• Cubs’ fans complain about long bathroom waits at Wrigley

    One of baseball’s biggest clichés is “anything can happen,” and at Wrigley Field on Opening Night, something happened that most fans did not expect. 

    Because of ongoing renovations at Wrigley Field, there were only two working restrooms, which caused some serious problems. According to some angry Cubs’ fans, the 45-minute wait to use the restroom became so long that fans started to relieve themselves anywhere they could: empty cups, against walls, etc. 

    Some Cubs’ fans even took the restroom situation to twitter.  

    “I’m all for renovating, but I’ve now missed two innings trying to get into the bathroom,” James Hillebrand said in a Tweet. “Get your act together.”

    The Cubs management made one thing clear; fixing the restrooms is a top priority.

    Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney apologized in an email sent out to Cubs season-ticket holders for the problem and explained that it is already being addressed. Kenney has a plan in place to bring portable toilets into stadium before more restrooms will be available for permanent use in late May. 

    “We will supplement existing restrooms with portable units in the left-field concourse and outside Gate K," Kenney wrote in his letter. "With these facilities in place, we will have approximately the same number of fixtures as we did at the end of the 2014 season. In addition, we are working with our game-day staff to help coordinate concourse traffic by communicating shortest wait times at all concourse facilities."

    The renovations at Wrigley were expected to cause some difficulties but not to the extent that it did on opening night. The Cubs management is very hopeful that their quick reaction to the restroom complications will help eliminate any problems going forward.

    "We appreciate your patience and for bearing with us as we work to restore Wrigley Field," Kenney said. "We are committed to ensuring ongoing construction does not lessen your experience at our ballpark. We will continue to monitor wait times and overall construction activity and will communicate developments as we go."

    According to Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, the $375 million renovations to make the ballpark more “modern” are expected to be completed during the next four offseasons. Wrigley has already started the modernization process as a 5,700-square-foot JumboTron has been placed in left field the day before opening night.

    Right now, the renovations are in the first phase, which will restore the stadium’s bleachers. The upcoming changes to Wrigley will include new clubhouses, umpire rooms, press box and bullpens.  A hotel is also being developed relatively close to the park.

    “There will be four more years,” Ricketts said. “The way we project it now is four more years of construction. A lot of that is subject to how the construction process goes. Once again, with the time horizon we have, making sure we make long-term decisions and not rush the process.”

    Fortunately for Cubs’ fans, the restroom problem will not be extended for the next four years and will hopefully be fixed by their next home game.

  • NHL: first round predictions

    Western Conference:

    (4) Winnipeg VS (1) Anaheim

    Anaheim in 6

    The Anaheim Ducks are once again the top seed in the Western Conference after totaling 109 points this season. In fact, they have been Pacific Division Champions three years running. Alarmingly, they have not reached the Conference Finals since the 2006-07 season, the same year in which they won the franchise’s only Stanley Cup. While Anaheim clearly has a history of early exits from the postseason, expect the experience of veterans Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry to carry the Ducks over the Jets, a franchise that has not been in the playoffs since 2007 (then the Atlanta Thrashers).

    (3) Calgary VS (2) Vancouver

    Vancouver in 7

    This battle for supremacy in Western Canada is a tossup. Both teams finished the regular season 6-3-1, and they were only separated in the standings by a margin of 4 points. The Canucks come into postseason play behind their star twin duo Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who tallied 76 and 73 points, respectively. The Canucks’ biggest question coming in is who will be the starting goalie, Eddie Lack or Ryan Miller. Similarly, the Flames have a question mark at goaltender as well. Jonas Hiller appears to be the starter come game 1, but it is important to note that he lost his starting job in the postseason with Anaheim last year. Goalie trouble aside, if the Flames wish to keep their surprise season going, they must get continued production from rookie sensation Johnny Gaudreau.

    (4) Minnesota VS (1) St. Louis

    St. Louis in 6

    The St. Louis Blues tout the best goal differential in the Western Conference. Accomplishing this feat has come via a combination of solid play on both ends of the ice, as the Blues are top 5 in the league in both goals scored and goals against. Vladimir Tarasenko is one of the best offensive talents in the league, and defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk are two of the finest blue-liners you’ll find. While Minnesota put together a solid 100 point season, the star-studded lineup that the Blues bolster will prove to be too much to handle for the Wild.

