Les Grobstein passes away

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(excerpted from Robert Feder’s column)

Les Grobstein, a hometown original whose career as a Chicago radio sportscaster spanned more than 50 years, was known as a hard-working reporter with a phenomenal memory and a loyal following among night owls.

He was found dead Sunday afternoon at his home in Elk Grove Village, according to Mitch Rosen, operations director of WSCR 670-AM, the Audacy sports/talk station where Grobstein hosted overnights. He was 69.

Grobstein had been out sick since Wednesday, Rosen said. No other details were immediately available.

A Chicago native and graduate of Von Steuben High School and Columbia College, Grobstein began his career as color commentator for Northwestern basketball — calling his first game on December 29, 1970 — and later worked as an announcer for several sports teams and as a reporter for Sportsphone Chicago.

During his 10-year run as sports director of WLS 890-AM (where he became a favorite foil of Larry Lujack, Steve Dahl and Fred Winston), Grobstein captured for posterity an infamous locker-room tirade by Chicago Cubs manager Lee Elia in 1983. He also worked for the original sports/talk incarnation of WMVP 1000-AM from 1991 to 1997.

Later that year Grobstein joined The Score for the first time as a host and reporter. After three years away, he returned to the station as weeknight overnight host in 2009.

“It’s been quite a run for Chicago’s human sports almanac, who has been almost a Zelig in Chicago sports over the last half-century,” wrote The Athletic’s Jon Greenberg in a 50th anniversary tribute to Grobstein’s career in 2020.

“From starting as a Northwestern radio man to taping the most famous rant in baseball history to defending Jim McMahon’s honor during Super Bowl week, Grobstein is part of Chicago sports lore. The Grobber, as he’s known, likes to say, ‘I was there’ and he almost always was.”

Chicago media colleagues share fond memories of ‘The Grobber’ →

Editor’s note: there was a wonderful story about Les in The Chicago Reader in 1997

Hawks eliminated by Vegas

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EDMONTON—Facing an early deficit, the Vegas Golden Knights were sparked by its stars, setting the stage for Alex Tuch to send top-seed in the Western Conference into the next round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.Tuch scored the tiebreaking goal 1:34 into the third period, and the Vegas Golden Knights rallied from an early two-goal deficit to eliminate the Blackhawks with a 4-3 win in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series on Tuesday night.Vegas became the first team in the playoffs to advance to the conference semifinals. The Golden Knights will face the lowest remaining seed in the next round.Max Pacioretty scored in the closing seconds of the first period and Mark Stone scored less than a minute into the second as the Golden Knights quickly erased the Blackhawks early 2-0 advantage. Alec Martinez scored on a power play midway through the second period after Patrick Kane had given the Hawks a 3-2 lead.Robin Lehner made 23 saves including a couple of big stops in the closing seconds, and improved to 8-1 since being acquired by the Golden Knights from the Hawks back in February.Lehner had an emotional trip through the handshake line with his former teammates after the game.

”It felt really nice for me to close this out because it’s a bit weird playing your old teams, especially that group,” Lehner said. ”That’s a hell of a group, they treated me really well, got a lot of friends on that team, all love for that organization.”

The Blackhawks’ unlikely postseason run came to an end despite controlling most of the first period. Jonathan Toews scored his fifth of the postseason and Alex DeBrincat scored at 18:19 of the first to give the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead.Corey Crawford, who made 48 saves in a masterful Game 4 performance to keep his team alive, made 35 saves in Game 5. But Crawford couldn’t withstand a continued onslaught of pressure by the Golden Knights, capped by Tuch’s goal, using his size to hold off defenseman Adam Boqvist and score the deciding goal.

”We gave it a good chance the last couple of games. (Crawford) was great and gave us a chance,” Kane said.

The Blackhawks started strong looking to keep going after trailing in the series 3-0. Toews poked a rebound past Lehner midway through the first period to give the Hawks the early lead, and DeBrincat finished a beautiful build up at 18:19 for the two-goal advantage. DeBrincat was the recipient, but it was Connor Murphy’s spin and feed to Dylan Strome that set up DeBrincat’s second goal of the postseason.But the potency of the Golden Knights’ offense quickly responded. Pacioretty collected Brayden McNabb’s deflected pass at the side of the net and scored his first of the playoffs with 31 seconds left in the period. And less than a minute into the second, Stone tipped William Karlsson’s pass over Crawford’s glove and the Golden Knights were even.

