One of my recent tweets: “Adam Graves and the New York Rangers should die of gonorrhea and rot in Hell. Want a cookie, son?”
Seriously? I can’t give up a grudge against Adam Graves (and by extension a New York Rangers franchise that hasn’t done anything meaningful since 1994) based on a cheapshot in the 1992 NHL playoffs? #$%^ no!! The Penguins won the Stanley Cup that year despite Graves’ hit on Lemieux and it’s even possible that the hit galvanised the team and propelled it to those heights. You’re damn right I’m not letting go of my hatred.
And that gets me to thinking about the nature and origins of sports hatred.
It’s pretty common knowledge among my friends that I despise the Cleveland Browns. It’s just the way Pittsburghers are raised. But truth be told, the Browns don’t really deserve to be hated. They haven’t been a true threat since a brief window in the early 1990′s. The cRavens are our real rival nowadays and a worthy one at that.
But I remember that brief, annoying period when the Browns rose up; when Vinny Testaverde was considered a threat to our AFC Central supremacy and the addition of the combustible Andre Rison served to put the Browns (the Browns!) as a chic pic to get to the Superbowl. And so I remember what it’s like to hate the Browns fo’ realz and I hold on to that hatred and nurture it and let it fester and boil.
My mom once told me that for all my hatred, I would probably end up with a girl from Cleveland. What a cruel fate to foresee for her son! Formative years those 1990′s were for Maher’s sports consciousness. I hated Mark Brunell and the Jacksonville Jaguars for a time. I even remember hating the Cincinnati Reds and the Atlanta Braves for beating my Pirates in the NLCS. Do you remember when Steve Avery was good? I f*ckin’ remember! I’d root for the Yankees over the Braves, damnit!
Now don’t get me wrong. I do hate the Ravens. Arrogant, showboating f*cks all of them! But damn, they’re good. And most of them probably already have gonorrhea anyway.
It’s interesting to see how current rivalries are shaping the sports consciousnesses of Pittsburgh’s youngsters. The Ravens may even win a Superbowl but all teams go through down cycles. Just ask the 1970′s Raiders, the 1980′s Oilers, the 1990′s Browns and Jaguars, etc. And rivalries are generally established of shared excellence not mediocrity.
But those who grew up knowing that raw, raging emotion will forever hold the Ravens in ill-regard. They will remember.
Which brings me back to Adam Graves and the New York Rangers. I f*ckin’ hate the Rangers. No, I mega-loathe them. You see, when I was coming up during Mario Lemieux’s Stanley Cup runs, the Rangers were a primary threat to us. The Flyers were pretty mediocre and though people of good conscience must always hate the Flyers in principle, they didn’t get me worked up that much. They do now but it doesn’t have the force of history, at least for me.
And so 20+ years later, 10-year old Maher still demands even more justice! Yesssss… Adam Graves and the New York Rangers should die of gonorrhea and rot in Hell.
… which is probably quite similar to Cleveland during football season. [steeples fingers malevolently]
I think Penguins’ victory over the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals is one of the most underrated upsets in recent memory. For all the skills of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal and Marc-Andre Fleury (and apparently Max Talbot as well), the Red Wings were so much deeper and more experienced than the Penguins.
Let’s compare the players by position for Detroit to those of Pittsburgh.
|Pavel Datsyuk||Sidney Crosby|
|Henrik Zetterberg||Evgeni Malkin|
|Valtteri Filppula||Jordan Staal|
|Darren Helm||Tyler Kennedy|
|Kris Draper||Max Talbot|
|Johan Franzen||Ruslan Fedotenko|
|Jiri Hudler||Chris Kunitz|
|Tomas Kopecky||Matt Cooke|
|Ville Leino||Pascal Dupuis|
|Dan Cleary||Bill Guerin|
|Marian Hossa||Miroslav Satan|
|Mikael Samuelsson||Petr Sykora|
|Tomas Holmstrom||Craig Adams|
|Kirk Maltby||Eric Godard|
|Nicklas Lidstrom||Sergei Gonchar|
|Niklas Kronwall||Kris Letang|
|Brian Rafalaski||Brook Orpik|
|Brad Stuart||Rob Scuderi|
|Jonathan Ericcson||Mark Eaton|
|Brett Lebda||Hall Gill|
|Andreas Lilja||Philippe Boucher|
|Chris Osgood||Marc-Andre Fleury|
To me, it’s evident that the Red Wings are deeper and have greater overall skill than the Penguins. I don’t believe for a second that Pittsburgh wanted it more than Detroit. Perhaps age had to do with something to do with it but Detroit surely didn’t look old in winning 3 games at home.
I’m searching for some type of comparison to fully highly the magnitude of this upset. It’s not quite Giants over Patriots in the Superbowl but it’s not far off. While the Red Wings weren’t as dominant as that Patriots team, they have been the class of the NHL for the better part of the past decade. They have won in all aspects of the game – execution, timing, skill, talent, depth, money, coaching and scouting. And unlike New England – class as well.
The Penguins chipped the puck in behind the goal continuously. They played possession as much as possible. They threw the puck at Chris Osgood at every chance. They stood toe-to-toe with one of the top 2-3 finest organizations in sports and didn’t back down.
Bottomline: The Penguins outworked a team with superior depth of talent.
Detroit, Michigan is NOT Hockeytown!! I’m so tired of this self-appointed title. Although its sports fans support the Red Wings well and the franchise is currently the gold standard for NHL teams, it isn’t Hockeytown.
