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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank Chicago Blackhawks top scorer Patrick Kane headed to the locker room with a knee injury during the first period of Tuesday night’s loss to the Detroit Red Wings, but returned to action in the second. January 1, the Blackhawks’ franchise (and perfectly healthy) player will, along with his teammates, host the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field, in NHL Winter Classic 2009. (noon on NBC)

 Earlier this week, “Kaner” answered questions about the outdoor battle with the Wings on conference call. winterclassiclogo

“This year it seems to be really high-scoring and real close games. Both games have gone to a shootout, one was 6-5, another 5-4. That’s what the fans want to see. They want to see a lot of goals and a lot of up-tempo, a lot of skill in the game and two fast teams…Every game against the Red Wings is important, especially when we are trying to chase them right now,” he said regarding the team’s bitter rival.

Hawks defenseman Brian Campbell, who played in the ’08 Winter Classic gave Kaner some advice about playing in the game. “I think it’s probably going to be a little frustrating out there. The ice is going to be a little different. They are going to have to fix it up a little bit more than you do in a regular game. The game is going to be longer. Sometimes you get cold out there and you’ve got to deal with that too,” Kane said.

Kane will unveil and use personally-designed skates and stick during the Winter Classic. Only 88 skates and 88 sticks were created for this special event and Kane, the only player wearing them, will personally sign and auction off a portion of the limited edition product to raise money for breast Cancer research.

“The skates and stick are the colors of the Blackhawks and should go well with the uniform, but at the same time, it’s a little bit of showtime,” Kane said. “Hopefully when I step out onto the ice, people will say ‘Oh wow, look at the skates Kane’s wearing.’ You know the old saying, ‘Look good, feel good, play good’” Kane said before adding, “It’s really exciting to look at a skate and design it to exactly how you want it to be made. To be able to give back to the community makes the whole experience even more special.”

For more Chicago Sports Analysis and discussion.

For my Washington Times.com blog “Chicago Blue State.”

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank 

Usually when prominent government and business leaders descend upon Wrigley Field to discuss a game being played there, the temperature’s more likely to be near 90 than zero. However, the second annual NHL Winter Classic is no ordinary game; neither are the bread and circuses surrounding it. Mayor Richard Daley, joined by Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz, Blackhawks President John McDonough, and Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney came to Wrigley Monday for a special press event in advance of the much-anticipated outdoor regular-season game between the Hawks and their bitter rival, the Detroit Red Wings, on New Year’s Day. daleyhawksjeryse

On a day with the temperature and wind-chill more suited for the Yukon Territories than Chicago, Daley and the execs toured the current field’s infrastructure, led by the NHL’s Don Renzulli (Senior Vice President of Events), and Dan Craig (Facilities Operations Manager). This is the team transforming Wrigley Field, one of baseball’s cathedrals, into a hockey experience.

Following the tour, a fedora-clad Daley and the executives talked about the event in a nice WARM Wrigley Field press room. After the speeches, Rocky presented Hizzoner with a special Winter Classic jersey with “Daley 09” stitched on the back.

“As the first hockey game to be played at Wrigley Field, this game is already part of Chicago sports history,” Daley said.

The Hawks are both the NHL’s hottest team with seven straight wins and the current leader in home attendance. They will play the defending Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings for a record 701st time. No other NHL series can boast of as many meetings as this one. In the NFL, the record is held by the hometown Bears and Green Bay Packers. Wirtz appropriately drew an analogy between the two rivalries when describing the upcoming Winter Classic’s atmosphere.

“I also want to thank all those Chicago Bears fans who are going to be out watching the Bears beat Green Bay today, because that’s going to be much like the Chicago Blackhawks fans who are going to be following the Blackhawks on a day like today,” Wirtz said.

For more Chicago Sports Analysis and discussion.

For my Washington Times.com blog “Chicago Blue State.”

