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Pittsburgh Hockey Boom of the 90s: How I Became a Fan

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Teacher: “What were the names of the three ships Columbus lead to America in 1492?”

Elementary School Me: “The Nina, the Pinta, and the Civic Arena”

shipsandarena

If that doesn’t explain my connection to hockey, I don’t know what does. And yes, that really happened. For all of you who didn’t pay attention in elementary school history class, the third ship was the Santa Maria. Easy mistake, right? That being said, I’d like to delve into my love for hockey and how I became a part of the Lemieux-induced Pittsburgh hockey boom of the early 90s.

On February 8, 1997, I went to my first NHL hockey game. I was six and by the end of overtime my life had changed forever. You would have thought the game, a regular season match up between the Penguins and the Red Wings, was the Stanley Cup Final. I was so excited. I finally got to join my Canadian father at a hockey game. If that isn’t something every child of a Canadian father dreams about, the father should be ashamed (see also my cousin Josh who’s daughter got her first personalized Leafs jersey before age 2- because why limit your endless years of disappointment?).

Anyway, back to the game in 1997- I don’t really remember much, other than seeing Mario Lemieux’s face on the jumbotron, a lot. It turns out the game was actually pretty epic. Red Wings superstar, recent NHL Hall of Famer, and league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan scored a hat trick. Pens legend, number 1 draft pick, and current owner Mario Lemieux recorded two goals. The game went into overtime. And although the Red Wings won 6-5, I knew I had to get my Dad to keep bringing me back to the Igloo. As we left the arena, my Dad informed me the game was Scotty Bowman’s 1000th win. “Oh” I thought. “That’s cool, I guess. 1000 seems like a big number.” I didn’t even really notice the coaches on the benches, how was I supposed to realize I was watching Scotty Bowman make history? For the record, Scotty Bowman is still the winningest coach in NHL history with a grand total of 1,244 wins.

As the years continued and I got older, I started to read hockey books, especially the Hockey News Top 100 NHL Players of All-Time.  I couldn’t believe some of the stories in that book, especially the ones about Terry Sawchuk. I quickly became the little girl with a lot of obscure hockey knowledge. Yes, I was the kid who left American Girl dolls locked in the closet while making collages from my IceTime game programs and begging my Mom to buy me hockey cards.

Hockey just kept getting more and more fun. I got to see Matthew Barnaby dance around and make fun of Lyle Odelein for looking like Cornelius from Planet of the Apes, which was particularly hilarious when I was 8 years old.

I got to meet Joey Mullen, in a hideous sweatshirt (only to be outdone by his 90s Cosby-esque sweater).

JoeyMullen

I also went to the game at Mellon Arena when the power went out, twice. Fans chanted “New A-Re-Na” and my Canadian cousins who were there with me, enthusiastically reminded me that “this never happens in Toronto”.

I remember hearing about Evgeni Malkin for the first time. No one really knew exactly when he was coming (or how to pronounce his name), but everyone was really excited for the new Russian superstar.

I remember when Scuderi informed the press that he was “The Piece“. I could go on with my fondest/funniest Pens memories forever, but that isn’t the point. The point is my love affair with hockey continues as I write this hockey blog, but I want to hear about everyone else.

How did you become a hockey fan? What are some of your earliest memories of NHL hockey? Feel free to comment or tweet me @AndiPerelman!

NHL 2014 Stadium Series Evokes Extreme Backlash on Twitter

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If you are a hockey fan, you have probably heard the NHL’s recent announcement about their plans to have five additional outdoor games (in addition to the Winter Classic) during the 2014 season. See below for the tentative schedule:

Stadium Series Schedule

This announcement has been met with mixed reactions from agents, media, and fans. While some fans (like me) are thrilled to attend more outdoor games, others are against it. People against the “Stadium Series” argue one of a couple things:

1. The additional Stadium Series games will take away from the spectacle of the Winter Classic
2. More outdoor games=less special
3. The games are a ploy for the NHL to make more money from larger stadium capacity, increased viewing on TV, and sales of specialized merchandise

Other naysaying fans are simply hung up on how ice will be maintained in the Los Angeles climate.

Sporting News writer, Sean Gentille, wrote NHL Stadium Series a Gamble on Moneymaking Power of Outdoor Games, a blog post that discusses how additional outdoor games dilute the market. The article begins, “At some point in young adulthood, you figure out that, theoretically, you could eat birthday cake at every meal. Most people don’t.” While I see what Gentille is saying, the additional outdoor games are not under the label “Winter Classic”. The Winter Classic is still unique with the New Year’s Date, pre-game 24/7 episodes on HBO, intrigue for casual fans, and other festivities like the alumni games. I don’t know about everyone else, but I love cake all the freaking time.

