The Blackhawks’ Artem Anisimov is skilled at deflecting passes. And it turns out the Russian native can deflect reporters’ questions too.

During an informal Q&A at the Blackhawks Convention, I asked Anisimov about claims of collusion between Donald Trump‘s presidential campaign and Russia.

“First time to hear about it,” Anisimov said with a straight face. “I don’t read newspapers. I probably disappoint you.”

The line drew big laughs from reporters gathered around to talk hockey.

“So no one’s talking to you about what goes on in the world?” I asked.

Then Anisimov, who’s been playing in the United States almost 10 years, weighed in.

“People in the U.S. blame another country and everybody believes it. They say Russia did it. But there’s no evidence,” said Anisimov. He then turned to a few Russian-speaking journalists for a new conversation.

In hockey lingo, I think that’s changing on the fly.

It’s girl talk with Pritzker

J.B. Pritzker

J.B. Pritzker hosted a “Rights and Resistance” luncheon for women Friday at the Cultural Center.

This was no fundraiser (the Chicago billionaire is footing the bill for his campaign) but the 350 mostly women progressives were well aware of his candidacy for governor.

“I’m a feminist,” Pritzker said to applause.

That’s how the event went. No mention of candidates he faces in the 2018 primary. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner‘s name only popped up in passing.

Instead, Pritzker revved up the crowd with references to President Donald Trump.

“He’s a misogynistic, xenophobic racist,” Pritzker said.

“Trump may have won the election, but this is our country. Frankly, his values are never going to win,” he went on.

High-profile supporters joined in the applause, including Pritzker’s sister, former Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker; businesswomen Desiree Rogers, Smita Shah and Ikram Goldman; Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd); 43rd Ward Democratic Committeeman Lucy Moog; and Betsy Ebeling, a childhood friend of Hillary Clinton.

Pritzker also interviewed Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia and others on a panel about getting women into public office.

Not everyone in the room was a Pritzker devotee.

“I’m still trying to figure it out,” said one CEO who asked not to be identified. “I just came for the lunch.”

Jacksons’ divorce trial set

Sandi and Jesse Jackson Jr.

Sandi and Jesse Jackson Jr. | AP file photo

Former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. and his estranged wife, former Ald. Sandi Jackson, are still heading separate ways. Their divorce trial is set to begin Jan. 8 in Washington, D.C., after mediation efforts failed. Jan. 8 is also the birthday of the late Elvis Presley, who sang one of the all-time great break-up songs: “Separate Ways.”

‘Rauner is no Topinka,’ her son says

The son of the late Judy Baar Topinka takes issue with my column last week comparing the upcoming gubernatorial race to hers in 2006.

The GOP that year was fractured and couldn’t compete against a well-funded Rod Blagojevich.

“Governor [Bruce] Rauner is no Judy Baar Topinka, and this campaign is nothing like her campaign,” U.S. Army veteran Joseph Baar Topinka wrote in an email.

She also had “no support from the right wing of her party,” her son said.

Rauner, who’s hired some far-right employees, may be taking that to heart.

Chicago’s Manafort connection

Chicago-based Federal Savings Bank has been subpoenaed to turn over records for $16 million in loans it made to Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager to President Donald Trump, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Paul Manafort and Steve Calk

Paul Manafort and Steve Calk | File photos

Manafort was pushed out of Trump’s camp and is now under investigation for possibly working with the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential campaign. The bank records are part of an investigation into that imbroglio.

Manafort connected with Federal Savings Bank through a loan officer in the bank’s Manhattan office, according to a Federal Savings Bank source. This is all interesting because the bank’s CEO is Steve Calk, who was an economic adviser to Trump during the campaign. The Wall Street Journal says Calk was angling for a government job. But Calk told me last summer he just wanted a seat at the table to talk issues such as banking, taxes and deregulation.

Manafort and Calk didn’t know each other before the loans were made, the bank source said.

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