Tag Archives: NHL

Malkin ‘Em Look Silly

Those crazy sports writers have done it again. They have kick-started the Russian machine.

Let me just say that I’m a fan of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Ron Cook. Other than Gene Collier, he is the only local sports writer whose “writing voice” doesn’t sound like my great-grandfather trying to tell me a funny joke he heard at the VFW.

Cook’s article in the wake of the Penguins’ Game 3 showdown in Montreal, titled “Malkin needs to come alive,” caused quite a stir amongst die-hard Pens fans.

I am not a media watchdog. I cannot imagine how hard it must be to write a sports column every other day. Hell, I can barely tie my own shoes without employing the bunny-ears technique. However, I have to say that it is incredibly disappointing when a good writer like Cook not only calls out a star player in the middle of a deadlocked series, but does so in such a vague, veiled manner. Cooke phoned-in the column so hard that Verizon is going to charge him roaming fees.

He wrote:

“Malkin gets more of a pass in this town than, say, Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who will spend today and Tuesday reading and hearing how he was thoroughly outplayed by Montreal goaltender Jaroslav Halak in the Canadiens’ 3-1 win in Game 2….But it will get ugly for Malkin fairly quickly if his scoring drought continues.”

“Yo, Ron. I’m really happy for you. I’mma let you finish. But Geno is one of the best Penguins of ALL-TIME. Of All-Time.”

The reigning Stanley Cup playoff MVP gets a pass in this town? Certainly not from the local sports writers who cover him, who alternate from accusing him of pouting when he is going through a slump, to patronizing him like he’s some sort of comic-relief foreign TV side-kick when he is playing well.

Thankfully for Penguins fans, Malkin has a knack for making his detractors look silly. In January, Cook wrote the infamous “Sulking won’t cure Malkin’s slump,” which contained the derogatory phrase, “Can you say Jaromir Jagr?” Days later, Geno responded with a hat trick against the Islanders that jump-started his best stretch of the regular season.

Last night, his game-winning power play goal changed the complexion of an entire series. There are only four or five guys on earth who can do what Malkin did – beat a red-hot goaltender with a slapshot from so far away that I thought Geno was grabbing a hotdog at the concession stand.

Just when you were on hold with 93.7 The Fan to give Geno a piece of your mind…Zing. The net exploded.

The goal was Malkin’s fifth of the playoffs. For comparison, Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk have six. Vancouver’s Siamese-superstar Sedin twins have six combined. San Jose’s sniper-extraordinaire Dany Heatley has one.

Malkin’s 10 postseason points are on par with Art Ross-winner Henrik Sedin, who went up against the LOLs Angeles Kings and shaky goalie Jonathan Quick in the opening round, while Malkin’s opposition has opted to play dump-and-retreat-hockey.

Yet the Pittsburgh media—hungry to stir up website hits and the angry calls that are the life-blood of a 24-hour talk radio station—would have you believe that Malkin, whom they love to point out makes nine million dollars this season don’t cha know, is underperforming compared to other NHL stars.

Pure fallacy.

Do you know what the real is difference between Malkin and those aforementioned superstars? Kane, Datsyuk, Heatley and the Sedins play alongside other All-Star talent. Malkin plays alongside rental-players and an ever-changing rotation of one-million-a-year wingers who can barely finish a Filet o’ Fish.

Cook is right about one thing: It is telling that four of Malkin’s five goals this postseason have come on the power play. When surrounded with adequate talent, he shines. In big moments, he shines so bright you need to borrow Grandpa’s shades just to watch the TV.

Nice, guy.

As the Post-Gazette’s own excellent Penguins blog Empty Netters points out, Malkin has now scored seven game-winning postseason goals in only his fourth year in the NHL. Crosby has five. Ironically, Jagr is the franchise’s leader in playoff game-winners with 14.

It took Jagr 11 season to reach that mark.

Somehow, despite winning two Stanley Cups and five NHL scoring titles in the black-and-gold, Jagr was turned into a villain in this town.

Why? Because that narrative sold papers.

