Let’s just start with the obvious. The year 2022 was a disappointing one for Chicago sports. From tanking teams to underachieving ones, our franchises let us down early and often.
But every good story needs a humble beginning and there is no shortage of possibilities when it comes to first chapters. From the Bears finally looking like they have their quarterback to the Blackhawks rolling the dice for a chance at Connor Bedard, there’s a chance we could one day look back at 2022 as the year it all began.
With that in mind, let’s look at the 10 Chicago sports that made the most noise.
10. Bears unveil plans for Arlington Heights development
There wasn’t a lot of action or hard decisions made when it came to the Bears moving to the northwest suburbs. But there were two big takeaways. The Bears sent a message to Lori Lightfoot and the city of Chicago that they weren’t interested in a Soldier Field renovation. They also showed off their vision for the Arlington Park site, a plan that includes a team-financed stadium and a publicly-financed entertainment district they’ll have to sell to citizens. The year 2023 figures to feature a lot more headlines as the Bears figure out just how to pay for the move.
9. Cubs say goodbye to Willson Contreras, Sox part ways with Jose Abreu
Two of Chicago’s most popular baseball players the past decade will have new homes in the new year. The Cubs couldn’t find a deal for Contreras at the trade deadline and weren’t interested in a pricy extension so they’ll start seeing him in Cardinals uniform come spring. His departure means that Kyle Hendricks is the lone player remaing from the 2016 World Series team.
Abreu, meanwhile, was one of the lone bright spots for the Sox for many years and seems destined for a statute/number retirement on the South Side one day. For now, he’ll play the next three years for the Astros.
8. Khalil Mack trade signals start of Ryan Poles’ tenure
The Bears’ newest GM didn’t waste any time in starting the rebuild at Halas Hall, trading the star edge rusher on March 16, the first day of the league year. The Los Angeles Chargers sent back a second-round pick in 2022 (which turned out to be Jaquan Brisker) and a sixth-rounder in 2023. The deal kicked off an active year for Poles as he also traded Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn before acquiring Chase Claypool before the deadline.
7. Blackhawks finally go all in on rebuild
After several years of wandering through the land of NHL mediocrity, the Hawks finally admitted it was time to take things down to the studs. New GM Kyle Davidson immediately started collecting draft picks by trading away Brandon Hagel, Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach. The early returns look promising, but the Hawks won’t know if they won the real prize until next spring’s draft lottery. Landing a generational superstar like Connor Bedard at the top of the draft would accelerate the team’s push back toward the top of the NHL.
6. Pat Foley and Eddie Olczyk leave Blackhawks booth
We knew that the 2021-22 season would be Foley’s last behind the mike as the beloved play-by-play announcer made a much-celebrated farewell tour the entire year. What we didn’t see coming was a breakdown over a new contract between Eddie O. and the team. The squabble led to Olczyk making a shocking departure to Seattle over the summer and Hawks fans facing an uncertain future with two of the most familiar voices in Chicago broadcasting.
5. Sky title defense falls short
It’s been 20 years since a WNBA team repeated as champion and for good reason — it’s a tough thing to do! The Sky put together a great regular season, winning a franchise-record 26 games on the regular calendar and hosting the WNBA All-Star Game at Wintrust Arena. But after eliminating the New York Liberty in the opening round of the playoffs — Chicago’s only playoff series win all year long — they wilted in the final minutes of a decisive game 5 against the Connecticut Sun in the WNBA Semifinals. It was a disappointing finish to a two-year run that saw the Sky generate plenty of excitement in the city. 2023 will be a pivotal season for the franchise as it’s unclear whether franchise legends Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley and Candace Parker (all free agents) will return.
4. Bulls end playoff drought, but resurrection stalls
2022 couldn’t have started with any better vibes as DeMar DeRozan hit back-to-back buzzer beaters and the Bulls started the year atop the Eastern Conference. But Lonzo Ball left the team with a knee injury two weeks later, throwing the plan of Arturas Karnisovas into disarray and leading to an abbreviated showing in their first playoff appearance since 2017. Twelve months later, the Bulls are looking for a clear path on what to do next as the team appears to have hit a solid ceiling as currently constructed.
3. The Tony La Russa experiment ends as a spectacular failure
The 2022 Chicago White Sox seemed like a lock to win the American League Central and get another shot at making their deepest playoff run since 2005. They were instead cursed by injuries, bad leadership and underachieving play while finishing a middling 81-81. Health problems caused Tony La Russa to retire two years into a three-year contract, ending owner Jerry Reinsdorf’s wish to write a happier ending than the one La Russa experienced in 1986. The Sox have a lot of hills to climb in 2023, not only on the field but also in the stands where they’ve angered a loyal fanbase by mismanaging what should have been a robust period of contention.
2. Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace fired
It may have come a year too late, but Halas Hall experienced momentous change on January 10, when George McCaskey dismissed both his head coach and general manager after a 6-11 season. Nagy’s firing ended a tumultuous four-year season that started with a NFL coach of the year award and playoff appearance but will be remembered for a sputtering offense that consistently ranked near the bottom of the league. Pace led the franchise for seven seasons, missing on his two coaching hires (John Fox and Nagy) and leaving a legacy that included several high-profile misses in the draft and only two playoff appearances. The story set into motion a process that ostensibly revamped the power structure at Halas Hall and led the Bears to hire another Ryan (Poles) and Matt (Eberflus) to lead football operations.
1. Justin Fields breakout season
Finally! A good thing to remember 2022 by! The second-year quarterback instilled hope in Bears fans everywhere, becoming a league-leading threat on the ground and showing flashes of a potential MVP candidate. While there is still improvement to be made, it’s hard to find anyone not excited about what this Bears team could look like once it gets away from all the dead cap space and through a draft stocked with picks. Most of us have waited all our lives for a legitimate Bears quarterback and it looks like he has finally arrived.