”When I scored I kind of had that feeling that we were dialed in and getting it back,” Stone said.

Kane scored his 52nd career playoff goal, but Martinez’s goal was the first scored on the power play by Vegas in the series. It snapped the Hawks streak of 14 straight power plays killed off, dating back to its qualifying series win over Edmonton.

”It was a great opportunity for us to come in and play some meaningful hockey and a lot of guys stepped up to the plate and showed what they could do,” Toews said.

BOYLEN RELIEVED AS BULLS HEAD COACH

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Bulls Executive Vice President – Basketball Operations Arturas Karnisovas announced today that Jim Boylen has been relieved of his duties as head coach.
MICHAEL REINSDORF: “No one could question Jim’s passion for our team and our organization. We sincerely appreciate his tireless efforts and contributions during his time with the Bulls, and we wish him and his family the very best.”
ARTURAS KARISOVAS: “After doing a comprehensive evaluation and giving the process the time it deserved, I ultimately decided that a fresh approach and evolution in leadership was necessary. This was a very difficult decision, but it is time for our franchise to take that next step as we move in a new direction and era of Chicago Bulls basketball. Jim is a great human being that cares deeply about this organization and the game of basketball. I want to thank him for his professionalism and commitment to the franchise.”
Boylen first came to the Bulls then as an associate head coach during the 2015-16 season and was named the team’s 23rd head coach on December 3, 2018. During his time at the helm of the Bulls, he compiled an overall record of 39-84 (.317).
A formal coaching search will begin immediately.

HAWKS LOSE TO VEGAS in OT, down 2 games to None.

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EDMONTON—Even though Reilly Smith called it a lucky bounce, a whole lot more than luck is working right now for the Vegas Golden Knights.Smith scored in overtime, Robin Lehner made 22 saves and the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Blackhawks 4-3 on Thursday to take a 2-0 lead in the first-round series. Vegas has won all five of its games since the NHL resumed.Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford stopped 35 of the 39 shots he faced, including 16 in the third period alone.The Western Conference top-seeded Golden Knights are looking for their first playoff series victory since 2018. They reached the Stanley Cup Final that year, then lost to San Jose in seven games in the first round last year.This was the third game already in the first round to go to overtime. Tampa Bay beat Columbus in the fifth overtime Tuesday, and Boston beat Carolina in double OT Wednesday. Smith’s goal came 7:13 into the first OT.Paul Stastny opened the scoring for Vegas 10:44 in after strong work down low by Smith and Jonathan Marchessault, and Nosek made it 2-0 at the 15:35 mark of the first period. It was Stastny’s first goal since hockey returned.The Blackhawks got goals from rookies Kirby Dach and Dominik Kubalik in the second to tie it. Mark Stone restored the lead for Vegas with 2:40 left in the period, then Dylan Strome got it right back for the Blackhawks 13.6 seconds before intermission.

”I think we played a better team game today,” said Strome, who hit the crossbar early in overtime. ”We did a good job of holding their forwards up coming into the zone and giving our D a little more time. We’ve got to continue to do that and be ready for next game.”

Patrick Kane assisted on all three Hawk goals in the second period.

”I thought Chicago played really well,” said Lehner, who signed with the Blackhawks last summer and was traded to Vegas at the deadline. ”Everyone keeps saying they’re underdogs, but you look at their team, the experience, the skill – it’s Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane out there. It’s a lot of skill and they’re world-class players, so when they get opportunities, it’s hard.”


NOTES—Rookie D Lucas Carlsson made his Stanley Cup playoff debut, replacing Adam Boqvist on the Blackhawks blue line. … Stastny’s goal was his 23rd in the playoffs in his career, the most among Vegas players.
Game 3 is Saturday night.

Hawks advance past Oilers, face Vegas next.

Edmonton—Brandon Saad, Matthew Highmore and Dominik Kubalik scored and the Blackhawks beat Edmonton 3-2 on Friday, knocking the Oilers out of the postseason tournament.The Blackhawks won the best-of-five qualifying series 3-1 and advances to the round of 16.

