By Mark Madden
Beaver County Times
December 26, 2011
Jaromir Jagr #68 of the Philadelphia Flyers in action against the Boston Bruins during their game on December17, 2011 at The Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
On Thursday, Max Talbot and Jaromir Jagr visit Pittsburgh for the first time as members of the (shock, horror) Philadelphia Flyers.
Give them a pass. Cheer them, even.
That's not going to happen. Odds are that Consol Energy Center will salute Talbot, but boo Jagr every time he touches the puck. Ironic, since both went to Philadelphia for the same mercenary reason.
I also realize my advice is markedly different from my initial reaction.
I called Jagr "Judas" when he signed with Philadelphia, complaining that he committed the cardinal sin of using his past with Mario Lemieux to up the ante elsewhere.
I wasn't real happy with Talbot, either. No Penguin besides Sidney Crosby has ever personified the disdain of the franchise and city for the Flyers better than Talbot. Remember Talbot shushing Philadelphia's fans during the 2009 playoffs? Priceless.
Jagr and Talbot deserved better from me. They deserve better from you, too.
I still hate the Flyers, and hate even more that Jagr and Talbot play for the Flyers. You shouldn't play here, then ever play for Philadelphia. There are 28 other teams to pick from.
But sometimes financial reality dictates. Philadelphia gave Talbot $9 million over five years. I was taken aback when I heard that, especially given Talbot's recent injury history. Talbot simply wasn't going to get that sort of money or length elsewhere. He took it. I hate it. But I don't blame him.
Talbot, as he is wont to do, made a grand entrance: Nine goals already.
As for Jagr, who knows why he does what he does? I can't believe he needed the meager extra dough he got from the Flyers. But I can't believe he hits 13 against a 5 showing, either.
Jagr loves drama. We all know that. What could be more dramatic than coming back to the NHL with hockey's version of organized crime?
It's sometimes hard for players to understand the hatred fans have, even more so when that hatred is as deep-seated as hatred for the Flyers is here in Pittsburgh.
The Flyers are the kings of the push from behind, the odd-numbered brawl, the cheap shot followed by a smirk. They have a winner's arrogance even though they haven't won anything since 1975. The Flyers beat the Penguins senseless for decades and, more often than not, rubbed it in. That logo might as well be a swastika. If that's an exaggeration, it's an emotionally justified one.
Besides winning three Stanley Cups - one more than Philadelphia - my three top moments in club history are Feb. 2, 1989, when the Penguins won 5-3 at Philadelphia to end their 42-game winless streak there, and the two occasions (2008, ‘09) when the black and gold dismissed the orange and black from the playoffs. "That's the handshake line I've waited my whole life for," I told Crosby in '08.
But Jagr is, for now, the second-best player in Penguins history. Two Stanley Cups. Five scoring titles. One MVP. Olympic gold. 657 career goals. 1,628 career points.
Jagr made our lives very exciting for many years. He's a good guy. Quirky. Moody. Forever a stranger in a strange land. But funny. Quotable. I had a great working relationship with Jagr, one I enjoyed.
Talbot scored two goals in Detroit that won a Stanley Cup. If that doesn't earn total forgiveness, it comes close. I co-hosted a radio show with Talbot. Great guy. Never big-times. Visible in the community. Still a Steelers fan. Talbot loved playing and living in Pittsburgh.
There's nobody better than Talbot - except for that damned winged "P" on his chest.
As always, you'll do what you want. My emotions are mixed, too.
But if Jagr and/or Talbot are introduced as part of the Flyers' starting lineup, or if a tribute video plays on the Jumbotron, applaud. They deserve that.
When the game starts, boo the hell out of them. They deserve that, too. They're Flyers now.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).