Bouncing Back: Adam Adelstein beat a scary head injury to return to baseball

On June 28 of last year, Adam Adelstein was sprawled on the pitcher’s mound at Barrington High School after taking a line drive to the right side of his head. He suffered a fractured skull, a torn artery and internal bleeding on his brain. Following emergency brain surgery the night of his injury, Adelstein couldn’t walk for 4 days and required constant assistance for weeks. But after recovering and rehabbing for months, he finally returned to full strength and played outfield for the HPHS baseball team this season.

I chronicled Adelstein’s incredible recovery story in this 3,000-word feature for the Pioneer Press, coupled with a video about his love of playing piano. You can view the story by clicking here.

Feel free to send any feedback using the “Contact Me” page on the lefthand column. You can also find me on Twitter and on Facebook. Also, be sure to check out my YouTube channel.

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HP Sports Brief: The final episode

In September 2012, I walked into the HPHS media center with an idea to anchor a sports show that would simply update the school on the latest sports scores. 3 years later, after running over 80 episodes, spending countless long nights with a camera in the cold, staying after school for hours editing and conducting hundreds of interviews, the HP Sports Brief has turned into so much more. And now on our final day of high school, I present you with my last-ever show. Huge thank you to everyone who has made this a ride to remember for me and a career I want to have for years to come.

Feel free to send any feedback using the “Contact Me” page on the lefthand column. You can also find me on Twitter and on Facebook. Also, be sure to check out my YouTube channel.

 

HP Sports Brief: In spite of early setbacks, baseball team routs rival Deerfield

Despite starting with a 5-19 record after facing a daunting non conference schedule, the Highland Park baseball team came out firing and crushed archrival Deerfield, 9-2, on Wednesday afternoon at Wolters field. Sam Brief reports from Highland Park in this HP Sports Brief.

Feel free to send any feedback using the “Contact Me” page on the lefthand column. You can also find me on Twitter and on Facebook. Also, be sure to check out my YouTube channel.

HP Sports Brief: Boys basketball team’s season concludes with regional final loss to Lake Forest

In their second straight regional championship game against No. 4 Lake Forest, the Highland Park (IL) boys basketball’s team ended with a 53-32 loss to the Scouts thanks to Lake Forests 23-2 run in the second and third quarters. The defeated ended the second straight 20-win season for the Giants and ended the careers of their 7 seniors, some of whom reflected on their time with the program. Sam Brief reports for HPTV in this HP Sports Brief.

Also, here is my game coverage for the Pioneer Press as well as a season recap on Highland Park.

Feel free to send any feedback using the “Contact Me” page on the lefthand column. You can also find me on Twitter and on Facebook. Also be sure to check out my YouTube channel.

 

HP Sports Brief: Boys basketball advances to regional title game with thrilling win over New Trier

The Highland Park (IL) boys basketball team eked out a 44-41 win over New Trier on Wednesday night after David Hammes’ three-point attempt rimmed out at the buzzer for New Trier. With the victory, the team clinched its second back-to-back 20-win seasons in school history and advanced to the regional final against Lake Forest, who they beat in the same game last year and have played twice already this season.

Feel free to send any feedback using the “Contact Me” page on the lefthand column. You can also find me on Twitter and on Facebook. Also be sure to check out my YouTube channel.

Jason Brown: Hometown Olympian

Highland Park-native (my hometown) Jason Brown, an Olympic figure skater, has gone viral with his exhilarating performance at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston. He also won a bronze medal in the team figure skating event on Sunday and will perform tomorrow in the individual event. Here’s his now-viral Nationals routine:

For my sports show, the HP Sports Brief, I had the chance to do an interview with Brown. Here are the first four parts:

And here’s my story on Brown’s sudden fame:

HIGHLAND PARK—Grasping his right leg with both hands, Jason Brown spun himself around at lightning speed, completed his move with a flourish, then grinned and triumphantly pointed to the TD Garden crowd as roses poured onto the ice following his free-skate routine at the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston.

The 19-year-old’s face radiated pure joy as he held his hands to his face and took his bows. He could hardly believe it.

