a capable back-up, not the other way around. They’ve battled some injuries as well this young season, so they fit right in with the rest of the team.

On the other side of the ball, it comes down to another well-recruited Chicago product, Martez Wilson, who moves over to Middle Linebacker, and needs to be the “quarterback” of the defense.

“The last two, actually the last three years, our Mike linebacker has led the Big Ten in tackles,” Zook said. “I don’t want to put the pressure on him that he’s not doing a good job if he doesn’t lead the Big Ten in tackles, but he’s a guy that a lot of things revolve around him, with our calls and so forth, and it’s going to be important that he has the kind of year that we think he can.” Wilson was also hurt and missed the last game. But Illinois won in impressive fashion, despite all the key missing pieces, which is a good sign. It’s also a good thing they have this week off- to get ready and healthy for mighty Ohio St. on September 26th.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at The Sports Bank, Washington Times, Walter Football.com

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

Chicago’s hometown Big Ten team, the Northwestern Wildcats, began the season in a manner that most predicted they would. Granted it was against Towson, an FCS (formerly I-AA) opponent, but a 47-14 win is still a 47-14 win.Quarterback Mike Kafka made a lot of plays, starting 7-8 passing and finishing 15-20 for 192 yards. The strength of the team, the secondary had a good day picking off Towson QB Peter Athens twice and holding him to just 140 passing yards. Senior safeties Brad Phillips and Brendan Smith led the way, as their experience helped them make the proper reads and coverage adjustments into what the opposing offense was doing.

The NU air attack was led by senior Andrew Brewer, who caught a 72 yard TD pass from backup QB Dan Persa, and finished with 6 catches for 145 yards. Since NU lost all their starting receivers from last season, the faithful dressed in purple were glad to see somebody step up. “Everyone talks about our no-name receiving corps, but now you guys know Andrew Brewer, so that’s one,” Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald said.

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But it wasn’t just Brewer, as many receivers got in on the act. “It’s always exciting to spread the ball around on offense, I heard 8 different guys caught the ball,” Brewer said.
The spreading the wealth around philosophy also translated to the running back corp, where three of the tailbacks rushed for 30 yards or more, and three of the backs saw at least six carries.

Expect most of the trends from this game to carry over to the rest of the season.

Note: today marks the first installment of The Sports Bank’s new Saturday Live College Football Chat. Check it out here.

Each and every week, we’ll have numerous writers blogging from the press box, at home on the couch, the sidelines, sports bars etc. all around the Big Ten and Midwest. Our comment boards are lighting up with over 60 comments so far, so please join in on the discussion by clicking here.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

The Sea was angry, my friend. That was my first thought getting into Lake Michigan to begin my portion of the Chicago Triathlon Relay. My second thought, as I entered the cold 63 degree water (still an upgrade from the ridiculously unseasonable 58 degree air temperature) “Why the hell did I sign on for this again?” And why did I not seriously train for this? Well, it is the world’s largest triathlon, with 9,000 participants, and a couple of them are looking about as wide as they are tall; so if they can do it, I can do it. Besides it will make for a good story when the Olympics arrive in 2016.

I had three goals for my first ever organized swim race/triathlon.

1.) Finish – Do not drown.

2.) No hanging on the safety rope alongside the Monroe Harbor course. No doggy paddling or loafer stroke either. The only time I will break from forward stroke progressive motion to tread water is when I have to recognize and deal with any unforeseen hazard which will inevitably cross my path.

3.) Don’t worry about competing or time – but finish ahead of somebody at least. It’s .93 miles (1.5 km) from Balbo to the Shedd Aquarium and back to Randolph street. And I didn’t want to be like Bill Murray’s character in “Stripes.”dsc02810

“I noticed something, Soldier, you’re always last.”

“I’m pacing myself, Sir.”

To found out how I did click here.