Penguins fans should pray that the same story isn’t pushed on Malkin, who doesn’t have the luxury of playing on Le Magnifique’s wing.

Mr. Cook, I admire you, but can you say Jaromir Jagr? Inflammatory headlines should be the territory of blogs, remember?

For those that question Geno’s heart, just remember that the 23-year-old has a Hart in his trophy cabinet.

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The New Jersey Devils as a Metaphor for Human Existence

You may not like to admit it, but being a Penguins fan is an embarrassingly easy and deliriously enjoyable experience. At least 99 percent of the time. After all, how many couch pillows have you torn asunder in frustration this season? Sure, the Penguins’ power play is hapless, but this season has been one breezy picnic on the ‘Mon. Even Pascal Dupuis’ normally feeble hands have been possessed by the carefree spirit of Jan “Funky Cold” Hrdina. When Dooper is on pace to score 20 goals in a season, your team is living the high life.

If the Pens’ brief losing streak has you feeling blue, just think of the alternative: You could have been born in New Jersey instead. The misery of Garden Staters isn’t limited to the stigma of being associated with those daffy paisans from MTV’s Jersey Shore. They also have to watch the New Jersey Devils meander around the rink every other night. You, noble Pittsburgher, get to enjoy firewagon hockey. You get to live in a city that doesn’t collectively smell like grandma’s house. Both socially and morally: Pittsburgh > New Jersey.

“Woah. Take that back, chief.”

Alas, six times a season, New Jersey gets to have a cheap laugh at our expense by torturing Pittsburgh hockey fans with THE TRAP®. The Trap is an ultra-conservative philosophy of playing defense. Instead of chasing after the puck and having fun, the Devils players sit back and let the puck come to them. The whole team agrees to do this. In fact, if they get the lead in a game, all five skaters just glide around on their side of the ice, flailing their sticks wildly like bubble hockey figurines. It’s derivative, slow and boring – just like all of Bruce Springsteen’s albums after 1987. It’s the game of hockey as if re-imagined by lawyers and Frenchmen.

Still, it works, especially against the Penguins, whose weaknesses only appear when other teams deliberately slow down the pace of the game. Tonight, when the Penguins play the Devils in New Jersey, don’t be shocked if you see four or five Devils players forming a Secret Service wall in front of goalie Martin Brodeur’s crease. The Devils play goalie by committee. Head coach Jacques Lemaire would duct tape his players to the posts if it were legal.

Just brace yourself for 60 minutes of unmitigated frustration, Pittsburgh.

The Devils may beat up the Penguins in short spurts in the regular season, but come playoff time, they don’t have the horses to compete over a seven game series. As good as star left winger Zach Parise is (look out for #9 tonight), you cannot take down the Penguins in May if your team’s second best goal scorer is 36-year-old Brian “Who?” Rolston.

Then again, Rolston did win a Cup with the Devils during the Clinton administration, so look out.

“Glory Days. They’ll pass you by, Glory Days.”

The New Jersey Devils are really just a metaphor for life itself. We’re spoiled rotten by the magic of Crosby and Malkin. No matter what happened at work or what grade you got on your math test at school that day – come 7:00 on a Hockey Night in Pittsburgh, all is right in the world. All is forgotten as soon as Matt Cooke’s bullying antics make a grown man throw a temper tantrum, or as soon as Brooks Orpik shoves his mitts into an opponent’s yapping mouth during a tussle. Watching the Penguins is delightful.

But it’s all a fantasy world. Come the next morning, life is back to running The Trap® on us again. Life isn’t bad, it’s just frustrating.  Here are just a few examples of Life-as-the-New-Jersey-Devils:

Life Frustration # 1 – The Prevalence of Study Abroad Programs

My girlfriend is Spanish. For the most part, this is pretty cool. It’s like having a forged handicap sticker on your car. It just makes things easier. When we go to Taco Bell, she explains what all the foreign burrito verbiage means. When she asks me to do anything I don’t want to do, I just pretend like she has forgotten the correct English word for it.

“Help you fold laundry, you say? What’s laun-dry? I don’t understand. I cannot comprehend. I think you better grab the Spanish-to-English dictionary. Oops, gotta’ run!”

