I don’t like the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It’s hard to put into words why, exactly, I dislike this team. Even now, I feel as if the word “dislike” doesn’t adequately convey just how strongly I feel about this organization. Some years, I’m okay just ignoring them entirely, while other years, I especially loathe them and take almost as much joy out of watching them lose as I do watching the Sabres win.
It’s too bad, because the Penguins have had some great players go through their system – Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Alexi Kovalev, Petr Nedved, Sergei Zubov, and so on. I respect the talent of the players – yes, this includes even Sidney Crosby – but overall I really hate to see them win.
All of that could be subject to change, however, if the NHL lockout comes to a close as a result of this week’s players-owners only meeting. Heading into this meeting, I was extremely skeptical, harboring some of the same hopes and fears that Stu Hackel expressed here. After two nights of pretty lengthy discussion/ negotiation, however, I am beginning to think there may be a chance we see some NHL action this season. Curiously enough, from what I read it would appear that three people involved in the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise – owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle, and captain Sidney Crosby – may be the forces responsible for shaping, or at least initiating, this current round of talks.
Rumor has it that Lemieux and Burkle may have privately contacted Crosby in an attempt to bridge the gap between players and owners, and while this is against the owners’ rules and will never be confirmed, it is the sort of gesture that I would expect from such a well-respected player as Lemieux. Owner though he may be, Lemieux knows what it is like to be on the other side of the bargaining table, and more importantly, he is a fan of the game (something which cannot be said about all of the owners involved in this mess, in my opinion). As much as he wants to ensure the financial success of his franchise, I am sure more than anything he wants to see the sport he loves continue to thrive and build up its fan base, so a prolonged lockout must kill Super Mario. It would not surprise me at all if the rumors about him privately discussing the lockout with Sid are true; more than anything, it makes me wish we had more retired players assuming ownership roles in this sport.
As far as Sidney Crosby is concerned . . . damn it if this doesn’t make me grudgingly respect that whiny, dive-taking wunderkind. If he is capable of, and willing to, assume this sort of leadership role at such a young age, then I have to tip my hat to him. There’s a lot riding on these players-owners only meetings, and if they blow up, a high-profile player like Sid the Kid could wind up shouldering a lot of the blame. That’s a big risk for him to take, and I admire his willingness to do so.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not going to be wearing a Penguins jersey any time soon. I still despise the way the Penguins-Flyers playoff series devolved into MMA matches on the ice last year; did anyone TRULY enjoy watching crap like this during the playoffs?
So I am sure I will find reasons to root against them should an NHL season exist this year. It’s just that some of those reasons may be a bit contrived, more the result of not letting old habits die than the result of true animosity. If Lemieux, Burkle, and Crosby can truly help bring about the end of this lockout, I may be embarking on a quest to find another NHL team to consider “the enemy!”