Tim Sassone will never forget his first day on campus as a freshman at Northern Illinois University.
He was a man on a mission.
“I walked over to the Northern Star newspaper’s office my first day on campus, interviewed with Mark Brown (now a Sun-Times columnist) and was hired to cover men’s cross country,” said Sassone, who would later move up to cover football and basketball.
Among the highlights of his early days as a school reporter in DeKalb was the chance to cover NIU basketball star Matt Hicks, who, according to Sassone, “was the mini-Michael Jordan of his day. He could leap out of the gym and some his dunks were spectacular.”
And just like that, a career in sports journalism had begun, one that would take him from serving as sports editor of the Star-Herald, then on to Pro Football Weekly for one football season, and finally on a full-time basis in 1984 to the Daily Herald, where he has made a name for himself locally and nationally as the Blackhawks beat writer.
On Saturday, Sassone’s journey comes full circle when he joins an elite group of journalists by being inducted into the Northern Star Alumni Hall of Fame.
“It’s very satisfying,” said Sassone, who served as the Star’s sports editor for three semesters.
In 2011, one of Sassone’s colleagues, columnist Barry Rozner, was inducted into the Northern Star Hall.
“Tim is a pro’s pro,” said Daily Herald Sports Editor Tom Quinlan. “He’s called the Dean of Chicago Hockey not just for his longevity on the beat, but for the respect he’s earned from other writers, fans and people in the sports business.
“He’s a competitor through and through, and I love the fact that his reports are so descriptive I feel like I can see the puck on the ice when he writes.”
And after all these years away from DeKalb covering the biggest events in Chicago history from the Stanley Cup Finals to the World Series to the Ryder Cup, the lessons learned from his days at the Northern Star have never been forgotten.
“I learned a lot at the Star that still helps me today, like writing on deadline and things like that. It was great to be a part of a totally student-run operation, from the selling of ads to the layout of the actual paper,” Sassone said, who was nominated by a colleague for the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Elmer Ferguson Award in 2007.
“I’m very organized and I learned that from my time as sports editor at the Star. It was a great foundation in terms of learning how to interview people, how to write quickly and how to handle people.”
Other honorees joining Sassone in the 2013 HOF class include:
ź Bill Hetland, Star editor-in-chief from 1965-66.
ź Jon Lawrence, a Star cartoonist in 1970.
ź Kevin Craver, a 1994 Star staff member who worked as a reporter, cartoonist and senior investigative reporter.
ź Barry Schrader, a 1963 Star reporter.
ź Matt Bute, a 1999 member of the Star Advertising staff.
ź Jim Killam, Star adviser from 1995-2012.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.