A few moments after leaving the ice, Brown was seated rinkside with his coach of 15 years, Kori Ade, When his personal-best free-skate score of 182.61 was announced, Brown reacted with genuine astonishment. The verdict was in: Brown had finished second to Jeremy Abbott, his elder of nine years and his dazzling free skate had earned him a spot on the U.S. Figure Skating team at the Olympics in Sochi.

18 days later, while on a break from his training in Colorado Springs, Brown sat in his home and reflected on his experience.

“When I finished my program, it was just that moment of, ‘I did it,’” the 2013 HPHS graduate recalled. “I’m standing in the middle of the ice, the crowd is on their feet, it’s just such a surreal moment. It’s something you envision and dream about. There’s nothing more a skater wants than to be in the middle of the rink with the audience on their feet. To hear the screams and the cheers is definitely something that I so wanted and so envisioned and so, when you actually live it, it’s really a dream come true.”

Since then, Brown has gone viral. His Nationals performance — highlighted by his signature “Riverdance” routine —  has 3,691,232 views (and counting). And that staggering number has the Olympian on cloud nine.

“I freak out when I get 100 views, and my biggest YouTube that people have watched was like 8,000 views,” Brown said. “So the fact that it’s at 3 million-plus is just not real life!”

A visit to The Arsenio Hall Show, along with interviews with NPR and other national media outlets have added to his fame. And, by the way, Brown’s ponytail has its own Twitter account, with the handle @2014PonyPower. Some of the account’s tweets include: “Almost 3 mil. views on (Jason Brown’s) free skate at nationals. I bet at least a million of them were to see the pony [in] all of its river dance glory” and “Would there be an uproar from the crowd if Jason put me in a braid or anything other than a ponytail in Sochi?”

Brown was quite amused at having a Twitter account for his signature locks.

“One day I was looking through Twitter and one account said, ‘Jason’s ponytail.’” he recounted. “So I clicked on it and I was laughing so hard at the tweets. I was thinking, ‘Is this what my ponytail thinks? It definitely has an attitude.’”

Ponytail attitude notwithstanding, Brown clearly hasn’t forgotten his roots.

“I haven’t really gotten used to people [looking up to] me,” Brown reflected. “I don’t view myself like that. I just view myself as Jason Brown, the local kid from Highland Park with shaggy hair. That’s how I still perceive myself…I feel so lucky to be from Highland Park.”

Not only does Brown harbor fond memories of his hometown, but he noted that he often has flashbacks to skating at local Centennial Ice Arena— no matter how big the stage.

“I always look back and say, ‘Oh my gosh, look where I came from,’” he remarked. “These are my roots and this is where I came from and look how far I’ve come. I still feel like that same five-year old when I started skating at Centennial.”

And the Highland Park community has returned the love. Mayor Nancy Rotering declared February 7 “Jason Brown Day.” At HPHS, banners that read “Congrats and good luck Jason Brown, Class of 2013” festooned the school halls. Hearing about all of the support made Brown gush.

“What is that? It’s not real!,” he exclaimed. “I can’t even wrap my head around it. It means the world to me how supportive Highland Park is. It’s so, so surreal. That is definitely not something I would ever have imagined in my entire life, to have a day named after me.”

In just one stroll around downtown Highland Park, it’s evident that the rest of the city is backing its hometown Olympian as well. The marquee sign outside of the Highland Park Theatre on Central avenue read, “Good luck Jason Brown. HPHS 2013. Men’s Figure Skating. Sochi Olympics.” One block over, at the First Bank of Highland Park, the message board said, “Good luck Jason Brown.” There were also Jason Brown signs at Highland Pop and traffic signs around the city, just to name a few more. And let’s not forget the 10-foot ice sculpture of Brown standing tall in Port Clinton Square.

“It means the world to me,” he declared proudly. “I was raised in Highland Park and I’ve been there almost all my life, and to have the support of the community throughout the years, from when I was skating as a kid to now, it just means the world to me. I can’t even express how much that means to me.”