There’s only one time having a Spanish girlfriend is a problem: when you run into Joey Abroad. These days, every underage college kid “studies abroad” in Europe for a semester to escape America’s anachronistic drinking laws, and to spend their parents’ money with the least amount of transparency possible. Think Goldman Sacks is corrupt? Joey Abroad spends his parents’ bailout money with even less honor.

For instance, Joey Abroad will send an e-mail home saying that he’s stuck on a volunteer Red Cross mission in the Balkan foothills and needs emergency funds to buy school books for a small migrant child. In reality, he’s in Madrid just padding his tequila slush fund.

Because of the sluggish economy, many recent college graduates are turning to the service industry. I can’t take my girlfriend out to dinner these days without running into a barista or waiter who detects her accent and starts blathering away in broken Spanish about his five-month glorified spring break trip to Barcelona.

“LOL and then I got totally wasted on the steps of the Castell dels tres Dracs! I’m just a free spirit.”

What’s worse, I have to sit there in silence as the whole charade unfolds, unable to communicate my urgent need for an order of onion rings in one of the romance languages. Man, study abroad programs are frustrating. But not as frustrating as a trip to a corporate restroom.

Life Frustration # 2 – The Social Behavior in Corporate Bathrooms  

During the day, I work in Corporate America in a big building. Each floor of the building has only one male bathroom, which is routinely packed. There’s nary a lonely moment in the lavatory. To make matters worse, the architects of the bathroom decided that it would be a good idea to put a four inch gap between the stall doors and the divider. Someone can literally toss a tennis ball through the gap while you have the door closed.

It gets worse. In a feat of unbridled architectural stupidity, the sinks are located directly in front of the stalls, with a giant, freshly Windex-ed mirror giving participants an unhindered, panoramic view into the hearts and minds of the unfortunate souls sitting on the John.

The stall design makes for some interesting situations. Often, some marketing manager or accountant will start combing their hair in the mirror, then actually recognize an acquaintance through the crack and start up an eye-to-eye conversation while the acquaintance is taking care of their other business.

“Say Marshall, have you heard the third quarter finanicals?”

This is not an exaggeration. Corporate bathrooms are a reminder of how emotionally taxing life can be. But just remember, my friends: the frustrations of life, much like the New Jersey Devils’ trap, can be beaten with patience. So don’t grumble tonight, Pens fans. Give a whistle.

Hockey Update: Mainstream Media Still Loves to Hate Sidney Crosby

A little more than a week ago, self-professed hockey nerd Tom Awad wrote an article on ESPN.com titled—and I’m not making this up—“Strange But True, Crosby Hurting Penguins.” [ESPN]

Awad tried to make the case that Crosby is not “pulling his weight” this season because he takes “dumb penalties” and is less-than-stellar in a convoluted, made-up statistic called Goals Created that gives goals more weight than assists.

No, you are not hallucinating. No, your morning Sunny Delight was not spiked with Quaaludes. Awad really did make up a statistic called “Goals Created” that diminishes the importance of, literally, creating goals.

There are so many ways to discredit Awad’s petty, contrarian argument that I feel like a kid with an unlimited gift card at Toys R’ Us. I’m about to pass out from choice anxiety. First of all, Crosby’s set-ups are often so scintillating that Mike Lange could jump down from his perch at Mellon Arena, slide the puck into the gaping net, and then call his own goal.

Me-eee-eeee shoots and scores!”

Case in point: Crosby’s ridiculous game-winning slap-pass to Bill Guerin that froze Avalanche goalie Peter Budaj like a Slovakian snow cone (click here to watch).

If you look up “Goal Creation” in the dictionary, there’s a picture of this goal right next to a picture of Mr. Awad gently weeping underneath the dull flicker of his Alex Ovechkin night light.

But more importantly, this little factoid: Despite playing alongside a myriad of marginally talented wingers this season, Crosby has performed like your unstable ex-girlfriend after your break-up. He scores no matter who he’s with.

“But she seemed so normal at the beginning….”