To read the Chicago Tribune Local version of my Triathlon story click here

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

Until Chicago’s Blackhawks and Bulls get their respective seasons going again, there’s a void right now for local fans yearning to see some live professional action. As usual, the Cubs are way out of playoff contention and their ticket prices remain ridiculously high. The Sox, with just slightly more reasonable entrance fees, are eliminated too. (Don’t let those AL Central standings fool you, that division features 5 teams which could honestly struggle to win a AAA league. Even if the Sox actually learn how to field the ball, and “win” their division, the AL East Champions would crush them into a million little pieces come the playoffs anyway.) Yes, we all love our Bears and their flashy new QB, but you pretty much have to be a Federal bailout recipient to afford a halfway decent seat at one of their games.

Explore the Chicago Fire, out fair city’s MLS offering and your problem is solved. Start by reading the “Newbie’s Guide to the 2009 Chicago Fire,” and you’ll learn everything you need to know. The blog’s author is to soccer knowledge what the Fox network is to trashy reality television. As the guide states:Fire_Blanco_Soccer_ILBK101

“Midfield seats are $50- compare that to $350 (face value) for 50-yard line seats for Bears- and if you take advantage of section8chicago.com’s $15 ticket deals, you can go to a whole summer’s worth of Fire games for less than the cost of a single bleacher ticket to Wrigley. Yes, a Cubs bleacher ticket gives you a front row view to the Unintentional Comedy Extravaganza {and psychiatric disorder case study, I might add} that is Milton Bradley…”

…but instead of finishing his thoughts I’ll switch to a lighter topic. Section 8 is one of the biggest parties you’ll find. They hit the pubs before the game (match) together and commute on the same bus to beautiful Toyota Park and back. Once there, they wave enormous flags, sing, chant, stand, cheer and make merry better than the rowdiest of college basketball student sections. It’s like what you see in Europe- minus the hooliganism, broken bottles over the head, and rioting.
Seriously, this summer (or whatever you call it, calendar says summer even though the thermometer says October) you should see that Fire games rock, and right now the Toyota Park experience is more fun than watching two overpaid, underachieving baseball teams meaninglessly play out the string. There’s tailgating, bean bags, totally boss Mexican food and their coach Denis Hamlett even says fun things like “we pissed points away” (at least he did on this night, a 1-0 loss to hated rival D.C. United) at their post game press conferences. Oh, and did I mention that the Fire are within striking distance of the best record in their league? They do this thing called winning games too. For tickets, click here

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

Mark Buerhle is not done yet. Following a perfect game last Thursday afternoon over the Tampa Bay Rays, supplementing his no-hitter he threw two years ago against Texas no less, Buerhle pitched a “perfect game” for the first 5 2/3 innings of his next start. In doing so, he broke a Major League Baseball record by retiring 45 straight batters.

The old record of 41 consecutive batters retired was held by two men. One is a teammate: currently embattled closer Bobby Jenks in 2007; the second was Jim Parr of the 1972 San Francisco Giants. When Jenks tied the record in ’07, it was one of the most under-publicized records in baseball history. Only the seamheads and most die hard of Sox die-hards celebrated it. This was partially due to the fact that the Sox were practically eliminated from playoff contention by Memorial Day that season. This time, however the lights will shine brighter. Buerhle’s feat comes the night after he appeared on David Letterman to deliver a Top Ten list in his honor (in case you missed it, here’s the vid ).

This accomplishment comes in the thick of a pennant race, at the stadium of the Sox most hated rival, the Minnesota Twins, who are right there with them in the standings. Despite the Twins being to the Sox what the Giants are to the Dodgers, or what the Yankees are to the Red Sox, the Twins fans gave Buerhle a standing ovation twice: when he broke the record and also when upon exiting the game. Sure, the wheels came off after Buerhle’s re-Mark-able streak ended, as the Twins took the lead the next inning. And then the Sox bullpen pitched like a bunch of bushers making things even worse. However, the Twins fans appreciating Buerhle’s record as much as us Sox fans do was 1.) very classy 2.) shows they like baseball in general as much as they like their team.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

Current Chicago Blackhawks right wing Adam Burish was recently named the 26th most eligible single by Chicago magazine. The former Wisconsin Badger (and my Facebook friend) showed off his bachelor pad, complete with upscale wine fridge, for local NBC cameras recently and also talked about groupies at the second annual Hawks Fan Convention in Chicago last weekend.

