Thursday, October 13, 2016

Penguins' success engenders enemies

By Mark Madden
October 13, 2016
Image result for penguins stanley cup
Gregory Shamus / Getty Images
Hockey is easy to complain about.
The goalie equipment didn’t shrink, as promised. The NHL is so diluted, a 2-year-old kid could wade in the talent pool. But a 31st team is still being added. National TV coverage stinks. All the wrong people do analysis. Last year’s scoring champ had 106 points. He should have 160. Philadelphia still has a goof like Radko Gudas.
But it’s still hockey, and thank goodness it’s back.
No one will ignore a ref’s command to change skates between periods. No such order will be needed. For better or worse, nobody will take a knee during either of the national anthems. Off-ice problems are minimal. The game isn’t frequently embarrassed.
Hockey is a sport that allows you to think about the sport.
In Pittsburgh, we’re thinking about Sidney Crosby’s health. Ben Roethlisberger advised Crosby to protect his brain. Roethlisberger should tell Antonio Brown to use his. Perhaps Crosby got a headache from watching the presidential debates.
Crosby practiced yesterday. He’s not encased in bubble wrap.
Some who have never met Crosby profess deep concern for his well-being. They say Crosby should think about his future and family, and consider retirement.
I know Crosby. What’s best for him is to play hockey. He’s a hockey player.
Hockey engenders a deep love among its participants. It’s hard to walk away from.
The opposite of love is hate, and hate isn’t anything but love disguised by jealousy. Ask the Flyers. They know. #42Years
As the Penguins celebrate 50 seasons of existence, it seems appropriate to celebrate animosities that have built up. Like the Nixon White House, there’s an enemies list.
*The Philadelphia Flyers. The only thing better than the Penguins winning is the Flyers not. The thug-life players, the humanoids that populate the Wells Fargo Center, the statue of big, fat Kate Smith – throw away two Stanley Cups won by organized gangland violence, and it’s a tradition as empty as the space between Bobby Clarke’s teeth, or between Gudas’ ears. The Flyers have been so mediocre for so long, even their HBO documentary has been forgotten. It was shot in black and white.
*Mike Milbury. A jealous wanna-be. Failed as a coach, and as a GM. When the Penguins knocked him and Boston out of the playoffs in 1991 en route to Cup No. 1, then-coach Milbury whined about Ulf Samuelsson and the “professor of goonism,” Badger Bob Johnson. Every word he says about the Penguins on NBC is drenched in envy.
*Brandon Dubinsky. He too often uses Crosby’s head as a piƱata. Dubinsky is an unaccomplished little rat that couldn’t carry Crosby’s jock in an otherwise empty equipment bag. One of those big goalie jobs, too.
*John Tortorella. He whines about the Penguins whining, but lacks the self-awareness and/or brains to see the irony. There’s no longer a place in sports for a coach who rules via fear. Columbus will fire Tortorella by Christmas. Stir in going 0-3 with the U.S. at the World Cup of Hockey, and Tortorella will have mangled two teams in a little over a year. That’s got to be a record. Not bad considering that Tortorella’s playing career peaked in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League (whatever that is).
*Alex Ovechkin. He’s had seven 50-goal seasons in the dead-puck era. That’s got to be respected, as does the level of excitement and passion he brings. But he’s always jockeyed for position with Crosby as the game’s best player, and Ovechkin has a dirty streak that is exacerbated when he’s losing a big game to the Penguins, which is often. Ovechkin is more of a hockey rival than a “hate” rival.
Those are the headliners.
Scott Hartnell went from Philadelphia to Columbus, so he doesn’t matter anymore. Henrik Lundqvist is past his peak. His best bet moving forward is to throw the net off. Jeremy Roenick is more amusing than malicious. Claude Giroux’s rivalry with Crosby is imagined by the Wells Fargo humanoids. He’s small potatoes.
Fifty years. Four Cups. Only two teams (Montreal and Edmonton) have won more in those 50 years. Only two other teams (Detroit and the New York Islanders) have won as many. The Penguins have arguably had hockey’s best player non-stop since 1984.
I won’t be around for more than a fraction of the next 50 years. But it’s hard to imagine them being better.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).

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