In Crosby’s last 10 games, he has racked up 9 goals and 9 assists. Plug those numbers into your Goal Creation flux capacitor, Mr. Awad. Crosby is now third in the league in points (36), six points ahead of hockey media heartthrob Ovechkin.

“But my golly, the big Russian just knows how to score goals,” they swoon. “Look how much fun he’s having out there!”

Be careful not show the mainstream hockey media any real numbers, or we’ll have a tragedy on our hands.

“Oh, what’s that? Crosby has more goals? Ahhhhh my precious worldview! It burns!”

By the way, you know you’re in for an entertaining time when a sports journalist begins an argument with the line, “It’s true that his traditional stats are pretty good, BUT [let’s take a look at some made-up numbers I scribbled with a pretty purple Crayon].”

I think President Obama should use a similar line of logic to deal with our nation’s ongoing economic crisis.

“Yes, Secretary Geithner, I know the GDP numbers look good, but let’s dig a little deeper. How many chickens are we exporting versus Skittles consumed?!”

Ray Shero is Still a Genius

In the off-season, Penguins General Manager Ray Shero brought in this little-known, veteran fourth liner named Mike Rupp. Rupp is 6”5. He is versatile – capable of playing both wing and center. Shero signed him for $800,000 per season. For comparison, the departed Petr Sykora makes $2.5 million to season.

Rupp was supposed to be a reliable fourth liner who didn’t make mistakes, who didn’t hurt the team. Instead, the former New Jersey Devil has scored 8 goals already this season, two more than his previous career high, and proven that he has the pace to play alongside Crosby and Malkin when necessary.

Oh, and he’s a good chemistry guy, too. In fact, he’s hit it off so well with the guys in the locker room that he would consider going out on a date with Bill Guerin (click here to see what I mean).

 Love is in the air.

Defense? No worries, Shero’s Got It Covered

Even better, Shero let workhorse defenseman Rob Scuderi go in the offseason and replaced him with 6”4, 201 lbs Jay McKee. Both are known for their ability to block shots.

This season, Scuderi makes $3.4 million and has blocked 33 shots. McKee makes less than $1 million and has blocked 75 shots, third-best in the NHL.

Scuderi’s play in the Stanley Cup Finals earned him the coveted, repetitive title of “world’s best defensive defenseman.” But this season McKee’s plus-minus rating is +6, while Scuderi’s is even.

On second thought, maybe the President should solicit the advice of Mr. Shero.

NHL Salivates as Penguins-Capitals Playoff Rematch is Inevitable

If you’ve slept through the first 29 games of the NHL season, you really haven’t missed much. You can pick back up right where you left off with these cliff notes:

  • The Penguins are awesome (40 points, top of Atlantic).
  • The Capitals are awesome (40 points, top of Southeast).
  • The Flyers are not awesome, but think they have a right to be.
  • The Devils, like their city, are just as boring as you remember. Their games at Mellon Arena this season have been a hot, crowded physics lecture.
  • Out west, the Red Wings are hung-over and currently out of the playoffs.
  • The Sharks, as always, are tearing up the regular season schedule with the best record in the NHL, and feature the dynamite one-two combo of perennial jerk-off Danny Heatley and tepid, pass-first center Joe Thornton – who is always afraid to hurt the other team’s feelings once the playoffs roll around.
  • The Blackhawks look a lot like the Penguins – young, extremely talented at both ends of the ice and with good chemistry. But they looked like that before Hossa returned from injury recently. Will Hossa alter that chemistry? Did they really even need to add him, or should they have spent that money on a proven goalie?

 I think we all know the answer to that question.

Elvis’ Encore: Pittsburgh Says Goodbye to the Igloo

It’s impossible to walk down Penn Avenue or through the South Side and not think about how rapidly the city of Pittsburgh is changing. Where there once was a humming, smoking, cork-cutting factory, there are now trendy lofts with foyers of exposed steel. Where once there were union bars and Polish bars and parish bars with Straub Light on tap, there are now hotspots with $15 cover charges and strobe lights.