Of all the panel discussions I heard on Sunday July 19th, the second most memorable moment (the first being the announcement that Chicago will wear their black Winter Classic jerseys as their official third sweater next season) was Burish being asked “What do you do when a fan approaches you and tries to make out with you?” Burish half-jokingly responded, “What does she look like?”

In the segment entitled “Chicago’s Most Wanted,” Burish was joined by Brian Campbell, Patrick Sharp, Tony Amonte and Steve Larmer to converse about being a celebrity in a sports-obsessed town. To further validate the point of this exercise, the Continental Ballroom packed in a standing room only crowd to hear this topic. When asked about groupies Burish said at the beginning of his response “Is this G, PG, PG-13, Is this X? You need to direct me where to go.” The panel host, WGN’s Steve Cochran, responded “Given the high amount of 11-year olds and Grandmothers here, let’s go with PG for now.”

“There’s some crazy female fans, you see them when you’re on the road, but I have to give some of these girls some credit, because they know what time you’re getting in. I don’t know what time practice is half the time, but they know. They know what time I’m getting in, they know where practice is. They know things about my Mom, my sister that I don’t even know. But whatever, it’s cool, it’s funny. These girls aren’t doing any harm, they’re not disrespecting anybody. Except for the ones that are knocking down your door at 4 in the morning,” Burish said regarding the stalkers and drunken groupies of the hockey world.

Elisha Cuthbert- the world's most famous hockey groupie

When Brian “Soupy” Campbell was asked the same question about drunken groupies, he did what anyone who has been properly advised by a PR professional would do- deflect the conversation completely away from anything remotely provocative and interesting, and instead re-frame the conversation in a manner family-friendly enough for Disney. “The practice rink got pretty crazy at times this year, trying to get from the rink to your car. I just don’t like it when the big guy pushes the kid out of the way, because you always try to get to the kids first- they’re important that way,” Soupy said. His statement, which utterly ignored the question at hand, was met with thunderous applause.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

During the past year of covering the Chicago Blackhawks, I’ve discussed one distinctive, but vastly underreported ritual that takes place inside the Blackhawks’ locker room. On that carpeted floor is a beautiful, large Indian head logo; and if any one steps on it, a curse or pox shall come upon them! One day, I did my best to avoid stepping on it while also trying to navigate a media throng, and since I have the gracefulness of Clark W. Griswold, I nearly fell on my face. A locker room usher observed, didn’t care about my almost falling, and simply said “You almost stepped on it there.” I once saw a camera man step on it, prompting a couple reporters to shout “DEATH.”

At the 2009 Hawks Convention at Chicago’s Hilton towers, this tradition was discussed at the breakout session entitled “Inside the Locker Room.”

“We play for that Indian head, we work for that Indian head. And Savvy put it best: you commit to the Indian- maybe I shouldn’t say that, he got in trouble for that. That’s what we do every day trainers, Troy {Murray, Hawks television commentator} up in the booth, I’m sure you’ve heard Troy get pretty passionate up there. I know I have, but you stay off it, it’s just respect that goes with anything. hawksconvention2

As far as superstition, everyone has their little things…But as far as big things, know to stay off the Indian head and you’ll be alright,” said Blackhawks Equipment Manager Troy Parchman. He was joined by Blackhawks players Ben Eager, Aaron Johnson, and Niklas Hjarmmson in a session moderated by Murray. Also a part of the panel was Equipment assistant Clinton Reif.

“This year, in the playoffs especially, when things got crowded in there they had to do something a little bit special because everyone who was around the team on a regular basis knows that you don’t step on that Indian,” Reif said. And that something special included putting up tensa-barriers on the floor surrounding the logo when the Hawks advanced further along in the playoffs, and more media showed up in each round of the postseason. Just typing about stepping on it reminds me of “Ghostbusters,” when they were told just “crossing the streams,” will make something catastrophic occur.