    (3) Chicago VS (2) Nashville

    Chicago in 7

    The Nashville Predators are coming into the postseason for the first time in three years as the third best team in the Western Conference in terms of points. From Filip Forsberg’s breakout season to the standard solid play of goalie Pekka Rinne, the predators have put together quite the season. Unfortunately, they pair with the Chicago Blackhawks, winners of 2 of the last 5 Stanley Cup Championships. In addition, star forward Patrick Kane is expected to play for the first time in nearly 2 months since he suffered a clavicle injury. Kane, Toews and company will be too much for Nashville.

     

    Eastern Conference:

    (4) Pittsburgh VS (1) New York (Rangers)

    New York in 5

    During the first half of the season, this is not a matchup we would have expected to see in the first round. Ravaged by the injury bug, the Pittsburgh Penguins struggled mightily in the second half of the season, only edging Boston for the final Wild Card spot by 2 points. You have to be at full strength to beat the President Trophy winning New York Rangers, and the Penguins are far from it. The Rangers will keep up their exceptional level of play and will have some time to rest before the next round after a quick ousting of Sidney Crosby and the Pens.

    (3) New York (Islanders) VS (2) Washington

    Washington in 6

    A lot has been made of the potential “Battle of New York” in the second round if both the Islanders and Rangers advance. However, with Alexander Ovechkin playing the way he has this year, fans in the Big Apple will have to wait for an intrastate rivalry for at least another year. Ovechkin, scorer of 50 or more goals in one season for the sixth time in his career, has evolved as a better two-way player. Taking his absurdly awful plus/minus of -35 last season to +10 this year is evidence that Ovechkin has accepted the burden of leading his team to previously unattainable postseason success.

    (4) Ottawa VS (1) Montreal

    Montreal in 6

    The Montreal Canadiens’ season went relatively according to expectations: star defenseman P.K. Subban displayed his offensive talent by notching 60 points, solid forward Max Paccioretty led the team in total goals and points, and Carey Price had himself a Vezina Trophy caliber season by leading the league in just about every goaltending statistical category. The Senators, on the flipside, trailed in the wild card standings by a double-digit point margin less than two months ago.  However, don’t expect Ottawa’s season ending surge to translate into first round success as the Canadiens are simply too sound in all facets of the game.

    (3) Detroit VS (2) Tampa Bay

    Tampa Bay in 5

    Home ice has been kind to the Tampa Bay Lightning this season, as they have accumulated the best home record in the NHL at 32-8-1. Center Steven Stamkos helped his team to the highest goals per game average in the league, and starting goalie Ben Bishop recorded 40 wins on the season. When Bishop was injured for the first round last year, the Lightning were swept by the Canadiens. With a healthy net-minder and a ferocious offensive attack, the Lightning will close out the inconsistent Wings on home ice in game 5.  

  • NHL: Kings late-season heroics second to none

    The Los Angeles Kings have undoubtedly been one of the best teams of the decade thus far. Regular season dominance, however, has not exactly been their strong suit in achieving that title.

    Going back to late December through early February, the Kings suffered through a stretch of 15 games where they earned only three wins. At that point, chances of making the playoffs and having a shot to defend their Stanley Cup Championship were dim.

    Two months and a miraculous eight-game win streak later, LA is poised to once again sneak into the postseason.

    The Kings (39-25-14) currently sit in fourth place in the Western Conference’s Pacific Division, trailing Calgary by 1 point. Los Angeles is tied with the Winnipeg Jets with 90 points, and the Kings hold the tiebreaker for the second and final Western Conference Wild Card spot. 

    With one game in hand on the Flames, and having played the same number of games as the Jets, the Kings control their own destiny.  But the playoff bubble is not unfamiliar territory for Los Angeles, which has won two of the last three Stanley Cup Championships.

    When the Kings won the Cup in 2011-12, they backed their way into the playoffs as an eighth seed. Similarly, just last year the Kings won the Stanley Cup as the last team to secure a divisional bid with a third-place finish in the Pacific Division.

    The best way to describe how the Kings manage to thrive in pressure filled situations might simply be level of confidence. Despite already being in position to secure a wild card berth, head coach Darryl Sutter displayed firm trust that his team will earn an automatic divisional bid.

