From losing Chuck Tanner to Friday Night at the Fights to the Penguins' bus breaking down in New York, this was not a memorable weekend in the annals of Pittsburgh sports, save for the Pitt win over 'Nova. But we shall fight on. A few thoughts:
1. If I may belatedly acknowledge the passing of Chuck Tanner, let it be with my one personal interaction with him. During my time in college, our baseball team had qualified for the postseason. That wasn't exactly par for the course, as W&J doesn't have what one would call a rich baseball tradition. But somehow, our coaches were able to line up Mr. Tanner to speak at our year-end banquet before we departed for the tournament. Now this had to be at least 13 or 14 years ago, which would put Chuck in his late 60s. But when I tell you that this man had a bunch of kids he never met before so fired up that they were ready to run through a brick wall, you'll have to believe me. I can only imagine what the atmosphere would've been like during the Fam-a-lee heyday, with Tanner leading some of those personalities in the clubhouse. I can see why they were such a tough team.
RIP, Chuck Tanner. You will be missed.
2. I watched the Penguin game on Friday night, and like most of the hockey-viewing public, I was appalled at what I saw. I was embarrassed for the league, the teams, the players, and the sport. That being said, I don't know how the Pens are supposed to react when one of their teammates gets a cheap shot from behind. Ignore it? Not going to happen. Likewise with the attack of their goaltender by a skater. Hockey players aren't going to sit back and watch that happen without reacting. Pittsburgh's involvement in these incidents was unfortunate, but they were too large to turn the other cheek. Now when Kris Letang mentions something along the lines of retribution at the next meeting in April, that's where I have to ask when enough is enough.
The Islanders wanted to get back at the Pens for taking out Rick DiPietro. But the Pens did not intentionally injure DiPietro, and they only did so after DiPietro went after Matt Cooke. Now, the Pens want to avenge Brent Johnson. What it turns into is a game of "he hit me first" like you would see out of a couple eight-year-olds. Everyone's got to get even. However, at some point, the game of hockey becomes an afterthought. That's what happened on Friday night, and I hope it doesn't happen again.
3. I like that Mario Lemieux spoke out against the NHL, because A. Mario is my all-time favorite athlete, and B. I think the NHL is very poorly-run in general, let alone incidents like Friday's. But I agree with those who've criticized Lemieux for such words when he employs Matt Cooke, whose act has worn thin not only with opponents, but with yours truly. Not only could Cooke permanently injure a player from another team, he could bring unnecessary harm to one of his teammates via the NHL's unwritten rules of retribution. As I asked above, when is enough enough with Cooke?
4. Awesome, awesome win by Pitt on Saturday night, even if it did result in Nasir Robinson getting punched in the face. Villanova is a near-impossible place to win, and to do it without Ashton Gibbs speaks volumes to the depth of Jamie Dixon's team and to Jamie Dixon as a coach. If they can keep things afloat until Gibbs returns, they could have even more momentum heading into the postseason, and this might just be the year the Panthers finally get over the proverbial hump.
5. Speaking of teams dealing with injuries, it's difficult to be too tough on the Pens for their effort in a 5-3 loss at the Rangers on Sunday. But losing a two-goal lead is losing a two-goal lead. It will always hurt, regardless of what names are on the backs of the jerseys. Let's hope the team can put some of their recent woes and drama behind them and re-focus for Colorado on Wednesday. It was a pretty rough week in Penguinville, now that I think about it.