”We knew what we wanted to do coming into the series,” Jonathan Toews said. ”Overall guys got better as the series went along.”

Josh Archibald and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored for Edmonton.The Oilers had been expected to beat the Hawks, given they were the fifth-seeded team in the Western Conference tournament and the Hawks were the bottom seed at 12.

”We had that two month break to kind of heal up, recover and prepare,” winger Brandon Saad said. ”We weren’t playing our best hockey so (it helped) to kind of have a reset, let guys look back and touch upon what makes us successful.”

Edmonton was led by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the top two scorers in the league during the abbreviated regular season.The Oilers admitted the team didn’t match thenHawk’s intensity, and actually had more fight in them in their lone exhibition game last week against their hated rival the Calgary Flames.

”I thought we had our moments in this series … but you can’t play Calgary every night to bring it, so we’ve got to figure it out,” McDavid said.”They (Chicago) were really good. Give them credit.”

The Oilers scored 45 seconds into the game, on their first shot.McDavid fed the puck from the boards to Archibald as he streaked through the slot. Archibald redirected the puck up and over the left shoulder of Corey Crawford.Edmonton was without top-pairing shutdown defenseman Adam Larsson for a second consecutive game (deemed ”unfit to play”) and it showed when the Hawks scored the next two goals off point shots, catching the Oilers defense running around.At 5:16, Saad pounced on the puck from a rebound off a shot by Connor Murphy, swooped around the net – with Edmonton defenseman Oscar Klefbom draped all over him – and slid a backhand wraparound shot past goalie Mikko Koskinen.Less than three minutes later, Highmore, standing alone in front of the net, redirected a point shot by Duncan Keith past Koskinen.Nugent-Hopkins tied the game two minutes into the second period, pushing the puck past Crawford on a goal-mouth scramble.Edmonton’s defensive troubles worsened in the second period when Blackhawks forward Alex DeBrincat drilled Ethan Bear head-first into the boards from behind. Bear went to the dressing room and DeBrincat was assessed a five-minute major for boarding.The winner came midway through the third, when Hawks captain Jonathan Toews outmuscled Bear for the puck beside the Oilers net, then fed the puck to Kubalik for a one timer over the short-side shoulder of Koskinen.The Oilers made a late push but took a too-many-men penalty with two minutes left when there was bench confusion after Koskinen started heading off for an extra attacker but then stopped and stayed on the ice.Crawford made 41 saves for the win. Koskinen stopped 25 in the loss.The Hawks’ success was due to veteran leaders and scoring up and down the lineup. Toews had four goals and seven points in the series. Patrick Kane collected one goal and four points.Rookie Kubalik had five points in Game 1, but was otherwise quiet until his game-winning, and series-clinching goal.The Oilers suffered from a lack of scoring, other than from McDavid, Draisaitl, and Nugent-Hopkins. First line winger Zack Kassian was punted to the fourth line after an ineffective Game 1. Rookie Kailer Yamamoto, a point a game player after being called up in January, was kept off the scoresheet in all four games.McDavid finished with five goals and nine points. Draisaitl had three goals and three assists. Nugent-Hopkins recorded two goals and eight points.The Blackhawks were by all rights done for the year, headed out of the playoff picture when COVID-19 pandemic forced the NHL to shut down regular season at the 70-game mark in mid-March.The Oilers have missed the playoffs for 13 of the last 14 seasons and four of the past five seasons since drafting McDavid first overall. … The Hawks had goals from nine different players in the series. Nine of the 16 goals came off blue-line point shots.

UP NEXT

The Blackhawks advance to face Vegas in a best of seven Series starting Tuesday night at 9:45pm

Baseball set to return with 60 game schedule July 23-24.

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Major League Baseball is set to return.

The two sides also finalized coronavirus health and safety protocols on Tuesday night. Here’s part of the league’s statement announcing MLB’s return:

The health and safety of players and employees will remain MLB’s foremost priorities in its return to play. MLB is working with a variety of public health experts, infectious disease specialists and technology providers on a comprehensive approach that aims to facilitate a safe return.