Reaching the Olympics also forced Brown to reflect on his budding professional career. Brown started skating at age five and what began as a simple interest has turned him into an Olympian and worldwide sensation.

“It really all started because I just loved to skate,” Brown remembered. “I didn’t look at it as, ‘this is something I’m going to do because I’m good at it or because I’m getting pushed to do it.’ It was always something I just loved to do and if I wanted to go to the rink, my parents took me to the rink and if I wanted to stay home, they’d be okay. It was always something that — being at Highland Park and being at Centennial with my coach, Kori— she just harnessed my love for the sport. And she’s just a huge inspiration to be and I still feel like that five-year old every time I step on the ice, that much joy and that much passion. That’s what really inspires me: that I love to do it.”

From Child to Champion

Three-time NHL All-Star. Olympic silver medalist. Stanley Cup Champion. Stanley Cup Champion (again). Playoff MVP.

Patrick Kane has it all.

“He was always that much better than anyone else,” according to Doug Smith, one of Kane’s youth coaches. “He scores goals now, just like he did when he was a little kid.”

Smith coached the Wheatfield Blades in the Empire West League for nine years, but for five of those years, he had to face off against Kane’s club, the West Seneca Wings. At age 11, Kane moved to the Blades, much to Smith’s delight.

“I said to his dad (Pat Kane), ‘why don’t you finish out the year with us?’, and he did,” Smith said.

Listen to Doug Smith’s account of how his team landed Patrick Kane at age 11:

Kane’s record-breaking performances on the ice are fueled by his natural talent, but that’s only part of the equation.

“He worked hard at it,” Smith said. “There are guys who can go do things and not practice it, but he worked at every bit of it. He was on the ice morning, noon and night. He was like a fish in the water. He was always on the ice. He’d leave my practice and go right on to the next practice. He just wanted to play all the time. He deserved everything he got.”

Smith continued, marveling at Kane’s passion for the game as a youngster. “He didn’t like to lose. I don’t know if it’s ‘love to win or hate to lose’, but I know he sure didn’t like to lose.”

After watchi

After reliving each of his playoff goals with his dad, Patrick Kane scored a 2OT game-winner to complete his first-career playoff hat-trick and send the rolling Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Final (Photo by Charles Rex Arbogast, Associated Press).

The model work-ethic Smith observed of the youngster Kane hasn’t changed one bit, as Kane, now a grown man, works harder than ever to produce the results we see on the ice. In fact, after going seven playoff games without scoring a goal, Kane and his dad, sat down and watched all of his then-22 career playoff goals. After that, Kane scored seven goals in the next eight games to help the Blackhawks grab hold of their second Stanley Cup in four seasons.

“It’s not that all of a sudden that I’m a bad player,” Kane said to reporters at the time. “It just doesn’t happen like that. I had a good regular season, and I’m still a good player in this league and can make plays. It’s something I’ve just got to go out and do. I can’t take no for an answer.”

Smith echoed Kane’s determination: “People say, ‘Oh Patrick Kane, he’s not doing as well as he used to,’ then in the next game he’ll score a hat trick or a game winning goal, he turns his game back to dominating.”

Kane’s NHL success has brought him immense popularity in his hometown of Buffalo, New York. Smith saw this adoration when Kane brought Lord Stanley’s Cup to Niagara Falls in 2010.

“In Niagara falls, the people are all around him,” Smith recounted. “Then there are the other players, about five or six of them, (Jonathan) Toews was one of them. They’re all sitting on the side, nobody’s even going by them. It was funny that Kane was surrounded and the others were all just standing there. Nobody even knew who they were.”

Patrick Kane poses on the ice during his younger years. Smith: “He was always that much better than anyone else."

Patrick Kane poses on the ice during his younger years. Smith: “He was always that much better than anyone else.”

Buffalo’s love affair with Kane has affected his family, too.

“If I didn’t have such a high sense of morals, I probably could get a lot of free meals,” the elder Kane told The Daily Herald.

It hasn’t all been red roses for the Kanes.