“The players take that very seriously. When a reporter would be in there, they would get it pretty good if someone walked across it. I wouldn’t say it was a lack of respect by those people, they just didn’t know. A lot of other teams in the league have that in their carpet, and I can’t tell of one that feels free to walk across it. I’m pretty sure that everyone does the same thing: you just stay off the logo,” Parchman reiterated.

 

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team One of the weirdest aspects of a rivalry is when a player changes teams, and goes to his former team’s bitterest of rivals. 

Even though he’s been wearing a Detroit Red Wings(who currently lead the Stanley Cup Finals 2-1)  sweater now for 9 years when Chris Chelios was in town last week you just had to root for him. Even despite  his  contributing to the Blackhawks demise. If you didn’t then you fit in to Jerry Seinfeld’s “sports fans are rooting for clothes” routine.

(We’re currently seeing the same thing with Joe Crede leaving the Sox for the Twins) Rivalries are all about black-versus-white, but when it comes to situations like this, it’s actually a shade of grey. With an injury to all-world defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, as well as his back-up Ericcson, Chelios got his chance to contribute during the Western Conference Finals. Doing the ceremonial puck drop that game was Bob Probert another guy who played for both the Red Wings and Hawks. Chelios spoke about the playoff atmosphere:

“I had a good feeling when it was Proby, because he played for the Wings and the Hawks, everything they’ve done from the marketing to the bringing back the veterans Bobby Hull, Mikita. It’s good to see them back in the building, I’m playing hockey for one reason: because I grew up watching the Hawks,” the Evergreen Park native said.

Chelios commented after the game about how the roar has been restored in Chicago hockey. “It reminded me of being in the old stadium. It’s different when you’re on the other team, but I feed off of that and I think our team likes the atmosphere,” Chelly said.

The 47 year old University of Wisconsin-Madison alum is the second oldest player in league history (he’s older than his coach Mike Babcock) to Gordie Howe. Is this finally it for him?

“Everybody’s trying to get rid of me, it’s crazy, but they’ll miss me when I’m gone, so I’ll stay around as long as someone wants me, I love playing,” Chelios said.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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 Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team The word “domination” doesn’t do justice to the level of damage Blake Griffin inflicted upon opposing teams this past season. The National Player of the Year averaged 22.7 points and 14.4 rebounds per game while shooting a ridiculous 65% from the field, most of those baskets coming on dunks, lay-ups, or putbacks since few defenders matched his combination of athleticism and strength underneath the basket.

Griffin is to double-doubles what Jay-z is to rhyming. He recorded at least ten points and ten boards in 30 of his 35 games played, (and you can discount the game against Texas when Griffin suffered a concussion and only played 11 minutes).

He’s built like a truck with shoulders wider than the gap between Paris Hilton’s ears, but he also possesses the athletic ability and explosiveness of the league’s top wing players. Those attributes are why he often draws comparisons to Phoenix Suns forward Amare Stoudemire.

At the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago Griffin was asked who he models his game on, Amare was actually the first name to come up. “I really like how Amare Stoudemire came into the league and I feel like we were in the same position. He really liked to use his athleticism and dunk all the time and slowly he developed his jump shot. So hopefully, I can be in that category,” the future #1 overall pick said. Later, he would mention that Shaq was one of his favorites to watch, but also said he doesn’t see himself emulating Shaquille’s game.

Interesting that he mentioned his jump shot as his weakness because if there is any flaw to Griffin’s game, it’s shooting. Due to his dominance in the paint at Oklahoma, Griffin rarely had to step out and show off his limited jumper. Building consistency with his mid-range game will be an area the former Sooner must improve upon to become an All-Star caliber player at the next level. “A lot of people think all I do is dunk, all I do is make lay-ups, so hopefully I can show them that I’m more versatile than that, that I can score a little from outside that I can dribble a little bit and that I’m not a one-dimensional player,” the future Clipper said

