A seismic week: Extraordinary 72 hours stun Chicago sports world – Chicago Tribune
As Blackhawks first-round draft pick Henri Jokiharju entered a room full of reporters late Friday night at the United Center, he felt someone grab his arm.
Jonathan Toews wanted to pull Jokiharju aside briefly to do what good captains do. Toews made eye contact. Then he left a lasting impression.
“They will give you my number so call me if you need anything at all,” Toews told the 18-year-old who appeared in awe of his future teammate.
What a week it was for memorable hellos and goodbyes in Chicago, a sports city that went on a three-day bender so wild it still has some of our heads spinning. It all offered a sobering reminder that nothing lasts forever in professional sports, so savor every moment watching your favorite hometown athletes before they are thanking you on Instagram on the way to their new destinations. Somewhere, Chris Sale and Jay Cutler nod in agreement. And Alshon Jeffery says hi.
To recap, as if writing everything down will make it all easier to believe, Wednesday the Hawks announced future Hockey Hall of Famer Marian Hossa will miss next season because of a skin allergy. On Thursday, Bulls traded All-Star guard Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves of all places, reuniting Butler with Tom Thibodeau in Minneapolis, a great city to watch film in the winter.
In between those two stunning transactions, the Cubs sent World Series folk hero Kyle Schwarber to Triple-A Iowa, almost as if Cubs President Theo Epstein shrewdly waited for the right time when the demotion would receive the least amount of attention. Any ordinary week, the Schwarber news would have dominated small talk among Wrigleyville bartenders and therapists — but this was an extraordinary 72-hour period.
With fans still trying to process those changes Friday, Hawks general manager Stan Bowman gave everyone more to digest when he made two blockbuster trades 51 minutes apart with the Blue Jackets and Coyotes. Then, nine hours later, Bowman drafted Jokiharju with the 29th overall pick — after making his third trade of the day, with the Stars, to move down three spots and acquire a third-round pick.
Bowman was so busy you wonder if he took time to tell coach Joel Quenneville he was trading away his best defensive player and a Top 10 scorer. Just kidding — Quenneville confirmed Saturday his absence from Friday night’s NHL draft had nothing to do with his reaction to the trades. Maybe Coach Q just needed to find a quiet room, like some of us, to get his bearings.
For those keeping score at home, Chicago sports said goodbye this week to Hossa, Butler, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Artemi Panarin and Tyler Motte. To Schwarber, we said seeya later, probably just after the All-Star break.
We said hello to new Bulls Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen — the two Timberwolves and first-round pick acquired in the Butler trade — and new Hawks defenseman Connor Murphy, forward Laurent Dauphin and goalie Anton Forsberg (I admit I had to look up those last two names).
We said welcome back to Brandon Saad, “Man-Child,” the centerpiece of the Panarin trade rejoining the team with which he won two Stanley Cups in his first three NHL seasons.
We said a vacation full of drinks with little umbrellas by a pool sounds good about now. What unexpected sports occurrence will come next in Chicago, the Cubs trading legendary announcer Pat Hughes for starting pitching? In this whirlwind week, how fitting that the White Sox chose Saturday to retire the No. 56 jersey of Mark Buehrle, a man who won 214 games without causing as much of a stir as athletes in town who accomplished much less.
The Sox, however, do belong in the broader conversation about how this flurry of activity reflects how each of our city’s sports teams, with the exception of the World Series champion Cubs, is experiencing a metamorphosis. The status quo is out. Starting over is in.
The Sox declared that loudly last December when they traded Sale and Adam Eaton. The Bears finally drafted a potential franchise quarterback, Mitch Trubisky — the equivalent of hitting the reset button. The Bulls started over when they traded Butler and the Hawks find themselves making decisions, such as the Hjalmarsson and Panarin deals, prioritizing the future over the present. All of these decisions about the direction of the franchises were difficult ones — but the right ones too. Change is the only constant in sports, which remain a business emotional ties only complicate.
Interestingly, in Chicago sports nowadays it seems construction season is longer than winter. To symbolize all the rebuilding going on, every team should pick a night to give away hardhats to the first 10,000 fans. So much major redevelopment is going on among Chicago’s sports organizations that it’s amazing a politician hasn’t tried claiming credit for it.
Write a Reply or Comment:
You must be logged in to post a comment.