That title is and likely always will belong in Montreal. Plan and simple – 23 Stanley Cup titles for the Canadiens to go along with an outrageously passionate fan base. Detroit has 11 Stanley Cup titles. I worked in Detroit for close to a year and let me tell you that the fanbase there is not nearly as rabid as anything I’ve read about Montreal’s.
Detroit is possibly the most well-rounded sports city in the North America. It has strong pro franchises in basketball, baseball and of course, hockey. It pulls weight in college sports with nearby Michigan State basketball and UMich football. So I think it’s understandable that its denizens get pulled in multiple directions at once. This blessing is simple not conducive to building the same over-the-top passion as Montreal or even Toronto.
The Red Wings (and a couple other teams) have passed the Canadiens in terms of performance but that doesn’t mean that those cities can match Montreal’s fervor or passion for this one sport. Montreal is Hockeytown.
Jim Balsillie, the co-CEO of RIM, has reportedly made a US$212 million offer to buy the financially struggling Phoenix Coyotes, provided he can move the team to southern Ontario. This isn’t the first time Balsile has surfaced. He was previously thwarted in his attempts to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins and then the Nashville Predators, either of whom he would have moved.
The NHL is going to fight this move, at least officially, on procedural grounds. The league contends that it is running the team and has the right to determine the location of its teams. At least on that ground, I tend to agree with the NHL. It should have the right to locate its teams, so as to take advantage of geography and keep its operations strong.
However, I take grave issue with Gary Bettman’s misplaced attempts to grow the game in non-traditional areas, specifically in the US south and southwest. It’s one thing to have a team in Dallas, where the Stars have been successful and have slowly built a fanbase. But teams in Nashville, Phoenix and Florida have had very mixed success and have done almost nothing to ingratiate themselves into the local sporting cultures.
Let’s face it – hockey is mostly a northern, cold-weather sport. Unlike football, it can’t be played in warm weather so growth potential in southern cities will always be limited. It’s pretty well-suited to its northern cities – Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Boston, Buffalo, NYR, NYI, NJ, Pittsburgh, Philly, Washington, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Columbus, Minnesota. In addition, I think Colorado is well-served having a team.
Consolidate LA and Anaheim into one team because a region that tends to be as blase about sports as southern California shouldn’t have two teams. Keep San Jose for representation in northern California. Carolina has shown they can get rabid about hockey and Dallas is a successful franchise with room for continued growth.
I say abandon the southeast to college sports and Nascar for the time being. Eliminate or move the teams in Atlanta, Phoenix, Nashville, Florida/Miami and Tampa Bay. Winnipeg and southern Ontario should get two of the cast-offs. Winnipeg isn’t a huge city but with a proper arena, hockey will flourish there. If Green Bay can support an NFL team, so can Winnipeg.
Focus on continuing to strengthen the game in non-traditional areas such as Carolina, Dallas, LA/Anaheim and San Jose. (I’m not particularly enamored of having teams in sunny California but these are still good population centers for supporting the game and have experienced success in the past).
This plan leaves the NHL with 26 teams overall. Probably still two too many but with room for growth. Build a strong footprint not just a large one.
So the Anaheim Ducks knocked the top-seeded San Jose Sharks out of the Stanley Cup playoffs last night. And the walls came tumbling down! As if. This can’t be a surprise to anyone who knows anything about the NHL.
It doesn’t really matter that the Sharks won the President’s Trophy. It doesn’t matter that they were playing a #8 seed. What matters is that these are Joe Thornton’s San Jose Sharks, the biggest chokers in recent memory. This is a franchise that hasn’t advanced past the second round since 2004, despite being one of the NHL’s best in the regular season in recent years.
Leave it to Joe Thornton to make a Flyers’ sized mistake by fighting Ryan Getzlaf at the start of Game 7. Just perfect, Joseph. Give the underrated Ducks a psychological boost.
I’m not trying to take anything away from the Ducks who persevered and ultimately triumphed. They deserved everything for which they fought. Perhaps the Sharks’ fate would have been different had they not drawn a team only two years removed from winning the Stanley Cup. But I doubt it.
Photo Credit: hockeydraft.ca
By and large, I consider myself to be a fortunate sports fan. My teams generally do well. Two Superbowl titles, 2 Stanley Cups, 7 Sweet Sixteens, 1 Elite Eight, 1 Champions League, 1 FA Cup, Curtis Martin, Larry Fitzgerald, many others. And someday the Pirates will get to .500 and all of Pittsburgh will go nuts.
I think a reasonable standard of expectation for a fan is for one’s teams to be in the hunt, in any given year. Nothing more, nothing less. All the crazies who expect a title every single season can stay in Lexington or Tuscaloosa or the Bronx.
In any given year, I expect that the Steelers will win 10+ games and have a shot at the Superbowl. I expect the Penguins to make the NHL playoffs and have a shot at the Stanley Cup. I expect that Pitt basketball will make the Field of 65 and have a shot to make a run to the Final Four. I expect Liverpool FC to contend for the Premiership, Champions League, and/or FA Cup titles. Eventually, I would like to expect that Pitt football will win 8-9 games in most years and once every few years when the pieces fall into place, they should contend for a national title.
But even with what I believe are reasonable expectations, you inevitably get heart-breaking losses. I don’t have to tell you which loss I’m “mourning” today. I would have to say that Pitt’s loss to Villanova ranks second only to Francisco Cabrera’s single for Atlanta vs the Pirates in the 1992 NLCS. Even the Penguins recovered from David Volek. The Pirates have never recovered from that loss.
Pitt basketball is a strong program and they’ll rebound, rebuild and contend again. I know we had a successful season. I’m proud of how they battled and banged with the big boys. We’ll be back. I expect it.