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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Monongahela maestros

Knowing nothing about hockey, the Mrs. and I nonetheless enjoyed watching a lightly Tivo-ed version of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals last night. And the kids we were rooting for took the cup! Go Pens! (Or is it Guins? We're out of it.)

What a nerve-racking game ice hockey is. Huge, garbage-truck-sized guys, flying around way faster than they ever could on foot. It makes the pro football daddies look like they're standing still. And with modern TV -- at least the video resources that show up for a do-or-die championship game -- you get a better sense of it than I can ever remember. Marv Albert croaking out Ranger games from a six-team league out of my two-transistor radio back in high school -- it was never like this.

Even Muhammad Ali was there, albeit in a Red Wings jersey. In a luxury suite with Thomas "Hit Man" Hearns, no less. Great stuff. God bless Pittsburgh, and America.

Comments (8)

Yes, and PDX could most likely have a NHL team with, oh no not here, no big cost to the taxpayers. Just imagine that, but then again where would the boys running CoP get their pocket money.

God bless Pittsburgh, and America.

... And Canada, native country of 16 players on the Penguins' 30-man roster!

I watched some of this series and I was thinking the frantic intensity of hockey really fits these times. How about when that Red Wing shot bounced off the goal in the 3rd? Heart-stopping.

Here's my best hockey anecdotes: As a mere teenager I was sent out from a desert kingdom far, far away, and found myself in a boarding school in New England where I really got into hockey as a fan. I graduated a semester early and on that day, I went into Boston, got drunk, and went to see the mighty Boston Bruins. What stood out was Bobby Orr. Just watching him skate to warm up, you could see he was a legend.

Several years later, I was in O'Hare airport and a bunch of rowdy tough guys were at a nearby gate. Picture a guy with a fu manchu, three teeth missing, a black eye, and a nose that had been broken several times. He's carrying a bag with an unopened bottle of scotch, and he's wearing a mink coat. Who were these guys? Finally, I recognized another one of them: Phil Esposito who had been traded from the Boston Bruins to this team. Phil also had a brother Tony who was a famous goalie for the Chicago Blackhawks. What I was seeing was a 1970s version of the New York Rangers: Rowdy looking tough guys wearing mink coats. Some of them anyway.

My last anecdote involves my banquet days when I waited on the LA Kings with Wayne Gretzky. During those years, I met presidents, movie stars, athletes and dozens of other celebrities. Wayne Gretzky was the most polite celebrity I ever met. Every time he said anything to me, he would call me "sir" and he was just really pleasant and gracious about everything.

Moving to Portland back in the day, had cut me off from the NHL, so I stopped following hockey. There were no updates on ESPN. There was no ESPN. I tried getting into it when the LA Kings faced Montreal in the Finals but a goal was disqualified because the blade of the hockey stick was too curved, and that soured me on hockey again for many years.

This is the first finals series I followed since then, and it was quite thrilling. Even when one game was 5-0, it was still exciting because of the violence and threat of more violence. But at least there's the accountability of the penalty box. You noticed that Sidney Crosby, the star captain of Pittsburgh, spent a lot of the last game recovering from a hit. Hockey is rough but so are these times - the game could be on the rise. No other sport brings the frantic intensity like this. Go, Penguins!

Welcome aboard, fellas! And there's very good pre-NHL hockey in Portland going back a long time, the Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. You'll see lots of young talented athletes who will be playing in the major league in a matter of months. And at reasonable prices. But not if the Adams Family rips down their arena for invisible soccer players and invisible hotel guests and invisible Triple-A baseball fans.

Man, what a banner year Pittsburgh is having. First the Steelers take the Super Bowl, then this. Being a Pirate fan must be pretty lonely these days...

What a fantastic series! Glad to see Pittsburgh win but you have to be in awe of the Detroit. That team consistently puts out championship caliber teams year after year. A small part of me wanted to see Detroit win as the city has been so hard hit the past few years and this would have been a feel good story for them. Regardless NHL proves once again there is no better, more intense, more physical professional sport around when the money is on the line.

Yeah, hockey is a great sport. Pittsburgh is a City of Champions and, win or lose, a region rich with good sportsmen & women, players & knowledgeable spectators -- heck, even a kids' national marbles dynasty running since 1927:

"Marbles Champs Roll Back to Pittsburgh"

They loved it when Portland won that NBA upset championship back in the 70's. It reminded Pittsburghers of the 1960 World Series when Mazeroski's walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth destroyed the all-powerful Yankees. Heh heh.

Contests like this year's Stanley Cup final, and those two mentioned above, are great examples for all people, especially yung'uns, that some talent forged with hard work, tenacity and determination can overcome the oddsmakers and confident favorites.

17 days to The Recall!

And Leave Lents Alone!

Hands off, Hank'M.

Kudos to the Pens from a long-suffering Winterhawks fan. Good to see Super Mario get his first cup as an owner before the Great Gretzky as a coach gets out of a first round playoff series.

Gretzky is coach of a bankrupt team on its way from Phoenix to Hamilton, Ontario. If you want to see how the big leagues block these franchise moves, take a look at this situation. They have a new arena in the Phoenix area just for the Coyotes and its soon to be lacking any tenant at all. Maybe someone should point this little situation out to Mayor Creepy as an example of what's going to happen to that Lents stadium in a few years.

As much though as I hate the Detroit Dead Things, it would have been nice to see former Winterhawk Marian Hossa win his first Stanley Cup...and he played for Pittsburgh last year and moved as a free agent to Detroit this year thinking he had a better chance at that cup. Go figure.

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