Stadium Series games will be played both before and after February’s 2014 Sochi Olympics. While it is not confirmed that NHL players will be allowed to play in the Olympics, it is conceivable that these Stadium Series games provide a buffer for fans in case negotiations between the IOC, NHL, NHLPA, and IIHF head south (although I doubt that will be the case).

At this point, the Stadium Series is an experiment for the league. Employees know that one outdoor game works, so now it is time to try out more. The league is a business, remember? I am sure NHL bigwigs are hoping the games will bring in more hockey fans, create increased support after the lockout, and yes, rake in additional revenue. If the league can gain fans and increase TV viewing numbers after a horribly long lockout, why wouldn’t the Stadium Series work?

Everyone loves a little more hockey in their lives. And according to John Collins, the COO of the NHL, “No one would be more concerned about not screwing up a good thing than we would be”. Give JC a chance! (You see what I did there?)

Here are some of the best tweets I’ve seen from hockey agents and media discussing the Winter Classic and Stadium Series:

Allan Walsh, Octagon Hockey Agent Tweet

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Sidenote: I just joined the Pens Nation team at http://www.thepensnation.com. Be sure to keep an eye out for this banner on the website to see my posts!

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Pittsburgh Penguins: 5 Keys for Pens Making a Deep Run in 2012 NHL Playoffs

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Check out my second Bleacher Report article here:

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1133476-pittsburgh-penguins-5-keys-for-pens-making-a-deep-run-in-2012-nhl-playoffs

It was really great to write about the Penguins. I am headed to the Pens vs. Rangers game tonight so that should be a good preview for what might be the Eastern Conference championship this year.

More articles specifically for FiveforBoarding soon, I think I am going to write about who should win the Calder Memorial Trophy for Rookie of the year. Keep an eye out!

Ovechkin Skipping All-Star Weekend

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Alexander Ovechkin announced last week that he is skipping the NHL’s All-star weekend. After his announcement, many mixed reactions surfaced about his decision. His statement said, “My heart is not there. I’m suspended, so why I have to go there? I love the game; it’s great event. I’d love to be there, but I’m suspended. I don’t want to be a target. I feel I’m not deserving to be there right now. If I’m suspended, I have to be suspended, so that’s why I give up my roster [spot]”

Ovechkin was still upset about his suspension for his hit on Penguin Zbynek Michalek. Even Verizon Center owner Ted Leonsis and Capitals GM George McPhee came out to say that they both disagreed with Ovechkin’s suspension. You can see the suspension hit and explanation video here: .

Players weighed in on Ovechkin’s decision through twitter. Andy McDonald of the St. Louis Blues was especially upset with Ove’s decision (see tweet below). Another NHL player who took a different approach to Ove’s decision was twitter-addict Paul Bissonnette of the Phoenix Coyotes. He tweeted: “Hey, it’s too bad Ovechkin isn’t going to the All Star Game. NHL could have added a rap battle to the skills competition.”

Clearly players have different options on Ove’s decision, but what about the NHL’s viewpoint? Well, it seems to be wishy-washy. In 2009 the NHL started to crack-down on players deciding not to attend the All-star game. Both Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk were suspended for a game because of their decision not to go. In addition, an injured Sidney Crosby  avoided suspension by flying out to the game and doing promotional work for the NHL even though he wasn’t playing. But this year, the NHL has not suspended anyone for not attending the All-star game. Ovechkin did not prove he was hurt (a stipulation enforced in 2009) and he did not go to help out with the promotions for the NHL.

The NHL’s decision to not suspend Ovechkin, Selanne, and Lidstrom (both Selanne and Lidstrom sited their age as their reason not to play in the game) could mean increased all-star back-outs in the future. If all-star players decide not to participate in all-star weekend it could mean a serious annual revenue loss for the NHL. Sponsors might back out, fans wouldn’t get hyped about the event, and merchandise sales would plummet. I mean, who would watch an all-star game with no all-star players?

Another argument regarding the NHL’s decision not to suspend Ovechkin is he is no longer as important to the NHL as he was a couple of years ago. For the past year and a half Ove has been in a major slump that has begun to eliminate his role as one of the main ‘faces of the NHL’. Without putting up the numbers, how can Ovechkin be viewed as one of the most important all-stars? Would the NHL be as accepting to a player like Evgeni Malkin or Pavel Datsyuk if they made a statement that they would not attend the All-star game?