After the interview sessions, Griffin and Los Angeles Clippers General Manager/Head Coach Mike Dunleavy were spotted hanging out in the bar/restaurant downstairs. So what does Griffin think about Dunleavy publicly saying he’s definitely going to draft Griffin first overall? “As possibly one of my next coaches, I believe him, but anything can happen, and that’s how I’m looking at it,” Griffin said.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team 

When the NBA Draft Combine rolled through Chicago this week, you could have mistaken the Second City for Beverly Hills. Strolling through Michigan Avenue’s Westin Hotel where the draft combine’s media activities were held, we encountered some of basketball’s heaviest hitters, including the entire Chicago Bulls front office, Detroit Pistons GM Joe Dumars, NBA coaches Mike D’Antoni and Mike Dunleavy, legendary talk show host Larry King (twice) and former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda. And that was just the first hour.

During the actual interview sessions, a draft combine reporter gets up close and personal with every former college basketball star soon to be drafted in a couple weeks. Each player gets his own table in the conference room and journalists rotate like speed daters to obtain quality face time with everyone. Conversation is much more in-depth than post-game press conferences. It’s about the big picture here — no time to waste on the boringly banal queries from newspaper beat writers.

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

Maven presents The Divo Series! The Sports Bank.net founder Paul M. Banks is one of a select few being honored as a Divo: {dee-voh}, celebrita: A Divo is an Italian word used to describe male superstars! This has nothing to do with an 80s one-hit wonder band that wore large hats constructed of legos.

The Divo Series honors influential men in Media, Marketing, Sports, Fashion, Fitness, Music, TV and much more!

Private reception hosted by Chivas 18 6-7pm

Host: Sarah Vargo of Maven | Promotions, Publicity and Events!
Cocktail Party and Networking function: Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Time: 6:00pm – 9:00pm YES, THERE WILL BE TVs TO WATCH BLACKHAWKS-WINGS GAME 5!

Location: Bull and Bear (IF YOU’RE A CHICAGO SPORTS FAN YOU GOTTA LOVE A BAR WITH THAT NAME!)
431 N. Wells
Chicago, IL

Come check out the party’s Facebook Invitation here-

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

In Kane and Sharp, the Chicago Blackhawks possess two young star forwards named Patrick. “Sharpie” the lesser known of the two, is having a much better Western Conference Finals than “Kaner.” Down 3-1 to the Detroit Red Wings, the Hawks will need both of them, (and more reinforcements) to be on their A game if Chicago is going to stand any chance of advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals. Sharp is often overshadowed by Kane, the 2008 Calder Memorial Trophy winner and face-of-the-franchise, but it was Sharpie who was on pace to lead the team in goals this season before being sidelined by injury down the stretch.
Kaner is having a rough series, sporting an ugly -7 in the +/- department, and he didn’t even make it onto the score sheet until notching a game 4 assist. Red Wings Coach Mike Babcock talked about how his team shut down Kane.

“Till today we always played Nick (All-Star defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom) against him. Today, we didn’t have that option so we just try to play a really good five man unit and limit their touches the best we can. I think Osgood did a good job, but you’re never going to shut a guy like that down totally with the amount of skill level he has. I thought the other night in game three even though he didn’t get on the sheet, I thought that line with Byufglien and Toews dominated the shifts territorally- just couldn’t get the puck in the net,” Babcock saidkane_8x10

As ugly as the 6-1 game four home loss to Detroit was, both young stars have breakout game performances in their recent memory.
Before entering this current slump, Kane recorded his first career hat trick in game 6 of the Western Conference Seminfinals, in eliminating the Vancouver Canucks. After the exciting 7-5 win, Kane told the media the criticisms from Canucks defenceman Willie Mitchell fired him up. “I got a wake-up call from old Willie Mitchell over there. He made some comments saying I couldn’t play five on five, I don’t know if you want to fire up a player like that. I scored three goals five-on-five, so you’ll have to ask him about that one,” Kane said.
Friday night, Sharp was the number one star of the conference finals’ game three with two goals, including the overtime game winner. That was pretty exciting to be in the building at that point, I’ve had some double overtime ones in the minors but, it was pretty loud when the puck went in and it was exciting,” Sharp said in describing perhaps the biggest night of his career. Both Patricks will need to have more games like that as Chicago faces elimination.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