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank

You’ve likely seen it by now on SportsCenter, your local news or on your favorite sports blogs: the infamous minor league fight between the Cubs single A affiliate, the Peoria Chiefs and the Cincinnati Reds’ affiliate, the Dayton Dragons. The video is being forwarded to millions of inboxes every day. These same Chiefs take on the Kane County Cougars at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night at 7:05 PM. Tickets to the Cougars-Chiefs contest at the Friendly Confines start at just $5; so here’s a chance to see the baseball cathedral on the cheap. The Chiefs are currently managed by Ryne Sandberg, an iconic figure for a whole generation of Chicago Cubs fans. The 2005 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame inductee is considered to be one of the greatest second baseman in history. Sandberg had no part in this infamous brawl though because he was away in Cooperstown for the annual Hall of Fame weekend ceremonies. Sandberg’s fill-in, as well as the Dragons’ manager, were both ejected.

I caught up to Sandberg right before his Chiefs visited the Chicago area to start a three game set with the Cougars earlier this month. I asked him about all the fans that swoon around him at every minor league game. “I sign autos for about 20-30 minutes every single day whether we’re at home or on the road. Since its Opening Day last year the routine hasn’t stopped. I hear all the stories about grandparents and great-grandparents. Everyone’s a fan of mine and the Cubs; so I see all the pictures of me posing with these kids when they were three or four years old and now they’re in the 20s and 30s standing there in line for autographs. It takes me back, looking at the old stuff, seeing what these people collected and bring out of the closet. Some days I’m amazed; other days it’s the same stories repeated, it’s all good stuff,” Sandberg said.

I’ll be at Wrigley on Tuesday night attending Sandberg’s pre and post-game press conferences. Before I find my place in the press box, I’m going to be a guest on the MILB Radio podcast, which will be broadcasting live from the Cubby Bear. If you’re going to the game or going to be in Wrigleyville, please come by and check out all the baseball-related fun!

For part two of my Ryne Sandberg interview click here. For more Chicago Sports analysis and discussion click here.

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The Sports Bank, NBC5 Street Team

Ryne Sandberg is an iconic figure for a whole generation of Chicago Cubs fans. The 2005 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame inductee is considered to be one of the greatest second baseman in history. His #23 is just the fourth number ever retired by the Cubs organization. He retired in 1997, after spending nearly his entire career as a Cub. He is currently the manager of the Cubs single A affiliate, the Peoria Chiefs. Large crowds of individuals that “bleed Cubbie blue” follow him wherever he manages. Goose Island even brewed a special beer in honor of Sandberg, “the Ryno 23” during the year he was enshrined in Cooperstown. I caught up to him right before his Chiefs visited the Chicago area to start a three game set with the Kane County Cougars. The two teams will meet again on July 29th at Wrigley Field (7:05pm) for the first minor league game in the park’s storied history.

Ryno’s thoughts on the Cubs recent trade with the Oakland Athletics for pitcher Rich Harden: “I really like what’s going on there and the way they continue to make moves to really give themselves a good chance. I like the way all the pieces are in place right now and they seem to keep adding pieces and want to get better. Hopefully, this will help for making a good second half and lot of good postseasons.”

Sandberg also discussed some of the interesting things he’s doing next week: “I’m going to the All-Star game, the Hall-of-Famers are being presented before the game. I’ve never been to Yankee Stadium so that will be a treat. They’re doing a parade down 5th Avenue with all the Hall-of-Famers before the game, and then some of us are invited to the White House on the Wednesday after the All-Star game…then the following week I’m going to the Hall of Fame inductions for four days.”

You can see his Peoria Chiefs take on the Kane County Cougars on Thursday July 10th and Friday July 11th (both games start at 6:30pm) at Elfstrom Stadium in Geneva, IL. Also, if you’re looking for a chance to see a game at Wrigley Field on the cheap, tickets to the Cougars-Chiefs contest at the Friendly Confines start at just $5. 

For part one of the Full Interview click here.

For more Chicago Sports analysis and discussion click here.

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