    “Everybody’s trying to make the playoffs,” Sutter said when asked about playing other desperate teams down the final stretch of the season. “You’ve got to get into that division part of it. That’s the structure of the playoffs.”

    Sutter continued, “[We’re] not going to get a wild-card spot. The wild-card’s out of the picture.”   

    After suffering back-to-back 4-1 losses to Minnesota and Chicago, the Kings responded to their coach’s lofty goal and got back on the winning track with a dominating 8-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers at home Thursday night.

    Their return to the win column after the two crushing blows is an immense victory for both the team’s morale and their playoff hopes. And anybody that has seen the Kings play in the playoffs over the last three years knows that once they get in, they are difficult to beat.

    "We have a lot of guys in here that thrive under pressure situations," said defenseman Drew Doughty after the win over Edmonton. "We have a lot of heart, and we believe in every single player in this room to get the job done.”

    Confidence and team chemistry are two key components to a team’s postseason success, and the Kings seem to have mastered the art of both.

    “We still have a chance, so that’s what I think guys in this room have been really good at, is realizing that the opportunity is there,” Kings Captain Dustin Brown said.

    The Kings have made a name for themselves by making the most of their opportunities. With only four games remaining in the season and every one of them a potential must win, Los Angeles must once again prove there is nobody in today’s game that is better when the game, and the entire season, is on the line. 

  • Report: Texas close to finalizing deal with Shaka Smart

    Virginia Commonwealth head coach Shaka Smart is close to making his move to Austin to be Texas’ next men's head basketball coach, according to multiple reports.

    Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman reported Wednesday night that Smart’s deal with the Longhorns is still ongoing but close to being finished. 247Sports also reported that sources said a deal could be finalized Thursday.  

    Smart, who has been with the Rams for the past six seasons, has been a familiar name thrown around Texas’ search to replace former head coach Rick Barnes. Texas let go of Barnes on Sunday after 17 seasons with the Longhorns, which made him the winningest head coach in program history.

    Smart, 37, has led VCU to an NCAA Tournament appearance in each of the last five seasons. In addition, the Rams claimed a CBI Championship in 2010 and had a Final Four run in 2011.

  • PGA Tour makes stops in Texas

    As is usual, the PGA Tour will make a couple of stops in Texas before the highly coveted Masters Championship gets underway later this month.

    The first tournament of the Texas swing was the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio, which was played late last month. It was played at the five-year-old TPC San Antonio.

    The two courses of TPC San Antonio, the AT&T Oaks and AT&T Canyons Course, are consistently rated as two of the hardest courses on the PGA Tour by scoring average. Their long distance and brutal winds make birdies a lot harder to come by than most PGA Tour venues.

    Texas native Jimmy Walker won the event with a 11-under-par 277. Other notables in the field included 2014 FedEx Cup Champion Billy Horschel, Jason Dufner, Jim Furyk, Harris English and Jimmy Walker. Former Longhorns Jordan Spieth, Justin Leonard, Jhonattan Vegas and Lance Lopez also competed.

    Notably, this was be Lopez’ first PGA Tour start. After a successful college career, he has struggled to translate his game to the professional level. That changed when he shot a 6-under 66 at the Monday qualifier to make the field for the tournament. Lopez looked to take advantage of the opportunity to help him gain access to even more PGA tournaments.

    Spieth came into the event fresh off of his win at the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Florida two weeks ago. Before the event, he was ranked ninth in the FedEx Cup rankings and was a favorite to win. However, he finished four strokes behind Walker for second place. 

    Leonard is the veteran of the Longhorn trio as his 21-year career and 12 PGA Tour wins show. His season has gotten off to a slow start with only one top-10 finish and he has been cut from five of the ten tournaments he has played in.

    Next, PGA Tour will head to the Golf Club of Houston for the Shell Houston Open.

    The course has traditionally served as a warm-up for the Masters with the golf course set up to emulate many of the same features as Augusta National.

    Last year, Matt Jones won the event, which was his first win on the PGA Tour. His 15-under-par total forced him into a playoff with Matt Kuchar whom he would eventually defeat.

    Notables in the field include Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia and Jordan Spieth, all of who are ranked in the top-10 in the World Golf Rankings.

    Play will get underway on Thursday, April 2. It will be televised on the Golf Channel.

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