Heading into 2008-09, the season of Chicago Blackhawks renaissance, it was thought in certain circles that Hawks General Manager Dale Tallon could be on the way out. Tallon was more Bill Wirtz’s guy than he was Rocky Wirtz’s guy. After NHL coaching legend Scotty Bowman joined the Hawks organization (pronounced “organ-I-zation” in Canadian English) as Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations, rumors swirled that Tallon might be replaced by Bowman’s son, assistant GM of Hockey Operations, Stan Bowman.
Today however, Tallon is sitting pretty as the blueprint for success he drafted has guided the Hawks much further along the postseason path than anyone expected. After advancing to their first Conference Final since 1995, (where they’re currently down 2-1 to the Red Wings), Tallon spoke about his team, the youngest in the league, climbing the ladder much faster than expectedtallon

“The sooner the better is fine with me. I don’t want to wait any longer, it’s been fun and I’m proud of these kids, this is the greatest group of kids I’ve been around; on and off the ice,” Tallon said.

Tallon’s first season as GM was tumultuous. After the 2004–05 NHL season was canceled due to labor issues, a new collective bargaining agreement was signed. This created a new financial structure and many rule changes intended to yield higher scoring games. In response, Tallon reshaped the team, but most of his free agents never panned out and the Hawks finished 14th in the 15-team Western Conference.

However, since then he turned the Blackhawk franchise around (the Hawks are the only team in the NHL to improve their win total each of the past four years) by drafting young talents Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and also acquiring stars Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg. Tallon recently spoke about the traits possessed by his young nucleus. “Their impeccable character- they’re beyond their years as far as composure and intelligence…they’re way ahead of their time as far the mental aspect of it, their maturity impresses me,” Tallon said before later commenting on his team’s versatility:

“This is a team that can play any style, it you want to play it tough, we’ll play it tough, if you want to play speed, up-tempo, we’ll do that too. I think people underestimate how strong and resilient these kids are.” Chicago’s deep playoff run has been great for hockey ratings on television, and the NHL could certainly use this boost. Perhaps the Blackhawks’ rebirth, led in part by the young stars Dale Tallon drafted, will help improve the league’s damaged Q rating. Tallon spoke about the plethora of current young NHL stars.

“As hockey fans we’re in a great era right now. You see Crosby perform and Ovechkin and Malkin, and you see Backstrom in Washington and everyday we get to see Kane and Toews and don’t forget we’ve got some other young guys in Bolland, Brouwer, and Byfuglien, you can go down the list…we’re very fortunate in this era to be able to witness such young players excel at such a young age,” Tallon stated.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team During the Bill Wirtz era, it was not uncommon for the Chicago Blackhawks to draw less than 5,000 fans for a game. Earlier this decade, they finished dead last in the NHL in attendance. This season however, the Blackhawks set a National Hockey League club record by attracting an average of 21,783 to their 40 home dates at United Center (also, 40,818 filled Wrigley Field for the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day). It’s fashionable now to be “committed to the Indian.” Supporting the Blackhawks is the new black. On Monday night the Hawks, for the first time in franchise history, welcomed their one millionth fan in a single season (including playoffs) and they did it in style defeating the Vancouver Canucks 7-5 in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