As our city moves on, with or without us, there’s still one place that hasn’t changed much since the Kennedy administration. It was built for the Civic Light Opera in 1961, partly by funds from Edgar J. Kaufman, owner of the Pittsburgh-born Kaufman’s department stores – which have, of course, like everything else in the city, been repainted, rebranded and ‘red up.

The new opera house was built on a hill with 2,950 tons of stainless steel made right here in the Steel City, back when we made such things, and although the arena’s silver, half-moon dome housed many rousing chorus’ over the next five decades, they weren’t often operatic. The genteel crowds at Pittsburgh’s Civic Audotorium prefefered arias like “Let’s Go Pens” and “We Want the Cup.”

Despite having modest accomodations – like uncomfortable seats with the kind of unreasonable, tangerine, plastic upholstrey favored by Western Pennslvanian grandmothers – our humble opera house even entertained aristocrats, like Lord Stanley. Three times, actually.

Recently Updated22Bow to your king, Capitals fans.

Of course, the Civic Arena never really was an opera house. In fact, it never really was the “Civic Arena” at all, nor was it the “Mellon Arena” after it too was rebranded. Ever since the 60s, when the Pittsburgh Hornets first skated out onto the ice in leather mittens and Christmas sweaters, the opera house on the hill was known as the Igloo, home of Hockey Night in Pittsburgh.

But that didn’t mean the Igloo didn’t have its fair share of music. Organist Vince Lascheid entertained Penguins fans for 33 years from a cranny high atop the area – way up near the roof. When a big bruiser like Ulf Samuelsson would be sent to the penalty box to mull his indigestions, Lascheid would play the theme from Dragnet. If the pun-loving instigator disagreed with the call, he would serenade the referees with “Three Blind Mice” to the delight of 17,000 puckheads.

Laschied, like Myron and Kaufman’s and the original cork factory and the real South Side, is gone. He left us in March at the age of 85. It sure seems like we’re saying a lot of goodbyes here in America’s most livable city. Seems like we’re replacing the skeletal monuments of every riverside machine factory with a Cheesecake Factory.

Even the Igloo is set to melt away after this season. It’s time. After all, the arena is the oldest in the league. But fans will certainly miss its shabby charm. When the Penguins move into their new $321 million home across the street, and the so-bad-their-good stadium nachos are replaced with teriyaki skewers and French microbrews, and the stale funk of the Igloo is replaced by the new car smell of the Console Energy Center, we will miss our old friend.

Sure, the paint on the walls is literally chipping, but if the Igloo’s walls could talk, they would have the smoky rasp of Mike Lange, and they’d tell us old stories – like the one about Bugsy Watson, a Penguins defenseman from the early ‘70s who once played a practical joke on former head coach Red Kelly by hijacking the team’s hotel shuttle bus – standing Kelly at the airport and taking the team on a joyride around Los Angeles.

Or maybe a few late-night stories about hard checking, harder drinking winger Kevin Stevens that aren’t fit to print. The Igloo has many stories to tell, and every Penguins fan has their own. I have mine.

It was February 1992, and the Penguins, defending Stanley Cup champions, were hosting the hated New York Rangers. It was snowing buckets and the black and gold pilgrims were trekking up Centre Avenue and Washington Place. If you were alive in 1992, I don’t have to tell you that three-quarters of the men had mullets – which were tumbling out of their snow caps and down the back of their Starter jackets and Jamomir Jagr jerseys.

Most male hockey fans in 1992 looked like they were guitar teachers, even if they held an office job. But that’s the thing about hockey fans – especially Penguins hockey – it’s always been the furthest thing from a boy’s club.

The omnistone hill leading up to the gates of the Igloo was filled with street saxophonists improvising tunes through winter gloves and kids with air horns and grandmas with homemade signs that taunted the Rangers with “1940” (the last year that the Rangers had won the Stanley Cup, at the time). Female “puck bunnies,” sporting improbably frizzy bangs brandished their own homemade signs – ones that beseeched the similarly coifed Mr. Jagr to marry them.

