By Bennet Hayes
Chicago’s winter got a little gloomier Wednesday.
Within the span of hours Tuesday night, news broke of injuries to both Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls and Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks. The ailments – a torn meniscus in the right knee for Rose and a left clavicle fracture for Kane – will sideline two of the city’s biggest sports stars for weeks and possibly months.
The Blackhawks and Bulls, each harboring legitimate championship aspirations, are now left to scramble. Kane underwent surgery Wednesday and will miss approximately 12 weeks, according to team doctors. Rose’s timetable for return is less certain, but it’s possible his 2014-15 season is over.
“There was a sense throughout Bears season that we had these two teams waiting at the end,” said Comcast SportsNet Chicago personality David Kaplan. “They were something to look forward to.”
Rose’s injury woes have been well-documented. A torn ACL in his left knee during the 2012 playoffs, and a meniscus tear in his right in Nov. of 2013, limited the 2011 MVP to just 10 total games played over the last two seasons. Until Tuesday, this season had marked a return to health for the Chicago native. Rose, who is averaging 18.4 points and 5.0 assists per game, played in 46 of the Bulls’ 57 contests.
Kane’s absence will be a new problem for the Blackhawks. In recent years, the franchise has managed to dodge significant injuries to key players. Arguably their most important player, Kane has never missed more than 13 games in any of his seven NHL seasons and had not missed a game this season. With 27 goals and 37 assists on the year, he was considered a frontrunner for MVP honors.
Kane, whose injury resulted from a first-period cross-check from Florida’s Alex Petrovic, was placed on long-term injured reserve, which will keep him out at least 24 calendar days and 10 regular-season games. The NHL regular-season ends April 11 and playoffs begin the following week.
Unsurprisingly, news of the injuries dominated conversation Wednesday in a city that has been known to live and die with its sports teams.
“Without Kane I don’t think they can make the Stanley Cup finals,” said attorney Erin Fiore, 34. “But I think there is a lot of hope still in Chicago – even with our crappy sports teams.”
Mike Compernolle, 29, a Chicago logistics analyst, agreed the injuries have done a number on morale in the city.
“You look at all five teams and these were easily the two closest to winning championships,” he said. “Now you lose the two star players and it’s pretty devastating.”
The newest chapter of Rose’s complicated medical history has elicited a unique wave of emotion across the city. ESPN’s Sarah Spain captured much of the sentiment last night when she wrote, via Twitter: “I think I’m in shock. Having trouble processing this happening…again.”
I think I’m in shock. Having trouble processing this happening…again.
— Sarah Spain (@SarahSpain) February 25, 2015
Others were more frustrated – and less forgiving.
“Derrick Rose is a disaster, they need to get rid of him,” said Dan Weinbach, a landscape architect in Chicago. “He’s worthless.”
Joe Ramirez, a 30-year old Chicago clerk, had a gentler suggestion.
“It’s probably time for him to retire,” he said. “That has to be his best option. There have just been too many injuries.”
Ravenswood resident Jamie Lepri, 29, had an explanation for Rose’s maladies.
“It’s simple,” Lepri said. “There’s an MJ curse. We were blessed with the greatest player and dynasty in the history of the NBA. Now we are paying a price.”
Both the Bulls and Blackhawks will have to move forward without their stars. The Hawks are currently fourth in the Western Conference, 12 points behind first-place Nashville. It’s a similar situation for the Bulls, who are third in the East, 8.5 games behind the conference-leading Atlanta Hawks.
On ESPN radio’s morning talk show “The Herd with Colin Cowherd,” Bill Simmons suggested the Bulls might be better off without Rose. Kaplan didn’t necessarily agree.
“It might benefit them in the short term because they don’t have to deal with Rose’s growing pains,” Kaplan said. “But the Bulls need a high-functioning Derrick Rose to win a championship.”
And on a day where many Chicago sports fans mourned the potentially crippling losses of two of its favorite stars, Kaplan offered an optimistic warning.
“It’s a sad day in Chicago sports,” Kaplan said. “But I caution everyone: Do not write these two teams off. They still have a chance to make a run.”