Face of the franchise Patrick Kane (or should I say “Hat trick Kane”) commented on the fanbase. “They’ve been there for us all year, whether it’s the show we’re putting on, they just keep coming back. We put on a good performance on for them. They say Bruce Springsteen’s up next tomorrow, so they say he’ll have trouble putting on the same show we did (chuckles), so it should be pretty fun and we look forward to the next series,” the star winger said. Chicago advances to their first Conference Final since 1995 where they’ll face the winner of Detroit/Anaheim.blackhawksshowEarlier this season, Chicago established a single-season attendance record, hosting 871, 337. The previous high set in 935, 971. GM Dale Tallon spoke about the journey. “It’s been a long time coming for these fans and they’ve been supportive and to do it here in this packed house rocking like this is quite special, so I’m very happy for our players and fans,” Tallon said.
The Blackhawks led the league in attendance and merchandise sales. They have one of the most recognized logos in all of sports. In the 90s, we saw Clark W. Griswold from the National Lampoon’s Vacation movies sporting the Hawks jersey, so did Wayne and Garth from “Wayne’s World.” Now it seems like everyone is, and with the Bulls eliminated from the postseason, both baseball teams struggling through mediocre injury-filled starts to the season and months until the Bears commence, don’t expect this bandwagon to lose any momentum.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team Now that Jose Contreras (0-5, 8.19 ERA) is gone, hopefully, his replacement will keep the White Sox rotation from spinning off its axis every fifth day. Contreras was contrarian to the Sox winning ballgames, so he’ll go and attempt to work out his issues at AAA Charlotte.

On Wednesday Clayton Richard, the former University of Michigan quarterback, will take his spot in the rotation when the Sox play at Cleveland. Richard was a somewhat effective spot starter and solid reliever down the stretch last season. His rookie season contributions during a division championship run were reminiscent of another rookie in another championship season: Brandon McCarthy, who stepped up down the stretch of the 2005 championship year. Richard gets the first opportunity, but if he fails, here’s the other “options.White Sox Royals Baseball

Lance “jazz hands” Broadway- His name sounds like a stage alias in a really bad musical. And his fastball is equally lacking in intimidation. I don’t think Pitching Coach Don Cooper legitimately considers a Broadway audition because his velocity is impressive…if you’re pitching for the Schaumburg Flyers or Gary Southshore RailCats.

Jeff Marquez- Remember when he was considered to be a front-runner for the 5th starter position? Ancient history now as he’s on the DL with a 0-4 record and 14.15 ERA in AAA ball. Forget about the strides he made this spring. Fellow farmhand Jack Egbert was also considered an option earlier this year, but has similarly since fallen out of favor.

Wes Whisler- He has a 3-2 2.12 ERA as a starter in AAA and led the Knights in victories and games started last season- good for 10th in the International League ERA race. The 26-year-old prospect ranked second in wins, fourth in IP and ninth in ERA among all Sox farmhands. He wasn’t initially rated to be much of a prospect, but then again the Sox have fired people in their scouting department in recent years for a reason.

Hopefully, this situation won’t turn into another 2004, when it seemed like there was a new 5th starter every week. One of these youngsters should step up, otherwise it might be time to give the agents of Jason Grilli or Freddy Garcia a call. Lord help us if it someday comes to that.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team Jerry Colangelo is a sports mogul. He’s the former owner of the Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA, Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League and the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was instrumental in the relocation of the Winnipeg Jets to become the Phoenix Coyotes, who are now in bankruptcy. (And rumored to be soon owned by Chicago Bulls/White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.) Colangelo has been named the NBA’s Executive of the Year four times and elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Last month he visited Chicago as the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Foundation held their inaugural “Court of Honor Gala” at Union Station. The Gala celebrated the lifetime achievements and contributions of the Chicago native and University of Illinois graduate. I caught up to Colangelo at the gala where both his speech and his interview answers provided the media numerous insights on life in the NBA and basketball in general

getty images

Colangelo was born and raised in one of the roughest suburbs of Chicago. (Yes, I know it may sound a bit oxymoronic to describe a suburb as being socio-economically depressed) He reaffirmed his rags-to-riches story:

“So when I look here and I see so many friends and people I’ve competed with and against, it’s a humbling experience. It’s the only way to describe it and sometimes you pinch yourself and say did this really all happen? I’m still the kid from Chicago Heights. But I guess it did and it helps to put it in proper perspective…To start out where I did and end up where I am now is truly living the American dream,” Colangelo said.
Jerry then answered inquiries about residing at the top of the basketball pantheon and accepting his award in the windy city.