As the crowd marched up the hill, they chanted a chorus of “Go Home Ran-gers” through the falling snow.

My Pictures7-1

Inside the arena, Penguins fans of all stripes – from truck drivers to CEOs to school teachers – spent the next two hours living and dying with every cross-crease pass, every hip check and scrum. There were no long TV timeouts or corporate sponsorships to muck up the proceedings. Just three periods for each and every fan to live vicariously through every check – imagining the bad guys in the blue and red to be their boss, or their 4th grade math teacher, or the guy who cut them off on the Parkway West.

During the third period, a puck careened over the glass and slipped right through my grasp, causing a free-for-all for the bouncing souvenir in the row behind me. A mustachioed gentleman spilled a plastic cup of I.C. Light all over me in an effort to grab the stray puck. He eventually came out of the pileup with the puck, and held it up for the Jumbotron cameras.

A minute later, he tapped me on my drenched shoulder, and said, “Hey, buddy, I’m sorry about that. Let me make it up to you.”

I turned around expecting him to give me the puck. Instead, in his extended hand was a plastic cup with the frothy remains of his I.C. Light. I looked at my father, who shook his head, then looked back at the mustachioed gentleman, who was wearing a sweatshirt that said Sophie Masloff for President.

“Put some hair on your chest,” he said.

I was eight years old.

And if you don’t believe that story, then you clearly have never been to the Igloo before the Sidney Crosby revolution, when the real characters that used to inhabit the place were slowly priced out.

Even in Pittsburgh, things change. But the heart of this city will always remain.

Thanks to the new arena and owner Mario Lemieux’s loyalty, Hockey Nights in Pittsburgh will live on. When Penguins fans in Crosby jerseys or loosened ties emerge from the Liberty Tunnels and the skyline explodes in their windshields, the silver dome of the Igloo may not peak out from the valley behind the skyscrapers. But right next door, there will still be organs and cotton candy vendors and overwhelming heartbreak and silver-haired grandmothers pounding the Plexiglas, imploring goons to drop the gloves and get it on.

While the Steelers define Pittsburgh’s culture, the Penguins and their fans are an entire separate subculture – a unique slice of the city that will live on long after the Igloo is turned into a parking lot. Or a Cheesecake Factory.

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Enjoy the last season in the Igloo, before Elvis leaves the building for good.

Thirteen Years After Jets’ Demise, White Out Lives On

Fifteen-thousand people, all clad in white. Grandmothers furiously shaking white pompoms. Babies dressed in white Onesies. College students wearing ashen facepaint and sporting powdered wigs. All screaming at the top of their lungs, petitioning the referee to just drop the puck already!

Think you’re on the corner of Center Avenue and Mario Lemieux Place in Pittsburgh? Think again.

 Collages22-1Pens fans, meet your forefathers – the Winnipeg Jets’ faithful

The white out tradition actually started in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Our story begins in 1987 at the sparsely named Winnipeg Arena – back in those wild, draconian days when financial institutions and start-up dot-coms didn’t pay millions to stamp their logos on the toilet paper in every hockey arena bathroom.

We’re a long way away from iPhone applications that let fans watch television replays while they’re at the game, and even The Simpsons are two years prenatal. We’re talking about the days of The Joshua Tree and “tear down that wall.”

With nothing enjoyable yet invented – aside from Molson and the game of hockey, or as Canadians call it, shinney – Winnipeggers spent much of their free time thinking of ways to combine the two in creative ways. Skinny shinney, a Manitobian take on skinny dipping, didn’t quite work out.

One day, some bright young hoser had an innovative idea –

“Hey lads, you know how those hosers from Calgary are always wearing their red jerseys to the Flames games, calling it the C of Red and all that? Well, follow me here – let’s all get hosed and wear white to the Jets game tonight!”

 Screen Captures20Yikes. You usually have to pass out with your shoes on at a frat party to get that kind of artwork on your face.

And thus, a tradition was born that has since been adopted by Penn State University, the Miami Heat of the NBA, New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, Anaheim Duck, Buffalo Sabres, and your Pittsburgh Penguins.