In August of 2009, the Blackhawks’ forward, who scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal one year later, and his cousin, James Kane, were arrested for allegedly punching cabbie Jan Radecki. The two were charged with theft of services, second-degree robbery, and fourth-degree criminal mischief.

In a press conference, Kane cited being “in the wrong place at the wrong time” and “sincerely” apologized. Smith, who also coached James, was largely forgiving of Kane’s mishap: “We all make mistakes,” he said. “I don’t know much about it. He did something he shouldn’t have been doing.”

As for his on-the-ice issues, there haven’t been many.

“There’s nothing I could tell him (to change),” Smith said. “He makes some really good players look like fools, it’s fun to watch.”

One happenstance in which Kane put his fool-making of others on display was his dazzling shootout-winning goal against the Red Wings, which you can watch below:

“I was mesmerized. The goalie was mesmerized, he didn’t know what to do,” Smith said of the goal. “As good as he is with the puck now, that’s how he was with little kids.”

The praise continued: “Even when he was a little kid, he was the best side-to-side kid I’d ever seen, and he still does the same thing in the NHL,” Smith said. “He’s able to suck another player over, and once that happens, it’s all over.”

However, Smith joked, there’s one glaring weakness that Kane could use some work on. “He’s not a good fighter.”

Listen to Doug Smith recount his time coaching 11-year-old Patrick Kane:

By Sam Brief

Feel free to leave a comment below! Your opinion is always welcome.

The Sports Brief is on Twitter! Follow @SamBrief for even more insight and opinion.

A Cup-Lifting Win: How 17 Seconds Proved that Hockey Players’ Resilience and Toughness Is Unparalleled

With just 1:17 left in game six of the Stanley Cup Finals, a game seven appeared to be on the horizon.

Not so fast, Boston fans.

Trailing 2-1 (and leading 3-2 in the best-of-seven series), Blackhawks’ forward Bryan Bickell drove the puck past the glove side Boston’s highly-appraised goaltender, Tuukka Rask. With just a buck fifteen remaining in the game, the score now read 2-2. Overtime now materialized as a certainty.

Not so fast, lovers of “free hockey.”

Just 17 seconds later, Dave Bolland fired a Michael Frolik redirect into the back of the net. Soon after, he threw off his gloves as if the Blackhawks had just won the Stanley Cup, but there were still 58.3 seconds left on the game clock in Boston’s TD Garden.

No “not so fast” this time, because Bolland’s celebration was justified. The Blackhawks had just clinched their second Stanley Cup title in the previous four seasons.

Until the fat lady sings: Just 17 seconds earlier, a game seven seemed certain, but Dave Bolland (36 in white) reminded us all that it truly ain't over until it's over.

Until the fat lady sings: Just 17 seconds earlier, a game seven seemed certain, but Dave Bolland (36 in white) reminded us all that, as Yogi Berra once said, “it ain’t over until it’s over.”

Clearly, this game six showed all of America how hockey play always stick the mantras, “never give up,” and “it ain’t over ’till it’s over.” Applying this label of perseverance to hockey players is supported by two comeback victories during this postseason: The Bruins’ recovered after trailing Toronto by three goals to win game seven of their round-one matchup and the Blackhawks’ claimed a series victory over hated rival Detroit, winning the series in seven games after trailing three games to one.

In other sports, coaches and players often throw in the metaphorical white flag before the sounding of the final buzzer. Look at game 3 of the NBA Finals: With his team being pounded by the Spurs in San Antonio, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra pulled his starters, essentially giving up. While the format of hockey rosters doesn’t allow a coach to “pull his starters,” any sort of giving up is intolerable throughout this great sport. That is one thing that makes the game and its players so unique.

In contrast to hockey, petty injuries often cause players in other sports to miss games: “Cracked skin in right thumb” (Tigers’ pitcher Justin Verlander on 4/25) and “Sensitivity after tattoo application” (Rangers’ infielder Elvis Andrus on 2/28) are two examples in Major League Baseball.