MLB has submitted a 60-game regular season schedule for review by the Players Association. The proposed schedule will largely feature divisional play, with the remaining portion of each Club’s games against their opposite league’s corresponding geographical division (i.e., East vs. East, Central vs. Central and West vs. West), in order to mitigate travel. The vast majority of Major League Clubs are expected to conduct training at the ballparks in their primary home cities.

Commissioner Manfred said: “Major League Baseball is thrilled to announce that the 2020 season is on the horizon. We have provided the Players Association with a schedule to play 60 games and are excited to provide our great fans with Baseball again soon.”

MLB owners voted unanimously Monday night to have Manfred mandate a season. In a statement, Manfred had requested that the players respond by 5 p.m. ET so that the league could proceed with scheduling that imposed season. The league and players failed to reach a modified agreement for a 2020 season after weeks of negotiations and Manfred had the right to impose a schedule thanks to a deal the two sides struck in March.

The negotiations about a return-to-play plan stalled when it came to the length of the season and the financial compensation players would receive. The union’s ability to file a grievance against the league, which could result in a substantial cash windfall, also became a matter of importance later in the talks.

Originally, the league had submitted a 67-page proposal outlining all the safety and testing protocols that would be installed this season. Little else had been leaked about negotiations concerning those regulations, though the two sides were suggested to be closer than not, with the league bending to players’ requests for greater access to medical and training equipment.

It’s worth noting that 40 MLB players and staff members reportedly tested positive for the novel coronavirus in recent days. MLB has also reportedly ordered all spring training sites to be closed and sanitized, and personnel must test negative for COVID-19 before being allowed to return.

Here are seven other things to know about the 2020 MLB season.

  1. Format of regional schedule finalized
    The exact schedule still needs to be made, but we know the structure of it. Every team will play 40 games against divisional foes (or 10 apiece) and 20 interleague games against the geographical equivalent. The Nationals, for example, will play all their games against NL and AL East teams.
  2. Teams to submit 60-player rosters; will open with 30-player rosters
    Predictably, things are going to move at a rapid pace. That includes teams submitting 60-player rosters for big-league spring training, with that list due to the league office by Sunday at 2 p.m. CT, according to The Athletic’s Jayson Stark.

Stark added in a subsequent tweet that teams don’t have to invite all 40 of their players on the 40-player roster to camp, but that those players must be paid regardless of their invite status.

Once the season begins, teams will be allowed to carry 30 players on their active roster. That number will drop to 28 after two weeks, then 26 after four weeks, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

  1. Universal DH among rule changes
    MLB will have at least two rule changes this season: a universal DH (yes, that means pitchers will no longer hit in the NL) and a baserunner placed on second at the start of every half-inning in extras. You can read more about that here.
  2. Transaction freeze to end this week
    On a related note, teams will be able to make transactions again beginning Friday at noon, per Stark. Between that and the subsequent 60-player submission deadline, it’s possible that baseball sees its first trades in months before the end of the week.
  3. Trade deadline will fall in August
    Speaking of trades, MLB will have a trade deadline this year after all. Instead of falling on July 31, it’ll come a month later, on August 31. Unlike in most years, that will represent the midway point of the season.
  4. COVID-specific inactive list
    According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, MLB will have a COVID-19-specific inactive list that players will be placed on if and when they test positive or show symptoms. There will be no set amount of time for the player to sit out, unlike the injured list, which requires hitters to miss at least 10 days.
  5. Unsigned players head to Nashville?
    Here’s perhaps the most surprising element of the details revealed so far. Per Stark, MLB has talked with the city of Nashville about hosting two teams of unsigned players who would be paid to remain in shape as potential replacement players, should the need arise during the season. Teams would then have to pay to add these players. It’s unclear exactly who would be involved and how it would work, but it’s worth knowing that it’s a possibility being discussed.
    8.The Cubs and White Sox will meet 4 times(twice in each team’s Ballpark).Other teams the Sox or Cubs will play will be 10 times total.

BEARS 2020 SCHEDULE as of now.