Actually, Jets fans had a lot in common with Penguins fans. Winnipeg is a city with working class roots that has undergone a bit of a transformation since the 1980s, and now features an eclectic mix of college students, independent film makers, card dealers from the nearby casinos, and financiers, as well as retired workers from the rail yards and meat packing plants.

During the grey, bleak months of March, when the piercing wind would blow in from the Forks – the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, Winnipeg’s version of The Point – Jets fans took solace in the fact that three or four nights a week, it would be a hockey night in Winnipeg.

No matter how high the snow piled up in their driveways, no matter how backbreaking or mindnumbing their jobs were, Winnipegers could look forward to nights of glove-dropping, facewashing and bench clearing brawls (click to watch – even the coaches get involved).

Then, in 1996, after 24 years of tradition, the Jets were taken away. They were packed up, repackaged in new colors and moved to Phoenix. Because of the weak Canadian dollar and rising player salaries, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman saw a speculative economic oppontunity of the Lehman Brothers variety – and approved the team’s relocation to Phoenix, Arizona.

Recently Updated25 “Yes,” Commissioner Bettman thought, “this will work out splendidly.”

I hate to spoil the ending for you, but Mr. Bettman’s Frankensteinian hockey experiment in the southwest did not turn out as he expected. The Phoenix Coyotes filed for bankrupcy on May 5.

 Collages23Coyotes re-branding meeting, June 1996: “Okay, Marty, I love the logo – but can we add…oh I don’t know, every color of the rainbow? Nothing says “hockey” like kachina art, moons, and the color purple. Hey, can you give the coyote a cantine pouch? Actually, let’s go crazy – give him spikey hair and beddazle his stick with some sort of weird ornament. Perfecto.”

Nothing better symbolizes the 1990s – the age of “let’s take something stable and good and try to supersize it to try to make more money” – than the demise of the Winnipeg Jets. Because of a swing in global currency that has since righted itself, the NHL saw on opportunity to expand into an exploding U.S. market of Audi drivers and lattee sippers.

They ditched the meat packers and Molson drinkers of Manitoba so they could cram luxury boxes into a state-of-the-art arena and sell $9 mojitos. In a business class, this plan might fly.

One problem: hockey isn’t, and will never be, a mainstream sport like the NBA or NFL. As Penguins fans know, it’s a sport best experienced elbow-to-elbow with the stranger beside you, their rally towel slapping you in the face from time to time. It’s best to be in the stands, velcroed to the stale beer on the floor, where you can do things like catch stray pucks and mercilessly heckle the referees.

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You can’t do those things behind 3 inches of soundproof, French-imported luxury plexiglass.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Bettman still says he believes the team belongs in Phoenix – where they routinely draw only 5,000-6,000 television views per game. Forever jealous of the NBA, Bettman is hanging onto his pride.

But the tides are turning – recently, the Bettman and other NHL representatives have hinted that they are considering moving the team back to Winnipeg.

As a Penguins fan, this should delight you. The NHL is best when it is rife with rivalries and diehard fanbases. Bringing back the Jets would not only bring more intelligent hockey fans back into the fray, it would revitalize one of the most intense rivalries in the game – the Jets and the Edmonton Oilers.

As a hockey fan, you can’t complain about the possibility of more bench clearing brawls and goalie-on-goalie violence.

 Collages24No matter the outcome of Phoenix’s finacial situation, it’s good to see that 13 years after the Jets’ untimely demise, a little piece of their spirit lives on in Pittsburgh.

You can help Winnipeg’s cause by going to www.JetsOwner.com

Sorry for the long-winded diatribe, but all the excitement of the Penguins’ repeat Stanley Cup birth brought back memories of the early 90s, when Pulling No Punches had a rat-tail in the fashion of former Penguin Robbie Brown, and we just had to take this opportunity to wax nostalgic about another fantastic hockey town.

For more Pens-Red Wings talk, look for an all new Burgh Show podcast on Monday.

Have a hockey question or rant for the guys? Drop them a line at their brand new e-mail address theburghshow@gmail.com and you might be featured on the next show.