“This is a fraternity, it’s a fraternity of a lot of the people who have the same passion for a game, for a sport in particular, for a city I was asked where would I want this event to take place and I said Chicago, it’s where I’m from these are my roots and it’s a great gathering spot, it’s a very exciting time,” he responded before answering a question about his involvement in the push to get Chicago the next Summer Olympic games which are still up for grabs.
“Well I’m on the 2016 committee and I’m doing everything I can to be of help. I was here with the IOC members, and it would be very easy for people to say well Jerry, you’re prejudice, but I’ve seen Rio de Janiero, I’ve seen Tokyo and Madrid, I’ve seen plans of all the cities and there’d be no better host than Chicago. It’d be a great place to have it and I’m hopeful and prayerful that we get it because it should happen,” Jerry said
For the Full interview click here

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team In the Chicago Blackhawks-Vancouver Canucks Western Conference Semifinal series, most of the statistics are remarkably even. The one exception: shots on goal. The Hawks hold a decisive edge, accumulating a 31 shot advantage. Even though they’ve taken more shots than a college fraternity pledge during hazing week, the numbers of total goals scored in this series is a dead heat. Many of the Chicago slap shots are coming from beyond optimal range and often after a pass or two too many. It’s a true testament to the Vancouver defensemen, who have done a great job limiting Chicago’s prime scoring opportunities.

It also reaffirms the hype surrounding Canucks’ goaltender Roberto Luongo, one of the best in the business. By stopping 107/115 shots he’s faced (.930 save percentage), he’s clearly outplaying his Blackhawks counterpart Nikolai Khabibulin. The “Bulin Wall” has saved 72 of the 82 shots (.878 save percentage) coming his way. The Hawks scored very late in regulation and then again in overtime of Game 4 to win 2-1 and even the series at two games a piece.

After the road loss, Luongo spoke about the defense in front of him. “It was a pretty close game and we took the lead and we were doing what we needed to do in protecting that lead as far paying the price of blocking shots and stuff like that,” Luongo said.

In order to take control of this series, Chicago must do a better job converting more of their scoring opportunities. The optimal plan might be following Coach Joel Quenneville’s mantra of keep getting pucks on the net and eventually good things will happen.

“I think against him, shots at the net, traffic, second and third opportunities, tip screens, deflections, that’s how you have to beat him. The more we do that, the better chance we’ll have to put the puck behind him,” Quenneville stated. And like the greatest hockey player of all, Wayne Gretzky famously said: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

With the Chicago Blackhawks capturing the city’s heart this season, numerous second city citizens who previously ignored hockey are now finding themselves to be experts on the sport’s terminology. “Even Strength” is the term used to describe the portion of the game when both teams have the same number of attackers on the ice. It’s also the perfect way to describe the Hawks match-up with the Vancouver Canucks in. The statistics for the best of seven series, which Vancouver now leads 2-1, are remarkably even. Vancouver has the edge in total goals by just one, Vancouver has committed only two more penalties than Chicago, and both teams have exactly 13 penalty kills in this series.

Each team even has a home venue (United Center and General Motors Place) named by a transportation corporation recently in or headed towards bankruptcy protectionchicago-blackhawks

Vancouver defenseman Ossi Vaananeen spoke highly regarding the fundamentals of the team currently battling his squad so tightly. “They’ve played well, in a tough division. They have good power play, good special teams, they scored a lot of even strength goals, they had more points than us this year,” Vaananeen said.

An even Steven series should have been expected when considering how the regular season went. Just 3 points and one win separated the two clubs in the 2008-09 standings. The two teams also tied for exactly 88 points in 2007-08. Even though the Hawks were the better team during the regular season, they now must win Thursday, if they are to have a realistic shot at winning the series. Hawks captain Jonathan Toews spoke about some things Chicago must improve. “I think we need to start chipping away and moving out feet to wearing them down next time,” Toews said in reference to the Hawks falling behind in each game of the series. The way things are going, it will likely take a 7th game (and probably and overtime shootout) to decide this Western Conference semifinal.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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