Bears 2020 Schedule (all times central time)

Preseason

Aug. 13-17 VS. CLEVELAND, time TBD

Aug. 20-24 at Denver, time TBD

Aug. 27-30 VS. SAN FRANCISCO, time TBD

Sept. 3 at Tennessee, time TBD

Regular season

Sunday, Sept. 13 at Detroit, noon

Sunday, Sept. 20 VS. N.Y. GIANTS, NOON

Sunday, Sept. 27 at Atlanta, noon

Sunday, Oct. 4 VS. INDIANAPOLIS, NOON

Thursday, Oct. 8 VS. TAMPA BAY, 7:20 PM

Sunday, Oct. 18 at Carolina, noon*

Monday, Oct. 26 at L.A. Rams, 7:15 pm

Sunday, Nov. 1 VS. NEW ORLEANS, 3:25 PM*

Sunday, Nov. 8 at Tennessee, noon*

Monday, Nov. 16 VS. MINNESOTA, 7:15 PM

BYE WEEK

Sunday, Nov. 29 at Green Bay, 7:20 pm*

Sunday, Dec. 6 VS. DETROIT, NOON*

Sunday, Dec. 13 VS. HOUSTON, NOON*

Sunday, Dec. 20 at Minnesota, noon*

Sunday, Dec. 27 at Jacksonville, noon*

Sunday, Jan. 3 VS. GREEN BAY, NOON*

*Subject to flexible scheduling

Blackhawks release President John McDonough.

In a stunning move, the Blackhawks fired President and CEO John McDonough on Monday. The club announced the decision in an official release from owner Rocky Wirtz.

“Thirteen years ago, I recruited John to the Blackhawks because of his leadership, direction and vision,” Wirtz wrote. “John brought all of that to the table and more. His contributions went well beyond leading the team to three Stanley Cup Championships. He rebuilt the front office and helped guide the organization toward a winning vision. As difficult as this is, we believe it was the right decision for the future of the organization and its fans.”

The Blackhawks have been one of the most successful NHL teams since McDonough took office in 2007, winning three Stanley Cups (2010, 2013, 2015) and restoring pride to an Original Six franchise that had been through a major drought prior to his tenure. McDonough was also instrumental in getting the Blackhawks to thrive on the business side of operations, turning the franchise into a sustainable and successful operation. 

The organization ranked as the NHL‘s fourth-most valuable franchise with a $1.085 billion valuation from Forbes in 2019, trailing only the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Canadiens. The team has sold out their last 531 consecutive home games. 

Despite the revitalization under McDonough’s leadership, the club’s decision to go in a different direction comes in the midst of a rough patch for the franchise’s on-ice product. The Blackhawks haven’t made the playoffs since 2017 and haven’t won a playoff series since their 2015 Cup run. They’ve undergone significant changes since their run of three Cups in six years; The front office has needed to maneuver around cap constraints and beloved head coach Joel Quenneville was fired in 2018.

Wirtz seems to believe that parting ways with McDonough is a necessary step to get the franchise back on track. If nothing else, it sends a strong message about what is expected of the team now.

“While we can reassure our fans there will be hockey again, no one knows what that will look like,” Wirtz said. “What we do know is that it will take a new mindset to successfully transition the organization to win both on and off the ice.”

Bears Draft Class completed.

The tight end position was not a pressing need so it is hard to justify the selection of Cole Kmet in the second round. Cornerback Jaylon Johnson is a great player but was only on the board because he had been dealing with an injury. Edge rusher Trevis Gipson was picked too early. Cornerback Kindle Vildor was a solid pick. He is a feisty competitor who can step in and fulfill a nickel role. Tulane wide receiver Darnell Mooney has great speed but needs to continue his development.
The Bears ended the event by adding two relatively unknown prospects: offensive linemen Arlington Hambright and Lachavious Simmons.

Bears 2020 draft class
Round 2 (43): TE Cole Kmet, Notre Dame
Round 2 (50): CB Jaylon Johnson, Utah
Round 5 (155): OLB Trevis Gipson, Tulsa
Round 5 (163): CB Kindle Vildor, Georgia Southern
Round 5 (173): WR Darnell Mooney, Tulane
Round 7 (226): OL Arlington Hambright, Colorado
Round 7 (227): OL Lachavious Simmons, Tennessee State