Now, imagine this: Boston bruiser Zdeno Chara leaving the game with “cracked skin” in his thumb. Imagine Anaheim and Philadelphia great Chris Pronger missing action with “soreness from a tattoo.” If you are going to great pains just to imagine these blasphemies, you’re not alone. There’s a simple reason why we can’t imagine these: Hockey players are some tough dudes.

Here are some examples of bearded Bruin warriors who gave it a go in game six, despite injuries that would end most athletes’ season:

  • Boston’s Patrice Bergeron amassed 17:45 of ice time in game six despite suffering from a punctured lung, broken rib, separated shoulder and torn cartilage and muscles in his ribs. Bergeron later summed up his resilience like a true hockey player, telling Yahoo! Sports, “It’s the Stanley Cup Final, everyone’s banged up, everyone wants to help the team.”
  • Bruins’ winger Nathan Horton played games two through six with a severe shoulder injury sustained in game one.
  • Zdeno Chara, who was on the ice for 10 of Chicago’s final 12 goals of the series, and Jaromir Jagr both dealt with “undisclosed” injuries, but persevered, maintaining presence for a combined 39 shifts in game six.

On the Chicago side, the roses were no redder:

  • 36-year-old Michal Handzus played the series despite suffering from a broken wrist (how does one lift the 35-pound Stanley Cup with a broken wrist?) and a torn MCL (Bears’ fans might remember Jay Cutler leaving the 2011 NFC Championship Game with a sprained MCL).
  • Marian Hossa endured a pinch nerve in his back that led to his loss of feeling in his right foot, and played in games four, five and six with his injury.
  • Andrew Shaw, who scored the game-winner in the Cup Final’s epic triple-overtime thriller, suffered a broken rib in the Western Conference Semifinals vs. Detroit.
  • Captain Jonathan Toews recorded two points in 20:12 of ice time after “getting his bell rung” by Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuck in game five. Toews: “We had guys willing to do whatever it took.”
  • Bickell, who also showcased a gaping hole where his front teeth once were after enduring a puck to the face, suffered from a grade-two knee sprain sustained in the Western Conference Finals against the defending-champion Kings.

The never-ending catalog of injuries encountered in these Stanley Cup Finals proves that hockey players are some of the most relentless, toughest athletes on planet Earth. Especially in the playoffs, the prototypical image of a hockey player is a crazy-eyed, bearded dude with two black eyes, five missing teeth, and stitches on his chin. Blackhawks’ forward Andrew Shaw epitomized this image in game six. In the first period, Shaw (who was suffering from a broken rib at the time!) took a Shawn Thornton slapshot to the face. The blood dripping on the ice and streaming onto his sweater was unavoidable, but just a few minutes later, Shaw was back on the attack with stitches sealing up his swollen right cheek. Shaw would continue to bleed throughout the game, often forced to clean up on the bench in order to return. He fought, refusing to leave the game, a decision Shaw later coined as “worth all the stitches.” The lasting image of Shaw’s game six is his lifting of the Stanley Cup, looking up at the gleaming silver barrel with blood streaming down his considerably swollen right cheek.

No glitz, no glamour: Lifting Lord Stanley's Cup over his head as blood streamed down his cheek, Andrew Shaw showed us the determined heart of a hockey player. (Click on image to enlarge)

No glitz, no glamour: Lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup over his head as blood streamed down his cheek, Andrew Shaw showed us the determined heart of a hockey player. (Click on image to enlarge)

Featuring its wide array of injuries, the starting lineups of game six resembled an MLB disabled list and even an NFL physically unable to perform list, which indeed demonstrates the innate toughness of hockey players. They refuse to use injury as an excuse, embracing the image of bearded, battered warriors; they never give up on a game, even if it seems like a lost cause. Considering its array of injuries and stunning comeback, game six of these Stanley Cup Finals embodied all of this, and showed fans all over the world the beauty of the wonderful, not-so-glamorous sport of hockey.

By Sam Brief

Feel free to leave a comment below! Your opinion is always welcome.

The Sports Brief is on Twitter! Follow @SamsSportsBrief for even more insight and opinion.

(Related: Cup heads West to Chicago)